The Ultimate Breastfeeding Guide: How Much Does It Cost in Money & Time?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thankful I stuck it out

Each day, you go into work. You clock approximately eight hours at your desk, are paid for your time and go home. In one year of your life, you will spend 24% of your time at your job.

Parenting, on the other hand, is an unpaid internship. Mostly because if it’s your first time bringing life onto planet earth, you have absolutely no idea what you are doing. Or was that just me? In the first year of my child’s life, I spent 6% of my time breastfeeding, 4% of my time feeding her solids, 2% of my time changing her diapers, 1% of my time giving her baths and the other 87% of the time I worried. A lot.

Just those few parts of being a new parent — or an old parent (not that you’re old, I mean you totally look young as ever) — take up 13% of your year. That’s half of a full time job, and that’s only a few small segments of what you have to do to raise a kid. So, if you are wondering why my coffee budget has quadrupled, it’s this.

In all of the joys and growing pains that are being a parent, one of the most challenging aspects of the first year is breastfeeding. For me, the first few weeks attempting to breastfeed were that of a horror movie. I was constantly crying, bleeding and sweating. You’ve seen that movie, right? With the main character who looks completely stunned and exhausted has absolutely no idea how they got themselves into this mess? Great. That was me.

If I’m being perfectly honest, every single time my daughter wanted to eat in the first three months — which was immediately after she just finished eating — I was visibly rattled.

“Again? Are you for real?” - me, as a mom.

Fast forward to today, where I will breastfeed my baby girl two final times before she is completely weaned off of breastmilk. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thankful I stuck it out and sad that our journey with breastfeeding has come to an end.

Today I want to go over some things you’re probably curious about if you plan to breastfeed or have already breastfed your child. I’d like to share a brief overview of my journey, share the actual time I spent breastfeeding — down to the minutes, a glance at the cost of breastfeeding, the comparison between breastfeeding vs. formula, whether it was worth it and a few of my MVTs (most valuable tips).

What was my first year of breastfeeding like?

Not unlike parenting, feeding your baby is a unique journey for each woman. No matter how you feed them, it’s important for you to know that you are doing what is best for you and your child. Nothing anyone out there says matters so long as your baby is healthy and happy.

Personally, I started breastfeeding the day my baby was born. I had zero experience and didn’t receive any guidance from the nurses at the hospital. Instead, I attempted to try what I had learned from prenatal classes — which was watching a couple of videos and looking at some pictures. Luckily, my baby had a strong latch and we were doing okay. However, after being home for just 24 hours, it was evident that things weren’t going as well as I had anticipated. My positivity quickly dwindled. I was in a lot of pain and my baby seemed just as frustrated as I was. But, rather than stress, I called a lactation consultant and paid her to come to my home. She sat with me for over an hour and helped me learn the proper technique to breastfeed. She was available via text message and phone conversations for the following week. It was the best decision I could have made in that moment and from that day forward, things went smoothly.

In the months following, I was extremely exhausted. While breastfeeding, you burn as much as 500 calories a day. My baby was feeding well, but I was not happy. In an attempt to give myself more freedom, I attempted to pump milk. Shortly after that blip, I quickly realized that it wasn’t for me and shocker — it wouldn’t free up any time. From that day forward, my baby was strictly breastfed from birth until 10 months. Within those 10 months, the only time she was not breastfed were when we were at weddings. In these situations, she had four bottles of formula total.

Once we hit 4 months, things started to get a lot easier, and I truly started to enjoy breastfeeding, minus the fact that my body was no longer my own.

Once we were just under a month away from me starting back to work, we weaned one feed per week except for the morning and evening feeds. We gave formula in bottles for her new feeds. She luckily took to this change very well. Currently, we still do those two feeds but will start weaning tomorrow, as I am travelling overnight for work in one week.

Today, we mix half formula, half whole milk. My baby (if I can still call her that) is 1 year old.

How many hours did I spend breastfeeding in year 1?

Just like I tracked every single diaper I changed, I also tracked every single minute I spent breastfeeding. Why on earth would I do that? Oh hi, nice to meet you. I love statistics. I also love being able to explain to people the concept of how overwhelming breastfeeding can be, as well as how draining the entire process is. Literally and figuratively.

In week one, I spent over 14 hours breastfeeding. And that was an easier week. On average, in the first six weeks, I was feeding my baby for over 24 hours a week. In other words, I could have watched The Office series 2 times over. Months one to six are the months that you will spend the most time breastfeeding.

