The Cost Breakdown on Your Baby's First Year
Expenses during a baby's first year have always been vast. But throw in inflation—the effects of which will most likely be felt for some time—and the costs incurred during a baby's first year have the potential to reach astronomical amounts.
To be exact, costs can reach $15,775, according to a recent report by BabyCenter, a digital parenting resource that surveyed more than 1,500 new and soon-to-be parents. That's enough to make even the most contraception-lax among us dash out to the nearest convenience store for condoms without a second thought.
The report also found that baby-related costs make up more than a quarter (27 percent) of the average family's income, a finding that shocked Robin Hilmantel, the senior director of special projects at BabyCenter in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and author of the report.
"That's a huge part of your expenses as a family," she said. "This has parents worried, with three in four admitting they are stressed about family finances."
The monetary figure is shocking enough, but even more so when you consider it doesn't take any complications with the baby into account.
"My son has eczema, and I searched for brands with very clean labels and made for sensitive skin," said Michelle Mak, owner of Mewl, a parenting resource based in San Francisco. "Most of the baby brands with great reviews cost more than my lotions."
Eczema is an example of a complication that new parents and their new babies might encounter. Complications have their own unique expenses, leaving parents frantically punching numbers into the calculator while praying each time for a different number to show up on the screen.
Take healthcare bills, for example.
"Doctor visits that are not 'well child' checks are also crazy expensive at $125 a pop," said a mom in BabyCenter's community forum. "As a [first-time mom], I took her every time I was unsure. Stye in the eye, a sketchy cough and most recently, a leaking ear that turned out to be an ear infection. Each of these are $125 or more, and I wasn't expecting that."
And 2022 has been harder than ever.
"Parents have been hit with so much this year, from the formula shortage and lingering pandemic-related health concerns to the pressure of attaining shifting medical standards on safe sleep and breastfeeding," Hilmantel said. "It's really difficult to see parents have to face yet another widespread challenge."
What are the costs of a baby's first year?
BabyCenter calculated costs using its updated First-Year Baby Costs Calculator.
"The baby gear and everyday items included in the calculations come from our firsthand experience as parents, as well as data from our community and our research team regarding common items used during baby's first year," Hilmantel said.
Childcare checked in as the most expensive cost, totaling a gobsmacking $6,525 during that all-important (and all-expensive) first year.
"I was most shocked at the cost of childcare...and worse, how often she would be sick and need one of us to stay home with her anyway," said a mom from the BabyCenter community forum.
Another BabyCenter mom agreed that childcare costs shocked her the most, adding, "I didn't realize just how expensive it was prior to having children and it is the reason I won't be having more children."
Feeding was next on the list of costs, totaling $2,479, followed by nursery costs, $1,387; diapering, $1,104; and clothing, $984.
"[I] remember we purchased so many pieces of clothing in the beginning," said Vanessa Gordon, from the Hamptons, New York. "I wish we didn't buy so many pieces in size 3 months, as our daughter grew out of these when she was only 8 weeks old and we had a lot left over that wasn't worn. I strongly recommend the less in terms of clothing, the better."
Saving for the future (college, for example) amounted to $900, and gear such as car seats, strollers and other necessary items totaled $878.
"I understand car seats and strollers are big-ticket items," Mak said. "However, I didn't realize we needed multiple strollers and car seats. I spent over $1,000 on my son's car seat and stroller combo. When he grew over the weight and height limit at nine months, we had to buy another car seat for him."
The other expenses included in the report included activity equipment (play mats, bouncers, etc.) at $556; bathing and grooming at $190; toys and books at $156; and toiletries at $108.
What impact do these costs have on parents?
The potential impacts on new parents are obvious. For one: debt.
"Twenty-six percent of parents indicate that the biggest sacrifice their family is making involves holding on to existing debts by postponing or canceling plans to pay off debt," Hilmantel said.
The cost of raising a child looms heavy, she said. More than half of respondents (54 percent) indicated they are worried about both "Managing my family's daily expenses due to inflation" and the "Cost of raising a child." These were tied for the second most prominent concerns of parents, topped only by school shootings at 57 percent, she said.
How can parents manage these costs?
Three words can help new parents with costs: budget, budget, budget.
"Planning for your child's arrival isn't easy, so we aim to provide easy-to-use resources for parents to answer their questions and help them be as prepared as possible," Hilmantel said.
Gordon said, "Definitely don't worry about keeping up with the Joneses.
"I can recommend not being hesitant to ask friends and family for any clothing that their children might've grown out of [or] buy/sell Facebook groups in your local area," she added. "It will save you so much money and it's so worth it. Look to your local library for free 'Mommy and Me' classes."
Ultimately, though, it's crucial to find a community of people who are going through the same financial worries.
"It's quite shocking, perhaps, how lonely one could feel as a first-time mom, so a lot of moms definitely need the support," Gordon said. "Visit playgrounds to meet other moms and formulate your own groups [and] make the first move in inviting and gathering people if you can. You may be pleasantly surprised."