Walking the parent consumerism line: how much is too much?

Guest post by Jasmine
Photo by Flickr user Stéfan, used with Creative Commons license.
Photo by Flickr user Stéfan, used with Creative Commons license.

In this day and age of smaller homes, environmental conscientiousness and consumerism gone wild, it can be difficult to decide where to draw the line when it comes to what to buy and what to leave on the shelf. I chose to wait until the final few weeks of my pregnancy to buy anything — up to that point, I loved going through the pregnancy and parenting magazines, circling a variety of items, and making mental lists of what I’d buy.

The first time I hit the shops with my mother, I felt so overwhelmed that all I came away with was a cinnamon donut.

Bassinet, cradle or cot? Co-sleepers, cuddle nests and co-sleeping pillows? Stroller, pram, sling? Will a bath seat make a difference to bath time? Which car seat? Which bouncers?

It’s a minefield out there, and that’s not even looking at toys and clothes and smaller items!

Each new magazine seemed to have new improved items, newly developed products – I can still remember the horror I felt when reading about breathing monitors for newborns — the testimonials swearing that without the monitor’s alarms, their newborn would no longer be with them. Well crap, I’d have to get one of those too! But where was I going to find the money for all these things? I just didn’t have the budget – or space! – for all this stuff.

Ultimately, I went right back to basics. I asked my mother what she had found necessary when I was a baby. Her suggestions? Plenty of changes of clothes for the many, many accidents baby was bound to have. Plenty of nappies. Plenty of sheets – again, for the many accidents baby and mum were bound to have (I still ended up having to buy more).

We got by with a car seat for my mother’s car (I don’t drive), a cot, and a sling. A friend gifted me with an inflatable baby bath in the shape of a duck; another friend lent us the Tetra snuggle bed, promising it would come in more handy than I might think (and she was right – I lugged that thing from room to room, from house to yard. When my son wasn’t in it, my cat was. Sometimes they both were).

Photo by Flickr user pfly, used with Creative Commons license.

There are very few “must haves” for your new baby, and even many of those “must haves” will be debateable, varying with the needs of different parents. If you live in an apartment complex, you might find it necessary to have a nappy bin that conceals nasty odours until you have time to take the rubbish out. You might use cloth nappies and not need a nappy bin at all. For my part, I live on the ground floor of a small block of units, and have had no problem dashing outside to throw dirty nappies straight into the rubbish, so I never had a nappy bin. Everyone has different needs.

Similarly, I lost count of how many people told me I’d need a stroller or pram, that I’d regret not having one, that I’d change my mind as my son got bigger and heavier, particularly as I’m a single mother and don’t drive. Wrong! I’ve managed just fine without. But, when a neighbour offered me her son’s old stroller, I accepted it – and gave it to my mother, who did struggle to carry my son as he got bigger.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, working to a tight budget, living in a tight space, or just don’t want to buy into the consumerism of it all, just start with the absolute basics. Ask yourself what your parents — and what many women in less developed countries — deem “essential”. In this case, you probably will need a little more than love — but not by much!

Comments on Walking the parent consumerism line: how much is too much?

  1. Our little critter is 10 weeks old and we have not spent a single dime outside of hospital bills. I live in a wee little town on the other side of the country from my family, and at least a 7-hour drive to any major retail chain store. She sleeps in a hollowed out log that a friend in town made for her, and wears only clothes that people have given us (we redecorated many of the clothes with some fabric from the thrift store and stich-witchery). People have given us the chairs and the swings that take C batteries…once the batteries ran out, she just sits in them as furniture…but she seems to prefer the ground. Can’t justify replacing the batteries. When she’s fiesty or antsy, we just buckle her into her car seat(that was donated) and swing her manually – works like a charm and keeps us involved (and fit). I am proud of not spending a single penny outside of the hospital bills.

  2. We’ve decided that we’re going to discourage people from buying us toys, and quietly sell/give away any that we do get. Our friends have a 3mo and they’ve been gifted so much crap that they are losing their minds at the clutter. I’m hoping to politely decline toy gifts and make stuff out of whatever is in the cupboard, recycle bin or fabric scrap bag instead.

  3. We didn’t really “buy” much for my two nieces. The baby shower for the first niece gave us a handful of useful items, and the rest I bartered for, picked up free, or got from thrift stores. I’m loathed to buy retail these days though. What we found necessary was a Diaper Genie, a swing, and tons of these giant burp cloths we found. They were big enough to swaddle with, serve as a light blanket, or use as a burp cloth. We have a huge basket of them since we don’t have a washer in the apartment. I agree that they don’t need every trinket or crazy thing. We did find a stroller great when my second niece was born, even as bulky as it is. Their mother is handicapped and a double stroller carried both girls, baby gear, and their mother’s handicap related necessities.

  4. People think you need SO MUCH JUNK when you have a baby! My son slept in his car seat for almost his whole first month, I guess he didn’t feel as cradled in his bassinet (The Bassinet was the bassinet part of a pack and play, which he slept in until he was about 4 months.) Then people decided I needed a crib. Why did I need a crib and A play pen? If you don’t travel, why do you need a play pen at all?

    I had a swing for him, which he loved and I did find came in handy if I wanted to get something done, because 5 minutes in that thing and he was out like a light. Someone else gave me one of those vibrating bouncy chairs for him. It barely got used because he already had a swing. Never had an exersaucer, did have one of those floor mat play gyms, what a waste of money THAT thing was.

    Had a backpack carrier, the small one you could wear on your front or back. It barely got used, he was a big baby right from the start and never fit in it comfortably.

    Had 3 different strollers (second hand) they did get some use, but I swore that my next baby (HA!) I would get a jogging stroller because my town is all hills and cracked sidewalks, pushing the strollers was a chore.

    Baby bathtubs barely got used. It was easier to bath him in a wash pan in the bathroom when he was very tiny and then transferred to bathtub.

    All in all if I were to recommend big ticket items you need:
    -carseat (if you have a car)
    -highchair (we had a chair with a snap on tray that you could strap on to any kitchen chair that was awesome and very portable)

    Things you might like to have:
    -a mobile for when they’re small
    -A quality stroller that doesn’t weight a tonne.

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