There are many benefits to breastfeeding. The main one is the health of the baby. A secondary benefit is faster weight loss for the mom, in most cases. Often, you’ll also hear the cost savings touted. Formula costs around $30 a can, and a newborn goes through a can week. The costs rise from there as the infant starts to take in more formula, so formula costs $120 a month to start and then goes up. Breastfeeding is usually cheaper than that (unless you’re me), but it’s not totally free.

Breastfeeding Costs
Although it’s not truly free, it’s still cheaper in most cases. Here are the increased costs:

Additional food for mom: $5 or more per week. In my case, it amounts to $30 more. Since I have to be gluten-free, and had to go dairy-free after my baby proved to have a cow’s milk protein intolerance, my food costs rose dramatically. In order to meet the extra 1000 calories a day I now needed, I had to switch from corn tortilla wraps to gluten-free sandwiches. Since I didn’t have time to bake bread, that meant an extra $10 a week on gluten-free bread. In addition, my additional snacks total up to $15-20 per week since they also have to be dairy free. If I could snack on cheese, life would be cheaper.

Breast pump: $0-300 once. Thanks to Obamacare, some or all of this may be covered by your health insurance. Call your insurer before buying a pump to determine what is covered, where you need to buy it, and how to submit your claim. If you plan to return to work, you will need a double-electric, which is about $300. You may also want a single manual pump, which is $30. Sure, you can get away without a pump if you don’t plan to return to work and don’t plan to ever leave your baby along long enough to need a bottle. This isn’t usually realistic, though. You may also want a pump in the beginning to help establish your supply, or may need to pump if you develop mastitis or a plugged duct and need to pump more often than your baby nurses.

Pump Bottles and Parts: $3 per month. Budget about $10 to buy a few additional bottles if you’ll be pumping at work, and another $8 every quarter for replacement membranes.

Milk Storage Bags: $10 periodically If you’re pumping to replace daytime feedings, you’ll probably also want some freezer storage bags. You can find them on Amazon, and the price varies widely. I got a box of 50 for about $10. I don’t pump enough to freeze a ton, so that should probably hold me a good long while.

You may also need pump replacement parts like tubing, flanges, valves, etc., but that really varies so much that it’s hard to estimate.

So, breastfeeding is definitely cheaper in the long run. Yes, my food bill went up a lot, but this will not be the typical experience. In addition, formula babies increase the quantity they consume over time, so the formula cost rises each month. Breastfed babies pretty much eat the same amount all the time because the nutrients in the breastmilk change over time to meet the baby’s exact needs.  At seven months, my daughter takes the same three ounce bottle she always took.

As a bonus, I don’t need to pay for a gym membership, because I lost 35 pounds breastfeeding, and I only gained 30 while pregnant! Of course, now I need to go buy new clothes, but that would have happened anyway because my body shape has changed.

My baby is almost three months old and I’ve learned quite a few things about the realities of having a baby. I’m still using cloth diapers, but my list of necessities has definitely grown! My baby turned out to be very fussy, as a result of a cow’s milk protein intolerance (it gets into breastmilk, so she was very unhappy until I went off dairy). The intolerance caused reflux, which caused her pain. We had our work cut out for us with this one!

Baby Must-Haves
I have a few additions to my must have baby list from earlier:

Co-sleeper – a bassinet that attaches to the bed. My daughter nursed very frequently for the first few weeks, so it was very nice to be able to roll over and pick her up immediately. I also put a bench at the foot of the bed to hold the My Brest Friend support pillow. I could nurse without getting out of bed! I can also reach over to put my hand on my tummy to make sure she’s breathing or soothe her if she fusses in her sleep.

Swing – if you have a fussy baby, you must have a swing. My daughter would wake up after a 30 minute nap in her co-sleeper, but go three hours in the swing at the same time of day. We have a large swing, so I also bought a small rocker/vibrating seat that I can move around the house.

