6-Month Baby Costs Update: Formula, Diapers, and Daycare

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A few readers asked for a baby update, and the 6-month-old mark felt like a good time. At this point, she is kinda-sorta sleeping through the night, kinda-sorta eating solid food, kinda-sorta becoming mobile, and 100% awesome! When people ask me how I’m doing these days, I paraphrase a quote attributed to Tina Fey:

I’ve never been so tired. I’ve never been so happy.

Before I go any further, let me say that parenting is a guilt-ridden minefield of books and experts saying “you should ALWAYS do THIS and not THAT”. But really, I feel like the longer I am a parent the less I judge others. What works for me may not work for you. What works for you may not work for me. Most of us are sleep-deprived and just trying to get through the day.

Baby gifts as risk-pooling. I haven’t really written about frugality and parenthood, and I blame it all on my generous and fantastic set of family, friends, and co-workers. I have never received such a large quantity of gifts in a such a short period of time. This gifting custom turns out to be a very clever form of “baby cost risk-pooling”. When a friend has a baby, you get them a gift, spaced out over decades. When you have a baby, 100 people give you a gift. We really didn’t have to buy very many things on our own, and still have a huge pile of unopened clothing and toys to this day. (Also see baby registry review and follow-up.)

Formula & Breastfeeding. Mrs. MMB was very determined and motivated to exclusively breastfeed our child, and she succeeded. I emphasis her, because if it were up to me, we’d probably at least supplement with formula since waking up every 3 hours for months in a row would have broken me. Both of us were primarily formula babies. The hospital was helpful in giving us lactation consultations.

Recent healthcare law changes now require insurance plans to provide a free breast pump for every new child. I don’t know about now, but this led to shortages in our area. We had to wait in line at a Target before it opened as if it was Black Friday, but half an hour later we walked out with a nearly $300 Medela pump for free. Pumping at work has been difficult at times, but with some effort she has obtained a private pumping area.

As a result, I really have no input on formula brands or related cost-saving tips. The formula companies did shower us with sample containers via baby fairs, our pediatrician, and the hospital. We still get coupons in the mail every week, as if to say “ready to give up yet??” From my limited research, formula can cost anywhere from $50 to $150 a month.

Diapers. Pre-birth, we were semi-motivated to use cloth diapers. My parents used cloth diapers, and so it wasn’t weird or foreign to me. Besides, it was both cheaper and environmentally friendly, right? While we were still pondering old-school cloth vs. new-fangled hybrid-insert diapers, we had two baby showers (family and work) and thus two diaper cakes. Diaper cakes? Yes, a large cake made of disposable diapers. On top of that, we proceeded to get multiple mega-cases of Huggies and Pampers as gifts.

Imagine the baby formula samples, but worse. We were presented with hundreds of dollars of free diapers that we couldn’t just ignore, so we used them. I’m afraid we may be addicted now. After trying out a few different brands – Huggies Snug & Dry, Huggies Little Snugglers, Pampers Swaddles, Pampers Baby Dry, Target Up & Up, our favorite so far is Huggies Little Snugglers with the pee indicator and the best fit. But we use whatever we have, and still have some free diapers left!

I suggest that if you want to go cloth, you should decide early and tell all your friends. In the beginning, you’ll go through so many diapers and many of them will be barely wet so that cloth shouldn’t be that much trouble. But once you transition to solid foods, the poop gets much bigger, stinkier, and… stickier, so that if you’re not already used to cloth then it would be much harder to switch.

As for buying disposable diapers, we did buy a couple of packages from Amazon Mom which delivered them to our door without having to do a Costco run, all with free shipping and no sales tax in many states. (Amazon also owns the very similar Diapers.com now.) A good price for diapers is about 20 cents each.

Childcare. Probably the biggest potential baby expense is childcare, at roughly $1,000 and up per month for full-time daycare. We know folks who have done everything along the spectrum. One family hired a full-time live-in nanny from the Philippines (1:1 ratio). A couple of families did a nanny-share during the day (1 nanny: 2 kids ratio). Many use traditional daycare, which usually has a ratio of 1 caregiver:4 babies.

