This best of is in honor of my sister, who is due in March. Love you Bick.
Dear Frugal Upstate,
Well, I saw your web-site and was hoping you could offer up a few ideas for being frugal when bringing home a new baby. I love the tightwad gazettes and have gleaned info from all of them. I have a baby registry so friends and family can spend what ever they want on my baby. I have scoured the local thrift stores for clothes and such, and have come up with a few good deals.
The part that hits me is that my house is small, and bringing home baby with no place to put his baby stuff, leaves me wondering how much of this stuff is needed. The baby superstores recommend that you buy one of everything. The other mothers in my circle of friends recommend the things that worked great for them.
This is my first baby, and I don’t know what will work great for me. However, I thought that if I don’t have the item at all, then I could make do with something else. I could multi task with some items. I really need some ideas.
I plan to breast feed, for health and frugality. I planned to use cloth diapers at home and only use disposables when we are going out. So far I planned to skip the burp cloths and just use the cloth diapers for everything. I made my own baby quilt from my old work shirts. The shirts were well worn, so they are very soft now. I have purchased used clothes in many sizes. I bought shoes a little big, on clearance.
I am 6 and a half months along and I have until Thanksgiving to get ready.
Congratulations Allymonami! Having your first child is such an exciting event. Also a stressful and tiring one. It sounds to me like you have a good start on the whole baby thing! You are obviously smart enough (and frugal enough) to realize that the stores are in it for the money, and that any suggestions they make have to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Sounds like common sense-but when an expecting mother is being bombarded with everything that they “need to have” from friends, relatives, magazines etc-well, lets just say you get kudos for looking at things so clearly.
Ohh, there is just SO MUCH to say on this topic. I can’t fit it all in one post! So I feel a quick mini series coming on. Today I thought I’d address a few things connected with breastfeeding. Tomorrow I’ll talk about feeding an older baby, then on Saturday I’ll tackle the rest of the paraphernalia.
I want to start out by applauding your decision to breastfeed.* I did with both of my kiddos-Princess for 1 year, and Buddy for about 10 months. I would like to pass along some advice that was given to me by a girlfriend when I decided to breast feed. She said “If you are going to try it, then promise to try it for two weeks straight”. I’ve got to tell you, that was some of the best advice I ever got.
Why? Well Princess was a very strong sucker-and I didn’t know to bring breast cream to the hospital. I quickly cracked and bled-and honestly, for about the first week I actually CRIED when she was feeding because it HURT. If I hadn’t promised myself and my friend to wait out the two weeks, I probably would have given up.
But you know what? By the end of the two weeks it was very noticeably better (although still sore) and I knew that I was going to do fine. With Buddy, we just went gangbusters from the beginning with no problems at all.
So all of that is to say that I think it is a great decision, but I would highly recommend buying some Lansinoh breast cream. I recommend that particular brand because you don’t have to wipe it off before the baby nurses-you just slather it on when needed and don’t have to think about it again. Most major retailers (Target, Wally World etc) and drug stores carry it-if you don’t see it, ask the pharmacist. It isn’t cheap, but you won’t use too much of it, so you can keep it for the next kiddo.
A more low tech, frugal way that I dealt with breast pain was to use tea bags. Yup, plain old tea bags. I was told by a nurse friend that their is something in the tannin in tea that eases the pain. So I bought some of those large round tea bags (the ones you use to make a whole pot of ice tea), steeped it for a few minutes in some hot water, let it cool just a bit, and then placed it inside my bra. This was very soothing while the teabag was warm. When the heat went away, so did the relief-and it doesn’t do anything to help you heal like the Lansinoh does. But if you are sore and have a stash of teabags, you may want to try it. Be careful though, tea stains very badly (actually in theater tea dyeing is used to make whites just a little less white-pure white can be too blinding on stage) so I would put a layer of cling wrap between the bra and the tea bag.
Now, even though you are planning on breastfeeding, I would go ahead and sign up with the major formula companies online-Similac, Enfamil, and even Parents Choice (the Wally World brand). They each have either a “club” or just a free sample offered. For the clubs, I filled out the form to let them know I was planning on breastfeeding-and it resulted in a larger sized sample than my girlfriend who said she was planning on formula. They will also send you some pretty good coupons to start with (initially things like $5 off, then $2, then $1–the denominations get smaller over time as they have you hooked).
