personal and family life | saving money

saving money when having a baby part one – feeding

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baby feeding Last time I wrote about saving money when having a baby, I was on the other side – pregnant with my first and pondering how I was going to save money.

Now that that baby is over two years old and the second is due in only eight weeks, I can speak more from experience when it comes to saving money on baby stuff.

There are lots of ways to have a frugal baby. This series of articles is a reflection of my own personal experiences.

There are three major things you can do to save lots of money when having a baby:

  1. Breastfeed
  2. Use cloth nappies
  3. Borrow or buy second hand (checking safety standards)

Below (and in the following articles in the series) is a list of lots of little ways to save money. Little savings add up to big savings over the course of the first two years.


As you already know, breastfeeding is pretty much free, so if you want to raise a frugal baby, breastfeeding is the way to go! And, of course, it provides the ideal nutrition and immune protection for bub as well as numerous other benefits. But like I said, you already know all that.

As it turns out, I’m no expert in this area, being one of those women who had no milk at all. I did spend the first two months or so trying to encourage a milk supply, breastfeeding and supplement feeding at the same time, so here are a few things I learned during that time.

  • Try using a normal, cotton non-underwire bra and stretchy tops / button shirts before buying special maternity bras and feeding shirts (or just buy one maternity bra to try – you can always get more later). This is going to be a very personal thing, for some ladies (erm, those that may be flat chested like me) you may find that regular clothes suit you just fine. Others will swear by the specially designed maternity wear. You won’t know until you try.
  • Cotton breast pads are washable and reusable and will save you money (and the environment) over the disposable ones (and they are much more comfortable). If you are crafty, you can make some of your own with recycled materials.
  • If you need help with breastfeeding then there’s lots of free advice available to you. If you were in the public health system, then you can seek the advice of a lactation consultant for free in a private consultation. Also, your local drop-in centre or baby clinic will have trained midwives (sometimes lactation consultants also) for you to talk to – this is also free. Finally, the Australian Breastfeeding Association is not only a great association to join, they offer free breastfeeding advice over the phone. I used all of these services and highly recommend each.
  • Wraps or muslins work as feeding covers without needing a separate cover.
  • If you want to use a breast pump, compare the prices between hiring one (you can hire one for half price from the ABA if you are a member) and buying one. Sometimes it is cheaper to purchase one outright. I would wait until after the baby is born and you have a bit more familiarity with it all before deciding to get a pump.
  • If you are looking at buying a second-hand pump (I sold one-second hand), look for ones that have a detachable milk collection kit and buy just those parts new for hygiene reasons.
  • Alternatives to an electric pump is hand expressing (think of it as a massage, actually a microscopic amount of olive oil may make it easier) or manual pumps (which is what my mother used when I was a baby).
  • Wait until after the baby is born to get things like nipple cream as you may not need it. Now I’m going to be controversial here and say that smearing your nipples with breast milk is a bit of an old midwives tale (particularly if your baby has a really strong suck and you’re bleeding). The best and most compassionate midwife I had was a male midwife who had just become a father himself. Men tend to be more practical (I would even go so far to say, more reasonable) about these things. He told me to stop sucking up the pain and get Lansinoh and I swear by it.
  • For info. on bottles and sterilisers etc., see below in the formula feeding paragraph.

Formula Feeding

As I said above, I happened to be one of those women who had malfunctioning mammaries. I’m guessing it will be the same for this baby. I won’t go into the emotional turmoil we went through in those first few months, nor the unsuccessful efforts we went to to get milk into production. It was hard, we tried hard, I’ll leave it at that.

The experience, however, puts me in a unique position for a frugal blogger; one that allows me to talk in detail about formula feeding. So if you find yourself in the same position as me, or you opt to formula feed for whatever other reason, then here’s some tips on saving money.

