Since it’s already December, I figured I would go ahead and wrap up my little “Baby On a Budget” series and move on to other topics this month!
To finish, I wanted to leave my “registry list,” basically those things I have truly found to be essential (and a few I’ve found to be not so much)! And for all of the extra things that we might not need, but it’s nice to have, I’ll share a few of my tips on scoring that thing for free or next to nothing- keeping your budget to the basics.
- A crib. Not sure I need to elaborate on this one too much. Even if you are a co-sleeping mama, it’s nice to have a nice, cozy, dedicated space for times when the baby needs to snooze and mama needs to get other things done (or get a break!).
- Pack and Play with a bassinet feature. Next to the crib, this item has proved to be invaluable. Seriously, it was the best $100 we ever spent on baby gear. You don’t need the charging station and you don’t need the newborn napper (really). Those are just extras. What you need is something light and that packs down easily and simply. After a lot of research (and one really bummer pack n play that we got home and got stuck with it halfway open and halfway shut), we settled on the Graco Pack ‘N Play Baby Playard – Pippin, and boy has it fit the bill! We’ve set it up in our room when there were guests sleeping in Olivia’s room and she needed to sleep with us, she uses it at her babysitters 5 days a week for at least one nap, and it has gone with us all over the state to provide a sleep spot for Olivia during naps and night time. And I bet that thing will last us through many more years of baby and travel!
- Car Seat. These suckers can be expensive, but my tip is to skip the “bucket” seat and go straight for the convertible. While the bucket seat is more “convenient” for carrying a baby in and out of the house it isn’t necessary, and it just causes you to spend more money because you wind up having to purchase the convertible seat as the baby grows anyway. Plus, you can find a really nice convertible seat for way cheaper than the bucket seats- we got ours for $50 at, and the fireman who showed us how to install it said that it was one of the nicest he had seen considering the features and design. Awesome! Now, someone ended up gifting us a bucket seat too which we have enjoyed- it is much easier to take in and out of the car because of the fact that it comes with a “base” that stays buckled in while the seat itself can pop in and out. But it is a gift, not a necessity. Olivia came home in the convertible and we would have happily been using it the whole time!
- If you are breastfeeding: a nursing cover and a simple hand pump. The cover is great for when you are in public and need to breastfeed (SO USEFUL on airplanes!), and the pump is for those times when your child is wearing a particular feed, or you just need to take the edge off when you get too full and baby is not on-hand to feed. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, a hand pump is fine. If you work or like to have other people feed baby regularly from a bottle (with your own milk), a higher grade electric pump would be invaluable.
- A basic highchair. Mike and I registered for (and received) a Fisher-Price Space Saver Highchair that actually straps right onto one of our kitchen chairs. We got it because it claimed to save space, which it certainly does, but it also converts with the size and development of your child, is dishwasher safe, and even will turn into a booster seat down the road.
- A changing pad. You can keep it on top of a dresser in the baby’s room, or stash it under a sofa if you have a two-level house (and want to skip running up and down the stairs for every change). We currently keep ours under our bed, right next to a drawer full of Olivia’s diaper supplies. Now that Olivia is more mobile, we prefer changing her right on the ground, because BOY is she squirmy while she is being changed!
- A dresser (or other furniture for clothing storage). Olivia inherited my old dresser when she was born, but we still have yet to use it. It’s still at my mom’s house. Since birth, Olivia’s clothes have been stored in a wheeled, three drawer, storage bin I bought when I was 13 to keep my art supplies in. It’s been great because of its portability (although Mike hates its aesthetics). And it’s just the right size. All the clothes that are not the right size go into plastic Sterilite tubs and either go into her closet if she still has to grow into them or into the attic or storage unit if she has grown out of them.
- A baby carrier. We have the Babybjorn Baby Carrier and the Moby Wrap Original. Both very very different in their design, but so so helpful at different times. The Bjorn is great for daddy duty, for getting housework done with a cranky baby that needs to be held, or for taking trips to the grocery store or other places when Olivia was little. In the airport, the Maya wrap has been essential to keeping Olivia snug and close while also keeping my load lighter (it can fold up nice and tiny and be tucked into a bag pocket). It also has doubled as a blanket, nursing cover, and a cover for the car seat when Olivia needed to take a nap. These devices eliminated the need for me to constantly be dragging the ubiquitous bucket seat in and out of stores and doctor’s appointments when Olivia was little, and she loved snuggling close to me more anyway, as most babies do. It’s incredibly beneficial for babies’ development and growth, especially in those first months, to spend as much time snuggled close to mom (or dad) as much as possible.
