Making Breastfeeding Inexpensive

The following is a guest post by Ashley who blogs at Such Great Heights.

Just like anything else, you can spend a lot of money on breastfeeding supplies and goodies. While overall, breastfeeding is much less expensive than formula feeding but if you buy everything available to the breastfeeding mother, you will find yourself wondering where your savings went.

Here are some practical tips for what to buy and what to save on:

Nursing Cover-
While some moms swear by these, a lot of moms I’ve talked to say they are nothing more than something else to fool with.
My baby won’t allow a blanket to be placed over her head while she’s eating. Plus, some see the wildly patterned nursing covers as a sign that reads “Hey! Look over here! I’m feeding a baby!” The key to discreet nursing is planning. Shirts that can be untucked and lifted from the waist up provide coverage over the top of the breast and the baby covers the mother’s abdomen. Nursing discreetly can take practice, so I recommend nursing in front of people you know as a practice run.

Expensive Reminder Bracelet- Remembering which side you last nursed on is difficult in the postpartum haze but a specially designed bracelet is not necessary. Some moms put a safety pin on their bra straps to remind them. Other moms transfer a ring (like your wedding band) from hand to hand with each nursing session. The point is, you don’t have to spend money on a special contraption.

Breast pump- There are a ton of really great breast pumps out on the market. Before you sink $300 into a breast pump because “it’s the best” look at your needs. Are you going to be pumping every day at work? Then a quality, double pump is necessary. Are you going to occasionally pump? Maybe a hand pump or a single automatic is more appropriate for you. Remember that many moms find hand expression much easier and simpler than pumping. All you need is a clean container to express into. If you are having supply issues or are exclusively pumping, a hospital grade rental breast pump is necessary in order to maintain your milk supply.

Disposable Nursing Pads- If you are a mom who leaks you will need some sort of nursing pad to soak up leaks. Buying disposable nursing pads and throwing them away can create a lot of waste and put a dent in your budget. Washable, reusable nursing pads are a nice alternative. You can buy them in most retail stores or some work-at-home moms make them and sell them online.

Lotions and Potions- There are as many creams on the market to treat sore nipples as there are causes of the problem. While you may find some of these products soothing if you have a problem, the cause of the problem really needs to be addressed to provide you relief.

Baby Timer- In our culture we tend to want to put babies on schedules very early. This is not the best idea for a breastfed baby. Newborns need to be nursed every two to three hours but many babies nurse more often than this in the beginning. Attempting to put a breastfeeding baby on a schedule can cause poor weight gain and low milk supply in the mother.

Now, there are some things that I absolutely think require an investment. They are below:

Good Lactation Care- After you have a baby you should meet with a lactation support professional to see how things are going. Most hospitals will have a lactation consultant visit you during your stay. Should you encounter a problem, find a lactation consultant and get their advice.

Breastfeeding Pillow- You should choose a breastfeeding pillow that is made only for breastfeeding. U-shaped pillows that claim to be baby loungers or tummy-time supports are generally not thick or supportive enough for a breastfeeding baby. My favorite nursing pillow is the My Breast Friend nursing pillow. Often, you can find these on Craigslist for much less than you would pay in the store.

Ashley is a wife, mother, breastfeeding advocate and certified lactation counselor, doula and Speech Pathology graduate student. Everyday she is learning to balance all of the blessings that she has received.

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  1. Great article! I was one of those that really thought I had to have the best pump! Thankfully, I didn’t get it, I hardly ever used my handpump!

    I am in the “swear by my nursing cover” group! 🙂

  2. I also don’t think you need to spend a lot on nursing gear. I did buy a nice pump after my first because I was working part-time. I tried the hand pump and it just wasn’t cutting it. Now with my second I stay home and hardly ever use it, so you should definitely wait and see before you buy. I don’t have a nursing cover, because I always just use a blanket. I did buy a $6 clip that goes around your neck and clips to a blanket so you can make anything a cover that won’t fall down. You could probably even make your own though. All it is is a fancy ribbon that has a claw clip on each end (like the ones you use to attach kids mittens to their jackets). Thanks for the great post!

  3. Fabulous article! I’d even add the breastfeeding pillow to the “not needed” list, in my case, but I know it really helps a lot of women. With my first, the nursing cover was great, with my second, he tends to pull it away right now – though they do go through stages, so who knows. A nursing cover *is* much better than a blanket, though, I have to say.

  4. Excellent article–I agree that double pump is necessary for working moms (my medela is great), and that the Breast Friend is a back saver! I used a bracelet that I already had as a reminder bracelet–worked out great!

    I’m also in the “must have” nursing cover group. It was just easier for me. I posted on 3/31 about how to get one from udder covers for only 8.00 (shipping cost only) with a promo code they have right now “onefree.”

  5. Excellent info. I do *need* my nursing cover, because we attend a lot of ballgames… in bleachers… but I do fine without the nursing pillow. I just prop up a couple of throw pillows.

  6. Oh wow, I never even thought about spending money on nursing gear! LOL I used pillows I already had, I used blankets to cover up with, and I borrowed a pump and hated it, so that took care of that! haha

    I was a Lactation Consultant for a while, and I do recommend giving them a call when you are nursing, if only for a bit of supportive chit-chat if nothing else 🙂

  7. WOW. I always thought that breastfeeding was the easiest and cheapest way to sustain the life of an infant. I never relized there were so many things to buy for it. I mean, hold baby, insert boob. Hmmm.

    I did use disposable pads because I am a HUGE leaker. I also used reuable pads… easily made from cloth diapers, the super thick ones.

    I never used a pump. But then I never had a need because I never left the kids, so that was easy.

    I used throw pillows, nothing specialized.

    I did put extra money into good nursing bras. But never worried about a cover. If nothing else, a receiving blanket works… but really, most clothes are decent enough to cover while you nurse.

