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The Breast is Best

As we are getting to the stage of our marriage where we are starting to think about kids, we are starting to think about the various financial impacts of having a newborn.  From what I've heard from other parents, newborns aren't that expensive, it's when they get to the teen years that things get tangly. 

You're probably looking at the catchy title, "The Breast is Best" and wondering, what on earth is FT thinking about.  Well, on the topic of newborns, my wife and I were discussing the benefits/advantages of breast feeding.  Mind you, we understand that not all women are able to breast feed, but if they have the choice, this is why The Breast is Best.

For the Newborn:

  • Protects child against various forms of  infection, illness and allergies (more details here).
  • Enhances development and intelligence.

For the Mother:

  • Risk of a Osteoporosis and specific types of cancers are reduced (breast, ovarian etc).
  • Increases metabolism thus aids in the shedding of post pregnancy weight.
  • Financial benefits – as stated in my newborn baby expenses article, formula can cost up to $75/month.

For those of you with more experience than me on this issue, what are your thoughts?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 43 comments… add one }
  • The Financial Blogger September 24, 2007, 7:04 am

    I have two kids and the only thing I can tell you is: The Breast is Best (I really like your title ;-) ). Honestly, besides all the technical advantages (biological and financial), the relationship that grows between the kid and his mother over breastfeeding is phenomenal. There is a kind of magic link being created through breastfeeding. It’s like both of them communicating without talking. I guess it helps for the kid’s confidence as well!

  • Rog September 24, 2007, 8:12 am

    Breastfeeding doesn’t protect babies from asthma, allergies: study
    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2007/09/12/avandia-reactions.html

    Breastfeeding offers no IQ boost, study says
    http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2006/10/04/breastfeed-iq.html

  • FourPillars September 24, 2007, 9:11 am

    I agree breasts are great :)

    Seriously – although it can be quite difficult to get started, the convenience factor alone is worth it. It’s hard enough to get up several times in the night for breastfeeding but if you have to go to the kitchen and warm up formula then that is an extra step.

    It’s also a lot easier for Dad, since he can’t help out much in this department (and he’s probably still working so he needs some sleep).

    Mike

  • Telly September 24, 2007, 9:27 am

    No experience here but last weekend I was listening to a few of my friends who are recent mothers complain that there seems to be a huge stigma attached to formula feeding now (which is quite the opposite to the way things were in the 70’s and 80’s).

    They do admit that the convenience factor is great once they got started but I’ve heard many tales of women feeling inadequate, guilty and depressed when they found they had a very hard time breastfeeding so I try not to be judgemental but I would agree that breast is best if it works for the individual. Nice title FT. ;)

  • Curtis September 24, 2007, 9:38 am

    After just going through this with my wife and 5 month old daughter I could write pages on this topic :-) The pressure on my wife to breastfeed was tremendous from the doctors/nurses etc.. and she managed to do it for a month when an infection forced her to stop.

    The main thing for me is that your child is healthy and happy and I don’t think this anything to do with being breastfed. Our daughter has been formula fed now for 4 months and she is in the 75% percentile for growth and is ahead in her development based on her age.

    As Rog pointed out many of the benefits pushed on people about breast feeding are somewhat overstated based on a few studies. That’s another discussion. Many of today’s formulas (Good Start and Enfamil with Omega 3) are as nutritional for your infant as breast milk.

    Out of the points you mentioned FT, the financial aspect is definitely true. For me it is similar to choosing to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. In the long run formula will run you about 60 – 80 dollars a month depending on the type you choose.

    I have to disagree with Mike as a new Dad, I really enjoyed being able to give my daughter those early morning bottles as I bonded with her during these times. So there are some good points to formula feeding as well.

    Curtis

  • George September 24, 2007, 9:59 am

    We’ve got a 3-week old that’s being nursed and given formula (nursing a few times a day, formula the rest of the time). Nursing can be extremely hard to make work – it’s a lot harder on the mom, and it prevents dad from helping out very much. If it works out, it’s awesome, but there are a lot of “lactivists” out there that will make it sound like you’re an unfit parent if you’re feeding your child formula.

