The Cost of Baby Formula - SmartAsset (2023)

The Cost of Baby Formula - SmartAsset (1)

The cost of baby formula in the U.S. has skyrocketed – and that’s if you can find any. Whereas in 2019 name brand baby formula cost American parents anywhere from 9 cents per ounce to 32 cents per ounce, by the first half of 2022 the price of such products had soared to a range of 54 cents per ounce to $1.15 per ounce, or higher if you’re not shopping at a discount outlet like Costco or Sam’s Club. Such costs and scarcity are driving some parents to buy generic brand formula from online vendors, turn to milk banks or just do without. Here’s why the cost of feeding a baby has shot up so dramatically.

Consider working with a financiala family-focused financial advisorwho can guide you through these and other costs associated with the journey of raising a child.

Baby Formula Cost Per Month: A Breakdown

To understand the real cost of baby formula, the first step is to estimate how much milk your baby will need. Certified breastfeeding specialist Kelly Bonyata estimates babies consume an average of 25 ounces of milk per day during their first year.

Calculating the cost of baby formula will also require you to find out how much your preferred brand costs per ounce. Based on our research, you can expect to pay 54 cents per ounce for the cheaper brands. The higher-end brands will run you around around $1.15 cents per ounce or more.

If your baby currently consumes 25 ounces of milk per day, you can expect to spend between $821.25 and $2,920 in your baby’s first year – depending on the brand you choose.

Here’s how we calculated the cost of baby formula per year.

54 cents X 25 = $13.50
$13.50 X 365 = $4,927.50

$1.15 X 25 = $28.75
$28.75 X 365 = $10,493.75

If you want to figure out the cost of baby formula per month, simply take the price of baby formula you calculated for a year and divide by 12. Based on the above calculations, your monthly cost is going to range from about $411 to about $874. If you’re buying from a milk bank, of which there are about 30 in the U.S., expect to pay about $6,000 per month.

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Now, whether the infant formula you purchase is worth the cost depends on your individual situation and preferences. But now that you know what to expect, you can calculate your budget to account for the cost of baby formula.

Of course, your baby would likely need more baby formula in the middle of the first year of life as she grows before gradually cutting back as she starts eating more solid food.

To give you a better picture of how the cost of baby formula will fluctuate over time, the table below from Bonyata breaks down the recommended ounces of milk a baby should consume throughout her first year, from minimum to maximum.

Daily Amount of Baby Formula Required in Ounces
Baby’s Age Minimum Maximum
0 weeks – 2 months 14 – 21 28 – 32
2 – 6 months 24 40
6-9 months 24 32
9 -12 months 18 32

But price shouldn’t be the only factor you’re weighing when it comes to choosing the right baby formula for your child. Some types may be vastly healthier than others.

Why Baby Formula Is Scarce

There are only four major producers of baby formula in the United States and one of them, Abbott Laboratories, accounts for a little more than 40% of the supply. After a whistleblower complaint following a few instances of babies getting sick, the FDA ordered Abbott to suspend production until it could verify that there were no contaminants. That verification was completed on May 13, the same day the administration unveiled a website for parents seeking formula: hhs.gov/formula.

One reason for the concentration of formula producers is because of protective tariffs, up to 17.5%, on imports. Further, critics assert thatFDA labeling and ingredient requirements dissuade non-U.S. producers from entering the domestic market. Another factor is theSpecial Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for low-income mothers. About half of all baby formula in the U.S. is purchased with WIC benefits. However, the range of brands available using WIC benefits is limited, something the administration says it is working to broaden.

Why Cheaper Generic Baby Formula Isn’t Always Better

The Cost of Baby Formula - SmartAsset (2)

When it comes to saving money on the products we need, we sometimes resort to generic versions to save a few dollars or cents. But you want the best for your child’s health, and the cheapest baby formula on the shelf may not help you achieve this goal.

Several companies offer organic baby formula with no added sugars. One example isHuggable.

In fact, the U.S.-based company says its products are from European countries where regulations around the ingredients used in baby formula are a lot stricter than in the U.S.Huggable’s prices compare to the costs of the higher-end brands on American shelves. But the company aims to justify the cost through its potential health benefits.

“A lot of the baby formulas you’ll find in the U.S. use high fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup solids or just plain sugar as the base for the carbohydrate,” Huggable CEO Madhu Punjabi said. “It’s no mystery, then, why there’s a childhood obesity and diabetes epidemic right now in the U.S.”

