Friday, October 15, 2010


It's hard to believe that just a year ago I was in the midst of wedding preparations, sorting my way through the materialistic swamp of the wedding industry.

Now that we have a little one on the way, I'm finding that the baby industry suffers from much of the same excess and materialism! Granted, I'm not really surprised by that -- every area of our culture, from fashion to technology, is inundated by the "need more, and need it stylish" philosophy. Manufacturers are in business to make money, and the way to do that is to convince people to buy their products.

Which raises several important questions for expectant parents who want to be frugal:

1. What is actually necessary?

2. If it's necessary, does it need to be new or fancy -- and do you need more than one?

There are certainly valid needs -- clothing, for instance! Blankets, car seats, diapers, food of some sort -- there are certain things that just go along with babies. There are many things that really aren't necessary (which doesn't make them wrong, of course!). And different families will have different needs. Those who co-sleep don't need a crib, those who don't nurse will need formula, etc.

Figuring out what is neccesary has been a challenge for me, since this is our first child. You can't exactly predict what you will or won't use when you haven't had a baby before! I'm thankful that some other frugal blogging moms have shared what they've found helpful or necessary -- especially since the typical retailer's list of "needed items" includes over-priced and unneeded baby gear. When it comes to "how much," the answer again varies depending on the item (are we talking strollers or socks?) and the family.

What really shocks me is just how expensive some baby gear is! Do people seriously pay over $1,000 for a stroller? Do infants need $150 cashmere sweaters that they'll outgrow in a few months? These are extremes, of course -- but there really is such a huge selection of baby paraphernalia on the Internet and in stores, and most of it is horribly overpriced.

After evaluating what I think our particular family will need, I've started figuring out how best to find those things. So far, that's been Craigslist (for car seat, pac-n-play -- which is also our "crib", stroller, and rocking chair), and a local thrift store (for the handful of baby clothes I've purchased). This Saturday I'm determined to go yard-saling, as well!

So once again we're wading through the mire of a gigantic industry, seeking to glorify God and do what's best for the child He's given us. With the help of Swagbucks, 50% off JoAnn's coupons, and my sewing machine, I think we'll be able to emerge relatively unscathed. *wink* As much as I'm truly enjoying preparing for our little one, I'm very grateful that should God bless us with any more children, we'll already have most of this figured out!

I'd love any frugal suggestions from more experienced moms!


  1. Diapers--cloth or pampers. Personally, I recommend that if you are planning on using cloth, you still get some newborn disposables because they fit teenym, tiny babies so much better, plus when you are both sleep-deprived the last thing a parent probably wants to mess with is messy dipes that need washed out and then washed!

    Onesies if hot or if cold (to layer under sleepers). Some sleepers. A hat/jacket/coat depending on climate and weather. Receiving blankets and a few heavier if needed due to climate. For dress up occasions, I tried to have two cute outfits on hand. There isn't much point in more th an that in my opinion as they outgrow them so fast in the first few months. Some sort of footwear--also depending on climate.

    A stroller is nice, but a sling or other carrier is even better because it keeps baby close to you in those early days which helps promote bonding and nursing. Strollers are better as they get older. A good, safe carseat that is rear facing is a MUST. I also liked our Pack'n-play which was a gift with our last child--never had one before that. It was useful esp. for trips. A diaper bag . . .a few simple toys . . . you are pretty much good to go.

    For Mom--a handful of nursing nightgowns that are pretty . . . a good rocking chair . . . a big mug for water to have handy while nursing . . . some pillows or a nursing pillow to help prop arms for comfort . . .

    You'll be just fine . . . there are other nice little things like fingernail clipers and a bulb syringe and misc. like diaper rash ointment . . . and a gentle, natural baby shampoo. But those things can all be purchased pretty inexpensively or may be given for gifts. God bless!

  2. Hope Anne, thank you so much for your suggestions! It's so helpful to have advice from someone who's already done this. :-) We'll be cloth diapering, but I had thought about having a box of disposables for the first week -- especially since we'll be using a hospital, so the first day or two (at least) would be completely impractical for cloth diapering. I'm also having to keep myself from buying too many cute baby clothes at our local thrift store -- I'm finding that it's harder to resist when you know it's only 50 cents! ;-) But I know they'll be outgrown so quickly, and too much of anything (no matter how cheap) is not a good thing. Thank you so much for your very practical ideas and reminders!


