Considering having children? Or being pressured by society to do so? There are so many factors to consider – your physical and mental health, your anticipated family size, your finances, etc. Bringing to the world, someone who did not ask to be here is a monumental decision. which we forget because births happen constantly. You have to be prepared to parent and provide for the rest of your life, for beings that are completely dependent on you, even while having their own autonomous needs and goals. This long term view is usually obscured by romanticized milestones, with little thought to the sweat of the days in-between. Too often people think about having kids like they think about whether they want a new hand bag or a puppy; “Oh I want one” or “My husband wants one” or “My child needs a playmate”. However, these are all really problematic. This article will attempt to address the financials – a fraction of the many necessary considerations for having a child.
We will try to crystallize some of the real costs of having a child and giving them a chance for survival even after they are no longer in your direct care. However, while such provisions will help, these estimates alone will still be inadequate as it accounts for no unexpected events like COVID-19 or natural disasters. It focuses on the child’s needs, and not family costs like rent, or the mother’s pregnancy needs. It also assumes a healthy pregnancy and birth, and an overall general lifetime wellness of the child(ren). It certainly does not quantify emotional labor of parenting (amongst other vital things). However, it gets the conversation started. We assume the child is female to account for the societally enforced grooming, and period costs. (In a perfect world, such discrepancies should be minimized/smoothed over by the state but I digress).
Each section will start by indicating the ‘Life time cost’ (LTC)1 of the line item in Naira (₦). Please note these costs assume certain very broad standards for middle class Nigerians. Readers will naturally fall above, on, or below these assumptions. Annual inflation is applied on each category except birth costs unless otherwise stated. PDFs offered at the end provide all calculations across the 21 years.2 Finally, categories below are neither exhaustive nor all applicable to all. Oya let us begin.
Ante-natal and birth costs ~₦8m US birth
So it’s April 2015 and you’re pregnant. You want the best for your child and you feel a foreign passport is an important way to start to give them options. So you save up for your ANC costs in Nigeria and birth costs in the US. These are one off costs per child. You have your daughter in January 2016. She is 0 years old.
ANC at a private mid-high level hospital in Lagos- 2 scans, biweekly appointments, doctor consultations, routine labs and ANC classes – ~₦350k.
Package deals for US accommodation, lab tests, doctor visits, delivery, neonatal costs, logistics for doctors visits, shopping, food, passport costs – $14,000 = ₦5,5m (at the calculated average 2016 exchange rate of ~₦393.63)
Visa and ticket costs for you and your spouse (and ticket for the infant upon return) – $5,318 = ₦2,1m
Feeding ~ ₦12.8m4
Birth till 6 months: Lets estimate costs for formula feeding because not everyone will breastfeed. A 900mg tin of SMA Pro in 2016 is about ₦7,000. Babies differ, but let’s assume the child goes through a tin every week5.
6 months till 1 year: We will assume formula becomes half of the child’s diet, and regular food becomes the other half.
1 – 2 years: Formula becomes one third of the diet, and regular food is two thirds. But her overall appetite has also increased.
3 years till 12 years: Formula is completely replaced by milk and/or Milo, and regular foods. Snacks (possibly imported) are introduced at this age especially as kids reach school age.
12 till 18 years: You send your daughter to boarding house and she only eats at home approximately 5 months a year.
18 till 21 years: Your daughter goes to university and has room and board. So we will also assume she eats at home 5 months of the year during these years.
The LTC of feeding her at home through these stages come to ₦12.8m. To put this in real time context, it implies a total cost of ₦539k in 2022 alone, and a yearly average LTC of about ₦611k over 21 years.
Education ~ ₦546m6
It’s 2018 and your child is going to turn 2 soon. You want her to start daycare/school. ‘School’ will continue for the next 19 years. The costs here use average prices from 4 – 8 private schools in each category. We will assume that school fees increase by about 15% every other year (though we know it could easily increase by more, and yearly). The costs also factor in FX rates for the university fees (assuming you send your child abroad for their tertiary education. None of these costs include joining fees or even transport costs. Average annual costs are as follows:
Kindergarten and nursery school. Age 1 – 4. (year 2018 to 2021) ~ ₦1.6m
Primary school age 5 – 10 (year 2022 – 2027) ~ ₦3.1m
Secondary school age 11 – 16 (year 2028 – 2033) including boarding fees ~ ₦7.8m
University age 17 – 21 (year 2034 to 2037)~ ₦119m. ($209k). These costs are for US schools and assume in-state fees right from year 1 (although your child would have to earn ‘residency’ in that state first). Please note that these costs will probably be paid in foreign currency and the naira figures reflected here are calculated using projected FX rates, as well as the 1.5% assumed school fee increase every other year.
