The cost of being born in America depends greatly on how prepared, frugal, and smart the new parents are. If parents seek out hand-me-downs, have good insurance through work with maternity coverage, and don’t go overboard on nesting, a new baby can cost as little as $4,300. For those who carry their own health insurance and must have everything and buy it new, the price tag can easily reach $70,000 or more. Unexpected but common events like complications before, during or after childbirth can push the price tag higher still.
To find out where you land on the cost spectrum, have a look at the baby cost categories below:
- Medical costs before childbirth: $800-$2,000. Parents with good medical insurance through work that includes maternity coverage will only have to cover their deductible for prenatal medical care costs. Those without maternity coverage can expect to pay an average of $2,000 for prenatal medical costs. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act now requires all health plans to include maternity coverage.
- Medical costs during & after childbirth: $3,400-$50,000. Good medical insurance is key. Those with maternity coverage will pay an average of $3,400 out of pocket. Those without it can expect a $50,000 medical bill.
- Maternity/paternity leave: $0-$6,900. A six week maternity leave is usually covered by employers. For mothers who want more and fathers who’ll take unpaid time off, the missed paychecks can average $6,900 or more depending on annual income.
- Mandatory baby gear costs: $66-$1,100. Parents of newborns can’t do without certain items like a car seat, diapers and baby clothes. These costs vary a lot depending on whether the parents seek hand-me-downs and register at stores for baby showers. Even parents who buy everything new can pick less expensive items to cut costs. Since used car seats aren’t safe, the only item that must be bought new is a car seat.
- Optional baby gear costs: $0-$2,400. Not every parent will buy a wipe warmer, sleep sack or steam sterilizer, but they’re all excellent items to have. Parents can skip optional items altogether, use hand-me-downs from friends, family and neighbors, buy less expensive versions, or go whole hog. We’ve listed $2,400 as our top cost for this category, but those with expensive tastes can easily spend several times more.
Parents to be can better pinpoint themselves on the baby cost scale by reading our more complete cost list below.
How Much Does a Baby Cost?
So you’ve planned the baby shower, sent out the announcements, posted on facebook — this is it. You’re looking forward to welcoming that new life and love. The last thing you want to think about is money.
But think you will, because you know the cost is all too real. So how much does it cost to have a baby? That depends a lot on your approach. Let’s break it down.
Cost of Medical Care Before the Baby is Born: $800-$2,000
Prenatal care costs about $2,000 without insurance. Medical care during pregnancy is vital and includes crucial screenings and diagnostics like ultrasounds, blood tests for certain antibodies that can cause a mother’s immune system to attack the baby and tests for certain illnesses that can be very dangerous to the baby if left untreated.
Even with insurance, mothers usually have to cover the cost of their deductible. The average out of pocket cost for employer-sponsored health insurance plans is $729.
Prenatal vitamins only cost about $10 a month, but they are necessary. A prenatal vitamin with 400 IU of folic acid is needed to stave off neural tube birth defects.
Childbirth Costs: $3,400-$50,000
The US has the highest childbirth costs of any country in the world. A 2013 study by Truven Analytics put the average cost of pregnancy and newborn care at roughly $30,000 for vaginal delivery and about $50,000 for a caesarian section. Even with insurance, new parents paid an estimated $3,400 of this out-of-pocket.
The upside is that the Affordable Care Act made maternity coverage mandatory for all health insurance plans.
Even so, maternity insurance coverage amounts can vary, so moms to be should take a good look at their policies. A per-family-member deductible of $2,500 can mean a bill of $5,000, because there’s one deductible for the mom and another for the baby.
Those without health insurance should be aware that hospitals mark up their costs around 300%. That gives them a lot of room to cut their prices if you let them know you’re paying out of pocket.
