15 minute read

Having a baby is a life event many anticipate. However, as exciting as starting a family is, it can be expensive. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into financially can help you plan ahead and ease feelings of anxiety. Whether you’re family planning or weeks from your due date, the right information can help you save.

So, what is the actual cost of having a baby?

To give you an idea, Debt.com got advice from 14 experts. This article will help you understand the financial side of having a baby and provide budgeting tips to make the early stages of parenting more affordable.

How Much Does It Cost to Have a Baby?

Before you can figure out how much having a baby will cost you, it is helpful to break down each cost. Some include:

  • Prenatal care
  • Delivery
  • Postnatal care
  • Basic amenities for infant

Keep in mind that several factors can influence how much you spend to have a baby, from your health insurance provider to your personal health needs. Other things that determine your bill are what city you live in, what’s covered by your plan, whether you’ve met your deductible for the year, set copays, and whether you have gap insurance that may cover costs not covered by your primary insurance.

While there isn’t a straightforward answer to how much having a baby costs, here is information about each expense.

Prenatal Care

During a pregnancy, most women receive prenatal care — a series of visits with a healthcare provider to ensure you and your baby are healthy. It comprises various tests, exams, and services that all come at different prices. Examples of prenatal care include physical examinations, x-rays, ultrasounds, blood and urine samples.

In terms of how much it will cost, that depends on the services you receive. If it’s classified as a preventative service and you have a qualified health plan, it should be free. Preventative care services typically have no out-of-pocket cost, as most plans cover them at 100%. Preventative services usually include prenatal vitamins, STD screenings, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, anemia, and Rh incompatibility.

If you need services that aren’t classified as preventative care, you may have to pay out-of-pocket fees. Examples include:

  • Prenatal genetic testing to check for genetic conditions. Not all insurance providers cover the cost, so it could mean paying $100-$1,000 out-of-pocket depending on how complex the test is.
  • Office visits that are subject to copays
  • Hospital stays if you have a complicated pregnancy could require copays or coinsurance payments
  • Ultrasounds in hospitals that have physician fees and procedure charges. An ultrasound can range from $200-$500+
  • Procedures due to complications would likely be charged by your doctor depending on what benefits are covered and what your cost-sharing obligations are

Delivery

Delivering a baby is both a scary and magical experience. It can also be the most expensive aspect of having a child. How much will your insurance cover and how much will you have to pay out-of-pocket?

"The average cost of delivering a baby is $10,000, and if you include prenatal and postnatal care, the bill might even rise to $30,000." – Li Tian, Full Time Baby @fullonbaby #babybudget Click To Tweet

Li Tian, mom blogger and founder of Full Time Baby tells us you should budget to spend at least $10,000 when delivering a baby. However, from her personal experience, she spent $2,000 out of pocket with both of her kids. She explains that if you have insurance with wide coverage, you could pay less in out-of-pocket costs.

EXPERT: Li Tian – Full Time Baby

Li Tian of Full Time Baby

“If parents have fairly comprehensive coverage, they might even hit their out-of-pocket maximums.”

 
 
 
 
 
 

To put this into perspective, here are examples of different insurance plans and how each can impact out-of-pocket costs.

  • Scenario A: You have a zero deductible plan and pay high monthly premiums. As a result, your health insurance provider should pay for the entire delivery.
  • Scenario B: You have a low premium and high-deductible plan with 80/20 coinsurance. Your deductible is $5,000, so you’d have to hit that before your insurance would begin paying for your delivery. Because of your coinsurance, you would also have to pay 20% of the delivery costs and any agreed copays.
  • Scenario C: You have a high premium low deductible plan and no charge after deductible. Your deductible is $2,000, so once you’ve paid that in out-of-pocket fees, your insurance pays 100% of your labor costs and you aren’t responsible for any copays or coinsurance.

As you can see from the above examples, what you pay depends on the insurance you have. It’s certainly something worth considering before giving birth.

Unfortunately, not every mother has a straightforward birth, and complications can lead to more expenses. Fo Alexander, a blogger and financial educator who writes about motherhood and money, ended up paying $7,000 out-of-pocket for a vaginal birth because of minor complications with her daughter. However, she explains that the high cost of giving birth means you’ll likely meet your deductible and your insurance will cover subsequent costs.

