Nothing prepares you for motherhood, be it mentally or financially. Sure, there are countless parenting resources, online forums and social media pages that supposedly tell you everything that year one will bring. Experts espouse the savings to be had by switching to generic diapers, breastfeeding and consignment shops. Some even give you the exact amount of diapers will cost you in the first year.
The truth is, those estimates are just that — and they are based off a norm. Ask any mom and she’ll tell you that her child is anything but typical. That would certainly be true in my case.
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Breastfeeding Isn’t Free
Take breastfeeding, for starters. It’s supposed to be the cheapest and healthiest way to feed your newborn. But what new moms quickly find out, myself included, is that it’s not as simple as an endless supply of free breast milk. For lots of moms, breastfeeding on demand isn’t an option. Breast pumps are the means to do so but they’re not cheap. Renting a high-powered pump can cost as much as $80 per month, without including tools or containers in that price. And if you’re buying, good quality ones cost no less than $200, supplies not included.
Having gone the hospital-grade pump route myself, I paid a total of $1,050 in breastfeeding alone for the first year, paying $80 each month, then an additional $90 in part replacements. I chose to forego the rental with my second child, but still ended up paying $40 for a wrap for breastfeeding.
Then there are the solids that babies start eating around six months old. Ask most moms and you’ll find they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on trial and error, testing different foods to get baby to eat. Caught up in the excitement of feeding my daughter “real food” for the first time, I stocked up on every fruit and vegetable on the market only to see my little darling balk at eating anything green.
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Diapers Can Set You Back
Feeding isn’t the only cost that was higher than expected. Keeping my child in clean diapers cost a fortune, something I wasn’t prepared for. In the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, changing diapers at least twelve times a day was normal. That number slowly dissipated but six diapers a day was still average, which doesn’t take into account swim diapers in the summer.
With a pool at home, it was a given that my child would swim. But every dip required a new swim diaper, more pricey than the regular variety, ratcheting up the total cost. With a case of 100-count diapers going for around $25 and with about 2,400 dirty diapers in the first twelve months, keeping my daughter dry and clean cost me around $600. That’s also not counting diaper creams to fight rashes. There are definite cost-saving benefits of generic diapers but they don’t work for every baby. They’ve also been found to fall apart more easily.
Small Things Add Up
As a first-time mom, there are a lot of things you don’t know your baby needs until something happens. Take colors, for example. Who knew red, black and white are the only ones an infant sees? And who knew you should have a lot of those colors to help your child? None of my baby books told me that. But when my pediatrician clued me in, it prompted the normal response of any new parent: panic. Would my daughter be at a disadvantage? Would all the other babies see better than her? I was worried. It also prompted a trip to the baby store to stock up on everything red, black and white. So much for the brightly colored and expensive play mat, I painstakingly chose for my newborn daughter.
But it’s not just the play mat that ended up costing more. Many parents, myself included, want to give their babies the best shot at a healthy and happy life, and will spend more than they’ve budgeted to achieve that. That means purchasing the toys the child showed even the slightest interest in at a playdate or spending a fortune on Mommy and Me classes. A music class can set you back several hundred dollars alone. Add other classes and toys to the mix, and your baby’s entertainment budget can easily hit the thousands of dollars range. And that’s even before they start walking.
Having a child comes with a lot of unknowns, both mental and financial. It can stress your marriage, age you, and otherwise create fear and worry. But it’s all worth it. Nothing has been more life-altering and rewarding than being a mother, even if it wreaked havoc on my bank account.
Britney Hammond is a mom of three, who’s gone through all the stages of fear and panic that come with the adventure of being a first-time mom, facilitating the arrival of a second sibling and supporting the adjustment to a third sibling’s presence in her family home. It’s with a lot of love and some funny and frustrating stories that she’s come to share her adventures into parenthood.
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