By Tracy G. Cassels
One of the most common myths about parenting is that to do it will send you to the poorhouse. Now, I’m not going to try and claim that with the rising costs of post-secondary education and health care (depending on where you live), you aren’t going to incur some new costs to go with that wonderful new baby, but many people think that first year of life is going to be a complete financial drain. And why wouldn’t they? I mean, when you go to baby stores, you see items you’re told you can’t do without and that cost a fortune. But if kids were so detrimental to our pocketbooks (however measured), we would’ve had birth control a heck of a lot sooner than we did. The fact is, kids are not supposed to be a huge burden financially – they’re supposed to be there to help down the line and not be too much of an inconvenience (financially) in the interim. And it’s still possible to approach parenting with good financial management skills and spend your money wisely. Evolutionary Parenting is one way to do just that…
Breastfeeding versus Formula
One of the easiest ways to save money is to breastfeed your child. The fact that your body makes the optimal food for your infant and costs nothing to make except the bit of extra food you need to make sure you consume enough puts it in the fiscally helpful category. If you can’t breastfeed for whatever reason, getting expressed breastmilk from a milk bank may still be cheaper than formula (though it would depend on the milk bank and what they charge). Even better, you can check out the HumanMilk4HumanBabies network and be set up with a mom who has extra milk and you just pay the shipping charges to get it! Whether you breastfeed, use a milk bank, or set up your own milk sharing, the cost of getting your child food that was designed for your child is cheaper than paying for formula – even with all those coupons the formula companies mail out to new moms.
Bedsharing versus Cribs
Hopefully you have a bed. If you do, and it’s a safe bed and environment for baby (see our Safe Co-Sleeping Pamphlet), you don’t need to go out and spend hundreds to thousands on a new crib. I swear the crib industry in raking in the money these days with what they charge for infant cribs and the fear of safety recalls means many parents are looking to get new cribs instead of hand-me-downs. I admit I got suckered into this and bought a beautiful wood crib that converts to toddler bed then full double bed. Has anyone ever used it? Nope. We will be turning it into the full bed now and leave it as a guest bed, but really, just buying the mattress and frame would have been much cheaper.
On top of being a great money saver, sleeping with your infant can be one of the most amazing times you have with your little one. I’ve written about the various benefits of bedsharing elsewhere (like helping breastfeeding and fostering independence) and hopefully debunked the myth about bedsharing per se leading to increases in SIDS, so as long as you’re being safe with your little one, you don’t need to spend a fortune on a new crib. And if you aren’t comfortable with the little one in your bed or it wouldn’t be safe, you could get a Co-Sleeper (cheaper than a crib) or even have a bigger co-sleeper made for you by a local craftsman (as the official Co-Sleepers only fit infants up to 4 months of age). Then your child can be close to you until s/he is ready for his/her own bed.
Baby Wearing versus Strollers
Have you seen the strollers out there these days? I’ve seen way too many with a price tag well north of $1000; personally I feel that if I’m going to spend that much on something with wheels, it should drive me, not the other way around. However, this is another one we got suckered into and I was initially feeling pretty good about myself for not buying a stroller that cost over $1000. We still spent way too much, especially as it’s only been used for groceries. My wrap, on the other hand (which was a gift though we also bought an Ergo carrier), has been used every day (minus some homebound days) for over a year now.
Good quality wraps can be bought for around $100 (depending on the size) versus the $500 and up of most strollers that fit infants these days. The benefits of babywearing are big (see here) meaning you not only save money, but it’s better for your child. Another advantage of wraps is that many companies who make them, like EllaRoo, do so as a sustainable, socially conscious business. Many of the cloth wraps are hand made by hand by women in countries where work may not be easy to come by and fair trade practices mean they can survive and care for their family while creating something that is not only practical, but beautiful. If you’d like to read EllaRoo’s statement on their business practices, you can do so here: http://www.ellaroo.com/index.php/environment-society.
Exploring the Environment versus Toys
One of the big things that I feel strongly about is the reduction in toy use by young infants (and older kids too for that matter). Not only do infant toys cost a fortune, but there’s absolutely no evidence they do children any good, and may in fact harm them to a certain degree. The overstimulation of infants is nothing to scoff at and yet is increasingly common in young babies these days. One of the primary reasons for the twilight cries that plague many parents is because their infant needs to get that stress out that can come from being over stimulated (of note though, living in cities and other areas where the environment is fast-paced may lead to overstimulation even without toys). Babies don’t need toys, end of story. They need parents to be close to, breastmilk for nourishment and comfort, and a world to look out to and explore. And even as your child ages, homemade toys and activities can be even more exciting that dropping $100 on the newest gadget (see Toys for the Ages for some homemade toy ideas).
Elimination Communication versus Diapers
I haven’t written about elimination communication on the site yet because while fiscally very helpful, there isn’t much about the benefits to a child’s social and emotional development. However, financially this is another biggie as parents who subscribe fully to it have no need for diapers (though perhaps some extra loads of laundry) and even those who only do it part of the time find a reduced need for diapers. When you consider that the average newborn goes through about 70 diapers a week, the savings can be astronomical (not to mention good for the environment too). Even if you use cloth diapers, you’re spending money washing them although there are definitely ways to reduce that like hang drying. You will also get the benefit of not having to worry about changing those increasingly gross dirty diapers!
Baby-Led Weaning versus Baby Food
Though I personally accidentally ended up doing baby-led weaning, now that I’ve began and started reading up on it, it really is how babies have been fed for eons. After breastmilk, mammals move on to eat what mom and dad eat. While the food may be cut up more so as to be appropriate sizes, it’s not pureed and it certainly isn’t bought special for baby. Now I know that baby food isn’t that expensive so you won’t save a ton here, but you will save some money and you may have a baby who’s a better eater because s/he’s grown up used to whole food textures and flavours. You can also safely give your child the food off your plate, which really is what they want most of the time anyway, right?
To sum up, I want to give a little example of some of the savings you might expect using a year of evolutionary parenting practices (I used the BabyCenter.com calculator estimates):
Modern-Day Normative Practices
Breastfeeding – $0
Solids (6 months) – $40/mo (your food)
Elimination Communication – $0
No to few toys/Supplies to make own – $10/mo
Bedsharing – $0
Baby Wrap – $100
Formula (6 months) – $105/mo
Solids (6 months) – $57/mo (baby food)
Disposable Diapers – $72/mo
Toys – $35/mo
Crib & Mattress & Bedding – $400 and up
Stroller – $200 and up
Total: $2856 and up
Now, there will be other costs that go into both sides, like a car seat, clothes, toiletries, and more, but the savings over these few categories should hopefully highlight the massive pull corporate America has on parents. And for those who use formula longer or buy more toys, you may end up spending even more than the estimate. And those cribs and strollers can get VERY expensive (as in your crib could cost as much as the entire year’s estimate). And most of it isn’t necessary for most families.
While I generally argue that the benefits of Evolutionary Parenting come from the fact that they are family-friendly practices that help all members of the family retain their sanity while also leading to healthy, happy, independent children, the financial benefits shouldn’t be ignored either. With an economy like ours, looking at ways to save money is paramount, and if your whole family ends up better off for it, isn’t that all the better?
Did you spend money on things you never used? What are other ways you worked to save money with a new addition?