Cost of Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding in 2023

by Katie Black

There are a lot of things to consider when deciding whether to breastfeed or not. While the main points we often hear about center around health and nutritional differences between formula feeding and breastfeeding, a big factor is the financial cost of how you choose to feed your kid. 

Breastfeeding is no small feat, and while some commenters online were quick to say “breastfeeding is free” during the recent formula shortage, we know that’s not exactly true. From nursing bras, to pumps, to lost wages/slower career progression (if you have to skip work to breastfeed), breastfeeding certainly has its costs.

On the other hand, the cost of formula feeding is often underestimated. If you look up the average amount you’ll spend on formula, a lot of the information online is either outdated or just plain wrong. Prices are much higher (we’re looking at you inflation and formula shortage!) than could possibly amount to exclusive breastfeeding being only around $800 annually (a number that is often thrown around).  

So how do these feeding methods actually compare?

The short answer: it depends, but they are pretty similar in cost. 

Let’s break down the costs of either exclusively formula feeding or breastfeeding (skip down to our breastfeeding vs formula calculator for a quick estimate!). 


Cost of formula feeding:

At a glance, formula doesn’t seem to cost that much, right? Let’s use Similac Advance (a popular and less expensive powder formula) as an example. We’re going to do some simple math to calculate the cost per year. 

A 30.08 ounce can is $32.54 on Amazon and the package says it should make a total of 223 fluid ounces of formula if prepared correctly. 

So dividing $32.54 by 223 we come to about 15 cents per prepared fluid ounce. 

How much your baby drinks will depend on a lot of factors, but on average a baby drinks 32 fluid ounces per day (you can change this by substituting how many fluid ounces your baby actually drinks in the equation). 

So $0.15 x 32 x 365 = $1,752. 

This number doesn’t account for any waste, spillage or switching formulas so keep in mind that number could be higher. 

While the amount of water you add depends on the brand, on average 1 ounce of powder becomes 6.5 ounces of drinkable formula so this is the equation we used to calculate the costs of all the other formula types and brands. If the brand you want to calculate isn’t listed below, use this equation to estimate the cost:

Price per ounce of powder ÷ 6.5 x 32 x 365 = Cost of formula feeding per year.  

Hidden formula costs:

When thinking about the cost of formula, don’t forget hidden costs. When you formula feed, that increases the chances of your baby getting sick so you may spend more on medical bills. 

You should also consider the time it takes to prepare a bottle of formula, from sterilizing the bottles, to boiling water and waiting for it to cool. 

And if your baby has any sensitivities or allergies, specialized formulas can shoot up in price very quickly. 

Cost of breastfeeding

As we already mentioned, breastfeeding isn’t free. If you want to go to work and exclusively breastfeed at the same time, you’ll have to pump. Breastfeeding isn’t always a smooth process either, so you may need to hire a lactation consultant. On top of that, breastfeeding can sometimes hinder career progress, or you may lose out on wages altogether if you take some time off work while breastfeeding.

It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much it will cost, because not every nursing product is necessary even if it's useful—that’s why our calculating tool lets you pick and choose. We’ve tried to include many of the most popular products, and prices reflect a year's supply/extras (since you’ll probably want more than one nursing bra for example). 

We also included costs like extra groceries for the calories you burn when breastfeeding (our estimate is $50 a month but it may be lower or higher for you). 

Cost Comparison Tool 

**Use command/control for multiple selections**

Formula Feeding Costs

Breastfeeding Costs




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