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Save $1200 by Breastfeeding Your Baby

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

For being the smallest member of the family, a baby can be one of the biggest expenses. Diapers, baby wipes, formula, and those little jars of baby food devour a family's budget quicker than the baby puts on weight. Fortunately, through some simple choices, you can save significant money.

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One of the easiest ways to save over $1200 during your baby's first year of life is to choose breastfeeding. Your little one needs nourishment to sustain his incredible growth, and breast milk is the ideal food to help your baby thrive.

Breast milk is the perfect food for a baby. It's easy to serve: no sterilizing, measuring, or preparing bottles in the middle of the night. The milk is the perfect temperature and consistency for your baby. Plus, it is easier to digest than formula and provides all the necessary nutrients a baby needs and in the correct amounts. Breast milk is preventive medicine. Babies who are breastfed have lower risk of ear infections, illness, allergies, obesity, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), as well as less tooth decay and diarrhea and a higher intelligence quotient (IQ).

The baby is not the only one to benefit from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding helps a mother's uterus return to its normal size more quickly. A nursing mother burns extra calories just to produce breast milk, thus losing her pregnancy-related weight more easily. Breastfeeding may also lessen the risk of a woman developing osteoporosis, as well as breast and ovarian cancer.

Most new mothers plan on breast feeding their baby, but very few continue for the whole first year. While a few women are truly unable to breast feed due to physical reasons such as inadequate milk production, others choose not to for various reasons such as work, mastitis, or physical exhaustion. Work may, but doesn't have to, hinder breast feeding.

If you plan on returning to work, consider pumping milk to save money and give your baby the benefits of breast milk for as long as possible. I have a friend who returned to work when her baby was 12 weeks old. The baby soon preferred the bottle over the breast. He is nearly 6 months old and although he won't breastfeed, my friend continues pumping milk daily to give her son the benefits of breastfeeding.

Even if you stay at home, you may still want to pump milk. Pumping milk allows you more freedom. You can be away from your baby longer than you would if you had to nurse. If you want to share feeding responsibilities with other family members (such as night time feedings), expressing milk affords this opportunity.

Some women have a low milk supply, breast infection, or a premature or hospitalized baby and find that they must express milk. Pumping milk relieves some of the pressure of engorgement or sore nipples, providing the mother comfort and allowing the baby to nurse more easily. Pumping can be used to help pull or stretch flat or inverted nipples.

You can express your milk with a breast pump or by hand. Manual breast pumps and battery-powered pumps are the least expensive and recommended for occasional use, such as a missed feeding, an evening out from the baby or if you're working part-time. If you plan to return to work full-time or need to pump on a regular basis, you may wish to rent or buy an electric pump. Double pumps cost more, but will allow you to pump more quickly--in 10 to 15 minutes.

Allow your milk to become well-established and make certain your baby is nursing well before you try to introduce a bottle. If you introduce a bottle too soon, the baby may not want to nurse since sucking from a bottle is easier for the baby. If you wait too long to introduce a bottle, the baby may refuse the bottle, especially if he knows you are nearby to feed him. With my fourth child, I waited too long to introduce a bottle. She refused to eat and waited for several extra hours until I returned to nurse. If you're returning to work, consider introducing the bottle at about 4 to 6 weeks. If your baby doesn't take the bottle from you, have someone else try giving her a bottle.

You can also choose to save breast milk for later use. If you are not going to use the milk immediately, store in the refrigerator or in a cooler. How long can you store breast milk? Sources vary in the amount of time you can store milk, however, the sooner you use the milk the better. Personally, I've never stored fresh milk in the refrigerator for more than 72 hours and never more than a few months in the freezer. Medela, in their brochures, recommends no more than 4 hours at room temperature (66-72 degrees F), 24 hours in a cooler with 3 frozen ice packs, 5-7 days in a 32-39 degree F refrigerator, 3-4 months in a self-contained refrigerator freezer unit and 6-12 months in a deep freezer at 0 degree F.

I've nursed four of my children for over a year and am currently nursing my newborn daughter (our fifth child). I've found breastfeeding to be a truly rewarding experience. My children have been healthy--no ear infections or other major illnesses. I've saved money by not purchasing formula, antibiotics, or other costly medicines.

I breastfed exclusively, but did pump milk whenever I had to be away from my children. Not only were my children able to enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding even when I was gone for a few days, but I was able to keep up my milk supply so I could resume nursing when I returned. I also chose to pump milk (many times hand expressing rather than sterilizing the manual breast pump) to add to the infant cereal.

Consider breast feeding for at least the first year of your child's life. Not only will both you and your baby reap health benefits, but you will save an enormous amount of money. For more help or information on breastfeeding and pumping and storing milk, contact either your local lactation center, the public health department, your doctor or nurse, or your hospital's postpartum unit. The following resources are also helpful:

*IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) www.ilca.org

*La Leche League www.lalecheleague.org

www.lalecheleague.com/bfinfo.html (includes helpful articles)

*Nursing Mothers Counsel www.nursingmothers.org/

*BNN, Breastfeeding National Network (1-800-TELL-YOU) 24 hours/day, 7 days/week

*Medela www.medela.com/ "Ask the LC" for breastfeeding help. Call1-800-435-8316 about breast pumps

*Ameda Egnell breast pumps 1-800-323-4060 or 1-800-263-7400 in Canada

Information from the above article was taken from personal experience and from the following resources:

Carilion Lactation Center brochure (2003)
Medela publication (2003)
Ross Pediatrics publication (2003)
Similac publication (2004)

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Copyright © 2005 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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