There are millions of baby products on the market, but there are few things that you really NEED. I often hear people say that babies are expensive, but I disagree! (Babies are cheap, teenagers are expensive! Ha!) There are tons of items available, and it can be overwhelming. But after having 15 babies (yes, 15. Keep breathing), I know my list is the only list you really need for baby when money is tight. I also have a list of items that aren’t absolutely necessary, but are pretty useful to have. Plus, I’ve included some of my favorite money saving tips for affordable baby stuff! (If you’re still stuck on how many kids I have, you can read about it here!)
I have read so many “must have” lists for baby, and my thought was “Sure. If I win the Lottery!” So here is an actual must have list. This is my list for the first few months, the things you need when baby arrives! Other items can wait. You don’t need to have everything for the first two years, or even the first year right away.
The “Absolutely Necessary” List
- Diapers. (Okay, I know that’s obvious.) Unless you have a preemie, one large box of newborn diapers is probably all you will need in that size. Babies outgrow them quickly. Cloth diapers can be a money saving option. Both disposable and cloth diapers have pros and cons. I will talk more about that in a future post.
- Wipes. Again, you can go with disposable or cloth, (future post!)
- Spit-Up or Burp Cloths/towels. You may get lucky, and have a baby that never spits up! But that has never happened to me in 15 babies! Mine are spitters, some more than others. Spit-up cloths are an absolute must for most babies. You will need a bunch of them! However, regular bar-mops towels found in the housewares section of the store work just as well or better. I actually don’t really like most “burp cloths” in the baby section. They are too thin to actually work for the amount of stuff coming out of my babies, and too expensive! Many times over the years, I bought a package of bar-mops from Wal-Mart and used them for this purpose only. I have also made my own, which I loved!
- Nail File for babies. Yes, this is a must. You are going to need it! Those tiny little fingernails grow really fast, and baby will scratch his face mercilessly with those things! Cutting baby’s nails with clippers or scissors can be frustrating and terrifying. One of my all time favorite nurses told me to use a file instead! It works! No sharp edges left on fingernails, and no cutting little fingers with clippers. They are so worth it!
- Nasal Aspirator. Or as we call it in our house, the booger sucker. When baby’s nose is full of drainage, you are going to need this to clear his nasal passages. He can’t blow it, and he won’t be able to breathe and nurse or take a bottle at the same time. I think hospitals usually send one home with new moms and babies, but not always. This is a very inexpensive must have!
- Another great option, although more expensive, is the Nose Frida. That thing is awesome! Mom uses her mouth to suck on the little tube, which creates far more suction than the bulb syringe can muster. And no, you don’t get any in your mouth!
- Baby Wash/Shampoo. Look for brands that are quaternium free! Quaternium-15 is a known toxicant and allergen. And yes, some moron somewhere thought it would be a good idea to put it in baby wash products. It may also be called Benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride, centrimonium bromide, polyquaternium – followed by a number (like polyquaternium-7). While we’re talking about dangerous chemicals, please don’t wash your baby’s clothing in Dreft. That stuff is full of toxins. Morons, I tell ya.
- Clothing. Most parents buy too many clothes in the newborn size. Full term babies grow out of those really quickly! What you really need is a few sleepers, onesies, and some socks. I had several of my babies at home with the help of a midwife, Kathy. Soon after birth, Kathy dresses a newborn in a onesie, socks, and a sleeper. I keep my babies dressed this way for a several weeks, unless it’s right in the heat of summer. Then sometimes we have to undress to a onesie, depending on what the temperature is indoors. Some days, babies will go through several outfits. You need to have enough to survive until the soiled ones get through the wash! Keep up on the washing, though, and all you really need is:
- 5-7 sleepers (zippers are so much more convenient than snaps.)
- 5-7 onesies
- 10 pairs of socks (Just because they are so easy to lose.)
- Receiving blankets. Receiving blankets are small lightweight blankets for wrapping and swaddling baby. You will need about 5 of these too, because they get dirty just like the clothing. Although not absolutely necessary, the stretchy ones are better for swaddling. I like to have some lightweight and some stretch thermal type. Summer babies will need very lightweight blankets.
- Infant car seat, rear facing. This is clearly the most expensive item on the list, but some brands are more affordable than others! Any rear facing car seat will have to pass the same safety standards, so more expensive does not necessarily mean safer.
- Baby bottles and formula if you can’t breastfeed, and a bottle brush for cleaning them. I’m not an expert on bottle feeding, because I have breastfed all 15 of my babies. If you can breastfeed, you will save so much money! That’s only one of the many benefits, and probably the least important benefit, of breastfeeding. I’m a huge believer! As I once told our ten year old, “That’s what God made breasts for!” And as my husband said, “They aren’t just hood ornaments, son!”
The “Really Nice to Have” List
- Nursing Cover. If you are breastfeeding, you may want a good nursing cover to use when you are out and about. Breastfeeding in public is absolutely necessary in my life. I have spent 24 years breastfeeding, and if I hid in a closet every time I fed my babies… well, that just ain’t happenin’, folks. However, I’m not really into publicly flashing people. I make my own nursing covers, because the ones I have bought in the past just did not cut it. And if you sew, they are way cheaper to make. I’ll share more on that in a future post!
- Nursing Pillow. I had nine babies before I ever had a Boppy nursing pillow, but I will never be without one again. Nursing pillows are so beneficial for your back and posture while you nurse. So much more comfortable! They are also great for assisting little kids who want to hold the baby.
- Diaper bag, but it doesn’t actually have to be a diaper bag! Back-packs, sling-packs, tote-bags, and even large purses will do the job! What you need is something that will hold around 6 diapers, a small pack of wipes, an extra outfit or two for baby, nursing cover, pacifier, a gallon sized zip-loc bag to place dirty clothing in after a blow-out, and so on. Pockets and sections are great!