  • Formula itself is the biggest expense (we spent over $1,500 on formula in one year). Like any grocery, keep an eye out for specials and stock up when formula goes on sale. That’s the number one way to save money on formula. Don’t forget to keep an eye out in discount chemists and discount stores (like Big W). Just remember to check the used by date on the bottom of the can before stocking up.
  • As far as my lactation consultant was concerned, all formulas are the same, and there are minimum regulations and standards that all brands must meet, so there’s no need to buy the most expensive one on the market.
  • If bub is having feeding issues, it can be tempting to switch formulas. Talk to your GP or paediatrician before switching to the specialty (and more expensive) formulas (like soy or reflux formula).
  • Formula needs to be made up strictly according to the directions on the can. Brands will vary, but as an example, one scoop usually makes up around 60mls of formula, 2 scoops 120mls, three scoops 180mls and so on. But what if your baby drinks around 80mls? You have to make up the whole 120mls. Not only that, to ensure bub is getting enough to drink, you want to have formula left in the bottle after each feed. Babies will naturally stop drinking when full (which is good, don’t force them to finish the bottle). However, that remaining formula must be thrown away. Over the course of a year, that’s a lot of wasted formula. So here’s what we did to reduce the waste safely: make up a bottle of formula according to the instructions on the tin in a sterilised bottle and keep it in the fridge (it’s ok to keep formula in the fridge for up to 24 hours). At feed times, make up a bottle as usual and according to instruction, and then top it up with a little of pre-made formula from the fridge. Then warm as usual. That way you are still making the formula up exactly according to direction, while being able to vary the amounts offered and reduce waste.
  • Skip the pre-made formula or formula sachets when you’re out and about and get a formula container. I got a Pigeon brand container than can be used when bub gets older for snacks. Fits the perfect amount of sultanas in for a toddler! Take the formula and a bottle of boiled water, shake and serve. Just as easy the pre-made stuff and less waste. You don’t need to warm the bottle (it’s up to you, but I never did when out of the house). Depending on your timing and climate, you can take the bottle with warm water and it will still be at body temp when it’s feeding time.
  • Even though I wasn’t breastfeeding I preferred to get a bottle with a wide mouth, for two reasons: it’s ‘supposed to’ encourage a wide mouth motion that helps work jaw muscles, similar to breastfeeding and necessary for later speech and chewing (again, according to my lactation consultant). Secondly, the sippy cup spout (at least with the Pigeon brand) also fits the wide mouth bottle which can be convenient (and cheaper) for the bed time drink of milk when older.
  • We got by with six bottles, you might prefer eight. Save money by starting out with the bigger bottles; you’re only going to grow out of the smaller ones very quickly anyway. The teats fit any size bottle and you’re the one holding it. While you can’t fit 240mls of formula in a small bottle, you can easily feed a baby with 60mls in a large bottle with a small teat.
  • Teats come in different sizes, you will need to get the correct size for the baby’s age and move up the sizes as they grow. As well as moving up through the sizes, you will need to replace any teats that have deteriorated, have holes or that have been chewed through.
  • Teats and bottles can be purchased for less in discount chemists.
  • Bottles will need to be sterilised; after boiling the single bottle we started with 12 or more times a day (which is almost free but labour intensive), we invested in a plug-in steriliser (on sale) and it was the best purchase we made!
  • You will also need a bottle brush; grab one with a teat brush and brush gently to make the teats last longer.
  • Cotton bibs are a great investment for keeping clothes stain free. Just soak and wash with the sheets and towels.

solids and beyond

When the little fella started on solids, we skipped the rice cereal altogether and just started with vegetables and fruits. After doing a lot of reading, I felt this was better nutritionally. It’s also a lot cheaper. Here are some tips for saving on solids.

  • Skip the pre-made baby food in jars and squeezy baggies (who eats food by squirting it into their mouth?) and make your own baby food. The quickest way is to mash up extra veg that you’ve steamed while making your own dinner. To start with however, I preferred to make up a few batches of fruit and veg to freeze in ice-cube trays. This was more convenient for me for the first few months of solids. Baby food in jars costs a small fortune and tastes like rubbish! Much cheaper to make your own, although the occasional convenience can be worth it.
  • If you’re on the go, pack your own mush in a small container and place it in a small wet pack with an ice pack.
  • Cloth bibs are inexpensive and can be soaked, washed and reused. We also have a pile of flannels/face washers for hand and face wiping after a meal. These too go into the soaking bucket, ready to be washed with the towels (btw, this is a separate bucket to the nappies.)
  • When it comes to snacks, avoid the individually packaged servings and make up your own snacks. A compartment container or small containers are useful for slices of cheese (sliced off the block), sultanas (bought in a bulk pack), thin slices of apple or cruskit.
  • Carry a full water bottle everywhere for both yourself and your toddler. A damp flannel in a little baggy is useful for hand and face wiping on the go.
  • Once bub is a toddler, consider feeding them the family meal. We eat as a family at 5:30pm each night. If that sounds ridiculously early, it did to me too! But we tried it anyway and loved it (obviously, it’s not going to suit everyone). By 7pm everything is washed up and tidy, the little fella is in bed and we have the rest of the night to ourselves! Within reason, the little fella eats everything we eat (I don’t serve hot chilli, for instance, although he doesn’t mind sweet chilli sauce). This saves time as well as money.
  • Serve really small meals. Smaller than you would think is enough. As a child gets a little older, their appetite actually lessens. If there are leftovers in the kitchen these can be easily refrigerated for later, reducing waste and saving money. If there are leftovers on the plate (that have been mashed, partially masticated and spat out) well, I tend not to keep those Smile . And if your toddler is still hungry, it’s easy enough to get seconds.

