I am a single mom with a baby boy. Prior to giving birth, I had planned ahead. I read all the books, scoured the web sites, and gleaned great tips from "The Dollar Stretcher." I stocked up on all the goodies. When I had the baby, all knowledge went out the window. These are the five best frugal tips that worked.
- Breastfeed. Your milk is designed for your baby, it is perfect and it is in there even if you had implants added. Take a breastfeeding class ahead of time. There are free classes offered at Babies-R-Us. Start feeding 10 minutes after the baby is born. Start feeding while you are in recovery in the hospital. Don't let anyone tell you not to do it. Don't give your newborn any formula. Make your baby help your milk come in. Yes, it will hurt at first. In the hospital, it did not hurt at all, but after a few days, I wanted to quit. I had a friend who promised me if I got past two weeks it would get easier. It sure did! It was fine after that. My son is almost a year old and we are still breastfeeding. I plan to breastfeed for two years. I can sew, so I made myself 20 breast pads. I used a plastic lid that was about four inches wide. I cut circles out of old white cotton t-shirts. I used five layers of these circles for each pad. I zig-zagged the edges together once. Then I cut a notch from the center to the edge, as if I was removing a slice of pie. I cut about a half inch wide slice out. Then I zig-zagged the two straight edges together. This will cause the flat circle to have a contoured look. It will look fine when hidden inside your nursing bra. Zig-zag the outside edges a second time for good measure. They need to last a long time. My milk leaked often, so I used about four to five a day when I first started. Having 20 pads made up saved me time and money.
- Cloth diapers are back, and they are as easy as disposables. I started with the cloth diapers, pins, and plastic pants. I was soon frustrated with the pins and the pants. I eventually found Diaper Wraps on eBay. I bought mine from a work-at-home mom, and they are great. I also bought four dozen prefolds by Gerber at my local Wal-Mart. They sell better ones online, like the 4x6x4 unbleached Chinese prefolds, but I was going the dollar-stretching route. I used the regular prefold Gerber diapers and they were fine. I did use two dozen flatfold diapers when he was very small, less than 12 pounds, as they fit between his tiny legs better. There is a nice way to fold them for infants. At about two months old, I noticed more leaks at night. So, I made diaper doublers. I used my quilting skills to cut out fabric in rectangles that were 4.5 inches by 10 inches. I used four layers. The top layer and the bottom layer were cut from 100% cotton fleece. This would help wick moisture away from baby's skin, and keep the doublers from sliding around in there. I had plenty of fleece blankets that we were not using, so it cost me nothing. Then the two middle layers were cut from the flat fold diapers I was no longer using. I had old kitchen towels, new but ugly kitchen towels, and raggedy bath towels. I cut what I needed from them for free. I zig-zagged the edges, and then sewed two stabilizing lines down the middle, just off to each side of the center. It looks like a tiny prefold. I made about 30 of these doublers.
To use them, I found it best to fold the prefold diaper into one long piece, add the doubler on top, lay the set into the wrap, add the baby, and close. It's too easy. Any extra diaper is folded down in the front to catch more liquids there. I change him about every two hours, using the same wrap but adding a clean diaper. If anything goes wrong, like a dirty leak, I wash it in the sink right away, while baby wears a new set. Thus, you need more than one wrap. The wraps dry quickly when hand-washed, but they are machine washable/dryable too. I add a half cup of vinegar in the wash and rinse cycle and everything comes out fresh and clean. I do not use dryer sheets as they are not good with diapers. I bought four wraps of each size, because I send two with him to daycare and use two at home. When I go out with the baby, I have several clean diapers each in a plastic resealable bag. I can easily change the diaper while he lays on my lap in the car. I put the clean diaper on and the wet one goes in the bag. It's no trouble at all. I think to myself, every time I change him, that I just saved 25 cents. Twelve diaper changes a day costs $3. Some babies use more than that. I keep a container of homemade wipes in the car as well. Everywhere we go, the car is our diaper changing station.
- Save your money and don't stock up yet. Register for shower gifts of exactly what you need. My newborn baby did not need a single thing I bought him, for at least a month. He ate for free, he slept in my bed, and he wanted to be held, not put in a swing. I can tell you from experience that the stores will make you believe that you need one of everything. I felt like I had to have a decorated nursery ready before he got here. Well, I didn't. I planned to be home with him for three months. So, for three months, we ate together and slept together. I carried him in a sling while I did my household chores and made my meals. You should buy a sling, as it's a good purchase. I used a stroller in my house. I carried him from room to room, used the bathroom, and even took a shower with him nearby in the stroller. I did not buy the deluxe model that would make other mothers jealous. I didn't buy a ultra cheap stroller either. They make mid-size lightweight strollers for about $100 or less. Mine was very compact and fit well everywhere.
- Take hand-me-downs. I take from anyone who's offering. I even take girly things. My baby boy doesn't care that his blanket is pink. I save the blue ones for times when folks will see him. I don't dress him in girl clothes, but I trade with friends who have boys and their second child is a girl. I take the big brother's hand-me-downs and give up the girl things that I have no use for. Trading saves me from shopping. I have several Rubbermaid bins in the baby's closet. Each bin holds a different size, so I'm ready as he grows. I add to each bin as hand-me-downs come in. When the time comes to use a particular size, I simply buy what is missing from area thrift stores, yard sales or consignment. This plan came in handy sooner than I thought. My boy grew very tall very quickly and was in size 18 months by the time he was 11 months old.
- For those of you who are lucky enough to have a mother-in-law, take advantage of her at this time. The more she helps, the more time you can spend bonding with your baby. If she is the type to frown on you because you were not good enough for her son, now is a good time to let her show off how good her skills are. Let her cook for your husband. Let her clean up for your husband. Ask her if she is able to sew. She could sew your breast pads and diaper doublers to prove it. I don't have a mother-in-law or a mom to fall back on. However, I have girlfriends who are mothers, and they are blessings to me. Each of them has different strengths, and I appreciate them all. It is best for a single mom to have a circle of friends in place before needing them. When baby comes, and you are short on sleep, you won't feel up to making new friends for months.
"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 mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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