My fam! I only had to edit three photos together in order to get a shot where everyone was at least sort of facing the camera…

In honor of Littlewoods turning ONE YEAR OLD this month, I’m enshrining my ideas on how to be frugal with infants. ALL of my ideas. Seriously, I don’t think I left anything out. You’re welcome and/or I’m sorry.

Waxing Nostalgic

With Littlewoods’ first birthday, I finally understand the feeling “bittersweet.” As my second, and final, baby transitions out of baby-ness, I’m nostalgic. I can’t say I’m sad because I don’t love the newborn phase. Neither does Mr. Frugalwoods. Those newborn months were our toughest experiences of parenting. To date, that is. I reserve the right to revise this statement when our kids turn 13. So no, I don’t miss when my infants screamed for milk every two hours around the clock and no, I don’t miss my painful recoveries from childbirth (c-section the first time, VBAC the second), and no, I don’t miss pumping at 3am every day.

But I am nostalgic for their tininess. Their downy heads and miniature bodies. Like real people’s bodies, but in such fine detail that I found it difficult to comprehend that their ears and eyes and noses functioned. Like miniature tea sets that brew and pour tea, I marveled that something so small was so functional. Of course I had ample time for such pondering as I watched Parks-n-Rec re-runs at 4am while holding fussy infant #1 and then, two years later, fussy infant #2.

I’ve simultaneously mourned and rejoiced as Littlewoods crosses each milestone. I felt a pang when she outgrew her swaddle. I misted over as I gave away her newborn clothes. But sadness isn’t the prevailing sentiment. Gratitude and contentment override. When my first daughter crossed those milestones, I was much more conflicted and confused. I knew I wanted another baby, but I couldn’t imagine putting in the work again. Now that our family is complete, I’m at ease giving away our bassinet, infant bathtub, and bumbo seat.

I will always harbor the cognitive dissonance inherent to being a parent. I will always want my children to be both with me and out in the world. I will always want them to curl in my lap for comfort while launching into their fully realized selves. I’m at peace with craving opposites. Though I don’t think I’ll ever crave a repeat of the first three months of either of my kids’ lives… some things I’m just grateful to have survived.

How To Be Frugal With Infants And Babies

Alright that’s enough nostalgic waxing. Let’s get down to why you’re here today: to learn about how to be frugal with infants!!! And babies! I have no idea when one technically converts from one title to the next, so we’ll just say this is a summary of how to cope with the first year of a baby’s life. My husband and I have survived two such years with our two daughters and I’m encapsulating my thoughts before I forget them in the rush our increasingly toddler-focused household.

Back when we were a family of three

There’s no one right way to parent. I am not a parenting expert. I am not advocating that my style of parenting is “better” or “more correct” than another. I am an OK expert on frugal living and ways to save money, so I will try to focus there.

However, as everyone who has ever read anything I’ve written knows, I tend to stray. I like encompassing broader themes because my life is informed by more than trying to save money or trying to be thrifty. I don’t even ascribe frugality as my overarching worldview. My overarching worldview is (I think): simplicity in all forms. I’m still working on this, but my family and I are guided by the principles of:

  • Focusing on what matters most to us–particularly as it relates to how we use our time and our money.
  • Eliminating stuff from our lives that doesn’t make us happy (be it actual stuff, or routines, habits, behaviors, mindsets, expenses, etc)
  • Creating efficiencies in everything we do, which helps support goals #1 and #2

I say this to help you understand that this is not a guide on “how to be the cheapest parent ever.” Mr. FW and I are pretty darn cheap parents, but you’ll see that we do spend money in some areas–particularly those that we value most or that we feel will deliver the highest return on our investment.

You might find that you don’t want to buy any of the stuff I have. Or you might want to buy ten times the stuff I have. Either way is fine. What I hope is that this guide offers a novel framework for thinking about how to provide for a baby. I encourage having an open mind to the ways in which you can simplify in order to achieve a better balance in your life.

Since I’m not a parenting expert, I devour parenting books. I’ve read so many it’s embarrassing. When I’m unsure about something (like parenting), I research. So while I’m no expert myself, a lot of what my husband and I do is informed by my extensive reading of the “experts.” My book recommendations are listed at the end.

How I Had Two Frugal Pregnancies

If your journey to parenthood starts with you (or your partner) being pregnant, then get excited, because I’ve covered frugal pregnancy tactics in the following posts:

Check those out and let me know if you have any questions!

Preparing for Baby: Do Everything Ahead Of Time

Me & Frugal Hound doing yoga when I was 38 weeks pregnant with our first

As soon as you know a baby will be joining your family (or sooner, if you wish), start preparing. I know that nine months seems like a long time and it kind of is and kind of isn’t. When you’re expecting your first kid, know that you will never have as much time, energy, and kid-free advantages as you do now. At least until they’re 18.

Don’t do what I did and think, “oh I’ll be able to accomplish writing this book/organizing this house/moving to Vermont AFTER the baby is born.” No, no you won’t. Woe betides ye who goes into the delivery room with a to do list waiting at home. Unless you’re ok with not doing anything on that list for several years.

Being (marginally) wiser before having our second baby, as soon as I found out we were pregnant, I made a list of everything I wanted/needed to get done before her due date. I front-loaded the more physical tasks (such as organizing our entire basement) since I wasn’t sure how I’d feel as the pregnancy progressed. Then, when I was gigantically pregnant, I’d allotted myself a bunch of computer work to do, mostly around the publication of my first book.

This system worked well for me and I could settle into the task at hand with confidence that it would all get done before she was born. I experienced bursts of energy and nesting instincts with both pregnancies, so they turned out to be great times for me to get a lot done. If you feel sick or are bedridden your entire pregnancy? Don’t sweat it. That’s your road to take and you can–and should–delegate like a queen.

1) Make Food (for yourself!)

Pregnant with Littlewoods. Kidwoods explains ornaments to her baby sister.

By “do everything ahead of time” I really do mean everything. Clean your house. Organize your sock drawer. Zero out your email inbox. And…. make food!!!! Someone gave us the indispensable tip, before our first daughter was born, to cook a ton of meals and put them in the deep freeze for after baby arrived. This is the one piece of baby advice I feel confident in saying everyone should do. We took this advice so seriously, in fact, that we went out and bought a deep freeze.

After the baby is born, having the time and energy to cook just wasn’t there for us. It was such a relief to have healthy meals already cooked and ready to defrost. Kind friends and neighbors also brought us meals after each child was born, but we used our deep freeze meals for at least the first two months. Mr. FW (who does all our cooking) liked this system so much that it’s now what he does every week! You can read all about how he cooks and freezes ahead of time here: The Dirty Secret Behind How We Cook At Home.

2) Get It All Used

Start early and start often with assembling your baby gear. My top line advice as it relates to the stuff of babies: get everything second-hand. There’s so much STUFF that kids use for such brief periods of time that it makes no economical sense to buy it new–even if you plan on using it for 10 subsequent children. We were fortunate to source almost every single infant/baby item used and then use them for both kids. I’ve since given away an entire children’s store worth of clothing and gear.

Babywoods enjoying her garage sale swing ‘neath the tree

Littlewoods cycled through all of the following well before her first birthday:

  • Infant bathtub
  • Baby swing
  • Baby bouncy seat
  • Baby rocking seat
  • Baby bumbo seat
  • Swaddles
  • Pacifiers
  • Bottles
  • The following sizes of baby clothing: Newborn, 0-3 months, and 3-6 months (she’s a peanut so she’s still wearing 9 month and 12 month sizes).
  • PLUS all of my maternity clothing (except for the pair of maternity yoga pants that I’m wearing right now and that you’ll have to pry from my cold body. Also the maternity jeans that I wore yesterday. I can’t help it. Once you go stretchy waistband, you don’t want to go back… ).
  • Exersaucer
  • Jump-a-roo
  • Infant wrap carriers (I had the Moby, which I found useful mostly for the early infant stages)
  • Play/activity mat
  • Bassinet

I’ve given away every single thing on this list and I received every single thing on this list used as a hand-me-down! Prior to Kidwoods’ birth, I spent $10 at a garage sale for the infant swing (pictured above) and another $10 at a garage sale for several trash bags full of infant clothing. Other than that? Everything was free to me and I passed it along free to other people. Yep, even the pacifiers and bottles. Just pop those puppies into the dishwasher (in a dishwasher basket or bag) and they’re good to go.

Just how did I find so much free, used baby stuff? I’m glad you asked. Here’s my entire rundown on how to outfit your entire life with used stuff: How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting.

A reader (Leigh) just reminded me of great advice: “1) When you find a used piece of baby equipment Google it (brand and model) to check for any recalls or safety concerns. You may want to pass if you find a recall, or there may be an easy fix so you can still use it safely.”

YES!!! We’ve done this with all of our hand-me-downs and, so far, the only thing that had a recall was our highchair. We contacted the manufacturer (Graco) and they mailed us the parts to fix it for free. Hooray!

The brief version is thus:

Littlewoods’ almost 100% hand-me-down nursery

Start looking for used baby things EARLY in the process (I started before I was even pregnant) because it takes time to assemble a fully used nursery. It’s not going to happen in a week, or probably even a month.

Let friends/family/colleagues/neighbors know that you’re in the market for any baby stuff they’d like to offload. They will ask you to please back a truck up to their house and cart off their used baby stuff. Having been on both sides of this equation, I cannot tell you how THRILLED I was to get rid of all the things on that list. I like a minimal, simplified home and so getting this baby crap precious stuff out of our house was divine.

Hat tip to the Frugalwoods reader who emailed me a few months back after I jokingly said that I needed someone to come take away all of my (used) maternity clothes. This fabulously frugal fellow Vermonter came to my house and she carted it away! Along with a bunch of baby paraphernalia. She and her husband were happy, I was happy, and the frugal cycle of reusing continued on.