Maternity Leave / Paternity Leave: $0-$6,900
Most new moms and dads spend some time away from work. New mothers generally get six weeks of paid maternity leave, and many take an additional period of two to six weeks unpaid. A mom with an income of $40,000 will lose $4,600 on 6 extra weeks of maternity leave. Paternity leave generally isn’t paid. Dad will likely want to take 3 weeks to help mom and be with baby, so that’s another $2,300 of baby costs.
A Word on Thrift Stores, Hand-Me-Downs and Baby Showers
We’ve added a list below of all the baby items expectant parents should consider. None of them are necessary, but most are good ideas for those who can afford the cost. Even these optional items don’t have to cost a lot, however. We’ve listed some low, high and in-between options for each item, but products for newborns don’t get used for more than a few months. That means there are a lot of handy items circulating out there in the world, looking for a new home. Friends and neighbors might have attics jammed with unused newborn products, and they might be glad to get their storage space back. Sometimes just putting the word out around the neighborhood or on Facebook can cut parents’ baby costs dramatically.
On top of hand-me-downs, consider thrift stores and baby showers. Going through the list below and registering at a couple favorite stores can clue friends in on what to buy for you or what to give you from the bags and boxes in their closets.
One warning on hand-me-downs: The American Academy of Pediatrics says used car seats aren’t safe and shouldn’t be handed down.
Mandatory Gear Baby Costs: $66-$1,100
Apart from the price of hospitals and time off from work, there’s all the “stuff” that comes with babies. A lot of it is optional but some isn’t. We’ve listed a few essential baby costs below.
Car seat: $66-$280
A car seat is mandatory before the baby is born because it’s the only way to get the baby home safely from the hospital. The #1 bestselling car seat on Amazon is the Britax B-Safe for $129.99. Other top models include the Graco Snug Ride for $65.99 and the Chico Key Fit 30, for $189.99. The Chico has a 5-point harness and adjusts to accommodate babies anywhere from four to 30 pounds. Most parents buy an extra base for each car for easy switching, which adds an extra $40 to $90 depending on the brand. Since second-hand car seats aren’t considered safe, this is the only item on this list that can’t be handed down to you or bought at a thrift store to cut this baby cost.
Co-sleepers that go in the parents’ bed range from $35 for The First Years Co-sleeper to $64.99 for the Summer Co-Sleeper. The Arm’s Reach Concepts Co-Sleeper is free standing for placement near the parents bed and can be had for $122.49 on Amazon. New parents can do without a crib at first, but a co-sleeper is essential. Sleeping with a baby beside you in bed is a no-no because of the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. Co-sleepers let parents keep their newborns within easy reach for safety and for ease of feeding.
Diapers and Wipes: $50-$150 for the First Month
A pack of 30 Pampers newborn disposable diapers costs $8.97 at Walmart. A set of twelve Bambino Mio cloth diapers with three waterproof covers goes for $84.99 at Target. Other cloth diaper brands include the popular Apple Cheeks, with covers for $22 at Amazon and a 2-pack of inserts for $17.98, and Bum Genius, with covers for $17.99 each and inserts for $18.99 for a 6-pack.
Count on changing a newborn about 12 times a day for the first few months. Disposables can easily rack up costs of $100 a month, so even with the increase in the parents’ water bill, cloth diapers are cheaper.
Baby wipes can cost anywhere from $13.47 for 800 sheets for the Walmart store brand to $10.95 for 80 YHYH bamboo wipes.
Baby Clothes: $130-$500
Thanks to leaks and spit-up, count on changing a baby’s outfit almost as often as you change her diaper. Newborn jammies start at $6.50 for the top-rated Carter’s Baby Boys’ Striped Footie at Amazon. Parents can pay $50 for a single set of jammies from Kate Quinn Organics. Add on tee shirts and hats and the price to dress the baby can run to $500 easily.
Diaper Rash Protection: $6-$8
Bottom balm costs $6 for a two ounce bottle of the popular Angel Baby Bottom Balm or $7.97 for 16 ounces of Equate brand Diaper Rash Relief at Walmart. One changing of a diaper that is pooperglued to a baby’s bottom, with ensuing shrieking fit, will convince any parent how necessary the diaper rash protection baby cost is.