EXPERT: Fo Alexander – Mama and Money

Fo Alexander of Mama and Money

“The positive side is that having a baby will typically meet your yearly deductible and, sometimes, out-of-pocket max. This means that future medical expenses should be covered at 100% by your insurance company.”

 
 
 
 

Also, note that vaginal births are sometimes cheaper than C-sections, so that could also influence the cost of giving birth. The average cost of a vaginal birth is said to be $30,000 while a C-section could cost over $47,000.

Postnatal + Postpartum Care

Postpartum care is something required about six weeks after giving birth. It ensures you’re recovering well, and you don’t have any health issues post-baby. Similarly, postnatal care confirms your little one is thriving in the first few months of his or her life.

Aside from performing a physical examination, medical professionals check on your mental health and general wellbeing. They’ll also discuss birth control options with you and ensure you have healthy sleeping habits.

As with prenatal care, your insurance provider should cover postnatal and postpartum care. If your insurance plan includes a copay or you use services your service provider doesn’t cover, you could pay out-of-pocket fees. Your best bet is to verify with your provider before obtaining any services.

Baby Essentials

Once your little person arrives, they have the same basic needs as any human––food, clothing, and shelter. That means before they get here, you can expect to spend money on newborn clothes, diapers, and formula if you don’t intend to breastfeed. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), parents can expect to spend around $12,000 in the first year alone.

When calculating first-year expenses, it’s good to plan for contingencies. As Sami Womack, podcaster and owner of A Sunny Side up Life rightly states, things don’t always go the way you plan them after your baby is born.

EXPERT:Sami Womack – A Sunny Side Up Life

Sami Womack of A Sunny Side Up Life

“You might plan to breastfeed to save money, but if that doesn’t work out, you’ll have to find a way to squeeze formula into your budget. Or say you want to use generic diapers, but your baby develops a skin allergy, so you’ve got to buy the expensive organic brand.”

 
 
 
 

This means you would have to add the cost of formula or more expensive diaper brands to your budget, thus increasing your newborn expenses.

Hidden Costs and Maternity Health Insurance

When having a baby, it’s critical you check for hidden costs. These are expenses you have no prior knowledge of that catch you by surprise. Despite Rachel Ritlop, founder of The Confused Millennial (TCM) and Forbes contributing writer, getting an estimate beforehand, hidden costs still caught her off guard.

EXPERT: Rachel Ritlop – The Confused Millennial

Rachel Ritlop of The Confused Millennial

“I paid what my insurance had projected, but then we got slapped with a bill that was similar for my daughter’s hospital stay. We asked for it to be itemized and saw it had a ‘nursery’ charge which was weird since she never left our hospital room.”

 
 
 
 

"Looking back, I would've called the hospital a few weeks before my due date and asked for a price sheet of what to expect." – Rachel Ritlop, The Confused Millennial @tcmillennial #babybudget Click To Tweet

Fo Alexander also had a similar experience. Although she received an estimate for her delivery and stay beforehand, an unexpected bill blindsided her. She says, “the hospital neglected to share that my child’s stay was not included in the estimate. This ended up costing us an additional $2,000 that was unexpected.”

If you do your research beforehand and leave no stone unturned, you may lower your healthcare costs and avoid surprise bills.

How to Budget for a Baby

Now that you have an idea of how much having a baby costs, you can start thinking about how to budget. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting; it’s best to explore different strategies and choose which works best for you. Our experts have provided useful strategies you can try.

Create a Realistic Budget

A good budget is one way to reduce the financial strain that sometimes comes with a new addition to the family. It will give you a clear picture of what you’re making, what you’re spending, and where you should scale back. Without a budget, it’s hard to know whether you’re spending more than you’re earning.

Don’t know how to create a family budget? There are several templates online you can use to help you. An effective budget should comprise income, fixed expenses, seasonal expenses, optional ones, and savings.

One of two methods Kelan and Brittany Kline, finance experts and founders of The Savvy Couple suggest is getting rid of expenses you don’t need.

