Having a baby can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to completely break the bank. Take some cues from the natural parenting movement to save money while giving your child a terrific start in life.
Formula will cost you upwards of $1200 to $1500 in the first year. That’s a minimum. If your baby has gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD) or a dairy allergy, you’ll need to buy more expensive formula. That cost also doesn’t include the cost of bottles, nipples, liners, and so on. If you breastfeed, you may need to buy a pump, which could run you around $250. But unless you’re returning to work full-time, you could get away with a less expensive pump, or no pump at all.
If you decide to have your baby sleep in your bed, you won’t need to buy a separate bed for him until he’s older, by which time you may be able to get away with buying him a regular twin bed. This will save you big bucks.
Ditch the stroller
Most people will tell you that you absolutely have to have a stroller. But honestly, unless you have more than one child that isn’t old enough to walk (and sometimes not even then), you really don’t need a stroller. Try a sling, wrap, or other kind of baby carrier instead.
Some baby carriers will cost as much as a stroller, but there’s no need to spend all that dough. Many work-at-home moms make and sell wraps and slings for a fraction of the price of the name-brand ones, for the same level of quality. Or you could even make one yourself. If you get a non-fraying fabric, you can make a no-sew wrap in 10 minutes. If you have access to a sewing machine and basic straight-stitching skills, you can make a fantastic ring sling in an hour or two. Both of these options will cost you less than $10.
Skip the singing toys, “womb sounds” bears, and baby DVD’s
None of these things are necessary to give your baby the best start. Toys that don’t light up or play music can actually be better for baby, because they are more interactive. A toy that lights up doesn’t require much from baby, but blocks that need to be stacked and knocked down really get those little neurons firing. And those toys that are meant to re-create the sounds of the womb, such as the “womb sounds bear,” are a poor substitute for a good snuggle with Mom or Dad. Don’t waste the money trying to simulate a personal connection – just spend time with your baby and give her the real thing.
Baby DVD’s and television shows may seem like a good idea, but they can actually be detrimental. Studies have shown that there may be a link between watching television during the early years and the development of ADHD later on. You can teach your child all the things that they teach on Sesame Street, while at the same time providing the physical contact and personal attention that your baby so desperately needs.
Use cloth diapers
Cloth diapers really aren’t much more difficult or inconvenient than disposables, and will save you hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars over time. Some cloth diapers work much like a disposable, with Velcro tabs and a built-in waterproof cover. Some take a little more effort, but are less expensive and work just as well. If you use cloth wipes instead of commercial ones, you can save even more money.
Swings and walkers
Walkers can be dangerous, especially if you have stairs in your house. A baby can easily roll off the top of the stairs and topple to the bottom. If you have thick carpeting, a walker is fairly useless anyway, because the wheels will sink into the carpet, making it difficult for baby to move.
An infant swing can be useful for helping baby nap in the short-term, but it can cause problems in the long-term. If your baby never learns to nap without the swing, she will have a much more difficult time napping when she outgrows her swing. It may be best not to start this habit. And if you’re not using it for naps, there really isn’t much else that a swing is good for.
The one and only item you absolutely have to have and should spend the money on is a quality car seat. If you splurge on one baby item, let it be the car seat. Find a good quality seat that will grow with baby from infancy into toddlerhood and beyond. Many companies now make three-in-one car seats that convert from a rear-facing newborn/baby seat to a front-facing baby/toddler seat, and then can be used as a booster seat for children up to 100 pounds. These are more expensive than, say, an infant seat that only works for babies up to 20 pounds. But since you will only be buying one car seat as opposed to three, you will save money in the long run.