What to Buy for Baby
Hello, Tawra and Jill!
I love your site and have been checking it every day for the past 4 years. My hubby and I are thrilled to have learned we are 6 weeks pregnant. We are ready and feel that we have prepared our budget for baby, but I was hoping you may have some interesting or frugal tips for a first-time mother. Of course, I have the urge to go buy everything new, but I am determined to fight it!! :) Any advice you could post or put together, even if it’s in your blog or as an article would be greatly appreciated.
Your frugal friend and EXCITED first-time mom,
The best thing I did was buy everything at yard sales and thrift stores. There is a ton of new stuff at these places from people who get way too many baby gifts.
When I had my first, I think we spent about $200 total on everything. Family gave us a crib and we bought a new car seat for $60-$80 (I don’t remember for sure– it’s been 10 years.:-) Everything else, including all the cloth diaper supplies, were bought at yard sales.
I had to re-buy everything when my 3rd and 4th were born so I went though it again and it still wasn’t more than a couple hundred dollars if that much.
The thing is, even though it would be fun to buy all brand new stuff, they grow out of it so fast that you hardly get to use some things! I mean really fast! We’re talking just a couple of weeks and they can be in a different size. I know people who have spent thousands on baby stuff, some of which they never used because the baby was born so big!
We chose not to spend that much so we can give our kids a secure home with the bills paid where we aren’t fighting over money. We would rather that they have loving and kind parents who are not stressed over money than to give them a bunch of stuff they won’t even remember.
Save the money for when they get older. Then you can buy them a few new gifts and they will appreciate it more.
Tips From A Grandma
Babies really need much less than what you think. My first baby (Tawra) was born in the heat of the summer. All she needed was a onesie or a t-shirt. I had a few cute dresses and outfits for church but we weren’t going out that often so I didn’t need much. Decide what you need for clothes and the cut it in half. You will probably be doing a load of laundry every day anyway so most things will be clean for the next day.
You don’t really need a crib when they are first born. My son slept in a borrowed bassinet for 6 months and we could have put him in a large box the first couple of months if we had needed to. Tawra’s kids have slept in a playpen until they were almost 2 (She’s never had room for a crib).
I never had a changing table or anything like that. If things are tight, you can do without a lot.
A new baby doesn’t need any toys at all. The one thing I suggest is that a mobile makes a great gift for grandparents or favorite aunts or uncles to get for the baby. A mobile is great for baby’s crib and/or over the changing table because they like to look at the things that hang from it.
I suggest that you get only the basics like a car seat, diapers and a small amount of clothes and blankets. Then get the rest after baby comes and you have a better idea what you really need.
For more tips to help you save money on kids’ expenses, check out our Saving With Kids e-books.
Be sure to breastfeed! It’s free food for the baby, not to mention it’s much healthier for Baby and Mama. Begin attending La Leche League meetings during your pregnancy, so you can meet experienced breastfeeding moms, who can help you get off to a good start after the baby comes. Don’t rely on a hospital’s “lactation consultant.” There experience and knowledge is sometimes spotty.
Great advice! The only thing I did differently was to ask for things I couldn’t find myself – not new things, but items to be borrowed or given if they wanted to. That way I borrowed a portable playpen for about 6 months – had a two story house and did not want 2 cribs.
You also don’t need as much as what most people think you do especially right away.
I borrowed a bassinet and my son slept in it for 6 months giving us time to get a crib.
My grandkids were sleeping in nothing but playpens until they were almost 2. That way we had a crib and playpen in one.
The baby won’t be using a high chair for a bit so things like that would be great gifts to ask grandparents for the first few months (like at Christmas).
Although my daughter had one and they are nice, I never owned a changing table.
So start with just a little and add things as you see you need them.
If it’s your first – make sure you have the necessities – diapers (either cloth or disposable), some clothes (you don’t need many), a place for baby to sleep (I had friends who put their baby in a laundry basket for 3 weeks), and a car seat. You also need to know how you’re planning to feed your baby (nursing or bottle).
The rest you can figure out after a baby shower or two. You will be amazed at what you get. We had twins, which everyone thinks is really neat, and we only really had to buy diapers and a crib (we needed two since they wiggled so much they’d wake each other up) for probably a year or year-and-a- half.
