Babies are expensive. Next to diapers and daycare, infant formula may be the number one expense. Yes, we all know that “breast is best” but the fact is that exclusive breastfeeding simply isn’t an option for all of us. Many MoMs simply can’t produce enough milk for multiple babies, while for others, the logistics of breastfeeding several babies while providing for their other needs puts nursing beyond reach. Those of us who gave birth prematurely know that preemies and breastfeeding don’t always mix.
Six months worth of formula for just one baby averages out at $860 in the US and ranges from $510 to $3062 in Canada. Now multiply that cost to account for our multiple babies, and I start to feel a little sick.
Unfortunately, I have no magic wand to make this all better, but here are what other MoMs have done to maximize the bang for their formula buck.
- Breastfeed/pump. Even a little helps, if you can maintain your sanity while nursing or pumping. Many insurance companies now cover breast pumps and associated supplies, so pumping can be practically free, aside from the additional food you’ll eat to make that milk. Breastfeeding actually requires more calories than pregnancy, I was surprised to learn.
- Government assistance. There are two types of US food assistance that may apply to families with infants: WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps).Even if you don’t qualify for SNAP (income is 130% of poverty or less), you may qualify for WIC, so do your research. WIC serves 53 percent of all US-born infants, so your chances are good!
While implementation varies by state, WIC generally provides families with vouchers for high-nutrition items, including formula for infants who are not exclusively breastfed.
In Canada, social assistance recipients may be additionally eligible for special financial assistance in buying formula, depending on province. Regular, soy-based and lactose-free formulas are all covered, although additional medical documentation may be required for those last two types. This is in addition to the universal child care benefit of $100/month for any child up to the age of 6.All current HDYDI authors live in the US or Canada.
If you have information about government support for formula-fed infants in your country, please let us know in the comments.
- Free samples. Doctors and hospitals are well supplied with formula samples from companies trying to get you committed to their brand, usually in full-size containers. Don’t be too proud to ask for additional free samples when you exhaust the supply that you may have received in the first few days. Keep in touch with the lactation consultants at your hospital. They can hook you up! Yes, they’re professionals committed to breastfeeding success, but they’re all about making sure babies are nourished. Also consider contacting formula manufacturers to request samples. I’ll talk more about making a multiples-specific pitch below in number 6.
- Shop around. Here’s a big secret: you don’t have to commit to a formula brand. Formula is like any other food product. The generic stuff is usually comparable to the brand name, at a lower cost. With the more expensive brands, you’re more likely paying for better marketing than improved quality. Find out whether a warehouse club like Sam’s Club or Costco is worth the cost of membership in formula savings. Buy formula in bulk when it’s on sale, being aware of the expiration date, of course. Maybe purchasing formula through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save service may save you cash. Perhaps your local grocery store has good deals on its store brand formula. A lot of store brand formula lines now include soy and lactose-free offerings. Those of us who need high-calorie preemie formula probably still need to go with the brand names.
- Coupons. I have a love-hate relationship with coupons. As a user of in-store coupons when I see them, I just wish that stuff would be offered at the lower price point without the hassle of having to scrounge and clip… or at least that coupon savings would be automated at the register. When it comes to formula, though, coupons can save you a whole bunch. Check out formula company websites, and consider following the Baby Formula Coupons Facebook page. Jen Wood mentioned that her Mother of Multiples club had a coupon exchange table at every meeting where parents could drop off their unused coupons for other parents to use. Why not start something similar in your community?
- Manufacturers’ multiples programs. A number of the major formula and baby food manufacturers offer programs specific to multiple birth families, usually in the form of free samples or coupons. You need a doctor’s referral to qualify for the Enfamil program, which provides a case of formula per baby. Call 1-800-4-GERBER to sign up for the Gerber Multiple Births program, which includes Gerber Good Start formula. This post at The Krazy Coupon Lady even has a letter composed for you to send to companies that don’t have an official program.
- Insurance. Don’t forget to look into your medical insurance options. Especially if you have a child or children with special dietary needs, such as those associated with premature, food intolerances, or allergies, you insurance may cover part of all of your formula expenses.
Do you have a penny-pinching approach that we’ve missed?