Baby Prep On The Cheap

It is not necessary to spend a lot of money on baby items. Your newborn will not need much to start out and she won't remember not having a fancy nursery or the latest gadgets.
Anita Biase

The layette
There are some layette items you will need right away: you will need diapers, a mattress and fitted sheets, soft washcloths and towels, several blankets, a few t-shirts and nightgowns and booties. If you are using cloth diapers, you will need to purchase a diaper pail and safety pins.

If you are nursing, you will need a good nursing bra and a breast pump. Don't buy a diaper bag. A backpack makes a great alternative. It holds more, and it's easier to carry when you have a baby in your arms.

Diapers
Some new parents use cloth diapers to save money and also to help the environment. There are pros and cons. If you have ever lived through two years of dirty diapers, you know all they are not your best housemate and probably think that disposable diapers are the best invention since ice cream!

Cathy Henry, of National City, California, raised three children as a single mom and had two babies in diapers at once. She decided to use disposable diapers. "The best thing to do is... buy in bulk, use coupons and watch for store sales. It becomes a challenge. But be aware that babies grow fast! Before your baby is born, buy only one package of newborns and one or two package of the next size," she says.

Budget boosters from an expert
Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book, 4,278 Tips for Moms and founder of MomCentral.com, provides some great tips for saving on baby clothing, diapers and other layette items.

  • Don't buy newborn-size clothing for your baby. He will likely be too big for this size at birth, and if not, will grow out of newborn size in a few weeks. At best, your baby will wear the outfits only once or twice. Buy a larger size and roll sleeves and pants instead.

  • Avoid clothing that requires dry cleaning or hand washing. The same goes for items that need to be ironed, or have lacy collars, cuffs or stiff ruffles (which are also uncomfortable for your baby). Save these high-maintenance items for special occasions. If a daily article of clothing cannot be machine-washed, do not buy it, or return the gift.

  • Buy clothes in neutral colors and designs so younger siblings of either sex can wear them later on.

  • Ask friends and family for hand-me-downs, and express your appreciation with movie tickets, homemade cookies or an outfit for their older child.

  • Host a children's clothes swap party. Invite neighbors, friends and family to bring outgrown clothes, have everyone help sort clothes into piles by size, and then let selections begin. Donate the leftovers to a homeless shelter for children, an orphanage, or local charity collections for families in need.

  • To get quality clothes for a fraction of retail prices, search the classified ads in your local newspaper or online, check out garage sales, or go to Goodwill and consignment stores, which often have barely-worn, name brand clothes that you can find with perseverance.

  • Put up an ad at the supermarket or in a local paper stating that you would like to buy used clothes and indicating which sizes you need.

  • Shop at retail sales in January and July and buy clothes for the coming year.

  • Don't bother with fashionable brands, and buy clothes big. Babies in particular grow so quickly they often get too big for their clothes long before they wear them out.

  • Avoid resentment over hand-me-downs by calling them Preschool clothes or First-grade clothes.

  • Before ordering from a catalog, measure your child around his waist, crotch to ankle, waist to ankle, and around his chest. When you call, take advantage of a salesperson's expertise, and ask how the store's clothing sizes run.

  • Compare prices for staples you need to replace all the time. Diapers vary in price from store to store, and just a few dollars price difference for one box can result in huge savings over the course of a few years.

  • Experiment with inexpensive, non-brand diapers.

  • Call toll-free phone numbers on the packages of your diaper brand or go to the manufacturer's web sites and ask to be put on their mailing list for coupons.

  • Use king-size pillowcases on your changing table pad instead of expensive pre-fitted covers.

  • Instead of expensive diaper pail deodorizing disks, use refills for car air fresheners.

    Saving on large purchases
    *Note: Always consider your baby's safety first when purchasing a bed and other baby furnishings.

    The most expensive purchase will you will need to make will be a car seat. Choose a good one and place it on layaway at your local discount store.

    Another big purchase is a baby bed. Put a crib or bassinette, sheets and bumper pads on layaway. Of course, babies don't always arrive on time. If your baby comes before you have a bed, you may need to make some temporary sleeping arrangements. Any kind of a safe, comfortable surface will do. For example, your baby can sleep in a large basket for the first few weeks of life. Purchase a basket with the lining sewed in snugly and obtain a soft, well-fitting pad for a mattress. This has the added advantage of portability. You can move a basket easily from room to room without waking a sleeping infant.

    Feeding your baby
    Breastfeeding is free and research shows breastfeeding protects against colds and contains natural antibodies that immunize babies against infections. If you choose to bottlefeed your baby, decide in advance what you want to do about sterilizing baby bottles. If you opt to sterilize bottles the old-fashioned way, you will need a large boiling pan, a bottle brush and pair of metal tongs, in addition to the bottles, nipples and formula.

    Samples, freebies and coupons
    Send away for as many as you can find! You can save on formula by surfing the web sites of major manufacturers and take advantage of their freebies, special offers and programs. You do not need a fancy coupon organizer. Clip your coupons and put them in an envelope. Keep them in your purse.

    "You can save money on baby items by going to garage sales and resale establishments," says pregnant mom Mary Beth Ray of Chula Vista, California. "I also plan to buy a blender and make my own baby food. "

    Special helpers
    If you meet the income and family size requirements, be sure to take advantage of the federal Women, Infants and Children program. It is a great boon to a budget! Visit www.fns.usda.gov/wic for more information.PregnancyAndBaby.com


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