Why am I suggesting this? Well, with my kiddos, I wanted to make sure that if for some reason I wasn’t around to be able to feed them, that they would be able to take formula.
Also, I would like to point out that there are really 3 choices for feeding your baby. You can breast feed, you can use formula, or you can do both. Yes, you read that right! Magazines etc would lead you to believe that it is all or nothing, but you can actually do a combination. Now, in order to do both, you really have to make sure that your milk production is doing well, so you can’t start combining until you’ve been doing it for a couple of months. And of course whenever you are around the baby full time than you should feed full time to help build back up your supply. Warning-they will probably need to nurse more frequently on the weekends than you would expect because it takes the body a few times to figure out to produce more milk. But the body is an amazing thing, and it will adapt to producing milk at the times and in the amounts that their is demand for it.
I myself breast fed at home exclusively for the first 2 months (with an occasionaly ounce or two of formula just to have them taste it-see below). When I went back to work I breastfed at home, pumped at work. I would take the milk I had pumped and use it for the next day’s bottles. Since I was never sure how much they would eat, I would prepare the bottles I thought they would use, and then I would prepare one more bottle that was pure formula. I would label it with masking tape “formula, use last” and usually they wouldn’t use it at all. But I could rest assured that if they were having a hungry day they would have the extra, and I wouldn’t have breast milk coming home that I’d have to throw out. (Trust me, when you pump that stuff is liquid gold).
In the later months when my supply started getting less, instead of having to quit totally, I was able to supplement the bottles with formula to stretch out the amount of breast milk (when you have to pump at work for 10 months, and can only breast feed in the mornings and evening, plus weekends, your milk supply isn’t always the best).
With all that in mind (and the fact that of course I am not any kind of baby or health care professional), I recommend thinking about your lifestyle and seeing if their are any reasons that you may want to either have frozen breastmilk on hand, or have your child able to drink formula. Now formula and breast milk taste VERY different (have you ever smelled each? Breastmilk smells fine, formula smells nasty) so if you want them to be able to take either, you will want to think about having them try a little bit of formula occasionalLy starting pretty early (like 6 or 8 weeks maybe?). If a child has never had formula at all, and you try to introduce it late, they may refuse to eat it at all.
Now you didn’t say if you were planning on working, or were going to be staying home. If you are planning on working and pumping, I would highly recommend spending the money for one of the better double pump machines. (I had a Medela Pump in Style). Pumping at work is a pain in the neck. There is no way around that. But a better quality double pump will work much faster-and the faster you can do it, the more likely you are to continue with it. Even if you are planning on being a stay at home mom, you may want to consider a pump, just so you can pump milk and have some in the freezer (It’s nice if you are planning on going out for the night etc)-the Avent Isis manual pump has gotten pretty good reviews.
If you are going to pump and freeze milk for any reason, you don’t have to use those expensive “breast milk bags”. You can just use zippered freezer bags. Pour the pumped milk in, zip (squeezing out extra air), mark the date with a sharpie, and lay flat in the freezer. Once frozen you can stand them up, like a book, so they take up less space. The added bonus is that the milk defrosts quickly in a bowl of warm water because it is spread so thin.
I found a Boppy to be very useful when nursing-and you can usually pick one up at yard/thrift shops or borrow one from a friend who is done nursing. Bought new they cost about $35 (that’s the plain pillow with a slipcover), so if you can’t buy one cheap or borrow one, it’s would be a good thing to register for-not too cheap, not too expensive. You can of course just use a pillow to get the baby to the right height for nursing, but the way the boppy wraps around your waist just seems to make it more secure and easier-especially since you don’t have to rearrange the pillow when you switch the baby from side to side. You can lie a baby in it to prop up their head and shoulder, and use it when they are older to prop them up a bit on their tummy.
*Note: Lest the flaming begin, let me say that the decision on how to feed your baby is extremely personal-what works for each mother (and baby) is different. Although I do truly believe in the health benefits of breast milk, I don’t think that you are harming your child in any way by bottle feeding. Also, if you are miserable breastfeeding it then you are setting up a bad situation for you and your child. I myself breast fed at home, pumped at work, and then in the later months supplemented the bottles with formula to stretch out the amount of breast milk (when you have to pump at work for 10 months, and can only breast feed in the mornings and evening, plus weekends, your milk supply isn’t always the best)