Unlike what we are programmed to believe, babies really don’t need too much for the first year of life. Places like Target, Babies R Us, and Buy Buy Baby will sell you tons of gadgets and products that you really don’t need. As a first time parent, it is understandable that it is difficult to navigate between what you really need and what would be “nice.” As a mom of two young kids, here is my frugal take.
First they need food. Breast milk is free and if you have to go the formula route and really are cramped for cash. See if you qualify for any state programs like WIC. There are also lots of products to buy for breastfeeding. The only real product I would recommend is purchasing some type of breastfeeding pillow. Creams like lanolin are generally provided in the hospital. I use the My Brest Friend pillow which I bought at Toys R Us for $30. I will also admit I bought some Lansinoh gel coolies ($10 each), but not everyone needs it and see how it goes before you run out and buy one.
Secondly, they need a safe place to sleep and rest. Co-sleeping is a no no these days as it has been linked to SIDS, so I recommend a bassinet. Here is a big buy, but a two for one. Buy the Rock and Play Sleeper by Fisher Price because it can be combined into a bassinet and a sort of bouncer during the day. My son currently lives in it and I love it. It is light weight and can be moved around easily. I got mine from Target on sale for $60, but I would even recommend checking Craigslist for a used one. The fabric can be removed and washed so it can be bought used and still be sanitary.
If you go straight to the crib, I suggest just buying one single sheet. Don’t waste your money on a whole crib bedding set, they are expensive and don’t really serve much purpose other than anesthetics. You will still need some type of bouncer though, but it shouldn’t cost you more than $40 for a basic one.
Next you will need to diaper and dress your baby. There are so many resale events and clubs on Facebook where you can find clothes for cheap. Do some research and Google it or even check out your local Goodwill. If you are from the Chicagoland area, every 4 months in DuPage County there is a giant children’s resale event where you can buy outfits for $.50-5. You will just need to spend some time looking around for great steals.
As for diapers, this one is a bit harder to escape. I suggest couponing and shopping around for the cheapest brand. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper and I get mine from Sam’s Club where I buy Luvs. If you have access to a washer/dryer for cheap, you can always do cloth diapers.
The last thing I think you absolutely need is a car seat. Even if you don’t own a car, it can be used when riding a bus or a train. Sometimes agencies can help with the cost, such as WIC here in Illinois. If not, you can still find a cheap used one. Just make sure that the particular model you buy hasn’t been recalled for safety concerns.
These are just the essentials for the first year, but as long as you have all these you and your baby will do just fine! Don’t forget to add some love and patience, and you are on your way to a great parent-child relationship.