Baby care and supply are a huge market. It is very easy as an expecting parent to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of products available, and by the differing recommendations your friends and family may have provided. Then, while you and your partner are buried chest deep in the crib and dresser section of your nearest Babies R Us, you realize just how expensive all of these products can be. So, what do you do? How do you have a baby on a budget?
Having a baby on a budget is simple. But, there are two fundamental questions you need to ask yourself in order to succeed. First, what can you purchase new and what is safe to purchase second hand. And second, what do you actually need for a newborn?
Newborns are simple creatures. They don't truly require many things. However, there are a few things that they do need.
- A safe space to sleep
- A way to eat
- A way to be transported
- To be clothed
- A way to keep them clean.
In order to lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) there are recommendations and guidelines to follow as to where your infant can and should sleep.
The safest sleep space is considered one that has:
- A firm mattress
- No soft bedding, pillows, blankets or bumper pads
- Non-smoking parents.
- No drugs or alcohol.
- Breastfeeding Mother
- Baby is healthy and was born at full-term
- Baby sleeps on their back
- No swaddling
- No soft mattresses, extra pillows, toys, heavy covers
- Clear of strings, cords, cracks and crevices
If you are not comfortable bed-sharing with your baby, other options include the use of a baby box, side-car (co-sleeper), bassinet or crib. All side-cars, bassinets and cribs sold in-store in Canada today must meet safe sleep recommendations.
Baby Box University Is a non-profit organization that provides baby boxes at no cost to families and expecting parents within Alberta (and other countries and provinces). A baby box is a moderate sized rectangular box, inlayed with a thin, firm mattress that can be used as a safe sleeping space for a newborn.
In order to receive a baby box, you must visit the Baby Box University website and watch a series of educational videos on newborn care. After you have completed the videos, and downloaded and printed your own 'Baby Box University Certificate' you can schedule a pick-up time with a pick-up location near you.
Baby boxes often come with added accessories and goodies. Including diapers, wipes, clothing, muslin blankets or toys.
Health Canada and WHO (World Health Organization) recommend sleeping in the same room as your baby for a minimum of six months, but recommend the same practice for at least one year. Taking this recommendation into consideration can impact what your choices and options are, depending on your immediate budget and the space you have available in your home and bedroom.
Bassinets are similar to cribs in a sense, different mainly in that they are smaller, lighter and more portable. While cheaper in price than a standard crib, bassinets have a lower weight limit and can no longer be safely used when your infant is able to pull themselves up or roll around.
While cribs may carry a larger overhead cost, you can save money in the long run by purchasing a convertible crib which can be used for years down the road.
The main concern in buying a used crib or bassinet is that you will more than likely be unaware of the objects history. If you are unaware of the history of the sleep space, you cannot be sure that it was used in a safe manner. The crib or bassinet could have internal damages or damages that are difficult to see upon immediate inspection.
As well, there is a potential that the crib or bassinet you would be purchasing no longer meets Canada's health and safety requirements.
For example, drop side cribs are now banned for sale, import and advertisement within Canada due to injuries and death in children.
For these reasons it is recommended that you purchase your sleep space new.
Feeding your new baby can be a hot and controversial topic amongst both new and experienced parents. Some families do not have the luxury of pursuing their preferred feeding method, but because of medical or personal reasons must choose one option over another. In the end, ensuring your baby is fed and healthy and that you are healthy as well, is the most important thing.
Exclusively breastfeeding is the most inexpensive feeding option. Accessories, such as breastfeeding pillows, and nursing bras or covers, although nice to have, are not necessities. Breastfeeding can be done with only your breasts and a baby. Contrary to popular belief, a hospital grade pump is not necessary if you plan to exclusively breastfeed. If you would like to have a pump on hand for occasional use, you can save money by either purchasing a manual breast pump (available at most drug stores) or learning to hand express. Both of these options should work just as well for a person who does not plan to actively or frequently pump.
If you are planning to exclusively breastfeed, it is recommend to put aside a portion of money for the event that a lactation consult is needed following birth.
Pumping breastmilk is another way you can choose to feed your baby. This method is more expensive than exclusively breastfeeding only because it requires more supplies. If you plan to exclusively or almost-exclusively feed your baby pumped breastmilk, you will need:
- A hospital grade breast pump
- Bottles with nipples
- A way to store your pumped breastmilk
Formula feeding is another feeding option available to expecting families. Formula feeding is the most expensive feeding option. This is because you must purchase the formula as you use it. Try to keep in mind that different babies prefer different formula and have different needs. Do not be discouraged if you need to shop around to find a formula that best suits your baby. If you plan to exclusively formula feed, you will need:
- Bottles with nipples
There are numerous supplies and accessories targeted towards families who plan to use a bottle in their feedings. Objects such as bottle sterilizers, bottle drying racks and bottle brushes, while helpful, are not true necessities.
Bottles can be boiled to sterilize them instead of put into an automatic sterilizer. For most families, washing bottles rather than completely sterilizing them is a safe option as well. Bottles can be dried on a regular drying rack and cleaned by hand to save money.
There are many methods of transporting your newborn from place to place. If you own a vehicle or plan to have your baby accompany you in a vehicle at any point, you are required by law to have your infant in an appropriate car seat.
In Alberta, it is required by law to rear face any child under the age of 1. However, safe car seat practices state that in order to keep your baby as safe as possible, you should rear face for as long as your seat allows.