In addition to the remarkable cost savings of second-hand items, they’re profoundly better for the environment. By not buying new, you’re avoiding the embodied costs of new (packaging, shipping, production, etc), you’re keeping something out of a landfill, and then if you pass it along to someone else, you’re skirting the landfill once again!

Littlewoods + a (used) maraca = true love. Plus a used play mat in the background.

Don’t start telling me that you think it’s gross to use used baby things. I’ll tell you what’s gross: babies. I’d never experienced such a deluge of, uh, fluids prior to my first kid’s birth. The sheer amount of things that got dirty in our house was (and remains) astonishing. For this reason, all baby stuff is washable. The covers are removable and machine washable, and the plastic can be wiped down with the disinfectant of your choice (I use white vinegar mixed with water as it’s cheap and non-toxic). Folks, I’ve machine-washed everything from carseat covers to changing table pads.

If you still think it’s gross (or if you’re just in the mood for a laugh), read this: The Myth Of The Gross Used Things

Bottom line: Start scoping out thrift stores, Craigslist, garage sales, the side of the road, and–the Holy Grails–your local Buy Nothing group as well as your local parent listserves/Facebook groups. I found AMPLE free baby things when we lived in ultra-urban Cambridge, MA and I’ve found AMPLE free baby things while living in ultra-rural Vermont. I guarantee there’s free baby stuff lurking in a zip code near you.

More tips here: Fighting Back Against The Baby Industrial Complex.

3) What You’ll Need To Buy New

Littlewoods, “How did I end up on my tummy?! Again??!!”

I know that many of you, oh readers of the Frugalwoods internet, fully embrace (and have executed on) sourcing all your baby goods used. But–many of you have asked me–my parents/siblings/in-laws/co-workers would like to buy us something for the baby. What should we tell them we need?

Mr. FW and I decided not to have a baby shower for either of our kids because we didn’t want to ask friends and family to buy things new when we felt we could find just about everything we needed used.

However, our kind parents offered to buy some things for the babies, so my husband and I came up with the following list of things that we weren’t able to find used:

  • NoseFrida infant snot sucker (this is an affiliate link, as are a number of other links in this post). I told you babies are gross. Get used to it now. This clever device lets you insert a small tube into your congested infant’s nose and then–yep–suck the snot out using your mouth. There’s a filter to prevent their snot from entering your mouth, but don’t worry, you’ll get that experience when they sneeze in your face. This is why you should call your mom every once in awhile.
  • Couldn’t resist this old photo taken in the NICU with a days-old Babywoods!

    Infant nail clippers. I’ve been using this pair on both of our kids since day one and I love them. They still work great on Kidwoods’ three-year-old nails and they’re perfect for tiny babies. I am of the opinion that children shouldn’t be born with nails. Nails should grow in like teeth–over time and when they’re needed. Alas, my opinion has not been regarded. So we are stuck with tiny, thrashing tiger cub claws that scratch up their own faces as well as any exposed skin you dare have. Infant claw marks on my chest rank in my top three most painful experiences (to date).

  • Thermometer. We initially had a rectal thermometer and recently bought this ear thermometer, which I find preferable to the rectal method for reasons I hope are obvious to you. Another advantage of the ear thermometer is that I can use it on both kids without contamination concerns.
  • Infant medications: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and vitamin D drops. Breastfed infants require vitamin D drops and I like to have the acetaminophen and ibuprofen on hand just in case. Check with your pediatrician about dosages.
  • Consumables: diapers, wipes, baby wash, baby lotion, diaper rash cream. See my recommendations in the section below.
  • Handprint and footprint keepsake frame: this was my one non-necessity that I reallllllly wanted. I wanted little footprints and handprints framed in a cute frame with a photo of each of my children and now I have them and yes, I love them. With our first, we couldn’t figure out how to get her infant hand to flatten out to make a handprint. So…. she has two footprints in her frame. By the time our second was born, we’d mastered the art of stretching out a newborn hand in order to make a handprint. A life skill.

The Frugal Route For All Things Consumable!

1) Diapers


For diapers, you have two main options: cloth or disposable. I wrote about our decision to use disposables several years ago in: Every Once In Awhile, We’re Less Frugal. Hence, my wisdom (hah!) today stems from our experience with disposables. If you’re interested in cloth diapering, I have a fabulous guest post on the topic: The Ultimate Guide To Frugal Diapering.

The cheapest diapers I’ve found are (in order of cheap-ness):

  1. Walmart generic (the brand is Parent’s Choice): $0.11 per diaper
  2. BJ’s generic (the brand is Berkley Jensen): $0.14 per diaper
  3. Costco generic (the brand is Kirkland): $0.17 per diaper

Let me dispel the myth right now that the Amazon brand Subscribe & Save diapers are the cheapest. They are not. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about this. It’s a dirty myth, folks. Also, I clearly have amazing conversations. Allow me to illustrate:

  • Walmart’s generic Parent’s Choice size 2 diapers are $17.57 for a package of 160. This works out to $0.11 per diaper. Winner!
  • Amazon’s generic Mama Bear size 2 diapers are $34.75 (WITH the Subscribe & Save discount) for a package of 184. This equals $0.19 per diaper.

This price difference (of $0.08) probably doesn’t sound like very much money. However, remember that it’s $0.08 per diaper. It’s kind of like throwing away a dime every time you change your baby’s diaper. Per package of diapers, that’s $12.83 (assuming a pack of 160 diapers)! Assuming you buy about a package of diapers a month, that’s $153.96 per year. Assuming your kid is in diapers for 2.5 years (that’s when my oldest was potty trained), that’s $384.90. So, while $0.08 might not seem significant, it’s one of those sneaky expenses that’ll add up over the years. Compound that by any and all subsequent children. Plus, you can now order from Walmart online and usually qualify for free shipping. We currently use the Walmart brand for Littlewoods because there’s a Walmart near our grocery store and it’s convenient for Mr. FW to pop over there.

Just two gals chillin’ on a dog bed (sob. Makes me miss Frugal Hound!)

When we lived near a Costco, we used the Costco generic diapers, which at the time, were the same price as the Walmart brand diapers. I just checked the Costco website and their size 2 Kirkland diapers are listed at $29.99 for a package of 174, which equals $0.17 per diaper, making them quite a bit more expensive than the Walmart diapers. I’m not sure if that’s the in-store price or just the online price, so if you have a Costco membership, check it out in store and let me know if they’re actually cheaper–I’ll update the post with your reports!

I tried the BJ’s brand diapers (since we have a BJ’s membership) and I didn’t like them. However, my friend who has a boy loves them, so it’s possible it’s a boy/girl mismatch. Per their website, a 112 pack of size 2 Berkley Jensen generic diapers is $15.99, which works out to a cool $0.14 per diaper.

For the sake of science (and if I’m honest, for the sake of you all), I did the dirty work of testing several name brand diapers to see if there’s a performance difference. So far, I’ve tried Luvs, Pampers, and Huggies and I am here to tell you that they are NO DIFFERENT than the Walmart and Costco generic brands. They’re not better, they’re not less leak-prone, they’re not softer, they’re not cuter.  Save yourself the dough and avail yourself of my diaper research. You’re welcome.

How to price compare diapers:

Playing Canasta with Babywoods

Don’t laugh you guys, Mr. FW and I learned this the hard way. When I was pregnant with our first, I didn’t realize that diapers increase in price as they increase in size. Diapers start at size newborn and go up from there. For example, Walmart’s Parent’s Choice size 1 diapers are $0.09 per diaper while the Walmart Parent’s Choice size 7 diapers are $0.23 per diaper. Makes sense since size 7 diapers are bigger than size 1 diapers.

If you perform diaper comparison research: first of all, share your results with me and I’ll update this post if you uncover new information. Second of all, make sure you’re comparing size 1 to size 1. Also, ensure you’re calculating the price per diaper since, as we’ve seen from this exercise, not all diaper packs contain the same number of diapers.

What about overnight diapers? Do I need those?

In my experience, you do not. See below for additional and differing thoughts from Frugalwoods readers. Overnight diapers are thicker and thus, more expensive. For this reason, what I do is size the nighttime diaper up one size when and ONLY when baby leaks through the diaper during the night.

For example, Littlewoods currently wears size 2 diapers and, last week, she woke up with a damp crib sheet and had leaked through her size 2 overnight. Thus, I now have her in size 3 diapers for nighttime. But only for nighttime. Why? As you’ll recall, diapers increase in price as they increase in size. Thus, there’s no reason to prematurely size up. So, I’ll keep Littlewoods in size 2’s during the day and size 3’s at night until she outgrows size 2’s. Then, I’ll have her in size 3’s for day and night until she soaks through a size 3 at night. Then, she’ll be in size 3 for daytime and size 4 at night.

What’s with the newborn diaper size? Do I need those?

Possibly. Both of my children were epic peanuts (Littlewoods is still in the mere fifth percentile for weight!) and so they wore newborn size diapers for a number of weeks. Some babies never wear newborns and are able to pop right into size 1’s. This is a fact you won’t know until your babe is born.

Babywoods looking hardcore in some (hand-me-down) baby jeans

The issue with newborn diapers is that they are ridiculously expensive. Why is this? I have no idea because they are the TINIEST diapers you’ve ever seen. They look like they belong on a miniature hamster. For whatever reason, none of the top three cheapest brands (Walmart, Costco, or BJ’s) offer newborn diapers. And so, we were stuck paying more for these tiniest of tiny diapers. I saved an (unused) newborn diaper just because it’s so small–it’s currently doing a great job as a doll diaper. At any rate, Amazon’s Mama Bear brand has newborns for $0.25 a diaper. Gag!!!!