    @Curtis: I strongly suggest you talk to your local community health nurse or nutritionist about the comparative benefits of different types of formula. Infant formulas are very, very regulated, and honestly the nutrition benefits aren’t that different. We’re currently using the President’s Choice brand from Superstore ($11.50 for a 900g can), which is far cheaper than the brand-name Enfamil ($25 for a 750g can), and our little guy is healthy and gaining weight exactly as he should be.

  • FrugalTrader September 24, 2007, 10:05 am

    How about using a breast pump to put the breast milk into bottles so Mom doesn’t have to constantly breast feed? That way, Dad can contribute also.

  • FourPillars September 24, 2007, 10:25 am

    Good points about formula. Personally I think the nutrition advantages of breast milk are fairly minimal so if you end up doing formula there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    Mike

  • guinness416 September 24, 2007, 10:33 am

    This is one of those issues where online commentators can get pretty judgmental and shrill (seriously, check out some parenting forums, it can be a horror show!) and new mothers do indeed often feel a lot of pressure. “Do What Works For Your Family” is a better maxim than “Breast is Best”.

    (Not a mother, but with a number of New Mum friends).

  • Telly September 24, 2007, 10:34 am

    FT, I asked the question about pumping as well and got an overwhelming response from new mothers that it is FAR too time consuming (much more so than formula feeding). Basically, most of your day would be spent either feeding or pumping (with no time for sleep!). Also, it’s not just diffuculty with latching, apparently some mothers just have a had time produing milk.

    Wow, I know way too much about this for not being a mom! New moms love to share! ;)

  • Curtis September 24, 2007, 11:16 am

    Thanks for the comments George. We have done a fair amount of research and talked to our pediatrician about the types of formula. The main reason we are using the Nestle Good Start formula is for the inclusion of Omega 3 fatty acids which are one of the key ingredients in early brain development. Still a matter of choice but we will stick with the Good Start stuff, thanks for the input though.

  • FrugalTrader September 24, 2007, 11:38 am

    Is it safe to say that there have been advancements to formula that make it just as effective as breast milk?

    Telly, you seem to be doing a lot of research on the whole Mom thing, is there something you’re not telling us? :)

  • Meg September 24, 2007, 11:41 am

    I had an awful time getting started with breastfeeding. It was quite discouraging because I thought it was the natural way to go (we have a population problem on our planet and most don’t have access to formula). After the first few weeks though, it was wonderful and I hated to give up that closeness when my baby was a year old.
    It may be the only way for me, but that doesn’t mean others have to do it. I was fed formula myself and they do keep applying new knowledge to making formula as good as they can. I think that babies thrive when we love them no matter what way we feed them.

  • George September 24, 2007, 11:42 am

    FT: Yes, formula is just as effective as breast milk. Bear in mind that breast milk and formula are food, nothing more. While some people might argue that specific ingredients are vital for development, the reality is that most kids will turn out just fine whether they are fed breast milk or formula.

    Breast feeding is cheaper, no question, but formula feeding provides a lot of flexibility.

    This indeed is an issue, though, where a lot of opinions come out…

  • FourPillars September 24, 2007, 11:59 am

    Not exactly on topic here but…

    Having difficulty with breast feeding was one of the biggest surprises we had with our baby. We had assumed that breast feeding must be easy to do since it’s a natural process and humans have been doing it for thousands of years. As we found out, nothing could be further from the truth.

    We have a lot of friends who had kids before us and I was a bit annoyed that not one of them ever said a word about how hard breast feeding can be. I understand they don’t want to be negative about it but I think if you know someone who is expecting (MDJ perhaps?) then feel free to give them a heads up that they might have problems. If new parents know that it’s common to have problems then they might be more likely to seek help (ie at breast feeding clinics) right away rather than wait because they think they are the only ones having issues.

    Also – very interesting article in the Toronto Star about this very subject:

    http://www.thestar.com/living/article/259590

    Mike

  • Telly September 24, 2007, 12:11 pm

    FT said: “Telly, you seem to be doing a lot of research on the whole Mom thing, is there something you’re not telling us? :)”

    Not yet. ;) How about you? :)
    It seems like almost every one of my friends either is a new mom or is pregnant so it’s pretty much all they talk about, so I just absorb. I don’t mind – it’s a lot better than the talk of bridesmaids dresses and centrepieces of a few years ago!

