The £12k cost of having a baby
Having your first child is a daunting experience, not least because of the effect it will have on your finances. If you want to know what you can expect while you're expecting, here's the Moneywise guide to the likely costs you'll incur throughout your journey to becoming a parent.
There's a huge range of tests available from chemists, supermarkets and online retailers. The cheaper sticks – including Clearblue and First Response – are priced from around £8.50 and display results as a simple cross for positive and single line for negative.
Digital tests, which display results on a screen showing a 'pregnant' or 'not pregnant', are more expensive, costing closer to £12 but they usually come in a pack of two. Shopping around will save you money: Amazon sells packs of 15 very basic paper strip tests for just £2.80 with free delivery, or check the likes of Boots for special promotions.
Scans and photos
During your pregnancy, you will have two 2D ultrasound scans provided for free as standard by the NHS at 12 and 20 weeks, with the latter scan offering to identify the gender of your baby (though not with 100% certainty). If you want to take away a photo, hospitals usually let you do so in return for a £2 donation.
Private 3D and 4D scans are also available and these can give you a much more detailed look at your baby and the ability to find out what gender it is – but prices vary significantly depending on which package you choose.
Baby Scanning, which runs clinics in Scotland, has a range of packages available with a discounted gender scan deal advertised on its website in late January for £37, but with no images supplied.
For £59, the 3D Baby Scans package includes a 15-minute appointment with a CD Rom of up to
10 still 3D scan images and two A4-sized 3D scan pictures to take home.
A lot of antenatal courses across the UK are run by the NCT charity, formerly called the National Childbirth Trust. While it offers discounts of up to 90% for low- earners, they cost a lot more for everyone else.
Prices vary, depending on where you live, which course you choose and whether you go as a couple or alone. One person going on the Essentials course (which includes six two-hour sessions with fixed content and structure) will cost from £70 to £115, or up to £190 for a couple.
The more flexible Signature antenatal course varies from 14 to 21 hours in length and can cost from £10 to £12.80 per hour, depending on where you live. Check nct.org.uk/courses/course-prices for more details.
Free antenatal courses are available from Sure Start Children's Centre, which are open to all parents. Visit gov.uk/find-sure-start-childrens-centre to find your nearest centre.
The kit you'll need
Before we get started with the shopping list, bear in mind that there is a massive range of options available and prices vary dramatically. So the products and prices given here are examples of popular brands and how much they typically cost from major retailers.
A lot of the items the NHS recommends you pack, you're likely to already have at home (such as loose-fitting clothes and toiletries). But there are a few bits you'll probably need to buy, including baby clothes (and hats), a shawl, nappies and a nursing bra. Here are some typical prices:
- Three-pack of plain white bodysuits, £5 at Mothercare
- Two-pack of 'Oatmeal Printed and Stripy Hats', £5 at Mothercare
- Shawls starting from £10, Mothercare
- Maternity/nursing bra: two-packs from £29.50 at Marks & Spencer.
Nappies are available in value packs. For example, 45 Pampers New Baby Size 1 (Newborn) Nappies cost £6.99 from Superdrug, or 15.5p each. And sign up to the Amazon Family subscription service (free) and a 74-pack falls to 12p per nappy (£8.55 a pack).
Join the club
Almost every retailer that sells baby products has clubs that parents can join in order to receive freebies, discount vouchers and product samples. Boots, for example, offers double Advantage Card points on baby products (10 points for every £1 you spend – excluding stage one formula milk), free gifts such as Johnson's baby shampoo and a changing bag.
Many clubs such as Asda's Baby & Toddler Club will keep you informed by email when the retailer holds a major baby event in store.
Tip: It's worth creating a separate email address to which you can direct all your baby club emails, to save them overloading your main inbox.
If you don't plan to breastfeed, or will be combination feeding, you will need to buy baby formula (known as stage one formula milk) – and a lot of it. The law dictates that no discounts can be offered, so while there are differences in prices between makes, there are no significant savings to be made whether you buy in store or online. You won't earn supermarket loyalty card points, either.
A 900g box of Aptamil First Infant Milk Powder costs £9.99 at most supermarkets and will last around a week, based on a baby consuming 30 ounces a day.
On leaving the hospital, you'll need a car seat. Buying secondhand really isn't a good idea as you won't know if its safety features have been compromised by an accident or previous heavy usage. It's also vital to buy a model that is compatible with your car, and to have it properly fitted.