Prior to my babies’ births, I bought one small pack of newborn diapers and a large pack of size 1 Walmart diapers. Then, I moved the babies into size 1 as soon as was reasonable since they were so much cheaper. As long as the size 1 isn’t gaping on them, it’ll work. Then, for the rest of their diapering lives, the sizing advice is the opposite: keep them in the smallest size possible for as long as possible. There’s no need to constantly size up diapers. As long as you’re not experiencing leaks or blow-outs alllllll the time, then the diaper fits just fine.

Advice from Readers about Diapers:

Ros shared, “SLIGHT disagreement about overnight diapers: they’re not useful for baby GIRLS. They’re very useful for baby BOYS. Baby girls, given the placement of the urethra, pee in the middle of the diaper, right between their legs. The diaper, overnight, fills up (front and back), and eventually MAY overflow, and at that point a larger size of diaper provides more absorbency. A baby boy, given the placement of the urethra, pees in the front of the diaper. The liquid fills the front (down to about where a baby girl would start peeing) and then (especially if your baby/toddler is a stomach sleeper) leaks at the belly, and you wind up with a toddler who is wet from armpits to knees. Every night. Even with a 1-size-up diaper. Which is when you fork out the $ to get 5-6 nights a week with no leaks via overnight diapers. So: not useful for most, but VERY useful for stomach-sleeping boys.”

A. wrote, “Aldi has very affordable diapers if you have one near you, comparable to the Walmart prices quoted off the top of my head.”

Kiryn shared, “A friend with two kids told us to get Target’s Up & Up brand diapers, and they were totally right. Depending on the size, they can be as low as $0.12 cents per diaper, AND THEN Target regularly has “buy $100 worth of baby supplies, get a $25 gift card” sales, so we’d stock up on four or five bulk boxes of diapers (some in a variety of bigger sizes we weren’t using yet to avoid risking she’d outgrow them with a sudden growth spurt), and save the gift card for the next time we needed to restock.”

Amber said, “I found the Walmart diapers didn’t work for us so Kirkland diapers all the way.”

Emma wrote, “About diapers— not quite as cheap as Walmart but if one does not have a convenient Walmart nearby then Luvs on Amazon are close. I did a size 2 price check for comparison sake since that’s what you priced out in the post and it’s $28.49 for a box of 228, so a cool $0.12/diaper with subscribe and save, or $29.99 ($0.13/diaper) without. Love the Luvs!”

Jlvra said, “Regarding overnight diapers, my boys have all soaked through disposable overnight diapers as well. I used cloth diaper inserts to absorb the extra pee. They are cheaper than buying the disposable inserts and not as much work as full on cloth diapering!”

Kate shared, “I wanted to add on the overnight diaper bit that popping a cloth diaper cover over a normal disposable prevents leaks really well.”

Jamie wrote, “For us, the Amazon brand diapers work out overall best. The cheaper diapers were less expensive per diaper, but for our kid ended up being less absorbent or did not fit right. Our kid also hated being in soiled diapers, so we ended up plowing through the cheaper diapers faster than the Amazon brand. We also found the overnight diapers were worth the extra cost. Although I do not always find deals this way, I always check Amazon’s “Open Box” options for diapers when needing to order. From time to time I can find a giant box of diapers in brands that fit my kid best for $0.10 or less per diaper.”

2) Wipes

You will be thrilled to hear that I don’t have anywhere near as much to say about wipes. There are, again, two main options: reusable and disposable. For reusable, you can create (or buy) cloth wipes and put them into a wipes dispenser along with a wipe liquid to keep them moist. For disposable, the cheapest options track with the cheapest diaper options (Walmart, Costco, or BJ’s).

3) Baby Lotion, Wash, Laundry Detergent, and Diaper Rash Cream

Me and Babywoods: get all dressed up and… wail!

Go generic all the way, baby! This, again, tracks with the diaper advice. My favorite are the Walmart generic versions. We currently use:

  • Walmart’s Equate brand baby wash (knock off of Johnson & Johnson)
  • Walmart’s Equate brand lotion (knock off of Cetaphil’s gentle lotion–it’s unscented and for sensitive skin. I prefer it over actual baby lotion.)
  • Walmart’s Equate brand diaper rash cream (knock off of Desitin)
  • Walmart’s Equate brand vaseline (to put on top of the diaper rash cream in the event of a severe diaper rash. The vaseline serves as a moisture barrier).
  • Walmart’s Equate brand of hair de-tangler (knock off of Johnson & Johnson. I use this on the toddler, but figured I’d mention it in case you have a baby with a lot of hair :)!)

I find these generic Walmart products identical to the brand name products and they’re much less expensive than the bulk offerings at Costco and BJ’s. The only item I don’t get at Walmart is laundry detergent: we get the generic free and clear (of dyes and perfumes) from BJ’s (Costco sells a similar generic product). Since kids don’t do well with scented, dyed laundry detergent, there are expensive, specialty “baby” detergents on the market, but they seem to be the same as the general free and clear detergents.

Breastfeeding or Formula: Food for Babies!

Specifically, for little bitty babies. I already have a post dedicated to how I made my own baby food purees for dirt cheap, which you can read here: How I Make My Own Baby Food and Other Frugal Parenting Tales.

Today let’s talk about what newborns eat: either breastmilk or formula. I breastfed both of my babies so I don’t have any insight to offer about formula. However, you’re in luck because fabulous Frugalwoods readers have shared their formula advice in a section below that I’ll continue to update as the tips roll in. Thank you so much, readers!!

I’ll write about breastfeeding since that’s been my experience. Please note that this is in no way a promotion of breastfeeding above formula feeding, this just happens to be what I do, so it’s the only thing I can speak to.

Enlist Your Partner’s Help

Me with Babywoods in the NICU

While the mama does the hard work of nursing, the non-nursing partner can do a lot to support the nursing mama.  This is where Mr. Frugalwoods came in. He listened to the lactation consultant’s advice and helped Kidwoods establish a good latch. He did massage and compressions to encourage milk flow in the early days.

He arranged and re-arranged pillows. He brought me endless glasses of water and juice and snacks. Since Kidwoods was born via c-section, I was immensely uncomfortable with anything resting on my incision, so he found ways to prop the baby up on my chest so that her weight wasn’t on my abdomen.

Meet With A Lactation Consultant

My children were born at two different hospitals (Kidwoods at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA and Littlewoods at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, NH) and both offered free visits with lactation consultants. Since Kidwoods was in the NICU for a week, I was able to visit with lactation consultants often during that first week, which helped me establish good nursing habits. With Littlewoods, I met with the lactation consultant immediately after her birth and then went back about a month later for an appointment.

Even though I’d breastfed my first child for 16 months, I still needed a refresher and guidance with my second. Every child nurses slightly differently and setting up a good latch at the beginning is crucial. So don’t be afraid to seek out assistance! I didn’t find breastfeeding to be “second nature” or “easy” at the beginning. Sure, it is now, but that’s after a combined 28 months of nursing my two children!! Don’t worry if it doesn’t come easily to you–it doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed! And if time goes on and you meet with lactation consultants and it’s still not working and you are miserable? Allow yourself the grace to go buy some formula. The most important thing is that you are a happy, relaxed parent and that your child is fed. Making yourself miserable is not the goal here!

Set Yourself Up For Comfort

Mr. FW and Babywoods in the NICU

Especially when I was first breastfeeding my first child, I needed to be super comfortable while nursing her. Fast forward to the present and I can nurse Littlewoods while sitting on the floor while reading a book to Kidwoods. But that is not how I started out. I needed multiple pillows, assistance, and encouragement. I found the My Brest Friend pillow enormously useful and it’s one of my very favorite baby items. My sister handed hers down to me and I will soon be passing it along to someone else.

For my first, I didn’t have a comfortable nursing chair, which I regretted. So, I bought a glider with ottoman (used for $50) before Littlewoods was born and I love that thing. Initially, I had it in the living room so that I could nurse in comfort there. Now, it’s in Littlewoods’ bedroom as that’s where I nurse her. Since the glider has ample cushioning, I don’t use the My Brest Friend with it–I just stuff a throw pillow under the baby.

My first baby liked to fall asleep after nursing, so I’d prop her on the My Brest Friend and wedge it in between me and the kitchen table. Then, while she snoozed, I could work on my computer. Perfect!

All this to say: experiment with different pillows and configurations until you find a system that’s comfortable for you.

I also got to the point where I could nurse a baby while she rode in the front carrier (I have an Ergo), which is super useful. Using this system, I’ve nursed while hiking, while walking through Home Depot, while chasing a toddler around the house… you get the idea. A note on nursing clothes: I prefer nursing tank tops (to nursing bras) because they allow me to expose only a very small amount of skin in order to nurse. In our cold climate, I find this much more comfortable!

Advice from Readers about Formula:

Katie wrote,  “If you know someone who works at a pediatrician’s office, ask them about the formula samples. We have a friend who graciously gives us cases of the sample tins. Moms of multiples: I am a triplet, and the social worker at the hospital hooked my parents up with free formula for a full year for all 3 of us.”

Kat shared, “After 4 babies… I can say with great confidence that Costco’s generic formula (Kirkland) is excellent. Now, I didn’t have any special dietary needs with any of mine, so the the regular, iron-supplemented with dHA was fine for us.”

Kiryn reported, “I’m seconding Costco formula. I wasn’t able (or willing, due to a variety of personal reasons) to breastfeed, and we discovered that Costco-brand formula is the same exact stuff as Similac (we’re 90% sure they’re made in the same factory; they even use the same container) except half the price. We saved so much money just on formula that first year that it more than paid for our membership.”

Amber recommends, “Costco formula! It’s wonderful and saved us so much money.”