- Sippy cup. Great for introducing water (or other liquids) AND weaning off of the bottle/breast. We like the kind with the soft plastic top instead of the ones with the hard plastic top and a special device inside, but babies develop their own likes and dislikes.
Take It or Leave It
- Diaper bag. If you get “showered” with a cute one, awesome. If not, just use an old purse or bag. Most of the time, you really don’t need much more than a few diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, and a nursing cover and/or bottle.
- Stroller. We did not buy a stroller until Olivia was 7 or 8 months old, and even then, it’s really reserved for walks in the neighborhood. When we bought a stroller, we opted for a lightweight stroller that could fold down into the size of an umbrella stroller, but still had a little bit of storage space and protective shade. Nothing fancy or expensive. I still use the Bjorn for a lot of our walks and when we go anywhere like the store or library. We’ve figured out how to hook her car seat over the back of a roller bag and skip the annoying monstrosity that is the “travel system” while traveling in airports (Olivia hangs out in the Moby Wrap while traveling). The only reason a nice stroller might be a plus is if you are a big jogger or runner and want to be able to run or jog with the baby.
- Bouncers/bumbos/baby chairs. Olivia was given a bouncer seat when she was born, but she never used it. She cried hysterically every time she was set in it (or set anywhere for that matter). She spent most of her time in the Moby Wrap, enjoying being with me. Another baby “chairs”? They are nice, but not necessary. A blanket works fine for baby, or a pillow (with supervision) to help get propped up to view the world, or, as I’ve already mentioned, a baby carrier to keep baby close and upright to view the world. As the baby grows, a high chair can serve as a play spot as well when you need to keep baby contained, or the pack n play can be used as a temporary, safe “play yard.”
- Dinner sets. Baby spoons, forks, plates, bowls, etc. Nice, but not necessary. Olivia will eat off of a regular spoon just as well as a little plastic spoon, and she eats mostly finger foods anyway (always has.) The plates and bowels especially- we’ve all seen baby chuck those things overboard! So far we just put Olivia’s food directly on her tray. Perhaps as she gets older we might get some unbreakable plates and bowls for her to use, but right now, she doesn’t need them. Oh, and your regular Tupperware is probably just as effective at wrangling snacks as the latest “baby snack” holders.
- Travel high chair. If you have a nice long piece of cloth (we’ve used a Maya wrap) or even a belt, you can “tie” baby into a regular-sized chair and booster seat at a restaurant (or on top of a phone book at grandma’s!) in a pinch. This only works if the baby can sit up well unassisted, though.
- Bucket seat. See above.
- Changing table. Just get a changing pad (or two) and stash in a convenient spot. See above.
- Wipes case and wipes warmers. We just store our wipes in the original containers, and Olivia has never complained about them being “cold.”
- Baby Einstein. Little babies don’t need to watch TV. They need to interact with their moms and dads and other caregivers, friends, and family. They need to interact with the real world- that is what will produce development. I’m not 100% dead-set against TV, but I just do not think it is necessary, especially at a young age.
- Five bazillion toys. Don’t need them! Babies are so interested in EVERYTHING in the world around them. Safe, fun toys are nice to have a few of, but you don’t need to go overboard. You could be surprised what sort of things the baby finds fascinating that are not conventional toys.
Getting the Stuff You Want (For Free)
After the showers have come and gone, if you find yourself wishing you had “x” for baby- ask your friends! At one point Olivia really wanted to be mobile but still hadn’t figured it out. I asked my friend if she still had her Johnny Jump Up from her boy who was 6 months older than Olivia. She did, and happily let me borrow it! Olivia loved it, I got a 15-20 minute break every day, and I didn’t have to spend a dime.
We have done the same with many other toys and clothes and baby items that I sort of really want, but don’t need and therefore can’t justify spending $50-$100 at Babies R Us for. And it’s a win-win for everyone because my friends have gotten stuff from me, to borrow or keep, for free (keep the cycle going!), and we all keep the clutter to a minimum as our babies grow and change. AWESOME!
How About You?
Got anything to add to the list? Did you purchase something that you got home and later realized it was a complete DUD? Or is there something you found absolutely invaluable? Leave a comment!