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Wondering About the True Cost of Having a Baby? Here’s What You Need to Know

how much does it cost to have a baby

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For many millennials of child-bearing age, a major concern is the cost of having a baby.

I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m one of them. For many reasons, I don’t have children, but as friends grew their families, I started to wonder if I could even afford a baby if I wanted one. Some friends upgraded their homes and sent their children off to private preschools, while others lived with roommates or in communal lofts, opting for toys and other needed purchases from thrift stores.

But how much does it cost to have a baby – really? The truth is, that number will change from person-to-person. If you’ve been wondering, “how much does a baby cost?” this info will help you figure it out based on your situation.

The Cost Of Having A Child In The U.S.

In 2018, the U.S. tops the list as the most expensive place to have a baby in the world. Insurers pay an average of over $10,000 for a standard delivery, and many new families find that insurers don’t always cover costs of additional care required. For many of these families, costs can be tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. The average cost of a baby at birth will therefore ultimately depend on your health, insurance coverage, and the hospital.

Pregnant woman leaning against a white wall.
How much does it cost to have a baby?

The Importance Of Big-Picture Preparation

Based on a 2015 USDA study, the average cost of raising a child in the U.S. to adulthood is $233,610 – that’s almost $13,000 a year. According to the data, expect to spend an average of $300 less on your child until the age of two, and an average of $900 more for older teenagers.

Unfortunately, when you’re planning for birth and care of an infant, you may not be thinking of these additional expenses. According to the USDA, the only way to truly prepare to care for a child is to start planning for everything to come, including:

  • Education (daycare through college)
  • Clothing
  • Meals and food
  • Medical care and insurance
  • Housing

Planning For Pregnancy And Delivery

Proactive prenatal care is necessary for a healthy baby, and the CDC estimates that over 77% of American women access this care in the first trimester, as recommended. If you have insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act, then your maternity care will be covered. But if you don’t, or you have no insurance, paying for prenatal care won’t be cheap.

Pregnant woman getting a sonogram.
Prenatal medical costs can add up if you don’t have the right insurance.

The type of delivery you have will also affect your costs, as C-section costs are nearly double those of vaginal birth. According to research cited on Parents.com, the average cost of having a baby ranges between:

  • Vaginal birth with no complications: $2,600
  • C-sections: $4,500
  • Vaginal birth with complications: $6,900

Typical Health Insurance Costs

A factor to consider if you’re wondering how much does a baby cost is your health insurance. The better your plan, ideally, the better your coverage. But several factors will determine the actual costs you can anticipate when you have a child:

  • The premium will be an ongoing monthly cost.
  • Plans with high deductibles mean you could be paying thousands out-of-pocket until your coverage kicks in.
  • Co-pays can add up during pregnancy as you’ll be seeing doctors regularly.
  • Emergency room visits when you’re worried that something is going wrong can be expensive.
  • Out-of-pocket spending limits, or how much you’re on the hook for until insurance covers 100% of costs, can be surprisingly high.
Woman holding a baby while a doctor examines the baby.
Your child’s health care could add an additional cost, even if they’re covered under your plan.

Your insurance should include maternity care to keep prenatal costs down, and you’ll want to see what you could be responsible for during the birth, from hospital stays to emergency operations. Make sure that you know what is covered after the birth, as your new child will require regular care during the early months.

To keep your costs down, only select in-network providers. Your co-pay will be lower and you’ll be guaranteed coverage.

The Cost Of Having A Baby With No Insurance

How much does it cost to have a baby without health insurance? A lot. If you want to seek traditional maternity care and deliver your baby in a hospital, expect the average cost of having a baby to be upwards of $20,000. To keep costs down, look for local family planning clinics that provide low-cost prenatal care for individuals without insurance.

Preparing For Changes To Your Income

In a recent study from WorldatWork, 62% of U.S. reporting organizations said they do not offer any type of paid parental leave for employees. In fact, the United States is the only developed country that provides absolutely no paid leave – compare that to the average of 40 paid weeks that individuals are guaranteed to receive in the United Kingdom.

Woman sitting on a couch looking at a document while holding her baby.
Will you need to keep working during your child’s first year?

But if you work part-time or as a contractor, you might not have any help covering your costs from employers or otherwise. And while the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants new parents up to 12 weeks of leave, that leave is unpaid. It’s crucial to determine early on whether you’ll see an impact on your expected income, knowing that surprises do happen.

To best prepare, you should have an emergency fund that covers the amount of time you want to take off. If you’re taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave, you should have three months’ worth of your salary in savings. Remember that your costs will increase once your new baby is home, so make sure you budget for these new responsibilities.

Getting Your Home Ready

When welcoming a new baby, you’ll need to prepare your family’s home, and you might not have any financial help in doing so. Everything from cribs to strollers can be sourced from friends or family to keep costs down, or start buying used – you’ll only need these items for a short period of time anyway. If you plan on having a second child, store outgrown items to reuse.

Baby holding her hand out stretched towards camera.
Keep danger out of their way and keep costs down.

Babyproof your home on your own rather than hiring expensive contractors. Plug unused electrical sockets, keep floors clean from small objects and debris, and make sure any corners at crawling height are covered. Look for inexpensive options at stores like Walmart, where you can easily shop online or at a store for the items your home needs.

Finding Suitable Childcare

One of the most significant expenses for many young parents is finding suitable childcare. According to a Brookings Institution study, in 56% of married families who have children under six, both parents work. This number increases to 65% of single mothers, and 83% of single fathers.

Woman teaching a group of children as they sit on the floor.
How much childcare can you really afford?

If you have family members close by, they may be a huge help during this period – but what if you don’t? According to Brookings, full-time childcare for 40 hours a week comes at an average cost of $196 a week, or $10,000 each year. While these costs depend on where you live and the type of daycare you’re looking at, childcare can become a considerable budget drainer in your child’s early years.

Proactively saving for your child’s education, from daycare through college, will help you get the biggest bang for your buck. The longer you save, the more money you have accumulating interest, and the lower your costs will be in the long run.

How To Decide If You Can Afford To Have Kids

All of the costs discussed so far are averages, which means your cost of having a baby can be lower or higher. Not to mention, all of your child-raising costs will be spread out over the course of years, so you can find proactive ways to keep putting aside money to help cover everyday expenses and emergencies.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try choosing one or two areas to start saving for when you decide you want to have kids – or even if you are thinking about it in the near future.

No matter how much you prepare, you’ll be faced with surprises on your path to parenthood. However, when you focus on maintaining a robust savings account for expected costs like education and healthcare, you’re a step ahead of any emergencies to come.

So how much does a baby cost? Clearly, the answer will depend on your unique situation, but expect to spend at least thousands of dollars raising your child to adulthood. However, keep in mind that people all over the world from all different backgrounds manage to find ways to make it work, so don’t be discouraged if you hope to one day start a family but are just finding your financial footing.


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