The arrival of a new baby is consumer culture on steroids. Mommy blogs and online articles advertising “this season’s baby must-haves” are a dime a dozen. These lists are packed with hundreds of items designed to ‘make your life easier’; your baby will ‘love them’. It was only after becoming pregnant that I realized how much baby shizz there is out there…and how good the industry is at convincing women they need it. ALL of it.
Financially, we’re comfortable. We are by no means “lifestyles of the rich and the famous”, but by anyone’s standards we are doing ok for ourselves. Nevertheless, I was blown away when I saw how expensive everything we “need” for a new baby is. I thought to myself “How are we ever going to afford this?! How does anyone afford this?!”
The going rate for a stroller is 1000$. Ditto for a crib. Add to that a change table, a dresser, a high chair, a baby monitor, a thermometer, a rocking chair, a swing, a playmat, a bathing tub, bedding, blankets, endless diapers, endless wipes, and a wardrobe that needs to be updated every three months and I can easily understand how a new baby can break the bank. And that’s just for the first year of the kid’s life! I know someone who received three…THREE… different playmats at her baby shower. I know someone else who told her husband she needed 10 000$ to get everything ready for their first baby. WHAT?!?!
I decided there had to be a better way.
As is common in Europe, many people raise their families in apartments and condos (this is completely different from what I’m used to in Canada, where there is space galore and most people equate having a baby with owning a home). So space is an issue for us. But even if it wasn’t, I just wouldn’t want to have the house over run with baby stuff. I questioned how much of that stuff we really needed. I researched, I contemplated, I planned, and I decided…very little.
Most of what we needed, I bought used. I even went so far as to buy Liv’s cloth diapers used. Like I said, it’s not that we can’t afford to buy these things new. But you can literally find everything you need for your baby used. Ev.er.ything. And guys, let me tell you-NO ONE CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE. Everything is in perfect condition, and rarely more than a year or two old. It’s beautiful stuff that I bought without contributing to more stuff being produced.
The reality is, most of what we “need” for a new baby, we only need for a few months, a year tops. Babies grow so fast, their needs change so constantly, that there are very few items they use any longer than that. Buying second-hand baby stuff makes perfect sense. It’s used for such a short amount of time it’s almost in as great of condition as it was new from the store. And if there is one advantage to this consumer culture surrounding baby gear, it’s that there is no shortage of mama’s-to-be who registered for the best of the best. A year later they don’t need it anymore, and up for sale it goes.
I know that in North America it’s common to throw the new mom a baby shower, where she gets a lot of what she “needs” as gifts. But why not register for something harder to buy used instead? A newborn photo shoot, wall paper for the baby room, quality wooden toys you can pass down, etc. The staples are overflowing on used websites and in used baby shops, so the registry can be saved for more unique items.
90% of the clothes I’ve bought for Liv I also bought used, and I get compliments on her outfits alllllll the time. We did receive a lot of new clothes for her as gifts; I pair these with her used items and something that I’ve crocheted for her. So rather than looking like the latest issue of a Zara kids catalogue, she has a unique little style all her own. I love the used clothes that I’ve sourced for her; in fact, I’ve found some of my favorite pieces from Instagram moms who are willing to invest in great, sustainable brands that are made locally. They’re willing to pay the high price tag; I reap the benefits a year later when I buy them for a fraction of the price.
And here’s a fun fact-used clothes are better for your baby’s skin; they’ve been washed so many times that there are little to no chemicals left in them. You can also feel good about not contributing to the fast fashion industry when you buy used.
So without further ado, the list of all the baby things you DON’T need:
- A crib, if you’re into co-sleeping (we love it, here’s why)
- A swing. I know a lot my mom’s swear by their swing, but I’m pretty committed to doing motherhood without one. Unless you have one where your baby lies flat, you’re propping your baby up into a position that developmentally, it’s not ready for yet. Also, it’s made to replace mom. That motion your baby loves? It’s because he/she thinks she’s being carried. She thinks her caregiver is holding her. Your baby craves closeness-give it to him/her! If you feel like you can’t get anything done in a day because you’re spending all your time baby holding, invest in a baby wrap or baby sling instead. Baby is happy because he/she is cuddled up on you, you’re happy because you have two hands.
- A change table (you can set up a change pad anywhere)
- A diaper bag….literally any bag will do. I’ve never understood what makes a diaper bag different from any other big bag?
- An expensive diaper pail…any garbage can with a lid on it will work. And I know from experience that even with a special “diaper genie”, you can still smell what’s inside. So save money and just take the trash out more often.
- A baby tub. They are big and bulky and your baby will outgrow it before you know. Just hold the kid.
- A bumbo, or any seat that props your baby up. Your baby hasn’t developed the muscles he/she needs to sit upright yet. This is a natural process that shouldn’t be rushed. Babies will sit themselves up when their brain and body are ready. Forcing them to do this too early has a negative effect on muscle development.
- A jolly-jumper or exersaucer. These keep young babies, who aren’t walking yet, in an upright position and bouncing on their tip toes, which is great for developing the wrong muscles needed to walk. There is a lot of research coming out that show the harmful effects of Jolly Jumpers on the physical development of children.
- Towels and cloths for your baby. Trust when I say, the towels you already own work exactly the same way.
- Any and all soaps, lotions or bubble baths. Baby skin is soooo pure, don’t contaminate it with something so unnatural and full of chemicals! What’s more, the more products like this that you use, the less your baby’s skin is able to regenerate itself. Warm water and a bit of breast milk is all your baby’s skin really needs.
- A play mat. They finally learn how to grasp onto things, and then the toys are fastened to the mat! They can’t bring them to their mouths or manipulate them around in their hands. Babies learn much more about their environment when they can interact with it. Touching, tasting, smelling, banging, dropping…all very important parts of the learning process. Try simply placing one or two toys on a mat beside your child, he/she will be just as occupied trying to reach for them.
- A high chair. They’re big and bulky and your child will outgrow it. This tripp trapp chair is a great alternative; they grow with your baby until upwards of 7 years old.
- Toys. Especially any that make noise. But for the first 4 months, at least, it is enough for your baby to simply lie on his or her back and observe what’s around him/her, or try to figure out how all those fingers, toes, arms and legs work.
A list of everything we bought used:
- A co-sleeper bed
- A stroller (We found a used Hesba stroller, I love that is completely plastic free, that the entire thing is made in Germany, and that we saved more than 1200$ buying it used.)
- A baby monitor
- A baby thermometer
- Cloth diapers
- A change pad
- A rocking chair
- A car seat
- A breast pump
- A nursing pillow
- A sleep sac
- Most of her clothes
What we bought new:
- A few bibs, since I couldn’t find any that weren’t covered in butterflies
- A few swaddle blankets, since swaddling isn’t a thing here and I couldn’t find any used
- A baby wrap (my life saver)
- A dresser (usually easy to find used, but I didn’t want one with drawers, so that made it harder)
Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy anything new for your kid. When I found out we were having a girl, I couldn’t resist buying her the first cute little romper that I saw. I also had a lot of fun planning and decorating her room. So I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun planning for their arrival. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to buy everything new. You don’t have to stress about having it all or keeping up with the joneses. You can still have a stylish little one without going broke. Consider used, and consider less…it worked great for us!