10 Newborn Costs That Took Me by Surprise

When you’re expecting a little bundle of joy, there are a myriad of costs that you know to expect. Diapers, for one. There are the things that you choose to go without — a wipe warmer, for example. And then there are the costs that you don’t see coming. (See also: 5 Places to Get Cheaper Diapers)

Here are some potential needs to budget for when your little one arrives.

1. Extra Special Delivery

Literally nothing went the way I thought it would the day my daughter was delivered. Oh, sure, we had a birth plan all written out, but when it came time for her to make her grand entrance, well, she had other ideas. After 21 hours, I finally ended up in the operating room, having a C-section at 3:00 a.m.

I haven’t even started seeing the majority of the bills from my actual pregnancy (such is the lag time with our insurance company), but given how stingy our insurance is, my guess is that our three-day stay in the hospital is going to cost a pretty penny.

Of course, one never knows how childbirth is going to go, so don't let the possibility of an emergency C-section stress you out as you prepare to deliver.

2. Extra Medications

You might have been planning on a natural delivery and ended up with something less than ideal. Although insurance may cover most of the cost of your pain meds, be prepared to pay a copay for whatever prescription your doctor sends you home with. If you are suffering from post-partum depression, you’ll need to carefully take all medications prescribed to you.

The benefit of extra meds is that if you don't take them, you can always sell them on the black market.

I'm kidding, don't do that. But seriously, what am I going to do with this Percocet?

3. Towels, Blankets, and Linens

"The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" covered this pretty well — never go anywhere without a towel. Or, in the case of caring for a newborn infant, hundreds of towels.

I stocked up on a couple dozen plain white hand towels from Costco a couple of weeks before giving birth, more or less on a whim, suspecting that they might come in handy. After her birth I found that I had to nearly quadruple my stock of hand towels and receiving blankets, because we go through at least a dozen of them per day. Newborns are notorious for spitting up, and our daughter is no exception. This isn't a huge cost, probably less than $100, but I sure didn't see it coming.

4. Guests

You may be one of the lucky people who have dozens of friends and neighbors delivering homemade meals to help you through the first few weeks of parenthood. Or you might not know anyone who lives near you and have to provide for yourself. If you planned ahead and froze a few dozen casseroles, congratulations on being so organized! If you’re like me, and you bought approximately a week’s worth of food, you may find yourself ordering out more than you initially planned.

Add to this the cost of feeding grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else who might be staying with you during your infant inauguration, and you can see grocery bills easily double. This increased cost is most likely offset by the savings in childcare (since you’ll have all that in-home help), but it can still strain the wallet.

5. Gas, Water, and Sewer Bills

Babies love to expel things from every part of their bodies. This is pretty much all a baby needs to do to qualify as a baby. As such, you will find yourself doing billions of loads of laundry during the first week home with baby.

Oh, and sterilizing bottles and nipples? You will run your dishwasher, and your kitchen sink, more than you ever thought possible.

If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family staying with you to help out for the first few days or weeks of your baby’s life, then you’ll likely notice another uptick in the water/sewer, gas, and electricity bills.

6. Formula

I had personally planned on exclusively breastfeeding my daughter. We’ve all heard about the benefits of breastfeeding, but unfortunately, no one informed my breasts of these benefits. As such, I’ve been forced to feed my baby girl formula — which isn’t cheap. We chose the same brand that our hospital used, and purchase the pre-mixed, ready-to-use servings as a convenience measure. This convenience costs us roughly $1.50 per feeding at the current rate.

7. Breastfeeding Accouterments

Even if you don’t have trouble producing breast milk, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Many new mothers find that they have trouble getting their babies to latch properly. Finding a good feeding positing and location can also be tough. I had always assumed that breastfeeding would be as easy as holding a baby up to my boobs, but it turns out that it takes a lot of paraphernalia for some babies. Specialized pillows, nipples guards, creams and ointments to soothe sore breasts (some infants are really big chompers), nursing bras, and gel inserts all add up.

If you, like me, are not able to produce much breast milk, you might find yourself shelling out big bucks to try to up your production levels. From fenugreek tablets ($1 per day) to prescription drugs like metoclopramide ($30 per month), getting the milk glands to cooperate can be pricey. Add to this the cost of renting a hospital-grade breast pump ($95 per month at my local women’s clinic), and the costs can really add up.

