Parenthood is a transformative experience on many levels, and one that will surely affect a family’s finances — because having a baby is expensive! The average cost for an in-hospital delivery and caring for a baby during the first few months of life falls somewhere between $20,000 to $30,000, with the costs largely dependent on the family’s resources, lifestyle and finances. Many families plan the financial outlay in advance, but not everyone thinks that far ahead, or in comprehensive terms. There are, however, some ways to cut expenses and get the most for your money for you and your little bundle of joy.
Sharon, a Staten Island working mom, is happy to share financial information with mothers-to-be. She says that when she got pregnant, she sat and figured out the costs in advance; including missing time from work and having to go on disability during maternity leave. Despite her best guessing though, she exceeded the amount she calculated for the baby by about a third.
“Health insurance premiums are about $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year. The co-pays were another $1,000 or so. I had a normal hospital delivery at $12,000, but we live far away from my family, so when they came to visit, we got a hotel room for our relatives for about another $400,” explains Sharon. “When you add in all the baby equipment and items that you need to stock up on — like diapers, wipes, formula, furniture and clothes — it’s about another $18,000.
“If you don’t nurse, formula is pretty costly over the months until the baby is weaned. Away-from-home baby care is at least another $25,000, and could be another $10,000 on top of that, if you have someone caring for your baby in your home. That’s not even for the first full year!”
Expect the unexpected
Regardless of one’s circumstances, pregnancy is risky — and financially risky as well. Health issues for mother and child can drive the costs even higher. Marie, a Bronx mother of two, received two gifts last year, one when her husband returned home safely from the military, and the other when she became pregnant shortly thereafter. Although the couple has a 13-year-old son, Marie said she felt like a first-time mom all over again. There were unexpected medical issues for both mother and child, and there had been such a gap between children that she was at a loss as to what she would need and when she would need it.
Marie estimates the cost associated with her 6-month old was at $25,000 so far. She did not anticipate having an emergency cesarean section or needing an extra epidural and anesthesia. It was a risky pregnancy, which drove the cost up.
Then, once Marie’s baby was delivered, there were feeding issues. She hired a lactation specialist to help, which cost extra. Marie then discovered that due to an allergy, the baby needed a special formula, sold in a specialty shop. She said she did not expect the unexpected, which happened to her at every turn during this pregnancy.
Marie’s advice to future mothers is simple: “Plan ahead.” She was so excited about the pregnancy, that she had purchased the bare minimum in baby essentials only, and little else.
“Don’t wait until the last minute and don’t depend on getting gifts at the baby shower,” she says. “Be prepared and save in advance for major items like the crib or changing table.”
Since Marie will be heading back to work in the coming months, she suggests that mothers “figure in the cost of having a second playpen at the sitter’s or a relative’s home.” This can really save a mom a lot of back pain resulting from toting baby items around.
For shoppers who don’t know what to get, online baby registries can suggest what is needed for the baby and give the loved ones in your life a good idea of needed shower gifts (amazon.com, babiesrus.com, buybuybaby.com and others). Some retailers and registries also have great exchange programs in case of duplicate or unwanted baby items.
Having a baby is expensive, but there are ways to cut expenses and get the most for your money. A reliable health insurance plan is a key factor in keeping costs down. The mother will need to go for regular check-ups, ultrasounds, lab work and any other necessary doctor visits. If you are planning a hospital delivery, the mother may also want to attend childbirth classes and see what special amenities a particular hospital may offer, and at what expense. The delivery itself is an extra expense to be considered. A cesarean section will cost more than a vaginal delivery.
Doctor vs. doula
Finding the right hospital or delivery room can also reduce costs. A future mother can call and ask questions in the early stages of the pregnancy to find out what is covered and what is not at a particular hospital. The doctor will have a fee, but the billing department will be the most familiar with the fees and coverage. Some options might include an at-home birth instead of a hospital delivery.
Jamie, a Brooklyn doula and mother of three, said she decided to do things differently with her third child. Her two boys were hospital deliveries, and she decided that her third child, a daughter. would be an at-home birth.
“The at-home birth was about one-third of the cost. Insurance covered the medical visits and the doula was a few thousand more, but my insurance also covered that,” she says. “Having a doula and the at-home birth took a lot of the worry out of the equation. We did not have to think about when to transition to or from the hospital, or when the baby would be taken to the nursery. It was not an issue at home. I was comfortable and in one place the entire time.”
Jamie had no medical issues and welcomed less medical supervision during this pregnancy. She recommends that a mom who is not having a high-risk pregnancy, or who is less risk averse, might actually prefer working with a doula at home.
Know your benefits
“Parents-to-be should consult the job manual before a pregnancy. It is important to know the parameters for time off, sick days and childbirth,” explains June, a human resources professional in New York. “Most women work too hard and too long into the pregnancy to really enjoy it. If they had read the book and asked a few questions, they might have been able to relax a little bit more.”
For the working mother-to-be, unpaid time out of the office is a big consideration. Taking time off from work during the pregnancy to go to doctor and lab visits may be used as “sick time.” Or, this time may be calculated as “time without pay.” Check the employee manual and visit human resources to see how this time off will affect the salary.
Mothers who love to save can find ways to reduce costs. Some move to cloth diapers and save a bundle on the disposables. Many community parenting sites offer free advice and hand-me-downs on gently used baby items. Craigslist is also a place to find freebies and bargains. Online baby calculators can give a range of expenses for various items and help to soften the blow when your baby arrives (babycenter.com, babyzone.com, i-am-pregnant.com are among a few of them out there).
Having a baby can be very costly, but there is nothing like the joy of holding him in your arms.
Candi Sparks is a Brooklyn mother of two and author of children’s books about money, “Can I Have Some Money?” “Max Gets It!” and “Nacho Money.” She is on Facebook (Candi Sparks Author) and on Twitter (Candi Sparks, New York).