Financial costs of not breastfeeding

…or cost benefits of breastfeeding

Compiled by Kelly Bonyata, BS, IBCLC

TABLE 1Formula costs saved by breastfeeding ($USD)
Formula cost/oz LOW$0.08/oz(Jan 2016) Equivalent Buying Power(using the cheapest formula costs) HIGH$0.31/oz(Jan 2016)
Baby’s age…
1 day $1.68 Starbucks coffee $6.51
2 days $5.04 Movie rental or book $19.53
1 week $11.76 Subscription for streaming music or movies $45.57
2 weeks $23.52 Cordless phone $91.14
3 weeks $35.28 Bouncer seat or season pass to the aquarium/zoo $136.71
4 weeks $50.13 Baby sling, front pack or baby activity center $194.22
6 weeks $79.81 Dental check-up or season pass to amusement park $309.23
2 months $124.32 New clothes for mom, microwave oven, or baby play yard $481.74
3 months $196.00 Stroller, car seat or digital camera $759.50
4 months $267.68 40-inch TV $1,037.26
5 months $357.28 Dishwasher or glider rocker $1,384.46
6 months $428.96 1 week vacation condo rental $1,662.22
7 months $491.68 Dining room set $1,905.26
9 months $648.48 Washer/dryer or 3 night Bahamas cruise for mom, dad & baby $2,512.86
12 months $816.48 Home computer $3,163.86
  1. Calculations are based upon average daily formula intakes listed in Table 2.
  2. Low and high formula costs based upon an January 19, 2016 cost comparison of powdered, concentrate and ready to feed formulas, using the lowest formula prices from and Brands compared included the formulas manufactured by Ross, Nestle/Carnation, Mead Johnson, Baby’s Only Organic & PBM Products (Walgreen’s, Parent’s Choice, Bright Beginnings, etc.)

Typical costs for breastfeeding ($USD)
Breastmilk, fed at the breast FREE

Everything listed below is OPTIONAL . . .

(November 2005 costs)
Nursing bra (OPTIONAL) $10 and up
Nursing shirt (OPTIONAL) $10 and up
Nursing dress (OPTIONAL) $20 and up
Cloth nursing pads (OPTIONAL)Disposable nursing pads (OPTIONAL) $2-4 per pair$4-5 box of 36
Nursing pillow (OPTIONAL) $10-45
Nursing stool (OPTIONAL) $5-35
Quality hand pump (OPTIONAL) $30-50
Quality double electric pump (OPTIONAL) $120-320
Hospital-grade pump rental (various pumps) (OPTIONAL) $40-50 double collection kit$15-30 per week$30-75 per month
Consultation with lactation consultant (IBCLC) (OPTIONAL)(prenatal, pumping/working, or weight check consultations are typically less expensive) $75-150 Home visit (1.5-2 hrs)$40-125 Office visit (1.5-2 hrs)$30-85 Follow up visit$10-50 Phone consultation (but sometimes free)
Human milk purchased from a milk bank (OPTIONAL) $2.75-3.50 per ounce

Health care cost savings of breastfeeding
Bartick M, Reinhold A. The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5):e1048-56.”Excluding type 2 diabetes (because of insufficient data), we conducted a cost analysis for all pediatric diseases for which the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported risk ratios that favored breastfeeding: necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, gastroenteritis, hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood asthma, childhood leukemia, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and childhood obesity… If 90% of US families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance).”Arnold LD. The cost-effectiveness of using banked donor milk in the neonatal intensive care unit: prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis. J Hum Lact. 2002 May;18(2):172-7.”Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) adds significantly to the cost of care for premature infants and to negative long-term and short-term outcomes for these infants. It is thus in the best interest of the health care system to prevent the occurrence of NEC through feeding protocols that foster NEC prevention (i.e., use of breast milk in the neonatal intensive care unit). Banked donor milk has been shown to be as effective in preventing NEC as mother’s milk. Three models of cost analysis are presented to show savings that could accrue to a health care system or individual family if banked donor milk were provided as first feedings when mother’s milk is not available. The cost of using banked donor milk to feed premature infants is inconsequential when compared to the savings from NEC prevention.”Wight NE. Donor human milk for preterm infants. J Perinatol. 2001 Jun;21(4):249-54.”As survival rates for preterm infants improve, more attention is being focused on improving the quality of survival through optimal nutritional management. The benefits of human milk for term infants are well recognized, with current research suggesting that human milk may especially benefit the preterm infant. Some mothers are unable or unwilling to provide breastmilk for their infants. Although not as well studied as mother’s own milk, pasteurized donor human milk can provide many of the components and benefits of human milk while eliminating the risk of transmission of infectious agents. Pasteurization does affect some of the nutritional and immunologic components of human milk, but many immunoglobulins, enzymes, hormones, and growth factors are unchanged or minimally decreased. In California donor human milk costs approximately $3.00 per ounce to purchase. A reduction in length of stay, necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis may result in a relative saving of approximately $11 to the NICU or healthcare plan for each $1 spent for pasteurized donor milk.”The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis by Jon Weimer. ERS Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 13. 20 pp, March 2001.