Also, talk to everyone you can think of. Second hand stores can’t take diaper pails, crib mattresses, or things like baby bath tubs. You can get just about anything for free or the cost of having to go pick it up if you just spread the word that you’re looking for things! Scrub stuff good with soap (you don’t need bleach unless you want to) and use!
Now that our kids are 3 years old, they have two cousins that we get hand-me-downs from. Works great.
Congratulations and enjoy that new baby!
I second the breastfeeding – free food and a very rewarding experience. The La Leche League has an online forum that also helps if there’s any issues.
Borrow and buy used as much as possible – babies don’t know the difference or care. I had a lot of new stuff with my first one that was gifts (having a big baby shower helps too) and we used all of that stuff for both children and then sold it when we were done with it.
I never owned a changing table and found that using the bed or floor worked well. I use a small bookshelf to keep diapers and wipes on and then can use it for books later on. For us a bouncy seat and swing were a must, but some kids don’t take to them so those are good things to try to find used.
Always buy a new car seat though – you never know if a used one has been in a wreck (they’re only good for one accident) and they do expire after 5-6 years (plastic can deteriorate making them not as strong). If you have to get anything new it should be the car seat!!
Strollers are great used too, although I’m very hard on ours and we use them alot, so just make sure if you get a used one that it’s in good shape.
Sorry for rambling on so much :)
Hospitals often have loaner plans for the baby car seats. Be sure to check the compatibility of the buckle system with that of your car.
Christy in the NW
Had to pipe up again. I second the idea of buying new car seats. I would even say “never” buy a used car seat. You never know what the seat has been through. We have 5 children and don’t even like to use one for siblings. (Our babies usually come along every 3 years or so.)
With Baby 1, we had lots of showers and I got all the stuff I thought I needed–crib, playpen, bouncy seat, jumper, diaper pail, etc…Turns out about the only thing we needed was a half dozen little outfits and the baby sling. Our baby hated the swing/playpen/bouncy seat/jumper…so, most of the time she was in the sling. Nowadays, I would get an Ergo. We have one now and it’s great.
My suggestion is that any furniture you invest in be convertable. Buy a crib that turns into a toddler bed (the rail comes off and the mattress is able to become very low like a daybed), and then turns into a twin size bed (the side rails become head and foot boards). These have been some of the best things that I have ever had for my boys. It saved tons of money later on when they started to outgrow thier beds since all you do is buy the rails for the twin bed and mattresses.
Also Target carries these really great waterproof soft cloth burping pads, changing pads, and crib pads that are wonderful for everything. When the baby no longer needs them you can put them under your rugs to keep the winter and spring moisture from coming off shoes and into your carpet.
Please do breastfeed and ask for help if you need it. Find resources before the baby comes, because if you are frazzled or upset that is not a good time to ask- who can help me? That said, if you have any family at all or friends they will be so happy for you, THEY will buy you brand new things and you can concentrate on paying for diapers,etc. Please also consider making your own baby food. If you make carrots for dinner, make extra, mash them with a potato masher, beaters or food processor. Then fill up a ice cube tray with them, when frozen pop them out, put in a freezer bag and label. It is so easy. Just take out baby’s portion before you put on butter, salt, etc for you and your husband. Good luck, you will love being a parent!
33 years ago when my first son was born my parents bought us a beautiful swinging cradle. My son hated it from the minute we placed him in it.
It became a great place to store all the cloth diapers.
He slept in the large Gendron stroller in the living room.
My son seemed to enjoy leaping from high places and after a few dives off the change table which he laughed after doing I used the bed to change diapers and dress him on. It was easier for me and safer for him.
I breast fed him for about 3 months when the dr. told me my milk was not good enough in vitamins for his health so I had to go to the bottle. He went on solid foods sooner but it didn’t affect him and he wasn’t always crying trying to nurse. When we switched he was happier and I had more energy since he wasn’t draining it from me.
I never used bibs. Diapers and hand towels were larger and kept him cleaner.
Back then instead of back packs for babies they were chest packs. I had one I think it was called a snuggly and I put him in it in the morning He loved to be held in fact he demanded it so I was holding him and could wash dishes, sweep and even sit down and read with my arms free and the position it held him in.