My Brest Friend – this breastfeeding pillow was key in the first several weeks. My daughter nursed a LOT, so I took to nursing her while I ate. I simply strapped the pillow around my waist, set her on it, and then slid my chair up to the table. The Brest Friend is better than the Bobby for this because of the strap that holds it to your waist and the flat edges – baby can’t roll off. The Boppy is great as a baby lounge chair and useful for tummy time.

Cloth Diaper update
I started my cloth diaper stash a few months before the baby came with the intention of trying several types out and then stocking up, but that plan was delayed. My baby was six pounds at birth and grew very slowly. She also has skinny thighs. That means that she was in newborn diapers for six weeks! Thanks to her dairy intolerance, she also went through 10-14 diapers a day for at least six weeks. I was happy to have disposables for a while, although I didn’t like the way they stuck to her skin. However, had I known we would use them for so long, I would have purchased newborn cloth and then sold it when she made the switch. As it is, she didn’t fit into some of her diapers until two weeks ago and still doesn’t fit into some!

So far, I’ve found a few types that work:

The gDiapers were the first to fit and have the trimmest fit because they come in three sizes. We’re still in the 8-15 pound diapers.  On the down side, I find it annoying to change the plastic liner after a poopy diaper, especially with a squirmy baby on the table. My husband prefers them because he hates dealing with prefolds and Snappis.

Thirsties Duo Wraps (covers) and Duo Diapers were the next to fit. I love these! Thanks to their inner leg gussets, they hold in the poop well. The Duo Diapers make a great night diaper. The Duo Wraps are also great. I had planned to use trfolded prefolds or inserts, my baby still poops multiple times a day, so I have to Snappi the prefold around her to avoid going through three or four covers a day.

The Flip covers fit third, but only over a Snappi/prefold combo. Because her thighs are so skinny, there is a gap with just a trifolded prefold, inserts, or the Flip inserts (which are huge!)

I recently ordered a few fitted diapers to test out. I suspect these will prove to be the easiest for my husband, the nanny, and me because we can just snap or velcro them and then put the cover over them. The Snappi is nifty, but my prefolds were designed to be trifolded as an insert and are getting difficult to wrap around her little waist. Fitteds will increase our total cost, but my husband told me last night that he wants us to pick one kind that works and then order a bunch of them.

 

Babies grow fast, but styles don’t frequently change, so it’s easy to find bargains on the essential baby gear. Those trendy diaper bags being carried by celebrities may not be available for a steal, but you don’t need that, so let other people be the fools who pay $400 for Posh Spice’s diaper bag.

Baby Product Reviews and Bargain Recommendations
First, I recommend buying the book Baby Bargains. Buy the most recent edition available. I also use Consumer Reports to back up those reviews in major categories like cribs and strollers. Consumer Reports is $30 a year, and well worth it. Baby Bargains gives honest reviews about a wide range of products and explains what you do and don’t really need. The downside is that Baby Bargains is a print book. Even though it’s updated every year or two, product categories may experience major recalls or safety standards updates in the meantime. For example, the crib we bought gets an F from Baby Bargains, but a buy recommendation from Consumer Reports. Safety standards for cribs were updated in Cribs in mid-2011, after the last edition came out. The standards were important enough that all cribs were redesigned to meet them, so reviews prior to fall 2011 are not valid.  In addition, Baby Bargains can’t do safety tests, so trust Consumer Reports for products where safety really matters, like cribs and car seats.

Used/Consignment Sales
Get Gymboree clothes without paying Gymboree prices. Look for consignment sales/stores for items that are safe to buy used. (Don’t buy cribs, car seats, or breast pumps used.) Craigslist is an obvious choice. eBay, too. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, check out this massive bi-yearly set of sales: LA Kids Consignment. Many other areas have year-round consignment sales hosted by Just Between Friends. Garage sales are another source of gently used baby gear.