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The main carbohydrate in breast milk is lactose. Punjabi added that a high quality formula would ideally try to mimic breast milk as close as possible.

“High-quality formulas should be based on organic cow’s milk or organic goat’s milk, because, like breast milk, these have lactose as their carbohydrate base, instead of sugars,” she said.

Huggable and similar infant formulas also contain probiotics, which experts at the Cleveland Clinic say can reduce the amount of infection- and inflammation-causing bacteria in your baby’s gut.

The Huggable website notes that with “nearly 1 in 5 children in the U.S. having obesity, it’s never been more important to carefully read the ingredients list of the formula you choose for your little one to make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar.”

But while weighing the costs and health benefits of different baby formulas, some may consider not going down the formula route at all to nourish their children. Many nursing mothers, of course, subscribe to the idea that “breast is best.” Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organizationrecommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life. It’s often touted as a money-saving options, because the milk is free. But breastfeeding is not without costs of its own.

The Costs of Breastfeeding vs. Formula

For various reasons, some women may not be able to breastfeed their children. And those who can may need help, which can cost money. For instance, you may need a lactation consultant. A home visit from this expert lasting about two hours can cost several hundred dollars. A single office visit can also climb to $350. It’s a good idea to check with your insurance, as some or all of this cost may be covered.

You may also need the following, though these products are not always necessary:

  • Nursing bra: Starting at about $12
  • Hand pumps: $5 to $35
  • Nursing shirt: Starting at about $10
  • Double electric pump: $120 to $350
  • Nursing dress: Starting at about $20
  • Nursing pillow: $10 to $50

In addition, this doesn’t factor in the cost of a breastfeeding mother’s time. This includes economic loss that breastfeeding may take depending on your profession. If you earn sales commissions, for instance, the time you spend in the lactation room may diminish the amount of time you’re able to spend closing deals.

So from an economic standpoint, which is best for you – breastfeeding or formula?

Remember, you can expect to pay $10,000 for higher-end baby formula in a year. The cost of breastfeeding is a lot harder to measure, however, because many of the costs are optional. And whether you require them depends on your individual situation.

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But let’s say you have two at-home lactation consultations in a year, totaling $600. If you purchase all the products listed above without replacing them, you’re looking at a breastfeeding cost of $847 (we selected the most expensive choice for the products for which we reported price ranges).

Without taking into consideration the cost of a breastfeeding mother’s time, this estimation shows breastfeeding is about 30% the cost of formula. Ultimately, the decision is yours based on time, physical ability, health considerations, personal preferences and money.

How to Save on Baby Formula

Because some mothers may find breastfeeding difficult, time consuming or even impossible, they want to make sure they are making the right choice when it comes to formula. They also want to be mindful of their wallet when deciding on their brand of choice. But if you use baby formula, there are plenty of ways to slash the price tag. After all, the cost of raising a child is high enough.

“Always buy in bulk, and make sure you have a list when you walk into the grocery store,”said Neale Godfrey, a financial literacy expert.

She added that this list should prioritize the items you need for your baby. For instance, organic products that you need would go at the top. Lists are useful to have when you’re browsing the aisles, but they can be especially handy while you’re shopping online. That way,you make sure you’re getting all that you need and watching your budget.

Here are some additional tips to reduce the price of baby formula.

Comparison shop online: E-commerce websites don’t have the same overhead as physical stores, so they can often reduce the price of your favorite baby formula – especially when you buy in large quantities.

Buy in bulk: These days, you can find several stores and websites that offer discounts when you buy baby formula in bulk. While there, you can also cut down on other products you need for your baby.

Use coupons: While you can still clip paper coupons from the Sunday paper, the internet is loaded with websites dedicated to coupons. You can also download apps onto your phone that can find baby formula coupons for you.

Ask your doctor for free samples: Major brands often provide doctors with free batches of their products, so ask if your doctor has some on hand.

Sign up for mailing lists: If you visit your favorite infant formula brand’s website, you can likely sign up for a mailing list. Companies often send welcome packages with free samples. And you can get coupons and other discounts sent to you periodically.

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Use powdered formula: Across brands, powdered infant formula tends to be cheaper than liquid forms.

Check with your insurance provider: If your baby needs a specific kind of formula, your insurance provider may cover it. Depending on which type of insurance you have, you can open a health savings account (HSA). These help you invest for your baby’s medical expenses while enjoying unique tax breaks.