Experts recommend the first car seat you buy should be 'a rear-facing infant carrier', which should fit your child throughout their first year until they weigh around 13kg. The Concord Air Group 0+ fared well in a review of car seats by The Independent newspaper, and can be found for £109.99 at Argos. The Graco Snugsafe also did well in the review and was noted for being a good lightweight option. It's on sale at pramcentre.co.uk for £84.99 with free delivery.
Many newer cars have Isofix car seat fittings pre-installed, which means you can look at Isofix car seats. If you do not have the fittings but still want an Isofix seat, an Isofix base will set you back £100 or so. But car seats that are solely secured by traditional seatbelts are perfectly safe.
It's also worth noting that some car seats are designed to fit into a pram chassis, so you can purchase a combination of car seat, pram and chassis that will suit your baby for walks as well as driving in the car. (There's more on prams below). And one final point about car seats; consumer group Which? publishes a list of 'best buy' car seats each year that its members can download from the website.
This list is widely considered to be the industry standard. While membership costs £10.95 a month, you can sign up for a trial for £1 to gain access to the list. Just make sure you cancel your membership at the end of the trial or you'll be charged the full monthly fee.
For the first several months of your baby's life, you may find your new arrival sharing your bedroom and sleeping in a Moses basket. These cost from £35 in Mothercare. They can be found cheaply secondhand but you must always check the strength of the handles.
Bottles and baby baths
Most of the rest of the kit you'll need revolves around feeding, changing and bathing. While formula prices are outlined above, other things you'll need for feeding include bottles and possibly a bottle steriliser.
Bottles can be very cheap. Boots sells its Standard Necked Baby Feeding Bottle – 250ml for just 18p each or a five-pack of Tommee Tippee Steri-bottle® 250ml for £4.49. Once you decide which brand to go for, it's worth noting that that range will also usually have compatible teats, sterilisers and other accessories.
As for sterilisers, there's a huge range available at prices from £12 to £60. The lower prices are for compact sets you can fit in the microwave such as the Philips Avent SCF281/02 Microwave Steam Steriliser, which cleans up to four Avent bottles or two breast pumps per time and costs around £12. At the other end of the price scale, you'll find models such as the Avent 3-in-1 Electric Steam Steriliser, which cleans teats, bottles (up to six) and pumps.
If you are on a budget, you can also buy a large sealable Tupperware box and some Milton tablets for sterilising – search online for how to do it.
Finally, there are loads of changing mats and baby baths to choose from, too, and they are largely inexpensive. They can be easily bought for less than £10 each.
Out and about
When you're on the move, you'll probably need a pram – or travel system, as they are more often known as these days. They can be very expensive – some cost more than a car!
The most expensive John Lewis sells is the iCandy Peach Blossom 3 Twin Pushchair with Chrome Chassis and Marshmallow Hood at an eye-watering £1,180.
At Mothercare, travel system prices start at £199 for the Xpedior 4 Wheel Pram & Pushchair, which includes a car seat.
New mums Abigail Haddow, who became a first-time mum in August to baby Isaac, and Simone Da Costa (see box) are big fans of John Lewis: "I'd go to John Lewis every time for a pram for its two-year guarantee and price match," says Abigail. Simone adds: "Even if you don't end up buying it there, you can test a lot of the main brands and the staff are very knowledgeable about the pros and cons of each and are happy to give advice."
A good tip when buying your first pram is to get it as close to the birth as possible. If you buy too far in advance you won't have full use of the warranty if you spot any problems when you're finally ready to get out of the house. And remember, there's a very healthy secondhand market for higher-end makes such as Bugaboo, so check websites such as Gumtree and eBay for bargains.
Of course, for most families, the greatest cost of having a baby is the loss of the mother's income. If her employer doesn't offer any more than Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), she receives 90% of her usual pay for just six weeks, followed by up to 33 weeks at the lowest of £138.18 or 90% of her average weekly earnings.
On the average female UK salary in 2014 of £23,889, total SMP over the 39-week period works out at £7,040. She would have earned £17,916 before tax had she been working normally, meaning she loses £10,876 or 60% of her gross income while on maternity leave.
After taxes, this represents a loss in take-home pay of around £7,500. As salary rises, so does the proportion lost - 65% of gross for someone earning £30,000, 70% at £40,000 and 74% at £50,000. While she may get some of her tax back once her earnings start to dip, the impact of lost earnings remains significant.
Therefore, the real cost of having a baby based on the costs stated throughout this article come to at least £12,000 for a woman on the average salary, £16,000 is she earns £30,000, rising to just under £22,500 if she earns £40,000 and just under £29,000 if she earns £50,000.