Updated: Feb 2
If you're about to have a baby or have just had a baby, congratulations! Both Rachel and I are mothers and we love babies.
This post is to help new parents navigate the surprisingly simple world of babies, which advertisers have overcomplicated.
First, let me debunk a very, very common myth for you!
The Myth: Babies need lots of stuff!
You have just learned the news – a new baby will be joining your family! It’s time to jump in the car and head to Target! Or, better yet, start making that Amazon wish list!
Fact: Babies don’t need much and what they do need can easily be found used.
Babies have been around for a lot longer than Target and Amazon. Before there were bottle warmers and car seat mirrors, babies – and their parents – managed just fine. Remember, everything you buy or use comes with a footprint – from the materials, to the manufacturing, to the shipping – and the smaller the footprint, the better.
So, what does a baby actually need? In the new few posts we’ll look at how to keep baby healthy and happy without going overboard. At the minimum, a baby will need: food and drink, clothing, a place to sleep, a way to get around, and love. Oh, and diapers.
Nursing your baby is, of course, waste free, happiest, and healthiest. Not every mother can nurse her baby, and using a breast pump and reusable glass or silicone bottles is the next best thing. If you need to use formula, try to buy an organic formula in a big container and still use the glass or silicone bottles. I delve into waste-free baby food here, but suffice it to say, you never have to buy baby food in a tiny jar or pouch. Ever.Turning adult dinners into baby food is as easy as turning on your blender!
Baby clothes are one of the easiest ways to save money, resources, and waste. Babies grow out of their clothes so quickly, that you can find like-new clothes practically anywhere and repair them easily. Ask around to find someone with a child a bit older than yours for a steady supply of hand-me-downs. Then make sure to pass on the love when your kids outgrow them. You can patch your clothes to make them hand-me-down worthy too.For more advice on baby clothes, check out this post.Sleeping! Cribs in the United States, like car seats, have a multitude of regulations and American pediatricians have a very clear list of dos and don’ts for how and where your baby can sleep. I am not going to make any suggestions here except to say that babies sleeping in brand new cribs in rooms by themselves is unheard of in many developed countries around the world (ones with lower rates of SIDS than United States). Read Chapter 1 of Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us by Christine Gross-Loh, if you are interested in learning more. At the very least, ask around for a used crib, sheets, and the like because someone you know probably has one you can have or borrow.
We have found the best way to carry a baby is on our bodies in a cloth carrier. There are hundreds of kinds and I am not an expert, but I will say my favorite is a twice-handed down bright orange Tula carrier (like this one, but more loved). Strollers are nice and you can certainly find them used, but they are often bulky and, as least the way we live, pretty superfluous. And yes, you’ll need a car seat, but please ask around. Remember, for everyone having a new baby, there is someone else putting a barely-used infant car seat out to the curb.
Lastly, your baby will need diapers, unless you’re planning to go super eco-friendly and fertilize your lawn all summer. We have found cloth diapers to be not only easy, but incredibly economical, and pretty cute as well. You can see our cloth diapers have been through a lot – three active babies and countless trips through the laundry – but they are holding strong!Check out my post here on cloth diapers.
So, that’s really it. That’s all your baby needs! A place to sleep, food and drink, clothes, and diapers. I just saved you a ton of money you can use to pay for college! As your bundle of joy gets older, he or she will need some books and toys and such, but remember, those too are easy to find used. Small babies are really perfectly happy to see, touch, and feel their family members and the natural world.
If you believe advertising agencies, babies need more gear than a hockey player, but what they really want and need is your love and the natural world.