These days it’s true that a new baby is a big expense. Everything from baby food to basic clothing seems to cost a fortune, and for many mothers, baby showers have become not just a way of celebrating the new arrival but also a vital way of acquiring supplies. It wasn’t always like this however. Just a few decades ago, women were raising babies on next to nothing, and in many places they still do. That doesn’t mean that those babies suffer, that they are underfed or don’t have warm places to sleep at night. Often it simply means that their mothers have retained age old skills that help them tell the difference between the necessities they can’t do without and the niceties which only seem essential thanks to clever marketing.
Five things no new mom can do without
When working out a baby budget, the first things to focus on are those items that really are essential.
- A crib – every baby needs a safe place to sleep, but this doesn’t need to be fancy. Babies often used to sleep in drawers. A simple wooden box will do as long as there are no rough edges, it’s stable and it’s too big to climb out of. If the baby can see out of one side, however, it will take longer to get bored and start yelling.
- A baby-sized bathtub – even a plastic storage box will do for this as long as it has a smooth interior surface. Thick sponges can act as cushions to help keep the baby comfortable. A baby should never be left alone in a bath anyway.
- Transport – strollers can be very expensive but there are budget versions available and as long as they’re well padded inside, most babies don’t seem to notice the difference. An alternative is to use a papoose or baby sling that keeps the baby close to the body. This is usually more affordable and it’s a lot easier to manage on public transport.
- A baby bouncer – babies need to spend some of their time in a supported sitting position as this helps them to build up strength and develop a full range of movement. A bouncer is the best way to help them with this, and it can keep them entertained while parents catch up on household tasks. They should never be left to sleep in this position.
- Diapers – changing diapers frequently helps to keep babies clean and prevent them from developing skin rashes. It isn’t necessary to use expensive disposable diapers though, traditional cloth ones work just as well as long as parents are prepared to make the effort to wash them. They’re also kinder to the environment.
There are lots of ways to save money on basic equipment simply by thinking about what it’s needed for and how else that need can be met. A changing-table, for instance, can easily be switched out for a changing-mat, which is conveniently portable as well as more affordable.
Easy ways to save on what you need
The thing about babies is that they don’t stay that way for long, so even mothers who have several eventually reach a point where they don’t need their old baby gear any more. A lot of it ends up in thrift stores or is passed along to friends and neighbors. Clothes and toys, mats and playpens and even larger pieces of equipment like bathtubs all have the potential to be used by several babies in succession before they’re worn out. The important thing is to make sure they’re thoroughly cleaned (sterilized where possible) and no safety features have been compromised.
As well as getting things second-hand, it’s possible to make them. There are handy guides to making baby clothes on YouTube and anyone with a basic sewing machine can do it. Fabric needs to be checked first, however, to make sure it’s safe, as babies often get their clothes in their mouths. Because yellow dyes are particularly toxic it’s safest to avoid yellow fabric altogether unless it’s guaranteed safe by the manufacturer. Cuddly toys can also be made at home but should not contain any small parts (such as button eyes), which a baby could pull off and swallow.
Compromises no mother can afford to make
No matter how tight money is, there are some areas where there’s no getting round the need to buy items new. Car seats, for instance, simply can’t be relied upon to be safe if they’re second-hand, because even the slightest bit of damage to the straps – not always visible – could put the baby at risk. Similarly, only specially designed baby bedding is guaranteed safe for babies to sleep on.
Making savings safely requires care and imagination, but it’s quite possible, and it leaves moms with more money for indulging their infants in other ways.