Hand-Me-Downs
These are the best for babies! Since they only wear their clothes or use their toys for a few months, most hand-me-downs can be used for 3-4 babies, and moms are always happy to share the wealth with new moms. So far, at least four people have offered me hand-me-downs. My sister’s baby will be 15 months older than my baby, so I’m borrowing some of the short-term items like a baby food maker and baby swing from her. Since this only gets used for three to four months, why spend $100 on a convenience item that I can borrow and give back?

Register at Amazon
Many of the most expensive baby items like car seats and strollers are cheaper on Amazon. In addition, you get a 10% completion discount 30 days before your due date. I set my due date two weeks early, to allow six weeks shipping time. I will inform shower guests about the Amazon registry, and have some affordable options on it, but I don’t expect anyone to buy me a $150 car seat. The key to this discount is to make sure the item is sold by Amazon. You can usually tell it’s sold by Amazon if it qualifies for free shipping, but some fulfillment items also get free shipping, so read the item description to be sure. The 10% discount may not apply on items sold by someone else and fulfilled by Amazon, and definitely doesn’t apply on items sold in the Amazon marketplace.
Take Advantage of Registry Completion Discounts and Gift Bags
Most registry stores offer a completion discount as well, so calculate the discount, sales tax, and price, as compared to Amazon, and buy each item at the best price. Registries also offer free gifts and coupons when you register. You’ll find that many people  who give gifts won’t buy off the registry, but it’s a handy way to remember all the specific brands you’ve chosen so you can use the completion discount on them.

Shop Discount Stores and Use Coupons
Costco and Sam’s Club are great for disposable diapers and formula, if you use the brands they carry. Otherwise, hit up Target for deals. Amazon also has deals, but sometimes Target will have a better sale. Target sells an assortment of baby goods, and often offers items on clearance. Other stores like Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby offer discount coupons to help you save on single items. For example, in addition to producing its own coupons, Buy Buy Baby will accept unexpired coupons from Bed Bath and Beyond. According to one mom, Babies R Us will also price match other brick and mortar stores.

Yes, I’m going to be one of those cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, baby-food making moms. Not only are all three better for the baby and the environment, but they’re cheaper, too. Seriously, mash up a fresh banana instead of spending 79 cents on a single jar of baby food!

But that baby food will be another post, once my baby gets to solid food. First, come the diapers. If you plan to use cloth diapers, start building a stash before the baby comes.  There are several types of diapers you can try. If you want to test a variety, Jillian’s Drawers offers a $10 three-week cloth diaper trial program. The link goes to the regular program, but they also offer a newborn program if you want to cloth diaper (known as CD in the diapering world) from day one.

Types of Cloth Diapers
First, a quick rundown of the different types. Unlike disposables, there are an array of cloth diapers. Gone are the days of a cotton pre-fold with a huge safety pin and a pair of plastic pants (although you could still do that if you want.) Now there are options. Cute options in all sorts of colors and fabrics.

All-in-one: Like the name says, it’s a waterproof outer layer and several inner layers. You change it just like a disposable. The downside to AIOs is that they take longer to dry after washing, and have to be completely changed each time, so you need more diapers.

All-in-two: Also known as “pocket diapers”, AI2s go on like a disposable or AIO, but have a pocket in the interior where you can stuff a doubler or prefold. These are handy for nights and heavy-wetters. Like AIOs, they usually need to be changed entirely at each changing.

Diaper covers: The third option is more economical, but more work. You’ll need either prefolds, fitteds, or diaper inserts and diaper covers. You can either wrap a prefold around the baby and close it with a Snappi or pin, or trifold it so it’s shaped like an insert. You can also buy inserts or doublers in a variety of materials. Lay them inside the diaper cover, then wrap the cover around the baby. The advantage is that you can just swap in an insert or change the prefold at each changing, unless the cover is soiled, so it saves money and you have less laundry. The disadvantage is that you have to handle a bit more mess. Some brands also offer disposable or flushable inserts, which I’ll use when traveling to see my parents. Flip and gDiapers both offer this option.

Prefolds: There are prefolds and flats. Both are cotton squares that you fold around the baby to use as a first layer diaper, or fold inside a cover or AI2 as an insert. Prefolds are thicker in the middle.