He had a mobile that looked like stained glass so it hung over his crib (when he actually gave up the stroller for sleeping) it reflected the sunlight all over the room and he loved it. For music I played tapes of classical music which was soothing so he would fall asleep to it. I am also a singer so I sang all sorts of songs to him and they calmed him down when upset. Puff the magic dragon was a hit as well as I come to the garden alone.
My grandmother gave me some advice on baby food. She said forget it. When you make supper simply mash it up and feed the baby the same as you are eating. Minus the spices or cut down on them. As he grew he also got used to eating meals that were not made to order just for him so I had no picky eater syndrome.
Fancy clothes are not necessary but are nice so my parents supplied those. But for stay at home or short walks for fresh air it was T shirts and track pants even for a very small one. Much easier to take off and they wash well with no extra work.
I put dirty diapers into a pail with a locking lid and put vinegar about a cup with water and drained out the water just before we went to the laundry mat twice a week to do laundry. No smell and no germs.
I used mineral oil since it had no perfumes and I used corn starch for powder for the same reason. Also I can’t stand the smell that seems to be a demand for many parents.
My advice is keep it simple and make one item do 2 or 3 jobs.
The only things a baby needs are food, appropriate clothes and lots of time and love. Take the time for those and you will have fun and have a happy well adjusted young adult when the time comes.
Also, look on Craigslist.com. I have found so many wonderful things for next to nothing. Some people just want to get rid of things and are willing to sell things cheap. People sell bags of practacally new baby clothing, cribs, nice crib sets (I’ve even seen new ones on there that someone got too many of). I have six children and my youngest is 1 1/2. I have had to buy more clothing for her this time and I’ve done it between craigslist and Goodwill.
Our babies also just sleep in bed with us for the first 6-8 months. I find it much easier than having to get up for late night feedings.
I am about to deliver #7 and I can attest to what you don’t need. I went all out with my first 2, only to discover many many many unused outfits that were a waste of money. Too many blankets etc. I have most of my babies in the winter season, So I don’t hardly even take them out. This baby has about 4 jammies in size preemie ( I have smaller babies) and 4 newborn, 2 nightgowns,6 prs socks and One outfit. That is it. That is all they need. I have a tradition of buying my babies for their “Birth” day present a brand new blankie which they all still have to this day. We did have to break down and buy a crib with this one, The old one just plain worn out, just a side note, I used almost all the pieces of the old crib in my garden this year for homemade trellises!!! But at that my oldest daughter wanted to buy the crib. Also the car seat was not up to code and she had a coworker that had a car seat they got as a gift and did not like and gave it to us, so that was free. We found a highchair at a yard sale for $20 and it is top of the line even lays down completely flat so the baby can be at the table with us, ( my 3 year old is still in the other highchair). HTH Michelle mom to Kriztina 20 Chriztopher 18, lyndzie 14, Jacob 5, Joshua 5, Matthew 3, and baby Jeremiah not quite here yet. Frugalredneck.blogspot.com
We started with twins and used one bassinet to start with, than added another bassinet when they no longer fit in the same space. Then at 6 months, we bought a very nice crib that we planned to pass down to our children when grandbabies came. When my twins didn’t fit in that crib together, my mother-in-law gave us a used crib. That one is long gone, given to missionaries, but we still have the first one! We have had 6 babies since then. I don’t remember the last two sleeping in the crib. The fourth baby started the tradition of sleeping with Mommy and Daddy. Each one left the bed before the next one came. The crib is now storing things. Soon, one of my twins (my twins are now 29 and fathers) will be in a condo. Once he moves in, he gets the crib. It didn’t fit in their one bedroom apartment. So, cribs, take them or leave them. We have three grandchildren, all toddlers and all sleeping in playpens.
The Car seat is a must! Be sure to have a 5-point harness. I’m not sure if they have anything else anymore. My youngest is 7 now. A stroller can be very helpful. I loved my slings! I think the ones that go over both shoulders are best. Not only do they support the baby better, but it is better for your back. Baby backpacks are great once the baby can sit up.