  • FrugalTrader September 24, 2007, 1:33 pm

    Yes, looks like I’ve opened up a can of worms with this topic. Everyone seems to have a different opinion! I like it!

    It’s good to know that there are great alternatives to breast feeding. However, my opinion (naive?) stands, if a mother is able to breast feed then The Breast is Best.

  • Canadian Capitalist September 24, 2007, 2:16 pm

    I just have to throw in my two cents on this topic :)

    First, I agree with Mike & Meg it is difficult to get started and the pressure from nurses is just tremendous.

    Second, this may not be true for everyone but babies seem to have more difficulty digesting formula than breast milk.

    While breast milk is convenient and cheaper, there is a bit of learning curve involved. Either way, what’s more important is a healthy baby.

  • Canadian Dream September 24, 2007, 5:05 pm

    Ok, I have to put my two cents here. Our first was 10 weeks early, so we where told that for premature kids they REALLY want you to breast feed since apparently the mother’s body adjusts the milk for the early birth dumping in all sort of good things that formula can’t give.

    So in our case we really didn’t have much of a choice, but my wife wanted to anyway. So it all worked out, even if she had to pump for about 8 weeks until the kid learned to suck.

    I agree that it isn’t an easy road to learn it from mother and child, but it really is a personal choice. Do want you want and feels right.

    Tim

  • Smithers September 24, 2007, 8:08 pm

    We have a 3 month old, shes been breast fed since day 1 (literally as soon as she popped out we put her on the nipple) and you know what? Its been easy.
    Maybe we are lucky but humanity seemed to get by just fine without formula for thousands of years.

    I havent looked at the prices of formula, just occasionally ive had to make up some bottles and I find it a real hassle getting the temperature to 37C using hot water and a bowl. Cant beat the juice straight from the source I say.

    Conclusion, if you can do it, theres not even a question. Breast is indeed Best.

  • George September 24, 2007, 9:12 pm

    @Smithers: I’m glad to hear that you’ve had a good experience, but the reality is that it simply isn’t easy for everybody. Some mothers don’t produce much milk, and some babies have a very hard time getting a latch.

    There’s no reason to get formula to exactly 37C before a feed – it just has to be warm, but not hot. We just microwave a half-full mug of water for a minute, and put the bottle into the hot water for another minute. Two minutes later, we have a perfectly warmed bottle.

    The real hassle with formula is with sterilizing everything – bottles, nipples, etc. We found a microwave sterilizer on eBay with our first child, and it’s been a Godsend. Much easier than boiling everything.

  • Isabelle September 24, 2007, 10:35 pm

    Although one can’t deny the value of formula for mothers who can’t nurse for medical reasons it’s not entirely benign. The way it has been heavily marketed in developed and developing countries leaves me quite suspicious.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_formula
    Many women I know have struggled with breastfeeding. All those who have read relevant books and met with a lactation consultant have pulled through. It’s like reading up on finance and hiring a planner. Breastfeeding and other aspects of parenting require knowledge patience and skill.
    When I have children I really hope to breastfeed them, but knowing that it’s more difficult for some mums than others I wouldn’t look down upon a mother who has resorted to using formula.

  • George September 26, 2007, 3:04 pm

    @Curtis: You might want to read this article at Wise Bread about “store brand” vs. “name brand” infant formulas: http://www.wisebread.com/why-theres-no-reason-not-to-buy-store-brand-baby-formula

    Infant formua is heavily regulated by the government and is often manufactured in the same facility whether it’s the expensive or cheap stuff, and you’re paying double the price to get the “name brand” product.

    Be sure to read the comment at Wise Bread about why pediatricians offer the “name brand” formulas.

    With our first child we got “hooked” on the Enfamil A+ because it was what was offered by the hospital – we were afraid of switching to anything else because of any reactions or problems. With our second child we put him on the store brand stuff right away, and he’s been growing like a weed since.

    Baby products are a marketing (and money-making) machine. Don’t be suckered into paying extra to get something that’s supposedly “better” when it’s pretty much the same product with a different label.

