|Photo courtesy of Steve H.|
A young couple I know went into debt preparing a designer nursery for their first child. At a baby shower for this young mama-to-be, gifts included dozens of cute and complicated newborn-size outfits, miniature patent leather shoes, two baby monitors, a white noise machine, a light-up musical mobile, and an elegant pram-style stroller that was very heavy to lift and probably too large to fit into the trunk of a car.
Family and friends were eager to welcome the new baby, and wanted to show their love by giving gifts. But the cute gadgets and clothes, though fun to shop for and to give, weren't really going to meet the baby's needs. Expensive clutter had been given in place of useful necessities, which would still need to be purchased.
Giving birth and caring for a newborn are wonderful but stressful activities. Why add debt and clutter to sleep deprivation and first-time-parent anxiety?
Obviously, a baby needs some stuff. But there's a lot of silly spending going on, and the idea that babies need tons of gear is a myth perpetuated by our hyper-consumerist culture.
Gain peace and freedom with minimalism. A minimalist baby needs:
1. A car seat.
You must have one correctly installed in order to take your baby home from the hospital. Check the Consumer Reports buying guide for the best information, and buy new.
2. A crib.
A crib provides a safe place for baby to sleep independently. Look for a good used crib, but buy a new mattress. Two sets of bedding (waterproof pad, fitted sheet, and lightweight blanket) will insure that he always has a warm, clean place to sleep.
3. A baby wrap or stroller.
"Wearing" your baby in a sling has many benefits, but I found it difficult as I am a large woman and I have sciatica. So I bought a good used stroller which enabled me to take longer walks and to run errands with my baby.
If you choose cloth diapers, you'll need a diaper pail to store dirty items until wash day. If you opt for disposables, you'll want an odor lock trash can with a step pedal for used diapers. Either way, reusable cloth wipes are a great substitute for commercial baby wipes.
A baby grows quickly, making a large wardrobe unnecessary. You'll probably receive plenty of "photo op" outfits as gifts, but for normal use, 8-10 onesies or sleepers are ample. A dozen flannel or gauze receiving blankets can function as swaddling, burp cloths, nursing covers, car window shades, towels, bibs, or a clean surface for baby to lay upon. An infant doesn't need shoes, but use socks or booties in cold weather. Wrap her warmly in a small blanket with a knit cap on her head.
Once the baby can roll over and sit up, he'll need a hooded jacket appropriate to the weather. And once he's walking, shoes with Velcro closures are the most practical. If necessary, provide insulated and/or waterproof boots.
A backpack-style diaper bag leaves hands free, and a neutral color can be toted by Mom or Dad. It should include a changing pad. At home, a second-hand chest of drawers can store clothes and other items.
If you're working and plan to breast feed, you'll need a pump. With half a dozen bottles, you only need to wash them once a day. Once your child graduates to sippy cups, two should be adequate (just rinse and reuse, then wash in the evening). The same goes for child-size dishes or eating utensils - two sets will be plenty.
Your six-month-old doesn't need commercial baby food. Mashed sweet potato, banana, or avocado make good first foods. So do pureed green peas or green beans. Try mixing mashed hard-boiled egg yolks or peanut-only peanut butter with a little formula, and spoon feed.
8. A high chair.
Once your child can sit up and eat solid food, she'll need a chair that's sturdy and easy to clean.
9. Hygiene and health items.
Many people use a baby bathtub, but the kitchen sink works fine, and will save your back. Most days, baby only needs a sponge bath anyway. You'll want a baby-safe hair and body wash, diaper rash cream, baby nail clippers, a nasal aspirator, a digital thermometer, and infant Tylenol.
10. Toys and books.
Babies don't really need toys. My infant grandson coos and kicks when the ceiling fan is on! Older babies are happy with cooking spoons and mixing bowls, boxes, cardboard tubes, or a silky piece of fabric. Toddlers enjoy an old purse with snaps and zippers, a pair of sunglasses, or a fort made of chairs and blankets.
My point is not that we shouldn't buy toys, but that it's very easy for kids to have too many. Talk to your baby, cuddle her, sing to her, tickle her, play peekaboo, hold her up so she can see herself in a mirror. A lightweight rattle or taggie will interest her and give her something to chew on. Once she can hold her head up, start looking at books together.
For toddlers, building blocks, toy dishes, a bouncy ball, pull-back cars, animal figures, dress-up accessories, and dolls are appropriate toys. Keep toys minimal and non-electronic so your kids can play creatively. Spend time on the play structures in your local park, and visit the library with its treasure-trove of books, free to browse or borrow.
11. Room Décor.
I'm joking; babies don't need décor! But most parents want to make the nursery cheerful and pretty.
Paint is a simple way to change a room. Choose zero-VOC paint for all four walls or even just the ceiling. Crib sheets, window curtains, or an area rug can contrast or coordinate.
Find a wall calendar featuring baby animals, Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie-the-Pooh or other kid favorites, and use skirt hangers or binder clips to hang the individual pictures.
A hand-me-down rocking chair is perfect for nursing, reading, and cuddling. Add a seat cushion and a lumbar pillow, and hang a wall lamp.
The nest is ready!