Clothes and shoes ~₦22.5m
Children outgrow everything constantly. We will start at NGN130k for their first ever set of clothes and shoes, and assume a yearly increase with inflation. Though we could assume a reduced clothing turnover as the children age, we won’t due to the fact that clothes get bigger and more expensive as children age. So we will maintain a steady rate of turnover7. This implies a total cost of ~₦300k in 2022, and a yearly average LTC of ~₦1,1m over 21 years.
Hair ~ ₦7m8
Oil, braid, un-braid, wash, rinse, repeat. Twice a month for 20 years (since the first year might just be you putting baubles in the hair). This really adds up. This implies a total cost of ~₦95k in 2022 alone, and a yearly average LTC of ~ ₦351k over 20 years.
Toiletries and personal care ~ ₦11.5m
Diapers – Between age 0 (when they change up to 10 times a day) till age 5 (when maybe they only wear diapers to bed), babies go through an average of ~6 diapers a day. This comes to ~12k diapers over 5 years. Molfix diaper price in 2016 is ₦2,900 for 36 diapers. Thus diapers amount to a total of ~ ₦1m for those years.
Wipes- Lets account for wipes used only during the diaper years. We will assume an average total of 4 wipes per change. This comes to 46,694 wipes. Molfix wipes in 2016 cost about NGN700 per pack of 50 wipes. This comes to a total of NGN791k over those 5 years.
Aveeno lotion and body wash replaced every 4 months ~₦42k p.a. in 2016 (~₦97k by 2022). In 2017, you start properly brushing your daughters ‘teeth’ and this involves a toothbrush and toothpaste replacement every 4 months which amounts to ~₦2k p.a. in 2017 (~₦3k in 2022).
From the age of 10 (year 2026) onwards, these toiletry costs will eventually include facial cleansers (~₦9k every 4 months or ~₦29k p.a.), sanitary pads, plus painkillers (~₦4k per month or ~₦53k p.a.) and deodorant (~₦1k per month or ~₦4k p.a.).
Overall toiletries amount to ~₦100k in 2022, and a yearly average LTC of ~₦547k over 21 years.
Childcare ~ ₦11m
You may need nannies to help out with your children till they go to boarding school at 12. Thus in 2022, you’re spending a total of ~₦831k per year, and are facing a yearly average LTC of about ₦901k over 12 years.
Medicals ~ ₦3m
Let’s assume that you will buy each child their own health insurance plan since you may have to pay for school health plans. We assume health insurance stays the same in each phase/school. We will calculate the first 2 or so years at ₦10k p.a.. When they start school, they will get a new plan from nursery till secondary – ₦20k p.a. and another in secondary school – ₦40k.
At the university level – age 17- the insurance fees increase further especially if they are schooling abroad. As of 2018, a low end insurance policy cost $1,000 p.a. = ₦365k. We will assume an increase of 1% each year. Along with projected dollar rates, by 2034 when your daughter is starting university, insurance will cost upwards of ~₦675k each year over the next 4 years.
Summer Holidays ~ ₦35m
Often parents try to keep their children engaged in summer lessons, camps or even trips to give them exposure and broaden their minds. These calculations will assume summer travel to the US (for consistency) every 3 years, and summer classes in the non-travel years all between the ages of 4 (2020) till age 18 (2034) when they go off to college. Average summer break is about 9 weeks and we’ll assume weekly classes start at ₦35,000 in 2020 and increase with inflation each year. For the summer trip portion, we will only calculate ticket costs for the child and both parents in 2022 as food costs are already included in the feeding section, and any other costs will be difficult to estimate. Ticket costs will also fluctuate with dollar rates and rise by an assumed 5% (this is grossly underestimated) each year. We assume an adult fare in 2022 is about $2,000 roundtrip. The child will also have access to child fares at 75% of the adult fare between 2 and 11 years old. This comes to a total of ~₦12m for summer lessons and ~₦23m for travel over 14 years.
