Baby Costs: What to Expect the First Year

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Get ready for your jaw to hit the floor: On average, your first year with a baby costs anywhere from $22,00 to $36,000. A large part of that comes from labor and delivery and childcare costs, but you can also expect to shell out over $7,000 for basic baby and nursery gear, says Alan Fields, author of Baby Bargains.

Here is a breakdown of the first year baby costs you’ll want to plan for, plus when and how to save.

Labor and childbirth

Depending on which state you live in, the cost for a vaginal hospital birth with no complications ranges from $8,000 to $16,000, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (C-sections can cost up to $5,000 more.) Most insurance plans will cover anywhere from 25 to 90 percent of the bill, including the epidural. And there are ways to lower your out-of-pocket payment even more: You can avoid extra charges like having a television or phone in your room, and pack your own toiletries, diapers, and wipes if your hospital charges extra for them.

Childcare

Next to giving birth, childcare is one of the biggest baby costs, with daycare center prices running up to $12,000 for your baby’s first year, according to a USDA report. When choosing childcare, if you can, get help from family, or hire a sitter to make up for the rest.

Take recommendations from friends or sign up for a site like Care.com where you can name your own price and have prospective sitters pay for their own background checks.

And remember that both you and your spouse are allowed to take up to three months of unpaid parental leave: When taken separately, you’ll get by for a whole six months without having to pay for childcare.

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Decking out the nursery

Safety in the nursery is your first priority. But you want your baby’s room to look cute, too, and that sweetness can come with a heavy price tag. Solid wooden cribs are sturdy and stylish, and can ring in anywhere from $500 to $1,200 dollars. But the reality is, all new cribs are certified to meet federal safety standards, Field says, so whether yours costs $200 or $1,200, it’ll get the job done.

Just check for solid construction by shaking the crib slightly, and make sure it’s free of loose frames, slates, and sharp corners. Then, there’s your baby’s crib mattress, which can run between $150 and $200 (green crib mattresses are more expensive).

As for other big pieces like bureaus, changing tables, and rocking chairs, don’t worry about spending big with a pricy set. The right mix of mismatched, secondhand pieces can give a sweet, shabby chic vibe.

Food, food, food

You already know breastfeeding is healthier, but did you know it’s cheaper, too? Breastmilk of course, is free, and even the priciest breast pump will cost less than a six-month supply of baby formula (which would run around $500, says Fields). Whether you opt for a manual or electric pump, expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $300, though insurance will cover at least some of the cost. You’ll need bottles, too, for when you wean baby from breast to bottle: Those cost between $12 and $25 each.

If baby formula is your route, we recommend Little Bundle. Is your baby sensitive to dairy? Constipated? Gassy? They carry organic and hypoallergenic formulas designed specifically for babies with constipation, gassiness and dairy sensitivity.

Travel gear

If you decide to opt for an infant carrier, plus a car seat and a full-size stroller, expect to pay around $730. (For infants, you’ll be able to get away with a less expensive snap-n-go stroller, Fields says, which doubles as a carrier and stroller in one.) As for the car seat itself, go for a convertible model that’ll grow with your baby into his toddler years.

For all travel gear, just remember that safety is key: Look for a stroller with a wide base to avoid tipovers, and choose a car seat that’s rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which ensures it meets federal safety standards.

Diapers!

Unless you’re willing to go the cloth diaper route (hello laundry!), expect to pay big for diapers—around $750 for your baby’s first year. To save, buy in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, and Sam’s Club – which can slash costs by nearly 10 cents per diaper.

Clothing

Admit it: Buying new duds for your baby is even more fun than getting them for yourself. But resist the urge to get too much, since a year’s worth of baby clothes costs around $655, and baby clothes are usually a super popular gift item (that your little one will likely outgrow faster than you can pay off the credit card bill).

When you do shop for baby clothes, check which day they do markdowns at bargain stores like Old Navy and Gap Kids, Fields says, or buy from consignment shops. And stick with the basics—since as tempting as it is to dress him up in adorable suspenders and a tie, all you’ll need the first few months are t-shirt outfits, socks, pajamas, and blankets.

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