8. Everything You Scoffed at BEFORE Baby Arrived

I tried desperately to keep my baby supplies to a minimum. I purchased all baby clothes used, in lots, from eBay, getting a full year’s wardrobe for less than $100. My husband and I did spend some serious dough on a good car seat and stroller (the kind that lasts up to three years), and we bought an automatic baby swing that my mother refers to as a “Baby Cadillac.” It’s a great place to set the baby down when I’m working but want to keep an eye on her and want her to stay asleep for a bit.

And we bought diapers and wipes and receiving blankets, but we turned our nose up at things like a wipe warmer, unaware that our daughter would shriek like a deranged banshee the moment a room-temp wipe touched her delicate little tush. Slowly warming the wipes in my hands is a bit time-consuming, and watching my baby howl while her teeth chatter is disheartening. Besides, a wipe warmer costs, like, $20.

So, I cracked. I bought a wipe warmer. And diaper changes are as pleasant as can be now.

9. Hired Help

You may have pictured your first few weeks as a new parent passing by in a blissful haze of baby kisses and warm snuggles. But sometime around the fifth day of baby, it may dawn on you that you have about seven million errands to run.

People will often tell you that attending to your newborn is the most important task and that “everything else can wait.” Let the dishes pile up in the sink!, they say. Let the laundry go undone, they tell you. The problem with this advice is that you can’t really clothe your baby if you don’t do laundry. It’s hard to swaddle your newborn if all of her blankets are covered in baby barf at the bottom of the laundry pile.

There are some tasks that need doing. And if you don’t have help from friends and family during the first few weeks, you may find that you need to outsource the tasks to a professional. Whether it’s hiring a house cleaner for a couple of hours per week, hiring a gopher for errands, or paying a professional babysitter to watch your baby while you run around town getting your meds, food, and pet supplies, extra help can be a lifesaver — and a significant cost.

10. Health Insurance

Insuring a dependent can vary from reasonable to outrageous in today’s America. My husband’s company offers a healthcare plan that covers dependents, but the premiums are much more than I was expecting, and they seem to go up every year. Check with your employer (or, if self-employed, shop around!) to see what kind of coverage both parents have before deciding on a plan.

Wise Bread readers, what costs shocked you as a new parent?

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Guest's picture

Much of what you listed are convenience items that are totally unnecessary. It's your choice, but know that you are choosing a more expensive way to do things.

Pre-made individual formula servings, is it really that hard to scoop and pour? You make coffee the same way, why would it be any more difficult for formula?

You can buy a good (double, electric) pump for $300. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this is now a medical device that is tax deductible or covered in full by most insurance. My insurance will provide me with a Medela Pump In Style Advanced upon the birth of my infant.

Huge extra expense for guests? Are you hosting like the whole village or something? No one visiting your home after the birth of a baby should expect four star treatment. Put them to work doing that laundry and cleaning and send them to the store for milk and bread. And send them on their way after a few days or a week at most.

Deciding on a health insurance plan after your baby is born is a little bit too late. If pregnancy is even a remote possibility, you need to investigate this well beforehand and understand what your expenses will be.

For most plans, you will hit your out of pocket maximum regardless of what type delivery you have. A 2 day uncomplicated vaginal delivery is $14k at the hospital where I will go for care. A 4 day c-section charge is about $20k. My out of pocket maximum is $4k for family. So I will hit that either way.

Guest's picture

I agree with Jessica.. There are breast feeding specialists that can help under normal circumstances and it that doesn't work.. find formula that is less expensive (powder works) and only takes moments to make. As for insurance, I don't know of many that don't have an out of pocket limit for the year. As for 'sterilization', a good washing is just fine, no need to go overboard. If my 'guests' aren't there to work, send them home. For the period of time that I was home before I returned to work, I found and used a cloth diaper service. The cost was less than disposable, better for the baby and worth the $$ and time saving as I didn't have the "helping hands" when I got home from the hospital. Babies do cost. You are bringing another person into the world and into your household but it doesn't have to be overwhelming expensive.

Andrea Karim's picture

Everyone has a different idea of what is necessary and what is not. Although we've switched to a powdered formula, our baby was definitely happier with the premixed stuff. Not sure why. She didn't have as much gas.

For us, guests come from a long way away and stay for a long time. We don't provide four-star treatment, but everyone deserves a hot shower and access to a washing machine. As I mentioned, guests DO offset the cost of hiring help.

I never said that one should look into health care after a child is born. I said that the prices are shocking. My plan, for instance, is denying all kinds of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

Guest's picture

This article was intriguing. I had no idea of all those expenses for a baby!! It is definitely best to save money before bringing another living being into the world.

