Educating the Wheelers

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Chronicling the Experience of Educating our Children and Managing our Family

Friday, January 27, 2006

Our Frugal Baby, Part II

We had a comment on Part I of this post asking what I think are the barebones necessities for the frugal mom with a new baby on the way.

A few obligatory disclaimers: this is what worked for us, your mileage may vary, and my list is way, way shorter than most you will read elsewhere. On the other hand, I'm not trying to sell you anything. [Though for full disclosure, I do have Amazon Associates links in this post, so decide for yourself whether I'm trying to sell you anything. Heh heh.]

With that out of the way, here's what I learned from our experience, in rough order of importance:

  • A car seat: Get a good car seat, be smart but not too cheap, if you know what I mean. It's worth it to buy new. There are two routes you can go here at the beginning. You can get one of those detachable rear-facing guys for a hundred bucks or so that you use for about the first year, or you could get a more expensive [200-300, usually] convertible type that'll last you until the wee one is about 5 years old. We ended up choosing the detachable one -- a Graco SnugRide, I believe -- and then got a Britax when she was reading to go forward facing. This is a more expensive route to go, HOWEVER -- when you are dealing with the youngest of the youngins, they are always going to be falling asleep in the car on you. It is a very, very good thing to be able to just detach the seat and go rather than having to unhook them and take them out of the seat and probably wake them up. [Terri's #2 Rule of Parenting: Never ever wake a sleeping baby unless you really, really have to. A baby's sleep is your very best friend. Heh.]

  • Diapers: Disposable or Cloth, I have no dog in that fight. Choose whatever works best for you, I'm not going to judge you, and please feel free to ignore anyone else who tries to. *** But whichever route you go, make sure you have about 2 weeks worth on hand at the beginning so you don't have to worry about having to restock during those early whirlwind days. Don't buy too many at the outset, because you don't want to get stuck with a bunch of really small newborn diapers that your 10lb kid grew out of in a week! Etc. To stave off diaper rash, this is what worked for us: remove diaper, clean up with wipes, pat dry with a washcloth, apply some generic A&D style ointment, then replace with clean diaper.

  • Baby Clothes: Hand me downs or garage sales are totally the way to go. Again, it's real easy -- especially in the hormone flush of pregnancy -- to get all emotionally attached to that adorable 20 dollar outfit. But your kid will likely only wear it for a few months, and you don't even want to know what all sorts of substances are going to stain and soak that thing almost immediately after you put it on him/her. Since this is your first kid, go the green/yellow/orange route so you can use them with all your succeeding kids and don't have to do the whole "How old is your son?" "Er, she was born 2 weeks ago" dance with strangers because she's in a blue jumpsuit, or vice versa.

    Additionally, plain clothes with no frills, ruffles or other weird things are the way to go. A nice soft cotton footie pyjama style jumper, preferably with snaps all the way down both legs will make your life easier during diaper changes. You don't need too many, depending on how often you do laundry, though it's better to have too many than too few if you end up having a 5-diaper-blowout day. Heh. And a nice little hat for the first few weeks is also recommended, and should be cheap and easy to find.

  • Swaddling Blankets: These are awesome. We had one of those kids that needed swaddling to soothe, and unfortunately you don't know if you've got one of those until they're here, so it's worth having them on hand just in case. And if it turns out they're not the swaddling type, you'll end up finding a dozen other uses for them, so it's not a total wash. Again, the hand-me-down or garage sale route is the best way to go. Get a handful of the smaller size -- around 2' by 2' -- and a few of the larger size -- around 3' by 3' -- because they'll outgrow the smaller swaddling blankets fairly quickly.

  • Teeny Tiny Nail Clippers: Those nails grow quick, and they are razor sharp! You'll want to get 2-3 of these to start with because if you're anything like me, you'll constantly be misplacing them.

  • Breast Pump, Freezer Bags, Etc: If we're going the frugal route, formula is definitely not the way to go. But, you still need to prepare for the possibility of not always being able to breastfeed when your baby is hungry. If at all possible, I'd get one before your child is born, for a few reasons. First, you might end up in a position like us when Audrey couldn't latch at all after birth and had to be syringe and finger fed pumped breast milk and then had bottled breast milk or fed on a breast shield until she was 3 months old. I had to pump every 2 hours around the clock in those days and counted my blessings that we had a good pump. But even if your child latches like a champ from the get go, you still want to keep some spare milk in the freezer "just in case." Go with what you can afford, but it is sort of a "you get what you pay for" market. The Medelas are worth the price, if you can swing it.