    I also never used anything to remember the side… I could just tell which one was fuller by the size and discomfort.

    Hmmm. Seriously, I didnt realize there was so much to buy to breastfeed.

    Oh! And try La Leche League. They are free and well trained to help with lactation issues.

    That is my 2cents. Getting off the soap box now. =D

  8. Great advice. I breast fed both my kids. I did get the cover as I felt it offered more secure protection than a blanket that the baby could squirm off. For a pillow I used my boppy. For the cream the hospital actually gave me a tube (it was purple) that I loved. I only needed the one tube. For a pump I was able to borrow one for free from my WIC office. The electric part was reusable but the main pump part was brand new & I could keep that. So contact your WIC office about renting or borrowing pumps.

  9. Great article. Thanks for sharing!
    I think it’s easy to be sucked in to the “commercial needs” when breastfeeding. I made a nursing cover and use it sparingly (usually as a diaper changing blanket!).

  10. I bought a medela electric for $79. Though a bit pricey, it has seen me through two littles. I pump a lot since when they start on cereal, I like to have them eat it with my milk. I also went back to work after my first.

    I bought a “peanut pillow” from walmart. I don’t remember the exact cost but I think it was about $15. It too has seen me through 2 littles.

    I use a home made receiving blanket with a diaper pin as a cover if I need one.

    That is the extent of my nursing gear. My daughter I nursed for a year and John is 8 months in 🙂

  11. You definitely need to add good nursing bra to your list. And believe it or not, it has been one of the hardest things to find. But since women generally experience bigger boobs while breast feeding, they need better support, not just the convenience of an easy access bra.

  12. Second and third having at least two good nursing bras. And I have one of those Boppy pillows that I love. I also bought a nursing cover for when I was going to be on a plane nursing and it was definitely very helpful. I was given a new one (since they are so much prettier now) as a gift with my 2nd son and I do use it sometimes. More for other people than myself. Other people are much more uncomfortable with my breastfeeding that I am. Like my Dad. It’s funny. I can breastfeed in front of my Father in Law no worries, but my own Dad gets all embarrassed by it (though he is a big supporter).

    I borrowed a hand pump which worked for a while but I can no longer pump a drop. And I used both washable and disposable nursing pads. The washable ones just soaked right through at the beginning, so I had to use disposables. Never even heard of a timer or a reminder bracelet.

  13. I had to chuckle reading the post – I nursed all three of my children for about a year each. As scatterbrained as I was during those early years, I managed without a “reminder bracelet.” I just always started with the breast that felt the fullest! Looking back, I only had a few accessories. I had lovely, soft, cotton breast pads for leaks. I did keep a box of disposable ones on hand for those times when I was behind on laundry but I always preferred the reusable ones. I also kept lanolin on hand for sore spots, and a small breastpump so that I could keep some milk in the freezer, just in case. I did not work outside my home, though. I’m sure I would have needed a more powerful pump if I had to pump all of the time.

  14. Great post. I have nursed two, and very cheaply. 🙂

    I used a safety pin on a bra strap, a simple hand pump, and home-made nursing pads. I did end up with a nice pillow for the second one, which turned out to be great when he had surgery as an infant!

  15. Good Post! I agree with you on the things you can do without…

    One tip I learned that I really loved when I was breast feeding; buy a cheap tank top that you can wear under your shirt or blouse. Cut two holes for “breast access” but no one will see your tummy when you lift up your shirt!

    In addition, I used a rubber band on my wrist to remind what side I was nursing on. I didn’t even have to take it off when I showered!

  16. Just a tip for those who need a breast pump. Check with your local health department. Here in podunk, OK I was able to borrow a Meadela double breast pump for a year at no cost. The attachments came new and sealed in plastic. It was a great moneysaver for me since I was working parttime while my husband kept the kids.

  17. Thanks for posting this article, Ashley!

    Incidentally, I just wrote a post called “Basic Supplies for Breastfeeding” that you might find interesting: 🙂

    I also wanted to point out that the cost of breastfeeding supplies doesn’t even come close to the cost of formula (between $1500-$6000/year, depending on the brand), not to mention the cost-savings of having a healthier baby that requires fewer doctors visits, etc.

  18. When I read the title I thought—I thought breast milk was free!! Do I have to pay myself? ha ha–I guess there is a ton of gear you may be tempted to buy. I got a hospital medela pump while my baby was in the NICU, later I tried to switch to the “pump in style” which came recommended from several friends but it HURT!! I’m guessing the switch in style, pressure, something made the difference since it’s also medela.

  19. Stephanie says:

    Great post! It is so good to remember what are *needs*!! The only supplies I ever needed were the ones not mentioned: BRAS!!! The one I found and love is the YES nursing bra, I found it on ebay and LURVE them!! Just passing that along! I used cloth diapers for nursing pads (and often a cover too) and used a pump very rarely except when pumping for a friend’s sick baby,then I used a nice double pump…so I would say it is almost all unnecessary! But a good support system is key!

  20. Great post! I never had anything special when I breastfed my older son. The baby was a completely different story, but that was due to special circumstances that nearly no one else has to deal with.

  21. I am fortunate enough to work at home so I can get away with free breastfeeding. 🙂 I do own a handpump from my first daughter that I bought at a garage sale and works great.

    I refuse to cover up my baby with a blanket or cover unless she is cold.

    I use stretchy, normal bras and I reach up inside my shirt, pull my bra down and bring my baby close with my other arm and she covers my tummy & bra with her body and head. I nurse in public all the time, standing, sitting, walking, eating in restaurants.

    People always think she is sleeping and nobody has ever once asked me to cover up and I nursed my first one for three years. 🙂

  22. You inspired me to make my own list that I just posted here. 🙂

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