Earn rewards: If you’re using your credit card to purchase baby formula, you can earn some money while doing it. Shop around for the best cash-back credit cards. Some of the best checking accounts around offer this perk as well. Even 1.5% cash-back on purchases can put some significant money back in your pocket over time.

Look into WIC: Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for government assistance. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states. Their services help low-income women who are pregnant, breast-feeding or using formula access food and healthcare.

The Takeaway

The Cost of Baby Formula - SmartAsset (3)

Feeding your baby can be costly, whether breastfeeding or providing formula. Baby formula costs can rise especially high, but there are plenty of ways you can save. Try buying in bulk, surfing the web for deals and asking your doctor for free samples. Cost shouldn’t be the only factor that determines the type of baby formula you use. The formula you select can affect the health of your child. It’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients in that formula to capture a true picture of the cost and benefit of the food you provide for your child. It’s a good idea to discuss your decision with your child’s pediatrician.

Tips to Save for Your Child’s Future

  • If you just had a baby, you may be concerned about what the costs of college may be when your little one is ready to leave the nest. But you can start preparing now by opening a 529 college savings plan. These help you invest in your child’s future college expenses while you enjoy some tax breaks. Each state sponsors at least one, and most require no minimum contribution. We also published a report on all you need to know about college savings plans.
  • The average cost of raising a child through age 17 is close to a quarter of a million dollars a year, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But there are plenty of ways to save and invest in your child’s future, including getting professional help.

    Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Laikwunfai, ©iStock.com/jubaphoto, ©iStock.com/pinstock

Disclosure: SmartAsset prepared this post in partnership with Huggable.

Javier Simon, CEPF® Javier Simon is a banking, investing and retirement expert for SmartAsset. The personal finance writer's work has been featured in Investopedia, PLANADVISER and iGrad. Javier is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He has a degree in journalism from SUNY Plattsburgh. Javier is passionate about helping others beyond their personal finances. He has volunteered and raised funds for charities including Fight Cancer Together, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

FAQs

How much does it cost to make formula? ›

The higher-end brands will run you around around $1.15 cents per ounce or more. If your baby currently consumes 25 ounces of milk per day, you can expect to spend between $821.25 and $2,920 in your baby's first year – depending on the brand you choose. Here's how we calculated the cost of baby formula per year.

How much is a months supply of formula? ›

Cost of formula per month

Cost: $400 to $800 is the average monthly cost for powdered formula for babies who are formula-fed exclusively. The cost will be lower if you supplement with breast milk and higher if you give your baby more expensive brands or ready-to-feed formula.

Why are formulas expensive? ›

Overall, a slew of factors contribute to the price of formula, including local taxes as well as costs related to distribution, raw materials, and registration efforts.

Why did baby formula get so expensive? ›

Formula is so expensive because there is a high demand for it since all babies must be fed, it takes a lot of research and studies to make formula that's safe for your newborn, and retailers inflate the price because programs like WIC will cover the full priced cost of formula for low income families.

What was the normal cost for baby formula? ›

Parents should expect to spend between $1,200-$2,000 if exclusively formula feeding during their baby's first year. Speciality formulas, such as those that contain hydrolyzed proteins, may cost even more.

How much formula do I need for 3 months? ›

3-month-olds will generally drink 4 to 6 ounces of formula around every four hours. That adds up to 24 to 36 ounces of formula in around six feedings total in a 24-hour period. 4-month-olds will often drink 5 to 7 ounces of formula every four to five hours.

Is pumping cheaper than formula? ›

The U.S. surgeon general estimates that breast-feeding could save families between $1,200 and $1,500 on formula in an infant's first year.

How much formula do I need for 2 months? ›

At about 2 months, your baby may drink about 4–5 ounces (120–150 milliliters) every 3–4 hours. At 4 months, your baby may drink about 4–6 ounces (120-180 milliliters) at each feeding, depending on how often they eat. By 6 months, your baby may drink 6–8 ounces (180–230 milliliters) about 4–5 times a day.

How can I buy formula with no money? ›

Get Help From WIC

If you need help buying formula, you're not alone. About 43 percent of all babies in the U.S. receive help from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

What did babies drink before formula? ›

Although artificial or formula-feeding of infants is presently much safer than it has been in decades, breastmilk is still considered the best source of infant nutrition (Leung & Sauve, 2005). Throughout the ages and until the end of the 19th century, animal's milk was the most common source of artificial feeding.