Fitteds: Basically diaper-shaped cloth with snaps or velcro similar to disposables. You use a cover over them.

Snappi: a three-pronged clip you use to hold a prefold in place rather than the old-fashioned safety pins.

Doublers: multiple layers of fabric sewn together that can then be stuffed into a pocket, laid inside a cover, or laid inside a prefold to absorb extra wetness.

One-size: AIOs or AI2s that can be used from infancy to 35 pounds. Most don’t really fit well for babies under ten pounds, but may save money in the long-run.

My Diaper Plan
I’ll post an update once I settle into a routine in several months, but this is my current plan:

Covers with inserts/doublers/prefolds for day. A friend gave me six small gDiapers with 24 inserts. I bought seven other pocket diaper inserts for $15 at a consignment sale, which I can use with Flips. I’ve also purchased four Flip covers on sale for $9 each (slightly imperfect seconds) and two Bummis covers (seconds, buy one get one free) for $12.95. I registered for four Thirsties covers, too. I’ll try them all and see which I like best. Any that I don’t like I can sell on DiaperSwappers.com. I also registered for Thirsties and Flip inserts and doublers, and OsoCozy prefolds. I’ll see whether I like actually folding the prefold around the baby or just laying a prefold and doubler inside. The gDiapers have special liners and inserts, so no folding is necessary. They’re a hybrid of AI2s and covers.

All-in-Twos for night. I registered for Fuzzibunz and Thirsties Duo Diapers to try both. To get a better fit, I registered for the sized versions. They can fit smaller babies and have a better fit.

Most parents wash diapers every 2-3 days. If you use AIOs or AI2s, you’ll need at least 26 diapers and inserts to get you through two days. If you use covers, you’ll need about four covers and 28 inserts, prefolds, or doublers to get through two days.  I expect my initial stash to include 4 AI2s, 14 covers, 43 inserts and doublers, and 18 prefolds. As my baby gets older and I size up, that will whittle down since I’ll likely find a system I like best and older babies need fewer changes.

The Newborn Question
Some people use cloth diapers on newborns from day one, but you do have to be cautious about the cord stump for the first couple of weeks. Cloth newborn diapers are available, but they’re expensive and only needed for a couple of weeks. If your baby is larger, you may not be able to use them at all. I didn’t opt for any of those. I will either fold my cloth diapers down below the stump, or use disposables until the stump falls off.

Wipes
Many cloth diapering moms also choose cloth wipes, for a couple of reasons. The first is that you don’t have anywhere to dispose of disposable wipes if you cloth diaper. Most parents using disposables have a diaper genie for wipes and diapers. The genie isn’t cloth diaper friendly, so cloth diapering parents either use a pail or a zippable wet bag for cloth diapers and inserts. They would need another pail for the disposable wipes. The second reason many opt for cloth is that the disposable wipes are not environmentally-friendly. The third is that cloth wipes are gentler on baby’s delicate parts.

Cloth wipes are fairly easy to make and use. You’ll need baby washcloths or no-pill flannel cut into squares. You can make your own cloth wipes liquid. There are several recipes on the internet. Either place in a spray bottle, or put wipes in a warmer and pour the liquid over them. Most parents report needing only one wet wipe for each diaper. Some use a dry wipe to dry baby before putting on the next diaper.

Diaper Sprayers
Obviously, you don’t want to put poop in your washing machine, so the poop goes in the toilet. Unlike the old days, you don’t need to dunk and swish the diaper in the toilet. You can buy a diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet. Spray the diaper to dislodge the poop, then drop the diaper in the wet bag. Technically, you’re supposed to also remove poop from disposables, too. It’s illegal to put human waste in the garbage. Everyone does it, but it’s still illegal.

 

 

I’m about halfway through my pregnancy, so it’s time to turn my thoughts to baby gear. I still haven’t come to terms with the idea that I will actually have a baby in five months, but I can at least be prepared. We started with a budget. I will be having baby showers and getting hand-me-downs, but I’m also budgeting for the things we need to buy or spend money on that first year.