I’m sure that there are lots more ways to save money on feeding a baby that I haven’t covered, and that the many mums who read this will be able to add to! Next week, I’ll write about the other end – nappies.

What are your tips for saving money on feeding a baby?


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  1. Hi Melissa.
    What a great list!
    I have got 2 little monsters err darlings now and life is pretty crazy.
    I want to second the steam sterilizer–not a great expense and a HUGE help with time.
    Although I breast fed both babies (with many many problems of my own)- when/if we used formulae we would buy it at Chemist Warehouse-always SO much cheaper. Cosco ( I am told) is also a big saver!
    I just wanted to add a couple of things to your list. My second is 10 months now, and things ‘changed’ from #1 to #2 in terms of MCH nurse advice.
    They now recommend that when starting solids you use baby led weaning. this is where babies actually eat large pieces of food (i.e. skip the puree and mash phases). Apparently there is less of a choking hazard than with purees(!), but makes life much easier with having more than one child to mange, and essentially you introduce babies to all the foods you are eating. (yup-even the chicken drums and chop bones)
    They also now recommend to introduce all foods before the end of their first year. Needless to say, my baby had peanut butter, honey, and egg very quickly, mostly due to the ‘helping hand’ of my 2 year old!
    These are not so much $$ saving things, but time saving and make life a lot easier!
    One other thing we did, was we made our own cloths bibs. I made them out of scraps of material and old towels.
    They are very easy- as I am not great sewer- and they are super thirsty. I found them much better than the store bought ones we were given. They have gone through 2 babies now, and are ready to be handed down, they have worn that well. They cost me nothing, other than an hour or two of my time.
    I look forward to the next instalments ( I love talking about MCN)…

    1. I love the idea of baby led weaning, we kind of did a combo of it and purees.

      It’s funny how much things change from one year to the next. One mother I know who had a baby recently last year was told that ‘policy’ has changed again and to start feeding at 4 months. I also read a very interesting article the other day that recommended feeding foods like eggs and peanut butter earlier than later because studies are finding it actually reduces the risk of allergies.

      Second time round I’m much more confident to trust my instincts.

      Ah, I keep thinking I should make some bibs – not sure I’m going to get time lol :).

      1. The official policies are still solids at 6 months (as per the WHO guidelines), but there have been a few articles pondering the benefits of introducing earlier so some health professionals are recommending the 4 months with purees. It can really depend on who you get as your health nurse or GP.

        We did purees first and now my 19mo will eat some real foods, others she turns her nose up at (even though she ate them by the cup full as purees when younger). Hoping that by baby-led weaning the next baby she might start eating the same foods the baby is enjoying

  2. Oh sorry I forgot 2 other things in my excitement of the frugal babyposts…
    1) If you are breastfeeding, as you mentioned bras are really expensive. With my first baby a friend of mine gave me a maternity singlet. They have an inbuilt drop down bra and are loose fit to hide post partum tummy. I loved this so much I went and bought 3 more. The good thing about these is they remove the need for different sized bras (as you size goes up and down with feeding especially early on), and can be worn under things or just on their own. I lived in these for the first 3/4 months. They were only $20 each, and again have used them through both babies, so definitely worth it
    When you do need bras, I bought cheap ones through underwear direct outlet (about $10 each), or Big W were great when had sales on. However I only ever bought 4 bras.
    2) For baby/toddler food, I love legumes. Both kids love eating chickpeas or kidney beans. Obviously they make a myriad of foods (hummus being a favourite), but are an easily digestible source of protein for babies/toddlers, allows babies to practice their pincher grip and if you soak your own, incredibly cheap….