- Pacifier. If baby will take one! Some of my babies would, some wouldn’t. There are definitely pros and cons to pacifiers, but in those first few weeks and months, they can make life easier and happier for all! And at a whopping $3 or $4, they are worth it!
- Collapsible play yard. I don’t even bother with cribs anymore. They take up too much space, and they aren’t portable. I don’t use a bassinet anymore, either. Babies just grow out of them too quickly. I have used a Pack’n’Play play yard for years, as a baby bed! It can be easily moved from room to room, and can be taken on trips. A baby who can sleep in his own bed when away from home is a happy baby. When not in use, you can fold it up and put it in the closet. The models shown below have removable bassinets, nappers and changing stations. The second one also has storage pockets. There are simple, straightforward models without any of these bells and whistles for around $40-$50. The removable bassinets are really nice to have though, especially during the first couple of months.
- Waterproof pad. When you have one of those “volcanic eruption” kind of diapers to change, and you will, a waterproof changing pad is really beneficial! (Parent’s Choice makes a 2 pack of waterproof pads that are the same size as a play yard mattress. You can find them at Wal-Mart here.) They can be used as a diaper changing pad, protecting whatever surface is underneath, or to put in a crib or play yard, to protect the mattress. A great hack is to layer these under the crib or play yard sheets, like so: Pad on mattress, then a fitted sheet, another pad, then another fitted sheet. If baby throws up or wets through during the night, you can pull off the top sheet and pad and the bed is ready to go with a fresh sheet underneath! Who wants to change the sheets in the middle of the night?!
- Fitted sheets for play yard mattress. The ones pictured below are waterproof, which means no need for a pad underneath! They come in a 2 pack, so you could still layer them on the play yard mattress to make life easier when there is a vomit or diaper eruption incident!
- Baby bathtub. A baby tub makes bathing a newborn easier, and the ones where baby is inclined feel much safer.
- Swing. Not necessary, but oh so wonderful! When baby is fussy and won’t settle down, or just wide awake and bored, a swing is a fantastic help to a busy mom!
- Sling. A sling can be incredibly useful for a baby who needs to be held, and a mama who needs her hands! I have friends who absolutely wouldn’t be without one! (But if I’m being honest, slings and I do not get along. I do use one occasionally, but I still feel like I need to keep my hands on the baby while she is in there, and then I’m not hands free.)
- Car seat/stroller combo. In my experience, a travel system (which is a stroller/car seat combo in which the car seat is able to attach to the stroller) is really not much more than a car seat alone, if you shop around. Although not absolutely necessary, they are wonderful! If baby is sleeping in the car seat, you can just snap that car seat on the stroller and away you go. No need to take him out of the car seat and wake him up! It’s a beautiful thing. At the time of this post, this is the best deal I could find on Amazon!
Money Saving Tips
There are many, many other wonderful baby products on the market. But when money is tight, the extra stuff is just that: extra.
However, I have afforded many of the nice extras and even the necessities over the years by being thrifty.
- Buy used. Second hand stores can be a fantastic resource! Babies are not babies for very long, and baby items can often be found very gently used. We have some great consignment stores around here, and I have bought nearly every type of baby equipment and clothing in second hand shops over the years. There’s nothing like finding an item that sells new for $100, for $10 in great used condition! Take it home, clean it, throw the cover in the washer and dryer, and it will be sanitized, and ready to go!
- Don’t underestimate a great clearance rack! I am always amazed at the bargains I can find when I go searching for them. Thankfully, some people have more dollars than sense, and after stores have sold most of their high priced items to someone else, they are willing to sell what’s still on the shelf to the rest of us for a reasonable price!
- DIY. I make my own baby items when I can, like nursing covers, blankets, towels, wipes, etc. I will share some of my favorite DIY baby items in future posts! I’m working on it!
- Borrow from a friend. And when your baby has outgrown things, pass them on and bless someone else!
- Create a trade/exchange group on social media. Create a post where you and others will list items that you are willing to give to someone else who needs them, and list items that you need. In the comments, other users accept what someone else has offered and/or they list their own items to give. It is amazing to see the the generosity in people coming out, and needs being met!
- Save items and reuse. Get your money’s worth! If you are going to have more babies keep whatever is still in good condition for the next baby. A car seat and stroller travel system, for instance, can be used on several babies. A great deal becomes an even better value the more times you use them. (With a few exceptions, I used almost all the same big baby items for my first six babies. When I had my seventh, we got new stuff!)
The Heart of the Matter
I remember a time when I was dressing my newborn in baby clothes that had been worn by three of my previous babies. They were dingy and faded looking, but I couldn’t justify spending money on new ones. I was in a weepy postpartum state, feeling sad for my sweet baby in his faded hand-me-downs. At that moment, he smiled so sweetly at me and cooed a little. I suddenly realized that he did not care one bit how nice his clothes were! He didn’t even know they were faded. He cared only that he was dry, warm, fed, and loved.
The truth is, mama, your little baby couldn’t care less what his clothes look like, or how his nursery is decorated. He would probably prefer to be right next to mom, and never even be left in that nursery. He doesn’t need all the latest gadgets and gizmos that are taking the internet by storm, he just needs you and your love. I’m not being idealistic, it’s the truth!
Think about the baby care items that mothers had long ago. Their arms, voices, and breasts. Native American women had cradleboards. Rocking chairs came along around three hundred years ago. Times have changed, but babies have not!
Enjoy your baby and don’t stress over what you can’t control. You can do this, mama! You were made for this!
Talk to me in the comments below!