  3. I think the very expensive strollers can be worthwhile, under some circumstances. One of my friends lives in a city, and walks several miles a day. The first stroller she bought was a mid-range brand, and it was absolutely destroyed within a year. She doesn't drive and lives in a walk-up, so the stroller got a ton of heavy use. She bought one of the expensive brands (a Bugaboo) and it's now stood up to several children and a lot of city walking. It depends on your situation--I don't think expensive strollers provide much added value over cheaper ones for suburban moms who will be driving almost everywhere.

  4. Dear Shannon,

    When I shop for my baby, I had one thought in mind: Did my grand-mother had that kind of thing. If not, than it was not vital for me to buy it before the birth of our baby, and if it ended to be necessary, then I would buy it (witch I never had to do!).

    For the price of car security gear, we choose brands that would respect our budget limit. We haven't bought anything from people we didn't knew because you can't say if they had a car accident with the car seat in the car, witch makes it less reliable after.

    Because my husband is much taller and larger than me, we choose a stroller that both of us would be comfortable using it. Remember that you might use it for around four years almost every day!

    And don't worry, you'll be fine!

    If I might give you other advices:

    1. cook as much as you can before and freeze it, to make sure you'll eat healthy every meals

    2. do things when you and your husband are ready (having visitors, going out), you won't enjoy anything if your not

    3. at least, take a shower, do your hair and dress with day clothes every morning, so your baby will remember the sent of a glowing mother

    We have a 10 month old baby and our second one is due in may, we're very blessed parents!

    Anne-Julie, from Canada

  5. My daughter is three months old, so I am new to most of this myself. However, I can say from my [short] experience and from speaking with veteran moms, a baby carrier is worth its weight in pure diamonds. Of course, every baby is different, but for us it has been the 100% foolproof method for getting a fussy baby to sleep. Someone gave us ours (a Evenflo model) but you can easily make a sling or wrap for next to nothing.

    BTW I happened upon your blog a while ago- I love the maternity skirt patterns! Thanks for sharing them! If God blesses us with more children, I will definitely be using your tips.

  6. Meag, good point about strollers! Again, it's all about each family's individual needs -- I can imagine in the city a quality stroller would be invaluable! I still shudder at the $1,000 pricetag on that Stokke stroller I linked to, though :-)

    Anne-Julie, I love your evaluation process! There are so many new-fangled baby items that our ancestors seemed to do fine without. I think I need to write that down every time I shop for baby things! :-)

    Rebekah, great idea! I love the idea of wearing the baby :-)

    Thank you all so much for your suggestions!


  7. My kids are 12 and 16 now. I've been a stay at home mom since my first was born and we've always been very frugal.

    I bought everything at thrift stores and yard sales...clothes, crib sheets, toys, and furniture....except carseats. We always bought those new due to safety issues. You really don't need much when they're very small. A safe place to sleep, a carseat, a tub to bathe in(I used a plastic dishpan), clothes, blankets, toiletries, and DIAPERS. I didn't even get a stroller until the baby could sit up well.

    By the time my second one came along, I was interested in using less chemicals in our household. I used an unscented liquid castille soap (check online or at a health food store) for baby wash, olive oil and beeswax mixed together for baby lotion, and A&D ointment for diaper rash. If you're interested in herbal remedies for kids, I highly recommend a book called "The ABC Herbal" by Stephen Horne. It has excellent information about using herbs, how and why they work, dosing for kids, and recipes to make your own tinctures. Check your local library. I always make a gas relief tincture to go with my baby shower gift for friends and family. It helps break up painful gas bubbles and soothe upset stomachs. I have the recipe here if you're interested...

    A few toys are nice to have when baby is a little older, but bowls, pots, spatulas, and plastic jars with a few beans sealed tightly inside will keep them just as happy. I agree with Anne-Julie about evaluating baby gear against what our Grandmother's would have needed. I usually found that grandparents and aunties spoiled my kids plenty and I didn't have to buy them much. Less is more with babies, and you'll be surprised at the deluge of lovely gifts you'll get when this precious one arrives to meet everyone.