Nursing is the best thing for babies! and Mommy! I call it, “Warm and Ready.” Some mommies need good support to to keep it going. Mine all nursed past a year, most past 2 years and 2 went past 3. Mama’s milk is all they need for the first year! Food is just recreational up to that point. I just give my toddlers finger foods. If they can pick it up, they can eat it. Puffed grains, especially rice, just melt in the mouth. Easy to clean up. We skipped bibs and took their shirts off. A quick rinse under the kitchen sink and ready to go again.
People think that just because a baby reaches onto a plate of food, that the baby wants to eat or is ready to eat, but they reach out and touch EVERYTHING! They also put everything in their mouths too! They don’t care if it is a dirty sock or a bug!
Okay, clothes… you might want some basic clothes to get by until the baby shower, depending on when that happens. Then fill in after the baby gets here. You never know what size the baby will be at birth or how quickly baby will grow! I have some clothes, I’m not sure if any of my children wore. For some, it was the wrong season when it was the right size and others, it was hiding when it was the right size…
Cloth diapers for sure! You only have to buy them once! I did that with all my children, even with my twins!
Used baby clothes are a great value! Most baby clothes hardly get worn at all and look great. If you are like me, people just hand me bags of clothes! They figure, if I have eight children, someone should be able to fit into something they give me and then pass the rest along. All you have to do is ask! Lots of people just throw away clothes when they don’t need them anymore! Really! If you must buy the clothes, go to a thrift shop in the nice/rich neighborhood. They will have the best clothes! Look around to find out who has the best prices. I know I see bags of clothes advertised in the newspaper too!
I’m sorry for going long… I have a few children and a few years as a mama… and I like to share….
Mommy to 8, grandma to 3 with 2 more on the way!
Just wanted to give an update and thank everyone for your wonderful advice. We have a beautiful little girl, 17 months now, and the light of our lives. We followed all this advice… found a wonderful convertable crib from family that they have never even used, and my mother gave us my old antique changing table, which we refurbished, touched up with a coat of paint, and voila!
I was so worried as a first time mom that she wouldn’t have enough, but it seems that every time I would worry (Oh no, she’s growing bigger and needs a winter coat) some answer would come along… whether it was finding the perfect little Easter dress at a garage sale, or having my own grandmother knit 3 beautiful sweaters (in three different sizes). The Lord truly does provide.
Did we nurse— you betcha! 10 months until she pulled away… :) Best experience of my life, and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
You gals are the best! Keep up the positive advice and encouragement. I love it!
Congrats on your baby girl Jessica. She sounds like she is super blessed with a mom, grandma and great grandma who love her a bunch.
These days you probably should skip the used crib too as pretty much all of the dropside cribs have been recalled. You should be ok with a crib where none of the sides drop. I’d also skip the convertible cribs because honestly, does a 3 year old really need a full sized bed?
I went all out with my first, or rather my family did. Most baby products are disposable and don’t last from baby to baby. With the fourth I needed some gender neutral or boy clothes which I got either on deep discount or free at swaps. I used baby carriers that I had from my previous kids, I needed some more cloth diapers which I got used on diaper swappers or as seconds online, I needed a stroller which I got free at swap, I needed a bouncy chair, also free and swing which was free when my twins were babies. Turns out I didn’t really need the chair, as he didn’t use it and the swing didn’t last much. I think I spent $100-$200 on him total this year and most of that was replacing old beat up unserviceable diapers. He coslept and now sleeps on the floor next to my bed on a twin futon mattress. I don’t even pay to feed him since he breastfeeds and we get WIC. WIC gives so much baby food now that you don’t have to buy a jar! I end up putting in in the grown up food and feeding it to my older kids because the baby won’t touch it LOL!
Skip the baby bathtubs. I found it much easier to bathe them in the bathroom sink. Put a folded towel or two along the edge of the sink so there are no sharp edges. They don’t need shoes until they begin walking-in cold weather, just put 2 layers of socks on their feet.
I purchase Luvs diapers in bulk on Amazon.com for as little as $0.09 ea. for size 1, and $0.12 ea for size 3. I also found on Amazon, that I can purchase a big box of 720 wipes (pampers soft brand) for as little as $0.02 ea wipe. These are the best prices that I can find anywhere, and I tend to do a lot shopping around for the best price.
