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6 Min Read | April 1, 2022

The Real Cost of Having a Baby

Bottom line, it’s all relative: There’s no upper or lower income limit for having a baby, and the cost of child-rearing generally tracks with your income.

The Real Cost of Having a Baby


The actual cost of having a baby can depend on a number of factors, including location, income, and level of health insurance.

Expenses can include medical care, baby gear, childcare, and beyond.

As long as you match your needs to your financial situation, baby costs don’t have to be stressful.

Having a baby can generate a kind of happiness that’s unparalleled by most other human experience. The depth of this delight is part of human instinct – a rush of hormones is released, and parents’ brains are, in essence, remodeled to bond with and care for their newborn with levels of devotion they may never have known were possible. It’s no wonder a newborn baby is often called “a bundle of joy.” 


Yet, like many of life’s major milestones, having a baby also has an impact on your budget. From prenatal expenses to the cost of giving birth and growing up, the real cost of having a baby can be higher than you might expect. And it can vary greatly depending on factors like location and health insurance. Knowing what costs to expect along the way can help make the special transition to parenthood a bit easier on you and your wallet.

The Cost of Having a Baby: Getting Ready

The real cost of having a baby starts adding up months before your baby is born, with things like prenatal care, baby gear, and nursery preparation. Fortunately, many of these are one-time expenses, and how much you’ll actually end up paying will depend largely on your location, your level of health insurance, your needs, and your wants. Here are some of the potential costs you may have to consider in the months leading up to your baby’s due date. 


Prenatal care includes things like regular medical check-ups to ensure and promote a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.1 Depending on your health insurance plan, many of these costs will be covered in part or in full. In addition to routine doctor visits, prenatal care expenses might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Ultrasounds: Can cost as much as $1,500 or more without insurance, depending on the type of ultrasound conducted.2      
  • Amniocentesis: Can cost as much as $9,000 or more without insurance.3      
  • Childbirth education classes: Prices range based on type and location. A six-week Lamaze course in New York City, for example, might cost as much as $450 without insurance reimbursement.4

Baby gear necessities include everything you’ll want to have ready for when your newborn enters the world. Many of these are one-time purchases, but prices will depend on what you want. For example, are you looking for secondhand goods to reduce your costs – and environmental impact – or do you want the latest hi-tech stroller to wheel your newborn around in style? Aside from things like clothes, bibs, and blankets, here are a few basic necessities to consider, with cost ranges provided by a national baby goods retailer:5   

  • Infant car seat ($90–$500).
  • Bassinet or crib ($50–$650).
  • Stroller ($100–$1,500+).
  • Baby carrier ($25–$300+).
  • Diaper bag ($25–$200+).
  • Diapers (about $25 for a box of 80 disposable diapers, $17 for a pack of 10 flat fold cloth diapers).
  • Bottles ($5+ for a single plastic bottle, $43+ for a starter set).

Depending on what you want for your newborn, other pre-birth expenses might include things like babyproofing your home, nursery furnishings and decorations, and maybe even getting a new apartment or home if you’re expecting twins, triplets – or more!

The Cost of Having a Baby: Giving Birth

When it comes to the actual cost of giving birth, labor-and-delivery bills can vary considerably based on location, method of delivery, and level of health insurance. It’s also important to note that what the hospital charges is often not what you pay – what you actually pay will depend on your health insurance plan (if you have one) and whether or not you’re going in or out of your provider’s network. Here are the approximate average costs of common delivery procedures in different parts of the country, as of 2019:6 

  • Vaginal delivery without complications, uninsured: costs $17,000 in California, $14,000 in New York, $7,000 in Utah.
  • Vaginal delivery with complications, uninsured: $20,500 in California, $16,500 in New York, $10,000 in Utah.
  • C-section without complications, uninsured: $30,500 in California, $20,000 in New York, $14,000 in Utah.
  • C-section with complications, uninsured: $38,000 in California, $23,500 in New York, $15,000 in Utah.

If you have a health insurance plan with low deductibles, you’ll likely pay a fraction of those costs yourself. Websites like FAIR Health, an independent non-profit organization that tracks medical costs in the U.S., can give you estimates of what you might pay with and without insurance, by ZIP Code.7 


It’s also important to consider maternity and paternity leave. Though some companies might offer paid maternity/paternity leave, U.S. employers are legally mandated only to give their employees 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. If your employer doesn’t offer paid leave, you might want to consider building up a savings account with enough money to get you through those first three months without a paycheck.

The Cost of Having a Baby: Growing Up

After your baby is born, prepare for the potential costs of raising a child. From the day they’re born to the day they leave for college, expenses might include:

  • Childcare.      
  • Clothes.  
  • Food.      
  • Hobbies and after school activities.      
  • Entertainment.      
  • Increased utility costs.     
  • Adding another person to insurance plans.

For a middle-income family with two-children, the total cost per child comes out to an estimated average of $233,610, according to a USDA report published in early 2017.8 But that was in 2015 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that figure rises to $272,910 as of December 2021.

Average Cost to Raise a Baby to 18 Years Old9

Household Income (before tax) < $69,100

$69,100 -


> $125,500
Average Annual Cost $10,900-$11,660 $14,430-$16,240 $22,640-$27,310
Estimated Total Cost $204,080 $272,910 $434,830

But your real cost also varies by


Urban Northeast $239,300 $308,520 $476,040
Urban West $217,610 $286,750 $453,050
Urban Midwest $198,510 $265,650 $424,070
Urban South $204,780 $271,090 $427,990
Rural Areas $170,920 $225,490 $327,200

For raising one child in a two-child, married couple family. Annual expenditures vary by age.

Note that the USDA averages shown in the accompanying table exclude prenatal care, childbirth, and college costs. These amounts might seem like a lot, but remember: they’re not all-at-once expenses. Costs will crop up over time for 18 years, averaging out to an estimated $14,430-$16,240 a year, depending on the child’s age.  


And, if it’s not already evident, what you’ll really end up paying will vary considerably based on factors like household income level, location, and family size. In particular, the USDA report noted:     

  • The higher the household income, the more money parents spend on raising a child.     
  • The average cost of raising a child is 27% lower in rural areas than the urban Northeast (for example).
  • And cost drops the more kids you have: The USDA averages zero-in on the typical two-child family, but the report notes that average costs per child are 27% higher for families with only one child and 24% lower for families with three or more.

Two Common Baby Cost Questions

There are two questions prospective parents seem to ask often, neither of which have simple, clear-cut answers:

  • How much should you have saved before having a baby? There’s no set answer, since the actual cost of having a baby is highly dependent on your health insurance plan, your location, and your lifestyle. To figure out how much money you need before having a baby, consider your financial situation and your goals. For example, if you don’t have health insurance or have a high deductible, try to budget and build up whatever savings you’ll need to cover your prenatal and labor-and-delivery expenses.
  • How much should you make to afford having a baby? There’s no set salary level below which you can’t afford a baby. After all, humans have been having babies long before the word “salary” was first used to refer to a Roman soldier’s allowance for buying salt! Instead of thinking how much you need to make to afford having a baby, work on learning how to budget your income to make it happen.

The Takeaway

From bun in the oven to bundle of joy and beyond, having and raising a child can be an extraordinary – but expensive – experience. Still, it doesn’t have to be financially stressful. Learning what expenses to expect can help you make sure you and your family’s unique needs are met – without putting too much strain on your budget.

Megan Doyle

Megan Doyle is a business technology writer and researcher whose work focuses on financial services and cross-cultural diversity and inclusion.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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