Mrs. Money Mustache: What do newborn babies really need?
Eliminating Lady Temptations: Avoid the Urge to Buy for Baby
by Mrs. Money Mustache
Congratulations! You’re having a baby!
Ah, babies… so small, so cute, so sweet, so…. expensive? Why is there a common misconception that having a baby costs a ton? How much does it really cost? Answer: not much.
Yet, us ladies just love to shop for babies. We must prepare. We are nesting. We’re not ready for the baby to come yet! The room decals we ordered have not arrived, the special nursing glider is not assembled, the room hasn’t been painted with fancy pink stripes… what will the baby think? Why do we spend more time thinking about buying and decorating (supposedly for the baby) rather than the actual task at hand: preparing for labor?
For you second, third, or fourth+ time moms, stop reading right now. You don’t need anything. No arguments — nothing.
If this is your first baby, you’re mostly going to have to get mentally prepared. That is the hard part. The actual objects you need for said baby are pretty minimal.
So, what did we do? I am the type of person that researches everything, so naturally, I researched the matter. What I found is that the Internet, my friends, and those scary things known as baby shower lists, grossly exaggerated what was needed. First of all, it’s quite possible that you might have friends who have young children themselves. They might already have enough hand-me-downs to take you through the whole first year. I’m sure it’s easy to spend $0 on your baby. Perhaps it’s even possible to spend negative dollars!
Challenge Idea: if you do need to make a few purchases for an upcoming baby, try getting it from friends and from various used sources. And then sell some extra stuff you have lying around your house for the same amount of money. Voila! Zero dollar baby.
Here’s what your newborn baby needs:
Sadly, babies are not born knowing how to use the toilet. So we choose between cloth or disposable diapers. (Side Note: Look up Elimination Communication or check out http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/ if you’re really advanced). For us, using cloth was a no-brainer. I spent hours researching cloth diapers and it seemed confusing at first, but it is actually extremely easy. People complain that it is complicated, that they have to wash them, that they leak, that it’s gross… get over it! You’re going to get shit on your hands either way. Once you find the right kind of diapers, it’s easy …
The Mrs. Recommends: Get a variety of cloth diapers for age 0-6 months. This helps you figure out what kind you like. Don’t get sucked up in the cuteness of cloth! You can spend a ton. Keep it simple, be successful. I purchased: 10 prefold diapers, 6 “Kissaluvs” contour diapers, about 4 covers for all these, 1 “Fuzzi Bunz” pocket diaper, 1 all in one diaper, and a couple of others. TIP: Prefolds work great as burp cloths too.
When your baby hits 6 months, sell the newborn diapers and buy the kind you like for the next stage. The MMM family used 14 Medium Sized Fuzzi Bunz diapers from 5 months until our son was potty trained at just over the age of 2. For overnight accident protection, we used cloth until nighttime toilet training was reached… no pull-ups required!
At that point, we sold the 14 Fuzzi Bunz for half their original price. It was a great investment overall, saving over a thousand dollars in disposables! Look for used cloth diapers, if possible, and re-sell once you’re done with them.
2. A Place to Sleep
When I was born, I slept in a little pink bathtub. Cozy and just the right size. When our son was born, he slept in a fancy co-sleeper attached to our bed. Your baby can also sleep in your bed, as ours ended up doing on most nights. The key, in my opinion, is that the baby is close to you to make nighttime feedings easier and to allow you to get as much sleep as possible. Your newborn baby does not need their own room or a crib, since they are so small. Your baby does not need fancy bedding.
The Mrs. Recommends: If I had to do it over again, I would have skipped the co-sleeper and had the baby sleep in bed with us. But, if that’s not an option for you, I would suggest using a Pack ‘N Play with Bassinet instead of the co-sleeper. After a quick search, the Graco Pack ‘N Play Playard and Bassinet seems to fit the bill. The secret here is that the “Playard” is not for playing — it’s a place for your toddler to sleep on the go, probably up to about age 2. Handy dandy. It’s simple and takes care of your baby’s sleeping needs for quite a long time. You easily can bring it to people’s houses and on trips. Plus, you can probably find one used.
