Babies don’t have to cost the world!
Believe me? Not many do and shops don’t help by putting on the pressure of “if you don’t get the most expensive cot/car seat/blanket you just don’t care enough! Bad parent!!!”.
You’ve probably already read or heard about my attitude towards clutter and stuff but sometimes even the stuff you do need, the basics, the essentials, seem overwhelming in their cost. Lets look at those prices shall we (and how we managed to cut them down):
A car seat can, if bought in mothercare cost £30-£300~ but that doesn’t necessarily include a base (if you need one) and most parents like to look at the recommendations, safety checks, get something that will last more than a week, and research if others have had problems with it. The other issue is that a car seat has to be compatible with your car and come in 4 categories (0, 1, 2, & 3 relating to age/weight/height of child). So if you plan to use a car to get home from wherever you delivery your bundle of joy, you are legally obliged to buy a car seat suitable for a newborn. This bit is fine and what parents expect, but what they don’t always know is that a 0 category car seat may only last up until their child is ~12 months old (less than this if the height of your child goes over the safety limits for the seat before their weight does). Spending £200+ on a seat for one year can feel painful, so doing research is important if you want your products and money to stretch a little further.
We decided to go with a Mamas & Papas – Primo Viaggio IP Car Seat from Tesco, which is ISOFIX base compatible. This meant that by getting the ISOFIX base we could have an easy semi-permanent way of getting car seat in and out of car without fiddling with seatbelts, etc. Despite some trickiness in working out the attachment to our car, this was cheaper due to one main reason: Clubcard points!
If you have any of these little gems it is well worth finding out what you can get in the baby-related category using points. Ours came from parents who had a surplus and it meant that we basically got the car seat and base for free. Even when you add on the £16 for the car attachment (bit of hassle but doable) it still means we saved a huge amount of money! £200 in total.
So nappies are obviously something you need from very early on in parenthood and nowadays there are plenty of options. Disposable is most common, but comes with a lot of spending as well. Estimations tend to suggest that in the first year you can spend over £800 on nappies which will fluctuate depending on brand, etc. Honestly, there isn’t much you can do about this in budget terms, but if you’re lucky sometimes maternity packs, mothers clubs, etc will give out vouchers for money off these common expenses.
If you do fancy another option reusable nappies present an interesting option (although sometimes a gross one depending on your squeamishness). Reusables come in a variety of options: some have compostable/disposable liners, others are simply soaked and washed, others I don’t quite understand. However, a major positive for them is the price: Mothercare offer a birth-potty pack of reusable nappies for £250, providing a saving of at least £500. Other brands do similar “easy option” bulk packs with similar prices. However…
We decided (with some reservations from parents, friends and us sometimes) on reusable nappies but honestly £250 sounded like quite a lot of money for something we were concerned might not work for us. A bulk purchase may save you money if you are definitely going to use them, but if we ended up folding and returning to disposables, then it was just £250 on top of £800~. This is where secondhand sales come in useful. The idea behind reusables is that actually by looking after them you could use them for future children as well (hence saving that £800 for each child too). Therefore, if someone has collected an abundance of reusable nappies and has decided to stop reproducing, they can sell them on, make back some of the money spent (again a plus point) and save someone else money. So I found someone selling a large amount of cared for reusable nappies (well over, but covering, the numbers provided in the birth-potty pack) and bought them for £70. This is a much more comfortable price in the short-term, saves us £180 in comparison to new reusables, and an amazing £700+ compared to disposables.
Here’s the blunt truth: babies need less than you think. Truthfully you aren’t going to want to move in the first month of sleep deprivation and babyhood, and even if you do no-one will care if your child isn’t in the latest fashions. The other truth is that family and friends find it stupidly difficult to pass by a cute baby outfit when welcoming them to the world. You should buy a few onesies and essential seasonal stuff and accept that everything will be somewhat stained by poop/sick/that stuff you don’t recognise and your baby will still be perfectly happy. Secondhand is again a lifesaver whether passed on from family/friends or bought from charity shops/NHS or NCT sales/ebay. Your child won’t know and you won’t care. They also really DO NOT NEED adult clothing shrunk to baby sizes – most are uncomfortable and just hassle to put on. Imagine you’re on a lazy day and dress your baby in something simple and comfy. Shoes are also really not needed till at least 12 months.