Kim wrote, “We used Up and Up formula and took advantage of that Target deal where you spend $100 and get a $20. We easily spent $100 a month on formula and saved those $20 gift cards to buy a convertible car seat! With that said, a co-worker gave me an excellent idea that I’ll take advantage of for next baby. I never had a full supply and had to supplement with formula. She said she would pump and use the milk at home and then baby would use the free formula provided by daycare. She never had a full supply but never had to pay for formula.”

The Baby Gear I Found Indispensable

Babywoods rocking the baby seat I found in the trash (don’t panic, I washed it first)

I wrote up this post (The Gear You Actually Need For Your Baby (Or The Next Baby Shower You Attend)) about baby gear when Kidwoods was still Babywoods and, in reviewing it after having a second kid, I’d say it holds up pretty well.  The major addenda I have relate to getting out and about with baby (because we moved from urban to rural and had a second) as well as a few new thoughts on sleeping.

I was recently interviewed about frugal parenting on the Frugal Friends podcast–because one of the hosts is pregnant with her first!–and the other host asked me an interesting question. She wanted to know if I thought it would be possible to only buy a carseat and a few outfits before a baby arrived. I suppose it would be, but it’s not an approach I recommend because you’re likely to find yourself in need of any number of things and resorting to late night manic clicking on Amazon (or maybe that’s just me… ).

In my opinion, it’s a lot easier to source a bunch of gear used ahead of time and then figure out what you need as time goes on. Since I knew I would give it all away when done with it, I never worried about having a bunch-o-baby stuff in our house. Much easier to have and not need!

It takes time to assemble a fully second-hand stash and I wouldn’t want to attempt it after baby is born. Plus, I found that despite all my research and pre-conceived notions about babies, I didn’t know what I would use the most until after my first was born. There were hand-me-downs that (pre-baby), I figured we’d use EVERY DAY and other things that I couldn’t imagine using. As you might’ve guessed, I was super wrong in my predictions in several instances.

1) Getting Out and About: carrier/wrap, carseat and base, stroller, travel highchair, diaper bag:

Baby Carrier/Wrap


This is one of the most used item in our baby retinue. Babies love to be attached to other humans (particularly parent humans) and both of my kids spent a lot of time nestled against me in the carrier. I have a hand-me-down Ergo Baby carrier (which is probably 10 years old… at least?) and I love it because I can wear baby on the front or the back.

Plus, it has an infant insert, so I started wearing my babies on the front in their first week of life. I was also able to nurse while they were riding in the carrier, which is ideal. From airports to grocery stores to around the house to out on hikes, I use my carrier constantly. I never leave home without it.

Different people prefer different carriers and so, if you can, find your local babywearing group–they’ll often have a plethora of carriers you can try out to see which is most comfortable for you. I had several different hand-me-down carriers (a Moby wrap, a Baby Bjorn, and the Ergo) and so I was able to try them out and settled on using the Ergo exclusively.

Carseat and Base

Mandatory if you drive a car. Also, many hospitals will not let you leave unless you have an unexpired carseat to take baby home in. If you have more than one car, as we do, I highly recommend buying enough carseat bases to go in each car. You do not want to be shuffling bases around every time you change cars. Trust me.

Should I Find A Used Carseat?

My $5 thrift store for this jogging stroller

It depends. The danger with a used carseat is that it might’ve been in a crash and the damage to the seat isn’t visible. For this reason, I took a hand-me-down carseat from a friend who I trusted when she said the seat hadn’t been in a crash. This carseat was unexpired when Kidwoods was born and it saw her through her infancy. It didn’t cross my mind to check the expiration date for Littlewoods and so, when we were all set to be discharged from the hospital after her birth, the nurse came to perform the carseat inspection and told us it was expired and that we weren’t allowed to leave the hospital until we had an unexpired carseat to take the baby home in. Whoops.

Mr. Frugalwoods drove over to Walmart and, thankfully, they had an infant carseat (plus base) in stock and–wouldn’t you know it–on clearance. He bought it, drove back to the hospital, we passed the carseat inspection, and were on our way. Learn from my mistake and check the expiration date so that you don’t have to buy a last minute new carseat!


Whether and what kind of stroller you get depends on where you live, how you commute, and what your routines are like. If you’re in a city and often boarding buses or subway trains, your needs will be very different from someone living in the suburbs. When we lived in the city, the best thing I owned was my snap-n-go stroller. This was a simple stroller frame that the infant bucket seat clicked into. It allowed me to easily get Kidwoods around town without needing to take her out of her carseat. After we moved to the country, I rarely used it since the wheels weren’t sufficient for rolling over rough terrain.

Now, I use two strollers for two different environments:

  • Littlewoods in the Ergo as a teeny tiny

    Jogging stroller for hiking in our woods. I got a single jogging stroller for $5 at a thrift store when I had a single child. Then, as soon as I found out I was pregnant with #2, I began hunting for a used double jogger. I found one for $60 through my local parents’ buy/sell/trade group on Facebook. Our jogging strollers have GIANT wheels, which work fabulously well for traversing our woods trails. However, they’re so enormous that they’re not suitable for strolling around the city/an airport/the county fair. And so we also have a…

  • Small umbrella stroller for errands. This stroller, purchased for $3 at a garage sale, lives in the trunk of our Prius and is ideal for errands, anywhere with a sidewalk, and airports. We also have a double umbrella stroller–sourced for free from the buy/sell/trade group on Facebook–which I envision using the next time we fly with both kids. We haven’t used the double yet since Kidwoods is happy to walk while Littlewoods rides.

Diaper Bag

Hiking backpack!

We use my college backpack and it works great! I like the two straps as they slip over the umbrella stroller handles. Plus, if I have a baby in the front carrier, it’s easy to have the backpack on my back at the same time. Cheap, functional, and comfortable are the keys here.

Travel Highchair

This one depends a lot on your lifestyle and what you envision doing with bebe. Since we often go to friends’ houses, the town center, and our church for potlucks, its been super handy to have a little travel highchair.

Ours is a plastic, fold-up seat that buckles onto a regular chair. It has a removable tray and I can fit the whole thing into a cloth tote bag.

This is one of those hand-me-downs that I couldn’t imagine using pre-baby… and now we’ve used it a hundred times.

2) Sleep: swaddles, sleepsuits, sleepsacks, noise machines, and blackout curtains.

Babywoods hanging out in her Miracle Swaddle with Frugal Hound

Swaddles: As I noted in my first post on the topic, I am a true believer in the Miracle Swaddle and it’s one of the very few things we bought new (gasp!). I think my parents were the ones to buy them for us and we are forever grateful. You can swaddle a baby in a regular blanket, but both of our kids were houdinis and would wiggle an arm out, smack themselves in the face, and wake up screaming. Not ideal. The Miracle Swaddle solved this issue and delivered superb sleep.

Merlin Sleepsuit: At around 3-4 months old, my babies outgrew their swaddles and we moved them into Merlin Sleepsuits. These things make your baby look like the Michelin Man, so there’s the advantage of hilarity. But they also keep baby warm and prevent them from thwacking themselves in the face while they sleep. I found them to be the PERFECT middle ground between swaddles and sleepsacks. I got mine for about $5 each from my parent listserve and they were sooooo worth it.

Sleepsack: Then, circa 11 months, my bebes were ready to transition into sleepsacks, which are essentially blankets with arm holes that zip up the front. It’s still not safe to give babies this age a loose blanket (strangulation hazard), so sleepsacks are ideal for keeping them warm and snug. I have this brand of sacks, which I received as hand-me-downs. Kidwoods slept in a sleep sack until I’m thinking close to age two when it was finally safe to snuggle her in bed with a blanket.


Noise machine: We’re a noise machine family and we’ve found it helps everyone sleep through the night when other family members (ahem, Littlewoods) see fit to wake up. I’m such a fan of this noise machine that we own three: one in Kidwoods’ room, one in Littlewoods’ room, and one in the master bedroom. We bought these babies new and have never regretted them. For infants, a noise machine mimics the whooshing noise they were accustomed to in the womb and so it provides a reassuring sound.

Blackout curtains: you may recall how smart I thought I was with my paper bags-over-the-windows-as-blackout-curtains hack? Well, let me tell you, I was not smart. Not smart at all. As I shared awhile back, I discovered that with the wooden window frames we have in our Vermont house, the paper bags over the windows equaled mold! GAH!!!! To fix this situation, we bought these blackout curtains, which work just fine.

Baby monitors: we never used our baby monitors all that much. Maybe our kids are really loud, but we found we could always hear them loud and clear. Through multiple closed doors. From any floor of the house…

How To Maintain Sanity With A Newborn

I found this the most elusive goal of all. Mr. FW and I are people who thrive on a routine, an orderly household, quiet time alone,  and…. at least eight hours of sleep a night. We quickly learned that none of these things are possible with a newborn. As time goes on, and as our kids sleep longer, we’ve achieved a better balance. But those first few weeks and months with our first child are sort of like a black hole when I think back on them. Exhaustion, stress, anxiety, and what I later learned was undiagnosed postpartum depression combined to make that a rough transition into parenthood.

Nursing Littlewoods while Kidwoods enjoys a snuggle

With our second baby, Mr. FW and I were determined to try and make the early months less, well, horrible. The biggest challenge for us with our first was the sleeplessness. We had the baby in a bassinet in our bedroom with us and we’d both get up every time baby woke up–which was every 45 minutes to 2 hours–and so neither of us got a true night of sleep for… months. Not good. We devised a totally different scheme for Littlewoods and it worked MUCH better: we split the night between us.

We set up baby central–bassinet, changing station, bouncy seat, etc–in our living room. Then, I would go to bed alone, upstairs in our bedroom, at 8pm. Mr. FW would stay awake on baby duty until 3am at which point he’d come wake me up. I’d take over as baby minder and he’d sleep until about 10am. This meant we each got solid, contiguous batches of sleep, which meant we actually felt sane and lucid, which was a priority since we also had a toddler to chase around.

