No one ever said that having kids was cheap. But new figures released Thursday put the hard numbers of raising a child into sobering perspective.

The new U.S. Department of Agriculture report finds that a middle-income family in the U.S. who has a baby in 2010 will spend US$226,920 to raise that child to the age of 18.

Factor in the projected costs of inflation, and that rises to $286,860.

And that's just the costs of raising the child to 18 and then never giving them another dime. Add in helping out with post-secondary education or trips to Europe and the numbers go way up.

Broken down into annual costs, and the cost of raising each child in 2010 ranged from $11,880 to $13,830 in 2010, depending on the child's age, the USDA report says.

If those numbers don't sound quite right to you, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, that's an average. Babies and toddlers in daycare cost more than 12-year-olds in school, for example.

Next, the USDA defines "middle-income" families as those earning between US$57,600 and $99,730 a year. As one might expect, households that make more, spend more.

A family earning more than $99,730 might spend $377,040 in 2010 dollars to rear a child to 18, while those earning less than $57,600 a year will likely spend $163,440, according to the study.

The USDA has issued annual reports on the cost of raising a child for 50 years now. The report, which uses data from the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey, is considered invaluable for courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments.

The Canadian government doesn't issue similar reports on child-rearing costs. In fact, the closest we get is a report from Manitoba's agriculture department from 2004 that found that the cost of raising a child to age 18 in 2004 ranged between $166,549 and $166,972. Boys cost more due to extra expenses for food.

The Canadian numbers seem to be a bit lower because Americans are more likely to pay out of pocket for health care costs.

Thursday's USDA report says costs of child-rearing in 2010 went up two per cent from 2009. It blamed the increases on rising expenses for transportation, as well as increased costs for child care, education, and health care. The actual costs of the bare necessities of housing, food, clothing, didn't change much since 2009.

Back in 1960, the first year the report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 to raise a child to 18. Put that figure into today's dollars and it works out to $185,856.

Housing was the largest expense, both then and now. But U.S. health care expenses doubled as a percentage of total child-rearing costs. In addition, some current-day costs, such as child care, were negligible in 1960.

The report also points out what parents of larger families already know: costs drop with more kids. Families with three or more children spend 22 per cent less per child than families with two children.

That's because children in larger families tend to share bedrooms, while clothing and toys are handed down. Food can also be bought in larger and more economical quantities, and some schools or child-care centres offer sibling discounts.

For those who want to calculate how much it'll cost them to raise kids, try out this on-line calculator provided by the USDA.