The Reality of Baby Consumerism
It happens to us all. Or at least it did for me. You see that little blue line and everything changes. YOU’RE PREGNANT! Your Target registry soon overflows with the best suggestions from friends and family. Your Amazon cart is also full of ideas and products-always pending enough 5 star reviews of course!
Maybe this wasn’t you. But this was definitely me. As a first-time Mom, I was convinced that for my baby to be safe, healthy, and happy, I needed xyz. The list continued to grow as the pregnancy went on and then, when Mr. Adorable was here…there was a whole new slew of things that seemed to be absolutely essential (i.e.-bigger baby bathtub, another playmat with brighter animals, another stroller for when we needed a backup, etc. ) Uff dah. There was a lot of stuff. And I was overwhelmed.
But as time went on, I realized something. Most of these things, were actually just that-things. My son didn’t notice if they were there or not. And it didn’t really make that much of difference if I did have them (although some of them, I would argue, are really nice to have). It was a little overwhelming to look at all this stuff and realize-do I really need all of this to be a good mom? And I found out that most of the time, that answer was no.
What is baby consumerism?
Baby consumerism is the marketing, products, and mindset that makes up the $73+ billion dollar industry (in America) of baby care. This can be everything from the products you buy to use for your baby (shampoo, diapers, etc.) to carseats, to toys, etc. That is a LOT of money. And that’s only for babies? What about when they get older?
Baby consumerism is focused on the mindset many Americans have for everything else in life…”you need xyz to be happy” (or for your child to be happy/successful/healthy).
According to the US Department of Agriculture in 2017, it costs the average American family over $233k to raise a child from birth until age 17. These numbers overwhelm me! Is that really true? Kids DO eat a lot and I can only imagine how much my son will eat when he is a teenager!
You may agree with this statistic. But, I don’t. I don’t think this $233k number needs to be the definition or reality of how much we plan to spend on our children.
The truth is, many families and parents get by with way less.
Consider the world and the millions of parents, much like you in terms of values, who live in a totally different culture. I teach kids in China every morning. I see their homes, apartments, and ways of life on a daily basis. While we usually don’t talk about these things, I have noticed there is often less excess of things over there, in the background. From my understanding, many Chinese parents work hard to provide for their children. Not to buy them more stuff though. They work hard to pay for their children’s education. For expensive online one-on-one English classes (with yours truly :). They value education and that’s where their money goes.
What does that teach us?
What do we value? If someone looks in my home-what would they think I value? What about my bank account?
Instead of being bogged down by a bunch of baby/kid stuff you don’t need or use- I want to invest the money we have in things that matter. Or better yet, give it to someone who really does need it.
I hope this list helps you in that process. Getting tips and wisdom from other moms has definitely helped me look at my own “needs” for the nursery and for what my son will actually use/need.
11 Baby Things You Think You Need-But Don’t – Advice from Real Mommies
Without further ado, here is the list! It is written by real, in-the-trenches mamas who are chock full of wisdom! Of course, these are only opinions and each decision you make for what to keep/get rid is specific to your family and your child’s needs. These are only examples.
Tip #1 : Baby swings – Amanda
- Not all babies like swings or even tolerate them
- If you DO want to get a swing, consider getting a used one or borrow one. It’s less money invested if baby doesn’t like it-and you could avoid feeling guilty about getting rid of it or passing it on.
Tip #2: Lots of bibs, swaddle blankets, or burp cloths. – Steph
- A few extras are nice, but unless you have multiples, you can only reasonably use a certain amount.
- For example, Instead of 10 bibs, reduce your collection to 4 or 5 and pass on or donate the rest.
- This reduces your need for drawer space, etc. and frees up room for other baby essentials like diapers or an extra crib sheet.
Tip #3: Lots of clothes -Shanae
- Many new moms inherit lots of hand-me downs, which can be a huge blessing! However, just because you get a bunch of free clothes doesn’t mean you have to keep every single thing. Kids grow crazy fast and before you know it, your little will be in the next size up. Work to keep a smaller collection of each size range, maybe with items for different seasons (if you plan to have more children).
- This smaller collection will be easier to store and easier to stay on top of for laundry and matching outfit purposes.
- Remember that baby clothes are quite cheap to replace, especially if you shop at second-hand stores or garage sales. It will not be a huge expensive to buy a few more items in the future if the need arises.
Tip #4: A Changing Table – Danielle
- This is more of a preference – but if your nursery feels crowded (like mine did), getting rid of larger furniture is an easy way to make your space feel more open and focused.
- Use a changing pad to change baby and store it underneath your crib along with a small basket for diapers, wipes, cream, etc.
- OR keep your changing pad on top of baby’s dresser…then you have a multi-purpose piece of furniture!
Tip #5: Christmas Gifts (Experiences Are Key) – Lauren
- If you have family who loves to give your kiddos gifts for Christmas, BDs, etc-plan ahead. Consider making a list a few months ahead of time to give to them so they have plenty of time and ideas.
- Write down things your kids actually need (such as a new winter jacket, boots, school bag, etc.)
- Write down experience ideas- such as passes to the children’s museum, indoor kid gym, zoo membership, swimming lessons, etc. Be intentional with listing a wide variety of experiences and price ranges, this flexibility is helpful for everyone who wants to bless your kids!
Tip #6: A Crib – Shanae
- For some people, it may make sense to just use your pack and play (following the safety instructions for the baby’s age/weight of course) as a crib instead of buying an actual crib.
- For Shanae’s little guy who still sleeps in their room in his pack-and-play, it makes more sense to her to utilize this space for his full-time sleep option and transition him to a toddler bed when the time is right.