  8. happily, you are definetly on the right track. As a mom of 6 kids, it has been the thrift shops and garage sales that have saved me.:) Also, handme downs. If you plan on having more, invest in some bins/plastic ontainers from target, and keep the clothes and toys. Baby food can be made at home, and gifts are coming your way, and will be so much appreiated.:) Blessings to you

  9. It can be worth investing in the stroller as the more expensive models tend to be lighter - vital when you are trying to control it taking it up and down the sidewalk edge. If there is one thing I am pleased we invested a lot in it's a bugaboo stroller. And we also got a very light maclaren buggy for when baby was a bit bigger (it folded up into the trunk of our car). I was persuaded into this by my parents as they said that I would never regret having the lightest, easiest to fold model available! As for cloth diapers... I wish... I was full of good intentions, but in the end so exhausted when the baby came along that I just went with non-disposables. My advice - buy some cheap white onesies, you'll get lots of new born gifts, and then focus on buying clothes for when they hit the 8-12 month size (people tend to forget that these cuties grow up!). A bath is necessary - and I also had one of those plastic boxes for putting all his changing stuff in - maybe you could ask someone for a stocked one? It's great to have everything to hand.

    Good luck with the shopping!

  10. You have some good advice here already, but I'll chime in anyway. "Chime in" as in "write a novel".

    Definitely have disposable diapers for the first week or two. You want to be able to concentrate on getting a good nursing relationship going--that really is the most important thing at the beginning.

    I, personally, found nice, soft, absorbent nursing pads to be a must. I've heard wool is the best, but I've only used cotton. If you'd like some wool ones, I would love to send you some as my baby gift to you. I actually have to use nursing pads for about the first six months, and my mom was the same way.

    Continuing in the nursing vein, make sure you have plenty of support. Don't let anyone shrug off your concerns (if any). I'm rather passionate about this (I'm still nursing Anya, who's almost 26 months), but I assure you that breastfeeding your baby is worth all the effort you put into it! If you have any concerns, ask someone--a good lactation consultant is invaluable, but, fair warning, not all lactation consultants are good. I know some people have qualms about using WIC, but I thought I'd mention that they will often have a lactation consultant that will help you for free if you qualify for WIC. The amazing, spectacular lactation consultant that helped me with my first baby works for WIC. I wish every lactation consultant was like her!

    Not all babies are spitty, but burp cloths are good to have. You can always use cloth diapers as a cheap and quick burp cloth, but my favorites are two layers of flannel sewn together (about the size of a cloth dipe).

    Onesies are one of the best things you can have, especially at the beginning. Knit pants are good for if it's cooler, and one or two little sweaters. The amount of clothing you need depends on how spitty your baby is. ;)

    A couple of good swaddling blankets are essential. I usually hem a nice 45" length of flannel so it's squarish, because anything you can get in the store is not big enough.

    And, last on my list of essentials, a babywearing device, babywearing being something else I am passionate about. I can use a ring sling for about the first four months, but after that I need something that doesn't pull on just one shoulder. Some women, though, have no problem with the one-shoulder aspect. I recommend mei tais as a good, all-around carrier that you can use with all ages of baby. A stretchy wrap like the Sleepy Wrap is nice for newborns (and probably up to about 3-4 months) because you can pop 'em in and out, but I also love, love a woven wrap. Not quite as pop-able, but I like them (and they're quick and easy to make!). One tip: no matter what carrier you use, make sure baby is upright, facing you, face unobstructed, and up high--you should be able to lean your head down and kiss the top of baby's head. has excellent wearing instructions for all sorts of carriers, and a guide for choosing a carrier.

    So, to review:
    1)Disposable diapers for the first week or two
    2)Nursing pads
    3)Breastfeeding support
    5)Burp cloths
    6)Swaddling blankets
    7)Babywearing device

    Yes, looking at that list I feel set. I'm ready for a new baby! ;)

    I could go on and on and on about babywearing and baby carriers and breastfeeding but I'll stop now. If you have any questions, feel free to email me. ;) And let me know about the wool nursing pads.