Baby Bottles: $12-$26
Whether parents breast feed or use formula, bottles are a must. A set of five Philips Avent bottles costs $25.99 at Target. Walmart sells a set of twelve BPA free Evenflo brand baby bottles for $11.98.
Optional Prep & Gear Baby Costs: $0-$2,400
Below is a list of baby costs that aren’t absolutely necessary but are still good ideas in most cases. Whether or not to spend money on each one and whether to save money with hand-me-downs or less expensive versions is up to the individual parent. Wise bargain hunting choices can save a lot of money in this category.
Childbirth Class: $110-$200
New parents-to-be usually aren’t sure what to expect, and a class can take away a lot of the guesswork and get them ready mentally to handle the challenges. Childbirth classes average twelve hours in length, usually split up over a period of several weeks, and cost between $110 and $200 depending on the region and type of class chosen.
Nursery Prep Cost: $300-$1,000
Most families get the nursery ready before the baby comes. From a practical point of view this isn’t necessary because most babies don’t use the nursery for the first six months to a year, but nesting is an emotional decision and not a financial one. Expect to pay the following:
- Paint: $99-$198
- Rollers/pan/brushes: $17-$34
- Crib: $200
- Changing table: $100
Let’s look into each of those.
Pink or blue or something more creative? Paint cost depends on nursery size. A 10’x10′ nursery with eight foot ceilings has 320 square feet of wall space. Painting that will take a gallon of primer and two gallons of paint, assuming two coats. A gallon of Valspar tintable interior latex paint and primer at Lowe’s costs $33, so paint for this room will cost $99. Twice the room is twice the price.
The Home Depot carries broom handles for $6.98 and an easy paint pan and roller kit with cutting brushes for $9.97. Double that for his ‘n’ hers tandem painting.
Many parents will put their baby in a co-sleeper at night for the first four to six months. The cribs with the highest shopper ratings on Amazon can be had for $120-$200. The most expensive on the site, the Nursery Works Acrylic Vetro Crib, costs $4,500. A hardwood convertible crib from Westwood Design runs $450.
Changing Table $23-$80
A changing table isn’t an absolutely necessary baby cost. Parents can change a baby on their own bed, but a dedicated changing table will save on back strain and sheet-washing. Amazon’s best seller in this category is a waterproofed foam pad for $22.94. A good middle of the road option is the Delta Children Bentley Changing Table for $79.98, and high-end shoppers can pay $9,084.99 for a deluxe all-maple changing table with a built-in battery sink.
At the cheap end of the baby cost scale, parents can pick up a “Style It 4-Bin Rolling Cart” from Big Lots for $35. It’s a handy place to keep diapers, baby toiletries and other supplies, but parents would have to buy a few for space to store all a baby’s clothes. The #1 bestseller at Amazon costs $219.98, and a Chelsea Home Stratford 7 drawer dresser in Michaels cherry stain costs $2,379.
Other Optional Gear Baby Costs
Breast Pump: $26-$170
Moms who plan to breast feed will want a good breast pump for storing milk for times she can’t be with the baby and to avoid mastitis, a painful breast infection caused by milk that stagnates in the breasts. Costs range from $25.99 for a Medela Harmony manual breast pump to $231.99 for a deluxe kit from Medela. The same company makes a breast pump clinically proven to reduce pumping time for over $4,000. Pumps by Evenflo and Philips also get high ratings and range from $87.98 to $169.90.
Formula: $75 for the First Month
Parents who use formula can expect to spend about $75 on it in the first month of the baby’s life. A 1.45 pound container of Similac baby formula powder lasts about 10 days and costs $24.99 at Target. The same quantity of Enamel or Gerber formula powder costs about the same. Organic formulas like Earth’s Best are also in the $25 price range.
