The past five months have marked a time of great change in my little family’s household. We’ve relocated to a new city, bought a house, and are expecting baby number one this summer. Even more than moving from a one-bedroom apartment to a house probably four times the size, a baby marks a drastic change in the material needs of life.
Many of these material needs are temporary by nature since infants rapidly become toddlers, become preschoolers, become school-age children. There are certainly plenty of messages out there about the copious amount of “stuff” you will have to acquire – but the question remains: Just how much “stuff” do you really need?
Do your Research, Research, Research
There’s a lot of pressure – both direct and indirect – to buy, buy, buy. There’s a product for practically every moment and event of a baby’s existence, and the products change as baby transitions through life stages. There are also sweeping variations in the cost and quality of products that have the exact same function.
It can be pretty overwhelming when you start looking, and if it’s your first you have no previous experience to draw from, making the whole “stuff” situation seem even more confusing.
The best way to figure it all out is to start researching, and a good way to begin is to reach out to other parents, in person and online, to see what is (and was) on their must-haves list. From there you can start crafting your own list based on what you know about yourself and your lifestyle.
Decision-making and the Waiting Game
There are a lot of things for baby that you don’t need right away, and ultimately that you may never need once you’re (gracefully) stumbling through the first weeks, months, and years of baby’s life. Waiting on some gear is a good idea. That way, you’ll still have some money left in the budget for the stuff you inevitably never thought about.
You may want to plan for every moment or possibility, but babies are not one size fits all. Infants have their own preferences that you can’t always account for. For example, you may want to carry your baby all the time, using baby wraps and soft-shell carriers, but that could end up being tricky if your baby hates the feeling of being constrained in a carrier.
So there is a balance to strike between research, decision-making and preparation, and being flexible and patient. Other parents (and specific resources on Help!) can give you an idea of what you definitely need pre-birth. It could also be helpful for you to look into local Parenting Classes. What follows is my personal list, which is still a work in progress:
- Car seat
- Stroller and Carrier
- Clothes for the first weeks and sizes
- Receiving blankets and burp clothes
- Nursing tools (if breastfeeding), such as nursing bras and shirts, nursing pads, nipple cream, and a good reference book or support network for help. There are even Breastfeeding Consultants and Support available to help out.
Choosing What is Right for You
Within these categories themselves, there are additional, sometimes mind-numbing decisions to make. It seems like each time you choose to buy something, there is another decision attached to that choice. As an example, for car seats you need to decide first if you will get an infant car seat and then switch once baby outgrows the weight limit, or if you start with a convertible car seat from the beginning. This is a surprisingly involved choice to make.
My husband and I were both large babies and we plan to primarily “wear” the baby for the first 6–12 months in wraps and carriers rather than using a stroller. Since we expect a large baby and don’t need a car seat to click easily in and out of the car and into a stroller, and in the interest of saving money, we decided to start with a convertible car seat that can accommodate lower baby weights and heights.
After deciding on the category of car seat, it then comes down to which brand and model. Again, research and talking to those with direct experience is a good place to start figuring out what car seat is best for you.
You will likely also want to go into a brick and mortar store (versus just shopping online), so you can get your hands on different seats you are considering, check out how to use the harness systems, and ensure it will actually fit in your car. To get you started, take a look at the online list of where to buy Baby Accessories and Gear.
Diapering is another big area to consider. Cloth diapering is a big industry and lifestyle these days, and I’m excited to explore this avenue myself. Even if you don’t think this is the direction you will go, consider taking a look at all the options available because there is some crazy cuteness, money saving, and waste reducing potential out there. Take a look at the Diaper Services and Stores in Toronto to get started.
Friends and family seem to love buying new parents baby clothes – so this may be an area you have fewer decisions to make. Do consider gender-neutral clothes so you can use them for any future babies, and ask around to see if anyone has stored bags of clothes and other supplies they’re looking to give away. I have several in my basement right now.
It’s also important to consider your particular lifestyle and how that will affect the gear you need personally. Do you expect to be travelling a lot, visiting family and grandparents with the new little chickpea? Travel cribs and pack-and-plays may be an important must-have right away.
Are you tall and have a long walking stride? This will affect the type of stroller you want. We decided on a jogging stroller rather than a regular stroller because we are long of limb and like the flexibility and maneuverability of a jogger.
Taking the time to consider your particular needs, quirks and lifestyles, as well as being patient can help you narrow down the gear you need and hopefully save you from spending money on stuff you just don’t end up using.
Here are some more great tips to help you save money on baby gear.
After the Bundle Arrives
Once baby comes and you get a sense of what you and they need, you can add to your collection of baby paraphernalia. Toys aren’t particularly important for newborns since sleep is their major past time. As weeks and months go by, try starting with only a few toys to see what your child is drawn to.
Some babies self-entertain really well, in which case jolly jumpers and activity centres may be excellent investments. Some children though, want and need their parents involved in their play more directly, so finding those toys your baby likes and you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) is the way to go.
If you have decided to try out cloth diapers, before baby comes start out with a small number of a couple of different styles you are interested in rather than stocking up on one kind. Once baby comes, you might find those scrumptious BumGenius pocket diapers just don’t fit quite like the cotton pre-folds with covers do. Once you’ve had your baby in a couple different styles, you’ll have a better sense of what works for them and for you. You can stock up at that point.
Finding and Buying Gear
Other than some choice items, such as car seats, buying used is a great idea. The amount of time many baby products are used is temporary by nature. Because of this there is a lot of lightly used gear out there for sale. Kijiji, yard sales, and Buy-Sell-Trade (BST) groups (like on Facebook) are good starting points.
Start looking early before you’re ready to buy so you can get a sense of what is out there and how much everything costs. It helps to have in mind a short list of specific models and brands you’re looking for. Watching the interactions of a facebook BST page – say for cloth diapers – can help you get a sense of the products you might need, what brands are best, and what questions to ask the seller once you are ready to dive in and make your own purchases.
Again, reach out to parents in your social network. They may have gear stored in their basement that they are eager to find a new home for. When buying new, be sure to shop around at different stores, including online shops, as prices can vary from place to place, sometimes significantly. Check out the directory for Online Shopping ideas.
Remember that everyone feels confused and overwhelmed when they are a first-time parent. When all the pregnancy and baby “stuff” starts getting out of control, just take a deep breath and don’t panic; you’ll figure it all out eventually. That’s the adventure of parenthood!
Jen Vander Vecht is a writer and soon to be full-time mom. When not crafting four different knitting projects at once, she can be found dumping ingredients into her slow-cooker, walking the dog, watching Doctor Who, or researching cloth diapers.
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