Feeding Babies Frugally, Part I: The Early Months

This is Part I in a four-part series, Feeding Babies Frugally.

Part II: Starting Solids, When and Why.

Part III: Starting Solids the Easy Way

Part IV: Making Your Own “Convenience Foods” for Babies

Note: Why discuss breastfeeding on a blog about cooking efficiently? You can’t make breastmilk in the kitchen and I am not going to give recipes for making formula. But if I am discussing easy and inexpensive ways to feed babies I need to start at the beginning. Tips on formula appear at the end.

laughing mom&baby

Breastfeeding wins hands-down as the most frugal and efficient way of feeding babies. It’s also a lot of fun, once you get the hang of it. For the cost of a few extra calories (which are excess for some women anyway) you can nurse your baby for six full months and as long as the two of you like. You’ll have little or no need for water, purchased baby foods, or special equipment.

Statistically speaking, breastfed babies will have fewer illnesses and doctor’s visits. The only required purchases are a good nursing bra or two, and for women employed outside the home, a pump and bottles. Pumps can be rented and hand-expression works for some women, especially those who need to leave their babies infrequently or for only a few hours at a time. Most medium-quality pumps are made for a single user and should not be borrowed, as only the manufacturer can sterilize them properly. Their motors are designed to last for one baby only.

Breastfeeding might save on your food bill even after your babies have grown. The flavor of the mother’s diet pass through to her milk, so breastfed babies are predisposed to like the family’s menus.

Learn as much as possible about breastfeeding before the baby is born, because the early days are critical. Read, attend support groups, and talk to experienced friends. Reject information or “gifts” from formula companies. Choose a hospital with good breastfeeding support and have your own support system in place. La Leche League is a good source of information and their Leaders are volunteers.Know what to expect and most important, when to ask for help. I have seen many mothers wean after receiving incorrect information from medical professionals they trusted.

The WHO and the AAP both advise breastfeeding exclusively for six months with no water, formula, “gripe-water,” or solids. Because of new information about Vitamin D deficiency in mothers and babies, current recommendations are for breastfed babies to receive a daily dose of 400 IU of Vitamin D.

Mothers who return to work can express their milk for the caretaker to give the baby in a bottle. Pumping at work is the best way to ensure a good milk supply for the long term. But babies who get formula from a caretaker still benefit from nursing whenever they are with their mothers. Once the baby is six months old or so, the babysitter can offer solids instead of part or all of the expressed milk or formula, and the mother can continue to nurse when she is home. Pumping is hard but always temporary. Click to read the story of a working, breastfeeding mother.

Mothers who use formula can save by buying generic brands, which are often identical to name brands, watching for sales and coupons, and avoiding over-feeding. Be wary of brands that offer “extras.” We are always learning about the importance of new components of breastmilk. A small number can be manufactured and added to formula, but no one can be sure how much of these components to add and whether they will have the same effect in formula as they do in breastmilk.

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Part II:  Starting Solids, When and Why

Toddlers, Desserts, and Serving Size

Ten Frugal Strategies that Pay off as Your Children Grow

Ingredients for Putting Quick Meals Together

Pressure Cookers for Fast, Tasty and Frugal Meals

Feeding Picky Children without Wasting Food

Photo credit: Kryten


  1. I like the post.
    However, in my experience you need more that “one or two good nursing bras” to successfully breastfeed.
    Mother can rent hospital grade pumps and they are less expensive than formula. The hospital grade pumps are MUCH better than the regular ones.
    Also, the link to my post about working and breasfeeding is not working.
    Take care,

  2. Ariela, thank you for the comments and suggestions. The feed, by the way, has not been updating for about two weeks.


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