Will having a baby break the budget?

Babies are expensive, or so you’ve been told.  This isn’t necessarily true.  Babies have very basic needs during the first year of life which can easily be taken care of without much expenditure at all.

It is amazingly easy to clothe a baby for next to nothing.  In fact forget about buying any clothes for baby for the first three months.  Many have made the mistake of buying lots of clothes for their new baby’s arrival, only to find that after the birth lots of gifts start to arrive and yes, you’ve guessed it, the vast majority of these gifts are clothes.

Freecycle is a great way to get baby clothes for free.  Babies grow out of clothes very quickly so there are always people looking to pass on baby clothes.  In fact many baby items can be obtained for free in this way.  Of course it is also nice to offer something for someone else if you are going to accept free items from someone.  Friends and family who already have children may also be a source of free clothes for your baby.  Failing that there is always eBay or charity shops for inexpensive second hand clothing.

Perhaps you enjoy knitting or maybe you have friends or family who would enjoy knitting some clothes for your baby.  Although it is time consuming it does mean that you will get those lovely little baby cardigans for cheaper and what’s more, they will be unique!      

Nappies are a little bit trickier but if you are very lucky you may be able to get second hand cloth nappies for free from Freecycle or from friends and relatives with children.  There are also websites out there which allow people to sell their second hand cloth nappies.  Note that eBay has a policy which does not allow the sale of these.  If you are unable to get your hands on second hand cloth nappies then it is still far more economical to make the investment and buy new cloth nappies than it is to use disposable nappies.  Not only that but you can rest easy knowing that your baby’s nappies will not be sitting in a landfill site long after they have had children of their own!  You can try and sell the cloth nappies to someone else when you have finished with them and make back some of the money you spent.    

If you breastfeed your baby it will save you from having to buy bottles, sterilising equipment and formula.  Not only is breast milk completely free but there are numerous other benefits to breastfeeding for both mother and baby.  The benefits for the baby include a lower risk of allergies, less chance of illness, better mental development and less smelly nappies!  Benefits for the mother include a lower risk of breast cancer, lower risk of osteoporosis and faster loss of pregnancy weight. 

When it comes to solid food remember the saying “before one, food is just for fun”.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start to introduce solids to your baby during the first year.  What it does mean is that they won’t be eating like older children just yet and so will be very inexpensive to feed.  You don’t need to go out and buy ready-made baby food in jars.  Make your own.  It takes very little effort to cook some vegetables and blend them to the right consistency for your baby.  You can freeze individual portions for use on other days.  When your baby is ready to try finger foods you can simply keep aside pieces of cooked food from your own meal, as well as uncooked food like fruit.  Just make sure that you don’t offer anything which may be too high in salt, too spicy or may pose a choking hazard.  Also if there is a history of allergies in the family it is wise not to offer any foods which may cause a reaction during the first year.    

Maybe your mother kept your old cot or maybe you have other family or friends with a cot they could let you have (or borrow for a couple of years).  Again try putting a request on Freecycle to see if you get lucky or failing that try finding an inexpensive second hand cot.  When using a second hand cot always purchase a new mattress as there is a link between the re-use of cot mattresses and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Of course there is no rule which says that babies must sleep in cots.  Co-sleeping, where the baby sleeps with its parents, is slowly becoming more popular in western societies.  Co-sleeping is commonly practiced around the world, including in Japan which has the lowest rate of SIDS in the world.  If you are going to practice co-sleeping with your baby there are guidelines which you should follow in order to co-sleep safely, such as never sleeping with your baby when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.  You should also not sleep with your baby if you are obese.  When sleeping with your baby minimal bedding should be used and great care should be taken to ensure that there are no spaces between the bed frame and mattress where the baby could become trapped.  Many people find that putting the mattress on the floor is the safest option.  This also gives you the option of selling your bed frame for some extra cash! 

Unless you have back problems you don’t need to splash out on a baby changing station.  You can simply use a changing mat or a towel on top of your bed or another surface.  Even the floor will do.  Remember of course to never leave a baby unattended on a surface from which the baby could fall.

Remember that the main things a baby needs are warmth, food, shelter and love.  As long as you can provide these things you will have a very happy baby, no matter how little you have to spend on baby things.