Economics of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infancy + WIC in Brief

Issue No. 4: Black Maternal Health
Words - Sarah Cuddie + Julia Pitts
Illustration - Olivia Krishnaswami

The costs of pregnancy and parenting vary greatly across the United States. This list can get you started on planning. We also suggest talking to other families to get more tips and tricks!



  • According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, prenatal care costs on average about $2,000 for a typical pregnancy.

  • Maternity clothing can be important to allow you to be comfortable and to keep working during pregnancy. New maternity clothing prices are fairly comparable to the pricing for typical women’s clothing on a per-garment basis. Other options include purchasing second-hand maternity clothes or renting maternity clothes from a subscription service.


  • The cost of giving birth varies widely and is impacted by 5 key factors:

    • Where you live (which state you live in, as well as whether you live in an urban or rural area)

    • Where you give birth (hospital, birthing center or home birth)

    • Your insurance plan

    • Whether you have a vaginal birth or a C-section

    • Complications or additional risk factors

  • Giving birth at home or in a birthing center are both less expensive than giving birth in a hospital, assuming you have a low-risk pregnancy and an uncomplicated delivery.

  • A C-section will be the most expensive delivery, especially if there are complications or if you require an extended stay in the hospital.

  • All birth options have costs associated with them, and your insurance may not cover all options. Not all birth options are healthy for all parents, so while cost is a factor in this decision, consult with your doctor when making your birth plan.

Traveling with Baby

  • Car Seats might look expensive, but experts say that you should not purchase one that is used. Car Seats expire because of the way the plastic ages, and wear and tear on the buckles and straps can make them unsafe.

  • The In good news is, you can definitely purchase a used stroller! Just check to make sure that it hasn’t been subject to a recall.

In the Nursery

  • Cribs can be expensive, but pediatricians suggest that if cost is an issue, you’re better off purchasing a portable crib than a used crib, due to changing safety regulations.

  • Changing tables, rocking chairs, and other nursery furniture can safely be purchased used.

  • Babies grow really fast and they also get clothes dirty quickly, so purchasing second-hand baby clothes or swapping with other parents can be a great way to cut down on costs and clothing waste. This also goes for coats and shoes, since babies will often only wear them for a month.


  • Cloth diapers have a greater upfront cost, ranging from $350 to $800 in startup costs, and will increase your utility bills with all the extra loads of laundry.

  • Disposable diapers will cost more in the long-term, about $1000-$1500 in the first year, but the initial cost is much lower.



  • Breastfeeding can save you between $1200 and $1500 according to the US Surgeon General, but it isn’t free!

  • The cost of breast pumps (from $20 for a single manual pump to $600 for a double electric pump), bottles ($1-$6 each), nursing pillows ($25-$50), lactation supplements, nursing bras, and nipple creams can add up quickly!

  • WIC has a formula rebate program for parents who choose not to or are unable to breastfeed fully or at all.

  • If you don’t have regular access to clean, safe, drinking water, you’ll need to purchase bottled water to make formula safely.

  • Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are not required to compensate nursing mothers for additional breaks taken to express milk, but they are required to provide adequate breaks for you to do so.

Child care

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, child care is considered affordable if it costs no more than 10% of a family’s income.

  • Even in the state with the lowest average child care costs (Mississippi), child care isn’t affordable for 49% of families.

  • In Massachusetts, the average cost of a year of infant child care is over $6000 more than a year of in-state tuition at a 4 year public college.

  • Washington, D.C. has the highest average costs for infant child care in the country. A minimum-wage worker, working 40 hours per week, would have to work 54 weeks just to pay for infant child care for a year.

  • In New York, infant care costs 5.9% less than average rent in the state.

  • There are 33 states and D.C. where it costs less to attend a year of college than to have a child in infant care.

WIC in Brief

WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for low-income women, infants, and children up to age five who are categorized as “nutritionally at risk.” As a Federal grant program, WIC is available in all 50 states, Indian Tribal Organizations, Washington D.C., and the territories of Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Receiving WIC benefits helps those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or new parents provide nutritious food options such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to their growing children. WIC also promotes breastfeeding, connects parents to nutrition education and counseling, and provides access to screening and referrals to other health, welfare, and social services. To check if you qualify for WIC benefits, go to or visit your local WIC agency to be screened.