We are fortunate to be debt free at this stage of our lives. I’m grateful to be debt free as a new parent and I know that it is makes me a better parent than if I was not debt free.
Recently we had a baby. She is a wonderful baby and makes us look like we are already at Level 1000 in the parenting game. She slept through the night at 7 weeks and is a really happy baby. We are over the moon in love with her and I’m finally starting to get a hang of the staying home thing without it impacting my views of myself and worth.
(Another topic for another time – I need some more distance to gather my thoughts).
Babies are Expensive:
I have shared what we bought for her as well as how we are funding my extended maternity leave but what we haven’t talked (partly due to shitty feelings of shame on my part) is that we formula feed her and have been since the very beginning. Those shitty feelings are mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed her. I still give her as much as I have at every feed however it is not enough to sustain her and she needs to mainly consume formula. I really wanted to and went to so many appointments with lactation consultants as well as I take a cocktail of prescribed medication and herbs every day.
But it didn’t work and I will not starve my child. So formula it is.
I feel shitty because I feel like I let her down. I kind of knew it was going to be a struggle (due to my medical history) but I didn’t think I would feel this badly about it. The information I got in the pre-natal classes made me feel like my kid would be a danger to society if I didn’t breastfeed which didn’t make me feel great (really). I worry about my actions now and how they will impact her in the future. My mom guilt is strong with this one and while I will likely never get over it I made peace with it.
Formula is Expensive:
One thing that needs to be made very clear is that formula is EXPENSIVE. Crazy expensive. There is a reason why it is locked up or heavily monitored at some stores. If you use it while the baby is under 2 months it is recommended to use a sterile product, like Ready to Feed or Liquid Concentrate. At the end of our use of the sterile products the Liquid Concentrate was costing us $4.50/day and Ready to Feed was even higher at $8.80/day. Powder is slightly cheaper, $4.28/day, so we moved to it once we got approval from the pediatrician. Powder is not ideal when they are little or if they have a weakened immune system.
There aren’t a lot of coupons or rebates that you can get ongoing to help reduce the costs (at least in Canada) with the formula that we use. It is also one thing for me to switch brands when something is on sale but generally that’s not recommended for babies. Their little bodies and digestive systems aren’t fully formed yet so it’s not great to throw whatever is on sale into a bottle. If you need more specialty formulas (soy, lactose free etc.) it’s even more expensive.
Budgeting for Basic Needs:
When we budgeted for diapers I felt confident that it would cost us about $500/year. Based on what we have spent in 2 months we are right on track. I remember the day I realized we forget to plan for the formula. I called Scott sobbing (pregnant lady tears) saying that we didn’t plan for this and it was all my fault. After he calmed me down we put aside $1,500 to cover formula based on my plan to use powder from the beginning in my limited tear soaked research.
How are we doing with the $1,500 you ask? Not so great. We have gone through about 30% of the money and we are only 20% into the year. That’s not really great planning but I had no idea how much she was going to want to consume. She went through her first 2 growth spurts with the expensive formula so she was drinking about 24-30oz some days. (Little piglet!)
What Did I Know About Planning for Formula?
While I’m not thrilled with the poor planning on my part I’m not freaking out about it either. Not having debt of any kind (outside the mortgage) makes me less stressed about money and more present. Having a respectable amount of savings has allowed us to feed our daughter without going into debt. We don’t have massive debt payments taking up our income. If I blow through the formula money I’m not worried about my ability to feed my daughter. This is a VERY fortunate situation to be in. Part of it is not having debt and part of it is just dumb luck. We have financial privilege and that has set us up to help with any other future things that come along the way.
Budgeting for the WIN
Also having a budget allows me to tweak things really quickly. I can look at the gaps and add money to that fund to support it as required. This makes me a better parent (a VERY lucky and privileged one at that) because I can focus on her. I don’t have to deal with debt repayment, lack of sleep and little miss piglet all at the same time. I can be present and engaged and not give her less food because I can’t afford it.
So tell me: If you are debt free what does that make you better at? If you aren’t debt free yet (you can do it!) what are you looking forward to focusing on after that?