(Our tutorials page is getting really close to being done! But I’m having too much fun writing all these articles that begin with the word, how, so I’m keeping it up for now.)
Though we did a pretty good job saving money on our wedding, by the time our first bundle of baby flesh came around, we’d lost our savings mojo. It didn’t help that baby boy came at a time when we were the least prepared, and therefore felt the need to solve our problems by buying things. He also came when we were going through our spendy phase. But live and learn, so they say, only this time you’ll be learning from our mistakes. Free of charge, as always.
So I’ll just dive right in with the juiciest one.
1. We didn’t breastfeed.
Though we tried (okay, I tried, husband A-Rob’s hands were a little tied on this one).
Our baby boy EeBee was a crankster. The first few weeks he was an angel – quiet, calm, slept well, breastfed well. At my two week follow-up visit with the pediatrician they proclaimed he had taken to breastfeeding like a “duck to water.”
Then he woke up from his newborn sleepiness.
It was literally a few hours after my parents left to fly far away home, when EeBee started crying.
Nothing was consoling him. We weren’t being overdramatic new parents, even though the nurses all thought we were. The crying was all. the. time. If he wasn’t sleeping or eating, he was crying. All day, all night.
And then a few days after the non-stop cryfest began, he stopped sleeping. The only way he would sleep was bent up into a frog pose on our shoulders. We’d take shifts in the night sleeping with him on the recliner.
The lactation consultant surmised that he had a milk protein allergy. That meant any milk or dairy I consumed was getting to him through the breast milk and upsetting his wee tummy. She informed me that babies with this condition would often react to trace amounts of milk proteins, and that it would take several days for them to get out of my system.
Since I was already a vegetarian, that meant I had to transition to full on vegan. It also meant I had to become a label reader, since dairy is used in a lot of products and hidden under names like whey, casein, delactosed, and lactalbumin. Taking the time to read labels while my baby with the aching belly cried in the grocery aisle was no easy task. And no more restaurants for me since I had no idea what was in anything they prepared.
The only things I could figure to eat in a pinch were Clif Bars and vegetarian sushi rolls. Bottom line, radically changing my diet with a newborn was not going so well. And to top it off, I was brimming with hormones. Mamma needed her cheese in a bad way.
Then while I was trying to figure out the diet thing, baby boy stopped breastfeeding too. He’d root and root and root and cry and root some more, until we’d both be crying after 45 minutes of this 3 am dance (looking back, I’m pretty sure I had what they call forceful let-down, though I didn’t know at the time).
I agonized over the thought of quitting breastfeeding. I cried every day about it. I spent every spare moment researching online, I talked to nurses, I talked to friends, I talked to lactation consultants, I tried different holds, I tried different techniques, but nothing was helping. Baby boy kept crying.
I’m not sure how things are now, but at the time, the breastfeeding propaganda was heavy-handed and woven into everything. It kind of had the effect of making one feeling like an evil devil mother if she had to formula feed.
After six weeks of carrying on like this, I’d had enough. I bought a can of Similac, called the doctor to get instructions (feeling I was being sent death rays through the phone for being an evil formula mother, though there was a chance that was all in my postpartum head), and filled up baby boy with 4 ounces of soy formula.
The next day, he was a completely different baby. He had actual moments of being awake and not crying. He slept. He was happy.
We never looked back.
We also were on the hook for $200/month in formula expenses at a time when we could least afford it. Since I’d started him on the Similac liquid concentrate, and since it had cured him, I was too scared to experiment with the less expensive brands. I also had no clue about coupons or deals, so I just bought it full price from the CVS around the corner.
LESSON TO BE LEARNED: You are NOT evil if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. And if you use formula, you don’t have to buy Similac just because it’s the name brand that everyone recognizes. And if you do buy a name brand, there are several options for getting it for less, like Amazon Mom, or Diapers.com, or CVS rewards.
And if you do have a cranky baby, or any baby at all really, then read The Happiest Baby on the Block. It was a life changer with my second little guy.
2. We bought the Cadillac of breast pumps.
Yeeeaah. I was nervous about going back to work and breastfeeding (this was back when EeBee was still in his angelic newborn phase and things were peachy). My parents were kind enough to spring for the $400 Medela breast pump to ease my fears.
Needless to say, it became a very expensive weaning machine. Luckily we were able to sell it on Craigslist for $100 to a couple who badly needed it.
LESSON TO BE LEARNED: If you’re a new mom, rent a breast pump from the hospital for the first few months. If breastfeeding doesn’t work, then there’s nothing lost. If it does work, you’ll have a better idea of the kind of pump you’ll need as time progresses.
3. We insisted on brand names.
We used Pampers diapers and wipes, we bought Gerber baby food, we bought all the baby gear with the best brand recognition.
It wasn’t until my second baby was 6 months old, and I was standing in the grocery aisle choosing Gerber baby food that I realized, the generic brand was half the cost and was the exact same thing. Pureed carrots are pureed carrots whether they have a fancy label or not. It was an epiphany moment for me. I switched to Target brand diapers and saved $20 a month. I bought whatever baby food was on sale.
LESSON TO BE LEARNED: You are not an evil devil mother if you use generic baby products.
4. We picked the most expensive daycare.
Well, maybe I don’t feel so badly about this one. Paying extra for the peace of mind that our little guy was being well taken care of in the only bright and happy facility we felt good about was worth the extra expense, even though we were paying as much in daycare as we were in rent. Ouch.
LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Just go with your gut on this one.
Do you have any baby stories to share? Have you been able to save with your little ones – or are you like us, spending whatever it takes to make it work?