“A minimum of $3.6 billion would be saved if breastfeeding were increased from current levels (64 percent in-hospital, 29 percent at 6 months) to those recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General (75 and 50 percent). This figure is likely an underestimation of the total savings because it represents cost savings from the treatment of only three childhood illnesses: otitis media, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. This report reviews breastfeeding trends and previous studies that assessed the economic benefits of breastfeeding.”

Health Care Costs of Formula-feeding in the First Year of Life by Thomas M. Ball, MD, MPH and Anne L. Wright, PhD, published in Pediatrics Vol. 103 No. 4 April 1999, pp. 870-876.

“In the first year of life, after adjusting for confounders, there were 2033 excess office visits, 212 excess days of hospitalization, and 609 excess prescriptions for these three illnesses per 1000 never-breastfed infants compared with 1000 infants exclusively breastfed for at least 3 months. These additional health care services cost the managed care health system between $331 and $475 per never-breastfed infant during the first year of life… In addition to having more illnesses, formula-fed infants cost the health care system money. Health care plans will likely realize substantial savings, as well as providing improved care, by supporting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding.”

Cost Benefits of Breastfeeding (1997) by Karen M. Zeretzke, MEd, IBCLC

“Total Annual Cost of not Breastfeeding: $1.186 to $1.301 Billion”

Study of the costs of not breastfeeding (1997) by Dr. Jan Riordan

“Breastfeeding, a valuable natural resource, promotes health, helps prevent infant and childhood disease, and saves health care costs. Additional national health care costs, incurred for treatment of four medical conditions in infants who were not breastfed were estimated. Infant diarrhea in non-breastfed infants costs $291.3 million; respiratory syncytial virus, $225 million; insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, from $9.6 to $124.8 million; and otitis media, $660 million. Thus, these four medical diagnoses alone create just over a billion dollars of extra health care costs each year.”

Kaiser Permanente’s Study on Breastfeeding and Health (data from 1992-1993)

“Infants who were breastfed for a minimum of 6 months experienced $1,435.00 less health care claims than formula fed infants.”

TABLE 2Amount of formula needed per day[click here for amount of expressed breastmilk needed per day]
Baby’s Age Ounces per day,minimum Ounces per day,maximum Ounces per day,Average
0-3 weeks 14 28 21
3 weeks-2 months 21 32 26.5
2-6 months 24 40 32
6-9 months 24 32 28
9-12 months 18 32 25

Cost Comparison of Breastmilk Vs Formula, compiled by Pat Lindsey, IBCLC

Breastfeeding – The Best Investment. This is the World Breastfeeding Week 1998 Action Folder, which has a wealth of information on the economic benefits of breastfeeding, the comparative costs of breastfeeding and formula feeding, and more.

Breastfeeding, Natural and Cheap: Frugal Advantages to Breast Feeding from Frugal Living at

PDF Human Milk: An Invisible Food Resource by Anne Hatløy and Arne Oshaug

“Overlooking human milk production/consumption in data analysis and policymaking has negative consequences for children’s health and nutritional status.”

PDF Economics of not Breastfeeding by Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC

Aguayo VM, Ross J. The monetary value of human milk in Francophone West Africa: A PROFILES analysis for nutrition policy communication. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 2002;23(2):153-161.


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