Saturday, September 6, 2008

How expensive is a baby?

This post was inspired by my last blog post. It got me thinking about how ridiculous and astronomical all the answers I have ever read are to the question "How much does a baby cost during the first year?" Most figures range in the neighborhood of $10,000, which is not counting the medical expenses for birth and checkups or daycare cost, so it basically just includes furniture, clothes, food, diapers, etc.

Here is my own little break-down:

Hosptital birth: $ 20,000 - 30,000
Home birth: $ 2,000 - 4,000

Even if 1 in 10 attempted home births will need to transfer to the hospital, your savings would be significant, and most midwives have much lower transfer rates than that. Don't be fooled into thinking "I have insurance to pay for that!" Insurance companies are not welfare. You pay for what you get through the astronomical premiums. The whole concept is based on the fact that people will end up paying more in premiums than they would have paid out of pocket, but the cost is evenly spread out every month rather than having to take a "hit" if one does need a doctor. The extra money you pay is what finances the insurance companies. Everyone would save money if they dropped the insurance and instead invested that same amount of money, ready to use if needed. Not only that, but you would also enjoy better health by avoiding the doctor.

Well-baby checkups: $ 70 - 120 each, at least 6 during the first year
Going in if baby is actually sick: $70 - $120 maybe once during the first year

You will actually pay even more if you take your baby for checkups because of the sickness that they will pick up from going to the office, which in turn will make it necessary to purchase medicine for them. Since I "saw the light" on this issue and stopped bringing healthy babies to the doctor, two of our youngest three have never been to a doctor, and when I took Miriam it was a complete waste of time and money as I was told everything was fine and she would recover on her own in a couple of days. Such is the health of children who are not drugged at birth, vaccinated, fed formula, and left with babysitters/daycare centers/church nurseries (i.e. leper colonies).

Formula: $ 1,000 - $2,300 depending on brand/type
Mom: $ 0

For women using formula, again the actual cost is much higher because of such necessities as bottles, sterilizers, etc. Breastfeeding women not only do not need any of these things (or a breast pump for that matter), but they actually SHOULD NOT buy them because they might be tempted to use them if their milk supply is down for a day or two due to sickness, etc. Giving a baby a bottle under those circumstances will only aggravate the problem. Most breastfeeding moms eat much less than normal (the body's natural way to lose baby fat) so extra food for mom is not a factor.

Jarred baby food: $.60 - $1.50/jar
Home-cooked food: practically $0 for the amount a baby eats

By the time a baby is old enough for solids (around 8 months of age), it can go straight to table foods such as mashed banana/avocado/potatoes/peas/etc., cooked oatmeal/rice pudding/cream of wheat, applesauce, all-natural crackers, and many more foods that are part of every family's normal routine, which completely eliminated the expensive (but oh-so-cute) baby food jar phase. That stuff tastes revolting, anyway.

Crib + bedding: $ 200 - $800 (and much more if you want designer stuff)
Parents' bed: $ 0

Yes, our babies sleep in bed with us, and let me tell you: it's priceless! Waking up to sweet milk breath and the scent of baby skin and hair right under your nose must be one of the most rewarding things in life for any parent. You may need to buy a bed rail once baby gets older (about $30). If you have a waterbed or a bed with a very poor (i.e. saggy) mattress, you should invest in a nicer mattress instead of buying a crib. If you do buy a crib but are the attached type of parent that finds it natural to nurture their baby, you will have gotten yourself a very expensive clothes hamper.

Clothes: $500 - $1,200
My cost: about $200 - $300 if I don't have any clothes to pass down, much less when I have several babies of the same gender right in a row

Changing table: $70 - $600
Your bed: $10 for a waterproof pad for beginners, pros can change a diaper in less than 30 seconds and know how to avoid "accidents"

When I had a changing table, it suffered the same fate as the crib: we stored our clothes on it. Using the bed/sofa or whatever other flat surface you are near is so much more convenient ("So-and-so, get me a diaper and wipes, please!") than lugging the baby to the changing table. Plus, once the baby knows how to roll over it is a lot harder to keep them up there than on a large surface such as a bed.

I could go on and on about other useless purchases. Instead, here is a list of all the things I think you really need. Items that are not absolutely necessary but are nice to have are in italics.

- car seat
- clothes
- (receiving) blankets
- sling/carrier
- diapers + wipes
- bouncy seat, swing, or Bumbo (to keep baby busy for a few minutes when your hands are full)
- stroller
- bassinet (to keep baby near during daytime naps)
- nursing pillow
- a couple of new, soft towels (NOT the flimsy baby towels)
- high chair (once baby is about 6 months old and would enjoy sitting with the family at meals even if they are not yet eating)

That's it. I didn't forget anything on that list, and most moms with lots of children would probably agree. It's not that we couldn't afford to buy the other stuff, but they are mostly useless gadgets to keep first-time parents busy because they really do just waste time and take up space.