We’re still working on this one but watching out for sales is always great. We got 20% off an adorable wintersuit (which is hooded and booted and comes with mittens) at Mothercare just by being there at the right time. Amazon also seem to do a Mother’s discount if you sign up with them.. of course, it depends how much of your soul you wish to sell to spam-a-lot. I also decided to buy fabric and make some clever comfortable baby clothing in the hope that it would last longer and cost less. A metre of woodland creature cotton was ~£10 and will probably do at least one adorable outfit, with maybe a skirt/tunic/t-shirt too. That’s not a bad deal for customisable personalised long-lasting clothing. Of course, it uses time instead but it’s quite nice to chill with sewing in front of a movie during maternity leave. You could do the same with any fabric you might have already or get some deals from markets or online.
Cot/Bed/Somewhere to snooze
Again this is where the options can feel overwhelming and money-wise stupidly tricky. Depending on what you get you could end up spending anything from £30-£650 for somewhere for your bundle to sleep (when they sleep). Some will only be aimed at the first month or so, some only for the first 6 months, and all can be expensive beyond all reason. Plus, like so much IKEA-style furniture, they will often come without the bots that actually make it useable: mattress, sheets, pillows, blankets, etc. It all adds up quickly. Simple solutions are available; parents often have cots in attics or storage from your childhood, or friends have spare cots available to borrow. The other option is actually thinking creatively about bedding: in Finland new mothers are given a box of useful essentials, but the box itself is meant as the baby’s first bed. It sounds odd but actually a newborn doesn’t need a huge amount of space, and this option avoids the potential hazards of co-sleeping whilst still being portable enough and small enough to be kept close by. You may not want a cardboard box but I’m sure you could create something incredible with some imagination.
When personally thinking about what I wanted for my child I knew two things: firstly, if they are warm and comfortable they won’t care how much money went into where they are snoring, and function was extremely important for as long as possible. Function here meant getting into a comfortable pattern of sleep as soon as possible for the sanity of my child and myself. After some research we found an unusual solution: a hammock. It comes with a mattress, sheets, etc, so that helps. This option from the producer would cost quite a bit, but again second-hand saved the day. Reducing the price from £220 to £60 was great, and our choice will accommodate a newborn as well as a growing baby making it stretch even more efficiently. We aim to get a sleeping bag/grobag and in general it’s not recommended that you pile on the layers of blankets as it can smother and overheat a small baby, and blankets can also be kicked off easily. Alongside a couple of swaddling blankets we should be set for happy nights.
Toys: You really don’t need them – everything is a toy to a baby and they won’t even be interested for a good few months.
Books: A few are cute but early on it’s really just about talking to your child. You could read a PhD paper on 17th century German literature and they would still look fascinated if you put some tone into it.
Health: First aid items, baby nail clippers, and maybe a soft brush are probably all you really need. It is sometimes far too easy to start worrying about every second and every new cry but honestly you can’t prepare for everything and if something serious happens going to the doctor is far better than whatever bottled something a shop assistant said you had to have.
Carrier: A good idea, particular if it’s flexible in regards to how your baby can be held. Babies tend to enjoy being close to a warm body, particularly a parent’s so it can be a good way to keep a happy and peaceful baby.
Bottles/Breastpump: Bottle feeding is quite obviously going to be a more expensive option but you don’t need all the gadgets if you don’t have the budget. Breastfeeding is basically free and again you don’t need to buy the expensive gadgets. Pumps can be great and useful but aren’t always needed so it could maybe wait until you’ve figured out your needs, and then maybe ask a family member or friend to pick one up for you to save the effort.
Changing pad/table: These range from a simple waterproof-sided blanket thing on the floor/bed/table, to full-blown crafted pieces of furniture. You can be creative here and it doesn’t have to be pricey. Just be careful with surfaces at a height as your child grows up and gets more wriggley. The last thing you want is that precious bundle falling whilst you were preoccupied with the nappy contents and how to get it out of your hair.
- Buy secondhand
- Borrow or inherit what you can
- Be creative with what you already have
- Don’t panic buy before you know what you need
We managed to buy the essential things (aka what gets them home, dressed, clean and fed) for ~£250 and I am hoping to get anything else for £100 more maximum. As we have a slightly painful situation currently of no/very little income, this helped a lot. If you are on some kind of benefits, mothers can also get grants or financial help and knowing how to make that money stretch as far as possible is really important. The media will often say that babies cost stupid amounts of money but I honestly believe that it really depends on what culture and country you are in. There are plenty of mothers and babies who survive comfortably on very little but using traditional, simple methods so try not to fall into the consumerism traps that lay await.
Of course, my disclaimer in all of this, and also what my midwife reminded me of this morning, is that every baby is different and every experience will teach different things. There may well be things that I have missed off this list accidentally, others I didn’t think I’ll need, and others I will find I wanted after all. I hope you can read this with grace and let me off as an amateur like every other soon-to-be-mother out there.