Getting ready for new baby? Consider preparing these 5 newborn essentials that require no money. It’s the un-shopping list that won’t break your budget and will help you have a happy and healthy experience after you bring baby home.
Getting ready to welcome a baby to your family requires loads of preparation. You prepare for pregnancy and giving birth by reading books and writing birthing plans. You prepare for your baby’s physical needs by buying diapers, wipes, clothing, blankets, car seats and cribs and many many other things.
As new parents, we are often told what to buy to prepare for a new baby but there are a few newborn essentials that require no money which every new parent can and should consider preparing for a new baby. These aren’t the typical items you will find in a blog post or baby book, but they are just as essential because they are critical to the health and emotional well-being of mother and baby.
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Learn About and Prepare for Breastfeeding Newborn
Before I had Bibi, I spent a lot of time researching about the best breast pumps and comparing specs but in retrospect, I should have spent a little more time preparing for actually breastfeeding and making alternative plans if that didn’t work out. I often heard how breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful process. I expected it to be something that came very easily to me.
Although I had taken a class on breastfeeding and attended breastfeeding support groups, looking back I wish I had dedicated more time and focus on preparing myself for unexpected circumstances. I ended up having complications from my epidural and found myself very sick and very worried about how to feed my baby. While I agree that breastfeeding is very natural and beautiful, there can be complications and feeding baby directly on the breast may not be in the plans of every mom and baby. Learning about breastfeeding and taking some steps to prepare will help your experience go more smoothly. Here are ways to prepare and educate yourself without needing to spend any money at all.
- Learn the basics like how often to feed, and how to establish and increase your milk supply. This will help you produce enough milk for baby.
- Be ready with access to a breast pump if needed. Hospitals usually provide one during your stay but know where to rent a pump or have one ready for when you get home. It was harder to rent a hospital-grade pump than I thought so call ahead in-advance to see which places offer this service in your city. I called many pharmacies and was eventually able to rent the one I wanted from a medical equipment rental company. Later on, I ended up buying my own pump which was inspired by the hospital-grade Medela pump to help establish milk supply. READ: Medela Sonata Breast Pump Review
- Talk with your spouse or partner about your breastfeeding plans. Come up with ways that he/she can help you achieve your goals. Some ideas include: bringing you fresh water to drink while you feed the baby and keeping a log. During the first crucial days of establishing breastfeeding, it is helpful to track feedings and diaper changes.
- Create a comfortable spot for nursing in your home. Include a good chair with back support, pillows and a table nearby to hold a glass of water for you and supplies for baby. You don’t need anything fancy, just reuse any of your comfy old chairs and pillows if possible. To stay on budget, you can drape colorful throw blankets on old chairs to make them look refreshed.
- There are many free online resources that include message boards for breastfeeding questions including La Leche League, KellyMom, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, The Leaky Boob and Ask Dr. Sears. Find a website that you connect with and familiarize yourself with it. That way, if you have a question you will have ready access to an answer.
- Also, find local breastfeeding resources like a certified breastfeeding consultant or breast feeding support groups like La Leche League Canada or Le Leche League USA . I went to a few meetings before birth to learn more about breastfeeding and found them to be super supportive and helpful. They had books on breastfeeding which we could borrow. I also found connecting with other moms and hearing about their experiences extra helpful.
- You will most likely be visited by a consultant in the hospital but it’s handy to have a consultant’s contact on hand just in case. For me, I wasn’t able to see the hospital’s consultant for a couple days because I gave birth on a day when all the consultants had a break. Find the name and phone number of a local breastfeeding consultant in case you need additional help.
- Look into the types of formula you’d like to feed baby in case you don’t have a sufficient milk supply yet or are unable to breastfeed. Better yet, have a few small bottles on hand just in case. You don’t want to find yourself with a starving baby in the middle of the night when all the stores are closed.
Make a Plan for Newborn Sleep Training
Being educated in sleep training is another newborn essential that require no money and is often overlooked even though lack of sleep is definitely one of the biggest adjustments for mom and dad. Especially if this is your first baby. Take some time to read and learn about baby sleep training before having your baby. You can also decide on a tentative plan. I enjoy the quote “start as you intend to go on.” This applies very well to sleep training with babies. If you begin with good sleep practices, including a comfortable sleep environment and consistency, it will be easy to continue encouraging good sleep as the baby gets older.
- Newborn babies sleep the majority of the time (from 14-19 hours a day). However, some will only sleep under certain conditions and at certain times. For example, my little Bibi would never sleep alone in her bassinet at night, hubby and I ended up taking turns holding her through the night. Learning about sleep training will help prepare you with tips and tricks to help maximize your baby’s sleep.
- A baby who sleeps well is a critical part of mom’s post-partum recuperation. Establishing good sleep is important for mom AND baby.
- Involve your spouse or partner as you learn about sleep training so you can implement best practices together.
