Here's how much I spent on my baby’s first year

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

“Can we afford this baby?” is one of the first questions an expectant parent will obsess over. At least it was for me. As excited as I was for our first child, anxiety quickly grew as I began to wonder: Should we move? Can we afford childcare or will it make more sense for me to stay home? What are all the things we need to buy to prepare for this child?

In the US, an average middle-income family will spend $12,000 to $13,000 on their baby’s first year of life, according to a recent report from the US Department of Agriculture. Our family spent a bit more — around $15,000 — which makes sense since families in Northeastern cities reportedly have the highest child-rearing expenses.

To get a good idea of what you can expect to shell out in your child’s first year, I’ll break down where all our pennies went.

Get ready to change diapers non-stop, around the clock

Let me give you the inside scoop on dirty diapers: Until I had my first child, I had never changed a single diaper in my life. So going through 20 to 30 diapers a day with our newborn came as a shock.

Fearing something was very wrong with our baby, I called our pediatrician in a panic and quickly learned that until the baby’s digestive system settles down – sorry to be graphic – every fart is actually a poop. And you have to change your child after every passing of gas because if you let anything sit there too long, your baby’s tender skin will have to endure a painful diaper rash for days.

In that first year alone, we went through 4,800 diapers! It sounds outrageous, but it’s actually the average amount; most babies go through 8,000 diapers from birth to being potty-trained, as reported by DiaperDecisions.com. For us, the total cost for one year of diapers and wipes came to $1,300.

Big-ticket baby items you’ll need

Yes, you’re giving birth to a VIP baby, but there’s no need to buy a crib fit for “MTV Cribs.” Remember, retailers know how easy it is to play on your emotions when shopping for your precious new one, and all the cribs on display inside a store will be a lot fancier than what you really need. So it’s best to leave the store behind and find a better deal online.

Instead of tucking my child into a brand-name bed, I went for a modest one on sale and tucked some money away for his college education. We bought this crib from Walmart for $179; it has storage underneath, offers adjustable heights for the mattress, and transitions into a toddler crib, too. (The price has since gone up to $250.)

Stroller prices can also range quite a bit — from hundreds to thousands of dollars. But I ended up spending $242 for a Graco carrier that also doubles as a carseat. For safety reasons, you should always get a brand new car seat. The model for the car seat carrier I bought has been discontinued but there are plenty of similarly priced “Snap n Go” carriers you can buy.

High chairs, on the other hand, are fine to buy used. The one I really wanted from Stokke costs $250, but there was no way I was paying full price so I found one on Craigslist for $50. This one’s great because even adults can sit in it comfortably. In fact, I liked it so much, I bought another one used. (Yes, I sit in my kid’s high chair as I feed him. And no, it’s not weird.)

The only other piece of furniture we paid for ourselves was for extra storage. For $200, we got these Ikea shelves, added baskets and doors.

Items from our baby registry

With babies, come blessings… and a lot of gifts. We hardly had to buy any clothes and our wonderful friends and family took care of about 20 other things we had on our baby registry (listed below). If we had to buy all this ourselves, it would’ve cost us another $1,150.

Feeding your child

The easiest way to save money on baby food, of course, is to go the natural route and breastfeed. But if you’re like me, and your first foray into breastfeeding is worse than giving birth, then give yourself a break and supplement with formula. We spent $400 on bottles, formula and breast-pads. Your insurance should cover the cost of a breast pump, but if it doesn’t, expect to shell out $200 to $500 for the pump and its parts. After your child is 6 months old, you can start feeding him or her baby food. We made our own baby purees to keep costs down and spent about $200 for the second half of the year.

I also set aside $500 for miscellaneous trips to the drugstore for medications, thermometers, emergency supplies – and a bottle of wine or two for those countless sleep-deprived nights.

The shocking cost of childcare

The last and biggest expense will really make you wanna drink. After going back and forth between the decision to go with a nanny vs. daycare, we ended up placing our son in a full-time daycare when he was 6 months old so that I could go back to work. At $2,000 a month for 6 months, we spent a total of $12,000. Compared to much more expensive options in our neighborhood, we found this to be the best choice for our family.

So after spending fifteen grand of our own money, and getting about $1,200 from friends and families in gifts, these little monsters are expensive! Was it worth it? Absolutely.

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