Is formula really necessary? ›

For moms who can't breastfeed or who decide not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative. Formula provides babies with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Some mothers worry that if they don't breastfeed, they won't bond with their baby.

Is expensive baby formula better? ›

Pediatricians Thomas and Porto both told us that parents should feel comfortable using store-brand or generic infant formulas because they contain all of the same FDA-required nutrients and ingredients as formulas made by Enfamil, Similac, and Gerber (whose brands can cost two to three times as much).

How long will Formula shortage last? ›

The US Food and Drug Administration commissioner said last week that formula production needs to continue at high levels for six to eight more weeks for supply to keep up with demand. Programs designed to help families affected by the shortage are being extended, too.

Why is there a baby formula shortage in the US 2022? ›

Strains on formula supply chains induced by the COVID pandemic were greatly exacerbated by a voluntary formula recall by Abbott Nutrition and the months-long closure of a major formula production facility in Sturgis, Michigan.

Is the baby formula shortage over? ›

Experts say the shortage is not over, but it's better than it was – and some lingering effects run deeper into a flawed system.

Is the baby formula shortage real? ›

In February, the country's biggest infant formula maker, Abbott, recalled multiple products and halted production at one of its facilities in Michigan after bacteria was found at the site. As a result, formula products became more and more scarce. And months later, the country was in a full-blown crisis.

How long does a formula bottle last? ›

You can use pre-made formula for up to 24 hours. Open containers of ready-made formula, concentrated formula, and formula prepared from concentrate can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

How many bottles should a newborn have in 24 hours? ›

You can start by offering your baby 1 to 2 ounces of infant formula every 2 to 3 hours in the first days of life if your baby is only getting infant formula and no breast milk. Give your baby more if he or she is showing signs of hunger. Most infant formula-fed newborns will feed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.

How many times a day should a 3-month-old eat formula? ›

How much or how often: For bottle feeding with formula, a 3-month-old baby typically consumes five ounces about six to eight times a day. For nursing, feedings are typically about every three or four hours at this age but each breastfed baby may be slightly different.

How much money is formula if breast feeding is not an option? ›

On average, the cost of feeding a newborn formula for the first year of life is an estimated $1,733.75. Families who breastfeed can save between $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year alone, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

Which formula is closest to breast milk? ›

Enfamil Enspire

Enfamil's Enspire is the brand's closest formula to breast milk, thanks to the inclusion of proteins found in colostrum, like lactoferrin. (In fact, Enspire is the first and only infant formula in the U.S. to include lactoferrin as an ingredient, according to the brand.)

What are the disadvantages of formula feeding? ›

Formula feeding is linked to higher risk for Type 1 diabetes and bowel diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Infants who are formula fed are 50 percent more likely to have ear infections than babies who receive only breastmilk.

How many bottles do I need for 2 month old? ›

Newborns start out with a stomach that can hold only a small amount at first. One to 2 ounces per feeding is usually enough early on, but by the time your baby is 2 months old, for example, she'll need 24 to 32 ounces a day and about six to seven feedings in a 24-hour period.

What happens if baby drinks formula after 2 hours? ›

If your baby starts a bottle but doesn't finish it within an hour, throw the leftover formula away. Bacteria from your baby's mouth can seep into the bottle, contaminate the formula, and make your baby sick if they drink it later.

How long should it take a baby to drink a 4 oz bottle? ›

As a guide, the following times are recommended to bottle feed your baby. 20 - 40 minutes for newborn to 3 months. 15 - 30 minutes for babies 3 months to 6 months. 10 - 20 minutes for babies over 6 months.

How do pediatricians get free formula? ›

Formula companies often give free formula to hospitals and doctor's offices hoping they'll pass on the samples to you. Call your doctor's office and local hospital to see what they have on hand. If they don't have any formula samples available, ask if they know of any local resources that do.

What is dry nursing? ›

1 : to take care of but not breastfeed (another woman's baby) : to act as a dry nurse to. 2 : to give unnecessary supervision to. dry nurse.

What did Mother's do before formula? ›

In early modern Europe and early America, caregivers mixed animal milk, water, or broth with flour, bread, or other grains, much like the Wabanaki blend of nut milk and cornmeal.

