08 March 2012

How much does a baby cost?

Wow.  According to Yahoo! I should be in a total panic, because I absolutely cannot afford to have children.  No way.  I had no idea that children are actually a luxury item for the wealthy, but according to this article a baby costs $10,000 in the first year of its life alone. 

That covers maternity care, formula, diapers, child care...you know, just the basics.  Now, I realize those things aren't optional for some people.  Some people cannot nurse, for example, so formula becomes a necessary expense.  But I really have to wonder about an article that presents that more as a minimum figure than an absolute worst-case scenario.  Especially when a key piece of advice for dealing with the financial burden is "Don't forget to throw a big big baby shower!" 

Yeah.  Give your family and friends your shopping list, and let THEM pay for your foolishness!  Great advice.  That's so tacky I don't even want to think about it.

Not to mention that probably 95% percent of the stuff they're saying you MUST HAVE for your child is actually completely superfluous.  In case you're wondering, here is my list of essentials for having a baby:

A good midwife and a healthy diet.  This will save you tons of money on maternity care.  There are rare exceptions, of course, but I do wonder a lot why insurance companies don't encourage this more.  My prenatal care, delivery, and post-partum care (and the care was excellent!) for my first child cost me $1800.  Read that again, it's not a typo.

A way to feed the baby.  If you simply cannot nurse then you'll have to buy formula.  And that is fine.  But if you're on a budget and your breasts are in good working order, get a membership to La Leche League or find a good Lactation Consultant.  "Natural" doesn't equal "Intuitive", but with a bit of help, most women do just fine.  And it's nowhere near the cost of formula and baby food.

A good supply of basic cloth diapers.  I've seen the cost break-downs, and water for washing doesn't cost anywhere near what you'll pay for disposables.  You can go all high-end with cloth diapers, just like anything else, but decent prefolds (Please don't buy the birds-eye ones from Wal-Mart.  They're terrible and they don't work.) and basic covers will only set you back a few hundred dollars.  Bonus?  You can use them for the next baby, too.  Mine are heading for baby #4 now, and still working just fine.  (The covers did give out after Benjamin, but even if I couldn't make my own, I could get half a dozen for a hundred dollars, and be good to go.)

Somewhere for the baby to sleep.  This doesn't have to be a $1000 crib!  I use a bassinet I bought at the thrift store for the first few months, and a pack and play once the baby starts to get more mobile.  No point, in my opinion, in having a pack and play and crib both, and the pack and play is much more multi-function.

A car seat.  This is a big expense, but even here, you can save a lot by going basic.  AAA has car seats that don't cost an arm and a leg, and they'll even help you get it installed correctly.

A sling or other type of infant carrier.  Others may disagree, and I suppose this isn't actually a necessity, but it makes my life so much easier I would never EVER want to have a baby without one.  I use a ring sling until the baby hits about 10 pounds (for Benjamin, that was when he was two weeks old), and then switch to my Ergo.  (Whew!  They've gotten fancy in the years since I bought mine!)  I love my Ergo with a passion and devotion completely incomprehensible to those who have never tried to sooth a small child and make dinner at the same time.  I used my Ergo with Audrey every. single. day. Until my belly got so big (with Benjamin) that I couldn't buckle the thing anymore.  If you can't afford to buy something like that, find a strip of fabric about six yards long and use it as a wrap sling.  It isn't quite as simple, but it works just as well.  There are plenty of great videos on Youtube for how to tie the things.  Just make sure you also look up safety precautions.  These carriers are great, when used correctly, but like anything else you need to know what you're doing.

Some type of clothing for the baby, appropriate to your climate and the time of year. This, also, can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. And if someone does decide to give a shower in your honor, you'll probably be all set.

Ummm...I'm pretty sure that's it!  Of course there's a few extra things, but the key here is differentiating between necessities and "things that are nice to have".  I love a lambskin for my babies, but it's not a necessity.  A bouncy seat is nice, because really, eventually you do want to put the baby down even if only to wash your hair, but again, it's not a necessity.  (You could use the car seat, if you bought a removable carrier type, or lay them on a blanket.)  A changing table is great to have for saving your back.  (I use an old dresser with a folded towel on top.) But you can also just change them on the floor.  Diaper pail?  Five gallon plastic bucket I got from the bakery in my grocery store.  It was free.

So you see why I have a hard time buying the "You can't afford to have a baby!!" mantra.  It's mostly spread by those who want to sell you lots of junk you don't need, or those who firmly believe no one should be having babies anyway.  For most people, it simply isn't true.


  1. Agree with you on the Ergo carrier - best investment we ever made;)

  2. it bothers me when places publish how much it supposedly costs to have a baby. I'm sure they're trying to cut down on teenage pregnancy, but it sure seems like a lot of fear-based journalism to me.


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