Today, we have a guest writer! Well, technically not a guest. My wife wrote this one, which she will do from time to time. Most of the time it's me, but as this was a topic she spent a lot of time researching, and thinking about, it seemed more appropriate for her to pen it! Err, type it.
Much like me, she has been a project manager / business administrator for much of her career, and most recently, a new mom, who runs a small but growing group on Facebook called "A Well Travelled Baby", with a focus on exposing children to a wider range of cultures, traditions and experiences than simply what's available in your backyard. It's a closed group, but if you want to join, just say you heard about it here!
And with that, here we go! There will, of course, be baby pictures.
In my current bedtime reading, I came across a statistic that said Americans will acquire 33% more “stuff” for each child they have. Check out a “newborn essentials” list on a few baby sites, and it’s easy to see why that might be easy to accomplish! But what if you’re going smaller, and trying to minimize stuff? Or you’re on a tight budget?
Do a little research, of course.
A few things those websites, and the big “baby” stores don’t tell you are:
Your friends with babies or older kids will likely welcome the opportunity to rid their garages, basements, and attics of untold amounts of kid-related items. Everything from clothing to cribs (make sure to check safety and recall information before using anything re-gifted). We received blankets, a huge number of toys, a Pack and Play (thanks Mom and Dad), a glider chair (thanks again), a baby monitor (thanks bonus Dad), and a ton of clothing. For a while there, it felt like we were the number one stop for UPS.
What about everything else on that list? You just don’t need that much. A place for baby to sleep. Wipes. Diapers (nappies), either disposable or cloth (more on that in a minute). Some blankets, for the elements and swaddling. If you drive, a carseat, and maybe a stroller. Clothing (but rein in your oohs and ahs over all those cute outfits that they’ll outgrow in two months). A few riffs on this: depending on how you end up feeding your baby, you may either purchase formula, or, if you’re going back to work, need to get a breast pump (which the ACA mandates insurance coverage for, and which usually comes with at least one set of accessories)—you’ll need bottles for either. This sounds like a lot, but if you have a baby shower, you’ll probably end up with most of these items.
Diapers. Nappies. Mandatory. I’m sure parents breathed a collective sigh of relief when disposables came into being in the 1950s. Really, who enjoys dealing with the mustard yellow liquid waste your offspring seems to delight in smearing everywhere? But those costs add up—so, you could try cloth diapers (plain old-fashioned prefolds) and wash them yourself, or you can invest in a diaper service (you will never be so happy as to see a bag of magically clean diapers waiting on your doorstep). Cloth diapers have come a LONG way from the safety pin ways of our grandparents—there are entire SYSTEMS (which cost a pretty penny, but can be re-used, and eventually, resold).
Diaper bag. We received ours (again) as a gift. Technically, you could probably use an old purse, or maybe cloth grocery bag—but ours carries spare nappies, a spare outfit in case of severe (and inevitable) blowout, wipes, a pacifier, a blanket, a toy, a portable changing pad, hand sanitizer, and a bib. That’s a lot to roll around in a shapeless grocery bag—the days with multiple blowouts (or warp core breeches, as we call them), I think we want a rolling suitcase.
A place for baby to sleep. The fantasy: you’re probably imagining your blissful, angelic bundle of joy, sleeping cozily in their beautiful crib in their own sweetly, lovingly decorated room. The room you agonized for hours over color schemes, bedding, lighting, and décor. You’re totally oblivious to the fact that baby will be waking you up (usually screaming) every two hours (sometimes more often) for the first four to six months. Does a stumbling, bleary-eyed walk to wherever baby’s room is at 3:30am sound appealing? It’s unlikely you’re going to appreciate that hand-painted mural and the adorable theme you picked out when you literally can’t find your feet. Voila! A small bassinet or co-sleeper right next to your bed is suddenly the BEST IDEA EVER. We got a “Pack and Play” as a gift—it came with a combo bassinet/changer insert—which we discovered absolutely killed our backs as we hunched over it changing a diaper at 2am. Our son also grew out of it within two months. As the mediator for my parents’ group likes to say, “Baby can’t fall off the floor”. True to that, many cultures either just move a mattress to the floor, or co-sleep, so if you already have a floor, you’re set!
Blankets—they serve a dual purpose. Sure, they look super cute wrapped around your precious offspring. But—babies come into the world not realizing their hands are attached to them, clocking themselves in the face, and then screaming bloody murder. Yeay!!! Blankets allow you to swaddle them, and basically create a magic, comforting baby prison. We received several re-gifted blankets (thanks Owen, whoever you are!), but opted to purchase some additional, larger muslin blankets (46” x 46”) because—you guessed it—kiddo is going to outgrow those cute little flannel numbers practically overnight.