How did mothers feed before formula? ›

Before the baby bottle came into use, milk was spoon fed to infants or given via a cow's horn fitted with chamois at the small end as a nipple. When baby bottles were adopted during the Industrial Revolution, many popular designs evolved. Some were submarine-shaped and made from metal, glass, or pottery.

What did mothers feed their babies in the 1950s? ›

In the 1950s and 1960s, as already mentioned, most infants were fed cow's milk beginning at 4–6 mo of age and this practice extended into the early 1970s.

Are breastfed babies smarter? ›

Breastfeeding was positively associated with IQ performance in children and adolescents. On an average, more breastfed participants had high IQ scores than non-breastfed participants (19). These findings agree with ours to some extent.

› infant-formula ›

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Bewildered by the array of infant formulas? WebMD helps you choose the right one with these facts and 12 tips for happy feeding.

Is formula cheaper than milk? ›

But cow's milk is much less expensive than toddler formula. It provides the nutrients a growing child needs.

How much does it cost to make milk? ›

The highest quartile cost of farms averaged the highest cost per cow, with their costs being $593 higher per cow than the lowest group. While the highest cost, this group also average the lowest milk production per cow, leading to a cost per cwt of $15.89, $2.29 higher than the lowest quartile of farms.

Is it cheaper to breastfeed or formula? ›

On average, the cost of feeding a newborn formula for the first year of life is an estimated $1,733.75. Families who breastfeed can save between $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year alone, according to the U.S. surgeon general.

Is formula cheaper than breast milk? ›

Many people choose to breastfeed instead of formula-feed because it's cheaper than formula. There's also a considerable amount of research that indicates breastfeeding offers several benefits for mom and baby that formula doesn't. In infants, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of: asthma.

What did babies drink before formula? ›

Although artificial or formula-feeding of infants is presently much safer than it has been in decades, breastmilk is still considered the best source of infant nutrition (Leung & Sauve, 2005). Throughout the ages and until the end of the 19th century, animal's milk was the most common source of artificial feeding.

What did mothers feed their babies in the 1950s? ›

In the 1950s and 1960s, as already mentioned, most infants were fed cow's milk beginning at 4–6 mo of age and this practice extended into the early 1970s.

What do you feed a baby with no formula? ›

If you run out of formula and can't find any, in a pinch you can give oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte, or a store brand) for a couple of days. Babies older than 4 to 6 months can also get puréed (finely ground) foods.

What is the cheapest milk to produce? ›

Oat milk is by far the cheapest milk alternative.

Does the government set the price of milk? ›

In the U.S., minimum milk price regulations enforced by Federal Milk Marketing Orders are based on a system of mandatory dairy price reporting, milk pricing formulas, price discrimination based on the end-use of raw milk and equity payments from a revenue sharing pool.

How much would a gallon of milk cost without subsidies? ›

Milk, $6 a gallon. These are what things would really cost without subsidies, according to some estimates. It's difficult to factor in all the prices of goods and services that go into making all the things we Americans get on the cheap.

Do babies really need formula? ›

Infant formula is generally recommended until age 1, followed by whole milk until age 2 — but talk to your child's doctor for specific guidance. Reduced-fat or skim milk generally isn't appropriate before age 2 because it doesn't have enough calories or fat to promote early brain development.

What are the disadvantages of formula feeding? ›

Formula feeding is linked to higher risk for Type 1 diabetes and bowel diseases such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Infants who are formula fed are 50 percent more likely to have ear infections than babies who receive only breastmilk.

Are breastfed babies happier than formula fed? ›

A study conducted by researchers from Cambridge, London and Paris found that formula fed babies seemed to smile more and cry less than breast fed and combination fed babies. The study also showed that formula fed babies settled to sleep more easily.

How much do breastfeeding moms save? ›

To put this into perspective, the Surgeon General estimates that families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200 - $1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.

How much does it cost to feed baby formula for a year? ›

In six months of exclusively breastfeeding my daughter, my husband and I have spent approximately $2,000 on products and services to make nursing and pumping breast milk easier and less uncomfortable. A year's worth of formula costs between $1,200 and $2,000.

Why are babies fed formula instead of milk? ›

There are two main reasons: Infants cannot digest cow's milk as completely or easily as they digest breastmilk or baby formula. And, more importantly, cow's milk does not contain enough of certain nutrients that babies under a year old need.

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