Remember: pregnancy hormones and BabiesRUs are a bad combination. Now on my 5th baby, I couldn't spend a $1,000 gift card in there if I had to - it's a plastic world for plastic babies. Human babies need Mom, and that's pretty much all they need.


  1. I have to disagree with you on the breast pump. I had not planned on ever using a bottle with my babes and did not buy one. My sister in law loaned me one and I am very glad she did. At four months babe number one refused the right boob. For days. It did not matter what tricks I tried (and I am sure I tried them all) it was like that boob was poison. The breast pump enabled me to keep supply up on that side. I froze the milk and used it as part of the solids introduction
    Babe number two: terrible mastitis which I ignored, thinking it was flu derrrrr and I had to pump off the other side so that my babe would continue to drink from the affected the side and clear that block
    I am glad that more American mums are breastfeeding, not enough do it and it soooo beneficial to the babe and you! I loved looking at my babes knowing that I had made such a chubby babe :D
    Do you use cloth nappies? If you do, I think you should write more about that and if you don't then I think you should look into using them because they have saved us a heap of money

  2. Great post,now I just need the baby:) I agree, with the one commentor, a good breast pump is needed. Advent is pretty inexpensive but well worth the cost.

  3. I enjoyed reading your post. I haven't had any of my children vaccinated either. It is a pain to explain why to every doctor I get when I go to the clinic. The kids get “free” health care because they are ½ Navajo. Otherwise, I probably would not take them for check ups. When they or I do get sick, I use my remedies and when that doesn’t work I go to a naturopathic doctor. I have had my babies all at the hospital, but I am curious about having a home birth. Where do you get information on it? Can you have a home birth after you had a c-section? What if we don’t have any midwives in this area? That is often the problem living this close to the Navajo Reservation.
    I love yard sale for finding items like car seats, strollers, slings…. When I had my first pregnancy that turned out to be twins (and thus a c-section), I bought everything at yard sales, or was given to me by church members and friends. A few items, like a double stroller, other family members bought new for us.

  4. Good point. As a mom of four, I agree with you that babies don't cost nearly as much as they say, and that the list gets shorter once you figure out what's really necessary. Still, my list would include a few more inexpensive things:

    Nursing pads (washable, not disposable)

    a twelve pack of cloth diapers (My boys both spit up constantly, and I used those as burp rags. The cloth diapers also double as changing pads to put under the baby when changing a diaper away from home and as a shield to keep him from peeing on you) Joseph wore a perpetual bib to keep his shirt dry, but that might fall under your clothing category.

    Since I don't use a sling, my stroller wouldn't be in italics.

    And o.k., I admit I'd have at least one bottle and a little formula--the free samples will last a while when you're breastfeeding, and a couple of pacifiers--mainly for driving and trying not to get kicked out of church for not using the nursery. I agree that a breast pump is not necessary. I've used a pump before so my husband could give the baby a bottle while I was at work. That worked because I was able to pump on a break while away from the baby. Pumping as a stay at home mom did not work, because there didn't seem to be enough extra milk to fill a bottle. That's why I use a little formula, but I'd put bottles and formula in italics, and I agree that there might be too big of a temptation to switch for newer moms.

  5. I guess I should clarify that I think there may be a situation where it is necessary to purchase a breast pump and bottles even for a breastfed infant. For example, with baby #3, I had to go to the hospital unexpectedly when he was only a couple of months old. He was not allowed to stay with me, so my husband stopped for a can of formula and a bottle on the way home to feed him that night, while I pumped milk every couple of hours at the hospital to give to the baby the next day. This is not a normal situation, though, and my point was just that it is not a necessary item that would need to be purchased ahead of time. A lot of moms use a breast pump because it allows them to leave the baby for longer stretches of time than breastfeeding would naturally allow, which can really mess with their milk supply. Even if it doesn't, I don't think babies should be left in the care of babysitters or other people, but even if they are left with Dad it kind of promotes the idea that the baby is a burden and getting away from them for extended periods of time is the only way to have fun.

    But again, there are many medical conditions that would make the use of a breast pump beneficial.

  6. Julia,

    to answer your questions on home birth: whether or not you will be able to have a HBAC depends on several factors, such as:

    (1) how many previous C-sections you have had

    (2) what type of sutures were used to close the incision

    (3) what the laws in your state are

    (4) finding a midwife who has experience in this area.

    Generally speaking, the "dangers" associated with VBACs in America are completely overrated. In Germany, it is pretty much unheard of to automatically give a woman a C-section just because she has had one or several before, no matter how recent, and their rates of maternal mortality are better than the US figures.