Carseat and stroller. This is a great one for re-gifting, but keep in mind, car seats have expiration dates, and safety ratings. There’s roughly a bazillion brands, styles, and sizes. You’ll have to think about things like, “will this carseat fit with where I need my seat to drive?”(which the one we purchased almost didn’t!) Depending on how big your baby is when born, and how quickly they grow, you may even need a new carseat within the first year, (kids should stay rear-facing, if at all possible until they’re at least two years old). But do you really even need a carseat? Maybe not, if you live somewhere with great mass transit. What about the stroller? Kiddo can’t sit in one of those collapsible ones right off the bat. Is there a huge height different between you and (if you have one) your partner? Do you want to be able to jog with baby in tow? Is it important for you to be able to easily move this thing around, or do you not care if it weighs a ton? The answers to these questions can make a several hundred dollars difference in your budget. It was THE most expensive baby-related purchase we made.
Clothing. Don’t even bother buying stuff—seriously. You will get a ridiculous amount of clothing as shower gifts, from people you’ve never even met (No kidding, we got clothes from my mother’s neighbor when she found out we were expecting). We bought two outfits—one when we were sure kiddo was for real, and a “cute” one for him to wear home. But wait, that’s newborn stuff—what about 3-6 months, 6-9 months, etc.? We have a closet full of gifted clothes up to 24 months (which is NOT going smaller!). And if that’s not enough—go back and see what we said about them outgrowing stuff overnight. Resale/consignment is your friend, or you can check places like Goodwill, and the Tuesday Morning store. Really, it’s not uncommon to suddenly find a stack of clothes your baby never got to wear, they outgrow them so fast!
|Diaper Service (Seattle) + diaper pail and three free covers||$110 first month for 70 nappies/wk, then charged based on usage.|
|Newborn disposable diapers (40 count)||$23.99|
|Cloth diapers (plain prefolds) (12 count) up to 20 months old||$37.00|
|Diaper covers (6)||$79.99|
|Small bassinet to fit in tiny 1960s bedroom||$149.95|
|Bottles for pumping (3), bottle nipples||$19.99|
|Breastmilk storage bags||$17.99|
|Breastpump||Covered by insurance / ACA|
|Carseat and stroller "system"
- We don't live in a place with very good or nearby tranist options - so this was what we spent the most money on
|$919.97 (UPPABABY Mesa carset, carseat base, and Vista stroller travel system)|
Now, there are some “nice to have things”, admittedly. Those first few weeks, when you’re a new parent, you will do anything to make your baby stop crying. We discovered ours liked bouncing on a Swiss ball---which we already had, for exercising on. We also found he liked the vibration in a baby swing—which was loaned to us from friends with an eight month old—they were cleaning out their garage. Everything else is a bonus!
If you’re on a super tight budget, there’s also a growing movement for reduce/reusue/recycle through BuyNothingProject.org, a worldwide non-profit that connects neighbors via Facebook. Check their website to see if there’s a local group in your area.
Anything we really wish we had that we don’t? The only thing we miss is a changing table, because we’d like the top of our dresser back sooner rather than later.
Are there ridiculous things on the baby shopping list? Good grief yes. Why does the baby need a nightstand? A baby bathtub? Kiddo can shower with you, or potentially, if you’re careful, enjoy a brief soak in the tub under your cautious care—and you’re not left with yet another limited use piece of plastic clogging your home. Window treatments? Multiple sets of crib sheets? How much laundry do you WANT to do? A wipes warmer? These things work by heating up your damp baby wipes, and…making them dry. Older relatives may offer you outdated (or just plain bad) advice as well, so if something sounds weird, research it.
Overall, it’s easy to accumulate “kid” stuff, whether you buy it yourself, or receive it as a gift. But we don’t want to acquire 33% more stuff. We like parking in our garage. And so far, we’re doing pretty well. We have already re-gifted the newborn clothing we had. We received a bunch of formula samples, and gifted them on Buy Nothing. And when our son moves on from his current toys and clothing size, we’ll continue this path, of donating, and gifting, and hopefully teaching him that stuff does not equal happiness.
So, new parents: buy anything you haven’t touched? Receive a gift that’s still collecting dust in a corner of the house? Or, was there something you absolutely could NOT have lived without those first six months of your kiddo’s life? Or, if you’re from outside the U.S., are you wondering what the heck all this “stuff” is about? Let us know!
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