  11. Miss Heidi, Thanks so much for the recommendations, especially about the herbal book! I'll have to look into that!

    Anonymous, we were blessed to find a more expensive stroller than we would have purchased for a good price on Craigslist, so I'm looking forward to using it! That's great advice about finding clothing for slightly larger sizes -- which is good, since I found some really adorable things at yard sales this Saturday :-)

    Serena, I'm sorry you had trouble with the comments! They all showed up on my comment moderation page, so I went ahead and just published the first one -- thank you so much for taking the time to re-write it, especially since it contained (what I consider) such helpful advice! I've been looking into baby carriers recently, and liked the "Moby" style wrap, but had heard (like you said) that they only work for a few months. I'll have to check out the Mei Tai, since I've heard of them but not really researched them. Also, thank you so much for your offer of nursing pads -- I can't tell you how much I would appreciate that! I wasn't even sure where to start with those :-)


  12. You are so right. When I registered for baby gifts I had no idea what was a necessity and what was a luxury. I ended up with a lot of items I've barely used. In my opinion, a baby's needs can be summed up in one word: MOM. That being said, there are some other items that can be helpful. :) I'll just add my two cents to the previous comments.

    Nursing: If you end up buying any disposable nursing pads, I think the Johnson & Johnson brand is the best. They are absorbent, soft, and contoured. My homemade nursing pads just weren't absorbent enough and so I often wore these instead, especially at night when Edmund didn't nurse as much. A boppy pillow was also a really nice luxury when he was smaller (now that he can rest on my lap when nursing, I no longer use it). It was also very nice for me to sit on after the birth. ;)

    Grooming/Medical items: You don't necessarily need any special towels or washcloths just for baby -- just use what you have. I also found that I didn't use Edmund's plastic baby tub very much. It was much easier to just bring him into the adult tub with me. Regular fingernail clippers are fine for clipping your baby's nails. I registered for a medical/grooming kit, which was a mistake -- the items in it were of cheap quality and most of them were unnecessary. I would buy a reliable thermometer that beeps when it is finished.

    Clothing: I was given a ton of clothes for Edmund from generous friends and family. One friend who loves to shop stocked up on cute winter 12-24 mo. sized clothes when they were marked down in the spring. Right now I'm grateful for that. :) He has always had way more clothes than he needs. I'd say if you are tempted to buy clothes for your baby, go for larger sizes.

    The best piece of advice I read was to learn to nurse while lying down. It is really relaxing and restful for a new mom. Also, if I can give a short plug for co-sleeping -- it is awesome! You don't have to get out of bed to feed the baby, and you can continue giving your baby that important nighttime nourishment with very little fuss. Once we started co-sleeping with Edmund around seven weeks, the "new parent sleep deprivation" vanished. It is also an essential if you are wanting to space your babies naturally through breastfeeding.

    I've always been a "learn as you go" type of person, which has it's pros and cons. ;) It's great that you are thinking through all this before the baby comes. I'm so excited for you! May God bless you as you prepare for your little one!

  13. I sent an email. :O) Moms love giving out mom advice!

  14. Well, that's embarrassing! I do tend to repeat myself, but I think that's a record. ;) Sorry to clog up your comment moderation!

    I thought of one more thing: Bravado ( has very good nursing bras that I think are well worth the price. I could not find a nursing bra that fit me until I was told about them.

    I'll email you in a few days about the nursing pads!

  15. I just wanted to chime in and say this has been really neat reading all the advice here, as my husband and I are expecting our first as well! And we are trying to be a frugal as possible too. Some of the things we've decided on though is disposable diapers and a new car seat.

    The reason we decided on the disposable diapers is because it doesn't seem like in the long run you save any money with cloth, what with the cost of all the extra soap, water, and gas to heat the water, and so on. :-)

    And we want a new quality brand car seat because #1, it will be up to date with the safety standards, and #2 because Lord-willing we want to be able to use it for as many babies as possible.

    Most of our big stuff will be hand me downs, including the crib, which is actually the very same crib I slept in as a baby. Way Cool! Since it's gone through 7 babies and is over 20 years old I want to sand it, and repaint it to give a fresh new look first.

