The actual cost of breastfeeding (spoiler, it’s not free)

Putting a baby to your boob costs nothing. But it’s a good idea to be aware of the costs associated with breastfeeding so you can budget accordingly.

The actual cost of breastfeeding (spoiler, it’s not free)

Photo: iStock

You know those articles that insist that babies aren’t actually expensive because they hardly need anything in the first year? There’s a similar line of thinking around breastfeeding.

Even before your baby arrives, the topic of feeding will come up and it’s likely someone will chime in with, “Well, breastfeeding is free!”

It’s true that the act of putting baby to breast is free. And it’s also true that babies don’t need that much in the first year. But raising a newborn and breastfeeding are both challenging, when you’re in the thick of those early days, you may end up turning to the many products and services that help make it easier.

To help moms budget accurately for the first year of parenthood, here are some of the not-always-talked-about costs that can be associated with breastfeeding.


In-home lactation consultant visit: $150 and up

It may be “natural,” but breastfeeding can be challenging—and so can getting out of the house.

That’s why in-home services provided by doulas and lactation consultants can be life-savers.

Expect to pay $150-$300 for a visit, and be aware that most provincial health insurance plans will not cover the cost. Private insurance coverage varies, but most will only cover the service if it is done by a midwife or physician.

Thankfully, there’s always the option of visiting a physician, midwife or breastfeeding clinic, which is often covered by provincial insurance. (Research this before baby arrives!)

Caucasian Mother Carrying and Breastfeeding Baby Boy Kanawa_Studio / Getty Images

Nipple cream: $10 and up


The pain of dry, cracked and bleeding nipples is not to be ignored. Hopefully, an all-knowing mama friend got you some as a gift, but if not, most pharmacies sell it for around $10-$15.

Breast pads: $5 and up

For the first few weeks and months, and for some moms even longer, milk can leak out of your breasts when you least expect it. That’s when you’ll want to be wearing breast pads inside your bra. A box of disposable pads costs around $5-$15, and expect to pay a little more for the reusable washable version.

Nursing bras: $15 and up

No one’s saying you need the Cadillac of nursing bras, but having a few makes breastfeeding in public a lot easier, since they feature flaps that fold down to quickly and easily expose your breast. Nursing bras can range from $15-$80, and just like regular bras, you get what you pay for.

mother breastfeeding baby kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

Breastfeeding covers: $15 and up

Not everyone is comfortable whipping out the boob to nurse in public. That’s where nursing covers ($15-$35) come in. People will tell you that you can just use a receiving blanket, and that may be true for some moms, but many find that a cover designed specifically for the task works better.

Nursing clothes: $15 and up

Like covers, a nursing top that can make breastfeeding in public easier for modest types, and will run you anywhere from $15-$50. A special-occasion nursing dress will run you much more (but you can always opt for a regular dress with a low V-neck that makes accessing your breast easy enough).

Nursing pillow: $40 and up


Nursing pillows help position your baby just right for optimal breastfeeding. The type that snap or fit snugly around your waist to keep baby hoisted horizontally can cost about $40. Another item that helps moms get their baby into just the right position is a breastfeeding stool. Not all moms need them, but some do, and they start around $30.

Mother breastfeeding baby at home Westend61/ Getty Images

Breast pump: $30 and up

At some point, you might want a few hours away from baby, and if you do, and you’re not into formula, you’ll need to leave some milk behind, which requires a pump.

There are two types of pumps: manual and electric. Manual breast pumps cost around $30 and up, while the electric kind start around $150, but many go for more like $250.

Along with the pump, you’ll of course need bottles (expect to pay around $5-$10 each) and breastmilk storage bags for storing your milk until you’re ready to use it ($6 for 25).

Food: It depends

Another cost related to breastfeeding is food for you. All the food. While women don’t necessarily need to eat more to provide enough breastmilk for their baby, it is common to feel a lot more ravenous than usual when nursing, and many moms report needing to buy more food, especially snacks, than usual.


While breastfeeding itself is free, the truth is that nothing in life is free. The myriad of products and services that promise parents ease and comfort can be so appealing and in desperate times it can be hard not to buy them all.

Of course, formula feeding can be just as costly, if not more. But you really can’t put a price on keeping your child nourished. There is no ‘better’ way to feed. Fed is best and truth be told, spending some cash on comfort and convenience is part of being a parent.

This article was originally published on Dec 21, 2019

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