By Kate Rockwood
Deciding how you’ll feed your newborn is a big deal: Will you breastfeed, use formula, or a combination of both? If you decide to breastfeed, will you pump and store your breast milk? And if so, what equipment do you need?
On top of all of this, of course, are worries about cost. Though breast milk is free, the equipment needed to do it isn’t always. Also, not every woman is able to or wants to breastfeed her baby for every feeding. The U.S. Office of the Surgeon General estimates that the alternative—baby formula—can cost families between $1,200 and $1,500 a year.
For those who need or want to use formula, there are plenty of ways to save money while still making sure your baby is well-fed, healthy, and happy. Here are 7 tricks for buying baby formula on a budget.
1. Subscribe to savings programs
Many major baby formula brands, from Gerber to Member’s Mark, offer some sort of customer membership or email subscription service with perks like coupons and free samples. Enfamil’s Subscribe to Save program, for example, offers 10% savings if you set up recurring online orders, and Similac’s Strong Moms Rewards offers free samples, coupons, and other gifts. You can use a variety of free samples to test what brands your baby likes best.
2. Buy in bulk
Buying generic or store brand formula from big box stores or wholesalers such as Costco, Walmart, or Sam’s Club can be a great way to save money. By law, generic formulas must meet the same nutritional and quality standards as brand-name formulas, so as long as you make sure the formula agrees with your baby, there’s no downside to buying bulk.
3. Sign up for baby registries
Baby registries from big department stores such as Target, Walmart, Buy Buy Baby, and even Amazon usually offer welcome packages to new families that sign up. These can include a variety of coupons and free samples for popular baby products, including, you guessed it, formula. You can even use the same registries to ask your friends and family to help you stock up on formula and other baby must-haves before your due date.
4. Ask your doctor for samples
Hospitals and clinics often have free samples of baby formulas that they are happy to send you home with after you have your baby. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider if they have baby formula available.
5. Go for price over convenience
Taking the time to mix your own powder formula, instead of buying the pre-mixed liquid version, can make a big difference for your pocketbook, since powder baby formula is often much less expensive than its ready-to-use counterpart. Though mixing the powder can be a pain, you can make it a bit more convenient for outings by investing in a formula dispenser or another dedicated container. That way you’ll always have the right amount of powder on hand to mix a bottle on the go.
6. Use WIC
The USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, is a government resource that offers food and nutritional assistance for pregnant women, new moms, and children up to the age of 5. If you qualify for WIC in your state, you could receive baby formula free of charge.
7. Call 211
Call 211 toll-free to reach a community resource specialist who can connect you to a variety of resources in your area, including nutrition, healthcare, and job information. They may be able to help you find a nearby organization that can support you and your family with baby formula and other supplies. You can also consider calling local food pantries, which often have baby formula available for pickup or delivery.
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