There’s no way you can escape it, having a baby means getting some new stuff. The surprising thing (or maybe not surprising thing) is that babies don’t actually need to cost a lot of money and they definitely don’t need a lot of stuff. That’s why really, really relatively impoverished people are still able to raise healthy children in environments that do not have all the plastic baby equipment that we enjoy/are told we need.
You may want to acquire some of the items below later…but why not put it off until then, then you can evaluate? And if you do decide to buy, save your money and the environment by canvassing Craisglist, Freecyclers, etc. Basically, let’s free ourselves from the belief (and accompanying stress, and work) that having a baby costs a lot of money and that you need a lot of stuff in order to raise your baby properly. In a normal circumstance (healthy birth, healthy baby, healthy mom) you only need to consider the following: your baby will eat, poop/pee, sleep and cry. In fact, your life is going to change so monumentally that all of this stuff is going to be pretty low on your list, and anytime that you need to be holding/reading instructions/ doing anything to take care of this stuff that requires you not hold on to the baby while she is hollering her tiny little face off is just going to contribute to your new mommy stress.
Here’s what you do need. You need some strategy for catching poop – be it cloth diapers, disposables or “elimination communication”/ natural infant hygiene (we did all three) and wipes or rags, or you can wash baby under the sink like my mother does when she makes a poop (this baby does not know diaper rash exists). You need a place for baby to sleep (it could be in your bed – read and follow recommendations on co-sleeping safely). In my experience, you will probably benefit from some kind of baby-wearing device (but you can make your own sling from a piece of cloth), but again, the good Lord gave us arms for that. Your optimal solution to deal with the crying is to be there and have plenty of support to take care of you when you are worn out of taking care of the baby. I also recommend buying a nursing bra when your milk comes in. It should not have underwire. This is a lifesaver. Or you could just be mostly naked and stay home during your first bonding months together. Your baby doesn’t need to take a full immersive bath for many weeks and submerging her can slow down the umbilical stump drying up and falling off.
So some of the above is even not necessary. But everything else is definitely your elective spending. Obviously you can buy a $2000 crib as the place for your baby to sleep. You could buy very expensive disposable diapers, a $400 self-cleaning diaper bin, a $1000 changing table to elevate your poop changing experience, a $300 special chair for mommies called a glider, the Ferrari of strollers, a bunch of special post-natal clothing designed for nursing….the list is actually endless. Just remember that somebody is probably working to make the money to spend on these nice things, and all that time spent working means not spending the time you have consecrated to earning that money with your beautiful new baby.
My own experience, like most Western moms, involved receiving many gifts through the registry at my shower from very generous family and friends, including things that, sadly, were used only once and which now live in my basement. Other things were very useful. I am especially grateful for all of the donated items of clothing and cold weather snowsuits, bunting bags, etc. because L. was born in September. Other than that, I subscribed to a cloth diaper service and I had to buy cloth diaper covers and experimented with some special pins to hold the pre-folds together (which didn’t end up working). Later we added flannel diaper liners we helped her to feel dry and cry less. We also bought disposables for outings. She ate nothing but my free breastmilk, usually straight from the breastaurant. She slept in a $45 bassinet (shower gift) close to my bed when she was very tiny and then in my bed for a long time, and still sometimes in my bed. We bought a crib, but she didn’t sleep there for about 2 months after we bought it. In terms of finance, I am sure I came out ahead because my previous spendy life of carousing in bars and attending events and paying for fitness classes, and eating in restaurants was replaced with staying home to tend baby.
Enough ado. Here is the list.
1. Clothes. You do need a minimum number of infant outfits, but you don’t need to buy them. Here, your network is extremely important. We have received oodles and oodles and oodles of beautiful clothes through family and friend-of-family donation. Some of these clothes even have tags on them – they are brand spanking new. Then of course we also recieved gift clothes, which we struggle to have L. wear so that we can document it and send a photo to the generous person in question. I suspect that many of these people were holding on to the clothes so that they could give them away, knowing that most of these clothes had 1-3 wearings before their child grew out of that adorable onesie. Also, your infant will be happiest, healthiest and warmest wearing absolutely nothing, in bed with a naked momma.
2. Shoes. Chalk this one up under things you don’t need at all. Dude, baby can’t walk. Those shoes are just going to scuff up your own clothes and get in your way. Besides, don’t you want to admire your darling’s tiny toes? We have been the unhappy recipients of about 80 pairs of baby shoes which I am now just heating and storing in my closet. Even the cool ones. Useless.
3. A change table. We have always changed the baby on the floor on a folded towel. It’s convenient and easy and I can place a towel and a few diapers in every room of the house. I just stumbled across a confession from a well-known blogger who documented that when she looked away, her child rolled off the table and hurt him/herself. Now, it is true I am sure most parents have accidentally and innocently participated in injuring their child. My own took a tumble off of my very low bed when she pitched herself forward. It was a harrowing moment. So eliminating the change table is not going to eliminate your child falling off of raised items, but at least it eliminates one of the raised items that she will regularly be placed on, thereby reducing her risk of falling off of said raised items by, oh, about 90%. <–my own statistics.
4. Comforters and crib bumpers. They are highly not recommended in North America for newborns because of risk of SIDS/smothering. If your baby were to get caught under a heavy quilt, he/she would have a very hard time moving it to breath again. They recommend dressing the baby for warmth in layers, or using sleep sacks, but the best thing you can do is keep the baby close to you for most of the day.
5. Toys & Books. You can wave a billion toys in your newborn’s face but they really don’t care about them. They can’t really hold them, they definitely won’t swat at them, and they definitely can’t do whatever they are supposed to do with the toy. They just want milkies, warmth, sleep, cuddles, loving smiles and your presence and time. The time for toys will come.
6. Their own room. (Yes! This is a bonus)….Esp in the beginning you will want to stay very close to your baby to respond to her frequent yelps for food/comfort. After you can decide if you want the baby to have their own room. I did move out of my baby’s room about the time we gave her a set napping/sleep routine because obviously I couldn’t go rooting around for my own things while she was sleeping.
What did you think you would need but actually didn’t? How do you keep your needs low? Practice mommy frugality?