I am starting a 10 part series on how I feed my family of 6 for around $250 a month using one of my first posts ever, The Top 10 Things I Don’t Pay For, as a spring board. Over the next few weeks I plan to discuss each of the 10 items I listed in that post in greater detail.
Without further ado, here is more information on #10 from my list of things I Don’t Pay For: Baby Formula.
My personal preference has always been to breastfeed my babies and I have successfully breastfed 4 now! In fact, I have been breastfeeding almost non-stop since my first daughter was born in 2004. In the 7 years since then, I have only had 2 small breaks, in between #2 and #3 and again in between #3 and #4, who I am still nursing.
My mother breastfed both of her babies in the 1970s when it was really uncool to do so and I was “indoctrinated” as a child. She taught me from a very young age that breastfeeding was not only best, but normal and doable. When I got pregnant with my first baby, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed and I never considered alternatives. My husband (a formula fed baby) was on board as soon as he found out that formula feeding can cost over $1500 a year (for the BASIC formula). He was immensely supportive, and I consider myeslf very lucky.
If for no reason other than monetary, breastfeeding my pack of four children has conservatively saved us $6,000. None of my babies ever had a single ounce of formula, not even the free samples I used to get, not even my first baby who spent the first week of her life in the NICU.
As I said, I consider myself very lucky to have been surrounded by supportive family members and friends. Unfortunately, I know that is not the case for a lot of women. I also didn’t want to leave a lot of things up to chance. So, I took action to make sure I would be successful at breastfeeding. Here are some things you can do to increase your odds of a successful breastfeeding relationship, too:
1. Buy (and READ) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I don’t recommend purchasing a lot of books, but if you intend to breastfeed, this is THE book on breastfeeding and it is well worth the $12 to have it at your disposal.
2. Seek out and meet your local chapter of La Leche League BEFORE you have your baby. LLL is a group of delightful women, all successful breastfeeding Moms themselves. They are immensely supportive and knowledgeable women. They helped me with my 1st baby and they still help with my 4th! You can find a local group in your area here. Meeting them ahead of time might make you more comfortable to seek them out if problems arise after your baby is born.
3. Opt for as natural a childbirth as you can. Epidurals and other drugs used during childbirth are passed on to the baby and can make babies sleepy. Sleepy babies often have difficulties sucking correctly. Natural childbirth IS doable, despite what many people say. I know because I have had four wonderful, unmedicated births. Drugs during childbirth are controversial and a lot of people might disagree with me, but you can read all about sleepy babies here if you want. The drugs mom receives during labor do cross the placenta into the baby and they take a long time to clear out of the baby’s system. Here is more information, if you want it.
4. Keep your baby close to you immediately after birth (and at least until breastfeeding is established) and maximize skin to skin contact. Babies are programmed to seek for their mom’s nipple with a rooting reflex. You can easily see this reflex in your newborn if you stroke her cheek softly and watch her head turn. Keeping babies close by is beneficial because they get to practice nursing, they get colostrum, and they help establish your milk supply. Sending babies to the nursery shortly after birth stresses them out and can compromise your breastfeeding relationship.
5. Keep your own body well hydrated and nourished. Nursing is a lot of work! It takes more calories to sustain breastfeeding than it does to sustain pregnancy! If you deplete your body of the ingredients it needs, you might not make an adequate milk supply. Make sure to eat healthy foods and drink a lot of water. Don’t diet!
6. If you have to go back to work, learn about your state’s laws regarding breastfeeding. According to the Fair Labor Standard’s Act, employers are REQUIRED to provide a “’reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.’ Employers are also required to provide ‘a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.’” You can read more about that here and here. Know the law and don’t be afraid to advocate for your needs.
7. Also, in 2011, the IRS said that breast pumps are tax deductible and can be bought with flex savings accounts money. Read the details here. Many insurance companies will also contribute to pump purchases, so do your homework and find out what you qualify for.
8. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for, and accept help! Childbirth is hard work. It takes a toll on women. Make time to do nothing, go no where, and have someone else available to take care of you, if at all possible, so you can focus on your baby. Not worrying about cooking, cleaning, or childcare after the birth of each of my children has been a huge blessing and I am so thankful to my own mother for helping me. A supportive family member or friend can make all the difference.
Please know, I am not providing any of this information as medical advice! (I am also NOT judging any of my friends who did use formula.) These are simply my opinions on things you can do to avoid adding formula to your shopping list, if you are trying to breastfeed!
Stay tuned for Part 2 to Keeping a Low Grocery Budget: Cleaning Supplies.