Before I became a mother, the cost of breastfeeding is not something I ever thought about. Even after I got pregnant, most of my thoughts surrounding breastfeeding were mostly that it was convenient, free and of course, beneficial to my little one.

Oh, how naive I was back then.

Firstly, breastfeeding is NOT free. Not for a direct latching (DL) mum and most definitely not for an exclusively pumping (EP) mum.

But, some might argue, you don't have to buy formula milk, which can cost you hundreds of dollars a month! (For reference, if we buy one tin of formula per week at RM50, that will set you back roughly RM200 per month.)

However, what they are forgetting is that breastfeeding mothers have a lot of other things to spend on.

## The Cost of Breastfeeding

So let's talk about the cost of breastfeeding.

I spend 40 minutes pumping each time. I pump 6 times a day. That’s 240 minutes or 4 hours in a day spent pumping.

I yield an average of 7oz per pump during the day and 14oz per pump at night. Producing a total of about 56oz a day.

If I get paid an hourly salary of say, RM28, and I spend 4 hours pumping per day, that costs about RM112 of my time. Dividing that by the number of ounces I produce, 1oz of my milk = RM2.

To date, I’ve donated 640 bags of an average of 6oz per bag. Which roughly amounts to RM7,680.

That’s just the cost of manpower.

Let's look at the actual cost (money coming out of my pocket) I spend per month on breastfeeding.

### One-time costs

Here are the one-time costs I had to bear:

I bought a breast pump for RM900. I bought a secondary breast pump, which is the Pumpables Milk Genie Plus (for travel and work) for RM500. I bought a UV steriliser for RM315.81. I bought 6 nursing bras for RM138. I bought some nursing clothes for RM200.

Item |
Cost |

Breast pump (hospital-grade) |
RM900 |

Breast pump (portable) |
RM500 |

UV steriliser |
RM315.81 |

Nursing bras |
RM138 |

Nursing clothes |
RM200 |

Total cost |
RM2,053.81 |

### Monthly costs

I use about 5 breast milk storage bags per day. One box of 20 bags is RM10. That's RM0.50 per bag at RM2.50 per day. If I use 150 bags per month, I spend RM75 on storage bags per month.

I buy a new set of breast pump parts and milk bottles (for my baby to drink out of) every 3 months as per the suggested guidelines. The flanges cost RM30.11 each side, the duck valves are RM13 each side, the backflow protector costs RM24 each. A set of two milk bottles cost RM41.90 (and I buy two sets so I can wash them on rotation). It costs me RM21.60 to buy a set of storage bottles (I need them to pump the milk into) and I get two sets.

I also need to get a new handsfree pumping set every 6 months (for work and travel), which adds another RM122.55 to the bill. I spend RM10 on 100 labels to label the milk (which means I have to buy about 2 boxes every 3 months). And since I use a single pumping style, I need to get a milk collector to collect milk leakage from my other side while I pump, which costs RM39.90 each side on sale (shipping not included).

Oh, let's not forget milk boosters, which let's just say averages out to about RM50 per month.

Item |
Cost |

Breast milk storage bags |
RM75 per month |

Breast pump flanges |
RM60.22 every 3 months (RM20 per month) |

Breast pump duck valves |
RM26 every 3 months (RM8.60 per month) |

Breast pump backflow protectors |
RM48 every 3 months (RM16 per month) |

Milk bottles |
RM83.80 every 3 months (RM27.90 per month) |

Storage bottles |
RM43.20 every 3 months (RM14.40 per month) |

Sticker labels |
RM20 every 3 months (RM6.60 per month) |

Handsfree set |
RM122.55 every 6 months (RM20.40 per month) |

Silicone Breast Pump Milk Collector |
RM79.80 every 3 months (RM26.60 per month) |

Breast milk boosters |
RM50 per month |

Total cost per month |
RM265.50 |

So my actual out-of-pocket spend for breastfeeding every month comes up to RM265.50. Taking into account my one-time-costs divided by the number of months I have been breastfeeding so far (6 months), it comes up to RM342.30.

Also taking into account the number of hours I spend breastfeeding per month (4 x 30) multiplied by my average hourly wage of RM28, that brings it to RM3,360.

Not to mention, you have to consider the cost of electricity (charging the pump, turning on the lights in the middle of the night to pump, using the UV steriliser, storing the breast milk in the fridge and freezer) and water (washing the pumps and bottles).

Item |
Amount |

Monthly costs |
RM265.50 |

One-time-costs averaged out per month |
RM342.30 |

Manpower cost |
RM3,360 |

Estimated cost of electricity and water per month |
RM30 |

Total cost of breastfeeding per month |
RM3,997.80 |

### Conclusion: Breastfeeding is NOT free

Looking at these numbers, it is clear that breastmilk and breastfeeding are certainly NOT free.

Much of the argument surrounding breastfeeding is that it is often undervalued by society and from my calculations, you can see just how undervalued it is.

Many women are calling for husbands to pay them for their time spent breastfeeding. I am inclined to agree that time equals money and our time spent pumping for our little ones is worth a lot of money. I suppose that is why breast milk is often referred to as liquid gold.