Miscellaneous ~ ₦17m
Children need all sorts of things which will change and/or need to be maintained as they grow: bedding, beds, car seats, child size tables and chairs, toys, plates, school bag, water bottles, cups, books, bottle sterilizers, hot water flasks, potties, bathing tub, towels, blankets, etc. Purchases will of course vary by family. Without including electronics like laptops and tablets, we start at ~₦100,000 in the first year. With inflation it comes to ~₦231k in 2022, and an average LTC of ~₦824k each year over the 21 years.
In summary, if your circumstances are similar to those assumed above, in order to support your child till they get their first degree, first good paying job, and are no longer dependent on you in 2037 (all things being equal), you will need a yearly average of at least ~₦32m per year for 21 years, with education being the highest contributing cost. These amounts will of course increase or decrease based on the number of kids you have, your standard of living, actual inflation, dollar valuations, as well as how closely your expenses align with the items above.
Let us be clear, this estimate is not suggesting that those with less should not have children. Its contents are indicative of the increasing inequalities and socio-economic injustices that continue to make success a reality for fewer and fewer. ‘Success’ is defined here as – a life insulated from the constant economic shocks that have become the Nigerian norm. These include: constant university strikes that delay attainment of qualifications for trade or employment, or suddenly sky high diesel costs that can decimate your business, savings, quality of light/life and even job searching efforts! The world somehow increasingly has zero safety nets to ensure a minimum/basic quality of life for every human being. If nothing else, these ridiculously high numbers should serve as a wake up call to how much our country has failed millions of its citizens.
The point of this article (for those who did not get it) is to point to a larger socio-economic problem that easily precludes a basic quality of life for those outside a very narrow economic bracket (even when you scale down the costs above). The upper and middle class Nigerians are still a small subset (<25%) of the whole country.
Consequently, finances are increasingly becoming too important a determinant for access to basic human rights like quality education, health care and opportunity for advancement. Many seem to never have considered the unfairness of this, and thus do not want to question it at all. Hopefully this article not only helps us to better plan for our future generations, but also calls us to actions that address these inequities more systemically, such as actually voting.
And for those who are under pressure from family/friend womb watchers? Now you have a figure to demand from them before they are allowed to open their mouths about babies again. In the meantime, check your birth control…
This is the first summary of its kind that is peculiar to Nigeria, and it’s just a start. But a necessary one. Hopefully it prompts additional and more nuanced investigations to better inform all of us. PDFs that break down the analyses further are available for free upon request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the title of the article in your request.
1Lifetime cost (LTC) is defined in this article as the total cost expected to be incurred during the 21 projected years. These reflect 21 years unless otherwise stated.
2This research was started in 2017, and prices have increased since then. Yearly historical inflation is used up until 2022, and from then till 2037, a moving average of the previous 3 years’ inflation rates is used. As family situations vary, some costs may not actually be monthly or annual. However, costs are presented annually for simplicity. As a rule of thumb, the following costs are indicated: the total lifetime cost of the line item, the cost for the year 2022 (for ease of comparison) and then an average of the total lifetime cost spread over the relevant number of years.
3Dollar exchange figures use average yearly black market sell rates up until 2022, and subsequently are a 3 year historical average projection.
4Growth spurts lead to increased food consumption as well as a wider variety of meals. Estimates for feeding are increased each year based on the rate of increase of the child’s average calorie requirements at each age.
5We would like to just note that breastfeeding is not automatically cheaper as pumps, bottles, power costs for freezing expressed milk, moms supplemental nourishment while breastfeeding, and the opportunity cost of time also add up.
6For the purpose of this analysis, we will assume the school year runs from January to December. This way, each year represents a class completed. School fees projections have used actual costs collected between the 2019 and 2023 and projected forward and backwards based on the expected 15% increases to calculate the relevant year. These numbers do not include boarding fees before secondary school, extracurriculars, tutors, school runs, uniforms, or tickets and international fees (if your child goes to school abroad before university level). It also assumes the child receives no scholarships. It also does not include joining, admission, development and caution fees.
7Although the child may also receive clothes as gifts, as a parent, you will likely also gift other children clothes and so we assume these cancel out.
8This cost does not include trims, treatment, extensions, and hair accessories you may consider for your daughter.