Check with your local county health department for free or low cost car seats. Our department received a grant to do a safe car seat instillation class and every participant receives a new car seat for free. They do this for newborn seats and the next size up. The class lasts about an hour to hour and a half and is great because you take your car seat out and install it in your car and they check to make sure you are doing it right. Also, I did not have a changing table for my kids. I used a 3 drawer high chest and put down a thick blanket and covered it with a towel. I tucked the blanket and towel between the wall and the dresser so it wouldn’t slide. It was great because I had lots of storage and didn’t have to stoop or sit in the floor to change diapers and clothes. Plus, my sons still use the dresser and the oldest is 13 and youngest is 9. I borrowed my sister’s crib and a friend’s bassinet. The only new furniture item I bought was a folding high chair and I actually still have it because when I have company that has small children, I can pull it out for them. It folds to 4 inches wide, so it easily stores in my closet. Best wishes to you on the new baby!
Just wanted to say that a changing table is really nice for your back. If you don’t find one really cheap somewhere, you can rig a changing area up on a dresser top.
People will give you a lot, both new and used stuff, so wait until you see what you really need. When we had twins, people gave us so many sleepers that at one time I counted sixty! That’s certainly more than we needed, lol!
When my grandkids came along, I found a folding plastic seat (I believe it may have been Fisher Price?) which made a wonderful high chair. It strapped to a regular chair. had a tray like a high chair, but it was small and folded up for when the baby wasn’t visiting. The seat could be adjusted to 3 different heights as baby grew. I paid $1 for it at a yard sale, but I think the new ones are only about $25. It worked great and saved us a lot of space.
Just a word on convertible furniture. When my first 2 girls were getting old enough to climb out of their cribs, I found a converter “kit” (in the JCP Catalog – sorry to say I don’t think it’s still being made, too bad, it was so great). It consisted of a guard-rail and a step-stool. One of the drop-sides of the crib was removed, and the guard-rail installed in it’s place; the guard-rail did not extend the full length of the crib but left a space for the little girl to climb up into the bed. The step-stool had a kind of arm-bracket that was attached to the underside, and the other end of it was attached to the vertical rod that originally allowed the crib’s side-rail to slide up and down.
I have a new great grandchild coming and we have purchased many many things from a garage sale for 10 for a porta crib a fisher price one that are really expensive, a crib, a jazzer size car seats and tons of clothes probably did not spend more than 100 total and baby is all set
When my baby sister was born, she slept in a well padded dresser drawer for months. My husband’s younger brother slept in a padded cardboard box. Our third child had a similar idea for a daybed that was left in the living room–a lovely large wicker laundry basket. As for clothes, ditto to what has been said already. I found that if you can do laundry often, all you really need most days are onesie t-shirts for summer, and a few sleepers for cooler weather. If you plan on using cloth diapers, don’t overlook new or good used receiving blankets as a source for diaper material. Most are the right size to fold into diapers as needed. Also, discounted flannel sheets can be a great source of material, if you can and are willing to sew up a few diapers. For shower gifts, I usually shop for generic baby toiletries such as baby oil, shampoo, diaper cream, etc. when they come on sale. These items are put into a basket, or baby bathtub or diaper pail and given at the baby shower. The gift package can be rounded out with socks, homemade bibs, baby thermometer and child safety plug-in guards, or door safety latches. Many of these items can also be found at dollar stores. This makes a good gender neutral gift. I have been to a few showers where the gifts were pretty expensive, but always the new Mom has approached me later and told me how much my gift of “all the little necessities” was appreciated. No fear of the baby outgrowing the items before they are used.
I just searched on Ravelry.com for knit dolls. There are a TON! I’m scheming now!! ;)
(OH! I just realized I could also cut up a thrift store sweater and sew it back into a doll! I love God’s creativity when He shows us things!) :)
Grizzly Bear Mom
Ensure that you tell everyone if you accept second hand. My mom bought some for someone who was offended. She never did so again.
Yes I never give anyone second hand unless I know them very well and know they don’t mind or I will try to tactfully ask.
