What It Costs to Have a Baby

The expenses you’ll face when you have your first baby, and tips for spending wisely on your newborn.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on March 04, 2013
4 min read

If you're thinking about having a baby, you're probably thinking of the joy of holding your newborn in your arms -- not the financial costs.

But sooner or later, you run into the expenses involved with a pregnancy. And although the experience of becoming a parent is priceless, you'll also want to make sure your money is well spent.

From the price of diapers to the going rate for a cesarean section, here's the bottom line on what it costs to have a baby, as well as how to save wisely on those costs.

It's easy to get excited about buying baby supplies. But your top priority for pregnancy spending should be on health -- of mother and baby.

"Early and continuous prenatal care is essential both before and throughout your pregnancy to help ensure a healthy delivery and healthy baby," says Jeanne Conry, MD, an obstetrician with Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, CA.

If you have health insurance, prenatal visits and any diagnostic tests (such as ultrasounds) will likely be covered. They are generally considered "preventive" care.

If you don't have health insurance, the average cost of prenatal care is about $2,000.

One of the most important parts of prenatal care is a prenatal vitamin. You need one that contains at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects.

This is one cost you should start paying even before you get pregnant. About half of all pregnancies are surprises. So all women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin that contains folic acid, Conry says.

For an over-the-counter option, the cost ranges from $10 to $20. If it's prescribed by your doctor and covered by your insurance you'll pay whatever the co-pay price is. Either way, this could be one of the most important pregnancy investments you make.

Shopping for a newborn baby can be overwhelming. You don't want to go overboard on expensive baby luxuries that aren't must-haves.

"There are thousands of baby products on the market for new moms to consider, but frankly speaking, most are nice-to-haves," says Lori Hill, a certified doula in Williamsburg, VA.

You should first focus on what you and your baby must have, she says. Then figure out how much you have left over to spend on accessories.

Some basic supplies to consider buying include:

  • Car seat
  • Crib
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Changing table
  • A few baby clothes to get you started
  • Baby monitor

A thrifty parent can buy these for about $450 by shopping for bargains.

But don't sacrifice safety to save a buck, especially on the car seat and crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you avoid older, used car seats to get maximum protection for your child. Use cribs certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA).

You can save money on diapers and wipes by buying in bulk. A 250-pack of diapers usually costs about $40.

You can also save money by using cloth diapers. Wipes can also be substituted for washcloths, saving you about $10-$15 for a box of almost 400, which typically lasts a few weeks for one child.

Baby clothes are like maternity clothes. You can spend a lot of money or you can save by asking around for gently worn hand-me-downs. Babies outgrow their outfits fast, so this is a great way to trim your budget.

Another important cost when you are getting ready for your baby's arrival is childbirth education, Hill says. Classes range in price from about $50 to $200. They can help you learn how to deal with the trials of pregnancy and childbirth. And the classes can also teach you how to survive the first few weeks with a newborn.

The cost of having a baby can really add up at the hospital. You should make sure you are well-prepared financially for this part of pregnancy, especially if you don't have health insurance.

The costs of childbirth can be steep. The charge for an uncomplicated cesarean section was about $15,800 in 2008. An uncomplicated vaginal birth cost about $9,600, government data show.

Women who have individual health insurance policies often find that maternity care coverage is completely excluded, says Carol Sakala, PhD, director of programs at the nonprofit Childbirth Connection.

Medicaid or group private insurance plans, however, cover almost all pregnancy-related health care costs.

"It's important to be aware that these numbers reflect the amount a hospital will charge for these services, rather than the actual cost," says Anne Elixhauser, PhD, senior research scientist at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. "The actual amount of what it costs the hospital to perform the service is about 30% of what's charged."

For someone facing out-of-pocket costs, this is an important negotiating tool.

"Ask and negotiate with a hospital to pay a discounted rate," Sakala says. "Since what is being charged is significantly higher than the actual cost, you have some room to potentially save."

Here's a cheat sheet of some of the approximate costs -- or ranges, depending on your insurance situation -- you'll face when you decide it's time to have a baby:

  • Prenatal care: $0-$2,000
  • Prenatal vitamin: $15 for a 30-day supply
  • Maternity clothes: Free, if shared
  • Crib: $200
  • Wipes: $10 for a box of 400
  • Diapers: $40 for a box of 250
  • Monitor: $25
  • Changing table and pad: $125
  • Baby clothes: Free, if shared
  • Car seat: $125
  • Childbirth classes: $50-$200 per class
  • Hospital costs: $0-$15,000