Guest's picture

This is not a very uplifting article for me. My wife and I are expecting our son in a few weeks. Though I have thought of these things, I am sure many things will not go as planned (how can you really plan the birth?) and it will cost us. Thanks for passing along some quality information though, it is much appreciated.

Andrea Karim's picture

Don't mean to depress you! I'm sure you can find a way to save money on these costs - they might not even be the same for you at all!

Guest's picture

Please don't be discouraged. Hopefully breastfeeding will work for you. (Our species never would have survived this far if it was always so difficult!) It does take some effort but well worth it. Also, not all babies spit up. We were extremely lucky in that until he had a rotovirus at age 4, our son probably threw up a total of 6 times in his life. (He was nursed exclusively for the first 5 months - might or might not have anything to do with it. He just never got sick very often.)

Above all - do your best to genuinely enjoy and cherish these times when they are little. My son is now a sophomore in college and when he went back after Thanksgiving break, I really missed him this time more than before.

Good Luck! You'll do great!

Guest's picture

#1, 2, and 10 make me SO GLAD I'm Canadian...

Guest's picture

I'm the new parent of an 8 week old baby who has almost doubled his birth weight, and am surprised by how fast we're going through clothes because he's growing fast, and because he's so long (he outgrew clothes with "feet" faster just by getting longer, not necessarily chubbier). In the same vein, we're going through more formula (planned to BF, didn't happen) than we expected because he's very hungry, and we're often offering him more than he takes because his eating patterns vary so much.

I know a lot of new parents end up spending more money just having to try things out. We got lucky and the inexpensive, glass, Even-Flo bottles work perfectly ($5/3 pack), but I know others have tried all sorts of bottles before they find the right match, and the same with diapers, formula, pacifiers, etc.

I try not to stress out about spending money because you can't ask a baby to make do with formula that gives them gas because it's cheaper, or diapers that give them rashes, and so forth. My advice to other new parents is to save what money you can before the baby shows up, start with minimal a basic items, and get what you need as you go. If your baby is happy with the $5 bottles that's great, but if they need the $20 kind, then go for it. Parents need their sanity, and sanity comes from having a happy, healthy baby.

We had to tap into our savings to pay for the copay/deductible, and I had to remind myself that's exactly what I was saving for.

Oh and don't forget to preauthorize your hospital stay-we forgot and our insurance charged a fee of $250 for me and $250 for the baby. That was an unfortunate $500 mistake, and it didn't even cross our minds at the time of admittance, and no one at the hospital suggested it either.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thank you for the tips and ideas!

Guest's picture

I don't ever comment, but Andrea- was just struck by how similar your birth experience was to mine- the C-section, the lack of breast milk, and how all the things I planned for (breastfeeding) didn't happen. Our daughter also liked the pre-mixed formula better, and had tons of gas problems with the other kind. Just wanted you to know you are doing a great job, and don't let people get you down about not being able to breastfeed. I still have people to this day, tell me if I just tried harder and saw more lactation specialists, it would have worked. I tried the fenugreek and metoclopramide you mentioned, without luck-and pumped every two hours. Long story short- You are doing a wonderful job, and this was an excellent article.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thank you for the kind words! Pumping is a real bummer, isn't it? Even my pediatrician admitted that she gave up on it and just went with formula - who has so many hours in the day to begin with? ;)

Guest's picture

I am a mom of 5, with my youngest being 4 all the way up to 22. Besides medical bills, I never really thought baby's were that expensive compared to teenagers. I can give several examples of unexpected expenses that shocked me for teenagers!

As far as formula goes, 4 of mine were fine with powdered formula, but one had allergies and needed hypo-allergenic formula, at that time, (she's 20 now), you could only purchase her formula in ready-to-eat cans, ha! yes...cans, wow...anyway...they were $9 a can, and we needed 2 cans a day. The good news is, your baby will not be on formula forever, and that expense will fade away.

You are 100% correct on the receiving blankets, you can never have too many!

The wipe warmer, it's your choice, and I respect that, but what I did was just kept my children's wipes in a warm area. As unfortunate and saddening as it may be, your baby will be uncomfortable from time to time, (illness, vaccinations, etc.).

As far as hiring out goes, there's always Dad. My hubby had no problem throwing in a few loads of laundry or loading the dishwasher when he got home, and some pre-made dinners would solve the what's for dinner problem.

