Babies Don't Have to be Expensive

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Magazines and manufactures would have you believe that you need to buy a ton of things to care for your new baby. There is profit to be made with this widely-accepted lie, so of course they push their baby stuff. But babies don't need a lot of things, and they certainly don't need new things (except a carseat, please don't buy a used carseat).

We haven't bought a single new thing for our son. He's our second child but we also didn't buy many new things for our daughter, and you don't have to either. Here's how:

Cloth diaper.
My daughter's fluffy bum
It's no grosser than disposable diapers (it's less gross if you ask me - no chemicals!). The start-up cost can be pricey but there are ways around that. You can use inexpensive new diapers such as prefolds and covers or you could buy used ones (you can sterilize them).

Or you can do what we did: When people asked what we were still needing for our babies we told them, "one-size bumGenius pocket diapers". Our cloth diapering stash is made up entirely of brand new bumGenius diapers and we have spent $0 diapering our two children*. Don't be shy about telling people when they ask. If they ask then they want to contribute to your growing family.

There are a gazillion reasons to breastfeed, like your health, your baby's health, bonding, not supporting immoral formula manufacturers, it's convenient, etc., but this post is focused on money so here it is: Breastfeeding is free. No bottles, no formula, no bottle-cleaning brushes, no special dishwasher rack, no extra-roomy diaper bag for lugging around bottles.

If you need to pump milk, that will add some cost, but it doesn't have to be expensive. I bought a pump and three bottles on craigslist for $25 total. Granted, this is an unusually sweet deal, but there are often pumps listed on craigslist for less than what they retail for. If you're registering for a baby shower and are planning to pump, register for a pump and bottles!

Pre-worn clothes.
There are three basic venues for pre-worn clothes: hand-me-downs, consignment/thrift finds, and clothing swaps.

Everyone is familiar with hand-me-downs, right? I think the term "hand-me-down" has some unfairly negative images associated with it. Sure, there are the patched-overalls-from-your-older-brother kind, but there are also the box-full-of-awesomeness-from-your-friend kind. The majority of my children's clothes come from boxes sent from friends and family who have children just a bit older than my kids. The styles might be a year old, but do our toddlers really need to be at the peak of fashion?

A Just Between Friends sale
I personally find it financially dangerous to venture into the children's section of a clothing store. Everything is just so darn cute and I could easily over-spend! So instead, we buy our clothes at large consignment sales (like Just Between Friends). Or rather, we use to buy at consignment sales, before we discovered swaps.

Clothing swaps take the best parts of hand-me-downs and consignment sales: they're free and there's a selection. You take your children's old clothes and exchange them for other children's old clothes. They're typically one-for-one swaps, meaning you get one article of clothing for every article you bring.

Something else I like about clothing swaps is letting my toddler pick out whatever clothes she wants and not having to pay for it. Sure, this can be done at a consignment sale too, but at a swap I don't have to decide if three Elmo shirts are worth spending $3.50 each. 

As for new-from-the-store clothes? Well, my kids do have doting grandmothers ;)

My son's first day home
When I was pregnant with our daughter we bought three things in preparation for parenthood: a ring sling, a washer and dryer for cloth diapers, and a king size bed. The bed was $20 on craigslist and was in excellent condition.

If done safely, sharing you bed with your baby is safe (that's such a *duh* statement, but I think it needs to be said). It's what's natural for our species and it cost nothing.

There's no need to spend money on a crib that may get recalled, or sheets for the crib, or a crib bumper which is recommended against but you'd get anyway cause it's so dang cute, or a crib mobile, or crib toys. If you have a bed then you're ready to go! 

Convertible carseat.
Infant carseats might be more convenient in some situations (loading up twins in winter?) but they lower the oxygen levels of babies, are dangerous if put on top of a shopping cart, are cumbersome to carry, can promote detachment and flat head syndrome and are typically just another unnecessary thing to buy**. Once your baby outgrows it you'll need a convertible carseat anyway so why not just start out with one?

