The real cost of having a baby – Part 1


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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If you have done a pregnancy test recently that returned a positive result, you can be sure that the money you paid for that pregnancy test is the first of many expenses you will face for the next few decades of your life. Children are expensive, and one of your roles as a parent is to foot those expenses — from the very first prenatal check-up, to the college tuition, and everything in between.

One of the most expensive years in a child's life is the first one. This is especially true for first time parents, who usually suffer from sticker shock when they see the cost of baby items. How can such little things have such big price tags on them?

We did some shopping around, and also talked with some moms of babies and toddlers, to find out the real cost of having a baby. We have shared below some of the expenditures you are likely to run into for the first year of life, so that you can have an idea what to expect.

1. Pregnancy and childbirth

The 40 weeks leading up to D-day can be very heavy on not just your ankles, but your pockets as well. From monthly prenatal doctor visits, to changes in your diet, maternity clothing, supplements, ultrasounds, blood tests, and your hospital stay for delivery, the first nine months can get pretty pricey. Even for those with health insurance, some hospitals require upfront payments for maternity services, which you will then claim from your insurance provider. The cost of pregnancy can be anywhere between $50,000 and $300,000. Of course, if you choose to use public facilities for your check-ups and delivery (which are free), then you will be cutting costs significantly. If, however, there are complications with your pregnancy, then you might even exceed this amount.

SAVING TIP: “I started using a private clinic, but I realised the wait time was the same as the public ones, and you have good and bad staff members there just the same, so I switched to my community clinic and delivered at a public hospital. I saved thousands of dollars that I put towards buying up things for the baby.”

— JM, mom of one

2. Baby clothing

Many parents are shocked to find out that baby clothes cost as much as, or sometimes even more than, adult sizes. And because baby clothes are so adorable, it is very easy for one to go overboard when shopping for one. In the first year of life, however, a baby doesn't need a lot of clothes, especially in our warm climate where many layers are not required. Onesies (also called pin-unders) are baby closet essentials, as they are great for sleeping and playing, and facilitate quick diaper changes. A few bodysuits (monkey suits) are ideal for chilly weather. Chemises, socks, hats, shorts, dresses, and other fashionable pieces of clothing for different occasions can have parents spending, on average, between $20,000 and $50,000 on baby clothes in the first year.

SAVING TIP: “I have a girl, but I am planning to go again, so I bought mostly gender neutral clothes which I can use for another child. My family passes down christening outfits, because they are so expensive and only get worn once.”

SB, mom of one

“Wait until the baby arrives to buy most of the clothes because they can come bigger or smaller than you expect. And don't spend a lot of money on newborn clothes because they grow fast. Shoes are not necessary until they can walk, and even then, don't spend a lot, because they will soon outgrow them.”

CG, mom of two

3. Diapers and wipes

Disposable diapers are cheap when you think about them individually, but the dollars pile up over the course of a year. In the early days a baby may use up to 10 diapers per day, and at one-year-old may be using three to five on average. Depending on the brand and usage, the price can range between $4,000 and $7,000 per month, totalling anywhere between $48,000 and $86,000 for the year. And don't forget the wipes! These can add up about one third of the diaper cost, also depending on the brand and usage.

SAVING TIP: “Most babies have bowel movements at specific times. Once I figured out my baby's times, I scheduled her diaper changes around it to save on diapers. I also use the unsoiled section of the diaper to clean up most of the mess before using wipes. That way I use fewer wipes.”

LM, mom of one

4. Baby food

When it comes to feeding your baby in the first year, the breast is still the best. Moms confess that they breastfeed their babies not just for the nutritional value, but also because it saves on the pockets. If you choose to go the formula route, however, you can expect to use at least four large cans of formula each month if the baby is exclusively bottle-fed, at anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per can. If you supplement with breast milk, or food from the family pot (after six months), you can reduce this amount. Parents also spend on snacks, jars of baby food, drinks and fruits for babies in the first year. Most moms said they spend between $8,000 and $17,000 on food for baby per month, which adds up to $96,000 to $204, 000 for the year.

SAVING TIP: “I learnt the hard way not to buy a lot of baby food at a time. When they are learning so many new foods everyday they will just wake up one day and decide that they don't like something anymore.”

SM, mom of three

5. Childcare

The labour laws in Jamaica allow a woman eight weeks maternity leave with pay, and another four weeks without pay if she decides to take it, and most employers structure their leave policy based on this. In most cases, then, a woman has to be back at work within three months of giving birth, making it necessary to find a suitable childcare provider. This is not only tedious, but expensive. Most day cares charge between $3,000 and $7,000 per week, depending on the hours and the range of services they provide. Even if a relative or neighbour is taking care of your little one, it is usually expected that a stipend or some form of compensation is given. Moms (who go to work) said they spend between $8,000 and $25,000 per month on childcare, which is between $80,000 and $250,000 for 10 months of the first year.

SAVING TIP: “I let my neighbour, who is a retired teacher in her 60s, keep my son instead of sending him to daycare. I have more peace of mind that way because I know he is safe, and I don't need to worry if something happens and I come home late from work. Plus illnesses spread so quickly at daycare.”

DB, mom of one

So far we have racked up about half a million dollars — and we're not done yet. In part two next week, we will discuss the cost of baby travel gear, furniture, care and safety items, medication and toys.

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