When I first started thinking about becoming pregnant back in 2010, I remember wondering (and worrying) about whether I was financially ready for a baby. You always hear about how expensive it is to raise a child from birth to college (a million dollars?!). And I knew I wanted at least two, yikes!
Plus, I’d heard friends say they would have more kids but couldn’t afford it. Although I can definitely understand the unselfishness and responsibility of this POV, it still kinda broke my heart. If a family has love to give, maybe there is a way? WHY do babies cost so much?
So, now, ten years and three babies later, I’m here to answer the question (with actual numbers!) of “how much does a baby cost per year”? Stay tuned for my personal experience, numbers from the experts, and some tips for how to keep the baby category of your budget in the black.
The Starting Point: Getting Pregnant
When figuring out the costs of raising a baby, you definitely have to consider the months or years before baby is even born. Some parents will have far more costs than others. The costs of adoption, surrogacy, and fertility treatments vary significantly across countries and even in the U.S.
Will you be adopting or using a surrogate, or trying to conceive yourself?
Adoption costs can vary widely based on location and type of adoption. Adoption from a foreign country will require expenses for travel, passports, adoption agency and foreign government fees. Adoptions within the US may require less travel but the agency fees are oftentimes higher. According to a 2016-2017 report in Adoptive Families magazine, the average domestic (within the US) adoption costs $43,000. I’ve seen estimates of international adoptions costing somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on the country and the age of the child.
Even with fundraising activities, the cost of adoption can be an impenetrable barrier to many people.
Adopting from a foster program is oftentimes far less expensive or free, but fostering does not always lead to the option for adoption. Foster programs are most often trying to reunite the child with his or her parents whenever possible. If your heart is set on adopting a baby, fostering may not be the route for you.
Surrogacy typically costs even more, up to $100,000 or more. One benefit of surrogacy is that you are having another woman carry your baby (your eggs are fertilized with your partner’s sperm and then implanted into the surrogate mother). But the costs tend to be out of reach for the majority of people.
Do you have a partner or will you require donor sperm?
Donor sperm is far more affordable than donor eggs (supply and demand, people!) and many women have opted to become pregnant and have a baby without a male partner. In these cases, the cost of donor sperm typically ranges from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending somewhat on if the donor is anonymous or a male partner or friend.
Will you need fertility treatments?
The costs here can vary wildly, from a few dollars a month for prescriptions to many thousands for surgical options like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Some employers do offer assistance with fertility treatments which can offset the costs somewhat, but many couples have to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket and may only have a low percentage of success.
Preparing for Baby
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you were fortunate enough to get pregnant on your own (well, with your partner’s help!). What now? Let’s talk about what costs will you have over the next nine or so months.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself and your baby is to get good, consistent prenatal care. This includes, at a minimum, regular doctor visits with an OB-Gyn and prenatal vitamins.
Most doctors will want to see you monthly at the beginning of your pregnancy, and then visit frequency will increase to twice monthly and then weekly as you progress. High-risk pregnancies will require more frequent visits.
You will need to get familiar with your insurance plan to calculate what all these visits will cost. Many plans cover standard prenatal visits with no cost to the mom, others will charge a copay or coinsurance. You may or may not have a deductible.
If this is all way too confusing, either call or check your insurance company’s website. Many of them have tools that will help you estimate the cost of medical care, including pregnancy. You can usually also look to see how the costs could change based on which hospital you choose and whether you have a vaginal birth or c-section.
Pro-tip for prenatal vitamins: if your doctor prescribes prenatals that cost you more than $20 a month or so, call back and ask for an alternative! There are a million great prenatals that are all very similar. Ask your doc for a generic, or find out what is on your insurance’s preferred list, or if your doc OKs it, just use an OTC version (Amazon). I’ve known women who pay $50 a month for fancy brand-name prenatals. You’ll be taking them every day starting even before you’re trying to conceive, for the duration of your pregnancy, and while you’re breastfeeding – this can really add up fast!
Buying for Baby
Finally, we’re getting to the good stuff! The nursery!