What You Really Need
If you walk into a baby store and ask them what you need, they will give you a very long and very expensive list. So here’s what you really need:

Crib
Dresser/changing table (combo to save space/money)
Changing pad and cover (to go on the dresser and keep baby from rolling off)
Crib sheets
Crib mattress
Clothes (get as many hand me downs as you can)
Car seat
Car seat stroller, or travel system
Diaper bag
Diapers/wipes
Bottles
Breasts or formula (note, breasts are free unless you’re adopting)
Receiving blankets
Baby wash, diaper cream,
Rectal thermometer
Baby nail clippers
High chair

That’s the bare minimum. As your baby gets older, you’ll likely want things like pacifiers, baby spoons, a baby tub, sippy cups, and toys. But your baby will survive bathing in the sink and not having a million toys or a bouncy chair or any of that other stuff you see in the stores. A rocker/glider is highly recommended to soothe an upset baby, but not required. That’s not to say I won’t buy those things, they’re just not totally necessary.

Other things are completely unnecessary and you should not buy them or let someone buy them for you. These are items like crib bumpers, diaper stackers, crib pillows, and crib blankets/quilts. You’ll notice the stores sell fancy baby bedding sets, but most of the components are not recommended for use with babies. All you need is a crib, mattress, mattress pad, and sheets. If you live in a cold winter climate, you can use a light blanket, but it’s better to put your baby in a warm sleeper suit or sleep sack.

How Much to Budget for Baby Gear
Baby magazines often mention a figure around $10,000, just for gear and food, for the first year. That doesn’t include child care. The Baby Bargains book estimates you can do it for $4000.  The latter is a lot more reasonable, especially if you stick to the simpler, more affordable stuff. Obviously, don’t skimp on a car seat, but you don’t need a $600 crib or $1800 stroller system. A $125 crib that meets current safety standards and a $100 stroller are just fine. A fancy (useless) baby bedding set can cost as much $400. A crib sheet costs $15.

However, there are times when you might want to spend a bit more to get something that will last longer. I looked at a cheap Ikea baby dresser for $100, but I hated it. Instead, I plan to buy a nice $400 dresser that will last for several years.

My budget for first-year gear is around $4000. My baby will eat homemade food and breastmilk. If you opt for formula, factor in another $700 for the year. I will also be cloth diapering, but if you use disposable diapers, add another $1000 to your budget.

How Much to Budget for Child Care
The biggest budget item is child care, and this varies by region. In our area, day care and nannies are very expensive. Infant day care is sometimes MORE expensive than a nanny, and very hard to find in some areas! I will be adding $12-$18,000 to our first year budget for child care because I live in Los Angeles, which child care is pricey (but cheaper than New York City.)

How Much to Budget for Healthcare
You also have to factor in costs for healthcare. Assume your baby will visit the doctor 10-12 times that first year, so that’s 10-12 co-pays. Your newborn is only covered under the mother’s coverage for 30 days following the birth. You need to have coverage in place for the baby after that. My employer has a very generous dependent benefit, but many employers don’t. Compare your plan with your spouse’s, then factor the additional cost into your monthly budget. Typically, it’s deducted from your paycheck. If you find the dependent premium is over $150/month, consider buying a child-only individual plan through a health insurance provider like Blue Cross or Kaiser.

The birth will also cost at least a couple thousand dollars, depending on your insurance coverage and out-of-pocket max. If you have an FSA, you can save a bit of money by using the FSA funds for those costs. Yes, it’s still out of your pocket, but it reduces your taxable income, so it will ultimately cost you a little less.

If you’re looking at the total for all these costs, you’re probably freaking out. Remember, you’re not spending all of it at once. The initial outlay for baby gear can be spent gradually before the birth. The hospital bills will come in a month or two after the birth. Things you need as your baby grows will also be purchased over time, and you can shop for deals. Child care is also paid monthly, not all at once.

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