By having the “baby minder” downstairs in the living room, they had access to the TV, the kitchen, and a bathroom. Most importantly, they didn’t have to worry about a crying baby waking up the sleeping parent or Kidwoods (who was asleep upstairs in her room). This system saved our lives. Since Littlewoods was nursing, I would pump right before I went to bed at 8pm and as soon as I woke up at 3am. This produced enough milk for Mr. FW to give her bottles while I slept. We did this system until Littlewoods started sleeping for longer stretches at night and was ready to be moved into her own room. Then, we sleep trained her (using this book as our guide) at 12 weeks old. If you have a partner or family member who can split the night with you–even for only the first few days or weeks–do it! You need as much contiguous sleep as you can possibly squeeze in.

Littlewoods at 2 months old!

Speaking of family members: I must give a huge shout out to my incredible mother-in-law who spent an entire month at our house helping us after Littlewoods was born. A former nurse who used to work night shifts, she also split the night with us and, on several occasions, pulled a double shift so that Mr. FW and I could both sleep ALLL NIGHT LONG. That was transformational and we are forever in her debt.

If you are fortunate enough to have family members or friends who offer to come help you out around the birth (and you think they’re genuine in their offer): TAKE THEM UP ON IT. I’ve never been so grateful to have other people doing things for me. Ever. If you can, stagger your helpers to take full advantage of their amazing time. Even if your helpers are not baby people–that’s fine!–there’s so much other stuff to do: cook, clean, LAUNDRY, run errands… also known as everything you and your partner normally do to keep your house from being condemned. And if friends or neighbors offer to bring you meals, TAKE THEM UP ON IT. You will not regret it.

I didn’t think I was allowed to be depressed with these cute kids in my life

Keep an eye on signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety, which can affect any type of parent: adoptive parents, fathers, etc! I wish I’d understood that I was suffering from PPD earlier than I did. However, I’m grateful beyond belief that my PPD was diagnosed and that I’m now taking Zoloft to treat it. My experience as a parent (and as a person) is transformed. I’m better in every way and I still can’t believe I suffered for so long without getting help.

Postpartum depression (and any form of depression) is not a weakness. It doesn’t mean you love your children any less. It doesn’t mean you’re not capable, and smart, and amazing, it just means you have a medical condition that needs to be treated. It’s nothing more and it’s nothing less. Check out my post on the topic: How A Diagnosis Of Postpartum Depression Changed My Life.

I genuinely hate the advice I hear showered on new parents to “accept help” and “take time for yourself,” because both feel as elusive as a unicorn during the early infant stages. So please don’t read this section as a parroting of those unhelpful platitudes. Rather, it’s an encouragement to seek out some sort of system (whether on your own or with others) that’ll help you cope with the grueling early months. The other platitude I hated when I had a newborn was “it gets easier.” And that one, I’m sorry to say, really is true. They get bigger, they start sleeping more, and the fog you’re living in starts to lift.

These two hit it off from the start. Emphasis on the word “hit.”

A few things that helped me get through the first few months (other than help from others and SLEEP):

  • Packaged foods. Normally, Mr. FW and I stock our pantry with bulk, raw, healthy ingredients. That went out the window with newborns. I needed something to look forward to when he woke me up at 3am every morning. And that thing was cereal. Don’t laugh, but I’m a sugary cereal FIEND. For this reason, we don’t normally have it. But while 3am-ing it? CEREAL. Do and eat whatever you need in order to survive. You’ll get back to healthy food and exercise soon enough.
  • Going outside by myself. This was often for just a few minutes, but getting outside–alone–where it was quiet and crisp helped me regain a modicum of sanity.
  • Eventually, I began doing yoga and hiking again. But at the beginning I didn’t push myself or expect too much from myself. The goal, for me, was to survive. The thriving came later.
  • Funny TV. I’m not normally much of a TV watcher, but with that newborn at 3am? TV. I had a number of shows I love (easy comedies work best) that again, motivated me to get out of bed and care for my precious infant. Parks-n-Rec was my jam with Littlewoods and I rewatched almost the entire series before she was sleep trained.
  • A daily shower. No matter what, no matter who was in the bathroom with me (sometimes both kids), I showered every day. It made me feel like a real person and I needed it.

Parenting Books I’ve Read And Loved

Mr. FW + kids

When I’m in doubt, I research. Clearly I’ve been in a lot of doubt about my parenting because I’ve read a truly embarrassing number of parenting books. Here are the ones I recommend and that I hope might bring you some peace and assistance. The more you can read BEFORE baby arrives, the better. But fear not, I’ve read plenty of these post-birth too.

All in all, Mr. Frugalwoods and I find that employing a consistent, routine-oriented, firm but loving, structured but playful approach to parenting meshes well with our personalities and our two kids’ budding senses of self. That and having our home decorated in a theme best described as “preschool.”

My all-time favorites are the two Simplicity Parenting books. I finally bought both of these books because I go back and re-read them periodically. These form the basis of our parenting philosophy and helped me understand that frugality interwoven with parenting is awesome:

Read before baby arrives (if you can!):

  • Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. This is a super helpful, straightforward guide on how to care for a newborn baby. We both loved it! I checked this out from the library and felt like reading it once was enough.
  • Me + my little loves

    Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. My all-time favorite sleep book. This is the method we followed with both of our girls and it worked soooooooo well for our family. This is my most dog-eared baby book. I bought it used and have, so far, refused to give it up.

  • The Happiest Baby On The Block. Helpful in understanding what an infant needs to be soothed and content.
  • Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect. Ok the odd title on this one turned me off initially, but it was a book that my sister passed along to me and so I gave it a shot and I was HOOKED. This is the RIE parenting philosophy and, coupled with the Simplicity Parenting ethos, this is my jam. Mr. FW and I are not “all in” on any one parenting philosophy or another, but RIE is pretty darn close.

Read during baby’s first year:

Read when baby is a bit older:

Read when it’s time for bebe #2:

What should I read next? I’ve burned through all of these, and I’m ready for more! Let me know what you love! ESPECIALLY things focused on siblings…

Final Thoughts

In the hospital with Littlewoods

Having a child is more expensive than not having a child. But it doesn’t have to cost anywhere near the eye-watering estimates I see scrolling across click-bait articles intended to–I don’t know what–terrify/overwhelm/condescend to new parents. Baby-rearing can be done frugally, simply, and with thought. As with just about everything else in life, it’s possible to be measured, thrifty, and un-bonkers about buying for baby.

At the end of the day, what you’re choosing to do is allocate your resources wisely. Save your money for things that will, someday, really matter for your children. Save money now so that you can pay for piano lessons. Save money now so that you can help out with college costs. What type of stroller your child rides around in isn’t going to predict their future success. Save on the unimportant so you can spend on the important because that important day will come.

How do you stay frugal with your little ones?

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  1. What an all-encompassing resource! As someone in the midst of the two-under-two craziness, I think you very well may have covered everything.

    I heartily second your recommendation to obtain as many things used as possible, as it is certainly amazing at how quickly the littles outgrow clothes / equipment / accessories. One of several things we did to try to keep our cost-per-use as low as possible was purchase highly-rated all-in-one car seats which effectively grow with the kids and are good up to age 10 or 120 pounds, whichever comes first. This eliminated the need for us to buy separate infant, toddler, and booster seats as the kids grow.

    It’s amazing just how consuming caring for newborns and young toddlers can be! It’s almost comical just how luxurious our lives truly were before having children. Every once in awhile we take stock of our “new normal” — conversations regarding our children’s stool color and texture, sleep schedule, snack status, cloth diaper wash routine, etc. — and just shake our heads and laugh.

    Our youngest (1 month) is a bit stuffy, so we’ve been putting the invaluable snot-sucker to good use as of late, much to the shock and disgust of our siblings who have yet to become parents. I simply tell them that until they’ve had the pleasure of spraying out a cloth diaper filled with explosive diarrhea, they haven’t truly lived. 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday Littlewood 🙂
    and Mrs. Frugalwoods, you have never looked so good like in that first picture, all the best to you and your familiy.

  3. As a nurse who currently has to work some nights shifts, I use Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock, to help me get through some of those nights!

    When I had my first baby I was young and very poor and had all the clothes and gear given to me that I figured babies just were cheap. My second and third I had to scrounge around a bit more but found the same was still true, babies are as expensive as you want them to be.

  4. After 4 babies (now ages 11-2), I can absolutely agree with everything you’ve described. In my personal experience, my babes self-weaned around 10-14 months, so I ended up supplementing with formula. I can say with great confidence that Costco’s generic formula (Kirkland) is excellent. Now, I didn’t have any special dietary needs with any of mine, so the the regular, iron-supplemented with dHA was fine for us. I’ve known some families who spent a fortune on prescription formula because of digestive sensitivities or reflux. Maybe a frugal solution, though–one of my nephews had some early food sensitivities and my sister was able to give him goat’s milk. Not sure exactly if she had neighbors with goats… or if she bought it somewhere…? lol I think I’ve seen goat’s milk at Walmart near the powdered and canned milk. I actually don’t know if it’s any cheaper than specialty formula or not, but it seems more natural anyway. And probably not pumped full of soy products. 🙂

  5. Wish you had been around 31 years ago when my oldest was born! We did buy a lot of stuff used and a lot was given to us.
    I want to reiterate what you said about PPD. This isn’t just “the baby blues.” It’s a real illness that requires medical help.

  6. I live in a household with no children and I STILL find cooking ahead to be a great practice. At dinner time, pulling a portion of soup out of the freezer to feed my partner and me is cheaper, more nutritious and faster than fast food. When my freezer is well stocked my stress level decreases!

