How much does it cost to have a baby?

A little over two years ago Mr. BITA and I decided to commingle our genes. Progeny BITA resulted and thus far we have been exceedingly pleased with the results of our little experiment.  

Now that I am no longer perpetually sleep deprived and I am firmly on the path to financial independence and early retirement, I found myself wondering “How much did it actually cost us to bring Progeny BITA to life?” The rewards are clearly apparent every single day, but what of the dollar cost?

I dug through our bank records, credit card statements, Amazon order history and medical records to piece together the answer to the question: how much did we spend from the time we discovered that I was pregnant, through childbirth, up until Progeny BITA turned one year old?

  • Sticker shock warning: we live in a very high cost of living area in California.
  • I’m documenting a pre-FIRE time in our lives when we were definitely more grasshopper than ant. We were way spendier than we would be today. As such, I don’t expect the actual dollar amounts to be the most useful thing in this post, but I am hoping that the relative size of the various categories of expenses prove to be illuminating. Also, if you are planning to be a parent, I hope that the category descriptions help you think of expenses that had maybe not occurred to you.
  • I’ve divided our expenses into required and discretionary. I’ll explain more about each category below.

overall-baby-costLet us first dig into the required (81.9% of total) expense categories.

expense_breakdown

Here is another view of the same data:

baby-required-expenses-pie-chart

Three categories: daycare, medical and diapering account for 70% of our required expenses!

Daycare

We spent a staggering amount on daycare. The amount is even more shocking when you take the following factors into account:

  • We had Grandma BITA around until Progeny BITA was 4 months old! We also spent 3 weeks abroad when Progeny BITA was 8 months old, so we only paid for a week of daycare for that month. So this is the bill for approximately 32 weeks of daycare.
  • This is the amount after we got a 15% discount for 5 months of daycare in the first year. Mr. BITA changed jobs at the time and his new place of work offers a discount at Progeny BITA’s daycare as a perk.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: Live in a Low Cost of Living (LCOL) area. Sigh.

Medical

This category includes prenatal care, the actual cost of childbirth, my postnatal appointments and the cost of Progeny BITA’s healthcare for the first year. For part of my pregnancy we were on a traditional health care plan. For the other part and the year of Progeny BITA’s birth we used an HSA.

I’d also like to note that I was labeled Advanced Maternal Age (AMA) (such a very appealing title) during my pregnancy so in my last trimester I had frequent non-stress tests and more ultrasounds than an average pregnancy, so  our prenatal medical costs may be above average.

On the other hand, I did not need a C-section, and I used no anaesthesia or pain medication during the birth, so those part of our costs are lower than average.

(I: Oh really? You’re just going to put that out there? We’re going to pretend that you were a super bad-ass in the labour room?
Me: I was.
I: You were not.
Me: I don’t know what you mean. That is the truth of what happened.
I: Oh. So we’re not going to mention how you broke down at the end and begged for an epidural and the only reason you didn’t get one was because you left it too late?
Me: Shut up).

Recommendations to reduce expenses: The only way to reduce medical expenses would be to have your baby outside of the U.S. or to do a home birth. I’m definitely not recommending the latter as a cost saving measure, but it might be worth giving the former a thought if you have easy access to medical care in another country.

Diapering

We used a combination of cloth diapers and disposables. We used cloth diapers during the day and disposables for the night and when we were on vacation (we did two road trips, had one instance of domestic plane travel and did one international plane trip in the first year of Progeny BITA’s life).

Our choice to use cloth diapers was environmentally friendly but it was not frugal. We used a diaper service. If you do it the old fashioned way, this will be far cheaper. I don’t regret what we spent for a minute though. I don’t think I would have had the mettle to cloth diaper for over a year if I had been responsible for all the cleaning of all the poop.

I’ve also included our diaper bag in this category and the wet/dry bags that we gave Progeny BITA’s daycare to collect her dirty cloth diapers for the day. We also used them to transport dirty cloth diapers around when a diaper change occurred while we were out and about.

Recommendations to reduce expenses:

  • If you are more of a frugal badass than me, suck it up and wash your own cloth diapers.
  • A couple of wet/dry bags are essential, but you don’t really need a specialized diaper bag. If you have any old backpack that will work just as well. You basically just need a large enough bag with a few pockets and a changing mat

Misc.