It’s been several years since I’ve had a baby in the house, but I didn’t go the “everything must be new” route. I borrowed my baby bed & bedding from my sister & cousin. I did buy a used 3 drawer dresser that was about waist high from an estate sale and refinished it and lay 3 bath towels over the top of it for a changing pad. I tucked one side of the towels between the wall and dresser to keep it from sliding. If we had an oops while changing messy pants, I just whisked off the towel and into the washer it would go. My oldest son is still using the dresser for his clothing.
Both of my boys were late fall and winter babies and lived in sleepers until they were almost 6 months old. They were warm and snuggly, but comfortable and I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with teeny tiny socks. I did have a 3 or 4 “going to town” outfits and of course they wore socks with those.
Two things I wish I would have/could have done differently: 1. I was not able to nurse. I know there are people who will read this and say that I didn’t try hard enough. Trust me. I did. I had planned on nursing and gave it all I could for 3 months. I just literally never came into my milk. My mother and aunt were the same way. My sister, however, could have supported 4 or 5 babies at the same time and donated her excess milk. Do not feel bad if you cannot nurse and do not let others make you feel ashamed because you cannot. God made us all different for his purpose, not ours. Do not be afraid to ask your health care provider and the hospital for formula samples and coupons. My MIL was a delivery nurse for several years and the hospital would throw out huge amounts of formula that was never used. Some of it is premixed and ready to use, some of it is powder. 2. I wish I would have used cloth diapers. Cloth diapers have come a long way and I let myself be talked out of using them because disposable was “easier”. I’m not so certain that they were easier…especially on my pocket book. Again, if you go the disposable route, ask for coupons and ask all of your friends to clip out coupons in the newspapers and magazines.
Congratulations to you and your husband. I wish you the very best!
Great tips Brenda. A few years back if you even mentioned not nursing everyone would be all over you. I know because I wrote a post about it. You are so right there are many reasons women can’t nurse and there is nothing wrong with not nursing. My daughter tried with her first two and it was a nightmare. She was on the phone to the group who specializes it in that (I’ve gone blank on their name) and the woman said “You can do it and I have never not had anyone not be able to do it.” She spoke to soon. To make a long story short she ended up admitting that there was no way my daughter could nurse and to put the baby on formula. This woman had been doing this for years. My daughter was a wreck and in tears trying to nurse the baby. The baby was in tears because he was hungry. I and Tawra’s husband were upset and felt bad for them both. When we put him on formula peace reigned and we all relaxed and even got some sleep. Sometimes we worry and work so hard trying to make sure that the physical body is getting everything natural and wonderful for us but don’t consider that in order to accomplish that sometimes we are emotionally hurting ourselves and family very much in trying so hard to do it.
I nursed both of my kids for a bit. The first I had to stop early because of surgery and the second I got to do longer. My second that I nursed the most ended up with awful allergies and was sick all the time where the other that I didn’t nurse as much was healthy as a horse. Go figure. My second had colic and cried and was fussy all the time where my first did so much better. We all do the best we can and anyone who insists it has to be a certain way are probably the ones who will have kids with the most emotional problems when they grow up because of their moms unbendable, it has to be my way attitude.
I did one with cloth and one with disposables. Believe it or not my second child (the one I nursed) had horrible reactions when wearing cloth diapers and the minute I put him in disposables he got better. Once again everyone knows their own situation and baby. Guess what in spite of formula and disposables my kids actually managed to live to reach adulthood.
I agree with one of the posters above-skip the baby bathtub and bathe baby in the sink instead. The baby is NOT going to need shoes until he/she begins walking. Stock up on baby socks in different sizes and in cold weather put a double layer of socks on the baby and tuck their feet under a layer of blanket.
Teething- all those plastic teething toys scared me, especially the ones with liquid. Instead, I put several metal teaspoons in the freezer and used those to sooth his gums instead as he was teething.
Definitely get those plastic safety plugs/covers for electrical outlets when they are attempting to crawl.I had the scare of my life when my 8 month old son was crawling around holding my car keys as I folded laundry. Then the jingling of the keys stopped. My “mommy instinct” told me to “go check on him NOW!”. I got there just in time to see him sitting in front of an unprotected outlet and he was raising one of the keys to stick in the outlet. I screamed “No!!” and grabbed the keys. It startled him and he started to cry, but he never again went near an outlet. As soon I calmed down, I packed him up and drove straight to the store to buy numerous outlet protectors.