It’s always been said that having kids is expensive. But for most parents, the expenses actually start when the mom is still pregnant!
With all the things a family needs to welcome a baby with the least amount of stress and worry, it can be pretty daunting to start shopping for a new arrival. And the thing is, a lot of baby products are crazy expensive.
From the must-have swings that rock themselves to fancy baby monitors that cost more than mom’s iPhone, there’s a whole lot of stuff on the market that parents want for their babies. And while not every item is necessarily a “need,” most new parents have a wish-list that’s fairly extensive.
A crib might be a necessity, but so is a place for tiny newborns to sleep that’s close to mom and dad. And a baby monitor might be an indulgence, but if it helps parents get better sleep and keep the baby safe, who’s to judge?
Fortunately, even the most high-cost items can become a bit more attainable. Having kids is expensive, sure, but there are also plenty of genius hacks to help out. Here are 20 of the most expensive items families buy during pregnancy, along with 20 ways to help parents save on the bottom line.
20 Those Prenatal Vitamins
It’s usually the first thing women think of when they find out they’re pregnant: where are my vitamins?! We’ve had it drilled into our heads that prenatal vitamins are the first step toward a healthy pregnancy, so they’re usually a must-have. Except, they’re also ridiculously expensive, especially if you want a whole-food blend or something with a natural source of folate (while folic acid is different, and an issue for families with the MTHFR gene).
But one way moms can save money on their vitamins is by asking their doctor for a script. This way, insurance might cover part of the cost so parents don’t have to fork over loads of cash.
19 Cute Maternity Clothes
Ah, maternity clothes. One of the most fun and yet most expensive parts of being pregnant. There are so many adorable maternity looks out there, but your bank account will start squealing after the first fitting. The thing is, it’s hard not to buy some kind of maternity wear — most of your clothes won’t fit anymore after around the fifth month of pregnancy.
But instead of buying boutique maternity clothes or picking hand-me-downs, consider buying non-maternity clothes in larger sizes. Think of things like stretchy dresses, comfy leggings, elastic-waist pants or jeggings, and anything else that speaks to your need for comfort.
18 That First Car Seat
Car seats are a key safety component, so we definitely don’t want to scrimp here. Plus, it’s not considered safe to take a hand-me-down seat from someone since you can’t guarantee it’s still in good non-expired condition or hasn’t been in an accident.
But one way to save money over time on your kiddo’s car seat is to skip the infant “bucket” seat with the handle. Instead of shelling out $100 or more for an infant seat that may only last nine months or so (some up to one year), consider a convertible seat from birth for about the same price. Most newborns fit in convertible seats (many have infant inserts), and you can use them until your kiddo needs an upgrade again around age six or so.
17 The All-Essential Swing
Many parents consider swings to be a non-essential piece of baby equipment. To those parents, we suggest you come see us after your one-month-old has screamed through the night unless you’re physically rocking them every single second.
For the rest of us, baby swings are lifesavers, but the nice ones are also really expensive. There aren’t exactly any life-changing hacks for this one: just ask friends and family for a swing they’re not using. Let’s be honest—these swings have a short lifespan—less than a year—so most families use them for a short time and pass them on (or put them in storage).
16 Baby’s First Bed…
Although many parents choose a crib for their nursery, it’s not always the baby’s first bed. Instead, parents usually pick a bassinet, basket, or co-sleeper for their baby’s first few months. And it’s true, these newborn-specific beds are totally adorable and snuggly. But that’s the problem: they’re usually for newborns, not babies beyond four months or so of age.
So the solution here is simple: skip the fancy beds and just go with a Pack ‘n Play model to save money. Many Pack ‘n Play beds have a co-sleeper or infant bassinet feature, and once the baby outgrows that (it happens faster than you think!), you can keep using the crib part for other purposes.
15 … And The Second Bed
Cribs are usually the focal point of the nursery, and it makes sense. But for the first few months, most parents don’t really need a crib. Even if the baby sleeps in their own room from the start, a Pack ‘n Play is a great budget solution. To get a decent crib, though, you’ll have to shell out some cash.