The dreaded miscellaneous dumping ground. I put everything that didn’t fit into one of the other categories I defined into this category and then decided (very scientifically, by eyeballing the various items in there) that I would attribute 80% of our miscellaneous expenses to the required bucket and 20% to discretionary expenses. Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that are included in the required miscellaneous expenses category:

Baby soap, blankets, pacifiers, baby proofing supplies, teethers, baby carriers, sunscreen, a baby bike seat that is mounted on Mr. BITA’s bike, bike helmet, crib mobile, bathtub, baby monitor.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: Be better at categorizing expenses. It is likely that more than the 20% that I guessed of these expenses were actually discretionary.

Furniture

This category includes a crib, a crib mattress, sheets for the crib, a rocking chair and a high chair. We splurged on the rocking chair and given the endless hours that we have spent in it, my recommendation would be: don’t skimp on this expense. Your back will thank you later.

Recommendations to reduce expenses:

  • Buy a comfortable, but cheaper, chair for the nursery than we did (our chair cost nearly $700, but $500 of that was a gift). Buy second hand, if that doesn’t gross you out.
  • Our high chair (which was a gift) is an expensive one. You can get a perfectly good high chair for very little. Buying used might be cheaper and almost as good (ours is still in great shape after over two years of use).

Breastfeeding and Pumping

Progeny BITA was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of her life. At that age we introduced finger foods (though she still derived the vast majority of her nutritional requirements from breast milk). I continued to breastfeed her till she self-weaned at around 18 months. At around 8 months of age we started to supplement a couple of her daily breastmilk bottles with formula. I mention these details for context. Obviously if someone was to breastfeed for 3 months, the costs in this category would drop and show up in the Feeding category instead.

Obamacare ensured that I received my pump for free (Thanks Obama!). So what did I pay for? A breastfeeding pillow and pillow cases, milk storage bags, pumping equipment (flanges, bottles, tubes, fiddly white bits that may or may not be called diaphragms, who knows), hands-free pumping bras (I tried out more than one), milk production boosting supplements, a bag to lug my pumping equipment to and from work, a battery pack and car adapter for my pump (Pump on a boat! Pump in a national park!) and nursing bras (oh boy these were pricey and the size of my breasts fluctuated more than once during that year).

Recommendations to reduce expenses: None. Just don’t. This is not an area to skimp.

Car Seat, Stroller and Accessories

The accessories that we bought were: an adapter that allowed us to attach our car seat to our stroller, a rain cover for the stroller, a rain cover for the car seat, a warm seat liner for the stroller (we visited Europe in January), car mirrors so that we could see her when she was rear facing and sun shades for the car windows.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: There is no evidence at all that more expensive car seats offer better safety. Ours cost $200. You can get car seats with excellent consumer ratings for about half that. I don’t recommend a used car seat though you can absolutely get a used stroller.

Maternity Clothes

This category is definitely required, especially for pants, but if you held a gun to my head I would confess that I overspent more than a tad.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: Buy less than I did, and buy more second hand.

Feeding

We followed the (poorly named) Baby Led Weaning (BLW) method to introduce solid food, so Progeny BITA shared our food and we saved on baby mash. Also Progeny BITA had no cow’s milk in her first year. So this category includes formula, a few squeezy pouches for travel, bibs, a lunch box, cups for water, and a set of stackable snack boxes to send to daycare and for the diaper bag.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: None.

Prenatal classes

We attended classes on Childbirth and Labour Techniques, Newborn Care 101, Breastfeeding and Infant CPR.

Recommendations to reduce expenses: None. We felt these classes were well worth the cost.

 

On to our discretionary expenses.

baby-discretionary-expenses

Baby Activities

We enrolled Progeny BITA in a swim class and a Little Gym class (both weekly). I would definitely do the swim class again. While she enjoys the Little Gym class, if I had to do it over, I would wait till she was older to enroll.

Toys and Books

Why have I tagged all toys and books as discretionary expenses? Progeny BITA got enough toys and books as hand-me-downs and gifts that we could have chosen to buy her nothing ourselves. I consider all our expenses in this area to be discretionary.

Miscellaneous

I mentioned above how I (somewhat arbitrarily) decided to classify 20% of our miscellaneous expenses as discretionary. Here are some examples of discretionary miscellaneous spend: a Pack ‘n’ Play so that she had a convenient bed downstairs in our two level house, paint for the nursery, a newborn photo shoot at the hospital, a travel car seat (we decided that we didn’t want to check in her ‘nice’ car seat and have it be thrown around by baggage handlers and bounce around in the hold of the plane, so we bought a cheap one for travel), a play mat for the floor, a ‘U’ shaped pillow to prop her up before she could sit and chocolates for the nursing staff at the hospital.

Clothes

My reason for putting all her clothes into the discretionary category is the same as for the toys and books. We definitely overspent here (super cute turkey outfit that Progeny BITA wore exactly once for Thanksgiving, I’m looking at you).

Doula

Mr. BITA and I both loved having a doula by our side during Progeny BITA’s birth. She advocated for me at the hospital, helped me enormously with pain management (including massages, a TENS machine and riding in the back seat with me to the hospital) and is the reason why I managed the medication-free birth that I wanted. As a bonus, the nurses knew and liked her and that resulted in special treatment for us – they bumped us up to a private room a few hours after the birth. She also took some beautiful photos of the birth that I will never share with anyone but that are priceless to me.

Not all of the $27,971.41 bill was borne by us. Generous family and friends helped us out.

baby-gifts-vs-us

So our out of pocket baby costs amounted to $25,104.92 over a period of approximately 16 months (i.e. the latter part of pregnancy plus one year of life; we didn’t really spend during the first few months of pregnancy except a little on prenatal care).

Note that I only included gifts whose value I could track like cheques from grandparents or items that were bought for us off our baby registry. The gift percentage does not include the gadzillions of clothes and toys Progeny BITA received as gifts.

There is one potentially large category of expense that you might need to consider: Loss of income. My company has pretty good (by U.S. standards anyway) maternity benefits. My short term disability income plus my paid family leave coupled with my paid sick leave meant that I did not suffer from loss of income, but this category can be a big one.

If you would like more detail about any particular expense category, or about recommendations for specific products that we used and loved, do reach out to me – I have all the raw data available and would be happy to answer any questions.

 

<

9 thoughts on “How much does it cost to have a baby?”

  1. Wow that was an awesome breakdown. I wish we had done this for our son in his first year of life. I honestly have no idea how much we spent but we were able to save some money by getting free items on Craigslist. We got so many toys and clothes free from Craigslist that my son won’t need anything until he’s five. I think that I will try to start tracking his expense closer this 2nd year as we’d love to have more kids in the future. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. We didn’t do it at the time and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l doing it after the fact. I’m glad I did it though, there is something very satisfying about knowing where your money went. Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Yikes!! I have no idea the costs to have a child but I know they vary considerably. My friend also had a doula and couldn’t praise her services enough…while slapping the doulas card in my hand “you know, just in case.” Oh, and by the way, that better chair for the nursery was well worth it! I was a nanny for years and you spend a lot of time in those chairs!! 🙂

    1. A good doula is worth her weight in gold. Your friend’s antic made me smile. And you are right, one of the largest costs – childcare – varies enormously throughout this country. I definitely got the short end of the stick on that one.

  3. Timely advice as we are expecting in March – We just found a nice chair for about $300 bucks (after passing on 4-5 that cost 550-700 that we “liked” but weren’t in love with)

    We are entering the Car Seat shopping phase soon – appreciate the advice!

    Child Care costs are blowing my mind!

    1. I’m glad you found this useful. If you have any questions or need particular recommendations, do reach out to me here or via email or on the rockstar forums. I have all the data handy from the research I did digging stuff up for this post. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Wow, that sure ain’t cheap! We had baby #1 at a private hospital in central Bangkok, Thailand last year and it came to something like $8k. I thought that was a lot, but baby droppedcoin has so far cost me a whole lot more since! 🙂

    1. Interesting. Did you just happen to be in Thailand at the time? Or did you choose it on purpose for the birth?

      1. We lived and I worked in Thailand at the time, up until the end of last year. We chose a good private hospital, but not the best (read: most expensive) one, so I am sure it could have even cost more!

Leave a Reply