There is an emerging debate about the cost and value of breastfeeding. This may sound funny because, besides your nursing bra wardrobe and a few simple items to make it easier, isn’t breastfeeding free? Plus we hear study after study about how wonderful breastfeeding is for our babies and mamas. So what’s the beef?
In a literal sense, breast milk does cost less than formula because you’re not paying for the product, assuming you are producing the milk yourself. But the cost argument lies in the price a woman pays to breastfeed. For some women, the “loss” of time to breastfeed or pump while at work is actually expensive. Some employers compound the issue by not supporting a woman’s choice to breastfeed with tolerance policies and private areas to do so. This is the case even after studies show that women who breastfeed and their babies tend to be healthier, causing them to miss less work overall due to illness.
As we discuss often on our blog, breastfeeding does take effort. Of course we believe it is worth the reward, but we also respect every woman’s choice to do what is right for her family. What is disappointing is that women give up breastfeeding because employers and society make it too hard. Beyond the financial cost, there is an emotional price tag on breastfeeding. Women feel guilty if they can’t meet their goals or the one year recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics. And some women feel ostracized because they exceed the one year and decide to breastfeed children well into toddlerhood. Still others are outcast for breastfeeding in public.
It is clear that science tells us to value breast milk. But the question remains, at what cost?