Kids are expensive. In such a sluggish economy, it’s no surprise birthrates have sharply dropped all over the nation. But for those who don’t want to put off having a family until the economy recovers, there are a number of ways to save money throughout pregnancy and after a child is born.

The price of hospital delivery has been on a steady incline, in step with the rising costs of health care. Pregnancy expert and author Robin Elise Weiss says a complication-free vaginal birth will run families over $6,000, while C sections cost around $16,000 — up to $22,000 if there are complications. Those figures are more than double, and in some cases triple, what they were back in the mid-1990s.

However, if you are healthy, a birthing center could be a huge cost-saving alternative to a hospital. For just under $2,000, women can receive prenatal care along with delivery — though usually these centers don’t provide the option of staying a few days to recover.

Outside delivery expenses, parents must provide the fundamentals — crib, diapers, wipes and clothes. Thrifty parents can get started with all that for around $400, shopping bargains, using coupons and purchasing some items online. But that’s only just a start.

Diaper makers say diapering a baby six times a day for a year will cost about $1,500 a year — that could ring out to around $4,500 by the time a child is potty-trained. But the down economy may have nudged along the cloth diaper trend, since the total estimated cost for that method is around $500.

Consumer Edge Research reports U.S. disposable diaper sales have been on a slide. Huggies and Kimberly-Clark brands have seen a 4 percent drop in the last year, Pampers and Luvs sales have dipped 2.5 percent and generics were down 5 percent.

13 comments on this story

Those decreases could partially be credited to lower U.S. birthrates, but also more parents are opting to use cloth diapers. Aside from being kinder to the environment, cloth diapers also have fewer chemicals, resulting in fewer diaper rashes.

Breast-feeding is another huge money saver that also accompanies a host of health benefits. Mothers who breast-feed can sidestep hefty formula costs, not to say breast-feeding is entirely free with the costs of breast pumps and other associated items. But studies show that babies who are fed breast milk for at least six months are less likely to develop a number of illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, ear infections and stomach viruses, that could cause further expenses down the road.