When it comes to feeding your baby, there are two options.
You can either breastfeed or use formula.
In some cases, women who don’t want to breastfeed (or can’t for whatever reason) may find the price of formula too high.
Considering that babies require either formula or breastmilk to survive, people are confused about why baby formula is so expensive in the first place.
Here are 10 reasons baby formula is so expensive.
Why Is Formula So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. High-End Formula
Some types of baby formula are high-end.
These are brands like Enfamil and Similac.
They put their price of formula at $1 per ounce.
Considering that baby needs 2.5 ounces of milk per 453 grams of body weight every day, that can become expensive fast.
They’re high-end for a few different reasons.
The first is that high-end brands will consider their ingredients to be top quality.
They source the best ingredients and use safety measures to produce their formula in a clean way.
Parents can be sure that the formula doesn’t contain any fillers or harmful additives.
Cheaper formulas may contain these undesirable ingredients.
Another reason brands consider their formulas to be high-end is that they add a few ingredients that can better support a baby’s growth.
One ingredient may help boost brain development while others may focus on skin health.
These added qualities aren’t required in basic baby formula.
However, some parents may want to give their baby the best possible chance at growing healthy.
They’ll buy a high-end formula to give them that chance.
You’ll find that even among high-end formulas, they have different formulas and tiers of quality.
The most expensive baby formula is going to have the most premium ingredients in it.
2. Health Benefits
A major factor that influences the price of baby formula is the number of health benefits that it advertises.
Basic baby formula will ensure your baby develops healthily.
It will give bone, immune, and brain support.
More expensive types of baby formula may promise other health benefits as well.
They’ll include ingredients that are harder to find or not as common.
Because these ingredients are harder to make and harder to source, the price for them increases.
To make up for the cost, the manufacturer increases the price of the baby formula.
Parents are willing to pay a lot of money to ensure they’re giving their baby the best chance at good health.
Because they’re willing to pay more, companies can increase the price of the “healthier” types of baby formulas.
At some point, the market will reach a price that they aren’t willing to pay.
Suppliers will then lower the price back to the second-highest price that still made their formula attractive.
A product that promises healthy benefits is going to be more expensive because of the ingredients it uses and because the suppliers know that people are willing to pay the extra cost to a certain extent.
3. Importation Fees
A lot of countries choose to import baby formula instead of investing in local businesses to produce it.
That puts a heavy price on baby formula from the start.
Importing goods costs money.
There are several taxes and fees that a supplier needs to pay to bring in goods from another country.
Sometimes they may need to pay these fees several times if they’re crossing international waters.
Imported baby formula is going to be significantly higher than formula made locally.
4. Shipping Costs
Influencing importation costs are also shipping costs.
Once the formula reaches the borders of the country, it then has to go into a shipping container.
To keep it fresh and edible, suppliers need to use special shipping containers.
These containers make shipping food safe and healthy.
Many of them are air-conditioned or use other practices to keep their interiors cold.
Besides the tools, you also need the labor to move the product to its destination.
Workers need payment which adds to the cost of the formula.
If the formula happens to go across the country from its shipping port, then the cost to ship it is going to be high.
Like importing fees, drivers will face their own fees.
They’ll need to pay tolls, taxes, and fuel costs to reach their destination.
The further the destination is from the factory or warehouse, the more expensive it’s going to be.
That’s why certain types of formula are more expensive than others.
They likely come from a warehouse across the country.
One of the pricier ingredients that increases the cost of baby formula is lactose.
The FDA allows for a smaller percentage of lactose in the formula than in other countries.
European countries use the European Commission to oversee the safety and health regulations about food and drugs.
They require 30% of the carbohydrates found in formula to be from lactose.
The FDA allows less lactose in the use of formula, but it still requires the same amount of carbohydrates.
High-end formula companies will follow European recipes and standards to make their products.
Those that are more inexpensive will replace lactose with corn syrup or sucrose.
The reason lactose is expensive is that it comes from cows or other dairy animals.
Those animals need care to produce healthy milk.
They require food, water, and a clean shelter.
Those things cost money.
The more lactose that a product contains, the costlier it’s going to be.
Choosing to buy inexpensive formula, however, comes with its own share of problems.
Any formula that uses corn syrup and sucrose comes with health concerns.
Corn syrup isn’t good for the body.
Giving it to a baby, whose body is trying to develop, could be detrimental.
Since the market knows that parents are going to choose the healthier option as much as they can, they can set the price higher to make a profit.
Lactose isn’t the only premium ingredient that can drive up the price of baby formula.
DHA can, too.
This is another stark difference between European baby formula and American baby formula.
In the United States, companies use iron in their baby formula recipes.
Iron is a great ingredient to have in baby formula because it helps their body grow strong.
It plays an integral role in carrying blood cells through the body.
On the other hand, European companies use DHA in their baby formula.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid.
It’s often found in certain types of fish.
DHA plays an important role in the development of the brain, in skin health, and in eye health.
For babies, it can help their brains and eyes develop more effectively.
It may also reduce skin rashes and other skin problems that sometimes plague babies
Many USA formula companies leave out DHA because of its expense.
Since DHA is usually found in fish, they’d need to either partner with a fishing company or a supplier.
That’s another cost to add to their expenses.
High-end formulas take on this expense.
The result is a higher price on their baby formula.
Others choose to leave it out, and they’re the cheaper option.
DHA needs processing, and then it needs to mix with the other ingredients to make baby formula.
It’s another step in the process that can make it even more expensive.
That drives up the price of the formula.
7. Not Covered By Insurance
Many parents rely on health insurance to cover the costs of their baby’s needs.
Certain insurance or welfare programs can help with diaper costs and other medical costs.
These programs don’t always cover baby formula.
That can make it expensive because parents have to pay the full price of the formula on their own.
In some cases, if the baby requires a specialized formula or a prescription formula, then insurance will cover the cost of the formula.
That makes it more affordable even if the parents need to pay a co-pay.
For everyone else, the cost of feeding their baby comes entirely out of their own pocket.
8. WIC Repercussions
There was an attempt in 1975 to make formula more affordable to non-breastfeeding mothers.
It fell under the United States’ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
This expansion enabled non-breastfeeding women who qualified for WIC to receive formula for free.
The manufacturers receive rebates from WIC members which they need to then pay out.
The problem is that this made those businesses see losses past the point at which they were comfortable.
They chose to raise formula prices for non-WIC members to recoup their losses.
That means everyone else in the country, essentially.
While WIC does help those who qualify for the program, it does so at the expense of everyone else.
Those who live in a state where there are many members of WIC will likely see even higher formula costs than those who live in states with fewer WIC participants.
Breastmilk contains all of the nutrients and minerals that a baby needs.
Not all women want to breastfeed their children, however.
Some may not be able to because of a disease or condition.
To ensure that babies who are not breastfed still receive the nutrients and minerals they need to grow strong, a lot of engineering goes into baby formulas.
Researchers look at the best ingredients currently available and then derive a way to ensure they’re present in the formula.
The formula also needs to have a pleasant enough flavor and consistency for the baby to enjoy.
Otherwise, they won’t want to drink it.
Research is ongoing, too.
If they discover that something is harmful in the long-term, then they take it out and try to find something better.
Researchers are also always trying to find a way to make formula more effective.
They want to be able to give babies the best cocktail of health boosts that can help them grow into healthy adults later in life.
Research and development cost money.
The more a company funds its R & D department, the more expensive the formula is going to be.
That’s because they’re releasing innovative types of baby formula that no one else has.
They can get away with the price.
They also use the funds to further invest in the R & D department to come up with yet more innovative products to sell.
If a baby formula company wants to stay in the industry, then they always need to be leading it.
10. An Essential Food
Formula is expensive because almost every parent is going to need to buy it.
Even women who breastfeed will eventually transition their baby to formula at some stage in their life.
That means it has a huge market.
There’s a lot of demand for baby formula.
Since babies can’t eat the type of food that older children and adults eat, they need formula.
It’s an essential food.
Suppliers know that.
They know that there’s a large demand for baby formula because people are always having babies.
Since there’s always a guaranteed market, suppliers can increase the price.
They know that parents will buy it at that price because they need it to keep their baby alive and healthy.
Certain formula companies, like high-end ones, also produce in smaller quantities.
It makes their supply low.
Since many parents prefer high-end formula options over cheaper ones, the demand for them is high.
That only adds to the cost of an already expensive brand of baby formula.
Since baby formula is essential, parents are more likely to buy it at any price simply because they need to.
How To Save Money On Baby Formula
You shouldn’t have to empty your wallet or bank account to keep your baby fed and healthy.
There are a few ways you can save on formula.
Follow these tips to save money on baby formula.
1. Breastfeed More Often
If you’re open to breastfeeding and able, then you may want to consider breastfeeding more often.
Babies will receive all the nutrients that they need from your milk.
When you don’t want to breastfeed, you can then buy some formula.
It will save you money in the long run since you’re not buying formula every day to feed your baby.
2. Buy Cheaper Brands
If you’re desperate to feed your baby, then you may want to choose to buy cheaper brands of formula for your baby.
These brands likely use corn syrup or sucrose in their ingredients, so you’ll want to be sure you’re okay with feeding your baby that before buying the product.
Even buying a cheaper formula every now and then, in place of a high-end formula, can save you some money.
Alternating between high-end and cheaper versions can ensure your baby receives a healthy diet while limiting their exposure to corn syrup and sucrose.
All the while, you’re saving a bit of money, too.
3. Choose Powdered Formula
There are different types of formula.
Powdered formula is something you need to make at home.
It’s different than the formula that is already made for you by the manufacturers.
Powdered formula is cheaper because it doesn’t go through the same processing steps as the ready-made formula.
It relies on you to do that part.
By removing some of the labor involved, you can save money.
Your baby will still receive the same nutrition as the ready-made formula.
The only difference is that you take it upon yourself to prepare the formula for your baby.
The powdered formula also tends to last longer.
You can get a few bottles out of it as opposed to the ready-made formula which you serve immediately or put in the refrigerator for later.
Since it lasts longer, you’ll have to buy less of it over time.
4. Try Cow’s Milk Formula
There are different types of milk used in baby formula.
Some come from cows while others come from soy.
Soy milk is more expensive than cow milk.
That’s because it requires a lot of soybeans to make enough milk for baby formula.
That means more labor and more ingredients to make the soybeans yield milk.
Cows produce a lot of milk in one season.
They can fill up a few different bottles in a single session of milking.
Soy is also more expensive because it’s considered organic.
Anything that comes with the organic label tends to be more expensive.
If you want to save money on your baby formula, then you’ll want to choose cow-based formula over soy-based formula whenever possible.
Baby formula is expensive because of the ingredients it uses and because of the demand for it in the market.
While breastfeeding is always the cheapest option, it isn’t always possible for women to breastfeed.
Some simply don’t want to.
To save money on formula, follow the tips above.