Carseats might be the only thing you need to buy new from the store, but that doesn't mean they have to be expensive. If you watch for discounts and promotions and you can save a lot on them. We purchased four decent carseats for $39 each while they were on sale and now we're set on carseats until our kids outgrow them, we wreck, or they expire. And since we bought them new from the store we were able to register that we have them so if they are ever recalled we will be notified. You don't get that with a used seat.

Babywearing replaces the infant carseat and the stroller and benefits more than just your wallet. Babywearing is great for, well, just about every situation. Walking the dogs, sweeping the floor, shopping, taking your older child to the park, writing a blog post... Whenever your baby's need to be held and your need to use your hands happen at the same time, babywearing is there!

Carriers can be bought new, used, for shipping only, and exchanged for other things. There are websites that let you try out different carriers so you can find the one that's right for you (they work like a library with a refundable deposit). Personally, I have two store-bought carriers and three used carriers and would gladly buy used again if I needed another carrier.

Amber teething necklace.
Don't look at me like that. I'm not some dirty hippie who listens to whale songs on CD while doing yoga in my zen garden (although I would like to have a zen garden... and do yoga...). I research things and do what is effective, with the least amount of risks, while hopefully being affordable. And Baltic Amber? Well, it works. The Internet can not lie, so ask the Internet and it'll back me up here. I'm kidding, of course, but do ask around and you'll find a lot of positive reviews of this healing natural resin.

Having an Amber teething necklace eliminates the need for a teething relief gel that might get recalled and will need to be replaced when emptied. Since it's worn on your baby you don't have to worry about locating it when you need it. That's a pretty minor reason, but think about having this conversation while holding a baby screaming in pain:

"Where is the baby pain stuff?! It's not in the cabinet!"
"I think it's in the diaper bag."
"Where's the diaper bag?"
"Oh, it's in the van. I forgot to bring it in."

Or even worse,
"Where's the baby pain stuff? I can't find it in here!"
"Oh... I forgot to pack it in the diaper bag. It's at home".

That would suck.

It's a one-time cost, with no side-effects, no re-application. It's not a teether which introduces more germs into your baby's mouth and needs to be washed (as if babies need any help mouthing on everything in reach). You can even get them on sale fairly regularly if you keep an eye out for discount codes.

And finally, this one is so minor but I have to mention it because it bugs me. You do not need special nail clippers for babies. You could nibble off your baby's nails or you could use regular, adult-sized clippers. There is no need to buy special tiny ones. Here's a tip: trim your baby or toddler's nails while she's sleeping. It's so much easier that way!

I'm aware that this post probably seems to have an attachment parenting agenda but I promise that's just a coincidence. The truth is, attachment parenting is just cheaper than mainstream parenting. Who profits from breastfeeding? Who spends tons of money advertising for cosleeping ("Hey, don't buy a crib - cosleep!")? Probably no one (I mean, yeah, pump companies do, but that's not the point here).

* Technically we have bought a few packages of disposable diapers, like when I was on bedrest while pregnant with our second child, but that was too wordy of an explanation to put up there and we didn't need to use disposables, I just wanted to.

**  Please don't take the carseat bit the wrong way. I know that an infant carseat can be used responsibly and that having one does not mean you're going to put it on top of your shopping cart. This post is about how to save money as a parent and I'm listing what has worked for me. If you're into infant seats that's fine with me, not that you need my approval.


  1. Absolutely agree! Just wish that teenagers could happily be so affordable lol!

  2. Perfectly put! I love that attachment parenting also equals cheap-@ss parenting as well as somewhat lazy parenting, because really, does it get any more delightfully lazy than rolling over in the family bed and nursing your baby while still half-asleep? Getting up, getting baby out of the crib, walking to the kitchen, preparing a bottle...isn't it great when what we want for our children gets reinforced by what we want for ourselves? :)

  3. great post. just found you through Viva La Mamma facebook page.

    1. i LOVE the clothes swap idea. it makes sense bc babies grow so quickly and there are probably many items in any baby's closet that have never even been worn.

    2. i have a question about the convertible carseat: i don't have kids, so i might be confused, but a convertible carseat seems way too big for a newborn. is there some kind of fitted mini-seat that you would insert?

    3. i've never heard of baltic amber as a teether. what exactly is in the resin that aids with teething? and since the baby wears it all the time, does it ever get caught on anything?