I bought a microwave sterilizer, and it was one of the best things I ever bought, even without it, there are many ways to sterilize bottles and nipples.

Baby's require few things, what they need is love and patience. As another commented, these are mostly convenience things, which does not shock me for a first time parent, but I think a lot of first time parents tend to over think things. It sounds like you were determined NOT to buy all new and shiny and every single thing someone said you needed, but these things made your life easier.

Anyway, isn't that what PF or being frugal is all about? Affording the things you DO want?

Guest's picture

Some doctors perform C-sections when they aren't necessary. The get paid more money for them. As long as they don't go over a certain percentage and they have some explaination for the c-section insurance companies will look the other way. And parents aren't going to question the surgury during such a stressful time. It kind of gets to be a scam.

Guest's picture

You aren't kidding about formula! I breastfed my three 7 months, 8 months, and 7 months, respectively, and bought formula until the 12 month mark. We use either Enfamil or Earth's Best or the most part, and those little boogers could easily go through $100 of formula per month! That's been the biggest shocker, in my opinion.

Guest's picture

I've never even heard of a wipe warmer before but what a cool invention. I think the number one thing new mothers and parents overlook is the hospital bill. Because there are so many other expenses to plan for getting ready to bring the baby home, sometimes its easy to forget that staying in a hospital for a couple of nights costs a good amount of money.

Andrea Karim's picture

The major bummer about our insurance plan (and there are many bummers) is that it renewed in October - right when we had our baby. As such, there's a new deductible to meet, so we're paying all kinds of money out of pocket now. If the plan had renewed in, say, April or if the baby had been born later, we probably would have already met the deductible.

Guest's picture

As a father of 2, some of the stuff here is legitimate and some of it is kind of silly in my opinion.

1, 2, 5, 6 (or) 7 are all realistic to me. Although spending 1.50 per feeding seems somewhat wasteful and silly to me. We've never used pre-measured bottles. Just powder.

As for the rest, #3 is kind of a concern, but it sounds like you went overboard. A dozen towels/blankets a day? Wipe them off and use them again. If your baby is spitting up that much, I'd say work on your burping or try a formula for sensitive tummies.

#4 makes me laugh. No one came to my house to see the baby expecting to be fed. I actually had people come with food and leave without eating any. My kind of guests.

While some items from #8 are true expenses, some are just frivolous. A wipe warmer? Yeah, that's nice and all, but absolutely not necessary.

When I read #9 all I could think of was, is there a dad or ANY family in the picture? If my wife was caring for the children, I was doing the rest. If she was doing other stuff, I was caring for the children. From time to time her mother came over and washed dishes. It's a team effort. I'm assuming, but at one point you said "our daughter" so I think it's a reasonable assumption. If the dishes are piling up, tell dad to get up off the couch and get to work.

Julie Rains's picture

Congratulations on your bundle of joy! Sorry about the extra expenses. Trying to control costs while adjusting to a major life change and existing on a few hours of sleep, all the while trying to figure out the needs of a baby is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. Bravo on writing a post that is this insightful and helpful for soon-to-be parents.

If it makes you feel any better, I had some difficulty breastfeeding after the first few weeks with my first child despite talking with a lactation consultant and reaching out to local group that helps with those sorts of things. Folks could really be more sympathetic to a new mom but they tend to think things are easier than they really are or somehow blame the mom for trying (uh, that part doesn't stop but you'll find supportive friends). Oddly, though, my oldest was not a big eater until he started playing football in high school; also it seems that milk is an allergy/asthma trigger, so his body may have been sending a message early on.

Anyway, thanks for helping others to learn from your experience.

Andrea Karim's picture

Hey, Julie, didn't even see your comment until just now.

Yeah, all the equipment that cost me so much came from a lactation consultant! They were very supportive and nice, but it didn't make the process go any smoother. I blame biology!

Guest's picture

Re: #4 - Guests are not allowed to come to the house to see The Baby unless they bring food to share with everyone.

Guest's picture

Our experience was also that guests are an expense. Putting them to work would work with maybe 1/25 visitors, truly not a viable option for us. As parents we all do what we need to do. Supporting fellow mothers and reserving judgement is valuable - and free!

Guest's picture

Why are you going through dozens of hand towels a day? I'm totally OCD, and I only had one pack of 4 that worked just fine...

Andrea Karim's picture

Because my baby spits up 20-30 times per day, and not insignificant amounts.