Baby on a Budget

As a doula in Utah I work with a lot of young families who are looking for creative ways to “do baby on a budget.” I love saving money and I have found that babies needs much less to be happy then we might think. Many “essential” baby items sit collecting dust and many expecting families are left wondering what you REALLY need to welcome baby right. Here some of my do’s and don’ts for raising a happy baby with happy wallet.

DO – Have a Small Wardrobe

Babies do go through a lot of clothes and a small wardrobe is one thing that you really do need, but you don’t need nearly as many outfits as you might think. Baby clothes are small and if you wait for enough baby clothes to make a full load you will likely need 7-10 days worth. If instead you throw a handful of baby clothes in with family laundry you can wash a load every day or two and possibly need even less!

DO – Choose Used Clothes

First ask around for hand-me-downs, often people are just planning to give or throw away the clothes their children outgrow and don’t know you’re happy to take them. Spread the word that you are grateful for any and all baby clothes and thank them with some cupcakes, they might just call you in a few months with the next batch of outgrown items. Next check Facebook, thrift stores, and local classifieds. Often you can score an entire garbage bag full of clothes for $20! Lastly, check good old fashioned yard sales. You can expect to pay about $1 per item, but unlike bags purchased off a classified you can actually check out each item and pick and choose the ones you like.

When choosing used clothes, don’t let the stains bother you. I have learned that almost any stains you find can be scrubbed out with a little elbow grease and my personal favorite mixture of 2 parts hydrogen peroxide to 1 part blue dawn dish soap. Another favorite stain fighter in our house is BIZ. Then I always wash used clothes in a couple of heavy duty cycles with a good strong detergent like Tide and we are good to go.

DON’T – spend a lot on a fancy car seat

Car seats are basically the MOST important baby item you will need. I am a totally nerd for car seat safety and have spent probably hundreds of hours researching different seats, how to use them properly, etc. The good news about car seats when you’re on a budget is this; any car seat for sale today in the USA must have passed the same rigorous safety testing. So in short, any seat for sale is about as safe as the next. There is no “safer” seat on the market. Any claims of higher safety testing standards, better construction, etc. are all just creative marketing by the company. The safest seat is the one that fits your baby and your car properly and you will use correctly 100% of the time. That means a $45 seat will be just as safe as a $450 seat and the only thing you are paying extra for is the look of the seat and the extra features. If you are looking to save money I would highly recommend the Costco Scenera NEXT. It’s the seat I chose after MUCH research and we have been very happy with it. If fits from newborn until 40LBS and 43INCHES which for most kids is well past age 3 and, you guessed it, it’s $44 from Walmart! It’s also easy to install which is a big deal. 90% of seats are installed incorrectly or are being used incorrectly.

DO – Learn How to Use Your Car Seat PROPERLY

Taking the time to learn about basic car seat safety and reading the manual for your car AND the seat you choose is a MUST. That hour to read through both manuals and taking the time to install the seat correctly will be a far safer choice than shelling out big bucks for a seat that you don’t take the time to learn to use properly. Also on car seats consider skipping the infant seat all together. The infant carrier some moms find convenient, but it is an unnecessary expense if you are looking to save money. Many convertible car seats will fit from birth until age 2-4, while an infant seat will usually only fit until about the first birthday and you will still need to purchase a convertible seat anyhow. The website is a great resource. It has reviews of different seat and info on how to properly use them.

DON’T – Buy Use Car Seat Accessories

Don’t spend money on those cutesy strap covers, seat covers, or neck supports. If it didn’t come with the seat it is NOT safe to use. Adding anything to the seat is unsafe and can void the warranty and cause the seat not to work properly in a crash.

DON’T – Buy or use fluffy stuff

Don’t buy or use fluffy blankets, stuffed animals, pillows or bumper pads in the crib. A baby under 1 year, who sleeps in a crib should sleep with nothing accept a tight fitting sheet and a small blanket or sleep sack.

That’s it.

Put nothing else in the crib.

Save the money and keep your baby safe.

DO – Breastfeed

The benefits to mom AND baby from breastfeeding are clear and undeniable, but also breast milk is FREE! And the money saving benefits from breastfeeding don’t just end with not buying formula, breastfeed babies are also healthier, require fewer costly visits to the doctor and fewer missed days of work for mom and dad.

Now this can be a difficult subject because many moms struggle with or are unable to breastfeed, but did you know that only about 2-5% of moms have medical or physical reasons they cannot nurse? That means that 95-98% of moms can. But here is the thing, nursing doesn’t come easy and MOST of the information you get from friends, family and even doctors and nurses is WRONG!

If you want to reap the many benefits of breastfeeding including the money you can save by skipping formula you must be proactive. Start in your pregnancy. Watch videos, read books, take a breastfeeding class and attend local support meetings like those offered by your local Moms who surround themselves with the proper support and information BEFORE they give birth, double their chances of reaching their breastfeeding goals. Many doulas like me have taken additional training in breastfeeding and they are a great first step for basic tips and techniques and dispelling common myths, and remember that research has shown the support of a doula during your pregnancy and birth increases you success with breastfeeding. WIC offers free breastfeeding support from peer counselor and consultants and many LLL leaders will offer free support over the phone and even offer free home visits.

