You've likely heard it said that raising kids is expensive. Any way you work the numbers it is a hefty price tag. Last June the U.S. Department of Agriculture released their numbers on how much it would cost to raise a middle-income child. The grand total to raise a child from birth to age 17? $234,900.
That can be some serious sticker shock to first-time parents. Bearing that in mind, perhaps the responsible thing to do is cover the basics—just the things that are necessary. But oftentimes new parents aren’t sure what they need, and there is no shortage of items, accessories and services marked as “must-haves” to lure them in.
How about designer perfume? Dolce& Gabbana will be selling some for $45 for 50 ml bottles. It’s been described as a way to enhance a baby’s natural aroma, with a hint of citrus, melon and honey. That sounds more like the produce section at Whole Foods. A baby’s natural aroma has a hint of spit up, urine and poop. And that can easily and cheaply be masked with a steady dose of powder, lotion and wipes.
Babies have sensitive skin and can be easily irritated with unnecessary chemicals. Save the perfumes for later but load up on appropriate laundry detergent now. Dr. Gregory Gordon of Orlando Pediatrics suggests using a gentle laundry detergent, like Dreft, specifically for the first year.
It’s interesting that when we see jewelry for an adult we think in terms of cost. When it’s for a baby it’s “So cute!” But cute isn’t free. From $15 to $500, baby bracelets are big business. At a certain point that baby wrist will be too pudgy to comfortably wear a bracelet. Not to mention choking hazards and circulation issues.
There have been several recalls of kids jewelry which is often not manufactured in the U.S. Another option is to buy a charm every year and put it on an adult sized bracelet. If all goes well your child will have a keepsake they can actually wear-not just stare at.
Keeping it clean
When many of us were babies wipes weren’t even on the market yet. Not only are wipes now on the market, but they can be used with a wipe warmer. Dex Products has a Dual Action Wipes Warmer. That sounds more like something for car windshield wipers. They claim to keep the wipes warm from top to bottom. Speaking of bottom, one might wonder if a baby cries any less with a warm wipe than one at room temperature during a diaper change.
Some say wipe warmers are not a necessity. To help keep the baby warm, try using a fluffy towel or change the baby in a warm bathroom. However, if parents do want to buy a wipe warmer they should check the Consumer Products Safety Commission website to get information about possible product recalls.
When is the last time you paid more than fifty dollars for a trash can? Well if you want to pay more for a diaper pail, the Ubbi Diaper Pail sells for about $79. The product description boasts that the cans are made of “powder coated steel and rubber seals to prevent leaks and keep odors locked in.” “Locking in” seems like a lofty goal. A week’s worth of soiled diapers has a magical wafting ability. Consumer Search picked the Ubbi Diaper pail as one of the top three diaper pails. Also making the list is the Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail which costs considerably less at $35.00.
And once the baby is done with diapers he can potty train in style with the new iPotty. It looks similar to other training toilets, except it has an arm attached to it to hold, of course, an iPad. Makes you wonder if every time the child sees an iPad he will go potty (even when there is no toilet around). Clapping your hands and giving praise for using the potty may be a much less complicated way to handle this. Lois Eiler, who works for CTA Digital, the company that makes the iPotty, explained: “When you are potty training, you have to keep them busy. This keeps them engaged and gives them rewards for the right kind of behavior.” Well, wouldn’t we all want to use the toilet if using the iPad was an incentive?
Getting there is half the fun
Strollers are a big-ticket item. Ever wish you could have an Aston Martin? Well now you and your baby can share one. For $3000. It’s called the Silver Cross Surf, Aston Martin Edition. The handle bar is made of Italian leather. Add to that a winter foot muff with windproof performance fabrics, detachable baby carrier, sun shade, rain shield, and a folding, detachable shopping basket.
Do you really want to pay as much for a stroller as you do for a good second-hand vehicle? Although that get-up seems like something you might need to add to your auto insurance policy. The down side is there were only 800 made, so you may have already missed your window of opportunity. But there’s a good chance you can still find one with plastic handle bars quite easily. No foot muff or detachable shopping cart. If you want to get fancy, just get one with multiple cup holders.
To find unbiased information regarding strollers, go to Consumerreports.org. Their research center tests 136 models focusing on the areas of easy of use, maneuverability, safety and folded size.
If you have an extra couple hundred bucks lying around, why not buy some infant shoes from Gucci? Rubber soles, leather lining and of course just enough material to show off that familiar Gucci logo. There are a couple things to keep in mind about baby shoes. First of all, most babies don’t walk, so the need for shoes is … well, there is no need. It’s all about looking good. Secondly, baby’s feet grow at a rapid pace. Those shoes will barely make it through one season before they are too small. Two hundred bucks might be better spent on socks and baby booties.
In an online interview for parents, Dr. Elizabeth Berger explains there is no medical proof to support that baby shoes will add to stronger ankles. “There were strong ankles and strong bodies long before there were shoes, and some of the strongest ankles on earth probably belong to the celebrated long-distance runners of Kenya, many of whom prefer to run without shoes.”
Your little foodie
Maybe you are the type that really wants to make the baby’s food. You know, buy all natural and fresh ingredients and puree them for the baby’s meals. If you need help with that, the Cuisinart BFM-1000 Baby Food Maker and Bottle Warmer might be a good purchase to make. It lists for $185, which could be worth it if you really use it. But it seems like the type of appliance that could end up in the same place as many wedding registry items do. Things like a bread maker and ice cream maker. If it does, almost every grocery store in America has an aisle filled with jars with a chubby cheeked baby’s photo on the label. Twist, turn and serve.
Still, if parents are determined to make their own food for the baby, Babycenter.com includes things they may already have in their kitchen without having to buy a food maker. Those items include a hand-turned food mill, baby food grinder, a blender, food processor, and a fork.
Babies are messy. And they need parent’s help to keep them shiny and clean. The Magic Bath Baby Hot Tub has got to be one of the most expensive ways to bathe a child and includes plenty of bells and whistles. And bubbles. Thanks to ten air jets. And for that perfect glow there are LED lights too. The system has a price tag of $2100 and is made for babies up to 12 months old. That comes to $175 per month for one year. Then what? Perhaps you could turn it into a bird bath or planter. Or you could take a look at the selection of baby bath tubs online for Babies R Us. They have almost fifty to choose from with prices as low as $19.99.
The Mayo Clinic reinforces that what is most important to consider when bathing a baby is safety, not so much the specific type of tub.
In some ways buying for baby is similar to buying for adults. There’s the stuff you need, and the stuff that just looks cool. One idea is to make a checklist of what you think you will need. Then share that list with friends and family that have already had babies and get their input on the list. Their insight could save you a lot of frustration and money. If it’s going to cost $234, 000 to raise a child, why rush to spend a chunk of it in the first few years?
Julie Davidson is a Midday Personality for B93.3. She is a married mother of two who doubles as a freelance writer and blogger at www.mommymdguides.com