What Is the Average Cost of a Baby?

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Preparing to meet your new baby is an exciting time and you will likely have a lot on your mind—from birth, to feeding, to setting up your baby’s nursery.

Among the top things parents often overlook is how much raising a child will cost them and how to make sure that they have enough money and resources to care for their child.

How Much Will You Spend in Your Baby’s First Year?

As you get ready to welcome your baby, you might be wondering how much your baby’s first year will cost you so that you can plan accordingly. It’s important to understand that all families are different, have different priorities and circumstances, and that different geographical areas have different costs of living.

However, there are some estimates that might be helpful to you. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) keeps tabs on what the average cost of raising children is.

In its most recent 2017 report, it estimates that a middle-class family of four making approximately $59,200-$107,400 per year will spend about $12,980 a year per child.

This estimate may be a little less for an infant. The USDA estimates that families spend about $300 less per year on their children aged 2 and under, whereas teenagers averaged about $900 more per year. It should be noted that this estimate does not take into consideration the cost of giving birth, which can average as much as $4,500 even with health insurance.

And where does all this money go? The USDA says that the majority of money spent on kids goes to:

  • Housing (29%)
  • Food (18%)
  • Child care or education (16%)

This will certainly vary based on your child’s age and your circumstances.

For example, paying for daycare may be costly, but it may not be as costly as paying for college. When your baby is young and you only have one child, housing may not be as much of an issue because your infant may not need a large room—and may even be able to sleep in a crib in your room.

So you'll have some time before needing to upgrade your space.

What Will You Be Spending Money On?

Everyone takes different approaches when it comes to buying for their baby. Some people want to go all out and completely revamp their child’s nursery or other living space. Some want to go more minimalistic.

Thankfully, when it comes down to it, babies don’t really care how much stuff they get or how cute it looks, and they don’t honestly need that much.

Although babies need constant care—which you will have to finance if you are not staying home with them or having family watch them free of charge—they actually have very minimal needs in terms of concrete purchases.

They need food to eat, a safe place to sleep, a safe car seat, a safe place to be put down every now and then, clothing—and, of course, diapers. Lots of diapers.

Let’s talk about what you really need to buy for your baby, and what is mostly optional.

Common Purchases For Your New Baby
One-Time Purchases Ongoing Purchases
Car seat Diapers
Crib or bassinet Formula
Infant chair or baby swing Baby food
Clothing Childcare
Feeding supplies  
Strollers or baby carriers  
Optional items (e.g., pacifiers)  

One-Time Purchases

Here's a list of some of the common one-time purchases you will need for your new baby.

Car Seats

Purchasing a car seat is a non-negotiable. In fact, hospitals won’t let you leave until you show that you have a safe and securely installed car seat for your infant. Most experts recommend buying a car seat new because you can never be sure if a used car seat has been in an auto accident or is damaged in some other way.

You also want to make sure your car seat has not been recalled. You do not need to purchase the most expensive car seat, but you should always put safety first in your purchase decisions. Most infant car seats cost between $80 and $300 (in USD).

Crib or Bassinet

The Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants sleep on their backs in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress clear of blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, toys, and other objects.

They recommend that your baby sleep in your room, if possible, for 6 to 12 months of life. A new crib will cost you between $150 and $400, and a bassinet will cost between $80 and $200.

Infant Chair or Baby Swing

While having a baby chair or baby swing isn’t a strict necessity, most parents want there to be a place to safely place their baby during the day when they need a break. Most baby seats or swings cost between $75 and $150.

Clothing

You will certainly need some basic clothing for your little one. But you don’t have to go overboard. Keep in mind that your baby will likely go through more than one outfit a day due to spitting up and diaper leaks.

It’s good to have clothing for the next size lined up too, because babies really do grow so quickly. Luckily, baby clothes are one of the things you can buy used or get as hand-me-downs.

Feeding Supplies

If you are bottle feeding, you will need bottles, bottle nipples, and cleaning supplies. Breastfed moms don’t strictly need bottles, but most will pump at some point or another and will need to have bottles, milk storage bags, or containers, as well as a breast pump on hand.

Other breastfeeding supplies like nipple creams, are good to have on hand, but not strictly necessary.

Strollers or Baby Carriers

Like infant seats and baby swings, strollers and baby carriers aren’t 100% necessary, but the majority of parents find them to be helpful, as carrying your baby in your arms while out and about can get tiring!

If you are using a portable infant car seat, you may not need a separate stroller, but rather a stroller base to snap your infant seat into.

Many moms prefer infant carriers to strollers, or like to have both as an option. Infant carriers leave your hands free and allow you to keep your baby close, which can be very soothing for your baby.