One way to reduce the expense is by searching for hand-me-downs, but there are also programs that offer new parents cribs for their babies. In my area, there’s a pregnancy help agency that hand-delivers new cribs to parents who can’t afford them. If you need that kind of help, it’s usually just a matter of tracking it down local to you!
14 An Entire Layette
Every single pregnant woman on the planet can’t resist those tiny little outfits and cute little details when it comes to the baby’s wardrobe. But the truth is, it gets expensive fast. And as a mom of two children who have long since outgrown their baby clothes, I can guarantee you that thanks to well-meaning gifts from family and friends, your child will never want any clothing item until they’re at least two.
So if you wait until after your baby shower, you’ll likely have a full layette already created. If not, you can always return things you don’t necessarily need in exchange for clothing. On that same note, you can also exchange any clothing items you don’t like — or you can trade up to the next size so that you’re set in advance.
13 Piles Upon Piles Of Diapers
Diapers are expensive no matter how you look at it. Disposable diapers come with a hefty price tag because we have to use so many, which is why diapers are always top on expectant mamas’ baby registries. Even with cloth diapers, there’s a high up-front cost that then lasts you for years and multiple babies. But unless you’re doing old-fashioned flat or fold diapers with covers, today’s cloths aren’t cheap, either.
Of course, you can always ask for diapers at your baby shower, but make sure to ask attendees to not all buy the same size. If you work it right, you could have at least a few months’ worth of diapers stockpiled for each stage.
12 Baby’s Sweet Ride
Thanks to today’s celebrity moms, high-end luxury strollers are all the rage. But honestly? A stroller that is comfortable and safe is really the only priority, and that’s nearly any stroller on the market. The key for a pregnant mama is usually picking something that can accommodate a newborn, which means the ability to recline the stroller completely or click-in an infant car seat.
To that end, look for an inexpensive stroller that can convert later, or even just a cheaper base for the infant car seat to snap onto if you go that route. Otherwise, a stroller with optional seating arrangements can enable you to purchase other pieces later to convert it, so the basic model might work for now!
11 A High-Quality (And Comfy) Carrier
If you take the money-saving tip about skipping the infant car seat, you’re losing out on a bit of convenience. But as a mom of two who’s never had an infant car seat with a handle, I can guarantee that you don’t truly need it. Instead of carting my kiddos in their car seats, I always used some version of baby carrier wrap to hold them close.
There are tons of amazing and inexpensive carriers online, and even the big-name baby carrier companies run promotions throughout the year. The only limit is a safety suggestion: steer clear of pouch-type carriers that don’t keep your baby upright and against your chest — they’re not considered safe for newborns, or really any baby.
10 A Hospital-Grade Pump
For most moms who plan to breastfeed, a pump is not necessarily a requirement. But for many moms, peace of mind is part of mothering, so having a pump on hand to help their supply is helpful. But if you’re going to pump, you want a high-end model that’s going to work nearly as well as the baby nursing would.
To get a pump, most moms just need to have their doctor write a script, since insurance in the US is required to issue moms a pump. But you may also be able to borrow a hospital-grade pump (one that’s safe for sharing if you have your own “kit” to use with it) from WIC programs or your local hospital.
9 Milk Storage Accessories
As cool as the above bottles are—they’re Kiinde Twist bottles—they’re also kind of expensive. The Kiinde system is one that moms can pump directly into and then feed their babies from. The drawbacks are the price tag and the amount of waste they generate. If you want to store your milk in the fridge or freezer, you can always opt for cheaper milk storage bags. Although they’re just as wasteful, at least they’re more budget-friendly!
An alternative, however, is to use what you already have to store milk. Clean mason jars, existing baby bottles, or any other glass or stainless steel “vessel” can safely and neatly store milk. At least at first, you shouldn’t stress over storing a whole lot of milk anyway —the baby should be eating it!
8 Feeding Bottles (Times Ten)
Whether you nurse and express milk or bottle feed formula, you’re going to need baby bottles — and a lot of them. Trust me, it’s no fun washing the same four or five bottles what feels like a hundred times per day, every day, while your hungry baby waits impatiently.
