Anyone who’s purchased baby food, including infant formula, baby cereals and purees, not to mention all those fun teething biscuits and snacks with cartoons on the boxes, will tell you—they cost a pretty penny. But they’ve been around so long—and, more importantly, marketed so successfully—you’d never know they weren’t necessary to feed your children.
If foods like baby formula are such staples, then why aren’t babies born with a bottle and can of formula? Because they are born with something even easier to access, healthier, and cheaper. We humans are called mammals because our bodies are genetically equipped to feed our babies with human milk, and we begin making milk in preparation for the baby’s birth. It’s true, not all women make enough milk for their babies. I know—I was one of the few who didn’t, at first. But it’s far less true than we’re led to think. More than 90% of women have enough milk, or can make enough milk to feed their babies. It’s just that new moms don’t get all the support we need to do it, in the form of skilled professionals like Lactation Consultants—or better yet, a wise community of elders—who can help us through the early days and the inevitable bumps in the road.
While we’re on the topic of baby food, I’m excited to share a revelation that changed my life, and kept our bank account healthy. Babies don’t actually need baby food! Really. I know what you’re thinking—here’s one of those blender ladies who is going to tell me to puree my own baby food. Actually, no. It’s much easier than that. Our babies—beginning around age 6 months and older—can eat the vast majority of foods that we eat. Things like whole fruit, cooked veggies and whole grains such as rice, quinoa, beans and even meat.
Not only can babies eat our food, they can also feed themselves. This is where the real fun comes in. Maybe you’ve seen a parent feeding their baby, or maybe you’ve been that parent airplaning mashed bananas into his mouth. You know that it takes both of your hands and your complete attention. You’re spooning the mush out of the jar, aiming it into the baby’s mouth, possibly making sound effects while encouraging him to eat it, then cleaning up when he’s done. Picture this instead. Cook dinner as you normally would, then put some food on his tray or plate. Let him practice picking it up, aiming it towards his mouth or just playing with it. Then clean up when he’s all done. What’s the difference between these two ways of feeding babies solid foods? In the second scenario, the parent can actually eat and enjoy the show! Chances are she has many comical pictures of her baby wearing his dinner, what with her hands free and clear. The long-term outcomes are even more impressive, though. Babies who are self-fed are less likely to overeat or be obese later in life. Not bad for budget-friendly dining.
Another top money saving baby-care secret is called Elimination Communication (EC), or infant pottying. Yes, really. Infants can be taken to the bathroom, and, in fact, they really want to be. No one wants to sit in their own filth, not even babies. Most parents who potty their infants notice that babies stop pooping in their diapers within a week or two. By tuning in to our babies’ cues, we’re able to better meet their needs. ECing parents also report less incidences of unexplained crying. You know those times when you fed, clothed, napped and changed your baby, and he still wouldn’t stop crying? Millions of parents chalk it up to a mystery of babyhood. But it just might be that your baby wants you to take off his diaper so that he won’t have to soil himself. It sounds crazy at first, I know. But pottying is fun for everyone – the baby who doesn’t have to poop in his diaper, and the parent who “catches” his eliminations and doesn’t have to change her baby’s diaper—not to mention pay for all those expensive Pampers!
We’ve all heard about life in the trenches – the first three months of a baby’s life when he’s crying all the time, waking up multiple times to feed and needing to be swaddled, rocked, pacified, sung to, driven in the car, or shushed to sleep. I’ve been there, and they were the longest and most miserable three weeks of my life. But thanks to conversations with parents in-the-know, I learned that I didn’t have to keep muscling through, all three of us miserable as my baby cried her way through the nights. I learned that I could bring her into bed with me – that bed-sharing wasn’t unsafe, as my post-partum hospital nurse had told me, as long as it was done safely. Safe co-sleeping is one of the best-kept secrets in Western society, even though it’s practiced across the rest of the world. The U.S. government in particular has done an impressive job publicizing the perils of bed-sharing, citing many tragic deaths from co-sleeping, without mentioning that they are actually 46 times less than crib deaths over the same time period.
What’s so great about co-sleeping? For nursing moms, sharing a sleep surface enables a baby to feed quickly and easily, without mom’s feet once touching the ground. (Babies who aren’t nursing are safest on a separate sleep surface, close to their parents.) For babies, who have spent 10 months in utero, co-sleeping allows them the nearness to their moms, making the world less scary and helping them relax and sleep! Also, while the baby’s lungs are developing, nearness to his mom helps him to regulate his breathing, resulting in fewer instances of apnea and SIDS.
As one who has tread both worlds with the same baby, I can tell you that the tools in our parenting toolkit have fattened our bank account, built a close intuitive relationship with our daughter and increased our sleep. Taken together or separately, the experience has been priceless.
