Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 05:31 pm

Babies come with a long list of essential and non-essential items, as well as medical costs that you may be expecting and those that come as a surprise.

ALSO SEE: The 10 must-haves for baby and the 10 you don’t really need

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your budget intact while planning for your baby and ensuring you have everything you need.

Birth basics

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 statements from the last three months, or legal immigrant status).

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If you’re planning to give birth in a private hospital, the costs are significant – for an uncomplicated natural birth (assuming a three-day, two-night stay), you’re in for approximately R15 500 to R17 800*, depending on whether you opt for an epidural during labour, and for an uncomplicated C-section delivery and a four-day/three-night stay, approximately R23 000 to R26 000*. Yes, really.

ALSO SEE: 10 things you didn’t know about hospital births

If you’re planning a midwife-assisted birth in a hospital birthing unit and will be discharged the same day, the costs will be significantly lower – expect a bill of approximately R9 500* upwards, assuming an uncomplicated birth and healthy baby.

Start early

If you’re lucky enough to have medical aid, get in touch with your service provider as soon as you find out you’re expecting. Most South African medical aid providers have specialised maternity benefits, but you will need to register for it. Most plans include a set number of gynae consultations and two scans, so before you rack up the costs, find out exactly what your cover affords you and make sure you’re eligible to claim for those costs. Some of the premium plans also cover antenatal screenings and amniocentesis.

ALSO SEE: What to ask when choosing a medical aid

Know your cover

There’s a big difference between budget, mid-range and premium medical aid plans, so it’s important to check what your specific medical aid plan covers. Some of the basic plans require you to choose a network hospital for the delivery, so it’s better to know that upfront before you start your planning. There may also be a limit on the number of consultations your plan will pay for.

If you’re planning a water birth, be sure to check whether your plan covers the cost of the birth pool hire. Most do, but some have a cost limit on this benefit – and some don’t cover it at all.

Almost every medical aid will send you a baby bag when you register on their maternity programme. These hampers usually contain product samples like wipes, breast pads and bum cream, but you’ll also find vouchers and discount offers for items like strollers, camp cots and car seats – another reason it’s important to register with your medical aid early, before you start spending on baby equipment.

Certain medical aid plans cover some, or all, of the cost of your antenatal classes, while other plans will contribute towards items like breast pumps and apnoea sleep monitors, usually from your Medical Savings Account, provided that you buy them from registered providers. These are expensive items, so it’s a no-brainer to check your benefits before buying anything.

ALSO SEE: What to expect when arriving at hospital

Cash is king

If you’re not covered by medical aid, or if your hospital plan only covers emergency hospitalisation or a sick baby, you’re going to be spending a lot of money on the actual delivery and hospital stay if you opt for a private hospital. Ask your healthcare provider whether they offer discounts for early payment (usually by 36 weeks) or a cash payment upfront. Don’t be shy about this – the discount could be significant.

Room rates

Whether your medical aid is paying for all, or part, of your hospital stay, or you’re self-funding it, this is likely to be the most expensive “hotel” you have ever stayed in. Think hard about whether you really need that private room, or whether sharing a semi-private ward with other moms is really such an inconvenience.
Although your doctor will likely tell you that you need to spend three days and two nights in hospital for a vaginal birth, or four days and three nights for a C-section, if you’ve had an uncomplicated delivery and a healthy baby, chat to your doctor about a possible early release, which will knock a night’s fees off your bill.

Save on extras

Netcare and Mediclinic both have a maternity benefit programme you can join once you’ve booked your delivery and paid the hospital’s bed-booking fee. With the Netcare Maternity Passport, you’re entitled to a free 4D scan, baby gift bag and free first immunisations, while the Mediclinic Baby Programme offers antenatal classes, a baby bag and first immunisations.
Enquire at your specific hospital to register for these benefits.

Top Tip

You’ll be given many sample-size products at your antenatal classes, at the hospital, and in baby bags. Don’t throw them away – they’re great for your nappy bag when you don’t want to lug a full-size product around with you.

Buy in bulk

The cost of necessary basics like disposable nappies and wipes will shock you. However, clever planning can save you in the long run. Keep an eye on the weekly specials advertised for your local hypermarket or big box store like Game or Makro – nappies and baby wipes are much cheaper when bought in bulk and you can stock up in advance to avoid paying a premium for last-minute purchases. However, don’t buy too many newborn disposable nappies – your baby will outgrow them faster than you think.

If you’re planning to use cloth nappies, the upfront costs are much higher, but in the long-term you’ll save − even factoring in laundry costs. Expect to pay from R180 for a single nappy to over R3 600 for a pack that will include enough nappies and accessories to use on a full-time basis.

ALSO SEE: 6 of our favourite cloth nappies

Shop around

Do your research before heading to the stores. Prices can fluctuate from retailer to retailer, so it’s worth spending a little time online to check prices before spending on big-ticket items like prams, cots and car travel systems –pricecheck.co.za is a great tool for this.
Register for the newsletters from your favourite baby stores like Baby City, Baby Boom and Kids’ Emporium as well as online retailers like takealot.com and loot.co.za – they will often advertise discounts or online-only specials through their newsletters.

Baby wellness

Visiting a paediatrician for well-baby checks and immunisations can add up to a pretty penny, especially if you’re paying those costs out-of-pocket or from your medical aid’s savings account. Immunisation and primary healthcare
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 serve basis, so expect to queue. However, if you’ve got the time, it’s a huge saving.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE VACCINATION SCHEDULE HERE TO MAKE SURE YOUR BABY GETS HER IMMUNISATIONS ON TIME.

Budget beater

Accept those hand-me-downs. With your first child, it’s tempting to want everything to be sparkling and new, but when your sister-in-law or best friend offers you her twice-used cot or compactum, smile and thank her. You’ll be relieved to have the saved cash on hand for all the unexpected costs that sneak up on you once your baby arrives. Particularly with furniture like cots, compactums, high chairs and baby baths, there’s nothing that a fresh coat of paint or a good scrub with disinfectant can’t fix. The one exception to this rule is the car seat. Unless you are absolutely certain of how it’s been used and looked after, you should buy it new.