Babies are expensive. For such tiny little creatures, many retailers would have us believe that you need a whole lot of stuff to survive those first few years. I work at a baby and maternity store, and with Baby M on the way, I have really been thinking about what we need versus what we want. Of course, having done this all once before has been a huge help, and we definitely have a better idea of what worked for us and what was a waste of time and money.
A girl from my due date group is having her first and is overwhelmed by options. I sent her a list I put together and thought that maybe it would be helpful to others. When I think about where we are now, compared to where we were when I was pregnant with L, I realized that a lot has changed. With L, we were both working and had decent savings. I had paid maternity leave coming up. This time, I work part time, with no paid mat leave and practically no savings. I know how important it is to know what your options are for different budgets, as well as an idea of what you actually NEED versus what you might just want. So, before getting to the checklist, here is a break down of what a you need for a new baby.
Note: This post is NOT sponsored. I have used these products and love them, that’s it. I am not being compensated in anyway for talking about them.
So, what do I actually NEED to keep this baby alive?
Let’s break this down to the very very basic stuff. What are the things that a human infant need to live?
- A safe place to sleep
- Clothing to protect them from the elements
- A food source
- A plan for their waste products
- Something to safely get them from A to B.
That’s it, really. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned about having a baby is that you can make anything as simple or as complicated as you please. This applies to everything, for the most part, and is especially true when it comes to baby gear. Baby Stuff is a huge industry and if we believe what advertisers and retailers tell us, we need ALL THE THINGS to be successful loving parents. I couldn’t disagree more. I think every family is different, has a different home,a different set of priorities, a different style and a different budget. I also think that there is nothing wrong with anyone one that scale, so long as the child is having their needs met.
To start, I’m going to talk about these basic needs and then I’ll get into options. Eventually, I’ll get into the actual checklist, I promise. Stay turned for Part 2.
A Safe Place to Sleep
So, this really depends on you and your comfort level. Bedsharing, Co-Sleeping, a laundry basket, a large box, a bassinet, a floor bed, a pack and play, or a crib. You have options. And yes, those are all real options. You can use a combo of these, change things up as your family’s needs change.
I don’t claim to be a sleep expert or a baby safety expert, so please take all of this with a grain of salt and follow your own gut and comfort level. From my own experience and reading, a safe sleep space basically means a place where baby can sleep comfortably, without anything that become an obstruction to breathing or that may pin baby in a position where they cannot breathe. A firm mattress or surface is recommended, with no blankets, pillows, or stuffies. The concept behind the laundry basket, the box, bassinet, pack and play and crib are a seperate baby-only space. With bedsharing, I stress that is not recommended for those who are very heavy sleepers, who take medication to help them sleep, those who drink or do drugs before bed or those who move around a lot in bed at night. Floor beds are essentially a mattress on the floor for baby to sleep on, which requires a safe room (furniture anchored to the wall, cords out of reach, etc…) in case baby ends up out of bed.
As you can imagine, these options range from free (sharing your own bed), to cheap (repurposed laundry basket with a soft surface) to more expensive (cribs really can range from hand-me-down to custom and extremely expensive).
What we do: We did a combination of things. For a while, L slept in bed with me. Eventually, we added a pack and play and a hand me down cradle for naps. He then moved to a crib in our room (considered co-sleeping, and is recommended by Health Canada) for all sleeping when we found he slept better on his own. For his first birthday, he was gifted a custom montessori style bedframe (basically a floor bed with a low frame to encourage him not to roll out) by his Nanny and Grammy, and so we moved him to his own room. We plan on doing basically the same thing with Baby M. The crib is all set to go beside our bed, the pack and play is ready for main floor naps and I expect to have him in our bed for the first couple of months.
