Breastfeeding has been touted as easy, fulfilling, and absolutely free, and well, when you put it that way, it sure seems like a no-brainer.
There are no bottles to warm up and no expensive formulas to purchase. But, for the moms who have to accommodate hectic feeding schedules and pay hundreds of dollars for state-of-the-art breast pumps, the choice isn’t so simple. Convenience and cost aside, breastfeeding also comes with some large social hurdles. Just ask Afrykayn Moon who was ordered to get off a Michigan bus last week after breastfeeding in public. So we ask, is breast really best?
Breaking It Down
When comparing the cost of formula feeding to breast feeding, finding a clear winner may be more difficult than you’d think. Depending on the brand of formula, formula-feeding an infant can cost between $800 to $1,200 each year. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, can be completely cost-free (all you really need are your breasts and your baby). But, modern mommies are likely to invest in an entire arsenal of breastfeeding accessories. A Medela breast pump alone costs upwards of $270, and that’s before you throw in the hands-free pump ($30), nursing bras ($150 for 5), nursing tops ($130 for 5), and Milkmate storage rack ($35). All in all, you’re looking at a yearly cost between $600 to $1,000.
Good for Your Health
While breast feeding and formula feeding are neck-and-neck on an economic level, the hidden benefits of breast feeding go beyond the pocketbook. Time and again, studies have concluded that antibodies in breast milk enhance infant immune systems, offering protection against diabetes, allergies, and asthma later in life. Breastfed babies also learn how to eat until their hunger is sated, helping them develop healthy eating habits that lower the chance of obesity in adulthood. Doctors have also found that the longer that moms breastfeed, the lower their chances are for breast or ovarian cancer.
A National Campaign
This past February, in a push to promote breastfeeding among American moms, the IRS announced that the cost of breast pumps and other accessories would be eligible for tax breaks. Michelle Obama has been encouraging mothers to breastfeed as a part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight obesity. She hopes that more flexible workplace rules and breastfeeding supplies that can be reimbursed will provide incentives for new moms to breastfeed their infants.
The debate on whether to breast feed or not will continue nonetheless; but ultimately, the choice is a very personal one that only a mother can make.
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