The Hidden Costs of Breastfeeding Are Eye-Opening

Exclusive breastfeeding may not have nearly the financial benefit most moms believe it does. A recently published study from American Sociological Review found that the cost of breastfeeding is actually far more than it might appear.

At first glance, it might seem insane. As a mom who breastfed my eldest for one year and my baby for nearly three, one of my favorite things about breast milk was the "savings" it afforded our family. It's free after all. But then there ARE costs.

Before I was a breastfeeding mom, I was a working woman and I earned a lot more before they were born than after. But, the fact is, the decision to quit my job was about more than just breastfeeding.


That is the problem with this study. While it's true that breastfeeding takes a toll on the wallet in a roundabout way, the study is only factoring in the fact that many breastfeeding women didn't work. While of course that is going to have an effect on career and lifetime earnings, there is no accounting of WHY the women quit.

Women who quit because their workplace wasn't breastfeeding friendly are really the only ones who had a direct hit to their wallet thanks to breastfeeding.

Regardless of how "breastfeeding friendly" one's workplace is, the fact remains that pumping isn't as good as pulling one's baby to boob, and given that fact, it IS hard for moms who work to keep nursing. But the decision to stay home is a multi-faceted one. For me, breastfeeding was part of it. But I also wanted to be with my baby and I didn't love my job at the time.

All that said, my income did take a hit, no doubt. I finished graduate school three years before I had my first child, so the three years I lost while I was staying home was three years of raises and promotions and moving ahead.

I have now been back at work two years and things have started to pick up for me financially. But the loss was significant. Three years out of work will do that. Still, it wasn't insurmountable. It was also well worth it.

There does need to be more support for breastfeeding women in the workplace, but the best thing would be for women to have a space to bring their babies and nannies or daycare right in the building. Even better, workplaces need to be more flexible about letting moms work from home. That is what worked best for me. I was still nursing my son for another six months after I went back to work, but because he was older and nursed less and I worked from home, it was very easy.

So while breastfeeding may be part of the financial losses for mom, it isn't the whole picture.

Do you think your financial picture was affected by breastfeeding?


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