While you don’t have much say in the cost of doctors, insurance, or the costs of getting pregnant, you have all the say in what you buy for baby!
Be sure to check out this post to find out what you REALLY need for your new baby. It’s not as much as you might think! You’ll find lots of tips for keeping those costs to a minimum.
For now, here’s the list so we can add up a dollar amount. I put a quick average price for each item if purchased new in parentheses. You could obviously spend plenty more!
- Crib (~$100)
- mattress (~$75)
- fitted sheets (~$20)
- Play yard (with bassinet/changing station optional) (~$100)
- Dresser with drawers (with changing table optional) (~$100)
- a handful of onesies (~$20)
- zippered sleepers (~$20)
- diapering supplies (~$50)
- Carseat (~$100)
- Stroller (~$100)
My first budget advice is ALWAYS to borrow from a friend or family member when you can. The total cost for all these items, borrowed or handed down for free: ZERO! It doesn’t get any more budget than that.
Next step is to buy used. I suggest joining a local Facebook parent’s group that has a buy-sell-trade section. You will find everything you need for a steal, and you’ll be buying from local parents (in my opinion, a safer bet than anonymous sites like CraigsList). My neighborhood parents’ group has thousands of members and is an incredible resource!
Finally, if you need to buy new, be sure to use the tips and tricks you’ll find here at Budget Baby Nursery to get the best deals. You could buy all of the things in the must-have list for around $700.
A much better use of your $700 would be to buy used. Even if you spend the same amount, you will get much higher quality products. For example, a used $100 crib was probably three or four hundred dollars new! You can bet it will be a higher-quality item that will last longer and have better resale value.
I know I keep bringing this up, but it’s because it’s THAT important!
Baby’s First Year
Okay, so you got pregnant. You got plenty of great prenatal care. You delivered a baby. You have a crib and car seat and the other must-have items. What’s next? What is baby’s first year going to cost?
I know what you’re thinking…she’s talking about insurance AGAIN?! Blech!
Yes it’s boring, but it’s important. lf you have insurance through an employer, you’ll need to add baby. If you get state-offered coverage, like Medicaid, make sure your ducks are in a row. It is my understanding that in North Carolina, if the mother had Medicaid for pregnancy, the baby’s newborn costs are also covered. But make sure! Ask, call, go by the Medicaid office and make sure you’ve applied or filled out forms or whatever you need to do.
Oooh, baby. This one just might blow your mind.
The cost of diapers is ridiculous. If I could do it all over again, I am pretty sure I would have made more effort to use cloth diapers (I dabbled…but it really requires a commitment). The new, easy-to-use cloth diapers (Amazon) are a far cry from what my mom’s generation used with the big ol’ diaper pins. They fit much like disposable diapers, with elastic and Velcro. They have washable covers and extra absorbent inserts. You can find them in adorable patterns and colors. They last a very long time, maintain a decent resale value, and minimize the risks of allergic reactions to chemicals in disposable diapers.
Yeah, that’s where most parents are no longer interested. Now, a cloth diaper fan will tell you it’s no big deal. There are many tools to make the cleanup easier (like sprayer attachments on your toilet – Amazon). But some parents just can’t forego the convenience of chucking a dirty diaper in the pail and never thinking about it again.
I suggest you do some research. Talk to your friends. Reach out to parent groups in the area. Make an informed decision before you totally write it off. It’s better for your budget and WAY better for the environment.
If you go the cloth route, you’ll likely spend two to four hundred dollars on a big enough stash of diaper covers and inserts. You’ll also need to expect an increase in water/electricity bills because you will definitely be doing more laundry.
Now for ‘sposies. YMMV, but a good estimate is to plan for using around 10 disposable diapers a day for the first few months. Once baby is sleeping through the night, this number will go down to around 6. So, for the sake of easy math, let’s say you use an average of 8 diapers per day for the first year. That’s almost 3,000 diapers! At an average cost of $0.20 per diaper, you’re looking at 600 bucks. Yowch!
In the following years you’ll likely use fewer diapers per day, but the cost per diaper goes up. Most kids potty-train around 3 years old. The lifetime diaper expense could be in the neighborhood $1800. (Are cloth diapers sounding more appealing yet??)