  • Curtis September 26, 2007, 3:14 pm

    Thanks so much George for that great information. As first time parents I know sometimes we lean a little towards paying more for something because that makes us feel “that is must be better”. I am learning a lot about these formulas now.

  • FrugalTrader September 26, 2007, 3:18 pm

    That’s probably what these high end baby product companies bank on, first time parents.

  • Curtis September 26, 2007, 3:22 pm

    Absolutely FT! I agree with you 100%. That is why I have tried to gather as much info from friends of mine who have already been through this. We have done a pretty good job of being frugal on most things but the formula one is still a tough one. Hard to convince my wife that the store generic brands are as good as the brand names. having all of this information has been a great help.

  • FrugalTrader September 26, 2007, 3:28 pm

    Curtis, from your experience, what is the best bang for your buck disposable diaper?

  • Curtis September 26, 2007, 3:39 pm

    You know what FT this is a really tough one for new parents. Speaking from experience after 6 months we have tried a number of brands. The problem I found with some of the no name brands is that you end up changing them more frequently so your cost savings “go out with the trash” so to speak.

    1) Pampers Baby Dry – There are by far my favorite and usually Walmart and Dominion put these on sale a lot. You can buy a super size box for about 35 bucks on sale with about 150 diapers (approx).

    2) Dominion or Superstore Generic Brand (duck) – These were decent, if you want to use a no name brand I would try these first.

    3) Walmart Generic Brand (White cloud) – We did not like these at all. I found especially overnight they were not effective.

    Honestly the best idea when it came to diapers was having my friends throw a “diaper party” for me just before the baby came. We lived off these diapers for almost 2 – 3 months and got to try out many different types.

  • FrugalTrader September 26, 2007, 3:48 pm

    Curtis, have you looked into buying pampers in bulk from Costco? They’re usually cost competitive.

  • Curtis September 26, 2007, 3:53 pm

    Yes we also looked at that option and when you check the per diaper price comparing Costco with Dominion, Dominion is usually better or the same. Not sure if this has changed in the last year or not but in 2006 that was the case.

  • Sundy October 5, 2007, 10:27 am

    Hi! I nursed twins and a singleton. I was only 24 when I had my twins, and since I knew I was going to be far from friends and family that could lend support, I joined a La Leche League chapter when I was about 6 months pregnant with the twins.

    Even with all the support and research, one twin and the singleton had a hard time learning how to “latch on,” but one twin was a very fast learner.

    It was a great experience, and I was lucky that I didn’t get any kind of infection.

    This is how intense the bond is when you nurse — when they weaned themselves at a little less than a year each, *I* had a difficult time letting go. My arms would literally ache to hold them.

  • Elizabeth October 7, 2007, 1:37 am

    I’m coming a little late to the party, but if you have room for another comment…

    I nursed both of my children. Not only nursed them, but practiced what is called “extended nursing” (allowing each child to wean him/herself) and “tamdem nursing” (nursed The Daughter as a toddler while also nursing The newborn Son).

    One benefit to breastfeeding that no one touched on yet — I kid you not — is the absence of stinky diapers. Babies’ poop doesn’t stink as long as they are exclusively breastfed. Considering the fact that you’ll be changing diapers for 2-3 years, 6-8 months of stink-free diapers is nothing to wrinkle your nose at.

    Another point is that the cost of formula is only one portion of the expense involved when you don’t breastfeed. You also have the bottles, the nipples, the bottle brushes, the water/electicity use of washing and sterilizing, the cooling and then the warming up. Also, if you use a powdered formula, what will you use to constitute? Tap water? Even when you’re traveling?

    Some people worry, “is the baby getting enough to eat?” True, with a bottle you can see clearly how many ounces were consumed. Don’t sell yourself short — you’ll know. Baby will let you know.

    Also, in regard to the time spent nursing — yes, the time investment is rather heavy when they are newborns. Nursing is a great way of mom to slow down, rest up, and bond. As baby gets bigger, nursing time decreases. And unless you’re planning to prop baby up in a seat with a bottle, the time investment is the same whether baby’s eating directly from the source or from a bottle.

