Raising a Budget Baby in a Consumerist World
So here is a discussion on the various things you can buy for your nursery and the costs involved, to help you make an informed decision before you work it into your budget.
|crib||car seat||rocker||layette||stroller||sling||baby gate||total:|
That’s basic. Your new baby will need a place to sleep. For some famillies, this may mean sharing your bed. For others, this may mean an heirloom cradle with a brass name plate, followed by a solid-maple six-year crib only used for a year and a half, which is then transformed into a toddler bed. Some families may also invest in port-a-cribs and playpens.
Cradles, bassinets, and playpens have fallen out of favor in recent years. A newborn will only use a bassinet for two months, three at tops. You cannot use the bassinet once the baby is rolling over or sitting. A bassinet starts at around $100 (not including the bedding) and a cradle at $150. Since a newborn will sleep just fine in a crib, here is one expense you can do without.
Get a good crib. Your baby can sleep in the crib until he starts first grade. Because nearly everybody gets a crib, you can always find one used. Don’t get one that’s too old, as the older cribs may not meet current safety standards. But if you check around, you should be able to find a really nice used crib for around $150.00. Check rummage sales and Good Will for crib sheets and blankets.
If you choose to go with a new crib, you can still save money. It isn’t necessary to get one that converts into a toddler bed. Toddlers may actually sleep better and feel more secure if they stay in their crib, even after toilet training. Think about it – do you really want your little child up wandering around the house when you might still be asleep? If your child calls for you, and you don’t wake up to answer, it is probably better to have to deal with wet pants and bedding, than whatever mischief or danger your child could get in to. Get a crib and use it.
The issues of a family bed could fill an entire post, if not a book, so I won’t do more than mention that some families choose to keep their baby in their bed. For safety reasons, you should not do this if either you or your significant other smokes or consumes alcohol, to reduce the risk of rolling over on top of your baby.
A Car Seat
For the car seat, it might be wisest to go new. Go ahead and check the garage sales and second-hand shops, but again, older ones may not meet current safety standards. Not all car seats fit in all vehicles – we had a car seat with the padded shield that comes down overhead – it was really hard to use in our Pontiac Firebird, where the roof sloped sharply down in the rear. There is a really great website that discusses car seats, how to use them, how to buy them, by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Used rockers are really hard to find. I think that’s because people who own them, use them all up. So shop around, but you should be able to get a solid, wooden one for around $150.00.
“Layette” comes from the French, for “little box”. Supposedly, all the things a baby needed to wear would fit in one – a little box, that is. Many babies today have their own chest of drawers and a closet to hold all their things, which is really ridiculous when you figure how fast they’ll outgrow them. Little tiny baby things are just so darn cute! It’s hard to resist buying them, almost as hard as it is to walk past a display of chocolate bars, only they won’t break your diet. Just your budget.
How many clothing items you’ll need to buy for baby depends on how often you plan to do laundry. If you have a washing machine in your home and can throw in a load every day, then you’ll need a lot less than if you have to haul everything to the laundromat every other week. Start out with: six onesies, six pair of bootie socks, six sleeper-pajamas or nightgowns, and one cute outfit. Add to that some small flannel receiving blankets, a couple of larger, heavier blankets, and depending on the season, you may need a jacket or snuggle-sack – just be sure that the outer garment will “fit” in the car seat.
If you’re choosing cloth diapers, start with three dozen. One dozen plastic diaper covers, and two waterproof pads to lay baby on while changing. You don’t need to buy a special baby towel – assuming that you have a bathroom already, you must also have towels. You don’t need to buy special baby wash cloths. Baby does not need shoes – he isn’t going walking anywhere for about a year.
Even if you’re very much into Attachment Parenting, and you want to carry your baby everywhere right next to your skin using the sling, a stroller may be very helpful. At the least you can put the diaper bag in the stroller. If you live in the country and have no sidewalks, get a stroller with larger wheels, like a Jogger stroller. If you live in town, and will spend a lot of time getting in and out of the car, or on and off a bus, consider the smaller, more portable Umbroller- type stroller. The Umbroller wheels do not turn well on rough pavement. The jogger stroller does not collapse very small to fit in the trunk of your car. If you shop at garage sales, you might be able to afford one of each. Or, you could get a big red wagon, and skip the stroller completely. That’s a matter of preference.
I can’t help but wonder if the sudden rise in diagnosed cases of autism isn’t somehow related to the sudden rise of plastic baby carriers? Get a carrier that holds your baby close to you. Choose a design with wide straps, for your comfort. It will allow you to have your hands free, so you can go on with your life, but keep baby close and happy, so the two of you can bond.
A baby gate
You’ll need either a baby gate or a playpen – you’ll need a safe place to put your baby when he starts to move around. If you have older children, then a playpen may be more practical. Otherwise, I keep the nursery “baby-proof” and put a gate up over the door. Then, for those times when you can’t be with baby (for a run to the bathroom) you know that baby will be safe until you return. As baby grows, you may continue to use the gate, to teach baby to learn to amuse himself for a short period of time.
That’s All, Folks
And there you have it. All the “must haves” for your newborn. For well under a thousand dollars, you’ve got the necessities covered. You do NOT need to buy swings, jumpers, shakers, rollers, monitors, bottle warmers, baby wipe warmers, shoes, boots, or toys. You do not need to buy a dresser for baby, unless you plan on buying too many clothes. You do not need to buy a changing table for baby. While they may be convenient, they also take up space. It may be easier to change baby on the floor, or on the foot of a bed with a large, waterproof pad over it. You do not need a diaper bag the size of a suitcase. You can use any backpack, just make sure you restock it after every trip – take out the soiled items and put in fresh. If you plan to nurse, you do not need baby bottles and formula. You do not need baby dishes and silverware – baby shouldn’t be eating solid foods until he is nearly a year old, and then can just use the same dishes as the rest of your family (unless they are fragile. Then buy him something unbreakable). Eventually, you may want to buy a high chair, but not for many months. You can get a cheap plastic booster seat and strap it to a dining chair. These don’t work for very young babies, but very young babies do not need solid food.
Some families swear by baby swings. Some never use them. See if you can borrow a swing before you decide to buy one. But consider this – in many American homes we swing, rock, and jiggle our babies. We can put babies in contraptions that let them jump, bounce, hop, and wiggle. When a baby is fussy, someone is sure to recommend that we put the baby in the car seat and go for a drive. Baby is constantly in motion… and then when baby is old enough to start school, teachers wonder why baby can’t sit still!
I can’t think of anything else in a “basic” list of baby needs. Of course, if you can work it into the budget, you could buy more of anything – more diapers, more pajamas. You could buy lambs wool and bumper pads for the crib. You could invest in a collectors set of children’s books. You could buy every educational CD and DVD on the market. You could buy only organic fruits and vegetables and start making your own baby food, canning or freezing it until your baby is older. There are a lot of ways you could spend your money, but before the budget is spent, just make sure you’ve got the basics covered. Then don’t sweat the rest.