Feeding Formula

Why Is Formula So Expensive? (And How To Save Money)

Formula is one of those everyday items that can quickly add up and surprise you when you calculate just how much your total spend is per year (spoiler: it can be $2,000 or more).

Even if you start off breastfeeding your baby, you may still need to buy formula for top ups, if you’re not able to pump enough milk, or if your baby has special dietary needs.

With the cost running well over $100 per month, you’re probably wondering why it costs so much.

Baby formula is expensive because of the high levels of research and development, legal regulations, quality of ingredients and marketing spend required to create a strong and trusted brand image.

Why Is Formula So Expensive?

The cost of baby or infant formula is expensive for several reasons, and it’s the combination of these factors which add up to make the cost per ounce so expensive.

Research & Development

By its very definition formula needs to be a good substitute for breast milk.

This means it should contain nutrients that help a baby grow and thrive.

Given this required functionality, it can take many years of research to develop a product that is a safe and suitable replacement for breast milk.

Clearly this process is expensive and requires a lot of research and development, which comes at a significant cost.

Scientists inside a laboratory

High Quality Ingredients

Baby formula is made up of several components including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients including probiotics and prebiotics.

Higher-end products contains better quality ingredients and fewer or no fillers or unnecessary additives, and this also drives up the cost vs other food or drink.

Brand Names

As a parent you naturally want to give your baby the best possible food.

Brand owners and marketeers know this all too well, and therefore spend millions of dollars per year to help create a trusted brand and product range that you feel comfortable giving to your baby.

From advertising to sponsorships and PR, creating and protecting a brand takes time and money, and this is yet another reason why the final cost of formula is expensive.

Safety Checks & Regulations

As you can imagine, the manufacturing a product designed to be consumed by a baby faces more stringent safety checks and regulations that the food that adults eat.

Any health claims must be substantiated and backed by research.

The FDA impose additional statutory and regulatory requirements for infant formula to protect babies, because they are considered to be a “vulnerable” population.

In addition, there must be a minimum of 29 nutrients in baby formula and for 9 of those nutrients there is a maximum allowable amount.

These regulations impact both the research and development and quality of ingredients (see above), and is another key reason why the cost is so high.

Related: Your Must Have Baby & Toddler Feeding Guide

What Is The Cost Of Formula Per Month?

The cost of formula per month will depend on a few factors including whether or not your baby is exclusively formula fed, your baby’s age and the amount they eat per day.

On average, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, feeding your baby on formula will cost a minimum of $100 per month.

Depending on the brand you choose and any wastage, the cost could easily be 1.5 to 2 times more, which would mean a spend of $200 per month (or $2,400 per year).

a person stacking coins on top of a table

How Much Does Formula Cost Per Week?

Based on the same figures and logic, the average cost of giving your baby formula will be somewhere between $25 to $45 per week.

What Is The Most Expensive Baby Formula?

According to the FDA, all infant formulas in the USA must meet the nutrient specifications listed in FDA requirements.

However, because manufacturers have their own formulations, and due to the strength of brand names and willingness of parents to pay more for certain brands, the price can vary significantly.

In the USA baby formula can be purchased for as little as $0.50 per ounce, while at the other end of the scale you can pay $2.10 or more per ounce.

As you’d expect, the more convenient option – liquid ready to feed formula – is more expensive.

While the less convenient powdered option, which needs to be mixed with water, it the least expensive.

How To Save Money On Formula

Spending up to $2,000 or more on baby formula is a big deal, especially when combined with all the other baby essential such as a stroller, crib, clothing and accessories.

So here are some top tips on how to save money when buying baby formula or milk.

  • Subscriptions: If you find a brand that your baby likes, and you know roughly how much your little one needs per day, you could save money by signing up to a subscription, either directly with the brand or via a retailer such as Amazon.
  • WIC Program: Depending on your income and financial situation, you could be eligible for the WIC Program (a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants and Children).
  • Free Samples and Offers: If a brand or retailer you like has a welcome / sign-up offer, or even free samples, this can be well worth doing.
  • Shop At Mass Merchandise Stores: Stores such as Costco and Wal-Mart will naturally be cheaper than many other stores, so it makes sense to bulk buy (see below) from those stores.
  • Buy In Bulk: As with most food or drink, buying larger pack sizes and multipacks could save you money in the long run, especially as you should be able to return anything that’s unopened with the original receipt.
  • Consider Store Brands: We saw above that FDA regulations require all products to meet the same nutrient standards, so you could save a lot of money by switching from a well know brand name to a store brand.
  • Coupons: Websites, magazines and local newspapers are all great places to seek out coupons, which again could help you save some money on baby formula.

See Also:

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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