Miriam is a fun-loving mama who literally can’t stop kissing Dalia, her delicious 2 year old. She loves reading, yoga, crafting and helping others find their paths through life coaching. She is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.
What about you? What are your top money-saving baby-care tools?
16 thoughts on “3 Money-Saving Tools for New Parents”
Awesome post, Miriam! I am somehow proud that I have never had to make an airplane noise while feeding, except to make Anya laugh.
I like this break down. I need to read more about EC. I find it so hard to imagine trying to take an infant to hold them over the potty, especially when you are managing all those other infant care tasks (not to mention day care). However, I can see that it might work for some families out there. I’d love to hear from some who have!
Great post! Although some women are unable to breastfeed, those who can and do are positively benefiting the health of their babies. Hospitals shouldn’t give out free infant formula packages because they have been shown to discourage breastfeeding, and even to be given out to moms who intend to breastfeed in a direct attempt to change their path and increase profits.
Research has shown that mothers who receive infant formula samples breastfeed for shorter durations and are less likely to breastfeed exclusively. Even though these samples are “free,” they end up costing more because mothers are likely to stick with the particular brand they receive in hospitals. These can cost up to $700 per year more than the cheaper alternative brands.
The infant formula industry makes its profits by ensuring that less women breastfeed their babies. Hospitals should stop subverting their own health messaging by pushing infant formula on new mothers. When formula is necessary, women should be able to decide for themselves which brand to use.
Love this, Miriam!
Great ways to save money! My husband and I are expecting our first baby in a few weeks, and I chuckled when I read your comment about the baby wishlist. We came up with a few items we needed and had a short list on wishpot, but mostly asked for gently used baby clothing and the like. Somebody thanked me for not registering at a popular chain which I won’t name here for fear of defaming, but it rhymes with shmabies are us; I told them I just couldn’t think of anything there to register for! Not that I was trying to be natural or anything (I didn’t know such a distinction existed at the time I got pregnant), I just wasn’t interested in anything they had to offer. And since my husband is in the Navy, we move a LOT (five times last year 🙂 and I didn’t want a lot of extra stuff to drag around. And my mom raised eight of us without a lot of the expensive “necessities” that we simply couldn’t afford or didn’t have room for – so I never really thought it was necessary.
And I think it’s cool that “elimination communication” as it is being called, is getting more popular; by a different name (just “potty training!”) it’s been taught as a part of the homeschool movement (no pun intended) for a long time and some people thought it was terrible, horrible, and cruel. Everybody, of course, except for the parents who didn’t have to change diapers until age three and the kids who didn’t have to wallow in poo!
My first child we had everything…with out second we pared back quite a bit. A parent will find the balance they need. A garage sale find of an exersaucer was a god send when my littles were crawling into everything and I needed to make dinner. $10 and pass it o. Or resell it. I frequently stop parents at stores and say please don’t buy this or that (ie bumbo chair) …find it on Craig’s list used, because seriously they will only use it for 2 months. Or don’t buy a Bjorn, spend a little more and get an Ergo. We cloth diapered both of my kids and practiced ec with both. My friends are so amazed when my 20 month old son goes poo in the toilet. Now at 2 years old, though delayed a bit I the speech department, can knock on the bathroom door, or lead me to the bathroom take off his diaper and point to the toilet. My friends who watch my son are amazed, and ask how I did it. Part luck, big part ec!
We didn’t start early. Just once he could sit up partially supported we would offer him the potty with diaper changes, or when he cued. Which was not a sign, but more a facial expression, or a posture.
Love this although I do cloth diaper because it works easier for me and my family, I also make my own colic water, teething biscuits (because they were cheaper ans more nutritious than a silicone teether ), and smoothies. I say smoothies because my 8 month old kept stealing mine so I pour some out into a star shaped ice cube tray (the shape makes it easy for her to hold on to and it was a dollar) freeze and serve. It also more presentable for family members not familiar with baby led weaning and may freak out that the baby might choke. (just tell them the cube is too cold for the baby to put the WHOLE cube in their mouth)
Love this! We use cloth diapers and EC with our 6 week old son (have since birth) we offer the potty at each diaper change and when he cues (crying for an “unknown” reason, arching back, or pushing and trying to eliminate) Taking baths with your baby is fun! Instead of just washing him we can interact and he never has to get used to the big tub. We also do bed-sharing. Our son sleeps between my husband and I in our King size bed. We have had no problems with blankets or people covering him up and it is super easy to wake up and nurse him when he begins making noises to eat instead of hearing him scream for food from a crib across the house.
All of these suggestions are not only cheap, but promote bonding with your child. THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE!