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Does breast-feeding really save money?

Outside the controversy is a more practical question: What does it actually cost to practice attachment parenting?

By MSN Money Partner May 23, 2012 11:46AM

This post comes from Kimberly Palmer at partner site U.S. News & World Report.


The cover of a recent issue of Time magazine, featuring a woman breast-feeding her tall 3-year-old son, launched a range of strong reactions across the blogosphere. Some supporters of attachment parenting lauded the cover as "normalizing" breast-feeding past the age of 1, while others felt the defiant stance of mother and son seemed designed to spark outrage and even evoked pornography.


Image: Baby (© Elisa Cicinelli/Brand X Pictures/Jupiterimages)Amid the controversy, the actual article, which explores the rise of attachment parenting, was barely discussed. But attachment parenting, which often includes co-sleeping, long-term breast-feeding and near-constant togetherness of mother and child, also comes with a price.


As Hanna Rosin of Slate has pointed out, round-the-clock breast-feeding is hardly compatible with most women's jobs, and the constant sleep deprivation can interfere with getting work done during the day.


Rosin wrote in Slate, "There is the very basic objection that it is virtually impossible to do what the advocates say is best for your baby and have a job, which the vast majority of American mothers have these days." (Post continues below.)

There's also evidence that extended breast-feeding can have a negative impact on earnings. As Ruth Mantell wrote in The Wall Street Journal, breast-feeding can hurt a woman's ability to earn money for her family, largely because of the time it takes. She cited research that shows women who breast-feed for six months or longer face a steeper income decline than those who breast-feed less than six months. And as the researcher points out, money plays a vital role in children's well-being.


Breast-feeding itself is not always as free and easy as it might seem, either. In fact, it can be costly: Many new mothers need the services of lactation consultants, who can cost $100 an hour, and working mothers who spend time away from their babies need pumps, which can cost $400. Nursing tops and tanks, nursing pillows, nipple cream and other accessories add to the cost.


While avoiding formula certainly saves a lot -- more than $1,500 in the first year, by some estimates -- and breast-fed babies are less likely to come down with certain illnesses, which reduces health-care costs, breast-feeding today is certainly not "free," at least not for most people.


For parents committed to the attachment parenting model and breast-feeding, there are free resources that can help. La Leche League and the website offer assistance and support to nursing moms. The IRS also recently changed flex spending rules so that breast pumps and related nursing supplies are eligible for tax breaks.

But it's not easy to overcome the challenge of finding the time to both work and practice attachment parenting. For parents with jobs that require them to be away for nine to 10 hours a day, it might not even be possible.


What do you think about the price of attachment parenting -- is it worth it?


More on U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money:

May 23, 2012 6:29PM
There is no way formula feeding is cheaper than nursing! Nobody NEEDS all the gizmos, special clothes etc. Yes a woman who works needs a pump, as I did, but I bought mine on Ebay for less than $200.00. There are some women who may need pads so that they don't leak, but all this other stuff? It sounds like this article was funded by the formula companies.
May 24, 2012 11:27AM
The writer of this article obviously never took a logic class. You can't compare the net income of formula feeding and working with the net income of breastfeeding and not working and say, "Look, breastfeeding is more expensive!" For a legitimate cost analysis you would have to compare breastfeeding and working with formula feeding and working, and (separately) breastfeeding and staying at home with formula feeding and staying at home. In both cases breastfeeding is going to be the less expensive option, clearly. Most women are not going to stop working just so they can breastfeed. Breastfeeding does not result in lower earnings, choosing to stay home results in higher breastfeeding rates. I'm guessing most of the mothers who chose to stay home with their children would have done so whether they'd been able to breastfeed or not. The only way you can make breastfeeding sound more expensive than formula feeding is to twist the data to make it look like it results in lost earnings, but if you consider that most women's choice to stay home or not does not hinge exclusively on breastfeeding, there's no legitimate way to argue that feeding your child something you make for free is more expensive than buying formula. Ridiculous and poorly conceived article by someone who is probably just looking for justification for her own decision not to breastfeed. 
May 24, 2012 11:02AM

This is a ridiculous article and comparison.  I nursed 3 kids for at least a year each, but would hardly call that attachment parenting. I consider it healthy, convenient, and what my body was created to do.   If my goal was to make/save money, I wouldn't have had kids in the first place.

May 23, 2012 7:43PM

Some of us believe that you should do what is right for your baby, not what is "cheapest".  After all, it is your child!  I work with many women who will tell you straight out that making money/advancing in their career is what is important to them, not hanging out with their children.  They also will tell you that going to work - at almost any job - is easier than taking care of a child (or two) all day.

While I do not advocate co-sleeping, nursing until four years old, or spending every second of every day with your child, raising your own child (if possible - instead of letting a day care worker raise them) and nursing are both very worthy endeavors.

May 23, 2012 9:17PM
What a dumb article. It's not about saving money. You yahoo!!!
May 24, 2012 9:33AM

This is unbelievable to me, comparing the health and raising of children with potential income loss. If you are unwilling to make sacrifices to give your children YOU, then...


Attachment parent isn't anything new and it doesn't mean that the children are waited on hand and foot, it means you are together! In fact in most cases I think you would find they have a better understanding of what Mom and Dad do in order to take care of them because they are there with you.


I can only say that choosing to formula feed to get back to making that $ and back to "your" life, seems to contradict becoming a parent in the first place.

May 24, 2012 10:43AM
I was breast feed as a child . I have grown up healthey & wise for the most part. I feel a woman has the right to breast feed her child in public ! So all of you that oppose it keep on sucking your bottle. I realize there are some sick-o's out there. But should a woman experience a issue with another she should dial 9-1-1 and let the police deal with it. Most states have adopted a program for the handicap .Why not a special place for a mother to breast feed her child whom others may dis-respect a mother ? Some of you folks on here need to get over yourself !
May 28, 2012 2:36PM

I breast fed my daughter for her first 3 years and worked all but the first 3 months after she was born. It is a lot less expensive. We had a co-sleeper attached to our bed the first year. It was so much easier than washing bottles and buying formula. Took a breast pump to work everyday and gave the milk to the sitter when I picked her up for use the next day. We rarely had to substitute any formula.


The worst thing was the crap I got was from people thinking I was breast feeding too long. Why do people think that is their business?


By-the-way, my daughter is 14. Has straight A's and is ready for the IB (honors) program at HS. She plays club water polo with the boys now and is planning to play in HS. Guess that breast milk is good for their brains. So take that all you up tight people who are upset by breastfeeding.

May 26, 2012 10:17PM

i breastfed and worked it can be done. i bought 1 can of formula a month for the daycare, because the 3 bottles i sent a day from pumping didn't seem to be enough. my son chose to stop nursing at 10monthes and used only a regular cup at home but the daycare requires children under a yr to use bottles and formula. so after a yr i was still tying to wean him from a bottle. I spent 70 on the breatpump it worked for the whole 10monthes.

i co slept with my son so feeding him at night was a piece of cake never had to get out of bed. my pay rate didn't change because i was breastfeeding so i'm not sure how i would have earned less. i spent no money for the first 3 monthes and only purchased 2 cans of formula for the next 3 after that i purchased a few boxes of cereal and baby food.

May 26, 2012 9:25PM
30+ years ago, I worked and I breastfed my daughter.  Before I went back to work, I worked a bottle into her routine in the middle of the day.  I fed her before I went to work and my body adjusted.  Yes, I was more than ready to feed her when I got home, but I did it!  I don't even know if they had breast pumps readily available back then.  She decided on her own that she was done at about 8 months.  Didn't want a bottle, either.  Went straight to a cup and probably was more healthy than most kids her age and still is!  It can be done, just takes a little planning.  For me, it was much cheaper to breastfeed than to purchase that much formula!
May 26, 2012 9:35PM
I breastfed my daughter exclusively until she was about six to eight months and then part of the time until she was getting closer to two as I gradually weaned her.  Was that too old?  I don't know.  It felt normal (it's not like how weird it would be to stick a two year old on the breast out of the blue) and definitely did not harm her.  Three is probably getting a bit old and that woman on the cover seems to almost be feeding her kid out of defiance.  I doubt the mild benefits he might be getting are worth the negative response.
May 24, 2012 12:41AM

Breastfeeding has some positive effects on infants--but the effects are minor.  On the other hand, having an adult spend every waking moment waiting on a child hand and foot has extemely negative ramifications.


Women have always worked--it is a fallacy to think that for many generations, young mothers spent all their time raising children. They did not--the infants were often fed by whichever female member of the family was handy or were strapped to a board or placed in a sling to make them easy to tote around with one's hands free. Young women who were strong would work in the fields and doing heavy work around the house--the little old auntie or grandma watched the children who were too young to work.  Once they were old enough to do chores, they spent the majority of their days doing chores.


It is only in the last 100 years that this ridiculous idea of "attachment parenting" has emerged--and the children who emerge from it are often the most ridiculously spoiled brats imaginable.  Presently, 50% of college graduates have no jobs--don't tell me that this has no relation to (even if it is not the sole result of) attachment parenting.


Even when children spend part of their weekday in daycare--their parents are still raising them.  It is silly to suggest otherwise.  While family members might make the best caregivers--as they might well  be better educated or at least more mature than the typical daycare worker--there is no need for the biological parents to be bound to the child.  If older family members with reduced incomes and younger family members with a need for daytime help were to get together, many issues could be resolved.

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