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10 surprising newborn costs

A cesarean section was just the start of expenses she hadn't expected or had underestimated before the baby arrived.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 7, 2013 12:54PM

This post comes from Andrea Karim at partner blog Wise Bread.


Wise Bread logoWhen 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.


Image: Baby (© Elisa Cicinelli/Brand X Pictures/Jupiterimages)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 cesarean section at 3 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 plan on a natural delivery and ended up with something else. Although insurance may cover most of the cost of your pain medications, be prepared to pay a co-pay for whatever prescription your doctor sends you home with. If you are suffering from postpartum 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, more or less on a whim, a couple of weeks before giving birth, suspecting that they might come in handy. After her birth, 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 for 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 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 grocery bills can easily double. This increased cost may be offset by a savings in child care because 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.


Oh, and sterilizing bottles and bottle 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 equipment

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 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, nipple 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 unable 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.


We bought diapers and wipes and receiving blankets, but we turned up our nose 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 about $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 7 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 baby sitter 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 health care 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 employers (or, if self-employed, shop around) to see what kind of coverage both parents have before deciding on a plan.


Readers, what costs shocked you as a new parent?


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Jan 12, 2013 12:56PM

Consider also the possibility of multiples (twins or more) and an unusually difficult pregnancy. Most ultrasounds for multiples are billed per baby. For example, double for twins, triple for triplets, (and so on) as the price for a single baby. In a high-risk pregnancy, as mine was, I was seeing my OB once a week for months before my twins were born, and the last week and a half I was being seen every day. At each of those appointments an ultrasound was done at a cost of $700 per ultrasound (this didn't include the cost of the office visit or meds). 


My fraternal twin boys were born 10 weeks early and were passed straight into the NICU. The largest of the two, weighing 3lbs 7oz, is now home after 9 1/2 weeks there, but my littlest son, born at 1lb 14oz, is still there after 11 weeks and has a bit of a stay yet to go. They were born via emergency C-Section, and the cost of delivery for just one of them was well over $163,000.


Most pregnancies are fairly routine and have wonderful outcomes with mom and baby getting to go home together, but sometimes there are severe complications and the bills for expert and emergency care can skyrocket. In these cases, there is really no way to prepare, and you are forced to rely on state and government programs for help. Even then, many families will not qualify because their income may be just over the maximum limit, forcing them into bankruptcy instead.


I wanted a normal pregnancy, a normal birth and to take my boys home with me when I was discharged  from the hospital. I had absolutely no control over how things actually played out, but despite the challenges, I am grateful for the expertise of the doctors and nurses that saved my babies' lives and made it possible for them to survive. And someday, hopefully soon, they will both be home with me.

Jan 12, 2013 12:35PM
The cost of the epidural shocked me!  I have health insurance but did not have maternity coverage.  (At age 43, it was not something I considered.)  When I received the bill for $3000, I wondered whether I would have chosen a natural birth if they had told me the cost at the time.
Jan 7, 2013 2:23PM

Hochmans video is very helpful.

What about the debate between disposable diapers and diaper service? What are the economics?

Jan 7, 2013 4:43PM
Don't forget the cost of the baby daddy leaving
Jan 23, 2013 11:21AM
These are not real expenses. I've had 3 babies and one on the way and none of these made up expenses even showed up on the horizon. Don't make up things just to have something to write about. Maybe if you weren't so busy lying you would have noticed that nobody needs childcare in the first month or two that you have a newborn and your family is coming by in droves because you are on maternity leave, for instance.
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