Evolutionary Parenting and Money

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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 research even looking at the possible 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):

Evolutionary Parenting

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: $460

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?

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  1. says

    I think you have an important mistype up towards the top. Your sentence reads “the fact is, children are supposed to be a huge burden finacially” but I’m *almost* positive you meant to have a negative somewhere in there! 😉

    That being said…a’yup! I never got why people think children are inheriently expensive. No, it’s just our materialistic ‘need’ to buy stuff that’s expensive. Now, our first was a month long NICU baby, the total bill (before insurance) was just over half a million, but once we got him home…donated mayawrap ring sling for babywearing (used for most of 3 years between 2 kids so far), co-sleeping (although we were given a used crib, purchase price $20), baby~led weaning (none of that expensive baby food!) Donated, second hand/thrift store/gifted clothes, blankets, toys, and car seats.
    Even now, I can get a pair of pants for 50 cents at Salvation Army, a shirt/onsie for the same, and pick up a new skirt for me for a buck! Sure, on occassion I’ve bought a $3 shirt or pants for the kids at target or kmart, but our biggest expense (other than diapers, EC didn’t work out for our second and was part time for our first) is buying new socks! (Which they only wear during the winter but go through like crazy for some reason).
    My parents always told me growing up (and we were poor, very poor at times but it never bothered us) that if people waited until they thought they could afford kids no one would ever have them. But the reverse is also true, almost *anyone* can afford kids if they are just willing to be content with what they have and make do. My kids don’t need brand new designer clothes, the hand-me-down ones work just fine. They don’t need expensive toys, strollers, or brand name ‘kid friendly’ food, they can eat the same food my husband and I do! I always feel sorry for ‘rich’people, they always think they need the next, best thing. Come on now, let’s be honest, why does someone *need* a shirt that costs $100??? The thrift store shirt I bought for $2.50 5 years ago covers me just as well!

    • says

      Thank you for catching that – definitely a typo :) Will fix :)

      And yes – kids really are as expensive as you make them. However, your comment re the NICU and the comment by Elena brings up a good point I tend to forget in Canada – health care. It’s the main reason I would never move back to the US now that I have kids. The notion that a family can go broke over caring for a sick child disgusts me. Whatever the thoughts on paying for care as adults, I strongly and firmly believe all children should have their health care covered. After all, they don’t get to pick their parents and shouldn’t suffer or die for it.

  2. Elena says

    I am pregnant now, which wasn’t expected… With daycare being around $700, health insurance $250 and having the baby will be $2,000. I really don’t know how it will be possible to survive. I am not including any of the stuff… just the basics, and that will put me not only in the poor house, but I really don’t know how my rent will get paid, and my job is not all that bad. I really don’t know how people can afford children at all!

    • says

      Have you checked out a local crisis pregency center? Many of them can either help financially or direct you to charities that can. We were dead broke for both our first and second. Our midwife took payments over the course of most of a year. And have you considered a nanny? When I was in my early 20’s I did joint nanny work for two families (2 kids), I got 500 a month, which means full time childcare for one family was only costing them $250 a month. Also, in home daycares can be much cheaper than public businesses. I’ve worked for a couple and they have both been substantially cheaper than the business daycares I’m familiar with. But both procided excellent care.

    • tiffany says

      Elena, have you looked into WIC (if you are in the US-not sure if they have it anywhere else) Also DHR has assistance for daycare and depending on how much you make you can get it free to whatever daycare you choose. Also there is medicaid you can apply for that too… I hope things look up for you! Good Luck! You are more than welcome to contact me on FB if you have any questions. Tiffany Wood :)

  3. Mirabel says

    I think that while you are totally right about kids not needing all the stuff you list as expenses, it’s not really accurate to say that children do not create a financial burden. Elena has an excellent point – not everyone has the choice to stay home with a child or two or three, and daycare is incredibly expensive. I am fortunate that I live in Canada, I qualify for EI, and when I return to work after 6 months home with child number two, I return to a very high paying job and I have a partner who stays home, which avoids the cost of daycare. Even so, money is tight: I can’t imagine being in the circumstances described by Elena, or being a single parent forced to leave my kid and head to work after six weeks. I doubt very much that anyone who has to work could convince any daycare to try out elimination communication!

  4. Jill says

    I have to say children are cheap until they hit an appetite, my little ones are now starting to add up, but not on supplies or clothes or toys but in the grocery bill! :-)

  5. Liarna says

    We’ve tried going with our instincs with what we need for bubs and how to parent. its nice to see that we’re already doing all but one of these (the only thing is the toys, but i was leaning towards this already, just had no info to back up my gut 😛 ) and that there are other like-minded people out there :) the only thing id say is that theres much more to EC than just the financial implications, and that your comment about there not being ‘much about the benefits to a child’s social and emotional development’ isnt really true. theres several benifits to both. but im just a stickler for details 😛 its wonderful to have been linked to your page and im so very interested on reading all the info you have 😀

    • says

      Liarna, I should clarify that there’s no *research* on the benefits :) Big difference – there can definitely be benefits, but it hasn’t hit the research circuit yet (that I’m aware of!) :)

  6. Erica says

    I’ve always wanted kids, but always thought “I need to wait until I am financially stable.” I recently met a great guy, and I turned 30 this year. (I know 30 isn’t old, but I just feel this constant desire to be a mom more than ever) I’ve also really gotten to the point where I’ve simplified my life. I used to always feel I needed to buy/have everything. Due to the fact that I quit my well paying job to finally finish school, I’ve learned to live with very little! Boyfriend already has 2 kids, and he’s concerned about being able to financially afford another. I keep reassuring him that a baby doesn’t need the expensive things we typically think they do…and the fact that we are two loving people who are very much in love and want more kids will be enough. We are planning to start trying to conceive in January! (I graduate in May, so it’s kind of the perfect time for a baby) I’ve been reading so much! I always had a very different view of parenting than most everyone I know, and I am so glad I found this website and can read other like minded people’s experiences! This article makes me excited about hopefully becoming a momma and helps reassure me that, financially, the experience I have is up to me. Thanks! :)

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