Optional Items

Things like baby monitors, bottle warmers, pacifiers, and even changing tables are certainly things that moms find very helpful, but they are not essential. You can always purchase these if and when the need arises.

Depending on your space, you can use the top of a dresser or your bed to change your baby’s diaper, but you may find down the road that having a proper changing table is helpful.

Ongoing Expenses

Let's take a look at some of the items that you'll likely be purchasing over and over again for your baby.

Diapers

In the first year of life, diapers will be one of your top expenses. The cost of diapers will vary depending on what brands you are purchasing, as well as whether you are using cloth diapers, but expect to spend around $80 per month on disposable diapers.

Cloth diapers may cost you a little less, but you will need to make a one-time purchase of several hundred dollars to buy the diapers and supplies, and then upgrade them as your baby grows.

Formula and Baby Food

If you are formula feeding your baby, you will be spending about $70 to $250 per month, depending on the brand you buy. This will decrease as your baby starts to eat more solids, but then you will be paying for solid foods.

Yes, a lot of your baby’s first foods end up on the floor, but they start to add up as time goes on. Breastfeeding isn’t entirely free, either, especially if you are pumping and storing your milk.

Childcare

If you and/or your spouse work outside the home and must pay for childcare, this will likely be one of your most hefty expenses and definitely something you will need to factor in as you plan your baby’s first year.

The cost of this childcare will vary depending on where you live, and whether you have chosen a daycare center or a nanny.

In general, daycare costs less than hiring a nanny, to who you must pay a full salary. According to the Center For American Progress, the average American pays $800 to $1,230 per month for daycare.

To Stay Home or Work?

One financial consideration that is not talked about nearly enough is whether it makes sense for both parents to continue working or if paying for outside childcare is the right choice for your family.

This isn’t just a financial consideration, but an emotional one as well. There is not one right choice for you here, but there are some things to keep in mind.

If you have a job that doesn’t pay you enough to cover the cost of childcare, staying home with your child instead might be a no-brainer. But even if your salary does cover this cost, you need to also factor in the time you will have to spend transporting your child to and from daycare as well as the many sick days and doctor appointments that happen in a baby’s first year of life.

If you have a flexible employer, this may not be an issue for you. If not, it may not be financially or logistically worth it to continue working.

You also need to factor in the cost of leaving a career, or putting that career on hold. Will you be able to continue your career trajectory if you take a few years off? Keep in mind, though, that children continue to be both a logistical and financial burden for many years, even as they get older and enroll in school.

Whatever you choose, most of us have to come up with creative ways to make our working and financial lives work once a baby comes into the picture. This may be changing careers, asking for more flexible hours or work-from-home hours, taking your baby to work with you at times, and paring down your budget so that you can afford to stay home with your child until they get a little older.

How to Cut Corners and Plan Smartly

As you plan for the financial cost of raising your baby, there are some things you can do to save money and prepare for your new financial responsibilities:

  • Create a budget with your new estimated expenses; try sticking to it in the months leading up to your baby’s arrival so you can see where you might need to cut costs
  • Ask your family and friends for hand-me-down clothing, as well as for tips about where to find the best deals on new baby gear
  • Contact the companies to see if there are ways to decrease your monthly bills—you’d be surprised at the different plans they offer if you take the time to ask
  • Consider your current entertainment subscriptions—some of them may not be necessary
  • Consider starting a savings account to help fund your baby’s first year as you figure out the logistics of childcare and time management
  • Investing in a financial planner might be helpful as you consider ways to manage and invest your money toward the future

A Word From Verywell

When you are expecting a baby, you have a lot on your mind. You are thinking about your upcoming birth, preparing your baby’s nursery, and making sure you are well stocked up on diapers, feeding supplies, and those all-important cute baby outfits.

You are probably also thinking about how your life and identity will change as you transition into the role of parent.

For some parents, all of these things are enough, and financial considerations are low on their risk of concerns. For other parents, figuring out how to afford a baby is a constant source of stress.

The truth is, parents of all kinds figure out a way to make the financial aspect of child rearing work, and budget planning isn’t necessarily something you need to focus on as soon as you see those two lines appear on your pregnancy test.

At the same time, many parents are woefully unprepared for the financial considerations that must be made when you welcome a child into your life.

Having a good idea of what your baby’s first few months and first year of life will cost you can go a long way in making sure things go smoothly and can give you peace of mind as you welcome your new little one.

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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. The cost of raising a child. Updated March 8, 2017.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to keep your sleeping baby safe: AAP policy explained. Updated Dec. 23, 2020. 

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Buying diapers. Updated May 17, 2021.

  4. Center for American Progress. Understanding the true cost of child care for infants and toddlers. Updated Nov. 15, 2018.

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