What Having a Baby Really Costs
First published in The Brisbane Times
Question: What costs am I really up for when my baby arrives?
Liz Wilkes, Director of My Midwives, says:
Parents often comment on the cost of preparing for a baby and what they need to invest in before bub even takes its first breath. The focus often is on the ‘things’ and this becomes a very expensive exercise.
Looking at ‘who’ you need rather than ‘what’ you need can help to sort out the priorities and can be an effective way to eliminate unnecessary expense.
The first step is to sit and write down what you feel you will really need for you as parents to make the journey easier. Good investments are excellent education and support during pregnancy and in the first weeks after birth. Lots of opportunities exist to fill this void including antenatal classes which may be outside the hospital you are having your baby in, having a doula for support, taking breastfeeding classes or in some areas having the same midwife throughout your pregnancy journey. At times these support services may even be free or a very low cost through your hospital or health insurance or Medicare.
Once you have identified some support services, it is a good idea to think about the first few weeks. You will need to consider your babies food, nappies, clothes, sleep and transport. Whilst this is a long list there are key ways to cut expense and to focus on keeping it simple. When feeding your baby breastfeeding is not only the best option for health of mother and baby, it is also free. Again, preparation, through education, and support from a care provider who can assist you at home whenever you need it in the first weeks is key to success. If utensils such as breast pumps are needed look at hiring or purchasing second hand. Talk to a local midwife if you need advice about where to go.
Nappies are an expense – you will go through lots in the first weeks. Disposables are easy and vary in cost and quality. Cloths – particularly modern cloth nappies – are more expensive initially but are used over and over so can be efficient in the long term. Again, second hand or hand me downs can be useful. Compromise if you cannot handle the thought of so much washing and use cloth nappies at home and maybe disposables only when you are out or overnight. If you do want to use disposables, shop around and buy on sale and store, to save hard earned dollars.
The clothes you need depend largely on the season and where you live. A few simple singlets and jumpsuits or tops and bottoms usually suffice particularly if you are likely to receive gifts. Recycling clothes between families is a great strategy. Handing down clothes, and returning and recycling between families, friends and even communities like within schools or play groups provides an easy alternative for these periods of large growth.
Nurseries and prams are where a huge outlay can occur. With safe sleeping principles including sleeping your baby close by, in the same room, for up to six months a decorated nursery may become a thing of the past. The large outlay on bassinettes, cribs or cots may be avoided with careful consideration of what you will do and where you will sleep baby. Talk to others about what they found the best place for baby to sleep. Same with a pram. Many prams now cost as much as my first car and whilst the design and usability may appear to be technologically beneficial, there is potentially easier ways. A good infant sling will assist when shopping and on reasonably short journeys. Using a pram may be limited to longer journeys so again, sharing, borrowing, swapping and second hand can be as useful as buying something new.
The needs of a baby are simple – they need to be fed, loved and sheltered. For a very long time, the baby won’t care what clothes it is in and how fancy the items are around it. It may be exciting to splash out a little, but save this for the things that will make a difference like your care in pregnancy, birth and the post birth period, the education you receive and additional support you may require.
Liz Wilkes is a midwife and director of My Midwives. She is the media spokesperson for Midwives Australia and believe every Australian woman should have adequate support during pregnancy, birth and in the postnatal period.
Written by Liz Wilkes