Not long ago, Mrs. Parunak wrote a post I tremendously enjoyed, about shopping for a new baby.
What can I say? We all differ somewhat on the list of what we consider necessities vs. niceties, but the main point is very clear: you don't need a lot of expensive gadgets to raise a baby. You might even end up refusing some of the stuff kind people are willing to pass on to you (like a changing table – we never wanted one). The list of baby equipment we bought for Shira was very short indeed, and included just a car seat, a baby bath tub, a folding playpen in which she sleeps when we're away from home, and a (second-hand) baby bed.
There were of course also the gifts (some new and some used), such as a pram, a stroller, a high chair, a bouncy seat, a nursing pillow, two baby carriers, toys and books – which we were very grateful for, but which you don't have to buy if you're on a budget. There was also stuff we never used, like the pacifiers from the hospital.
Speaking of toys, we don't have a lot of those. It isn't exactly a secret babies and toddlers quickly get bored with their toys. If we bought a new toy every time she was bored with her old ones, we would have no room to store them (even omitting the budget question!). You just have to be creative. Children will find things to play with, and will not be mentally deprived. Right now our daughter is fascinated by teaspoons. I'm sure next week it will be another thing. Yes, she does like to play with toys and look at picture books. But she equally loves to rummage in Daddy's working tools and look at old magazines.
Much of the baby equipment is only used for a very short time in families and isn't worn out, and then people look for someone to whom to pass it along, which is wonderful. I think this should be common practice everywhere, to help spare environment and budget and take a chunk out of the Great Baby Manufacturers' profits. If you have an excess piece of equipment, look for someone to pass it along to, and if you need something, first look around – perhaps someone can't wait to give it away. Here in
we have a great swap website, though usually the passing along happens through networking of friends, family and neighbors. Israel
Baby clothes are hardly worn out, too. Babies only wear a certain size for a very short time, and until Shira started eating solids and crawling (which happened roughly around the same time) her clothes were kept in an almost perfect condition. We hardly had any spit-ups and there was only the occasional diaper blowout, so there was no need to wash her clothes every time they were worn (around here, an item of clothing goes to the laundry when it needs to be washed, not just because it was worn once – helps us preserve our clothes and keep laundry to 2-3 loads per week, which saves electricity and water). Starting from the point of crawling and eating solids, of course, things changed and now what she wears must go to the wash at the end of the day. Crawling outfits got extremely knobbly at the knees by the time she grew out of them, too. So while people love to buy and give as gifts lots of tiny clothes for newborn babies, I think there's actually more need for clothes for older babies and toddlers, as those get more wear and tear. It's important to keep this in mind while shopping or choosing gifts.
The only clothes we bought for our daughter so far, in nearly a year and a half, were three onesies and a couple of pairs of socks. We were flooded with gifts of baby and children's clothes, new and used. Truly, we were blessed to have more clothes than she could wear. By the way, I've noticed that very often, I found myself laying aside the new, extremely cute but not very practical outfits we got as gifts, in the favor of used, comfortable, sturdy and practical ones. Example: I never saw the point of dressing a baby who doesn't walk yet in dresses and skirts (except, of course, for them being so cute!). It usually interferes with crawling and simply isn't very practical – didn't work for me. Now that she's walking I'm starting to incorporate dresses and skirts in her wardrobe, with the goal of making it skirt-only by the time she's three years old (we will, of course, keep pants and bloomers to wear underneath). Another example: turtlenecks for babies. Didn't work for us – give me a wide neck or even better, buttons please!
I also didn't even think about, and found myself getting along just fine without, stuff that other Moms labeled as absolute necessity, such as special nursing clothes and nursing covers. I suppose different things work for different people, and the point is, even if someone said it's a must-have, it might be a must-have for them and nothing but a money and space-guzzler for you.
This time around, I don't think we need to buy/get anything at all. Seriously. We're fully equipped! I expect we'll still get quite a few clothes and toys as gifts, which will be nice but not strictly necessary. However, who wants to deprive grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of the joy of baby shopping?