Clothing to protect them from the elements
This one is pretty obvious. Naked babies are adorable, but tend to get chilly and cranky. Depending on your climate, you need different things for baby. I don’t want to get too far into the specifics here, but I think the key is that every baby is different. I run cold, pretty much all the time. My kid, on the other hand, is a freaking furnace. As a baby, he was miserable when he was too hot. The best way to prepare? Layers. Diaper Shirts/Onesies, long sleeved and short. Leggings, sleepers, socks. That will pretty much get you through. Don’t spend a tonne on newborn sized stuff, as you have no idea how long your kiddo will actually be in them. For L, it was about a month. He stayed in 3-6 month stuff a bit longer, and lived in 6-12month stuff a bit longer.
For the great outdoors, your climate will dictate your needs. Car seat safe snowsuits, hat, mitts, boots for us winter folks, Sun hats, breathable layers for those of you who live in the heat.
Budgets get a lot of room here. You can buy new, at top end stores for those who want to and can. For those with tighter budgets, become familiar with your local consignment stores, join freecycle or buy nothing groups, ask friends and families for hand-me-downs. Those of you in the middle can shop sales (there is always a sale around the corner! Talk to your parent friends or online groups. Often parents already have an ear to the ground),
What We Do: I work in a consignment store, so I stalk the super cute clothes and shop the sales (last night I snagged some clothing for L off our dollar rack). When money was a bit better, I shopped the sales at Children’s Place, Old Navy and Carters. Buy Nothing groups have been a life saver for finding baby clothes (we sold off a bunch of L’s stuff, and most of it was the wrong season for our upcoming winter baby).
A food source
Humans need to eat. This is as basic as basic needs get. Thankfully, we live in a time where we have safe options to choose from to suit our lifestyles, budgets, health restrictions and unique families. For those who choose to, there are many formula options out there. Catered to specific dietary needs and sensitivities, there are many ways for you to feed baby. Many formula companies will send you free samples and coupons, and I know that bulk stores like Costco or price matching at Walmart can help you get the best price.
Breastfeeding is a great option for those that can. It’s free, made by your body and is the perfect food for your baby. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes requires lots of support and guidance, but it is an option that is worth considering.
Like with all parenting choices, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can breastfeed and supplement with formula. You can breastfeed for a few months and then switch. Do what is right for you and your baby.
What else do you need? Well, for the first 6 months you will need your food (formula or breastmilk). Breastfeeders may also choose to supplement or pump. In that case, you will need a pump (manual pumps are cheapest, electric pumps are easiest), bottles, and milk storage (bags or trays). Anyone who feeds with a bottle with need, of course, bottles, a bottle cleaner brush, something to sterilize the bottles (a large pot of boiling water, or a sterilizing bag or tray), nipples for the bottles. Bottles range from relatively cheap to pretty expensive, with different features and options.
Formula feeding parents can also get some gadgets to make life a bit easier. Bottle warmers, automatic formula mixing machines (similar to a keurig), special bottles for formula mixing and storage, etc…
Breastfeeding parents may seek items to make things easier and more comfortable. Nipple creams, breast feeding pillows, breastfeeding covers, breast pads, nursing bras, nursing clothing, breast pillows or gel pads, lactation foods or teas. At the end of the day, the only thing you really “need” is your breasts, patience, support and knowledge. Breastmilk works as a soothing nipple treatment, any pillow will work in a pinch, clothing can be made to work.
What we do: I approached breastfeeding somewhat selfishly. I had read, several years ago, that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer for both the parents and the child. Seeing as how my mother died of breast cancer, this was a major concern for me. Also, I’ve heard that it can help prevent digestive issues. Both Pat and I have suffered with a variety of digestive problems over the years (he is undiagnosed, I have IBS). So, my plan was to give it a shot and hope for the best. My goal was 6 months. Well, here I am and I still nurse my 3.5 year old. It has been a life saver for us. Thankfully, it came easily to me. I have always had an oversupply and my little dude was dedicated to the cause, despite a bad lip tie. We worked through it and had some great support to pull us through. I plan to continue with Baby M. I love how easy it is (I can’t imagine mixing bottles in the middle of the night), how it got me a bit more sleep and rest in the middle of the night, and how soothing it was for L when he was hurt or sick.