EXPERTS: Kelan & Brittany Kline – The Savvy Couple

Kelan and Brittany Kline of The Savvy Couple

“A creative way to budget for a baby is to start to cut out unnecessary spending like memberships, subscription boxes, and cable if that is still being used.”

 
 
 
 

It’s a good way to avoid overspending and have enough left over for inevitable rainy days.

Start Budgeting Ahead

Once you’ve created a new budget, it’s time to use it. Yes, even before your little lovebug arrives! Waiting until after they make their grand entrance could be a shock to your finances.

As Sami Womack advises “build out the budget you expect to have in the future, now, before your baby arrives––and start using it.” She continues, “this will allow you to do a ‘test run’ with your cash flow and adjust to a new level of spending. Doing this now, even before you’re pregnant, gives you time to make adjustments as needed and evaluate what expenses may need to be cut or what changes in lifestyle need to occur to make room for newer, higher-priority spending.”

You can also experiment with different money-saving hacks, like using money-saving apps or switching to a cash budget.

"One little money-saving hack I love is using a sinking fund, where you put money aside for things like diapers or paying your labor and delivery bill before the baby actually arrives." – Rachel Ritlop @tcmillennial #babybudget Click To Tweet

How to Save Money on Hospital Birth Bill

Saving may be one of the last things on your mind when you become a new parent. Luckily, other parents have paved the way and are sharing effective strategies they’ve used to make raising a baby more affordable. Here are a few creative ways to save money you should consider.

Explore Cost-Effective Ways to Give Birth

Although giving birth can be an expensive affair, by exploring your options, you can make it more affordable. It could mean changing your health insurance, choosing a cost-effective birthing plan, or making use of government assistance.

Calculate Out-of-Pocket Costs

First, find out how much you’re going to pay out-of-pocket and get a breakdown of each expense. That’s the only way to know exactly how much you’re going to pay and see where you can reduce costs.

Bola Sokunbi, Certified Financial Education Instructor and founder of Clever Girl Finance, suggests contacting the hospital where you plan to give birth to find out costs.

EXPERT: Bola Sokunbi – Clever Girl Finance

Bola Sokunbi of Clever Girl Finance

“Ask them what their average delivery costs are for a surgical vs a non-surgical delivery and what the costs include (e.g. epidural, hospital stay, etc.). Then reach out to your insurance provider to find out what percentage of your delivery costs will be covered. This will give you a good sense of what out-of-pocket expenses to expect.”

 
 
 
 

Having each service associated with giving birth itemized also gives you the chance to see if there are any services you can do without. Don’t be afraid to challenge expensive services and ask if there are cheaper alternatives.

What about those who don’t have insurance? What can they do to plan ahead? “If you don’t have insurance, inquire from the hospital about what kinds of plans in place, they have for uninsured patients and determine if you qualify for any government assistance like Medicaid,” says Sokunbi. You could also explore options like hospital charity care programs and negotiating lower medical bills.

Compare Plans

Another saving tip is to compare healthcare plans and switch if you find one with more favorable terms. A plan with a low deductible and higher copay, for example, could shave dollars off your final bill.

"If expecting a baby you should choose the lowest deductible and highest copay and coinsurance coverage if possible." – Li Tian, Full Time Baby @fullonbaby #babybudget Click To Tweet

When comparing plans, you may find there are certain services or specialists you want to use that aren’t in your present network or plan coverage. That’s another incentive to switch plans and avoid the surprise bills that come with using providers outside of your network. For those who are low-income earners, find out if you’re eligible for government assistance; you could get free or low-cost healthcare through Medicaid.

John Schmoll of Frugal Rules also suggests using HSA or FSA accounts to save.

EXPERT: John Schmoll – Frugal Rules

John Schmoll of Frugal Rules

“Depending on your insurance, and assuming there are no complications, parents should expect out-of-pocket expenses to run $2,500. If you have an HSA or FSA, you can save money pre-tax for those expenses to help mitigate costs.”

