I would like to share my story regarding expenses for infants. In our culture, we are led to believe that babies require a lot of things. There is no reason to “buy in” (pun intended) to this mentality.
Disclaimer: I have made the choices that were right for my family at that point in time. I hope my experience will help others.
1. Breastfeeding. Why pay for formula, an inferior product, when the best is available for free? I fed formula for a time to my oldest child because my breastfeeding was undermined by my doctor and the advice of others, as well as by my own ignorance and inexperience. Except for that period I rarely used bottles and no pacifiers nor pumps. With my older children I hand-expressed milk a few times so I could leave the baby, but with the youngest three I either stayed home or brought them with me. Even if you work out of the home and need to buy a pump or supplement with formula, breastfeeding is still a significant savings. People do have personal reasons for not wanting to breastfeed, and I respect that. Unfortunately, women are often erroneously told they can’t breastfeed because of the shape of their nipples, their babies’ weight, medication, or illnesses. Many women have even successfully breastfed after breast-reduction surgery. Not all women can breastfeed but a determined mother can often overcome problems with correct information and support. Women who want to breastfeed, and their husbands, can become educated about breastfeeding in advance, and plan to give birth in a place where good breastfeeding support is available. They can also find out where to get support after the baby comes home. And before someone suggests that breastfeeding mothers need to eat more, breastfeeding mothers do eat more (and use up more calories) but an extra bowl of oatmeal a day is a lot cheaper than a box of formula.
2. Diapers. Cloth diapers require an initial investment, but they can be either made or bought used. If you don’t have your own washing machine it may not pay. It’s important to use a minimal amount of detergent, and there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to caring for them. Yet had I known how easy it would be, I would have done it with my older children. And they can be passed on to the next child. Disposable diapers are smellier, and the packages have to be shlepped home and the used ones out to the garbage again. Studies also show that cloth-diapered babies learn to use the toilet at a younger age. If you want to be really radical you can learn about raising children without diapers, or elimination communication. I know people who have successfully used this method.
With the price of utilities going up, washing and drying diapers is more expensive. Presumably the costs of disposable diapers will go up accordingly. I have facilities for hanging laundry, but I have heard of really frugal people hanging diapers in their apartments. Air is free and you won’t need a humidifier. As for baby wipes, they can be made from paper towels (recipes available on the net). I usually used a washcloth or just rinsed off the baby under the faucet. And even more so than with breastfeeding, cloth diapers and wipes don’t have to be all or nothing; by all means use disposables for travelling or babysitters or Yom Tov (holidays when laundry may not be done for two or three days)ï¿½ if it’s more convenient.
I don’t recommend a diaper service (not that they have them in Israel). Besides being expensive, they use chemicals and excessive amounts of water to clean the diapers so they aren’t more environmentally friendly than disposables. You can get good enough results from your home washing machine on cloth without waiting for the delivery truck.
3. Baby equipment. As the mother of six living in an apartment, I have found that the more kids you have, the less stuff you need. I get by with a stroller, car seat, a high chair and a sling. As for toys, babies don’t need much; they play with the pots and pans and keys. Older children need a ball, blocks, books, and craft supplies (a riding toy is nice too). Some parents do without a highchair by using a booster at the table that can be used as the child grows. I also know someone who used a sling and no stroller; you get used to the weight as the baby grows and it’s much easier in stores. I don’t have a crib because it takes up too much room and makes it harder to care for the baby at night; instead I have a railing at the edge of my bed. And having the baby in bed with you is free birth control for a time, but not for the reason you think!! Nursing a baby at night pushes off the return of fertility. (You can read more about this in Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing. A discussion of the revised version can be found here. The author writes from a religious Catholic viewpoint but it didn’t bother me nor my haredi sister-in-law, who loved it. Here’s another link about birth control and breastfeeding. ) Babies who are tended to quickly at night return to sleep more easily so parents get more sleep too.
The best way to get clothes and baby equipment is to ask older parents, who look like they might be on their last baby, what they are planning to do with their things. Or trade back and forth with families of kids of different ages. Infant clothing is easiest to find because it is used for such a short time.
4. Baby food. Babies can go right to table food. If you wait until six months as per current recommendations, they can start with bananas mashed with a fork and move on to other slightly modified adult foods. By seven months, my youngest was eating chunks of soft food without my assistance, no grinding required.
5. Babysitting and playgroups. Some families have babysitting coops where they print out coupons and take turns. Other couples find ways to go “out” by having a romantic dinner at home after the children are asleep. I have had cooperative playgroups for my children at various times as well: The book Playful Learning has wonderful, inexpensive ideas for preschoolers either with or without a playgroup.
I wish every couple expecting this year an easy delivery of a healthy baby!!
Update: Response to criticism here: Unsafe Suggestions?