I do have a nursing pillow that I love (hand me down), I used breast milk as a nipple cream, I used a pump (electric) and breastfeeding friendly bottles. I had a cover, but I hate it. I got it for free on a cheapie web deal. I shop sales for nursing bras and nursing tops, as well as used clothing sites and consignment stores.
A plan for their waste products
What goes in, must come out. If your my kid, this is true from the very moment he was born. He peed on the nurse and had pooped in the womb. Yep. So, where do you want that waste to go? You have a couple of options, There are disposable diapers, reusable/cloth diapers, and no diapers (elimination communication). Obviously EC would be a free option, and is considered the norm in many different cultures. For those that this doesn’t suit, there are diapers. I don’t really want to get into the specifics of diapering just now, as that would take a whole other post to get through. So, to sum up: Cloth is the cheapest option in most cases, though there are some expensive fluffy butts out there. Disposables are more expensive, though there are budget brands. In each case, there are accessories that you can add for ease and comfort. Special bins, air fresheners, wipes, creams, organization, you name it. You can honestly get by with just a diaper, and something to clean the baby’s bum (disposable wipe or reusable cloth with water) and somewhere to put the mess (either garbage or the wash).
What we do: L was in Pampers until he was around 1. We used Pampers sensitive wipes, occasional bum cream, and diaper genies. At that time, I got a job at the store and started using Cloth part time. I used a mix of different brands and types, for about 6 months. We then switched back to pampers full time. We are in the middle of potty learning now. The plan for Baby M is to use cloth during the day (part time, when Daddy is away), and disposables at night or when we are out for extended periods of time. Pat is not pro-cloth, but is down with me saving us some money by using my stash when he isn’t around. Hopefully this will save us some cash as we shouldn’t need very many sposies. I will get into the specifics of my stash another time, but for the most part it is a mix of brands, hand-me-downs and types (prefolds, hybrids, all in ones, pockets, fitteds)
Something to safely get them from A to B
This one is pretty straight forward. Do you have a car? You need a car seat. Do you take the public transportation or walk? You might want a carrier or a stroller. Your car seat needs to be up to current safety standards and should be installed properly and used safely. There are a millions resources out there, from free to paid, to help you keep your baby safe in the car.(Check out The Car Seat Lady and S.E.A.T.S) I will say, very strongly, that is is IMPERATIVE that you use your car seat correctly. It is the difference between life and death. Really.
Strollers are like freaking cars these days. You can buy a cheap beater or an expensive Ferrari. You can buy used, you can find them free online, or you can buy one pretty much anywhere. Your budget and needs really dictate what stroller will work best for you.
Carriers. Man, I could go on forever for carriers. They are a life saver in this house, so I will keep it brief: They help you get stuff done, they are great for being out and about, and they help with bonding and breastfeeding. There are a tonne of different kinds and brands. I will post about this later. You can get them cheap or insanely expensive.
What we do: All of the above. When L was bitty, we had a bucket seat that we will be reusing for baby M. We paid full price at Toys R Us for it (We got the Graco Snugride 35). We also bought our Stroller at Toys R Us but then later won the exact same stroller in a contest, which I then sold, so it kind of paid for itself. We wanted something that could do well in the snow, and at the dog park, that worked with our bucket seat, had a good long life and a decent resale value. We ended up with a BOB Revolution SE and we love it. It was definitely a splurge. As for Carriers…well..I have many. I will say that for baby M I plan on using a stretchy wrap (Boba and Moby, one gifted and one bought new). Ring Slings (new custom conversions) and a woven wrap (a beater Girasol bought used online and a Didymos that was gifted to me) for the early days.
So, there you have it. The basics as well as some insight into what we’ve done for L and plan to do with Baby M. The next post will be about specific products and will include an actual checklist of things I recommend. If you have any questions, please ask away! As you can tell, I am a baby geek. I love this stuff. I especially love helping people figure out their own personal needs.
The rest of the Baby Basics Series: