Kids can be expensive. According to the USDA, it would cost the average two-child married family a total of $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015 through age 17. Of course, the average family isn’t a family chasing financial independence (FI). Some of that cost is lifestyle and choice.
My wife and I had our first baby just a couple of years ago. As first-time parents, we had no clue what we were in for. We also had no clue what we actually needed before we brought our baby home from the hospital. Although, we did a lot of research trying to figure out what would be important and what was over-hyped gimmicks; it turns out we bought way too much stuff that wasn't really needed and some we never used at all.
Here’s what we what we learned from our experience as first-time parents.
The Reality of Necessities
When you take your baby home from the hospital, they pretty much eat, sleep, fill diapers, and lay around. They don’t really do much else for a few months. That means you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you would think. And it is absolutely ok for a newborn and the new parents to do what is right for them by simplifying just about everything; calendaring, socializing, meals and household chores, etc. Give yourself space and time to adjust.
A Car Seat
One of the first things you’ll need to do is get your baby home from the hospital safely. Safety is priority number one, so cough up the extra cash for a new car seat. This means buying a new, not used, car seat. There is no way to prove a used car seat hasn’t been in an accident; which should be immediately discarded. However, keep in mind that there is a wide range of car seats with many different features that affect the price. Some features are useful and important to consider, while others are just bells and whistles.
Diapers and Wipes
You’ll need diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream. You can price compare cloth diapering–keeping in mind the added laundry detergent, water, and time, diaper services, and disposable diapers. For some babies with allergies or very sensitive skin, cloth diapers can be helpful, countering the cost of medical treatments. We chose disposable diapers and found the convenience and ease was worth the cost.
Feeding Your Baby
You’ll need to be able to feed your baby. If breastfeeding, this may not take many supplies; some extra nursing pads, a comfy support pillow, etc. Even if you plan to breastfeed, a can of newborn formula on hand is a good idea. The hospital may send you home with some bottles and formula, even so, have a small supply of both ready at home. That way you’ll be ready to go if you need it and you can always adjust and get more after you find out your true need. Keep in mind that a newborn's bottle and formula is different than that used for a toddler.
If you plan on breastfeeding, a pump and pumping supplies are something to consider but not necessarily required. Part of that consideration will be if you are returning to work, the feeding schedules, partner feeding, and milk production. There are plenty of different pumps to choose from and sometimes health insurance will cover a particular model. Make sure you have the necessary tools to clean the equipment, too.
You can also rent breast pumps. Perfect if you don't need one long-term, perhaps for a trip out of town or to pump and freeze so you have extra milk on hand.
Safe Place to Sleep
Despite what everyone thinks, your baby won’t need their own room–a.k.a. decorated nursery–at all for a few months even up to a year or so, but they will need a safe place to sleep. Our son slept in our room in the bassinet part of a pack and play. Over time, he transitioned to the pack and play itself. A pack and play is very versatile and can be taken with you when you need to travel, too.
He didn’t graduate to his own room and crib until he was six months old. You don’t need a baby’s room, furniture, crib or other items until later in a baby’s life. It’s fun to put together and decorate a nursery, but not necessary at all. Keep an open mind, save your money, and see what is right for you and the baby after a bit of time.
You can't forget about baby clothes. If you have friends and family that like giving gifts, chances are, you’ll have all of the baby clothes you’ll need for the first few months. Keep in mind that it is ok to ask for larger sizes of clothing too, especially if you have the room to store the items. Babies are toddlers before you know it. If by chance, you need more clothes, there is nothing wrong with heading to the thrift shop and picking up used clothes. Look for clean, well-kept items, and put the money you save in the baby's piggy bank.
You’ll probably want a couple of blankets of different weights to keep your baby warm. In particular, velcro swaddles helped our son sleep better. Also some “receiving blankets” or spit-up cloths. They can save you a dry cleaning bill.
Just make sure you wash everything before the baby arrives to make sure it’s all ready when you need it. Babies generally have sensitive skin, so it is worth the cost to use special baby laundry detergent.
There are plenty of cute outfits, little shoes, headbands and hats, and funny onesies you may want to buy. Just remember, your baby will only be wearing these clothes for a very short period of time before outgrowing them. If you have a ton of clothes, the baby may only be able to wear each item just a couple of times before outgrowing it. Instead, wait to buy the super cute shirts when they can wear them a bit longer.
A Bath, Hygiene, and Medical Items
You’re going to need to keep your baby clean, which means you’ll need a safe baby bath. This can be a special bath that fits in your bathtub, it can also be a large towel to cushion the kitchen sink. Whatever the bath, never leave your baby unattended. You’ll also want a few items like a baby soap, baby lotion, a bulb syringe, nail clippers and a thermometer to keep up with your baby’s hygiene and medical needs. Skip the bath toys until they are older.
A Diaper Bag
You’ll need a special bag to keep baby supplies in whenever you venture away from home. However, the bag can be a backpack you have laying around the house or another bag that’s big enough to fit everything you need. Buying a true “diaper” bag isn’t necessary by any means.
You Could Buy a Lot More
It's likely you won’t need a stroller right away, but sometimes they come with the car seat. A baby carrier might be something to consider, giving the baby the comfort of being close to the chest and hands-free for the parent. A baby swing or rocker are nice, sometimes helpful when the baby is fussy. I remember plenty of times I pushed a stroller around in the house or turned the baby swing on to help our son fall asleep. Similarly, changing pads and baby carriers can make your life a lot easier, but you can get by without them.
There are plenty of things you could buy before you bring home your baby. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what is a “must have” and what isn’t. Just don’t fall for all the advertising. And remember, a baby does not equate things to love and cuddles.
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