We wanted to avoid daycare at this age, partially because we didn’t know of any caregivers we really trusted, and I think a 1:4 ratio makes it pretty tough for anyone to maintain a high level of infant care. Therefore, we did a combination of cutting back hours, working from home, and enlisting grandparents for part-time help. We have a big extended family, and even our nephews and nieces help out at times. This wasn’t a financially-motivated decision as we would have easily made more money by just paying for daycare and maintaining full-time salaries. However, I fully acknowledge that this isn’t possible for everyone. I love being able to spend so much time with my baby girl.

Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys. I’ll save all gear-related reviews and recommendations for another post.

My overall advice for expectant parents is to do whatever research and action you can before the baby arrives. If you want to breastfeed, learn and read all you can about potential problems and issues. If you want to cloth diaper, take any classes and/or buy your supplies early to practice. Interview and research various daycare options now. When the baby comes, you’ll be overwhelmed and too busy finding time to take a shower. Unless you’re prepared, it will very difficult not to simply choose the easiest (and usually more expensive!) option.

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  1. I have been lucky with daycare and only pay $20 per day. With help from my parents and my wife and I having different days off, we spent less than $1.000 over a whole year. About $660 and about $200 to my neighbor. All of this was pai the through my personal corporation child care deduction, Bo 10 on my w-2 so it was pretax.

    We have been successful with clothe diapers over a whole year. We have a total of about 32 diapers. We did have a dryer go out and have to buy a need washer dryer. I think it would have lasted an extra tear without all the extra laundry. At nighttime we struggled with leaking until with found bedtime diapers. They are about .50 each or less but has save us and extra day between diaper washing and less time chaning wet sheets. Just diapers only. We spent about $20 each for the diapers $640 and maybe $45 for bedtime diapers.

    My family members shower our baby with gifts, we mainly just buy clothes. We do a good job buying at resale shops and thrift stores. My wife is a thrift store ninja, plus I like going to Once upon a Child, a national baby resale franchise. We did but her a brand new christening dress on amazon, we plan on using that for anyother girl children but that was like $100. We plan on using the clothe diapers for when we have our next baby.

    The extra healthcare premiums were a big change at first. Probably an extra $2000-$3,000 a year. But this is a family rate so it will be the same with more kids.

    As for as formula, we never did just mama milk with a pulp we had to purchase before the new tax law. We started real food at 6 months mainly bananas, fruits vegetables, and table scraps. She is a monkey of sort and can eat a banana a day now. So maybe an extra $40 per month for food max.

    We just bought her a big girl bed which was a surprise to me on the cost. At Sam’s they start at $100. We went to Big Lots which was closer to home, in was still $100 but we got a shopper card which gave us 20% off. With sheets and mattress, no frame or box spring, we spent about $120.

    Also I put $500 in a Coverdell IRA and $500 in whole life insurance each year. That is about $100k whole life. We plan on doing this for each kid. All cash gifts go into the Coverdell.

  2. Don’t forget to add in the non-financial benefits of joy and love you get everyday!

  3. Just a quick question….I’m finding that the nationwide supply of breastpumps is leading insurance companies to make you wait until the arrival of your baby to put in for a breast pump. I was advise (thru my health insurance company) that I can only go thru certain medical supply companies that bill the insurance directly to obtain a pump. I’m guessing your insurance company may be different and that’s why you were able to go to Target and still have it covered. Just wondering if you did in fact have to do something different to have the pump covered when purchasing thru Target? I’m due in 2 months and would like to register for bottles that are compatible with the pump but that’s hard to do if you don’t know which pump brand you’ll end up with….. 🙂

  4. I think your last paragraph says it all! 😀

    On the cloth diapers – I also highly recommend a cloth diaper service. We used cloth and people were always in awe. But frankly, I think it was easier than using disposables. For one, never had to pick up any diapers at the store. The service carts away and cleans the diapers once a week, delivering fresh new diapers. This would not preclude using all the disposables. My youngest slept much better in disposables, so at the least we used at night. If we ever left the house for a period of time we’d take disposables. Etc., Etc. You go through them fast.