  3. Bigger girls sadly need to spend the money on bras. I found the compromise to be buy 2 good properly fitted ones. Take note of how they were fitted, then find some cheaper ones. I kept the cheaper ones for around the house and for overnight, the good ones for when I left the house and wanted to look reasonable.

    Also second going with baby led solids. Huge time saving and time is money 😉

  4. Breastfeeding is the biggie. I had 3 babies who breastfed beautifully without a problem, then a 4th nightmare feeder, who caused me such intense pain I just about caved in to the bottle, despite a total of 6 successful years breastfeeding. The $120 we spent having the lovely lactation consultant visit us twice saved us hundreds on formula. An angel in disguise.. She also gave me the best new baby routine advice which I wish I had known from Baby No 1 – establish routine of feed – change/bath/play – sleep – feed for the first few months. This encourages the baby to go to sleep without being fed to sleep, and allows colicky babies to digest before sleeping. Also, they are really hungry when they wake up, and feed really well then. Golden, golden advice, made for happy baby, happy Mummy. All the very best over the next few weeks..

    1. Hi Jo,

      That’s great the LC could help with your feeding! We had the help of three LCs (luckily for us it was free) and they were all brilliant – just trying to fight against the odds lol.

      I second that routine! It’s the one we used for our little fella and we also found it to be great!


      1. Oh Melissa, I feel terribly mortified, I commented on this post before reading the whole article – I’ll finish it later I thought, and now I have, and I do hope you didn’t take my comment to be a criticism of formula feeding. I’m a bit of a foot-in-mouth girl, a Hugh Grantish character without the celebrity status, acting talent or boyish good looks… but with all the capacity for social ineptness!
        I am very grateful for the work the LC did with me – mine was an attachment issue rather than supply. It was quite a healthy comeuppance for me really, as I attributed my previous successes as being due to me being good at breastfeeding… when really it was the babies being good at breastfeeding, and I had to cross one more ‘natural talent’ off my resume, because it only took 3 days of screaming (me and baby) before I was ready to throw in the towel, and I will never, never judge a formula-feeding mum again.
        Anyway, I am the poster child for formula myself, bottle-fed, completely healthy, hardly ever so much as a sniffle as a child, and never visit my doctor except for a check up. And I don’t think I can blame bottle-feeding for my social ineptnes either, even though I’d like to…
        Will now always read whole posts before commenting.
        All the very best again, Jo

        1. LOL, no I didn’t think you were being critical at all! 🙂 Just sharing your experiences, which I’m glad you did. We all have such different experiences, I’m one for non-judgement, and I didn’t think for a single moment you were being judging or critical at all!

          I often think that I could have been one of the ‘breastfeeding nazi brigade’, but my experiences made me a lot more empathetic towards others. In a certain sense it did me good, although I would have prefered it the other way. And then there was the fact that DH could help at night, which was also very nice.

  5. Hi Melissa,

    Just wanted to put it out there, but with breastfeeding it shouldn’t hurt beyond the initial stratching of the nipple, if it does there might be an attachment problem (which could also be related to the shape of baby’s mouth, a tongue tie etc). I’d encourage anyone who is breastfeeding and it hurts to get a midwife or lactation consultant to see them straight away.

    I found Lanisoh did nothing for me, whereas the immune properties in breastmilk did help, and that’s what ABA recommends (unless medical advice has suggested any other nipple cream or treatment)

    You don’t have to be an ABA member to go to a couple of local meetings. Great if you’re pregnant or have a newborn and want to just check things out or speak to a counsellor in person. After attending a couple of ABA run breastfeeding education classes as a trainee I’d highly recommend booking in for a class, knowledge is power they say, and the biggest protion of the cost is an ABA subscription, but it might depend on your own budgets as to whether or not there’s room for it.

    All the best for your upcoming birth. I’m 4 weeks from due date with my second, and hoping I won’t have the same issues with breastfeeding that I had last time (not as bad as yours but we were supplementing formula from 9-ish months and full time from 11-13 months)

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