Why You Shouldn’t Spend a Lot of Money to Be a Good Mom

Don't make caring for your baby costlier than it needs to be.

About a week after I found out I was pregnant, I started getting a steady flow of recommendations for the enormous mountain of stuff I was going to need to take care of the baby I wasn’t going to meet for another eight months. Cribs, co-sleepers, bassinets, changing tables, diapers (cloth, disposable, compostable, oh my), breastmilk pumps, bottles, pacifiers and something called a “boppy” — everyone had an opinion about the (expensive) stuff my husband and I absolutely needed to buy to raise our baby. And, I’ll be honest, we did buy a lot of it.

As we learn more about baby care through taking care of our daughter, now 3 1/2 months old, we’re learning that while some of the stuff we bought was a great investment, there are many cheap (and sometimes free) alternatives for common products parents need for babies. Here are some of my favorites.

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Coconut Oil to the Rescue

I’ve long been onboard the coconut oil train for cooking and moisturizing my skin post-shower, but a friend tipped me off for using it on the baby’s bottom between diaper changes to help stave off diaper rash. A 16-ounce jar costs $5.99 at Trader Joe’s and will last for months, making it much more cost-effective than diaper cream. Not only is coconut oil moisturizing, it also has mild antibacterial properties, so it’s especially great for this. I recommend keeping a jar on your changing table designated only for this purpose. I keep a second jar in the bathroom to use on my daughter’s skin post-bath. It makes for a natural body lotion and leaves her smelling like the cutest piña colada ever. Oh, and when she chewed up my nipples in the early days of our breastfeeding relationship, coconut oil was there to soothe and disinfect my poor girls.

DIY Wipes

In the hospital, it was recommended that we use extra-soft Viva brand paper towels and water instead of store-bought wipes for the first week or two. We got hooked on this simple, oh-so-gentle and cheap alternative to standard baby wipes.

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Old Sports Bra + Scissors = Pumping Bra

I love pumping breastmilk so my husband can help with feedings, but I don’t love holding the pump in place while it does its job. A good fix (much cheaper than a ready-made pumping bra): Cut holes in an old sports bra and insert your pump.

Not Breastfeeding? How I Save Money on Baby Formula (and You Can Too)

Hand-Me-Downs, ‘Buy Nothing’ Groups and Craigslist

More than any DIY baby product, by far the best way we’ve been saving money has been by getting gently used stuff from friends whose kids have outgrown it, our local Buy Nothing group and, when all else fails, Craigslist. Since most baby products aren’t needed for more than a year or two maximum, it’s almost always in excellent shape, and it’s been fun to pass things along to other families when we finish using what we got. Plus, it feels good to reduce our consumption of things this way.

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More on Secondhand Finds: 11 Items You Should Never Buy New

Before you’re in it, it’s easy to believe you need top-of-the-line, brand-new fancy things to care for your perfect angel. But, in my experience, babies are just as happy when they’re well taken care of, using these easy swaps for more expensive things. Remember, the less money you spend on things you don’t need, the more you can put toward having the eight million photos you take of them framed.

Read More: Being a Mom Cost Me Thousands — And I’d Do It All Over Again

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