Average Hours Fed Per Month

The longest feeds I ever had were all in months one and two. There were 10 days in those first two months where I fed my baby for over 40 minutes at a time. Some of those recorded feeds were at 2 AM. So, when I tell you it wasn’t easy at the beginning, this is a great example of why.

In one year, I spent 32,654 minutes breastfeeding.

That’s 544 hours.

That’s nearly 1.5 hours per day, every single day.


How much does breastfeeding cost?

Breastfeeding is usually considered the most cost-effective way to feed your child. While that statement is accurate, that doesn’t mean it’s free.

In total, I spent 544 hours breastfeeding. That means I lost 544 hours of time I could have spent working.

Personally, for basic contract work that I do, I charge nearly $30/hour. At that rate, breastfeeding cost me $16,320 in lost wages. However, that’s just in contract work. I also had to take time off of my blog, my full-time job, and sponsorships.

Not only that, but I still had to spend a lot of money on breastfeeding products.

  • Lactation consultant ($200)

  • Breastfeeding pillow ($25)

  • Manual breast pump ($20)

  • Electronic breast pump ($400)

  • Nursing Tops ($50)

  • Nursing Bras ($30)

  • Nipple cream ($12)

  • Cold packs ($15)

These are just a few of the expenses that I incurred for breastfeeding products and recovery. Do you need all of these items? You could argue no as much as you could argue yes. Everything is a need if it’s going to make the process easier, less overwhelming and less of a strain on your mental health.

Although breastfeeding is much more affordable than formula, by an astronomical amount, it’s still not free. Women sacrifice a lot of themselves to feed their children.

Breastfeeding vs. Formula

When it comes to these two types of feeds, both have benefits and both have disadvantages — says Captain Obvious. If you’re curious which one is for you, let’s take a look at both.

Breastfeeding

Benefits

Disadvantages

Affordability

Personal comfort + pain

Nutritional value + antibodies

Time + frequency

Skin to skin contact

Inability to take medication

Convenience

Loss of personal freedom

Formula

Benefits

Disadvantages

Convenience

Lack of antibodies

Flexibility

Cost

Time + frequency

Planning+ organization

Personal freedom

Difficult for baby to digest

Is breastfeeding worth it?

If you had asked me one month into breastfeeding whether or not it was worth it, my answer would have been no. Today, though, and knowing all that I know now, absolutely it was. Not only did my relationship with my daughter flourish, but I also found that the convenience factors and cost difference were undeniable.

Once we started to use formula, we quickly realized how fortunate we were that breastfeeding worked out. However, I’m also very happy to be finishing up my personal journey with breastfeeding. I can finally wear what I want, take on more work, enjoy more personal time, and my husband is finally getting his time to care for her through bottle feeds. I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience of breastfeeding in year one.

5 breastfeeding tips to remember

If you Google breastfeeding tips, you’ll find a billion answers to your question. But, here are my top five tips for any of you who need something to keep yourself sane.

  1. You’re not doing anything wrong. Ever.

    You’re not overfeeding your baby or underfeeding your baby. They’ll tell you when they’re full and they’ll tell you when they’re hungry. Don’t second guess yourself.

  2. Take care of yourself, too.

    It can be hard when you first start out to eat enough food, drink enough water and get enough rest. Ensure that you have a good support system for those first few months.

  3. Don’t suffer or struggle alone.

    Always ask for help. It’s not worth it to go through these trials and tribulations without help and it doesn’t have to be as scary or hard as you might think. Hiring a lactation consultant was worth the cost over and over again. It’s also a great idea to reach out to any other moms you may know who are likely experiencing the same situations you are.

  4. Embrace the time rather than dread it.

    Time spent breastfeeding may feel long, but it can be used for good. Whether that’s by watching Netflix, YouTube, or playing Candy Crush — I encourage you to do whatever you want during those feeds. That is time for you and your baby. No one else.

  5. Never say never.

    I said a lot of things at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey that were totally false. Things like: I don’t think I could ever breastfeed in public, I will be so happy when I’m done with this, and I wouldn’t be caught dead breastfeeding after my baby turns one. Maury caught me lying.

Breastfeeding is a wild journey, and you will likely change dramatically in your first year as a parent — but trust me — it’s all for the best.