So, I was looking back on what we’ve spent in the last year. There were a lot of things we didn’t get for Freya because we didn’t think we’d need it, and we didn’t. However, looking back I still find things we have bought that probably could have waited or never needed to be bought in the first place. More importantly, things that I could have made myself or things that may have worked better than what I bought.
And worse yet, there are so many things that consumer America (or insert country here) makes us think we need or can only buy. And there are several things that just are not essential. It doesn’t help that there are so many things to choose from. It’s really easy to think you’ll need something that is really just another strain on the budget.
So here is my guide for what you essentially need for the first year. It also contains a few optional things with some info so you can determine if the cost is justified. Just remember that prices change depending on what part of the country (or world) you live in.
You can’t even get out of the hospital without proof of one of these in most states. You have a few options though. You can buy one used, but I’d have it checked at the local station (usually fire departments can do this but look up the nearest car seat check out point in your own area to be sure) which means buying it and possibly finding out that you wasted your money. Second, you can get a stage one seat (but then you have to buy a stage two later). And finally, what I recommend is getting a stage one and two combo. They are a little bit more expensive, but in the long run you save money and your car seat will last a whole lot longer. Ours was on sale for $140. But with a stage one and two each costing around 80, we did save a bit of money doing this. If not then go for the luggable infant only carrier (which we never lug around but more on that next). For more information check out the AAP’s car seat guide for parents at www.healthychildren.org. Another high point on getting the convertible seat is that in many cases you may end up having to buy one anyway, because the infant seats are only rated up to 22 pounds most of the time…and if your child doesn’t meet the rest of the qualifications for stage two, then you’re stuck in a lurch.
I won’t go into too much detail here, but baby wearing is not only good for you and your baby, but it makes it so you don’t have to carry that huge infant car seat (especially if you don’t have one because you opted for the dual stage car seat). And from personal experience, it is much easier to carry a baby on your chest than in one of those car seats. You can buy one or make one. I recommend an unstructured carrier like the baby Katan or a Mai Tai… if you buy the fabric on sale they are easy to make and cheaper than buying one ($40-$60). Not to mention that it is more personalized this way. Check out my baby carrying posts for more info (get link).
In my opinion you really don’t need a crib if you buy a pack and play. You can get mattresses to make this a dual purpose item and you can convert it into a toddler bed later by just cutting out a side. Even later down the line you can convert it into a bench or couch for your child. So I recommend a pack in play. If you’re doing Montessori you may just use the pack and play at night once your child is mobile since Montessori recommends your child being able to climb in and out of their own bed for naps.
Another note here is cosleepers. Yes, you can buy one, but honestly you can make one just as easily. We were given our travel one (which she’s already outgrown), but I love cosleeping and we still do it even though we don’t have a cosleeper bed. Freya and I just share a little double or I go down and sleep next to her little mattress on the floor. Some people can do this and some people need the cosleeper. Do what you think is safest if you want to have your baby close for those late night feedings. Cosleepers can be converted into tables or benches later on as well.
But the only way I would recommend someone buy a crib is if it’s one that converts into a toddler bed and, eventually, into a single or double bed.
If you don’t mind baby wearing your child everywhere, you don’t need a stroller. However, while we carry, I will admit it is useful for when we go out to the drive-in (like last night) and she falls asleep. It’s also great for holding the diaper bag, cups, keys, and extra stuff you buy during trips to the flea market and stuff. It can even provide you a break from carrying your child (I know a little obvious). Still a stroller is a good investment. If you are considering having a second child within the next two years I suggest a double. Worse comes to worse the extra space to store stuff for you and baby won’t hurt you.
Swings, Bouncers, Jumpers and more (optional)
This part is going to vary from child to child. Freya loved swings, but she hated the bouncer and jumpers she tried. They restricted her movement too much. But then again she only used her swing for four months she probably would have used it for longer if I had bought it right when she was born, but once she crawled, she was no longer interested in the swing. Personally, if your child likes swings, I suggest getting one second hand (with an AC adaptor if possible) or buy one and sell it at half a profit when your child grows out of it. Also, most doctors recommend against walkers as they can delay a child from learning how to walk.
Hopefully most of the clothes you need will be given to you, but if for some reason you have to buy clothes here is what you’ll need for the first year:
A baby jacket
Seven onesies (in newborn, 3 month, 9 month, and maybe 12 months)
Seven sleepers/sleep sacks/nightgowns for bedtime (particularly in the winter)
Seven pairs of baby pants (in each of the above sizes).
Potentially a baby swim suit (though we just used one of her cloth diapers and washed it very well afterwards).
And if you plan on swaddling you’ll need either receiving blankets or several swaddlers.
I’m also going to put our linens here (at least two baby blankets and either a few crib sheets or a few more blankets to lie down)
If you’re breastfeeding I suggest:
A pump (electric)
If you cannot or do not want to breastfeed:
At least two baby bottles. I personally suggest the Advent bottles that mimic a nipple. It is very easy to switch out nipples as the child grows and babies respond very well to these bottles.
So you can pay for a nice wooden or plastic high chair, but they are really overpriced. If you can’t find one for cheap or can’t afford to spend nearly (or more than) a hundred dollars, get a strap in seat that attaches to a chair from your retail store of choice. They are only about 30 dollars and convert into a booster seat.
Sippies and Bowls
By around six months you will need plates and baby silverware. You’ll also need sippy cups. Preferably without hand holds as it makes them harder to learn to hold a cup later. And because I didn’t feel it needed its own category, but deserves mention….if you are going to use pacifiers, buy at least five or six to start out because they are good at hiding and or losing them. If not, then no worries.
Diapers (Cloth or Otherwise)
Ok, diapers are a must, but if you want to save money, cloth is the way to go. The only exception to this is if you do not have access to a washer and dryer that isn’t a laundromat. Honestly, I invested $150 into 30 diapers (so 5-7 dollars per diaper). I wash half of them every two to three days. Our water cost maybe went up 10-15 dollars and our electric didn’t change much at all. This is in comparison to buying a box of newborn (140-ish diapers) every week at almost $40 a pop or size one (around 100-ish diapers) for $40 a pop. We did that until she fit into her cloth diapers (she was a really small child) and were spending around $120 per month! If you are serious about saving money go with cloth diapers and potentially cloth wipes (at least when you’re at home). The wipes can be made out of scrap fabric and will only cost you around 20 dollars.
And I think that about covers it. Everything else would be toys and books, which are nice, but not essential. Not to mention that there are libraries for that. As far as toys, you’ll be amazed what will amaze and amuse your child. Freya plays more with our plastic mixing bowl than she does with most of her toys.
If you can think of anything else that one absolutely must have, post it in the comments below.