3 Money-Saving Tools for New Parents

Growing numbers of new parents gaining access to tools that have been used across time to save money and raise thriving babies. Check out the baby registries  of these mavericks (if you can find them, because they recognize that few items marketed as “baby essentials” are necessary or even useful), and you won’t find the funtime froggy bathtub, a baby swing, and most notably a crib. Usually, that is. It’s important to recognize that every family is different and while sweeping generalities can be used to give you a sense of their typical lifestyle choices, every family makes its own decisions independently, based on its own needs and preferences.

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?

Crying in Arms as it Relates to Attachment Parenting

I have been reading about a parenting approach that is getting some attention lately. I was confused by it and wanted to take a few minutes to share my interpretation of “Crying in Arms” as it relates to my understanding and practice of Attachment Parenting (AP).

My intention is to shed some light on this approach for parents who practice AP, rather than tout one parenting choice as better than another.

The concept of “crying in arms” means that after all of baby’s normal needs are met, but he is still upset, you calmly hold him in your arms. You lovingly and gently look into his eyes and reaffirm how much you love him. The goal is to provide your baby with support and comfort while he’s upset.

What It’s Not

Crying-in-arms (CIA) is entirely different from crying-it-out and controlled crying. The crying-in-arms approach does not in any way suggest that it is ever okay to leave a baby alone to cry.

Within the practice of Attachment Parenting, nursing should never be withheld from a baby. This does not mean that mom is always going to be available to nurse, but it should never be withheld because mom or dad is afraid nursing is performing a disservice to the baby.

Babies cannot be spoiled or over-comforted. They cannot over-nurse.

The Need to Cry

Some of the articles that promote CIA share that babies need to cry in order to have certain coping mechanisms developed within them. To me, this suggests that if I do not let my baby cry sometimes, I am giving him a disadvantage.

However, this goes against many mothers’ instincts–and science. Research shows that babies cry to express a need and it is our role to determine their need and meet it.

This is not to suggest that AP babies never cry. They do. And sometimes we are burned out and confused and have trouble determining or meeting this need.

Practically Speaking

I think I was so confused by the CIA approach because I did not understand where it fit into AP.  Much of what is being conveyed sounds like a repackaging of the old belief that a baby needs to exercise his lungs. And for me, choosing to allow my baby to cry because ‘crying is beneficial’ did not resonate with my instincts or what I have learned.  And it is tough to be sure when a babies needs have all been met.  Babies who are nursing can be nearly incessantly hungry, and simply need the comfort of the breast.

CIA is just a fancy name for something that I was already doing–respectfully responding to my baby’s needs.  If my baby cries and nursing (or anything else) won’t calm him down, I instinctively speak calmly to him, rub his back and try to soothe him.

As I process this practice with friends and trusted mamas, the more I understand how it relates to Attachment Parenting; it is not something to be used in place of nursing, it is another way that we can comfort a baby who simply cannot be consoled.  It is not a way to make sure our baby spends some time crying, it is a way that we can offer comfort and connect during those times when we desperately want to  soothe our baby and not even nursing will do it.

What are your thoughts? Does letting your baby cry in your arms go against your instincts?

Jennifer Andersen is a stay-at-home Mama of two kids ages 2 and 4.  Though she has never let her children cry-it-out, sometimes her husband encourages her to.

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Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!