The True Costs of Having a Baby - Part I: Knowing the Price

June 26, 2012

By Preston Cochrane, President and CEO, AAA Fair Credit Foundation & Utah Saves

This article is part one of a five part series concerning the costs of having a baby.

Part I: Knowing the Price

stacked giftsWhether you’re already pregnant, thinking about having a baby, undergoing fertility treatments, or considering adopting, the best thing you can do to prepare for this life-changing event is to start a baby budget, and save as much money as possible. Even if all you can save is $50 a month, it’s important to do what you can. It’s not so much the amount that’s important but the consistent action that matters. Once your baby arrives, your world as you know it will be turned upside down.

A report released in June 2012 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a middle-income family with a child born last year can expect to spend about $235,000 in child-related expenses (food, shelter, and other necessities) from birth through age 17. That’s a 3.5 percent increase from 2010, and a 23% hike from 1960 (when the USDA first issued the report).

There are thousands of baby products on the market, most of which you can do without. First, focus on the basics of what you and your baby can’t go without, and then narrow down how much you have left over to spend on the nice-to-have items.  When figuring out all the things you will need to purchase before the baby arrives, it’s best to have a planning session with your spouse and an experienced parent or support group. This will be extremely helpful to work as a team and determine what essential items you need before the baby is born.

Below is a list of possible purchases and approximate costs or ranges to help you investigate your options and manage expenses. This is by no means a complete list and not everything will apply to you, but it will help get you started.

Estimated Costs of Having a Baby

Items Needed

Cost Range


Maternity Clothes


Borrowing, consignment, online shopping can save you hundreds of dollars.

Maternity Leave

$3,000+ to replace loss of income

Working moms may find maternity leave is unpaid after using accrued vacation and sick time.

Prenatal Care & Childbirth

$0-$2,000 depending on insurance and complications

You should plan for prenatal vitamins, out-of-pocket pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding education classes, and first-year baby-care expenses.

Hospital Costs


Review your insurance policy to find out how much you have to pay out of pocket for prenatal care, hospital stay, tests and post-partum care.

Baby Gear


Car seat, stroller, carrier, crib, bedding, changing table, bottles, binkies, toys, rocking chair, diaper bag, baby room monitor, bath tub, safety gate, furniture, portable swing, high chair, etc.

Diapers & Wipes


Expect using 6-10 a day.  Consider buying in bulk at warehouse stores. A diaper service costs around $75/month.

Baby Formula & Food


Breastfeeding has nutritional benefits and costs nothing.

Baby Clothes

$800+ for the first year

Clothing a child is an ongoing expense; hand-me-downs, consignment, and thrift stores can help save money.

Feminine Hygiene Products


Breast pump and liners, check-ups after a cesarean section birth, and medication.



Full-time day care may be unavoidable if both parents are working.



Consider trading off babysitting duties with family, friends and neighbors.

Life & Disability Insurance

$50-$100/month, per parent*

Life insurance can provide for a child in case both parents die, and can provide for a spouse or other caregiver so that he or she won't have the sudden and overwhelming financial burden of raising a child alone.

Education Savings

$500/month to fully fund college tuition in 18 years**

Consider opening a Coverdell Education Savings Account (contributions are not tax-deductible but amounts deposited grow tax free until distributed); or a  529 College Savings account (allows you to save pre-tax dollars).

*Based on premiums for a healthy, non-smoking 30-year old
** Assumes a 4% annual increase in college costs and a 7% annual return on investments

The costs of having a baby can feel overwhelming, especially for the uninsured.  Data gathered from 2008 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that the charge for an uncomplicated cesarean section is approximately $15,800, while an uncomplicated vaginal birth runs about $9,600.

The costs do not have to be overwhelming. Here are some articles to help you save and be prepared:

Are you ready to commit to a savings goal? Join America Saves today.

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