This post was originally published in November 2021.
We had a baby this year!
Three months in, Wren is fun, cute, curious, and occasionally exasperating. She recently learned how to put her fist in her mouth. (She's obviously a genius.)
Having kids is notoriously expensive, but usually, people just tell you how expensive it is in hyperbole. ("My kids cost me an arm and a leg!")
Peter and I are numbers nerds, and we’re always curious to know specifics. So we thought we'd track and share the details of what it has cost us to have a baby so far.
A few notes before we dive in:
We are insured, and the numbers we show are the amounts we paid out of pocket. Where applicable, we also included the total cost, including the part covered by insurance in parentheses.
Some of our expenses were paid using pre-tax dollars from our HSA account.
We are fortunate enough that we haven’t yet needed to pay for childcare. Between me taking some time off of full-time work and living close to Wren's loving grandparents, childcare is a huge expense that we've dodged for now.
Okay, now onto the numbers!
THE COST OF A BABY
I will break down the costs by category:
Keeley Medical Care - $956.17 (Without insurance: $2,074)
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist - $395
Maternity Clothes - $105
Prenatal Vitamins - $200
I had an uncomplicated pregnancy so all my treatment was routine: two ultrasounds, vaccines, tests, and routine appointments throughout. We also got standard genetic testing done.
After experiencing groin pain while jogging in the second trimester, I went to see a pelvic floor physical therapist and I'm so glad I did! This wasn't covered and was totally out of pocket. This was so beneficial to a comfortable pregnancy and a strong recovery afterward. I think all women should get free pelvic floor therapy for life.
I took prenatal vitamins throughout pregnancy and bought a few things for the third trimester when my clothes didn't fit (jeans, a dress, a couple of long tank tops.) I shopped used clothing on Poshmark... since folks don't wear these items very long they are usually in great condition!
Keeley Birth Bill - $1,872.35 (Without insurance: $30,111)
Wren Birth Bill - $3,159.50 (Without insurance: $5,196)
Birth, Postpartum, and Baby Care Courses - $107.95
I gave birth in a hospital. I ended up needing to be induced due to low fluids at 41 weeks, and I received an epidural. We spent a night in the hospital while I was being induced, and two nights after that with Wren.
We were surprised to receive a separate bill for Wren. This was largely just "room and board" which seems kind of ridiculous as I also paid for room and board and Wren took up about one square foot of space. This would have been something good to know in advance as it may have changed our insurance choice for Wren. (The opacity of our healthcare system strikes again!)
We took this birth course and found it helpful. We also bought this video about soothing babies and would HIGHLY recommend watching it before you have a baby - we use these skills daily. $8.95 was very well spent. Finally, this basic CPR course was to the point and good knowledge to have.
Wren Ongoing Healthcare
Pediatrician Check Ups - $0 (Without insurance: TBD)
Medication for Reflux - $22.83 (Without insurance: TBD)
Our insurance (like all insurance plans, under the ACA) covers all "wellness" visits for Wren. We were also recently prescribed medication for stomach issues that were affecting her eating. We didn't get bills or statements yet for these costs, so I'm not sure what they'd cost without insurance.
Hospital Lactation Appointments - $0 (Without insurance: TBD)
Private Lactation Consultant - $0 (Without insurance: $175)
I'd say on the whole I over-prepared for birth and underprepared for breastfeeding. Birth is a day or two, and feeding your baby takes hours upon hours each day, for months on end, no matter how you choose to feed them.
After some ups and downs along the way, Wren has recently been diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie, which was affecting her ability to efficiently breastfeed. It took multiple lactation specialists to finally get this diagnosed!
Looking back, I'd have done some legwork before Wren was born to make this process easier: getting friends or family to recommend a good non-hospital lactation specialist who comes to your house (a game-changer). I'd have made an appointment in advance for a couple of weeks after Wren's due date.
It seems like everyone can benefit from hands-on support, and every baby is unique! It's so easy to struggle in silence with breastfeeding thinking that every other mom just has it figured out. But once you start talking to moms about breastfeeding, all you hear about is challenges and issues they had to solve before it became streamlined.
Baby Gear and "Stuff"
Everything all in - $2028
When we were preparing for Wren's birth, we got lots of one-off recommendations for things we should buy. There are many, many lists on the internet recommending things, but they all felt over the top to me, or kind of random, not age-specific, and/or not comprehensive enough. I found this a bit overwhelming, so I turned to my best friend: Google Sheets.
I made a spreadsheet of everything we could buy, including family and friend recommendations, narrowed it down to the essentials for age 0-3 months, found the typical price for each item new and used, then created a total budget that Peter and I approved together. It was fun to hunt on Facebook Marketplace and try to beat the budget. (I told you, we're numbers nerds!)
This budget includes everything for the first few months: bassinet and crib/mattress, swaddles, stroller, car seat, clothing, carriers, bath time, diapering, feeding, changing table and nursing chair for baby's room, baby medicine, postpartum recovery stuff for me, etc. Out of the total, $250 was for "perishable" items that get used up (like diapers, etc). Everything else can be used again for the next baby or ongoing for Wren.
Of course, we ended up buying a few things later that weren't on the original list. But because we took a bare bones/essentials approach to start with, there was very little we bought initially that we haven't used, which feels good from a consumption standpoint.
We did not do a baby shower or register for gifts, but we got a few hand-me-downs from family and friends: notably a crib, a baby carrier, a few useful things like swaddles, and lots of clothes. Facebook Marketplace is the place to go for gently used baby stuff - it seems like there is almost no reason to buy anything new for a baby since it gets used for a few months and then parents re-sell.
Would you like to see my list of baby essentials, see our budget, and hear our reviews of the gear we chose? I was thinking I might write a post and share that out if it's useful.
Diapering - $115 / month
Miscellaneous costs - $50 / month
We use cloth diapers during the day and disposable diapers at night (they control leaks better.) We opted for a cloth diaper service that picks up dirty diapers and delivers clean ones each week, which adds a little expense but feels worth it to us.
There has also been random stuff that comes up - for example, Wren loved this vibrating chair at a cousin's house, so we bought her one. It's not exactly pleasing to the eye, but she loves it and it entertains her while we make dinner (big win.) I also started taking a magnesium and calcium supplement to keep my milk supply up during my period, now that it's back. Etc, etc.
$8846.80 one-time costs (Without Insurance: $40,414.78)
$165 / month ongoing
So, for the first three months of having a baby, we've spent over $9000. And that's with a very routine pregnancy and good insurance.
Without insurance, having a baby is clearly prohibitively expensive. The ACA mandates that routine prenatal care must be covered by any insurance plan, but any other services are often not covered at all, even on insurance - including delivery! (Who gets prenatal care without intending to have the baby delivered at some point?) It appears that Medicaid does cover prenatal care and delivery, but of course, you need to be low-income enough to qualify... which in many states is just barely above the poverty level. Planned Parenthood and other similar clinics provide prenatal care free of charge or on a sliding scale (one of many reasons to donate to Planned Parenthood.)
There ya go! All our costs so far. This was an aspect of having a baby that didn't feel transparent to me before, so I hope sharing this was helpful or interesting for you.