    True, dad can’t nurse but there are so many other ways that dad can bond with baby and contribute to baby’s care. Remember the stinky diaper point ;-)

    I agree with the point made by several commenters — getting the hang of breastfeeding can be a challenge. With The Daughter, I was holding her wrong and ended up with very sore and painful nipples. Having the baby latch on was agony. Luckily I was pigheadedly determined to make breastfeeding work so I reached out for help and got it. I got rid of the picture-perfect “baby in my lap” position in favor of the correct “belly to belly” position and everything became good. With The Son, I kept getting mastitis (breast infection due to plugged milk ducts) — a condition that made my earlier problems with The Daughter seem like a walk in the park. I finally threw away my underwire nursing bra and the infections stopped.

    If you do decide that breast is best, go into it knowing that it doesn’t come as naturally as you might think. And know the phone number for your local Le Leche League chapter before baby comes.

    One last point — there’s not much money to be made off breastfeeding. On the other hand, formula companies have a lot to lose with each baby that is breastfed. Now that breastfeeding is making a comeback, formula companies are fighting back with hefty advertising budgets.

    Best of luck. I applaud you for thinking ahead on this topic — this gives you plenty of time to do your research and make an informed decision.

  • Robert at Kintropy October 7, 2007, 11:43 pm

    Breastfeeding is great if its an option. With our kids, it wasn’t, unfortunately. Standard formula will run you some $ (although not as much as diapers in our experience). Good luck on this adventure when you decide to move forward.

  • Janette October 9, 2007, 2:11 am

    If you can it is great. I couldn’t my mother forgot to tell me till a week before I was suppose to have our first child that she never got milk.

    Don’t forget to ask parents if they got milk. A decent milk pump is about 500.00 or you can borrow them.

    All my neighbors breastfeed it is great but there is another cost that people forget to figure and that is the cost of clothing. There is some great stuff out there for easy breast feeding in public so that is a cost some people forget.

    Also there is the cost of body matenance such as cracking nipples or leaking. So don’t forget to add Lanoline, breast pads, nursing bras and shirts to your finicial formula.

    It’s a great adventure. Good Luck

  • Alex November 17, 2007, 11:42 pm

    Very late to the party. I was determined to breastfeed and it never occurred to me it would be more than difficult, but it was. I breastfed my son exclusively for one week and then for a second at the advice of my lactation consultant added a supplemental nursing system (meaning he got formula, but through a small tube attached to a syringe while was also nursing, so I got the nipple stimulation and he continued to nurse. After a week of that, he was needing more than 20 cc of supplemental formula (or pumped milk) per feeding and I put him on a bottle for some feedings — the supplemental system was just too hard to use. I pumped regularly, though, to try to get my supply up, and made sure he got every drop.

    There are drugs and herbs one can take, but I decided I wasn’t willing to do so due to concerns about how things that would increase my milk supply might affect my infant son.

    At one month, my milk supply got better, but it never got great, and we have always used both formula and breast.

    For us this has worked out well. I don’t have to do every feeding or leave the house worrying that I MUST get back in time for the next feeding (or worry about whether I’ve left enough pumped supply to serve in my stead). But I enjoy breastfeeding my son and would have preferred not to need formula, honestly, had I had a choice in this matter. Still, a month or so in I decided it was better to use both and therefore not be stressed/exhausted and be able to breastfeed longer, than to stress myself out trying to breastfeed exclusively and quit earlier than I otherwise would (now still going strong at 8 months and planning to continue as long as he wants to nurse, within reason. I do want to bear a second child and am too old to wait several years to start trying again).

    In comparing the cost of formula to breastmilk, though, I’d say it’s important for most of us to factor in the cost of a decent pump (around $150 used on Craiglist), a half-dozen good nursing bras (around $25 each), and several meetings with a lactation consultant (I was lucky, these were covered by my insurance, no idea what they would cost). So breastmilk isn’t really free, and of course if you’re pumping (and realistically, most of us will be if we breastfeed for any amount of time), you’re also looking at bottles and the rest.

