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20
Apr

Minimalist Parenting and the New Baby

by Guest in Birth & Baby

This is a guest post from Carrie…a fabulous minimalist mama with a large family.

At the moment I’m 25 weeks pregnant. So far, my husband and I have purchased the following items for our new little one: a bassinet, a small box of gender neutral newborn clothing, and cloth diapers (all purchased secondhand). Why haven’t we gone all out with a baby registry and/or spending a good portion of the budget on new baby gear? It’s not because this is our 7th child and we already have tons of baby stuff left over from the other kids. We actually got rid of nearly everything after our last baby. And it’s not because we can’t afford to buy baby things.

So why are we acquiring so little? Mostly it’s because we prefer a simple, uncluttered home – and we’ve discovered that babies need so very little by way of material goods. A lot of gadgets sold for babies are in the “marginally helpful but not truly needed” category. What babies really need: warm soft clothing and cotton diapers, food from mom, a safe place to sleep, and the arms of a loving caretaker. (And, an infant car seat for safe travel.) Even diapers are somewhat negotiable if you’re practicing elimination communication.

We’ve found that many things we already have substitute quite nicely for a multitude of expenditures. Here are a few examples:

Babies and toddlers can sleep with mom and dad. You may need to make a few changes to ensure the sleep environment is safe for a baby, but this rarely involves making a purchase. Instead of a crib and play yard/play pen, a soft cloth carrier such as a baby sling can keep baby safe and close (and therefore happy!) during the day. If baby is fussy or colicky due to health problems such as reflux, a sling to keep baby near mom and upright is preferable to many gadgets sold for this purpose.

The only food baby needs for its first 6 months or so is breastmilk. If mom is going back to work full time she will likely need to invest in a high quality pump and BPA free bottles, but some moms are able to arrange their work and caregiver arrangements so as to feed baby straight from the breast.

Once baby is eating, it’s not necessary to buy special bowls and cutlery or food grinders and other “baby food” gear. Most babies will do just fine and may even prefer the texture of simple food mashed with a fork. Babies can start eating banana, avocado, soft cooked carrots, potatoes (and other well cooked mashed vegetables), egg yolks, homemade bone broths and even well cooked meats in their first year of life.

Tons of baby toys are sold each year but many parents have noticed that babies prefer to play with ordinary household objects. Good children’s picture books are a better investment, since they will be loved for years and not quickly “outgrown”. Once you do begin accumulating toys, keep things simple. Classic, open-ended toys like wooden blocks are great for a wide range of ages and are durable and safe.

Having a baby doesn’t have to mean cluttering up your home with tons of stuff. Most parents find that only a small percentage of that stuff is actually useful to them. If this is your first baby and you’re not sure what to buy, ask friends whose values are similar to your own about the things they really needed for their new little one. Resist the siren song of the big box baby stores and buy what you’ll need on Craigslist and eBay, and be vocal about the fact that you’ll accept hand me downs. This way you’ll save money and keep good stuff out of the landfill.

Carrie is a homeschooling mom of 6 (soon to be 7) who writes about frugality, minimalism, good books, feeding a family and productivity at: http://www.NaturalMomsTalkRadio.com. Be sure to check out her free podcast episodes for informative experts on natural family living. 

Friday, April 20th, 2012

12 Comments

  • http://www.itsawahmlife.com Jackie Lee

    While we’re not minimalists by a long shot I wish I’d had a better understanding of what a baby really needs before I had my daughter. I’m an only child, and she’s an only child and my mom went nuts. We had so much stuff… a terribly expensive crib ~ that my daughter refused to EVER sleep in… she ended up sleeping with us, but even when she was older she wouldn’t sleep in it, we ended up getting her a futon and she slept on the floor ~ much to my Mother’s horror. :) All the gizmos and gadgets were really not necessary ~ and then I had all this guilt when it came time to giveaway all these items people had bought us that were virtually unused. *sigh* well…live and learn. :) It’s great that you’re getting this message out though… because first time moms… often just don’t know. I know I didn’t. :)

    • Maggie Owens

      Jackie, I can so relate to everything you said. My daughter is an only child also and I tried to make up for everything with her that I didn’t have as a child so I went overboard sometimes. She also had a crib she didn’t like to sleep in. Oh well………..

  • Stacey Muller

    But…please DO NOT buy a used car seat.  This is one investment that should be non-negotiable!

    • Becominggreen13

      I second this. They expire, for one. And you just can’t trust people. I’m a paramedic. Last year I ran on a fairly significant crash with 3 carseats. They had the last name of the family (a very common name) stitched into the seat, I thought “what a neat idea”, so they stuck in my head. I went to a garage sale later that year and those 3 seats were being sold. Yup. Those folks got “free” carseats from insurance and made some cash by selling the old ones that shouldn’t have been used anymore. I couldn’t believe it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PepperFerguson Pepper Ferguson

    I love this idea – we did buy a few things but as we went and we reuse everything for our second child. For us to store it was fine. I like buying at second hand places, unless I know I can get it cheaper new (which sometimes I can). We do have tons of toys, wish we could minimize this more.

  • http://twitter.com/IThoughtIKnewMa IThoughtIKnewMama

    I agree! There is so much waste when it comes to baby gear, and they really need so little.

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  • http://www.lisakleinweber.com/ Lisa

    We went crazy with my first, but I won’t do that this time.  I have no baby stuff because my son is 9 so we have to start all over again.  But I don’t see anything wrong with buying a used car seat.  The car seat does not break down because another baby has sat in it.

    • Carrie Willard

      True, but the parts are mostly plastic and can degrade if the car is in a crash. I would only get a used car seat from a trusted friend who I knew would not endanger my baby.

  • Bainakamau

    It is sad it took 7 babies to figure if out we were minimalist with our first second and our third coming soon…But I guess it is better late than  never..

  • Laura

    If you find that you’ve gone off the deep end in baby product accumulation – whether it be from generous friends’ hand-me-downs, well-intentioned relatives,or just plain fell-for-it consumerism, one answer is to search out consignment sales.  We have a few consignment options locally that are specifically for selling infant & child clothes, toys, equipment – and I cannot tell you how HAPPY the customers are when they can purchase gently used baby stuff on the cheap…and you make some money too.  Kind of like a garage sale but with a specific target market so it’s much more successful.

  • Lisa K.

    What are some ways to have baby sleep with mom and dad that are safe?  We were just considering buying an Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper from Craigslist.