  7. Very interesting post! I don’t have any children as yet but would like to one day and I always think about how I am going to live a frugal lifestyle with children. This post shows that it is definitely possible with careful planning and both parents have to be on board!

  8. You also had the good sense to have a baby of the same sex who could wear all the same clothes. Silly me did the opposite.
    (Nearly all of our first child’s clothes are hand me downs, so many of them are super frilly, not things I’d necessarily buy, and not things I’d put on a boy. We do have a few “boy” hand me downs, to the point where I’d tell strangers a fake boy name when they told me how cute my son was… people get really upset when they misgender babies which is silly, they all look alike, and it wasn’t worth it for small talk. But our boy is going to have way less than our girl had!)

  9. As a side note: The ear thermometers have terrible accuracy for infants. Rectal temperatures are the only way to get an accurate temperature in infants under 1 year. Source: Pediatrics ER nurse; believe me the forehead (temporal), ear, and anything other than the rectal thermometer for babies <1 year have horrendous accuracy. The baby doesn't usually care much, either, just use a little lubricant.

    1. For me, using a forehead thermometer (one of the only things I bought new), was a nice “first check” to see if temps were going up. If so, then we got out the rectal thermometer to make sure we got an accurate read.

  10. I love all of your parenting posts. I wouldn’t describe myself as frugal at all, but I keep coming back here to read your parenting posts because they speak so much truth, especially as I am in a similar stage to you with an almost 3 year old and an almost 4 month old. (And the reader case studies – those are great too!) Just had to laugh when you said your almost 1-year old is in number 2 diapers – my baby is already in number 3s and he is not quite 4 months… I don’t know how I keep having such huge babies!

    Great tips all around – I would add that I am enjoying my second’s baby stage much much more this time around because in a lot of ways it is easier and I’m hoping that holds true for his toddler stage because dealing with my almost 3 year is really tough right now. Have you found it challenging to give your second enough attention when the first is a toddler and is exhausting (at least mine is)? I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when they’re both toddlers/preschoolers. I’ve been meaning to read those Simplicity books but with two kiddos and work, there’s just such little time.

    1. Oh my gosh, I hear you on the diaper sizes! Littlewoods is so tiny I keep forgetting how old she is! And yes, you are so right about it being easier the second time around: knowing what to expect is life changing! Three year olds are ROUGH. That’s all I know about that. HAH!

  11. +a million to the PPD awareness and milking (haaaah) the lactation consultant for all they are worth! Get all of the free lactation guidance you can, it is so valuable! I’d also add that Aldi has very affordable diapers if you have one near you, comparable to the WalMart prices quoted off the top of my head.

  12. What a great resource!

    SLIGHT disagreement about overnight diapers: they’re not useful for baby GIRLS. They’re very useful for baby BOYS. Baby girls, given the placement of the urethra, pee in the middle of the diaper, right between their legs. The diaper, overnight, fills up (front and back), and eventually MAY overflow, and at that point a larger size of diaper provides more absorbancy. A baby boy, given the placement of the urethra, pees in the front of the diaper. The liquid fills the front (down to about where a baby girl would start peeing) and then (especially if your baby/toddler is a stomach sleeper) leaks at the belly, and you wind up with a toddler who is wet from armpits to knees. Every night. Even with a 1-size-up diaper. Which is when you fork out the $ to get 5-6 nights a week with no leaks via overnight diapers. So: not useful for most, but VERY useful for stomach-sleeping boys.

    1. Yes! Especially when you factor in the extra bucks you have to spend on doing an extra load of laundry every time it happens, the cost suddenly becomes a bit of a wash 😉

  13. Wow thank you for putting together this exhaustive guide, Mrs. FW!

    I agree with all the things you mentioned that we need to buy new, especially Nose Frida. I love it so much! The weather turned a bit cold after our baby was born, so the Nose Frida really came to our rescue. It’s gentle on a baby’s nose and is SUPER effective. I actually used the same one I used for our first born. But I cleaned it thoroughly.

    I also got a bunch of hand-me-downs from friends and neighbors for our baby. We actually have enough clothes for her until she’s 2. And our neighbors told us we will keep getting a lot more clothes from them as their babies outgrow their clothes!

  14. We are in the final stages of preparing for our IUI baby (two mamas)! Hopefully this is the lucky cycle. I appreciate this huge and in-depth post so much. I’ll add that I loved the books _Strong as a Mother_ (kind of a mental-health and practical-life guide to mommyhood) and _Your Pregnancy, Your Way_ (instructs moms about different types of birth plans). I checked them out from the library, read them through and used some page flags I had on had to mark favorite passages, and then went back through and took pictures of the marked pages with my phone. I then uploaded the photos to separate folders on my Google Drive marked with the book’s names. That way I’ll be able to look back through them before go time.

  15. Baby monitors – we used ours when our daughter moved out of the bassinet/portacrib in our bedroom to her own room – upstairs. Most often you could have heard her anyway without it, but it was an early warning system, so you could get there, if needed, before she worked herself up into a full-throated, full-bodied snit. I never slept well when she was in our room, hearing every snore/snort/rollover.

    When we re-purposed this one (see below), we switched to cheap intercom units. I could wedge the talk button on the one in her room so even if there was a power flicker it would stay locked in that mode though a flicker would kick it out. When she was older, we used them like real intercoms, and sometimes you’d get a “my tummy hurts” or “I’ve got a bloody nose” in the middle of the night. Cheap and effective, and when she was older, she knew she didn’t have to scream to get our attention, just push the button and call us.

    However, our baby monitor was battery-powerable (AC option too) and we found the best use for it was – when child fell asleep in the car. We left the transmitter in the car always, and if she was conked out when we got home, and the temperature wasn’t an issue, we could leave her in her car seat in the car in the garage. Carrying the seat into the house nearly always woke her up, and we continued to do this when she was in a booster. You just turned on the transmitter, then went into the house and turned on the receiver. As soon as we heard any noise beyond just breathing we’d retrieve her. When she was in the booster seat stage, she understood, and would just call out for us, and she knew we’d be there in a snap.

  16. Formula suggestions:

    If you know someone who works at a pediatricians office, ask them about the formula samples. We have a friend who graciously gives us cases of the sample tins every time we get a chance to meet up.

    Moms of multiples- I am a triplet, and the social worker at the hospital hooked my parents up with free formula for a full year for all 3 of us. I guess the company did it out of a goodwill gesture (and my mom says we did switch formula companies about halfway through the first year, all still arranged by that social worker at the hospital).

    Long story short, don’t be afraid to ask about formula samples!!

  17. White noise generators – we never used one, but if you want one, and perhaps you’ve got an old out-of-use smart phone, there are a bunch of apps in the Android app store, and most likely in the Apple store as well. I wouldn’t want to do this with an in-use phone when at home, because it would always be in the wrong place when you need it, but it might be useful when traveling, and make one less thing to take along.

  18. OK- second comment, because I’ve thought about it longer.
    I’m surprised you went with an infant carseat and base, since those only last, at most 1 year per child. (Even if they haven’t technically outgrown it, it’s recommended not to keep them in that kind of seat.)
    For our kids we’ve gone straight to the convertible carseat route. We bought a carseat for each car, and those will be the ones we use until they are out of the seats entirely. (We chose not to get the ones that convert to boosters too- as the additional cost was actually more than a booster, and boosters are easy to find used.)

    I, however, have some neck problems, and the idea of carrying an infant carrier was awful anyway- I probably couldn’t do it past 3 months.
    I also am extraordinarily paranoid about infant loss, due to my own prenatal loss and having met Moms in support groups, that I firmly believe carseats are for cars and are not safe sleep environments- I know some people like the ease of letting the baby stay asleep in them if they fall asleep in the car.

    But, we definitely saved money by skipping the infant bucket and base altogether.

    (We also skipped buying any rock and play, swing, jump-a-roo, exersaucer, bumbo or any other “bucket” – in favor of a blanket on the floor- and returned the ones given to us new and used the gift cards for diapers. I’ve found Target Up & Up with a red card subscribe and save discount to be the lowest price, plus free delivery; but we use Parent’s Choice for wipes and cream.)

    1. Oh man, my kids NEVER stay asleep in their carseats :). Yeah, we didn’t go with a convertible carseat because we had hand-me-downs the first time and then needed to buy the carseat for Littlewoods on a Sunday afternoon while trying to also be discharged from the hospital (Mr. FW had to just buy whatever Walmart had on hand!). Not our greatest planning ahead moment ;).

  19. My first baby is 10 weeks old so I’m in the thick of the newborn haze right now. We are really struggling with sleep. You say you started sleep training at 12 weeks, but I thought the Ferber method recommended waiting longer than that, no? I’m going to get the book and read it. I am desperate for sleep and totally happy to start at 12 weeks if it might work and isn’t too soon.

    PS I am also on Zoloft. PPD is rough.

    1. Oh Kari! Hang in there!!!! IT WILL GET BETTER. Ferber recommends beginning sleep training at 12 weeks old, but we jumped the gun with both of our kids and started circa 10 weeks. They were already sleeping in their own cribs for long(er) stretches between feedings, so it was really a question of teaching them to fall asleep on their own. The book (Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems) totally changed our life. Chapter 4 is probably the most relevant to you right now, but when you have the time (HA HA) the whole book is excellent and helped me understand my own sleep needs so much better. If you don’t have the book, google his method and follow the instructions (it’s pretty straightforward). Good luck! You can do this!

      1. I got the book and read Chapter 4 (sleep associations) and the chapter on night nursing since I still typically nurse once or twice per night. I’m most nervous about giving up the pacifier! I think we’ll wait a few weeks until my husband has off to give the method a shot. Fingers crossed it helps.

