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Although I had intended to breastfeed exclusively, I ended up not producing as much milk as our son needed, so we supplemented with formula for 14 weeks until transitioning fully to formula. Our pediatrician actually asked us to start supplementing on Day 2 because our baby wasn’t producing enough wet diapers. Because we were still in the hospital at that point, we were sent home with eight ready-to-feed bottles (about $8 worth). At our first pediatrician’s appointment a few days later, the doctor asked us to continue supplementing and gave us five huge tubs of formula powder (about $140 worth!). While this was a cheap start, our formula expenses quickly started adding up.
We tried a few different formula consistencies, starting with the Similac Ready-to-Feed individual newborn bottles. I liked these because they were very convenient– just screw off the top, screw on a nipple, and you are ready to feed your baby. They are also very easy to transport, so I could easily throw a few in my diaper bag when I knew I’d be outside during a feeding. Like most things, this convenience came with a price. A box of eight ready-to-feed 2 oz. bottles costs about $8, working out to $1/bottle. Once you open them they are only good for one hour and there were more than a few times when my son would have hardly a quarter ounce of a newly opened bottle and we would have to throw the rest away. After awhile, we switched to using these only at night when we wanted to get the feedings started right away.
Another option for formula are the 32 oz. Ready-to-Feed bottles. Convenience-wise, these would go between the individual ready-to-feeds and the powder formula. While these are nice because you don’t have to do the extra step of mixing powder and water, you do have to bring the serving to room temperature each time by soaking the bottle in a hot water bath. This usually takes about five minutes, making this a good option for when we were able to plan ahead and know that the baby would be hungry in a few minutes (e.g., right after a bath, so one of us could run downstairs to get the formula ready while the other one finished getting him ready). At other times, the baby would be crying for those five minutes, making them go by even slower while everyone waited for the milk to warm. After using two of these bottles, we decided not to buy any more.
The final formula option we tried were the big canisters of powder. This is the most cost effective of the different options, and becomes more cost effective with bigger canisters. The downside is the prep– you need to measure out 2 oz. of water and mix this with a scoop of formula. Your doctor may advise you to boil (and cool) the water, which adds an extra step and requires you to plan ahead. Nevertheless, we got into a rhythm with these and this is what we mainly use (at four months).
The last set of things to buy here are bottles, nipples, bibs, and burp cloths. Burp cloths we needed even while breastfeeding, but you won’t need these other items until the baby takes his first bottle (of either formula or pumped milk). I bought the Medela bottles because they fit the breast pump I was using at the time and used the Nuk nipples because that’s what our hospital suggested. We had gotten various types of bibs as gifts, but our favorite were the aden + anais cotton muslin bibs— the material was so soft and not stiff like other bibs can be.
Here is a breakdown of our expenses in the formula category:
- Nuk nipples (x8)*: $36
- 2 oz Ready-to-Feed boxes (x26): $207
- 32 oz Ready-to Feed bottles (x2): $16
- Powder formula* (x9): $275.52
- Bottles: $16
- Bottle cleaning brush: $5
*These are recurring expenses and will be updated as more are purchased.
TOTAL MILK EXPENSES: $575.53
(If you skipped the individual ready-to-feeds and went straight for the powdered containers, you would be able to save money in this category.)