Let’s face it, there are more baby items on the market than we know what to do with. I can’t tell you how many lists I’ve read of “must have” baby products. But how much do we really need for a baby? Some people say, “I just can’t afford to have a baby.” Why not? Because you think you have to buy a bunch of stuff? Want to know a dirty little secret? You don’t. You absolutely do NOT have to buy all of it for your baby. Full disclosure: With my first baby I was that mom who had to have all the baby gear. But by time I got to my 3rd, not so much. I have learned the difference between needs and wants. With my first, I had the nursery, the crib, the baby bath, the changing pad, the bath thermometer, the strollers (yes, plural), the toys, the bouncer, the jumperoo, the swing….need I go on? (By the way, are we truly incapable of telling if the bath water is too hot without the assistance of a rubber ducky that has a dot on it that turns red? But I digress…) So, let’s examine what baby really needs.
Food. Babies need to eat. Of course, God already provided the most nutritious, beneficial, immune-boosting substance on the face of the planet just for your baby – breast milk! There is nothing better. And it’s FREE! I don’t have a pump, or bottles, or formula with baby #3. This suits me just fine. I’m a stay-at-home-mom and I breastfeed my little man on demand. Of course, if you do work outside the home, this may not work for you. However, with some bottles and a pump, you can feed your baby without having to use expensive formula. Very, very few women truly can’t produce enough milk to feed their babies. If you think you are low on supply, contact a lactation consultant (or an experienced breastfeeding momma) who can help you make a plan to boost your supply, either by increasing the frequency of feedings, fixing latch issues, changing diet, or taking supplements.
Sleep. Babies need plenty of sleep, but they don’t need an expensive crib. There are several alternatives that work quite nicely. In our house, we co-sleep. Co-sleeping is a word that encompasses several different sleeping arrangements, including bed sharing, a sidecar crib attached to your bed, or a crib in your room. We choose to bed share, which also helps our breastfeeding relationship. Bed sharing allows both baby and momma to sleep all night, only lightly waking to latch on and then drifting back to sleep. A pack and play or bassinet next to the bed also works great. And if all else fails, use a drawer. No, I’m not kidding. An opened, empty dresser drawer lined with a blanket is the perfect size for a baby, and they won’t roll out of it. This used to be more common, though I’m sure it seems strange today. But if you really want to whittle down the difference between needs and wants, I’m telling you, as long as baby has a safe place to sleep, that’s all that matters. You don’t have to splurge. Curious about co-sleeping? Dr. Sears has written two helpful articles dealing with co-sleeping safety and co-sleeping benefits that I’m sure you will find enjoyable and informative.
Clothing. Yes, babies need clothes. How many outfits? Well, that’s debatable! 😉 Babies outgrow clothing so quickly. In fact, my kids are notorious for wearing a bigger size than their age. As of this writing, my 5 month old is currently wearing 12-18 month clothing. Yikes! We pretty much skipped newborn clothes altogether. We received some new outfits at a baby shower, and some more for Christmas, and only bought a couple outfits ourselves. The rest were hand-me-downs from friends or from our first two children. I kept a selection of baby clothes that I thought were cute and were still in good condition from my first two kids. I used a lot of sleeping gowns during the first several months because they come in 0-6 months size. It didn’t matter how long he was getting, he could still wear them. It was also incredibly easy to change diapers when you aren’t dealing with snaps from a onesie. Bottom line, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg if you can’t or don’t want to.
I’m going to put cloth diapers in this clothing category. Do kids need diapers? Well, if you were very poor and truly couldn’t afford diapers, you could easily use flour sack towels, t-shirts, or hand-me-down cloth diapers. If you had a little money to spend, some secondhand cloth diapers can be found on diaper swaps. Even if you decide to buy brand new cloth diapers at full price, you are still saving money over using disposable diapers. I can remember when I had two in diapers. . . I was spending about $220/month on diapers and wipes! I set aside about half of my monthly diaper budget and bought some cloth diapers and some fabric to make my own cloth wipes. I did the same thing the following month. I didn’t spend any more money than normal while I built my stash, and after that I spent nothing on diapers. The savings over the 2 years is very significant. Of course, if you’re brave, you could try EC.
Shelter. Does your baby have a roof over his or her head? Warmth? If your baby is protected from the elements, they’re fine. They don’t even need their own room; they can share one with you as I explained in the “sleep” section.
Love. A baby needs love to thrive. Can a baby survive without it? Yes, but they are merely surviving. I have seen miracles occur when a baby not expected to survive is placed on his or her momma’s chest. It is truly healing. Even typical babies who aren’t experiencing illness do benefit immensely from the love and touch of their mothers. Something else that I’m going to put in this category is babywearing. Is babywearing necessary in and of itself? No it’s not, but it’s highly beneficial. Babies are comforted by being close to mom, and being able to wear them also keeps them happy while you are trying to do other things, such as those pesky household chores that never seem to do themselves! But finding something to wrap baby in doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make your own for next to nothing, or even use a bed sheet or oversized towel.
So there you have it! Those are the things babies need. I know, I know, you’re going to ask me, “Yeah, but what about the bath? Or the swing? Or the little jungle gym?” Luxuries! If you want them, get them! Some things are fun, some make life more convenient, and some are more trouble than they’re worth. . .but that’s up to you to decide. I found the baby bath too cumbersome to use. Both my first two children hated baths when I used it. My 3rd baby loves baths because I bathe him with me in our tub. I think he’s comforted being skin to skin with me. We got a little gym at our baby shower. We use it and he loves it! Necessary? No. Fun? Yes. I will say that we only had one big splurge, and that was a swing. We got one that has two modes: swing and bouncer. The seat is the bouncer, and when it is snapped into the swing bar, it becomes a swing. We definitely don’t regret getting this luxury item!
My main point in writing this article is to let people know that you don’t have to have a lot of money to care for a baby. I’ve heard three different myths that I’d like to dispel.
- “I can’t have a baby, I don’t have enough bedrooms.” Baby doesn’t need his own bedroom, problem solved!
- “I can’t afford to have a baby right now, how will I come up with the money to feed and care for it?” As I’ve explained, caring for a baby doesn’t need to be expensive. Breastfeeding is free, they require minimal clothing (most or all of which could be hand-me-downs), you don’t have to purchase costly disposable diapers every month, and you don’t need the latest and greatest gadgets and gear.
- “I already have a baby, but I still need to buy XYZ and don’t have the money.” No, you don’t have to buy them! Re-evaluate needs versus wants, and I bet you’ll find you can do without.
If you WANT something, go for it! I’m not writing this to dissuade you from buying anything that you want to purchase, but simply to give you a new perspective about needs vs. wants. What were some things you felt you couldn’t live without when you had a baby?