Pro Tip: To reduce your disposable diaper cost, I suggest buying generic and in bulk. You can get a box of size 1 diapers in the Kirkland brand from Costco for about 30 bucks. This brings the cost per diaper down to about 16 cents. Compare that to a “jumbo” pack of 32 size 1 Pampers at CVS for $12.49, which is a whopping 39 cents per diaper! Yikes!
Let’s talk about baby food.
Newborn babies only need breast milk or formula. Makes things easy when menu-planning! If you choose to breastfeed and are able to do so, baby’s food is pretty close to free. (Yes, mom may need additional nutrition, but contrary to popular belief, “eating for two” does NOT mean eating double, lol!)
If you end up going the formula route, your costs will depend on the formula you buy and how much baby is eating. In my experience, a tub of formula will last around a week or so. Many sources say to plan on $1200-1500 for a year’s supply of baby formula.
Again, you’ll save money buying powder in bulk. Price per ounce for generic at Costco is about 49 cents. Price per ounce at CVS for Enfamil powder is over one dollar!
So many options! It’s hard for me to even estimate for you because there are SO many variables. And your budget is only one consideration. I know plenty of stay-at-home parents who left a high-paying job (at least temporarily) to stay home with baby. It was a personal choice that wasn’t based on affordability of childcare.
But there are also parents who elect to stay home because it no longer makes financial sense to work outside the home when you factor in the costs of childcare.
Some parents like half-day childcare programs a couple days a week that give you a few hours to work or rest or complete other tasks while baby gets some socialization time. These can start at just one or two hundred dollars a month.
Or, if you opt for full-time childcare, the costs will depend on your location and the type of care. Where I live, you can find a small in-home daycare for around $700 per month. A quality daycare center will cost over $1000 per month.
Whichever you choose, do your research. Talk to other parents. Tour the facility. Ask lots of questions.
For me, cost was one variable I looked at when selecting childcare, but definitely not the only or even most important one. I found a daycare that we LOVED but couldn’t afford to send three kids there full-time. I was able to enroll them part-time two days per week. Between their dad, their grandma, and me (and some flexible work schedules), we were able to cover the other days. It felt like the best of both worlds!
Okay my friends. We have covered a LOT of info. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that there are so many variables that make it virtually impossible for me to estimate what having a baby might cost YOU.
So, I’m going to share about what it cost me!
- Getting pregnant: $0 (SO thankful.)
- Prenatal Care: $300 (doctor visits, OTC prenatal vitamins)
- Baby Stuff: $1000 (I bought a few things and was gifted some items at my baby shower. I definitely bought more than I needed! But I also used most of the same things for my 2nd and 3rd kids.)
- Insurance: $2400 (I’m estimating that adding a child to my insurance cost me about $200/month. The good news is that this number stayed the same for additional kids!)
- Diapers: $1800
- Food: $500 (I breastfed until about baby was about 10 months old. Then we used some formula until he turned one and could start regular milk. With my first, I made most of my baby food by pureeing solids. With my other two, I discovered and LOVED Baby-Led Weaning.)
- Childcare: $7200 (Yikes! I’m estimating $600 per month for part-time care.)
So, from the time of trying to conceive until baby’s first birthday, I spent about $13,200. Obviously I could have included other things like baby-friendly activities, toys, clothing, photography, etc. But I honestly didn’t spend much on those and they’re really pretty optional (well, clothes are not, but I got a ton of hand-me-downs from friends and didn’t really need to buy much.)
The biggies for me were insurance and childcare. Boring! Your costs could vary significantly, but now you have an idea of what an average Jane spent on baby’s first year. It’s a lot, but obviously the most worth-it thing ever. And hey, if you need a silver lining, you may be eligible for a tax credit!!
Thank you for reading what turned out to be a long article with loads of info to digest. I hope this info helps you plan better for your new baby. Or at least help you realize where all your money has gone, lol!
P.S. As always, I truly value your comments and feedback. What did I forget? How has your experience been the same or different? Can’t wait to hear from you!