But buying lots of bottles before the baby even arrives isn’t a smart call. After all, some babies—especially nursing babies—are super picky about their bottles. Buy a minimum amount of bottles—one or two—and wait until you can feed the baby and see how it goes before buying a hundred of one type!
7 The Changing Table
I get that changing tables are adorable and are a huge part of the nursery décor, but I’ve never had one. And it’s mainly the idea of paying for a piece of furniture that I’ll never use as my kid grows that gets me. So why not grab a changing table pad and add it to the top of an existing dresser? You can even go all out and paint the dresser and whatnot if you’re feeling like nesting.
The main thing is keeping the baby safe — don’t turn your back while they’re on the changing table and try to secure the changing pad to the surface of the dresser if you can. And once they’re too big or wiggly for a changing table, scrap the pad and keep using the dresser.
6 Formula Prep
If you know you won’t be nursing your baby from day one, you might already know how expensive formula can be. Even the least expensive formulas (depending on where you’re located, this varies) can cost a lot, and parents understandably don’t want to scrimp when it comes to allergies or a desire for organic formula.
And while WIC provides many moms with formula, there are often limitations as to what you can get without a doctor’s note. So, in general, I suggest asking for a script from your doctor, whether you’re taking it to WIC or trying to get insurance to cover the cost of a specialized formula.
5 Portable Pack ‘N’ Play
A Pack ‘n Play was recommended earlier on as a cheaper alternative to a standalone crib or bassinet. However, any Pack ‘n Play can get pretty expensive, especially the ones with added features like changing tables or toys. If you can find one for a decent price, however, with the features you want, it becomes a total money-saver.
Not only can you use a good-sized Pack ‘n Play for a baby up to around age two, but it’s portable, versatile, and can be reused for multiple children if you take decent care of it. So even if you wind up paying $100 for a Pack ‘n Play, if you’re not buying a crib or bassinet yet, that could mean you save some money, at least in the short-term.
4 A Cozy Rocking Chair
When I was pregnant with my first child, I wanted a glider so badly! It was sort of ingrained in me that having a rocking chair or glider for the nursery would guarantee many snuggly moments with my newborn. But in truth, I never enjoyed rocking my baby in a rocking chair with hard arms and no space to lean back comfortably.
These days, there are plenty of “rocker” options that aren’t “nursery gliders” priced at hundreds of dollars. Consider a rocker-recliner instead, or something seriously multi-purpose like the rocker pictured above. Think cozy and comfy for the whole family, not just you as a pregnant mama enjoying the nursery décor.
3 The Best Baby Monitor
Lots of new parents obsess over the baby monitor. To many, it’s like the epitome of safety for the baby. The thing is, if your baby is generally healthy and has a safe sleep space free of blankets and other items, a fancy monitor shouldn’t be necessary.
It’s tempting to get a heart rate monitor bootie or other types of fancy “smart” baby monitors, but a simple video screen or even an audio system is enough to alert you if the baby is awake or crying. And if your home is small, or the baby is rooming with you, then a monitor might not be necessary at all.
2 A Diaper Pail
Lots of parents don’t bother with a diaper pail, but others feel like they’re a necessity. And I actually think diaper pails are a great idea—whether you use disposable or cloth diapers—because no one wants to smell that, especially not in the kitchen. And while a diaper pail with fancy bags and automated features can be expensive up-front, there are hacks to save cash.
For example, there are tutorials online about how to use regular trash bags (or reusable wet bags for cloth diapers) with a store-bought Diaper Genie or another pail. So instead of paying a ton of cash for diaper genie refills, you can DIY and save money.
1 Doctor Visit Co-Pays
Your doctor’s visit copays are one of the least exciting baby items that you’ve got to shell out cash for. And these days, it’s not exactly up to us how much we invest in our healthcare. But to save a bit of money on insurance expenses, do some research the minute you find out you’re expecting.
If you go with a certain in-network provider, your insurance might cover more of the office visit and delivery expenses than if you go out of network. You can also avoid extra visits if possible—even things like non-stress tests aren’t always medically necessary or helpful, depending on the scenario—and you can ask about tests up-front before accepting them and then getting surprised by a bill later.