As a new mom, I didn’t have the time or energy to search for the best deals on baby stuff.
This was especially true for the amount of gear needed to breast-feed my little bundle. We’re talking breast pumps, breast milk storage bags, lanolin cream, nursing pads, sterilization bags, pump replacement parts and other accessories.
As a first-time mom, I spent $50 a month just to rent a breast pump. That’s $600 a year! It wasn’t long before I lost track of how much I spent on all the paraphernalia needed to help my baby get a good start in life.
But with baby #2, I was a thriftier mom— thanks to a new federal law and the discovery that I could use certain tax breaks for breast-feeding equipment.
When Breast-feeding, Flexible Spending Accounts are Your Friend
- With the federal Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans must cover the costs of breast-feeding equipment and counseling. Different health plans have different rules for coverage, so check with yours before making a purchase.
- You might be able to use pretax money from a workplace flexible spending account (FSA) to purchase breast pumps and supplies.
- If you don’t have a FSA, you may be able to deduct these costs when filing your taxes.
- Low-income moms who qualify for their local Women’s Infants and Children’s (WIC) program may also receive breast-feeding support and equipment.
Armed with this new knowledge, I used my health insurance to buy an electric breast pump. I spent nothing out of pocket to buy the pump, which usually retails for about $150.
I also used my FSA funds to purchase breast milk storage bags, sterilization bags and other gear. When using an FSA, money comes out of your paycheck before taxes are deducted. You’ll save an amount that’s equal to the taxes you would have paid on the money you set aside
Overall, you might save an average of about 25 percent if you use your FSA plan, according to Lifetime Benefit Solutions, which administers FSA plans for companies.
Additional Ways to Save on Breast-feeding
Do you have an FSA, but wished you had earmarked more money to be put into the account? If you just had a baby, you may be able to change your contributions. Having a newborn is often considered a “qualifying event” that allows moms and dads to change their FSA contributions.
If you’re still hunting for other ways to save money, here are a few more ideas:
- Ditch disposables: Save money by ditching the disposable breast pads and purchasing cloth breast pads that you can wash and reuse. You can throw them in the wash when you launder your baby’s clothes.
- Skip the specialties: You don’t need special nursing pillows, covers or shirts. A regular bed pillow will work just fine when you’re nursing your little guy or gal. Same thing for breast-feeding covers; toss a light blanket over your baby as you nurse. No need for special nursing shirts either. Choose clothes that button up the front and you’re good to go. While special nursing equipment is not essential, you might prefer it or receive one or two items as gifts.
Once you have a handle on the costs of breast-feeding gear, you may be able to use a different type of FSA for another big baby expense. Check to see if your plan has a dependent care FSA that allows you to defer up to $5,000 a year in pre-tax money to cover daycare costs. Again, the birth of a baby may be a qualifying event that allows you to open up or contribute more to your FSA.
The choice to breast-feed (or not) your baby is a personal decision. For more information, check out womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding.
6 ways to save on breast-feeding gear
For help paying for a breast pump and supplies, consider the following:
- Flexible spending accounts
- Other tax breaks
- Your health insurance plan’s coverage for pumps
- The local WIC program
You may also want to . . .
- Try reusable cloth breast pads instead of disposable ones
- Skip the nursing pillows, covers and shirts