    As for logistics, my son happily takes his formula just generically “warm,” we use straight tap water to mix (no need to sterilize with a full-term baby, my ped. advised me), and from about 4 months he’s been able to hold his bottle himself — I do sometimes cradle him, but it is nice to be able to lie him down and, say, fold laundry while he tops up.

  • Tina December 20, 2007, 8:09 pm

    I just wanted to point out that there are many as to why some women choose not to breast feed. For my sister-in-law it was simply too uncomfortable. It was extremely painful at first and when the pain stopped she never enjoyed it the way many mothers do. She always told me that breast feeding gave her a sick, nauseous feeling. I know this probably isn’t a common problem, but having done some research with her on the subject, we found that many women simply hate stimulation in that area and can’t bring themselves to breast feed. My brother was very supportive and now they use a combination of pumping and formula, with the emphasis on formula, seeing as pumping isn’t that great for her either. There are several benefits to breastfeeding but after 9 months of pregnancy and labour I think people should cut mothers a little slack if nursing just isn’t working out. Many older members of our family criticized my sister-in-law because to them nursing was the only reasonable way to go, but seeing her struggle shredding all doubt that breast feeding was necessary. My brother and my sister-in-law are about to have number 2 and despite the trouble in the past she wants to try breast feeding and if it doesn’t work out, she says she’ll do her best to pump and formula feed. My brother LOVED feeding his daughter and I loved feeding my niece, it made me feel really close to her too and I’m super excited about the new arrival to be. I’m sure that feeding via bottle or breast will create a bond between mother and child and whenever I have first hand experience I’ll let you know.

    Ps I know this is very late, but I felt I should share. I’d love to know what you all think.

  • Todd April 16, 2008, 10:57 pm

    Any evidence I have seen leaves no doubt that breast feeding is the best possible practice for the child. The cost of formula tells you it definitely impacts the financial bottom line. And, I believe history tells us that we sell more and more of our kids’ childhoods every day.

    Even given all of that, I’m sure there are situations where it just isn’t feasible. But, I’m starting to think that our collective desire for more and better stuff is crowding out some of our common sense.

  • Robbin September 30, 2008, 11:29 pm

    Formula is NOT anywhere near as good for your baby as breastmilk is. We still do not know what all the components of breastmilk are, let alone have the ability to mimic them in the form of a powder or concentrate.

    In terms of women not being “able” to breastfeed, unfortunately this is not the case – nearly all women CAN breastfeed, but are not given an appropriate level of support in our society (or access to enough knowledge and support) to do so. Breastfeeding is not easy, and paying privately to get a lactation consultant in (if you even know such a thing exists!) is not always inexpensive. There are very few special circumstances in which a woman can’t – it is usually a lack of support and defeatist attitude that will do in the breastfeeding relationship.

    In the end, if you can make it through and get appropriate help and support, there is no reason to say “I plan to breastfeed.” Saying “I WILL breastfeed” can make all the difference in the world …

  • Berubeland October 17, 2009, 12:50 am

    I breastfed my son for 14 months not without considerable difficulties. It was very difficult for me and I did not have enough milk to start. Who knew that gestational diabetes affected milk availability. I had to supplement with formula in the beginning. I saw a lactation counselor at the hospital then I went to Dr Jack Newman’s clinic in Toronto. He also has a book and a DVD which were really great. The DVD was really good to help with latching. I also got a prescription to be able to have more milk. The reason I persisted was that my son was allergic to formulas. I did not want to take medication to breastfeed however when my son started projectile vomiting with formula I became more motivated. I was sick of switching formula’s and paying 25$ for a little can of hypoallergenic formula which promptly got thrown back up at me. Formula is not as good as breastmilk. Breastmilk is full of antibodies and other good stuff. Millions of years of evolution have made the perfect baby food. My son has been extraordinarily healthy. He is almost two and has had one cold and one runny nose and no ear infections which run in both our families. In the beginning it is hard but once they start with solid foods it is great and convenient to breastfeed. I also worked from two weeks after birth from home and I managed. I hated pumping HATED it was like having a weird alien hooked to your breast making strange sounds. I had to pump a lot too to try to increase my milk. SHHHHH CHUNK SHHHH CHUNK for hours horrible Anyways like I said my son is super healthy which is what I attribute to breastfeeding.

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