The Real Cost Of Having A Baby In 2020

Having a baby is a wonderful experience but it can be notoriously expensive, especially in the U.S. It's important to understand what the costs are and how you can prepare for it.
By Jessica Storm
Updated Oct 27, 2020
having a baby in 2019
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Having a child is notoriously expensive. It costs almost $13,000 a year per child and more than $233,000 over the child’s lifetime, not including a college education, according to a study by the US Department of Agriculture. But what about the costs of having the baby in the first place?

Mentally Preparing for Your New Baby  

There’s a lot to think about when you’re pregnant. You’re focused on your health, the health of the baby, and the well-being of everyone else in the family. You’re looking forward to bringing your little one home and maybe planning to have help in the first weeks. You’re dreaming of your baby’s future.

Financial considerations may not be at the front of your mind, and that’s understandable. Looking forward to parenthood and taking care of yourself are important parts of bringing a happy, healthy infant into the world. But in today’s world, so is making sure that you can afford to provide for your baby’s needs.

The Expenses of Pregnancy and Childbirth   

It’s easy to underestimate what having a baby will cost you, especially if you’ve never had major medical expenses before. There’s also the cost of baby supplies, which you’ll need to have before you bring your baby home. It’s amazing how much “stuff” a tiny little person needs, and how much attention it takes to bring them into the world healthy.

Medical Expenses

The cost of prenatal health care and delivery differ dramatically based on the mother’s state of residence, the family’s insurance coverage, and the type of birth that the mother wants to have. Cesarean births cost up to 50 percent more than vaginal births, according to a detailed study from Truven Health Analytics. Some report that home births and stays at birthing centers cost less, but firm data is harder to come by for these options.

If you have insurance..

You’ll pay all medical expenses until you hit your deductible. Co-pays won’t count toward this amount, but lab work will. Costs vary by test and can get pricey. A transvaginal ultrasound, for example, can cost up to $686.

The most expensive part of having a baby, from a medical standpoint, is labor and delivery. A 2015 study revealed that the average cost of a maternity stay in a US hospital ranged from approximately $1,190 to nearly $12,000, with a median cost of $4,215.     Costs are higher when more medical intervention is necessary, and rates of such interventions have risen over the years. Between 1996 and 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of cesareans rose 60 percent. In 2012, 32.8 percent of births happened by cesarean. Induction, which also makes birth more expensive, accounted for 22.8 percent of births in the same year.

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If you haven’t hit your deductible yet, you might find yourself paying a hefty percentage of your labor and delivery costs, no matter how you give birth. In 2010, according to Truven Health Analytics, the average out-of-pocket payment for commercial insurance holders was approximately $1,700 for vaginal deliveries and close to $2,000 for Cesarean deliveries. These amounts increased by nearly 400 percent just from 2004 to 2010.

The cost of a labor and childbirth stay also includes care for the infant, which is usually much less than maternal care. However, if your baby needs to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you could end up with more than $1,000 in additional out-of-pocket costs. The exceptions are Medicaid recipients, who have nearly all of their maternity care costs covered. 

If you don't have insurance...

Maternity patients without health insurance are responsible for paying the full cost of care out-of-pocket, estimated at $6,000 to $8,000. If you can’t qualify for health insurance, you might be able to arrange a payment plan with your provider. Some providers even offer discounts of up to 30 percent for patients who are paying out-of-pocket. 

You can reduce your labor and delivery costs by up to half if you give at a birthing center with a midwife instead of at a hospital with a doctor, but that’s assuming everything goes well. Many expectant mothers feel better knowing that medical care is close by, and your peace of mind matters.

Infant Care Supplies

There’s a reason why people have baby showers. One estimate put the total cost of infant care products for just Baby’s first year can cost close to $2,800. This includes higher-priced items like:

  • Cribs

  • Strollers

  • Highchairs

  • Changing tables  

It also includes little things that add up such as burp cloths, bibs, and baby-proofing supplies. It doesn’t, however, include ongoing costs that you’ll keep seeing over the next few years. Diapering, for example, costs an average of $990 per year until the child is toilet trained.

Also, don’t forget about medical appointments for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants have their first visit with a pediatrician when they’re 3 to 5 days old. After that, there are five more appointments before the child’s first birthday, then five visits between 12 months and 30 months of age.

Next Steps: Check Your Insurance Coverage

Shopping for insurance may not be as much fun as picking out crib sheets and tub toys, but it’s an important part of protecting your child’s future and your wallet.

Call your insurer and ask what your coverage is for prenatal and maternal care. Then take some time to shop around and see if you can find anything that covers you better. Anything you can save will help you to cover the costs of parenting.

While you’re at it, check out your options for life insurance. It’s your first step toward making sure that your child has everything they need, as long as they need it.

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