 
 
 
 

Stick with Traditional Births

A final tip would be to compare the cost of home birth vs. hospital births if you’ve been contemplating the former. Most insurance providers don’t cover home births, which means it would be an out-of-pocket cost. On that premise, it could work out cheaper to have your baby in a hospital.

"The cheapest way for me to have had a baby was traditionally at a hospital. A home birth was going to cost us $3,000 more, and to rent a tub for birth was going to be $750 more." – Rachel Ritlop @tcmillennial #babybudget Click To Tweet

Consigment Shop for Baby Items

Shopping at consignment stores is a fantastic way to save as a new parent. Buying used clothes is also a growing trend. In 2018, the second hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in America. It’s no surprise, as you’re able to get cute buys for your newborn for far less than you’d pay in traditional retail stores.

Carly Campbell of Mommy on Purpose loves buying items second-hand.

EXPERT: Carly Campbell – Mommy on Purpose

Carly Campbell of Mommy on Purpose

You can get amazing deals on clothing second-hand. It’s good for the environment, as re-using lessens waste, it’s good for your community as it puts a few dollars back in the pockets of parents who’ve purchased the things originally, and it’s GREAT for your budget. Second-hand baby clothes are a win all around.”

 
 
 
 

If you’re looking for quality second-hand goods at an affordable price, thredUp and Facebook Marketplace are two popular picks among our experts. On these sites, you can get gently worn and sometimes brand-new items that still have tags on.

That said, parents don’t recommend buying all of your baby’s items second hand. Car seats, pacifiers, or breast pumps are examples of items you should probably buy brand new. Bola recommends buying car seats brand new for safety reasons and because manufacturers update safety features on car seats periodically.

Ask for Hand-Me-Downs

If you don’t want to spend any money at all, ask friends or family if they have used items they no longer need. You could discover their kids have only worn items once and gadgets are practically new.

Whitney Bonds, founder, Tried and True Mom Blogs and financial planner says she didn’t purchase much when having kids.

EXPERT: Whitney Bonds – Tried and True Mom Jobs

Whitney Bonds of Tried and True Mom Jobs

“I’m a big believer in hand-me-downs; the only thing we purchased was car seats. My stroller is valued at $400 and I got it for the price of $0 by simply asking my sister if I could have hers once her son got too big for it.”

 
 
 
 

If you make it known that you’re interested in baby items your friends and family are no longer using, it’s possible to get big ticket items without paying. You’d also be surprised that many of these items are still in great condition or barely used as children outgrow clothes and gear quickly. Julie Smeltzer of Fab Working Mom Life suggests Facebook Marketplace:

EXPERT: Julie Smeltzer – Fab Working Mom Life

Julie Smeltzer of Fab Working Mom Life

“Our favorite way to save money when we had our son was to get gently used baby gear from friends whose children have already grown out of it. We also got great things off Facebook Marketplace, like a jumparoo and other toys. We got most gear second hand from family and friends, as well as many clothing items.”

 
 
 
 

Mom and blogger Heidi Miller also saved money by getting clothes on consignment.

EXPERT: Heidi Miller – The Frugal Girls

Heidi Miller of The Frugal Girls

“some of my favorite ways to save are by making your own baby food, picking up gently used clothes from consignment or thrift stores, and sharing bigger items with friends and relatives… like strollers, high-chairs, etc.”

 
 
 
 

Look for Free Items

Believe it or not, you can get free baby items such as diapers, formula, and clothing. If you’re creative in your search, you may find organizations and initiatives giving them away. For example, the National Diaper Network facilitates community diaper programs. Local churches can also be a helpful resource for free baby items.

Whitney Bonds got a free supply of diapers by utilizing diaper donations. “My church partners with an organization where they donate diapers, so we have been VERY blessed where we have not had to pay for diapers for quite a while.”

In terms of initiatives, consider Freecycle, a grassroots initiative where people give and receive items for free.

Elle Martinez from Couple Money expands on this.

EXPERT: Elle Martinez – Couple Money

Elle Martinez of Couple Money

“Besides tapping into options like Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Craigslist, I would also suggest parents may want to check out a local Freecycle or Buy Nothing group. With money saved, you could redirect that money for some of the bigger-ticket items that you’re willing to spend more money on or stash it away into family savings.”