  20. Loved this post! We are aiming for our first (and likely only) this year. My major concerns are funding fertility treatments if needed (I’m 2 months into a 6 month window for my age before potentially needing them) and child care since we both do not work from home currently. I’m trying to get a new job where I can work from home ASAP as is my partner.

    1. Good luck on your journey!! And, if you haven’t already, check into what your state mandates regarding fertility treatments. Some states require health insurance to cover fertility treatments, others do not. Same for your health insurance–give them a call and see what they’ll cover (if you haven’t already). I was pleasantly surprised at how much our insurance (and state of MA) would cover.

  21. Great info! This is how I raised my babies (now late teens): at least 95% pre-owned. Smile and gratefully accept anything that comes your way as hand-me-downs, then on the other side, pass it on. I found items at garage sales and thrift stores, spending a fraction of the retail price. When our second and last outgrew the baby stage, my husband’s co-worker came over and took us up in our offer and scooped it all up for their baby. I was thankful to pass it on!

  22. I have a 2.5 year old and an 8mo old and love getting their things used. Two tips I’d add:
    1) When you find a used piece of baby equipment Google it (brand and model) to check for any recalls or safety concerns. You may want to pass if you find a recall, or there may be an easy fix so you can still use it safely.
    2) Onesie extenders! These are genius. A strip of cloth with snaps on each end so you can fasten the baby’s onesie to it. These extend the life of the baby’s onesies so they can wear them longer as they grow, or make it fit better if your baby has a long torso, or fit over a bulky cloth diaper. I got them off of Amazon in set of three with different size snaps for different clothing brands and have used them on two kids now. It’s my go to baby gift now, too.

    1. Yes yes yes!!! Thank you so much for reminding me of #1–I totally forgot to include that. I’ve now updated the post with your excellent advice 🙂

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I’m 32 weeks pregnant today and feeling unprepared. Our baby shower is tomorrow, and we’ve requested hand-me-downs since we have tons of family and friends with older kids, so I am really looking forward to seeing what we get!

  24. Costco formula! It’s wonderful and saved us so much money. I found the Walmart diapers didn’t work for us so Kirkland diapers all the way. Excellent post.

  25. Just echoing your advice here, Mrs. FW! The second you tell other child-havers that you have a little one on the way and are looking for used baby things, it is a FLOOD of things. We got so many two year old size coats–10!–that we had to start giving them away before our first kid was even wearing size 2! Raincoats, windbreakers, a fancy pea coat, a snow suit, two puffy jackets…it was insane!

    The only item of clothing I buy new is shoes–penny wise but pound foolish to have a very young kid wear used shoes. I would hate to mess up my child’s feet from the beginning! I’ve made exceptions for a pair of nearly brand new sandals (I think they’d been worn twice–a friend’s kid received them as a gift at the very end of summer…and then it snowed.) and for gently used rain boots and snow boots.

    I’m always looking for tights and socks on sale, too. I’ve used some used ones for the baby stage–those aren’t worn out, but older kids are hard on socks! Most of the used ones I received have been turned into mini rags that my daughter loves to put on her hands for “dusting.” I’ve bought a supply of socks that should last for the next two years–a store was having a going out of business sale, so I found good quality, durable socks marked down to 75 percent off! They’ll always need the next size in socks, so no sizing problems there!

    The other thing that I bought brand-new, on purpose, was a mattress. Having a new, firm mattress for each newborn is an essential purchase for safe sleeping, but no need to break the bank. Once I knew the size of our (used) crib, I started looking for a sale and got a very nice one on sale for 40 euros.

    Baby food: I cannot say enough good things about making your own baby food–you can freeze it into tiny portions or big ones, depending on the eating habits of your kid so that you always have some on hand, and it’s just so easy after you do a couple of batches. For us, we already had a full-size, multi-tier electric steamer, which helps immensely (wedding gift) and used it so heavily during the first year that it broke (not just for baby food! Pop some frozen veggies in one tier, rice in another, frozen or fresh fish on another, and you have a meal in 30 mins flat)! We went out and bought another (100 euro) steamer. Still pretty much our main kitchen appliance to this day. You can get an expensive Babycook, or similar, but it only makes a tiny meal or two and there are so many parts to clean–yikes! I’m way too lazy to take apart something like that and hand wash it after every meal. Ours, everything goes in the dishwasher except the base. We just loaded it up with a bunch of roughly chopped raw squash, broccoli, peas, or whatever, cooked it for 10-20 mins, then either mashed or pureed using our immersion blender (though a blender works just as well). Everything into the dishwasher, and you have meals (some fresh, some frozen) for a week! If you always make a week’s worth of something different every week, then you have a library of choices ready to go in the freezer inside of a month, even if you only prep once/week. That said, don’t be afraid to buy a few prepared things here and there. You never know when you might be out and it gives you the flexibility to be out for a long time.

    1. Making baby food is so easy that I wonder why anyone spends money on tiny jars that have nothing in them but simple mashed bananas. I had two ice cube trays in my freezer that were full of single servings of pureed fruits and vegetables in many flavors. Just steamed on the stove with a dollar store steamer basket and pureed with a discount immersion blender.

      1. I’m even lazier.. we have baby led weaned four of our babies and have every intent to do the same for our fifth (currently three weeks old) we didn’t bother with baby food of any variety just selected foods from our own plates starting with soft smooshables and handed them directly to the baby when they were ready. We also are strange and choose not to feed them any food until later in their first year if not moving into their second. It’s all for practice at that stage anyways, the majority of their nutrition comes from breast milk (or formula)until they are over the age of one.

  26. I don’t know if I realized your first kiddo was in the NICU…ours too. Such an intense, hard experience. I was so grateful that we had been frugal and weren’t worrying about money because it is stressful enough without that added concern.

    Our NICU sent us home with bottles and a full box of newborn diapers so we never actually bought newborn diapers. We also mostly cloth diaper so even though our kiddo is small, that one package of newborn diapers did us for a long time. I didn’t actually even realize that they were so expensive!

  27. A friend with two kids told us to get Target’s Up & Up brand diapers, and they were totally right. Depending on the size, they can be as low as $0.12 cents per diaper, AND THEN Target regularly has “buy $100 worth of baby supplies, get a $25 gift card” sales, so we’d stock up on four or five bulk boxes of diapers (some in a variety of bigger sizes we weren’t using yet to avoid risking she’d outgrow them with a sudden growth spurt), and save the gift card for the next time we needed to restock.

    And I’m seconding Costco formula. I wasn’t able (or willing, due to a variety of personal reasons) to breastfeed, and we discovered that Costco-brand formula is the same exact stuff as Similac (we’re 90% sure they’re made in the same factory; they even use the same container) except half the price. We saved so much money just on formula that first year that it more than paid for our membership.

    1. I have 3 girls and used the Target’s Up and Up bought with “Baby bulk promo” (these days its a $15 gift card if you buy $75 of baby supplies) system. With the (free, debit) Red Card, you also save 5% and get free delivery. For us these have been the cheapest diapers to work well (no leaks), and I bought them for usually between $0.10 and $0.11cents a piece (on a diaper size 3 base).
      Good to know if go this way:
      – these promotions are going on every 2/3 months
      – don’t hesitate to stock up, if you over buy know that you can bring a full box back to the store and exchange it for one of the next size up.
      – when baby starts to sleep through the night, one size bigger diaper serves well as “overnight diaper”.

  28. I love all your parenting posts as I have a two year old wild one and another coming in July! I wanted to add on the overnight diaper bit that popping a cloth diaper cover over a normal disposable prevents leaks really well. (Were a cloth diapering family but use disposables when we travel and this has been bulletproof for over 12-13 hour sleeper.) Also, cloth diaper covers and prefolds are suuuper cheap to find used and can be reused through several babies! Great guest article on cloth diapering and I’d encourage anyone with a w/d setup in their house to give it a try – half the time you can find parents giving away stacks of prefolds (which then last forever as cleaning rags once babies are grown)!

    1. Just do yourself a favor and never ever use bleach on those diapers! The only prefolds we have had to replace ever are the ones we bleached trying to get out stains… oh if I had known! Who cares about stains! Their diapers! Five kids so far and the ones we bought six months into our first kiddo to replace the bleached ones, still in almost perfect condition!

  29. I have no plans to have children, but so many friends are pregnant or plan to get pregnant so I’ve shared your blog with them over the past year. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ve produced enough converts because they all still want to spend, spend, spend on their babies. I get it to an extent, but I think the choices you and your husband have made are wiser. Thank you for sharing such a comprehensive list! I’m going to keep sharing it and hope we gain some more converts to our move!

  30. Do the Walmart wipes and diapers qualify for the Ebates 1% cash back on “baby” items? I can never tell which department their merchandise is in.
    Regarding overnight diapers, my boys have all soaked through disposable overnight diapers as well. I used cloth diaper inserts to absorb the extra pee. They are cheaper than buying the disposable inserts and not as much work as full on cloth diapering!

    1. That’s a brilliant idea for overnight diapering–I’ve added your advice to the post! Thank you! I don’t know about the Ebates thing, but perhaps another reader can respond?

  31. Our kids now use our baby monitor as a fun Wilkie talkie!! They have had hours of fun talking to each other from different parts of the house. Similarly my daughter has repurposed a few new born items for her teddy bears as PJs.

    I was so delighted to pass on all their old things to a colleague. If you are having a baby do let people know you are on look out for baby stuff. People are really so happy to get rid of their kids old stuff and for it to be saved from landfill.

  32. To demonstrate just how little Littlewoods is, my soon to be 3 month old is already in size 3’s! We clothdiaper primarily but use one small pack of disposables to have for overnights and occasional outings.

    Love this article and I found so much to ring true!

    Our sleep solution was safe co-sleeping and with my partner and I both desperately needing our sleep it turned out to be the best solution. My baby wakes up 2-3 times a night to eat and then goes right back down (most nights). Learning how to do it safely was key here and I read a lot about it as well as consulted with my two very experienced midwives.