    The problem now is that about 6 years ago, most doctors stopped doing VBACs because of a change in the required medical care that is dictated them by their legal malpractice suit insurance. Those insurance companies said that they will only insure doctors against law suits stemming from VBACs if the doctor is on the same hospital floor as the laboring woman from the time she is admitted to the time she delivers, which few doctors are willing to do. Even if they are, the hospital may have a policy against it, overriding the doctors willingness to do a VBAC.

    In turn, most doctors now stitch the incisions up very sloppily rather then doing a certain safer, time-consuming double stitch because they figure there is no point, anyway.

    Also, states that require midwives to be licensed (such as AZ) have laws about whether or not midwives are allowed to attend an HBAC. In AZ, they are not. Nor are any doctors allowed to carry them out, so in AZ, it's once a C-section, always a C-sections. Of course, the love of money is the root of all evil. A woman can only have so many C-sections before she will have to have a hysterectomy in order not to die from blood loss or experience a whole host of other dangerous complications. Most doctors say 3 C-sections are the max (again, their insurance companies are pretty much dictating what they can and cannot do). Sounds like the government trying to limit family size.

    But even in a state like ours, there are countless midwives who would still provide care to a mom wanting an HBAC. The next question is how much experience they have with it if they are not technically supposed to be doing it. In my case, my midwife has worked in many other states that did allow it, so she has the necessary experience even though here she is not technically allowed to do so.

    Finding a good midwife is tricky, but I have an appointment with mine on Wednesday and since you live in NM I am sure she knows of several in your area. I will also ask her about HBAC after what I am guessing was 2 C-sections in your case.

    Personally, I would be attempting an HBAC for sure. I have read of moms who had a home birth after 4 previous cesareans. But then, your first order of business should probably be to gather your medical records and consult with a midwife about your specific case.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Zsuzsanna,
    I have had only one c-section, because the doctor refused to deliver the twins since one was breached (the girl didn't want to cooperate). I was very upset about it, but since it was my first pregnancy I had no clue what I could do to avoid it. I had surgery before for Crohn’s disease and I knew that being cut like that would not be pleasant. I never, ever want to have another c-section. I have a dislike for doctors, needles, and being cut to begin with and that experience did not help.

    For my second pregnancy I was allowed to have a VBAC. Since my husband is Navajo we went with the Indian Health Services – IHS. It is the only hospital in this area that allows VBACs. Praise the Lord for that. IHS is free for us and the labor department is staffed with midwives that work for the hospital. I have been pleased working with them, but you get whoever is on duty not necessarily one you know well.

    Having a home birth sounds nice. I used a doula with my first two births, and I know that finding them was almost an accident, so I’m sure finding a midwife would be difficult also.

  8. Julia,

    That is great that they allowed you to have a VBAC at the hospital! You are definitely a good candidate for home birth in that case. I'll ask my midwife for some referrals on Wednesday. The difference between home birth and hospital birth is like home schooling vs. traditional school - once you try it, you will NEVER want to go back again.


    Good point about the nursing pads. Another nursing supply that is great to have on hand is the Lansinoh lanolin, and maybe tea to support a healthy milk supply.

    I use receiving blankets for spit-ups, but thankfully our babies don't spit up but maybe once a week or so, and even then it's minimal.

    I wish our kids used bibs, but they never ever tolerate them, so I don't buy them any more.

  9. Julia,

    here is a link to a website that gives the legal info on HBACs in New Mexico:

  10. I agree with what you posted. I just have one child and I can tell you many baby items no matter how cute are totally pointless. Breastfeeding, using cloth diapers and feeding them from the table when they are ready for solids can save the average mother a lot of money. My personal pet peeve is that I think moms spend too much money on baby's clothes. We are very poor. My son has rarely wore anything that didn't come from Wal-Mart or Kmart. I try to keep a few nicer things for church, weddings, etc. But overall I shop the sales and clearance racks. My advice for any mom-to-be
    is to stay out of BabiesRUs and avoid the baby magazines like Parents and such. Some of the outfits those kids are in are outrageously expensive. The shoes alone are $60 or better. You are also hammered with advertisements for products that you won't really need.

  11. Hi Mrs. Anderson this post is very helpful to me being that I am 14 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was just wondering what brand/type of car seat do you use for your babies? I am searching for one that is non toxic but it's very hard to find an affordable one. Are there any that you recommend?

    Also, this is a bit off topic, but what do you and your family do for drinking water? I realize how contaminated tap water is but my husband and I live in an apartment so we're not able to install a water filtration system such as reverse osmosis. So, we've been purchasing bottled water every week from Trader Joe's. We were thinking about getting a water dispenser, but not sure which brand of water is the cleanest to buy. Are there any that you recommend?


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