  • Sling: Mine was worth its 100 times its weight in gold. [Hey, they're light!] Being able to "hold" your baby but have both hands free ... I cannot overemphasize what a huge difference this makes. Cheaper and easier and more versatile than a stroller. Plus, once you get used to it you can learn how to discreetly nurse in public while they're in the sling, and that makes your life even that much easier.

  • Nursing Tops: Speaking of nursing in public ... with practice, you will learn how to discreetly nurse in any old loose-fitting top, but at the very beginning until you're confident, a nursing top or two is helpful. But if you practice at home, you'll figure it out quickly.

  • UPDATED TO ADD: I just remembered: a rectal thermometer and some vaseline will also be handy if you suspect a fever. But nothing else is coming to me off the top of my head.

Honestly, everything else is gravy. You don't need a changing table, you don't need a crib -- though if anyone in your bed is a heavy sleeper, you'll want to look into getting a Snuggle Nest for peace of mind in the first few months. You don't need mobiles, you don't need a Diaper Genie -- how hard is it to put a diaper in a plastic grocery bag and bring it out to the garbage? Plus, if you're breastfeeding, baby poop doesn't smell bad until they start eating other stuff. It smells kind of like sour milk. You don't need a pack-n-play, you don't need a high chair, you don't need a swing. You don't need a baby bath tub, wash them in the sink with a folded towel on the bottom like our grandparents did. Heck, you don't even need soap for several weeks! You don't need toys, you don't need a special "diaper bag" -- a cheap backpack from a thrift store will do you fine to hold an extra outfit or two, a swaddle blanket and some diaper changing gear when you go out.

More important than any equipment is human support. Your mom, your sister, your friend, your neighbor -- a friendly looking new mom that you spy in public! -- reach out! Do it! I am an extremely introverted, solo homebody in my normal life, but this transition period after your first child is born is very very rough while you adjust, and I don't believe mothers were ever meant to go it alone. Unfortunately, with the rise of geographically-scattered extended families and the like, many new moms are isolated and life is much, much harder than it should be at first. Especially if you are a stay at home mom who's alone with the baby 8-10 or more hours a day.

*** My #1 Rule of Parenting is to trust yourself. You are going to find that many people are both insecure and very emotionally attached to the choices that they make/made as a parent and thus see people who are making different choices as indirectly criticizing their own choices. But parenting is NOT black and white -- keep an open mind, use whatever works for you and almost always, what your gut and instinct tells you will be right. Just nod and smile at the complete strangers who will come up to you and tell you that what you're currently doing is all wrong. Why normally sane and polite people do this completely mystifies me [though I am sure it is at least partially related to what I wrote above].


Blogger Meredith said...

Thanks! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about bringing up baby. What brand of sling do you recommend? I used a front carrier the first go-round.

1/31/2006 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger Misty said...

Thanks for this info! We're thinking about trying to conceive this summer and have been worried that a baby would add too much cost to our budget and sabotage our debt snowball.

The pumps look like they're about $300! Is it really worth it 'just in case' for that amount?

Thank you again!

1/31/2006 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Terri said...

As for which sling, "whatever works for you" is best -- they're all a little different. I used the SlingEzee -- -- but it was pretty bulky at times. Once Audrey got pretty squirmy, I ended up switching to a front carrier until she got too big.

RE: getting a pump -- It's been our experience that if you *need* a pump for serious pumping, you have to get the good one. However! If you're not having difficulty breastfeeding, it's still worth putting up some milk in the freezer. For the occasional freezer supply, a cheap manual pump should be good enough.

Everyone that we've known who's had to pump, say, more than once a day [I was pumping 10-12x a day] and got an electric pump that wasn't a real good one has either given up or went ahead and bought the good one on top of the other one! [Because you can't return them once they've been used.]

I hope I'm not being too confusing here. So, I guess I'm saying that you should still get a manual pump, for your just in case, then. Don't worry about getting the 300 dollar one unless you end up in a situation where you're having to pump a lot.

1/31/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Terri said...