Steam Sterilizer $17
Many parents will use their dishwasher to was baby bottles and/or breast pump fixtures, but running an entire dishwasher multiple times daily uses up a lot of water. A simple Munchkin microwave steam sterilizer does the trick and costs $16.78 at Walmart.
Anti Gas Medicine: $8-$10
Babies can be very gassy, and gas can make a baby lose sleep, and that can make Mom & Dad lose sleep too. Parents who want to go the herbal route can use “Gripe Water.” There are several brands to choose from, but for an example Walmart sells “Mommy’s Bliss” brand gripe water for $9.98 for a four ounce bottle. A good non-herbal option is Malacon gas relief drops, sold over the counter for $7.97 a bottle at Walmart. Spending a little on this baby cost can save a lot of stress.
A digital infant rectal thermometer at Walmart costs $5.09. Another good option is an electronic forehead thermometer. Exogen’s retails for $34. Having a newborn around the house can be nerve wracking. A good thermometer can be invaluable for easing fears. It’s also a good indicator of when it’s time to take the baby to a doctor. The extra money for the forehead thermometer may seem excessive, but not having to remove a diaper and make baby scream each time you want to take temperature is worth it.
A baby with a snotty nose can be a handful, because babies have to breathe through their noses in order to nurse.
Body Pillow: $15-$65
Chronic back pain is a problem many pregnant women have to deal with. A body pillow alleviates back pain from pregnancy by letting moms sleep on their sides with proper spine alignment. Walmart’s least expensive body pillow is priced at $14.99. Target’s Leachco Back & Belly Contoured Maternity body pillow costs $64.99.
Wipe Warmer: $22-$31
A wipe warmer sounds frivolous but cuts down drastically on shrieking during changing. A quick look at Target shows prices ranging from $21.99 to $30.49.
An electric swing is a great pacifier for a cranky baby. The Ingenuity swing from Buena Vista is the top-rated swing on Google Shopping and retails for $52.06. Also top rated is the Fisher Price Zen Collection Cradle Swing for $210.99, which lets parents choose from two rocking motions and includes music, toys and a removable seat for transporting the baby.
Vibrating Chair: $35-$175
The more options parents have for soothing baby, the more peace of mind they get. A vibrating chair can be a nice alternative when the swing isn’t cutting it. Top rated on Google Shopping is the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker for $34.99. At the high end of the price range, the 4Moms MamaRoo Classic Infant Seat, Black for $175.
Pack ‘n’ Play: $39-$178
These portable cribs are a great addition to the living room. They come with an infant napper that’s tilted to elevate the baby’s head for comfort and safety. The baby can be in the napper during the day while Mom & Dad supervise. When the baby gets older the napper can be removed, turning the Pack n’ Play into a great crib that can be folded up and taken on trips. A Pack ‘n’ Play without the napper is $39 at Walmart. With the napper, toys, and two sleeping levels it’s $110.66, and adding other options like a vibrating “cuddle cove” can bring the price all the way up to $178.
Nursing Pillow: $10-$35
The popular “Boppy” name brand nursing pillows allow baby to rest, nurse and play in several comfortable positions and cost $34.94 at Amazon. The costs of other brands of nursing pillows range between $9.99 and $22.99.
Play Mat/Gym: $36-$75
A play mat or gym comes in handy for those times when babies aren’t sleepy but don’t necessarily need to be held. Play helps babies develop and keeps them occupied for ten to twenty minutes. The #1 bestselling infant play gym at Amazon is the Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym for $35.48. Other options include a gym by Fisher Price with an included electric piano for $42.97 and the Skip Hop Treetop Friends Gym with seventeen developmental activities for $74.99.
Tummy Time Toys: $15-$40
Tummy time is important for infants to avoid development of flat spots on the back and sides of the head. “Container Baby Syndrome” became a reality after the successful push by the medical community to get parents to put babies to sleep on their backs. While back-sleeping does prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), babies need several sessions of tummy play time per day. Tummy Time play mats range from $14.37 at Walmart to $40 at BabyCenter.com for a mat with toys, teethers, rattles and a mirror.
