How much does a baby cost in the first year?
Where the money goes in baby's first year.
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There’s really no end to the amount of money you can spend on your baby in the first year. While some items are definitely on the nice-to-have list, there are some costs that simply can’t be avoided. We break down some of the big-ticket items and ways to save in baby’s first year.

Birthing costs

Government hospital

If you’re giving birth in a government hospital, your birth will be free of charge – provided that you can supply the correct documentation (ID, proof of residence, bank statement within the last three months, or legal immigrant status).

However, midwife Burgie Ireland advises that “patients bring their own pillows, towels, toiletries, pads, nappies and baby clothes.” She also suggests that you get family to bring you extra food and fluids.

Birthing centre

Some mothers elect to give birth at a private or semi-private birthing centre (for example, the Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg).

These mothers choose it primarily because it facilitates natural labour in a homely setting, with the necessary medical facilities on hand, but it also has the advantage of lower costs than a private hospital.

Private birthing centre with natural birth: R4 655 to R11 125 with an additional R1 500 for an epidural. Private birthing centre with emergency caesarean: R7 000 to R23 760, depending on the length of the stay.

Private

In a private hospital, the costs are significantly higher and although your medical aid will cover a large portion of this, you need to check exactly what your specific package covers, because they often don’t cover one hundred percent of your specialists’ fees.

Natural birth at a private hospital: Expect an average of about R13 500 to R16 600 for a three-day stay, assuming no complications. For a planned caesarean birth at a private hospital, expect to pay approximately R22 600 to R25 500 for a four-day stay. (Based on Medi-Clinic Southern Africa rates for 2015.)

Note that this is only for the hospital service – your professional fees for your gynaecologist, anaesthetist and paediatrician are over and above that cost and likely to add at least another R12 000 to R15 000 to your bill.

These costs are all based on the assumption of a delivery with no complications. It is important to note that an emergency caesarean will have higher costs.

Breastfeeding costs

At a glance, breastfeeding may seem like a cost-free option, but there can be some costs involved – breastpads, nipple cream to soothe sore nipples (essential), a breast pump if you plan to express, and a feeding pillow to make you and your baby more comfortable.

  • Breast pads: R83 – R190
  • Nipple cream: R89 – R200
  • Breast pump: R269 – R6 699
  • Feeding pillow: R183 – R195
  • High chair: When your baby transitions to solids at around six months old, you'll need a high chair to feed her. If you aren't offered a hand-me-down from a friend or family member, expect to pay between R599 and R2 300.

Check-up costs

Immunisation and primary health care for any child under five is offered free of charge if you visit a government health clinic. What it will cost you is time – government clinics work on a first-come, first served basis, so expect to queue, possibly for hours.

However, if you get your immunisations through a private baby clinic, the costs will be in the ballpark of R5 000 in the first year. Yes, you read that right. Expect to pay between R500 and R1 000 per paediatrician visit. In addition, in the first year you’ll most likely see your paediatrician for a six-week, 12-week and six-month check-up.

Baby's day out

Travel safety is one area where it pays to buy a recognised brand with decent safety ratings. An infant car seat, which your baby will use up to about 12 months (or 10 kg), often comes as part of a travel system (pram and car seat), or you can buy the pram and car seat separately.

There is a massive variation in price – do your research, decide what functionality you need and what your budget can accommodate, and then choose accordingly. It is generally more cost-effective to buy a travel system than to buy the individual components separately.

  • Pram/stroller: R699 – R11 100
  • Infant car seat: R995 – R5 595
  • Travel systems: R1 999 – R9 350

Nursery rules

The basics for a nursery include: somewhere for the baby to sleep, get changed and get clean – a cot, compactum and bath. A humidifier is a good investment and a baby monitor provides peace of mind when you’re busy doing something else.

Baby monitors range from basic noise monitoring to sophisticated video monitoring with remote access. As with all things baby, it depends on what functionality you want and what your budget allows, because the bells and whistles version comes at an equally premium price.

  • Cot: R1 399 – R10 050
  • Cot mattress: R249 – R1 500
  • Baby monitor: R599 – R 3999, depending on how sophisticated you want your monitoring to be (optional).
  • Compactum: R1 300 – R3 200 (optional)
  • Baby bath: R199 – R600
  • Bath thermometer: R55 – R65 (optional)
  • Humidifier: R229 – R4 250 (optional)

Nappy choice

Nappies are indispensable – every baby needs them, so the choice boils down to disposable or reusable. Reusable nappies are the modern version of the old-school towelling nappies, which are still available, but which are more likely to be used as burping cloths by most new moms.

The initial outlay for new generation reusable nappies (not towelling nappies) is significantly higher, and you’ll need to factor in laundry costs on multiple high-temperature loads through your washing machine. Yet over the course of your baby’s nappy-wearing career, this is the greener or environmentally friendly choice.

Read: The Great Debate: cloth vs disposable nappies

Ultimately, it comes down to the yuck factor – would you rather throw away a fully loaded nappy or make the extra effort with a reusable nappy and avoid the guilty conscience about overflowing landfills?

If you opt for reusable or towelling nappies, 15 to 24 nappies is the recommended number to have.

Disposable

  • Newborn babies: Work on 12 a day initially.
  • Older babies: Six to eight per day.
  • Wipes: Bulk is better, R90 – R100 for a bulk pack of four packs, approximately R180 – R200 per month
  • Bum cream: R27 – R199

Reusable

  • Reusable: R565 (newborn starter kit) to R1 450 (12 nappies and 3 covers)
  • Towelling nappies: R60 – R80 for four, R360 – R480 for 24
  • Waterproof covers: R90 – R320
  • Nappy liners: R176 – R455 (bulk)
  • Nappy bucket with lid: R229 – R449

Childcare costs

This is another of the big expenses. Whether you have a childminder at home or send your child to crèche, this expense will make a dent in your monthly budget.

The most cost effective option is if a willing family member (often a granny) can take care of baby while you’re at work, but this isn’t always an option – especially for parents whose families live far away.

There is a wide range of costs for a crèche or daycare, and you’ll need to look in your area at what is on offer, but expect to pay anything between R1 450 to R3 600 per month for a full-day crèche.

However, depending on where you live, you may end up paying a lot more for qualified, competent help.

Nannies (who don't live in) cost around R4 000 to R6 000+ per month, depending on area and experience. You may also want to help with transport fare and offer lunch.

Also factor in the cost of a CPR and first aid course – absolute essentials for a childminder or domestic worker in charge of an infant. Expect to pay approximately R400 to R950 for a CPR and First Aid course, depending on the duration.

*All costs mentioned in this article are estimates.

Was having a baby more expensive than you thought it would be?


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