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If Breastfeeding Came With a Bill, We Would Pay Moms $97,000 a Year

A unique skill set, a sought-after product and an around-the-clock schedule contribute to a pretty high-value service.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published August 3, 2022
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Image: Sivakova Valeria/Shutterstock

We all know breastfeeding is valuable. That sacred bonding time spent with baby and the opportunity to provide them with the nutrition they need is magical; some might even say it’s priceless. But say we were to put a monetary value on breastfeeding— just how much would mom’s unique service be worth?

A new article by Ashley Reckdenwald, PA, the founder and CEO of Working Mom Notes, sets out to answer that question and dispel the myth that “breastfeeding is free.” To determine how much a breastfeeding woman is worth in our capitalist society, Reckdenwald breaks the value of the job down into three major principles, the service provided: breastfeeding, the product: breast milk, and the time it takes to feed baby.

The Service: Breastfeeding. The value=15% Service Charge

Breastfeeding women have a very unique skill set which makes their service quite valuable. According to the CDC’s 2020 Breastfeeding Report Card, only 1.1 percent of the US population is lactating at any given time. Of those lactating, they often need a few supplies to get the job done. Reckdenwald adds, “In honor of the capitalist society in which we live and a need to cover costs such as lactation consultations, pump and pump parts, breastmilk storage containers, breast pads, nursing bras and clothes, vitamins, and the other various items needed to sustain breastfeeding and maintain an ample milk supply, there is a 15% service charge.” This service charge also includes an “inconvenience” fee, as mothers are often “on call” for baby’s needs at all hours of the day and night.

The Product: Breast Milk. The value= $4 per ounce or $49,376 a year

While the market price of breast milk is variable, the average price stays around $4-$5 per ounce, including milk bank processing fees. Reckdenwald uses $4 as the price per ounce to minimize the need for a processing fee. Based on a baby drinking an average of 32.4 ounces per day and accounting for a full year of breastfeeding with the natural changes in routine due to infant growth spurts, Reckdenwald calculates the yearly value of breast milk to be $49,376.

The Time: 40 Hours a Week Plus Overtime. The value=$34,996 a year

One of the most significant costs associated with breastfeeding is time. The amount of time spent breastfeeding makes it hard, if not impossible, for many mothers to work a full-time job while breastfeeding. “The first four weeks require around-the-clock feedings every 2-3 hours, with time between feedings increasing as the baby grows. If I were to be paid minimum wage ($13 an hour in New Jersey) with overtime to breastfeed my baby in the first 4 weeks of life, I would make $6,162. Over the course of a year, I would make $34,996. This doesn’t include overtime for federal holidays, the value of the breast milk itself, nor the upcharge of breastfeeding being a commodity,” Reckdenwald says.

When you add up the value of a mother’s time, service and product, the bill comes to $97,027.80 a year. That’s a pretty hefty bill for something many Americans chalk up to as “free” or “just the price of being a mom.” The problem behind this viewpoint extends far beyond not recognizing mothers for the hard work they put in day in and day out and reaches into policy decisions and legislation that provides an astonishing lack of support for mothers.

While America certainly has made progress in recognizing the need for programs and systems that support mothers, much work still needs to be done. Organizations like Chamber of Mothers (of which Reckdenwald is a co-founder) and MomsRising are committed to advocating for legislation that focuses on mother’s rights. Learn more about how you can support mothers this World Breastfeeding Week and all year round.

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