Oh, another thing I should probably make clear -- the big reason why it was important to us to have a pump around is because Audrey was born at home. If you give birth in a hospital, they have pretty sweet pumps available for rental that'll definitely tide you over until you get your own, if it turns out you'll be doing a lot of pumping. [Like say, if your child has latch issues, or if you'll be working, etc.]

But a manual hand pump is pretty cheap and definitely worth having even if your breastfeeding goes swimmingly.

1/31/2006 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger muse said...

This ol' granny says you're doing great!

1/31/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger marycelery said...

Your list was perfect with one tiny exeption: terry wash clothes. I was given a set of 7 for my shower and they were really invaluable. With a bit of water in a zip lock bag they are wipes for baby's face, bottom or hand OR big sister's snotty nose, sticky toddler hands; over the shoulder juicy burp protectors; tucked into baby's clothes, a bib; and if mom springs a leak, a breast sheild. I kept 2 dry in a bag and 2 wet. I was ready for anything! But I do love your list. I had just such a short list and my mom's group called me the "minimal mom."

Miss Mary

1/31/2006 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Terri said...

Oh, yes! Those washclothes! I love 'em. Thank you for reminding me!

We can get them around here for $2.50 for a pack of 9 [why not 10? Heh.] -- so we buy three colors: white for baby, green for kitchen cleaning [instead of paper towels] and blue for bathroom cleaning.

1/31/2006 10:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

You can also RENT a breast pump from a local pharmacy. It's much cheaper than buying a new one. They sterilize them and give you mew a set of tubing, etc. all your own. Just a thought....A friend is loaning me her Medela (I'll just buy the new-tubing kit), but until then I was set to rent.

2/02/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

I have to say, I'm on my second baby and still haven't had occasion to get a breast pump. I finally decided if it was a real emergency, buying a can of formula to tide them over wouldn't be any more expensive than buying a breast pump--and it wouldn't be a whole lot less nutritious than milk that had sat in the freezer for a while. I'd advise people to wait on one until they know they need one.

2/07/2006 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Kim C. said...

Great list - sounds a lot like what we do!
Just to add another perspective on the list:
I would suggest borrowing a sling until you're sure you want one. Everyone seems to love them, but I tried slings w/several babies and they just weren't our cup of tea.
Also, as one who has never had a problem breastfeeding, I don't keep a pump at all. I do try to have a bottle and some formula somewhere in the house for emergencies, but honestly they've never been needed.
I would add burp rags to the list. Several of ours have been real spitter-uppers. We use cloth diapers for this, as they will hold a lot!
I agree that there's no need for the fancy baby accessories: changing table, baby bathtub, etc. A swing was nice with some and utterly unused with others - again you might borrow one for trial if you are considering buying.
Clothes are tiny and usually fit in a little of my own drawer space.
I do love the little gowns w/a drawstring at the bottom early on - these make changing a breeze, and are easy on the umbilical.
Since we have all girls so far (7 of them!) we have plenty of baby girl clothes. I buy a couple of 3 packs of boy clothes before each birth, and return them unopened when the next girl arrives - cheaper than a yard sale, unless we actually *have* a boy someday. Then we'll celebrate by dressing him in his brand new jammies!

2/07/2006 07:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought on breast pumps...even though they are marketed as "one owner" items (for health reasons), I can tell you that many "moms" groups sell the expensive Medela electric pumps at their consignment sales. I believe the cost is typically under $100.00 (I sold mine for about $75.00). You can buy replacement parts for all of the items that actually come into contact with breastmilk (tubing, pumping shields, valves, membranes, etc.) directly from Medela and just use the electric "motor" part of the pump that you have purchased secondhand. Also, the "universal" Medela kit that you get in the hospital if you decide to pump there contains tubing, valves, membranes, shields, etc. that will work with all Medela electric pumps (not just the industrial-sized hospital version), and your health insurance (if you have it) should cover the cost of the kit, which you get to take home with you. Consignment stores will not resell pumps, but church consignment sales, MOPS sales, Mothers Of Multiples sales, etc., are great places to look. So...if you can find the "motor" at a consignment sale and have your insurance cover the cost of the universal kit while you are in the hospital, you can put together a very nice pumping system for 1/3 or less of normal retail. Hope this helps...Michelle

2/17/2006 10:57:00 AM  

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