How to Survive Unpaid Parental Leave

You should never have to choose between paying your bills or bonding with your newborn baby.

Unfortunately, in America, this is a burden that many parents face. However, with some planning, you can overcome unpaid parental leave and still be (financially) stress-free.

Let’s examine how you can make wise financial choices to give your baby the best start.

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7 ways to survive unpaid parental leave

Starting to save as soon as you find out you’re pregnant can help you prepare for the added expense of a child. However, it’s never too late to start saving. Check out our top seven ways to survive unpaid parental leave.

1. Start budgeting

If you have never had a budget, preparing for unpaid parental leave is an excellent time to start. We have many motivating help guides whether you are creating your first budget or need unique ways to save.

We recommend using a budgeting app to track your expenses. Knowing how much money you spend monthly can help you prepare and save before the baby arrives.

Trim all unnecessary expenses, such as streaming services, delivery services like Amazon Prime, take-out, gym memberships, etc.

2. Use vacation and personal days.

Save as many vacation and personal days as you can. Use these consecutively after the baby is born if your job allows. This will lessen the burden of unpaid time off. 

If you have a spouse or partner, consider asking them to do the same. The extra help will help you heal and sleep better, increasing your chances of returning to work on time.

When you feel comfortable announcing your pregnancy, let your workplace know your intentions. Giving them a heads-up will help the business prepare for when you’re out, ensuring a smooth transition for both of you.

If you are worried about being low on cash, consider asking your boss if you can work remotely after the baby is born. Let them know that you may need flexible hours with the adjustment, but if working from home is possible, you could skate by with little to no pay interruptions.

3. Apply for relief services.

If you live on a single income or your family is considered low-income, several resources provide free or reduced food costs and medical care.

Most employers lack a feasible parental leave benefit plan if you are working. However, some offer partial parental leave benefits that keep you afloat while bonding and caring for your newborn. There are even relief programs specifically for single moms.


The government program WIC serves about half of all infants born in the United States.

It provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women.

WIC also supports infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. To receive WIC, you must complete an application and meet all requirements, including categorical, residential, income, and nutrition risk.


Also known as food stamps, SNAP provides food assistance to low and no-income people and families living in the US. Specific financial and non-financial criteria must be met to apply.

You can apply for benefits online and check your balance online once approved.

Pregnancy Medicaid

Medicaid programs vary by state and are federal and state-funded. Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income individuals and families.

You can qualify when pregnant, ensuring you receive essential prenatal medical care and access to maternity services.

Short-term disability

If you are currently working, your employer may offer short-term disability benefits. If they do, you may qualify for pregnancy and maternal benefits, which provide 50-70% of your income for six to eight weeks after you give birth.

While you must budget for a pay cut, the benefit is significant and can give you the time you need to bond with your baby.


This organization helps connect single moms so they can live together and share the cost of housing. If you are a single parent, gaining the support of another single parent can help you get through tough financial times.

Single moms who participate in CoAbode can reduce their household expenses by an average of 40% (including housing, shared babysitting, groceries, and transportation).

National Diaper Bank Network

You should never have to choose between diapers and necessities. There are more than 225 free diaper banks all over the US. Check here to see if there is a diaper bank near you.

It’s important to note that your doctor or OB should have a list of local support services. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and ask if you need assistance.

4. Cashback apps

If you are having your first child or haven’t had a baby in a few years, you will likely make many purchases for yourself and your baby.

Cash back apps like Rakuten can save you money just by shopping online. Plus, once the baby is born, you can continue to save.

5. Host a baby shower

If you know you will be strapped for cash during parental leave, have a baby shower a couple of months before your baby is due. Invite everyone you know.

Depending on your needs, you can have a customized baby shower and ask for specific items like diapers, wipes, formula, or gift cards. 

You can even have friends and family members go together to purchase expensive items for the nursery, car seats, or strollers. Any money saved can go toward your monthly expenses until you return to work.

6. Buy used

All of the baby and maternity items you need can really add up. Use the Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor apps to find baby and maternity gear at a reduced price for pickup in your local area.

If the goods are still in good condition when you are done with them, you can sell them through the same apps to get some of your money back. 

“Buy Nothing” groups on Facebook can also be a lifesaver. You can find items for free in your local area from parents who want to give their gear to someone in need.

7. Start a side hustle.

Starting a side hustle may be a plausible alternative to going back to work sooner than you planned.

Whether you start your own business or work a flexible side gig, bringing in extra money before the baby is born or while your newborn is napping can make the difference between staying current on your bills or going into debt.

How to Survive Unpaid Parental Leave

Planning for unpaid parental leave can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. You can have a successful maternity leave with some planning and a little budgeting.

You can spend more time bonding with your baby and less time worrying about your finances. 

It truly takes a village to raise a child. Utilize all the resources available to give your baby the best start. You can do this, Momma!

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