) -- Putting a price tag on having a child may seem crass and otherwise against the laws of Mother Nature.

After all, bears don't do it, bees don't do it and all the squirrels in the trees won't go through it.

But would-be moms and dads are doing themselves -- and their kids -- a big disservice if they didn't keep an eye on the financial tab of raising a family. It's a warning sign other financial commitments that come from having a child may go by the wayside, leading to unintended consequences for children later in life.

Knowing how much babies cost can help families prepare for that child's future. It gives them a financial blueprint of what to expect raising a family will entail, and gives them a good idea of just how many kids they can have living under one roof (or two roofs, if the parents divorce).

According to the

U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price tag attached to raising a child is up significantly since 1960, even factoring in rising inflation: It was $25,230 ($191,720 in 2011 dollars) and is now $234,900 per child, or 23% more expensive, even adjusted for inflation.

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Individual pricing categories vary, of course, but some cost factors have risen significantly (and some have fallen) as a percentage of the overall expense:

Food in 1960: 24% Food in 2011: 16%

Education in 1960: 2% Education in 2011: 18%

Health care in 1960: 4% Health care in 2011: 8%

Housing in 1960: 30% Housing in 2011: 31%

Altogether, child care, education and health care have really socked parents in the pocketbook over the past four decades. The USDA also reports that, on average, a middle-income U.S. family can expect to pay between $12,290 to $14,320 each year for each child (depending on the child's age) in simple child-rearing expenses.

Parents living in big cities, especially in the Northeast and along the Pacific coast, pay the most for rearing children, the USDA says. Americans in the rural South pay the least, on average.

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To get a good grasp on how much kids cost right out of the maternity ward, the website has a highly useful "baby cost calculator" that focuses on the first year of the child's life.

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The calculator assumes specific financial figures for baby products and services, such as $72 per month for diapers and up to $150 for a good infant car seat. It also weighs average ongoing expenses including saving for college and spending on medicine and clothing.

Although estimates that the average cost of a newborn baby's first year is $10,158, use the calculator yourself with your budget and lifestyle to see what having a newborn will cost you and your family.

No question, having children is a wonderful, if demanding, experience. After all, a big reason (some say the only reason) we're here in the first place is to propagate the species.

But all that propagating has a price tag attached, and it's much better to know what it'll be.

--By Brian O'Connell

More on family finances:

College is a debtor's prison for the American family

10 rules for back-to-school online shopping

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