Infant car seats, also sometimes known as bucket seats, are rear facing only car seats which can be removed from the vehicle base and attached to a corresponding stroller for easy travel between car and foot. An infant seat may be a requirement if you are expecting a small or premature newborn, as some convertibles may not be appropriate for newborns who are under a certain weight. However, infant seats also have a lower weight limit, meaning your baby will grow out of one more quickly than a convertible seat, and require a stroller to be purchased if you wish to utilize the travel system.
Convertible car seats are car seats that can convert from rear facing to front facing as your child grows. Convertible seats also generally have a higher weight limit and therefore can be used for much longer than an infant seat.
While convertible car seats can carry a larger overheard cost, you can save money in the long run by purchasing a convertible car seat, rather than having to purchase an infant seat and then a convertible car seat as your child grows. However, keep in mind the weight limits and recommendations. If you child will be too small to fit safely within a convertible seat, an infant seat should be used.
Can I purchase my car seat used?
It is not recommended to purchase a used car seat. Many car seats are deemed unsafe for use by the manufacturer after they have been in a collision. Some car seats are still considered safe for use after minor collisions (one in which the airbags did not deploy, the vehicle was able to be driven from the scene, and nobody was injured), whereas other car seats are required to be replaced after any collision.
Even if you are aware of the car seats collision history, the car seat may not have been used appropriately or in the safest manner. Water damage, internal damage, rust, as well as expiry can all impact the safety of the seat.
If you do not plan to transport your baby in a vehicle or you wish to have another method of transportation for use on foot, you can consider purchasing either a stroller or a baby carrier.
Strollers are a great option for long walks and trips. One benefit to a stroller is that most strollers come with built in storage compartments or space, this can make trips where you need to transport other objects (such as library books or groceries) easier on you. It is generally considered safe to purchase a used stroller, as long as that stroller still meets up-to-date safety requirements. When buying a used stroller, you should take care in inspecting it for any damaged or missing parts. Used strollers can be purchased from online sites such or through social media swap groups.
Baby Carriers are another wonderful option for transporting your baby. There are numerous different types of baby carriers and each carrier has its own set of considerations. One benefit to baby carriers is that they are small and easily transportable, meaning you are not required to cart a large and heavy object around with your child. However, unlike strollers, baby carriers do not have any built in storage. Meaning, although your hands are free, this may mean carrying your groceries home rather than being able to place them in the bottom of your stroller. Used baby carriers are also generally safe to purchase. You can find them in good condition on many Facebook pages and swap sites. Be sure to inspect a used baby carrier for any damage and expiry dates.
Dressing a newborn can be tricky. If you are expecting a larger baby, you may plan to skip newborn sized clothing and move directly onto 0-3m. However, for parents expecting smaller infants, newborn clothes may be a necessity. Newborns grow quickly and many people purchase more than necessary in terms of outfits and clothing.
Baby Centre offers a helpful guide to clothing necessities from newborn to 3 months of age.
- 4-7 one piece outfits
- 2-3 stretchy pants
- 3-6 snap-crotch t-shirts
- 4-5 shirts
- 2-3 sweaters or jackets
- 5 fitted sleepers
- 2 nightgowns
- 2-3 hats
- 4-7 socks or booties
You may find that you need additional clothing depending on what season your baby is going to be born in. If you are expecting a baby in the wintertime, your child will need a winter hat, warm mittens and a car seat safe snow suit to ensure that they are comfortable. A child born in the summer may require a bathing suit and sun hats to protect them from the sun.
Buying baby clothes on a budget is extremely easy. Babies outgrow their clothing very quickly and is it generally very easy to find newborn and infant clothing in good or almost new condition in thrift shops, garage sales and online swap groups.
Cloth Diapering is, in the long run, the most inexpensive method of diapering your baby. However, cloth diapering, like almost everything else baby related, can be overwhelming in the amount of information and options available. There are many different types of cloth diapers and some are more suitable for a family on a budget than others. Pre-folds and PUL diaper covers are the most economical form of cloth diapering. Unfortunately, some day-cares will not accept children who are cloth diapered in pre-folds, and some parents may find the learning curve of folding their diapers difficult and inconvenient.
Purchasing cloth diapers can be made even more affordable by purchasing used. Cloth diapers are generally safe to buy used and can be bleached to sanitize them. Be sure to inspect used cloth diapers thoroughly before purchasing, look for signs that the elastics are worn or that PUL coating has delaminated.
Disposable diapering Is your other option for keeping your child clean. In the long run, disposable diapering tends to be more expensive. Newborns can go through as many as 8-12 diapers per day and the expense of purchasing diapers can add up quickly. However, disposable diapers can sometimes be a better option for your family.
As you can see, having a baby on a budget is entirely possible. You may need to evaluate your priorities. What is important to you? Are there certain things you can compromise on to make things easier financially, or certain things you are unwilling or unable to compromise on? In the end, the right decision is the one that works best for your family, your personal situation and your budget.
- Bed-sharing, baby box, side-car, bassinet, or crib
- Breastfeeding, pumped milk, or formula feeding
- A car seat, stroller or baby carrier (or combination)
- Cloth or disposable diapers
Other objects and accessories can helpful in making certain tasks and activities easier. However, they are generally not necessities. It may be nice to own a change table with a change pad and cover, but a family on a budget can easily change their newborn on the floor or on a portable change pad or blanket.
**Disclaimer: Bed-sharing is not recommended by Health Canada because of an increased risk of SIDS and suffocation. We at Full Circle Birth Collective do not promote one way of sleep over another. We only promote that regardless of which sleep method you choose for your family, that you follow the safe sleep recommendations to the best of your ability.
Two of My Favourite YEG Swap Groups:
Strawberries & Strollers
Natural Parents Marketplace