    One thing that I only wish I learned sooner was to ignore everyone else. Don’t get me wrong, we got some interesting tidbits over the years. But I found the most useful thing was having a very involved co-parent. Two heads are better than one, especially when you are sleep deprived. For that, you will be a blessed parent, as you sound very involved. We generally always followed the lead of our children, and our instincts, and has always served us well.

  5. I love, love, love the new daddiness of MMB! Parenthood, at least at this young age, is terrific, isn’t it?!

  6. Thanks for the tip on the breast pump, i’m due in May and had no idea of the changes.

  7. Would be interested to learn more about how you are managing the reduced hours, etc to balance childcare. I ended up continuing to work full time and my wife worked part time for a few hours a week when I could work at home with #1 and now with #2 she is home full time. Lopsided for now and I would love some day to reduce hours even before Im ready to walk away completely, but thinking that would commit career suicide at work.

  8. Jonathan Bright says

    Thanks for the excellent post. My wife is pregnant with twins and plans to breastfeed. She exclusively breastfed our first child with no problems. I am very interested in how you were able to get the breast pump for free. Could you provide more info about that? Is that a federal law or local to your state? Thanks.

  9. Free breast pump required from insurance is part of various nationwide changes due to Affordable Care Act:



    It went into effect August 1st, but many plans waited until renewal on January 1st. We got ours sometime in September. Our insurance provider also limited us to a set of approved outlets, but the only one that really sold non-manual pumps (at least at the time) was Target. We had to call and check their website for inventory regularly for a week or two until we learned the delivery schedule. I’m sure each insurance provider does it their own way.

  10. Free breast pumps? Now I know why my insurance rates are sky high!

  11. my insurance provider gives free breast pump *rental* (currently renting the Symphony)

    Enfamil is sending me $4 and $5 coupons all the time. Similac seems to be stingier and needs planning to get a good discount. We planned on BF but nature had other plans so we get maybe 20% BF.

  12. Speaking as a father of two preschoolers I remember how we thought the expenses are high during the first year of life just to discover that the magnitude of expenses stays the same or even increases later on. Activities, sports, clothes… worth every single penny though. Being a parent is the biggest privilege ever

  13. This statement troubled me: “with some effort she has obtained a private pumping area”. I hope by “effort” you mean your wife simply asked which room would be made private for her use when she needed it. National law states that employers must give breastfeeding moms a private room to pump, no questions asked, and a closet does NOT count. If your wife’s employer put up any resistance to providing her with a private room for pumping whenever she needs it, I would recommend she go straight to her HR rep for an apology.

    On another unrelated topic, I recently found this book very helpful in giving a down-to-earth summary of parenting in today’s day and age, cutting through all of the crap people try to tell you that you should be doing with your life as a parent: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0547892616

  14. I called the number on my blue cross card and they shipped me a pump right away. No problem, no waiting in line.

  15. That breast pump was so not free, but that’s a different topic. We bought a nice quality pump (electrical) for around $80. The government (read We The People) always gets overcharged for stuff. Perhaps the back pack is actually worth $200?

    My wife would fall asleep holding our kids while they breast fed in the middle of the night. It was a lot easier actually than having to get up and go prep a bottle. We only used formula when she had to take any type of medication that we didn’t want passed to our kids through breast milk.

  16. We were pretty lucky in that we got a lot of hand me downs for furniture and toys. We didn’t really have to buy much. Diapers that were given as gifts lasted us for about 5 months before we had to buy any ourselves.

    We didn’t bother with cloth diapers, as we have been more than busy to have to deal with more laundry and cleaning. Breastfeeding works pretty well, as Robert said, my wife would just lay propped up and fall asleep while our daughter fed.

    As far as daycare, retired grandparents are a savers dream. We offered to compensate them for their time, but they flat out refused. Luckily, our daughter is relatively easy going.

  17. How did you find a nanny from the Philippines? How much do they charge? We have a 4 year old and expecting our 2nd in June. Daycare will run us 2600 a month for both. Just looking at alternatives.

  18. In Canada, something like 80% of nannies are from the Philippines and also easier as they offer a clear pathway to citizenship. Getting a non-resident nanny is harder in the US, as you’ll have to sponsor them. I’m really not all that familiar with the process.

  19. Excellent Info for my to be parents.

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