- Sound machines are a great way to help babies sleep through the night by mimicking the white noises baby heard in the womb. Instead of purchasing a sound machine, you can stay on budget by re-purposing an old smart phone and downloading a white noise track on it. This is the method we used since Bibi was a newborn and still continue to use.
- I have shared our journey of sleep training on my blog. You can read about Why We Choose to Co-Sleep, how we trained our 3-month old to sleep 12 hours at night without feeding, tips on getting through baby’s four-month-old sleep regression, as well as how we transitioned to a two nap sleep schedule when Bibi was 9-months-old. This post is a favorite of mine: 10 Habits that Help Our Baby Sleep Through the Night.
Prepare Freezer Meals and Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
Taking care of your newborn and yourself takes up so much of your time and energy that sometimes eating goes on the back burner. However, you will feel so much better when you are practicing proper nutrition. Moreover, a healthy diet with a higher than normal caloric intake is recommended for breastfeeding moms who need to increase and maintain their milk supply, that’s why having access to healthy foods is another newborn essential I recommend. There are things you can do ahead of time to make sure that you have healthy meals and snacks available.
- In the weeks proceeding your due date, try to make double the amount of each meal each time you cook and store the excess in the freezer. Having a stockpile of dinners you can throw into the oven is incredibly helpful. Easy freezable meal ideas: Tomato Beef on Rice, Easy Crockpot Chicken Pho.
- Stock up on easy to prepare, high protein staples like pre-made meatballs, cheese, frozen vegetables and frozen fruit.
- Fill your pantry with healthy and delicious snacks that you can grab. Some of my favorites include: hummus with veggies, bananas, apples, cheese sticks, soy milk, yogurt and homemade sourdough crackers.
- Find local grocery stores that will deliver so you can restock without going to the store.
- Put together a list of the phone numbers of your favorite local restaurants that deliver and treat yourself.
Create Your “Village” and Ask for Help
The African saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is important because it helps you to recognize that you have a support system. One of the most important newborn essentials that require no money is to create a village of people that will be ready to love and support you when needed. This is as simple as calling someone and saying, “I am so grateful for your friendship/example. Is it okay to call you if I need help after having our baby?” Your friends and family will love the opportunity to help you and help with your little one.
- It is okay to ask for help. Oftentimes we feel like we need to do it all, but don’t try to do everything by yourself.
- Reach out for advice or actual physical help.
- Most of your friends and family will want to help, but don’t know what to do. Feel comfortable asking for EXACTLY what you need. “I need you to come over and hold the baby while I shower and take a nap.” “I need you to bring me a treat and let me cry about how hard this is.”
- If you are having a planned C-section, you may want to set up a calendar for helpers in the first couple of weeks. It will be easier for people to help if they know a set day or time when they are scheduled.
- It is normal to feel some sadness or “baby blues,” after giving birth…especially when you are experiencing sleep deprivation. Understand, and make sure your spouse understands the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression. You can learn more at the National Institute of Mental Health.
- Ask your ob/gyn what to do if you find yourself in a depressed state. This is not something to be ashamed of. I also experienced difficult emotions post-partum and was referred to speak with a counsellor. Postpartum depression can affect any new mom, whether it is your first child or fifth child.
Plan for Self-Care/Mental Well-being for Mom and Dad
Having a baby is hard on your body. Losing sleep can have a big effect on your mood and mental health. Take some time before you have your baby to make a plan for how you will take care of yourself. Also, plan ways to nurture your relationship with your spouse or partner. This is a newborn essential that requires no money except for some planning and communication on the part of you and your partner.
- Get outside every day for a few minutes. That might mean taking baby for a walk in the stroller or just sitting outside in the sun. Exposure to natural light will help reset your circadian rhythm.
- Make time to spend with your friends/siblings and nurture those relationships before your entire focus will have to temporarily shift to baby.
- Plan a time for regular exercise each day after you are given the go-ahead from your doctor. Choose an exercise that you enjoy and that isn’t too strenuous.
- Allow yourself some time each day to do something you enjoy. Spend some time focused on YOU whether that is reading a book, baking or taking care of your skin.
- Talk with your spouse or partner about ways you can have time together after baby is born. Set realistic expectations about what this will look like (ex. simple movie night on the sofa, take-out sushi after baby goes to sleep etc.) When you feel up to it, encourage him to plan a low key at-home date night.
- Try to touch base each day with your spouse or partner about how you both are feeling. Help each other out during this transition time.
- Give yourself grace during this period of recovery. In many cultures, women are given several months, and a lot of help, as they recover. Be easy on yourself as you begin to navigate a new world while recovering from childbirth.
- Give your partner grace as he adjusts to your life centering around someone else. As a new mom, it often feels like everyone needs you and you have nothing left to give. Make an effort to spend some time each day talking to, and having physical contact with, your spouse or partner.
That concludes my recommendations for the top 5 newborn essentials that require no money. Once you have crossed everything off of your “to buy” list for your new baby, I hope these “to-dos” will help you have a happy and healthy experience after you bring baby home.
Are there any other to-dos you wish you had done?