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Having a baby on a budget

9th August 2013

Money is tight for everyone at the moment, but having a baby is a major expense. Research suggests a baby costs anywhere between £1,600 to £7,200 in its first year. It can be incredibly daunting for a new parent.

charlotte-and-babyFor most of the new mums who access the POW service, money is already a massive issue. Some are trying to move away from a bad situation to have their child in peace and safety. Others are settled but are already living day to day on a very limited income.

Our Pregnancy Outreach Workers help their expectant and new mums to access all the support available to them, but also give great practical tips about being prepared and living within a budget.

So we asked our POWs to share some of the tips and tricks they use to help women who are having a baby on a budget. With a bit of creativity it doesn’t have to be such a worry or a burden and your baby still gets the same great start.

Budget shopping

A month before Charlotte (pictured) had her baby, she recorded the following statement on our Impact Assessment App: “Today we went to buy baby things on a small budget. I got most of what I needed and only spent £37.” So how did they do that?

“Supermarket budget brands are great for the essential, everyday things,” says Rachel Harris, Charlotte’s POW. “I went to Asda with Charlotte – all supermarkets have similar ‘value’ label brands – and we bought loads for very little.”

Rachel and Charlotte bought:

  • Nappies
  • Babygros
  • Vests
  • Cot
  • Bibs
  • Wipes
  • Talc and baby bath

And this is a great start. Remember: as long as your new baby is clean, warm and fed, and is getting lots of love and attention, he or she has everything they need.

Rachel says “It’s tempting, but don’t go mad buying lots of outfits and outer clothes. Babies grow very quickly and you may not even end up using everything. When you’re at home, you won’t be dressing baby up every day, so just concentrate on the essentials like babygros, bibs and vests. If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family around you when you have your baby, clothes are the one thing that everyone tends to give you anyway!”

Breastfeeding is a big money saver – as well as being best for baby’s health, of course. But if you are bottle feeding, you’ll also need to buy bottles and feed. Rachel says “Personally I don’t recommend second-hand bottles, but you can get cheap bottles at the supermarket too.”

A pram or pushchair is very useful, but they can be expensive. If money is tight, a sling or baby carrier is the cheapest way to get out and about. To find out more, a commenter on our Facebook page recommends The Baby Wearer, a (non-affiliated) website forum full of advice for anyone thinking about using a sling or baby carrier.


There are very few things that you need to buy new. By their very nature, baby clothes and equipment are never needed for very long, so there are always second-hand items available if you know where to look. Your first stop should be your local baby clubs and groups – they all tend to hold regular sales of donated goods and it’s a good way to make new friends and contacts for future support.

Rachel says, “I always tell my clients to have a look online, too. Birmingham Freecycle is a great source of free equipment and Birmingham Gumtree‘s free ads are good for second hand baby things.”

Your cot mattress will need to be new, and if you’re buying a car seat you need to make sure it’s never been in an accident – so it’s strongly advised that you buy that new too, unless you can vouch for its history. Everything else can be second hand. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family to ask around, too!

Other support

Pregnant women – and mothers of young children – who are under 18 or on benefits can apply for free NHS Healthy Start vouchers to spend on essential food, drink and vitamins. These give you the equivalent of £3.10 a week, but you have to apply – POWs often apply on behalf of new mums who didn’t know about the scheme.

Here at Gateway we have a food bank that also has toiletries and baby things for new mums. Rachel says, “We often take new mums stuff from the bank. Then, when their babies outgrow things, we can have them back to recycle out again.”

Narthex, based in Sparkhill, is an especially helpful resource for asylum seekers, those newly arrived in the UK and other people who need a stopgap as they wait for benefits or other income. Narthex has a general food bank with a baby section – so POWs can get food, toiletries, baby equipment and clothes for clients who are most in need. POW Denise Nolan says “Narthex are brilliant – they’ll put a pack together including a moses basket, clothing and bedding.”

Further reading

If you’re worrying about getting a car seat, RoSPA’s Child Car Seats website covers everything about car seat safety, including checklists for choosing and buying car seats.

Finally, NHS Choices Pregnancy and Baby pages have a detailed list of all the things you’ll need.

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