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.