There is absolutely NO need to buy new clothing for your baby. In all likelihood, you will get tons for free from friends that have already had babies. In our case, we literally received a Subaru Wagonful of clothing for ages 0-6 months. The parents were all too happy to get rid of it. It has since made the rounds to at least 10 other kids. If, for some reason, you don’t receive any free clothing, ask for it. If that doesn’t work, get some used from a consignment shop or buy bagfuls from craigslist. The point is, it is VERY easy to get used baby items. Our baby lived in footed PJs (he was born in January). I frankly saw no need for any other type of clothing, other than warmer stuff to throw on when we went outside. I’m not talking about a fancy baby winter coat here… I’m talking about blankets and body warmth. Your baby can fit inside your coat and would prefer to be there instead of in a stroller anyway.
The Mrs. Recommends: get all clothing used or from friends. There is no reason to buy a single stitch of new clothing for your baby.
4. A Carseat
If you drive, then it is required that you have a carseat. Most hospitals will check to make sure you have one before they discharge you. Many people will tell you that you need to get a new carseat, and I will not dispute this, as I understand their reasoning. However, we got a free carseat from a reliable friend who told us it had never been in an accident. We used it sparingly for one year and passed it on to another friend. If you’re lucky enough to have your baby at home, or you can walk home from the hospital, you probably won’t need a carseat at all. We planned to walk home from the hospital, but an unplanned c-section foiled these glorious plans. Have I mentioned that I hate hospitals?
The Mrs. Recommends: get a reliable used carseat from a friend or if you can’t find one, buy a basic newborn carseat. Try not to drive around with your baby in the car very much. That’s the safest thing you can do for your baby.
5. Breastmilk or Formula
Breastmilk is free – hooray!! If things had turned out like I wanted, I would have breastfed my baby for 2 years. But, alas, due to our circumstances, we had to supplement with formula, so we bought formula and bottles. But, we only bought these things after our baby was born, as we originally didn’t expect to need them.
The Mrs. Recommends: Breastfeed your child, but be prepared for some potential struggles. Have resources set up BEFORE you have your baby. A reliable and friendly lactation consultant or contact information for La Leche is a great idea. If there are any problems early on, get help right away.
Your baby needs you more than anything. If you can swing having at least 1 parent stay at home during the first 6 months of your child’s life (preferably longer), you not only save on daycare costs, but you give your child the greatest gift of all.
The Mrs. Recommends: have one (or both!) parents stay at home and save money on all the childcare expenses. Your baby gets YOU and you save money! Win-win.
As a final summary, here’s what the MMM family used for our little one from 0-6 months.
- mini co-sleeper (bought new) — this later made the rounds to 10+ kids — baby spent a lot of time in bed with us, so this was not really needed.
- Cost: $130
- little baby clothes, socks, blankets, assorted small toys (received free second hand from awesome friends) — these also made the rounds — again, we received a lot of clothing and only used a very small amount.
- Cost: FREE
- car seat (received free from friend) — given to a friend — we did drive occasionally, so this was needed.
- Cost: FREE
- maya wrap for carrying little one (bought used on craigslist) — sold on craigslist for $30 — we used this until our son was about 2 for walks, hikes, and around the house.
- Cost: $40, Sold for $30, Net Cost: $10
- about 20 cloth diapers, mostly new — sold for almost same price purchased.
- Cost: $150, Sold for $150, Net Cost: $0
- boppy pillow (received as gift) — re-gifted — we used this for breastfeeding as well as for lying down and sitting up
- Cost: GIFT
- bouncy chair (received free from friend) — given to a friend — our baby liked it a lot
- Cost: FREE
- baby bathtub (received as gift), although you use a small sink or simply bathe with your baby instead
- Cost: GIFT
Total Cost: $320 – $180 sold = $140.
To be fair, we did end up renting a pump from the hospital and buying formula and a few bottles, but as I mentioned earlier, these were unexpected costs. We also had to pay for the actual birth of the baby, as insurance did not cover all costs. However, since we all have a unique situation and I’m hopeful that your birth and breastfeeding experience is better than mine, it is easier not to factor all of this in. In total, the cost was still minimal compared to what the average family spends. Anything else can be purchased (preferably used) on an as needed basis.
Bonus Challenge: Try and use less than we did. It should be pretty easy.
Next time, we’ll chat about what babies don’t need. Months from now (as my articles are currently fairly sporadic), we might cover cloth diapers in more detail, the ridiculous tradition known as a “baby shower”, as well as what the 6 mo to 1 year old crew needs (again, not much).
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