YOU have just found out you are to have a baby - it is great news, but can fast become stressful if you do not make a budget and stick to it, especially in this recessionary period.
Once you begin to shop, resist the urge to make purchases over your limit simply because the items seem appropriate or look cute. Select those that are absolutely necessary. It is far more important to ensure that your baby is safe and loved than showered with the latest over-priced equipment, designer clothes and toys.
First-time expectant mother, Natalie Brown-Miller, said she has spent over $60,000 in preparation for her baby. Items bought included clothes, baby cosmetics, a tub, crib and crib bumper, which is used to prevent the baby from colliding into the sides of the crib. She said all the items bought were needed but advised that: "If your budget is tight, forget about having a baby because they are not cheap. Preparing for a baby is costly; on each of my visits to the doctor I spend $1,700 and now that I am in my final trimester I have to visit more frequently."
Rosemarie Bucknor, a mother of two children over 20 years old, believes babies can be affordable as long as the preparation is factored into a budget.
"You don't need to buy expensive and unnecessary items for your baby; they won't need them. What is important is that you stock up on clothes and diapers, those will be needed right away," she said.
According to Janet Beckford, supervisor at Answers for Children, Tropical Plaza, "[Expectant mothers] should make a list of the most important items needed for their newborns as this will also help them to better note prices and see what fits in their budget. Shop for quality and be sure to get those items you will be taking to the hospital, first."
All Woman has put together a list, which will help you select the necessary items for your 'bundle of joy', especially if you are on a tight budget.
. Clothes. You need a basic set for up to three months to keep you afloat. Buy in different sizes, so you will have clothes ready as the baby grows. Hand-me-downs are also great and will help you save. This should be readily available if you had children before, otherwise be willing to accept from friends or family.
. Reusable diapers/nappies.
Invest in reusable diapers/nappies and don't forget the pins. Reusable diapers allow you to save and are environmentally friendly. Just remember to throw in a reliable bar of 'blue soap' even though cloth diapers now also come in various colours. If you have no interest in washing nappies and prefer disposable diapers, choose generic brands. They will cost less.
. Breast milk versus formula. Breastfeeding is free and beneficial to both mother and child. Breast milk contains anti-infective properties which shield the baby from viral and bacterial infections in the earlier stages. As the baby gets older, you can make your own baby food from fruits and vegetables. Ask for directions at your local clinic or check your mother or grandparents and find out what recipes they used for you.
. Bottles. These will be required if you have decided to give your baby formula. Select formulas that are not high in iron as this is not safe for babies.
. Steriliser kit. This is not important. All you need is a stove and a pot with boiling water. Place the bottles and nipples inside and leave them for at least five minutes and voila! Sterilised bottles. Also, use a bottle brush to wash bottles in hot soapy water.
. Crib or bed. A crib is optional. You can allow the baby to share your bed, but you must be mindful not to roll over on him/her. Sharing the bed can lead to increased sleep time for both mother and child. You don't need to get up several times and walk to the crib in order to attend to the baby when he/she starts crying in the middle of the night.
Bucknor gives ideas on how this can be initiated.
"Make sure the space is comfortable and one side of your bed is facing a corner. Be sure to place pillows in this section and the baby in the middle while you sleep at the other end. The strategic location of the pillows to one side and you at the other will act as a barrier when the baby decides to roll. You also need to monitor the positioning of the baby to ensure that you do not roll onto him/her," she said.
Brown-Miller believes the crib is better suited for the baby.
"I don't agree with the baby being on the bed for safety and intimacy reasons. This is the time for you to regain the intimate moments with your husband. Also, with the crib the baby can use it up to two years and you can then resell it," she said.
If you prefer to buy a crib, choose one where the bars are close together. If you are accepting a second-hand version, carefully examine the bars as those too far apart risk head entrapment, which is common in older models (those manufactured before 1989).
. Changing table. You don't need one to change your baby's diaper. A bed, couch or your lap will work the same wonders.
. Stroller. A stroller you can adjust from newborn to toddler is useful but is generally a hassle. We recommend a sling or hip hammock - used to carry your baby on the front of your body or the hip. Otherwise, you can choose to carry your child with only your arms to assist. A sling or hip hammock is much more convenient and is easier to manoeuvre. Since it is smaller, the baby is closer to you and you don't have problems with stairs or small aisles. Also, it takes up less space in a car.
. Car seat. This is only necessary if you are deciding to drive around with your baby. You may also find yourself in hot water with the law should you be caught transporting your baby without the car seat fitted on to the back seat of your car.
. Bath tub. Purchase a bath tub with accompanied diaper pail. These can be doubled to do your baby's laundry. However, you can choose to bathe your baby in the bathroom sink at no additional cost.
. Baby/diaper bag. You will need one to carry the items for your baby as you make your visits to the clinic or on other excursions.
. Remember other essentials. Wash cloth, towels and the cosmetics - shampoo, powder, soap and wipes.
Baby stores like Answers for Children at Tropical Plaza have facilities in place to accommodate a mother who is preparing for her baby on a budget. Beckford said there is an Expectant Mother's Package which offers a 20 per cent discount on selected items. There is also a Baby Registry in place and a 20 per cent discount is available through this as well.
If your family and friends will organise a baby shower in your honour, be honest and tell them the things you need.