If you are struggling to breastfeed know you are not alone, most new moms struggle to some extent and if you want to continue to breast feed then get help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). They are experts in human lactation. Don’t trust a pediatrician to provide current and accurate information on lactation. A pediatrician is an expert in childhood growth, health and disease and an IBCLC an expert in breastfeeding. One visit to an IBCLC is usually less than the cost of a month of formula and may well save your nursing relationship. Getting professional help to breastfeed, if breastfeeding is something you wish to do, is one thing not to cheap out on!

DO – Consider generic brands of formula

If you choose not to breastfeed feed, consider generic brands of formula. Not only are all brands highly regulated and held to high standards, often the difference in price comes down to marketing alone. Did you know that the Kirkland signature formula sold at Costco is made by Similac and is identical to Similac Advance Recipe with only 1 difference? It’s got the full recommended amount of DHA. Similac has chosen to add just half of the recommended amount of DHA to its formula in an effort to save money and increase profits, but when Costco approached them to make a formula for its Kirkland Signature brand it asked that they make an identical formula to Similac Advance but to include the full amount of DHA.

DO – Consider Cloth Diapers

We chose to use cloth diapers for our baby and it’s actually become something I LOVE! I “smell” a whole other blog post all about cloth, but for now I will just say that modern day cloth diapers are super cute and much easier to use then you might think. We estimate, even once you consider the cost to launder our diapers, that we will save nearly $2000 on diapers for just one baby and that’s nothing to shake a poopy diaper at! If you want to learn more about cloth consider starting here. Fluff Love University

DON’T – Spend Money on Big Gadgets

Don’t spend money on those bigger items like vibrating chairs, self rocking cradles, swings that play music, walkers, and jumpers. Really most of these are a total waste of money. Babies don’t need them and they often don’t even like them. A quick check on those local yard sale sites can help you save money here in two ways. First? Pay attention to the item you see posted over and over again in new condition. “My baby HATED this” “Used 2 times EVER” “Need to get rid of this, just taking up space” You will see the same type of items listed time and again. It’s a great way to see the items that don’t seem to get much use anyway and, a great way to pick up these items on the cheap if you want them. Also many of these items are only used for a few months until they are outgrown. My sister has a baby just 4 months older than mine. We were able to share many of these bigger items because just as her baby was outgrowing them mine was just ready to use them, and when she outgrew them they were passed down to another baby in the family. Our swing has been through 5 different babies and is still in fine shape.

DON’T – Waste Money on a Bottle Warmer

Really? A machine that takes up counter space and its only purpose is to warm a bottle? If only you had ANY other device in your house that could produce warm liquid. If you want a bottle warmer then go for it, but if you are looking to save money then just heat a mug of water in the microwave and drop the bottle in for a minute or two. Always test to make sure the milk is not too hot before feeding baby.

DO – Get a Baby Carrier

Spend the money you saved on all the above items and invest in a baby carrier. Look into baby wearing and the many benefits to mom and baby. Babies have spent 9 months with you, IN you, completely surrounded and always held, warm and constantly moving and hearing the beat of your heart. Once they are born and while they are small the ONLY thing they want and need is YOU. No fancy equipment, just you. Your warm body, the sound of your heartbeat and the smell of your skin will calm and sooth them better than absolutely any machine or device.

My baby was a high needs girl and needed to be with me all the time. She just wanted to be held, but I needed to get stuff done. For months we fought about it. Me trying to put her down all the time, “Here, lay in this swing. How about this vibrating chair? A soft blanket on the floor?” And she was having none of it. I finally just gave in and sat down and held her and she was happy and I was happy that she was happy, but darn it all because the dishes, no matter how long they sit, just don’t wash themselves. Once we finally got the hang of baby wearing it seriously changed our lives.

A good carrier is totally hands free. I could hold my baby AND get stuff done. We could go to the store and not have to pray she just stayed asleep in the car seat while I ran like an Olympian down each isle. If she was strapped on to me we could take our time and we were both really much happier. I no longer had the fear of “what if she wakes up” and I could actually fill my cart with groceries rather than have the whole cart filled with a car seat that we both knew she wouldn’t be happy in the whole time anyhow. If you want a cheap and versatile carrier to see if baby wearing is right for you check out the Infantino Sash Mei Tai for under $30. If fits from baby to toddler and it is ergonomic, meaning that baby is supported at the hip joint and bum rather than dangling with their weight on their crotch. It’s a great basic carrier to start with and we still use it now as a backup although now that our baby is bigger we have upgraded. Some moms even skip the stroller all together and just baby wear.

DON’T – Spend Money on Educational Toys

Your baby is learning and growing at an incredible pace for the first few years of life, and the best way to support this growth is talking, reading, and simple games. Really, all baby needs to learn and develop is you! Electronic toys that count to 3? Call me crazy but I’m hoping my child will learn to count well beyond the number 3 so you know how I have taught her to do that? We count all the time. We count her toes as she is getting a diaper change. We count the ducks in the pond as we go for a walk. Playing peek-a-boo, singing little songs, and reading tons of books (bought used or from the library). Electronic toys that claim to teach a child anything are a complete waste of money. The only thing a baby needs to learn and grow is interaction with people. Really that’s it. No expensive toy can duplicate it. More words matter and recent studies have shown that the difference in reading and language skills for children for low socio-economic homes comes down to simply hearing 30 Million fewer words in the first 4 years of life. The good news is that simply talking, reading, singing, and interacting more with your child are free and immensely valuable!