Car Seat Cover: $13-$30
Winter babies will appreciate a warm trip from the house to the car, and summer babies don’t like to get rained on. BuyBuyBaby.com sells the J.J. Cole carseat cover for $29.99 and Amazon sells the Cozy Cover for $12.99.
Baby Monitor: $75-$200
Audio-only baby monitors range from $14.86 for a basic model on Google Shopping to $74.97 for a monitor with a range of 1,100 feet that also takes the baby’s temperature. The #1 bestselling video baby monitor on Amazon is the Infant Optics Baby Monitor with night vision for $99.31. Video monitors that also measure the baby’s rate of respiration are available for around $1,000. Amazon sells the Dropcam wireless monitor for viewing with a smartphone for $197.70.
Hand Sanitizer: $2
Leaving the baby on the changing table while you wash your hands can be a little nerve wracking because it’s hard to say when the baby will learn to roll over on her own. A pump bottle of hand sanitizer by the changing table makes things easier. $1.98 for a 10 ounce bottle of Germ-X at Walmart. A small baby cost, but worth a lot.
Baby soap: $2-10
Keeping baby clean can cost $2 for store brand baby shampoo, $9.44 for an 8 ounce bottle of Aveeno Baby Comfort Bath, $5.69 for 30 ounces of Baby Magic Calming Bath (Amazon’s #1 bestseller) or $9.95 for 5 ounces of Angel Baby organic shampoo & body wash.
Baby Lotion: $5-$20
8 ounces of Angel Baby Lotion costs $19.95 on EarthMamaAngelBaby.com. It’s blended with organic herbal ingredients because whatever you put on your baby ends up in your baby. A 27 ounce bottle of Johnson’s Baby Lotion costs $4.97 on Amazon and 18 ounces of Aveeno Baby Lotion costs $6.07. Baby lotion is important for preventing “cradle cap,” which is like an aggressive case of baby dandruff.
We filed this under “optional” because it’s possible to wash a baby in the kitchen sink or adult tub, but for baby’s comfort, a tub is not a bad idea. A search on Google Shopping show prices from $18.60 for an inflatable tub at Sears to $19.99 at Walgreens for the Fisher-Price Precious Planet Bathtub, to $36.99 for the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Bath Center, which adjusts to babies as they grow.
Washcloths for baby cost $6 for a set of 10 from Gerber. A set of four organic cotton washcloths from the American Baby Company retails for $8.79 at Diapers.com.
Newborns often have a hard time staying warm. They also like the feeling of staying protected. An infant will sleep much better wrapped in a warm blanket. We put the sleep swaddle in the “optional” category because newborns usually get to take their receiving blanket home with them from the hospital. Amazon sells baby blankets for $10 to $20.
Sleep Sack: $10-$30
Sleep sacks serve the same function as swaddle blankets but they take the difficulty out of folding. They’re velcro-sealed and come with options like sleeved, sleeveless, cotton and fleece. Amazon’s prices on sleep sacks range from $10 to $30.
Good Sources for Baby Items
Parents who want to do a little price shopping of their own to cut baby costs can check out the following sources for baby goods online:
- Honest.com – Started by Jessica Alba and committed to offering honest, sustainable baby supplies, including diapers, bath & body products and more. They have a free diapers offer for new parents.
- SeventhGeneration.com – Another sustainable, green-thinking source for bath & body and diaper products for babies.
- Diapers.com – They sell everything from toys to clothing to bassinets, strollers, sleepers and other gear.
- EarthMamaAngelBaby.com – A good source for organic and natural baby bath & body products.
- Out-Of-Pocket Health Care Costs Rise For Workers With Employer Coverage – The Commonwealth Fund
- What it Costs to Have a Baby – WebMD
- Cost of Having a Baby – Truven Analytics
- Lamaze Classes Cost – Costhelper.com