By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s an expense that can catch many new parents off guard, childcare.  As 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan finds, budgeting for child care should start taking place even before the baby arrives.

New parents often get the nursery, clothing, car seats, and strollers ready in advance of baby’s arrival, and a plan for child care doesn’t come into place until it’s needed.

But the child care referral website Care.com, recommends starting the search as soon as parents get the good news.

“The moment you find out that you’re expecting and you’re going to have a new bundle of joy, you should definitely start to budget. So depending on the type of care and your options and what you can afford, there are some great things that you can do. One of the first things that we recommend is that you stop off and talk to your employer,” said co-founder of Care.com, Donna Levin.

Your employer may have programs to help find child care, maybe even subsidize or discount care from certain providers, which can help during the crucial early months.

“Infant care tends to be much more expensive, the great news is the cost of care goes down as your child gets older. But for a newborn baby, if you’re considering child care, a child care center, it’s going to be costly because of the ratio of teacher to infant, is much lower,” said Levin.

To keep costs down, consider a nanny share, where neighbors split the cost of a caregiver. Or tap into existing networks like churches and other local nonprofits that may offer day care for less than the cost of private child care businesses.

And keep in mind that those care costs run about 18 percent of the overall spending on raising a child.