My Story: What We Learned from Baby #1

contributed by Amanda T-H

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Babies can cost a lot, right? Well, they sure can, if you accept the conventional "wisdom' fed to all new parents from the moment they become pregnant. When our first daughter was born, we did what we were told, by advertising, by TV, and by the hospital in which she was born. We bought lotions, powders, wipes and cleaners. We bought the expensive brand of nappies and the exorbitantly priced creams. We did what we thought was best for our baby. We were on one income, and boy, did it cost us a bomb! But, five years on, we've learned a lot, and we've been able to fit baby number two into our budget without actually having to change our budget! Here's what we've learned:

  1. Using cloth nappies (diapers) is not difficult, and it saved us a fortune. I estimate at least $25 (Australian) per week. That's factoring in the cost of washing, etc. Even if you work and can only use cloth diapers for some of the time, it's worth it. We paid for a new washing machine with the savings we made using cloth nappies. Five years on, we still have the washing machine, bought and paid for, so our $100 per month saving is free and clear.

  2. If you do use disposables, use the cheaper generic brands. When our baby was first born, my husband bought the most expensive name brand nappies. At $13 for 22 nappies (and remember, the larger your baby gets, the less nappies you get for the same cost), these were more than 50 cents each. That means every wet nappy, every nappy change, you pay over 50 cents. Not only were they expensive, they were hopeless! Projectile baby poo out of the side of a nappy is a messy sight to behold! We have never had a problem with the cheaper brand, which cost the same now as they did five years ago at about 26 cents per diaper. Half the price, without the mess.

  3. Baby wipes are a con. Pre-moistened, highly fragranced baby wipes should only be used in your take-out diaper bag, and never at home. Even the cheapest pack of wipes costs about $3.50 here in Australia, and wreak havoc on baby's sensitive little tush. I use cut up pieces of old towels moistened with water. These go into the nappy bucket and are washed with the nappies.

  4. An even bigger con is all the potions and lotions sold to parents from the second their baby is born. We bought it all. It was so pretty and smelled so nice. And it's best for our baby, isn't it? What our beautiful baby ended up with was the worst case of cradle cap ever witnessed and a trip to the emergency room covered with a hideous rash, which we found out was caused by all that pretty, highly fragranced junk. Zinc Oxide cream and pure cornstarch is all you need for nappy rash. The doctor on duty in the emergency room that night told us to bathe our baby in plain old water. We have ever since. Baby number two may have to go to the doctor one day, but it won't be because we paid a great wad of cash for junk to burn her lovely skin.

  5. Remember all those brand new baby clothes you bought? Well, so did we. Only the best for our little princess. Until she chucked on them, or pooped on them, or did the hundreds of things that babies do every day to mess up the gorgeous clothes you dress them in. Accept all hand-me-downs, and thrift-shop with a vengeance before your baby is due, keeping in mind the season she will be born in, not the season you're shopping in! Shop with an eye for quality. Even if you only buy vests, and other basic undershirt type items, you will save a bundle, and you won't cringe when she spills or dribbles on them.

These are just a few of the common sense tips we have learned in the five years between one baby and the next. Our new baby is eleven weeks old and is cooed over wherever we go. You would never know she wears hand-me-downs, is wiped with old washcloths and bathes in plain old water! And our food and grocery budget has not changed one cent since she was born. So she's like a free baby!

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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