- For another family, it may make sense to have a crib, but transition from a crib to a twin-sized bed (skipping the toddler bed entirely).
- Or maybe you will just do all three types of beds- that’s great too! Think about what will work best for your family and adjust accordingly!
Tip #7: Baby carrier – Lisa
- Before you buy a baby carrier (like one in which you wear your baby), make sure you actually will make use of it. If you are someone who gets warm easily, or if your daycare provider doesn’t wear the baby- it may not be worth it!
- Baby carriers are great options to have if you use them-and again, this is something you can easily find second-hand for a fraction of the price! Wash it up and its good as new.
Tip #8: Lots of TOYS – Amanda
- This amazing Mom, Amanda, sharing this tip, is the REAL DEAL. She is a mama to four little girls, all under the age of FOUR! With the reality of chaos that would easily to happen to most of us given this situation, she has an amazing drive to work to live clutter-free with her family.
- This is a hard one, especially for first time parents who may want their child to have the best, most educational toys possible…which ends up being a lot (that’s me, Danielle, speaking from first-hand experience 😉 ).
- Use the phrase, “That toy can stay at your house” if you receive a lot of gifts for toys that you simply don’t have the space or desire to store.
- “Less is more.” Watch your kids carefully. Often, they will chose to play with the same toys over and over again, ignoring the 95% of the other options available. Simple and few choices are often better for more creative play for littles.
Tip #9: Baby Furniture – Steph
- Things like baby swings (see above), bouncers, rockers, etc. are all very handy to have- especially if you have other toddlers or children running around. However, these things quickly accumulate in both storing space and money invested. The window of use for these items is fast-usually only a few months.
- Instead of buying these items and keeping them- consider borrowing them from a friend or if you do buy them, find them second-hand, as the window in which they are used is so very short!
- Consider lending out your baby furniture to friends to use- it will be a blessing instead of collecting dust PLUS you don’t have to store it.
Tip #10: A Million Books – Danielle
- Don’t write me off- I LOVE BOOKS. As a teacher, my motto with books has always been, “more is good and even more is better…” This was my mindset when we had our son and I happily stocked his bookshelf with loads and loads of amazing books. But guess what? Books take up a lot of space. And not all books are created equally or developmentally appropriate (see related post).
- Take inventory of your books. Keep only the best ones and/or the ones your child already loves to read with you. It’s SO hard to let some go…but once you start prioritizing the practice of keeping only the best…it becomes easier. And it feels so good to only have books in your collection that are loved and read often.
- The library is your new best friend. This place is where you can go and get as MANY books as you want. You read them. Then you return them. You don’t have to store them. Before you buy a book, consider borrowing it from the library first to decide if you really do love it enough to buy it.
Tip #11 : Baby Shoes – Shanae
- There is no doubt, baby shoes are adorable, but, until your baby is starting to toddle around, they are completely unnecessary.
- Their little feet are always growing and changing anyway and not being confined to a tight shoe might just be a bonus for your baby too!
- Warms socks during the winter keep your baby toasty and flex as those adorable feet and cankles start to fill out.
**BONUS TIPS for Organizing Your Baby Stuff!!**
BONUS Tip #1. Take Inventory – Danielle
- Pull out all of the toys you do have. Take a moment to look at the bounty you’ve been given. This part usually motivates me to want to give some away since we often have such an excess! Put them in piles: throw (broken toys that are not able to be fixed), donate/give away, and keep.
- If your child is old enough to understand, consider having them be a part of the conversation…but remember: this takes lots of practice and patience. The purging may not happen this day when your kid helps, it’s hard to let go of stuff quickly! However, starting the conversation early with your kids about taking inventory of what we have/need/don’t need is a wonderful life value to instill in them!
BONUS Tip #2. Rotate Toys – Lauren
- After you have sorted and condensed the toys your child actually likes and will use, divide the toys in half (or use your discretion for what works best). Put half of the toys in storage, out of sight from your child. When he/she seems to need something different or you want to mix things up (or are sick of hearing the same toy singing the same song over and over again…;), switch out the toys! Voila! “New” toys!
BONUS Tip #3. If It Helps Mom Sleep-KEEP IT! -Amanda
- Sleep sacks, rockers…anything that can help Mom sleep or take a nap…KEEP IT. These things are key to survival the first months of having a newborn around (particularly if Mom is breastfeeding and likely the one getting up with baby in the middle of the night, uffdah. I yawn just thinking about that season!).
BONUS Tip #4. borrow, Borrow, BORROW – Shanae, Lisa
- See if you can borrow bigger baby items that have a short-term use (i.e.-swings, rockers, bouncers, walkers, etc.)
- If you do purchase/own some of these items, offer them to friends and family to use when you don’t need them! (Or, if you are done, give it them!) This helps reduce what you have to store and then someone else can be blessed by it as well.
BONUS Tip #5. Pause Before You Buy – Shanae
Sidenote: I (Danielle) am really taking this tip to heart…because I am totally an impulse buyer, especially if it is a cheap/really good deal!
- Waiting gives time to better think it over and observe your family to decide if something is needed. You can always buy something later if you decide you really do need it. This also gives you the opportunity to bargain hunt (if you are considering buying brand new).
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Baby and Kid Stuff
I hope this post encourages you and inspires you to let go of things your kids don’t need or use. I know reading many of these tips from my friends has helped me see the “baby stuff” with new eyes. Having less stuff around helps me focus on what matters the most-loving my little one well and getting to know him as he becomes his own little person.
What are your tips? What changes are you inspired to make in your own kids’ rooms and lives? Please share below. I look forward to learning from you too.
- A Helpful Guide For Decluttering Toys (by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist Blog)]