    There is one other thing that I've read in my research that I'd like to share for buying used or getting hand me downs. When you find an item, before buying it or excepting it, write down brand name and serial number then look it up online to see if it's been recalled or if there was a safety issue with it.

    Thanks again for the wonderful post, and all neat advice!

  16. Just found your blog from my mother-in-law. We were both excited cause you have several links and posts on how to make pregnancy skirts. I am ten weeks pregnant and am starting to find that some of my skirts no longer are fitting comfortably. I am excited to try them out! Thrift stores here I come!!!! Thanks and great blog. You are now a "favorite" on the favorites list.
    God Bless you and your little growing family!
    ~Brittany Vawser

  17. Oooh... I missed this. Here are some out of the box things I've seen as essential thus far!

    1.) Baby wrap. I have the Baby K'tan. It's like a Moby wrap but easier. I got mine with a gift card, but it is literally two loops of knit fabric connected with a smaller loop of knit fabric. It is very easy to use and my baby loves this when she's cranky!

    2.) Stretchy legging pants for under skirts and dresses to keep her legs warm. I know you are in Florida and you might not be having a girl, but if anyone else is reading this who may need that advice, there it is!

    3.) A breast pump. Check your health insurance. Mine covered it as medical equipment. I nurse her exclusively now, but she had eating problems at first (including failure to latch and refusal to nurse) which made a pump NECESSARY to keep my milk supply up. So, even if you don't plan on pumping, I would have a "just in case" plan ready.

    4.) Some black and white contrast items for the baby to look at! She loves our black and white damask wallpaper and striped shower curtain.

    5.) A sleep bra. I got mine at Target. It's necessary to hold the nursing pads in place at night and much more comfy than a regular bra.

    6.) Lots of burp cloths! One for each room!

    7.) Lots of onesies. I like sleep sacks for at night, but I have to put a onesie on her to keep the diaper in place. I won't tell you how I found that out. ;)

    I could go on and on!!! Hope that helps some!

  18. Hello Shannon,

    I just recently came across your blog and have enjoyed reading some of your posts and looking at all your creations! I've especially enjoyed seeing all the maternity clothing sewing you've done as I'm now pregnant with our second and know very well how hard it is to find good maternity clothing, especially skirts!

    I know this comment is kind of late for this post, but I wanted to mention that I just wrote a blog post for my blog on what actually is "necessary" for a baby to have. If you're interested, the post is

    Have a beautiful day!

  19. I'm de-lurking to chime in! I've been a lurker for about 3 years now, and I have loved your sewing posts. Especially the ones about tops and skirts and the alterations you've done. I wish I had your maternity skirt tips about a year ago when I was pregnant!

    My daughter is 6 months old, and I love being a Momma. I just want to echo the great advice everyone else has given you, in particular, the tips Serena mentioned.

    ~Good breastfeeding support. That was one area I didn't read up on, thinking we wouldn't have any troubles. Lo and behold, it was the most challenging part of becoming a Momma! I am very grateful for the La Leche League. Perhaps there is a group in your area.

    ~A good nursing bra is essential; I bought two from the same company Serena mentioned...and although pricey, I think they're worth the $$.

    ~A baby carrier has been *so* helpful to me! I love the ring sling and the mei tai I made. (I've done posts on my blog about each.) Babywearing can take some getting used to, so don't give up. :) I have a good friend who has helped me out with lots of questions. Here's her blog:

    ~Nursing pads were my best friend the first month or so. I made my own with fabric I bought for sewing diapers. But, don't make the same mistake I did. Change them often! Don't wear them wet, thinking you can be frugal and make it last longer. The dampness can cause thrush. No fun!

    ~If you are planning to cloth diaper, I encourage you to not stress over it. Find what works for you and don't fret about it. :) For me, not fretting about it means, we don't cloth diaper when we're going away overnight, or at night. I might get bold enough to change the latter, but for now, it's what works. I did sew my own cloth diapers, and am very pleased with them now, but it took a LOT of trial and error to figure out what worked.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy; hope all goes well!


  20. Mom to 8 here. Just to chime in - get a new car seat always. When we had our 3rd, DH was hit from behind and everyone came thru fine. But the car seats were done, one had cracked, the other two had damage visible on x-ray.


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