Many people think that having a baby will cost a lot of money.
But babies enter the world with nothing and, once they do, need very little to survive except milk, love and security.
So by making smart choices and sensible purchases, you can minimise your costs when having a baby.
We had our first child last year and, true to our low-cost philosophy, we tried to reduce our costs during the pregnancy, delivery process and thereafter.
Here’s what we did and our tips to save money.
Use a free public health service
In Australia, like many developed countries, there are high quality public hospitals that are free for citizens.
We chose to use a birthing centre attached to a hospital that was staffed by midwives only.
We had our own midwife, who we saw regularly, and she was part of a rotating team of midwives that were on call 24/7.
During the birth, we had our own private birthing suite and were supported by two midwives.
Within four hours of the birth, we were headed home and resting in our own bed. For the following two weeks, we had midwives come and visit us at home and check on the baby almost daily.
The midwife’s consults during the pregnancy, most of the pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, the delivery itself and the follow up visits were covered by Medicare, meaning we paid almost nothing at all.
Buy only the essential items
In the beginning, babies need only milk, security and love.
So we took a minimalist approach and chose to buy, build or borrow the bare essentials, which was rounded out by the gifts we received. It’s a philosophy we still follow today.
- An AUD 140 Valco zee pram. Originally retailing for over AUD 250, we managed to find the pram on sale for AUD 160 but got a further AUD 20 off because it was the display model and had a few minor faults.
- A second-hand AUD 10 pram liner that we bought on Gumtree.
- A universal plastic rain cover for AUD 15.
- Reusable nappies. In the beginning we used disposable nappies, which we bought in bulk from Aldi. But within a month or two, we’d switched completely to reusable nappies. We used two main brands – Close Pop In and Grovia – and we’ve been so impressed with them that we’d recommend them to anyone. The upfront cost was high (around AUD 700 for 30 nappies – some new, some secondhand), but over the span of more than two years (and hopefully multiple babies) we believe we’ll definitely save money.
- 40 x reusable cloth wipes for AUD 40.
- Some bamboo swaddles for AUD 30.
- An AUD 30 bassinet, which we bought second hand from a thrift shop and later resold when we were finished with it.
- An AUD 160 car seat. All Australian baby car seats must meet the minimum safety standard, which was all we cared about, so we just picked a 0-4 years’ seat that was on sale and fit in our car.
- Two baby head snugglers for AUD 60.
- A fold-up baby change mat for AUD 15.
- A newborn baby insert for the Ergobaby carrier (AUD 35).
- An AUD 30 Bonds nursing top.
- 5 x nursing bras valued at around AUD 200. I had to try a few different brands to find the one I liked best, but my favourite was the Berlei barely there bra.
All up we spent around AUD 1,465, half of which is the cost of the reusable nappies that 18 months later we’re still using and are in great condition.
Given that some people spend AUD 1000 alone on a pram, we think we kept our costs low.
- Baby clothes. We avoided having to buy and then store baby clothes by borrowing newborn clothes from friends and family who had likewise already bought baby clothes and had them in storage.
We were given:
- An Ergobaby 360 carrier. Valued at AUD 220, this was, and continues to be, the single most useful baby item we own.
- A baby bath that was purchased for AUD 10 from a thrift shop and was later resold.
- A handmade playmat and soft toys.
- A padded baby change mat.
- Two swaddles.
- Miscellaneous items – nappy rash creams, baby shampoo and conditioner, baby socks and gloves, teething rings, beanies, booties, etc.
- Money, which we used to buy shares in our son’s name.
- A baby change table. Using old unwanted wooden bed slats that we collected from the curbside rubbish collection, my husband built a sturdy change table. We had to buy some wood from Bunnings to complete it, but it came to less than AUD 100.
We chose not to have:
- A special nappy bag. We simply repurposed a zip up satchel that we already had.
- Zip up sleeping suits. We instead used swaddles to wrap the baby up at night.
- Special baby-specific furniture. For a night light, we used small solar lights we already owned. To store his clothes and nappies, we used an old set of wire drawers that we found in my husband’s mum’s garage.
- A breast pump. Until I returned to work (which, as a contract worker, I didn’t know would be when) and had to pump milk, we decided not to bother with the hassle of it.
- A dummy/pacifier. We tried one in the beginning but he didn’t like it. Instead, he found comfort by sucking his thumb.
- Specific breastfeeding clothes. Instead of buying new nursing tops, which I struggled to find, and the ones that I did find were ugly, I made do with my existing clothes. When in public, I simply covered myself with a swaddle.
Breastfeed, if possible
There are boundless benefits to breastfeeding including it’s free (yippee; except for all the extra food that the mother eats…).
But learning how to breastfeed takes some time. I found the first few weeks to be exceptionally difficult (cracked nipples – ouch!).
With the support of my midwife and some nipple shields (Medela brand ones are fantastic), I got the hang of it soon enough and came to love it.
For those that formula feed, I know there are lots of formula brands out there, so do your research to find out the cheapest place to buy formula in bulk.
Take advantage of free resources
I found some free hypnotherapy birthing audio downloads online, which I listened to a few times a week in the lead up to the birth. And, while not free, I also bought four pre and post natal yoga audio classes from Do Yoga With Me for the low price for USD 12.
I borrowed Kaz Cooke’s brilliantly funny The Rough Guide to Pregnancy and Birth from my local GP clinic. It was one of only two pregnancy books I read and it satiated my initial desire, when I discovered I was pregnant, to know everything about having a baby.
I signed up to babycenter.com.au to receive weekly updates and tips on my pregnancy. Even today, with my son approaching 18 months old, I still receive useful updates and parenting tips (albeit monthly).
A month before the birth, I attended a free two-hour breastfeeding class that was provided by my local government health service. Run by a qualified lactation expert, the class provided insights into the highs and lows that I was to discover are part of breastfeeding.
After the birth, I attended the casual drop-in 0-10 weeks mothers’ group run by my local government health service. Facilitated by a qualified midwife, the weekly two-hour sessions provide new mothers the chance to ask questions and share their experiences.
My husband and I also attended a free sleep training workshop run by a qualified community nurse at a local government health centre.
Use your phone to capture precious moments
We chose not to get professional photos taken during my pregnancy or in the weeks and months after our son was born.
Instead we took a huge amount of candid photos on our phones and our digital SLR camera. By virtue of taking so many photos, we ended up with more than a few decent ones.
I then used the photos to create some photobooks using the Apple Photos projects tool and the Photobook Worldwide program.
If we had our time over, what would we do differently?
There’s not much that we’d do differently if we had our time over again.
One thing that wasn’t really necessary was paying around AUD 150 to attend a two-day prenatal class run by the local government health centre.
Sure it helped dispel my husband’s belief that the birth would happen quickly like in Hollywood movies, but it didn’t really provide much extra information than what we’d already read and had been told by our midwife.
Otherwise, everything else we did and own, we’ve found useful.
As our baby has gotten bigger and become a toddler, we’ve bought more stuff like a hiking backpack, some more toys and a breast pump and bottles (when I returned to work when my son was five months old).
But we continue to use many of our original newborn purchases on a daily basis – the reusable nappies, carrier, pram and car seat – and take good care of them, to ensure they’ll last for the next baby.
So with the few things we owned, we and our child survived perfectly well, and we were able to minimise our costs along the way.