Sunday, 20 June 2010

How to have a cheap baby

I found an old document I'd written before I was pregnant listing all the things I thought I'd need for our new addition. I made it using a range of information to try and make a budget. At the time, I was bombarded with check-lists on the Internet, in books and in magazines all telling me about the 'essentials'. Turns out, a lot of those essentials aren't really that essential.

These are a few things I either bought, or discovered weren't really necessary for bringing up a happy baby.

Travel System
Admittedly, we bought this second hand from some friends, so we spent far less than we could have done. We foolishly decided to buy the car-seat to go with the pram/pushchair part, and ended up with an insanely heavy seat that we never put on the base. After two months, Alice was pretty clear that she didn't like being wheeled about one bit, and I was fed up of being unable to go in places I wanted to without knocking over displays or running over people's feet. The pushchair was banished to the garage, and my mei tai became the new, and very much improved form of transport.

Disposable Nappies
A conservative estimate of 6 nappies a day at 15p a nappy works out at £27 a month or £328.50 a year. Then there's the cost of disposable wipes. I made the swap to cloth after about a month, and wish I had sooner. My stash has cost me about £200, which made me wince, but will see through Alice and hopefully another sibling too. If I'd bought second hand or a different brand, I could easily have spent less than this. Even with costs of washing, the costs are nowhere near that of disposables.

Baby bath
What wrong with bathing at the same time as your baby? Saves water too.

Outfits for newborns
I could barely dress myself in the first month. Plain babygros and vests were all I wanted to use.

Moses basket/cot/baby sleeping bags/travel cot
Thankfully I received a cot and Moses basket as hand me downs, but bought new mattresses. We managed a full two weeks of dutifully popping her in and out of the basket at night until we joined the dark side and began co-sleeping. Cheap, and in my humble opinion, the very best place for a baby to sleep.

I know these are an essential for many mothers, but I had no idea it was even possible to feed a baby without ever giving them a bottle. I blame the dolls I had as a child that always came complete with bottle! I tried and failed to get Alice to take one before stopping to think why I was even trying. I'm in no desperate hurry to go out in the evenings, and I'm a stay at home mum. Straight from the tap is all she needs.

If I had wanted to formula feed, I'm told that one box lasts about a week, and each box is about £7. That's £365 a year!

Another thing I seemed to believe came as part of the set. Alice was a very sucky baby and I was warned that she was using me as a 'human dummy', but she wouldn't take to any of the many types of dummy we bought her. I am hugely relieved now as I'm sure all that sucking helped my supply and I don't have to worry about stopping her using one. I've since realised that dummies are there to imitate a breast, I wasn't imitating a dummy.

Now obviously I want some toys for my baby, but I've had to think very carefully about each one. More often than not she's happier playing with the box it comes in. A toy marketed as encouraging physical or mental development has far less positive effect than a willing pair of hands or a range of interesting household objects.

What could be more soothing than mummy or daddy's arms?

Weaning stuff
Baby led weaning means none of the jars, Tupperware, ice-cube sized pots or hand blenders needed for traditional weaning. She just eats food that's cooled from my plate. All we need is a place for her to sit, and a lot of cloths to clean up with.

Baby shoes
I really don't get these. When she's walking, she'll wear some, but until then, socks are just fine in this climate.

Wipe warmers, baby walkers, playpens and changing tables... I really could go on and on. Parents want the best for their children, and it is easy for companies to prey on this by making out their products are vital for a happy well-developed child. It's worth taking a step back and thinking about whether our children really need the things we're told they need.

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