 
 
 
 

Shop Discounts and Sales

Some people would prefer to buy new items for their baby, and there’s nothing wrong with that. To save, shop in the clearance and sales sections so you get new items without paying full price.

Carly Campbell gives us insight into her saving strategy. “I LOVE the clearance section of the Old Navy website. It’s especially great to stock up for next year at the END of the season this year – you can save 60% or more on winter coats or swimsuits… as long as you don’t mind storing them for 6 months.”

Aside from shopping in sales, stick to retail stores that are relatively cheaper. Walmart, Kate Quinn Organics, Target, Amazon, and Old Navy are just a few that sell decent quality items for relatively low prices.

For those with a Health Savings Account (HSA), check to see if you can purchase your items with this account. Prenatal vitamins, nursing pads, breast pumps, and baby sunscreen are just a few examples of items you can get with your HSA account.

Get a Side Gig

Becoming a parent can make you realize the importance of having more than one income. It’s especially important if one parent decides to stay home and care for the baby. A side gig can be an effective way to keep income flowing in and give you the flexibility you need.

There are so many side gigs you could pick up, so knowing how to choose the right one for you can be a challenge. One way to choose is by identifying something you enjoy doing or are skilled at and see how you can monetize it.

Danish American blogger and writer Tove Maren Stakkestad has advice.

EXPERT: Tove Maren Stakkestad – Mama in the Now

Tove Maren Stakkestad of Mama in the Now

“Whether it’s sewing and altering clothes, writing blog posts, creating resumes for job seekers, managing social media accounts for influencers, taking pictures of people or products – whatever your passion is, whatever you like doing, turn THAT into a business.”

 
 
 
 

"Find something that lights your fire and makes you forget time and place and then do THAT - and do it again and again until you figure out a way to charge money for it!" – Tover Maren Stakkestad, Mama in the Now @mamainthenow Click To Tweet

When looking for side gig ideas, be careful not to fall for common scams. Scams are prevalent in multi-level marketing schemes, envelope stuffing, and paid online surveys. Avoid schemes that require you to make large investments upfront or promise too much too quickly. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s definitely worth questioning.

"It's essential to be wise in selecting an opportunity. If something sounds too good to be true, or requires you to pay a fee, you want to avoid those." – John Schmoll, Frugal Rules @frugalrules #babybudget Click To Tweet

Although working from home with children isn’t the easiest task, it’s one you’re capable of.

Spend on Baby Essentials

It’s easy to get carried away with spending when you have a newborn but try your best to focus on essentials. You can give your baby the world without spending more than you can afford. Besides, babies really don’t need as much as you think they do.
Carly saved thousands of dollars by cutting out unnecessary buys and focusing on the basics. She states, “So much of what we buy for babies is 100% unnecessary, and when your budget is REALLY tight, you’ll find out that baby can get by with next to nothing… babies NEED food, clothes, diapers, and love (and a car seat if you have a car). That’s it.”
By focusing on essentials, and adhering to a strict budget, you’re more likely to have control over your finances. Also, note that focusing on essentials also means avoiding large purchases at the early stages of having a baby.

Eric Roberge, CFP® and the founder of Beyond Your Hammock:

EXPERT: Eric Roberge – Beyond Your Hammock

Eric Roberge of Beyond Your Hammock

Think about the ongoing impact your financial decisions will have, especially before you commit to big fixed costs that aren’t easy to just change when you realize you need to save more (like mortgages and car loans).

 
 
 
 

Not only will focusing on essentials help you save, but it’s also a way to avoid debt in the long run. When you become a parent, you can choose to sink or swim financially. With careful planning and a reasonable budget, you should be able to swim.

About the Author

Debt.com

Debt.com

Debt.com’s writers are journalists, personal finance experts, and certified credit counselors. Their advice about money – how to make it, how to save it, and how to spend it – is based on, collectively, a century of personal finance experience. They’ve been featured in media outlets ranging from The New York Times to USA Today, from Forbes to FOX News, and from MSN to CBS.

Published by Debt.com, LLC