The cost of having a baby on the Neonatal Unit

You might have thought from the title of this post it was going to be about the emotional costs of having a premature baby, the potential strain on your relationships, the stress, the worry. But no, not this time. Today I want to talk to you about…


Having a baby in hospital is an expensive business. Costs that you just wouldn’t have thought of, or accounted for when you weren’t expecting your little bundle of joy to arrive so soon.

In our case, Littlebit was born by emergency c-section at 30 weeks. I’d been planning to give up work in a further 6 weeks, meaning that my maternity pay started 6 weeks earlier than expected. There’s our first loss there. I was lucky though, my work had a really good maternity scheme and I received full pay for the first 6 weeks, then I went onto Statutory Maternity Pay which at the time was around £125 per week. But already we were 6 weeks behind on what we were expecting.


Then there was the cost of hubby driving the 80 mile round trip at least 3 times a day to visit us both and take my milk from George Eliot, Nuneaton (where I was) to Kettering (where Littlebit was) for the first 4 days.

Then the next 7 days when I was readmitted to Kettering there was the cost of hubs popping home to get supplies, check the mail, get more clothes / toiletries / go shopping. We were very lucky that he was able to stay on the NICU a number of nights in the parents room. I obviously had a room on the maternity ward but he wanted to be close to us both too as we were so poorly.

He clocked up well over 1000 miles in those first few weeks at a cost of what must have been over £300 in the car we had at the time.

On top of that he had to make sure he was fed, and we didn’t want him having junk so he had a number of “meals out” you can add another £100 there. I also was being brought food in, as as much as the NHS food is wholesome and filling there are only so many heavy stews, casseroles and pies I could eat.

Then the tiny micro nappies, which of course, come at a premium. Why is that when they use less stuff? The same goes for the preemie baby clothes, they are some of the most expensive things we’ve bought.

We got subsidised parking at Kettering hospital but that was still £10 a week. At George Eliot, Nuneaton we got free parking which was a blessing.

Once Littlebit was moved back to George Eliot, Nuneaton this made life alot easier but there was still a cost. This time not strictly to us as hubs was back at work and I couldn’t drive due to my c-section for a further 4 weeks so we had to rely on family and friends to get me to and from the hospital. I am so grateful to the people who helped out then, and not one of them would accept petrol money.

Again, there was the issue of food though. I was on the unit all day, leaving fairly early in the morning most days, after expressing milk. I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to be thinking about was making a packed lunch for my time there. So I was turning to the “sandwich dispenser” in the hospital, the little hospital shop or the hospital canteen most days. Then when we weren’t being brought home cooked meals for the evenings, which admittedly was quite often, we were getting a take away or something quick from Tesco after we left the unit at 7/8pm each night.

Our bank account and overdraft took the hit! We were lucky, we didn’t have to take out a loan or extend our overdraft if memory serves. But how many people do have to? How many parents, in already high stress situations, get into debt because of this turn of events? I wonder how many relationships suffer because of this?

Taken from the Bliss website:

“We all know that having a new baby can be an expensive time for any family. However many parents of premature and sick babies face crippling additional costs associated with their baby being admitted to hospital, often for long periods of time. Our research from 2010 showed that families of premature and sick babies faced additional costs averaging £2,800 – or an extra £310 a week -associated with having a baby in neonatal care. These costs covered a wide range of things such as loss of earnings, transport costs to visit their baby in hospital, and the cost of childcare for other children at home.”

I reckon, all things considered, that during the 7.5 weeks Littlebit was in hospital our “out of pocket” expenses wouldn’t be far off this figure. Money that we (and the people who supported us through that time) hadn’t budgeted for.

If you’ve had a baby on the neonatal unit, please help Bliss do further research into the costs to families of babies born too soon, too small, too sick by completing this survey. That way they can better campaign for help for the families who need it most.

a brew

Make a brew and put your feet up for 20 minutes and help future parents of these special babies out. 

Oo, before I go, I’ve over on Tots 100 The Friday Fresh Five today. Do take a look at the posts I’ve enjoyed reading this week.

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  1. Christina E (@Beadzoid)

    Absolutely, the financial cost for us was immense too – and I realise, already haven completed the Bliss survey that I have totally under-represented how much it cost us, that in spite of estimating a 3 figure sum.

    Unlike you, we didn’t get free parking at George Eliot, Nuneaton. They were still charging then, and we were not aware of the weekly tickets until we had been there a few weeks. And our stay in this hospital, on top of the month spent miles up the M1 in Northampton was an additional 7 weeks.

    Physically, mentally, emotionally and financially, it was an extremely draining time. And like many families, we have never financially recovered after draining our savings, as I have never again worked full time at the salary level I did before having my daughter.

    It’s a very real issue and I hope that Bliss can bring about some change in this area.

  2. Gemgemmum

    This is a real issue and like Christina says I didn’t realise how much until I did the survey. Gemma was in hospital 8.5 months – the parking, fuel, food and bus fares were phenomenal. We were so lucky to have friends and family to help.

    I was off work 10 weeks earlier than planned so sudden cut down to Statutory Maternity pay that wasn’t budgeted for. I took extended time off work so Gemma was 15 months before I went back so that was a big cost when plan had been 9 /12 months off. I also only went back 2 days rather than 3 days – we are so lucky that we could manage it, with overdrafts and family help – no idea how did it to be honest.

  3. Lauren

    Hi Christina,

    I read with interest the experience you had after giving birth prematurely. Many parents don’t realise that having a baby or child in hospital can put financial strain on the family – travel, hotel bills, food etc.

    That’s why I decided to work for Ronald McDonald House Charities. We provide free ‘home away from home’ accommodation for families with children in hospital. We help over 6,000 families every year stay close to their child, together as a unit. We accommodate not only the parents / carers but the siblings too.

    When a family is travelling from far away, often staying at the hospital for months at a time, the last thing they need to worry about is where to cook, sleep and wash. As an example, the families staying in our House next to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital come from an average of 80 miles away. At our House near the Trevor Mann Baby Unit in Brighton, the average stay is 25 nights. We have a family in our House at Birmingham Children’s Hospital who has been staying with us for well over a year.

    There are currently 14 Ronald McDonald Houses at specialist children’s hospitals in the UK and we’re looking to grow. We rely on donations like any other charity so it’s not a quick process but we’re working hard to make it happen and hopefully help more families like yours.

    If anyone needs accommodation there’s us – Ronald McDonald House Charities – and another charity called The Sick Children’s Trust. We have waiting lists at a lot of our Houses, but you can find out where we are located on our website:

    I hope this is useful information for some of your readers.

  4. Hayley

    Totally agree, having to start maternity leave at 29 weeks rather than my planned 38 was hard, I was on stat mat pay before my baby was even out of hospital, and as you show, this is a time when you are spending more than usual! I wanted to be off with my son until he was meant to be 1 so this meant nearly 15 months leave so a long time with no pay at all, it was really hard and if you go back part time like I did, you don’t recover from it. The expense of the premmie nappies and clothes drives me mad! I felt like shops were actually taking advantage of our misfortune because you can’t go without and have such a small selection you can’t help but spend a lot. At the time you don’t give it a second thought because your only concern is how your baby is, but a few months later when I realised I’d need extra leave without pay, I realised how unfair it was. I did write to my local mp etc about how leave should be extended in these situations but only got 1 reply back that ignored any points I raised and just said a year off was enough with any child, it made my blood boil!

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