  4. I just certified as a car seat safety technician. A lot of convertible carseats are too big for newborns, but there are also many that would fit a normal size newborn just fine. Usually they have inserts you can put in them to help with the fit. (Never use after-market inserts, only ones that come with the seat.) Unless you're expecting your baby will probably be very small (twins or ptl), it's very possible to find some nice convertibles. (Side note: The 3-in-1's that market themselves as the only seat you'll ever need are NOT a good fit for most newborns, and they also are outgrown too quickly and make very poor boosters.) has very good information on their forums if you want ideas for your specific situation.

    We had amber teething necklaces for both our girls. They don't get caught on things, though we didn't put them on them when they were tiny as we worried about little arms going through, but once they were a few months old they are close fitting enough we never worried. And any made specifically for infants will be knotted between each bead just in case of breakage.

  5. Yay, Lindsay did the answering so I don't need to :p

    I just wrote about what I've done to save money. My son was 10 lbs 3 oz at birth and fit well into a convertible seat.

    I do want to mention that this morning I realized that you can buy a stroller on craigslist for cheap. That was definitely an oversight when I wrote this! I'll use the "I wrote it at 4am" excuse here. But again, it's just what I've done with my family, and owning a stroller isn't something I've done.

  6. AnonymousJune 25, 2011

    We've pretty much done all of this. I love cloth diapers, they are so cute and it really isn't that much extra work to wash them.
    We co-sleep with our 5 month old and our 2 1/2 yr old sleeps in twin bed in our room. I feel much safer having them both right there.
    We love our amber teething necklaces. With our 5 month old, we bought an anklet for his first few months and then graduated to a necklace.
    I did buy itty bitty nail trimmers though! :)

  7. You can also get a wagon cheap on craigslist, if you occasionally want to not babywear once they're, you know, old enough to sit up and also kick you in the gut and try to escape the carrier/sling (yes, I do have very active children, why do you ask?) and bonus, you can haul other stuff in them too.

    There are convertible car seats on the market that fit even really small babies- pretty much only preemies or low birthweight babies won't fit in them. And some time next year, the Combi Coccoro will be rated from 3 lbs., so even those babies could use a convertible (though the Coccoro doesn't last as long for rear-facing as I, and traffic and child safety experts, usually recommend for many children, so perhaps finding a steal on an infant seat that fits preemies well would be cheaper if you plan to rear face past 2-3 years or expect your child to be large for her age later.)

    I do like having a safe non-floor non-bed place to put my babies down, but again, a bassinet/moses basket/playpen/whatever is cheap on craigslist if you can't spend a lot.

    It's funny how I fell into so many "attachment parenting" things because a) they were cheaper, b) they were easier or c) they just made more sense to me. LOL! Amazing how that happens. And once you do it, you figure out that wow, there is a LOT of money spent trying to convince parents that they "need" all this stuff.

    Now, am I saying I don't have a large collection of cool strollers? That I don't spend more than I should on clothes once in a while (I'm a sucker for dressing my girls in matching dresses)? That I don't have far more car seats than I really need? Nope. Not denying that, lol. But, the point is that I know the difference between WANT and NEED. I am aware when I am buying something that I really need for a baby (hardly ever, especially once the first one got most of the essentials), and what I am buying because I WANT to have it for the baby. I think in general we overconsume and think we need to, when there are lots of cheaper, simpler, more natural and often healthier (for us and the planet) ways to live if we seek them out.

  8. Nicely written Molly. One other baby item most moms need is a nasal aspirator. Most hospitals (or pediatricians) give a basic one out, but there is one called a Nose Frida (or something like that) which I'd really like to try. A friend of mine has one and says it works really well.

  9. Yep, there's a list of things I wish we'd never bought when I was pregnant: crib, Arms' Reach Co-Sleeper, stroller, breast pump... I could go on. We had no idea what attachment parenting was, but our daughter seemed to have been born knowing what it was and she screamed at us until she got it. Lessons learned!

  10. Love it!!! Did you peek into my home? With my last child (#7) we got a kingsized bed. Now as we are expecting #8 we are set.....

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