    I’m excited for some more books to read! Our favourite so far has been been happiest baby on the block and bringing up Bebe (more of an entertaining read than educational).

  33. Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough post. I was very surprised to not hear you talk about “elimination communication” (EC) or infant potty training though. I think it’s the ultimate in diaper frugality and the standard in most other parts of the world. The concept is simple: instead of teaching your child to go in diapers (and then the potty), you just teach them to use the potty! This can happen in many different forms and at many different ages. However, I’ll just speak to my experience with my little one 🙂

    My first will be two in April and we began practicing EC when he turned 3 months old after someone passed along this book:

    The Diaper-Free Baby: The Natural Toilet Training Alternative by Christine Gross-Loh

    We still used cloth and disposable diapers, however, we also had a little potty nearby the changing table we would sit him on while changing him (maybe this is a little boy thing, but he seemed to always pee as we were changing his diaper. Usually on us). As we continued this, plus putting him on the potty whenever we thought he had to go, we used less and less diapers (not to mention the time savings of changing diapers less frequently because they weren’t spoiled as often) and our diapering costs were minimal. We were pretty lazy about it, but he was still out of diapers by 17 months. If we had worked harder at it, I think he could have been even sooner! He still has accidents sometimes and we put him in a (Costco) diaper at night. On rare occasions when using the potty might be difficult, we resort to a diaper as well. Between our cloth diapering, diaper gifts from family members and disposables, we’ve EASILY spent less than $1000 dollars to diaper our baby from birth until present and he’s almost two!

    Fear not, I’m no super mom who completed a Herculean task and firmly believe any parent can do some version of EC to reduce diaper costs over the long run. I HIGHLY recommend reading the above mentioned book, or any book about EC and talking to your doctor about appropriate steps to take for your individual child and circumstance. Even using one less diaper every week or day will compound to reduced diapering costs! Plus, I love knowing when my kid needs to use the bathroom, so I don’t end up with any of it all over me 😉

    1. I tried EC with Kidwoods, on multiple occasions at multiple different ages/stages and she was just not into it. Then, at age 2.5, she potty-trained easily and quickly–she was ready! Thank you for bringing up EC as I know it’s a wonderful solution for a lot of families :)!

    2. thing is, the EC thing seems like quite a lot of work for not a vast amount of reward. Essentially, by doing it, your child is not-100% potty-trained by… 2. He still has accidents(totally to be expected, not a criticism in the slightest), he still uses a night nappy, again totally normal and to be expected. I see your costs might be lower, but how many accidents have you had to clean? I’ve taken 3 through babyhood, skipped potties, went straight for toilets with little inners to make them small enough for little butts, and they were fully toilet-trained by 2.5, night and day, with very few accidents and only then for a week or two during toilet-training. That doesn’t feel like a huge difference in hindsight. There seem to be a lot of caveats to the whole EC thing and it just felt an awful lot like extra work to me. I do know people who did it and they seemed pleased to have done so, but it never was something I could get into.

  34. I never thought about it much, but this made me realize that when my first was born, I was loaned a crib, bassinet, and cradle; given a walker, bedding, curtains, a matching lamp, a diaper stacker, and a pile of clothes from moms done with having babies. We didn’t have much money so it was sure nice to get them. I was also loaned a breast pump and bottles, toddler dishes, bibs, and three dozen diapers (we cloth diapered our kids.) When you can get stuff like that, it makes no sense to run out and buy it all new.
    Funny thing, that bedding, curtains and lamp all turned out to be in the same (then) popular pattern, so the bedroom was coordinated by chance. Oh, and the little dresser we used was the one my parents had used for us when my siblings and I were little. Then it was painted and passed through 3 of my nephews before I got it — and it was in the same color as the fabric items. The sentimental value was really what I treasured, though.

  35. I’ve found the book “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen,” for the 2 to 7-year-old age range, to be helpful. (It’s by the daughter of the person who wrote “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk,” a classic parenting book that focuses on older children.) The book focuses a lot on empathy and how young children need to learn how to put words to emotions because they feel emotions so viscerally. It provides a number of different practical approaches to teach young kids about their emotions and problem solve when conflict arises. There are lots of vignettes from parents, which I find helpful and entertaining. I’m not sure if this aligns with the RIE method you mentioned, but I’ve generally found the tactics to be helpful.

    1. Thank you so much for the recommendation! Sounds like it would align perfectly with what we do. I will check it out!

    2. Its a fantastic book, and a great laugh for me on a bad day (and cowritten by Adele Fabers daughter), it very much ties in with the Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline and RIE style authored books.

      1. Love your posts, and the book too! My kids are 41, 40 and 36. The book “How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk “ completely changed my parenting for the better. The advice is still being used by me today as a parent. Thanks for keeping your posts so real.

  36. By far the most expensive item not on your list is childcare. We have kids in school and a 1 year old, and need a babysitter at least one to two days a week for a 10 hour day. We found that paying more $ per hour keeps our sitter happy and not cycling through like when we paid less. I work part time, just two 10 hour days and I could not imagine the expense if I worked five days. That said, yes-having kids is expensive if you need to pay for childcare. I see lots of grandparents taking care of grandchildren but that’s not the case for a lot of people(like us). Every child is different too, I’ve nurses two successfully past 16 months-but my first had many gi issues and needed a very expensive formula. To save on the cost of it, we used coupons whenever we bought some from the store and special ordered through an employee of the formula company that we knew through friends. Nursing has helped lower the costs tremendously-but it’s not always possible. I didn’t learn my lesson about saving money on baby stuff until I learned I was pregnant with #3. I had given most everything baby related away by that point. I still had a crib, pack in play, and high chair at least. And a friend had my rock n play cradle which is a lifesaver!! I was in denial for most of that pregnancy…but before he came on the scene my friends threw me a sprinkle and everyone gave me gift cards. I asked friends for any baby related items I could have or borrow because most of the garage sales by me were just retirees getting rid of non baby stuff. And the area is urban enough that baby donations go straight to shelters so there’s not much at goodwill. Big things we bought were a swing and a new rear facing infant/toddler seat that goes up to 40lbs. A lot of his clothes were new given to me by coworkers and a friend who’s son never wore them. I shop sales for cute boy items and if I really like something I’ll get it the next size up too if it’s inexpensive. I’ll get shoes and boots for him in anticipation for next year. I accept hand me downs, but I have to ask. Maybe because I’m seen as a professional no one would think I’d want used stuff?? Anyway-I give tons of stuff away when I can and just donated an awesome Brest friend pillow! I don’t find a need to keep a bunch of stuff I won’t use again-and am grateful to those who helped me with letting my son use their stuff. Stuff I bought the first time around and never used-baby carriers, bottle warmers/wipe warmers, bumbo seat, portable toddler seat, fancy Uppa stroller(I used ours for walks around our neighborhood but otherwise it was too heavy to lift into and out of our trunk by myself). I even have an unused Bugaboo stroller I’m passing on to someone else in the family. I exclusively use the snap and go stroller for the infant carrier and still do-that thing is awesome. If your mindset is to save money with a baby you definitely can-and the other way around is true too the sky is the limit for baby items! But yeah-childcare will always be expensive!

  37. Another advice, if you can, is to check your health insurance coverage pre birth. I found out I was pregnant a couple of months before our open period. I was able to compare plans that will cost less. We’re lucky that my company have a handy tool comparison because it saved us thousands and we were able to plan for the deductible needed which is less than my previous plan. I also switch to FSA from HSA.. I ended up giving birth prematurely and my son spent 74 days in the NICU. When he was born, we were also able to compare the right insurance needed for him between me and my husband. Since my plan period is not on calendar year, he will have longer coverage under my plan so we choose that. He was getting a synagis shot (shots needed to give him immune system boost) during RSV seasons and those were expensive!! We already maxed out on our deductible just with the delivery. So all of his care were taken care off for the season, this includes PT work, brain scans and more pediatrician visits than normal.

    Also, after NICU stay, we took ALL the diapers, cream, bunch of thermometers, bottles, and really anything in his room. I even have a hospital blanket since I take it with me to sleep in so it can be in his isolette/crib. The nurse gave us even more diapers to size up 🙂 We end up not buying any diapers until he’s ready for cloth diapers, which were gifted to us and some I bought used.

    Another hack is to sign up for Amazon registry, for things that you will buy new (even consumables), even if you’re not having a baby shower (I didn’t have one ). The registry will give you 15 (or maybe 20) % of the items that were not purchased. This is only for one order, so make sure to put all the items you want in one order. We knew that we will buy a stroller since I cannot find a used one of the one I like. I then keep on adding more things in the registry even after we got discharged. I bought it all at once and got the discount. The good thing about this is you have 90 days to return. I actually ended up returning a bunch of stuff – because I don’t need it or my baby like this specific brand.

    Thanks for sharing your view on personal finance through this blog and your book! I really enjoy it and has been a long time reader. It’s my first time commenting and I hope the above helps.

  38. Thank you for this! As an expecting first-time mom, I found this so helpful. Two questions for you:

    1. What are your thoughts on buying organic baby items like diapers, lotions, etc.?
    2. Do you leave the light on when you’re in the baby-sleep-zone in the living room?

    1. I can tell you from our experience that the organic balms and such work way better than their counterparts and are much healthier long term. However the price tag is not worth it! You can make balms for baby for a fraction of the organic price and use them for yourselves as well. Win win! We’ve done it for all five of ours, (5th is only 3 weeks, but so far his bum agrees) and the creams we make work extremely well in comparison to most conventional products! The best balm we’ve used is mostly equal parts but you can adjust to your thickness preferences: coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, and cocoa butter and it smells heavenly; but what we’re currently using is a balm made with about a tsp of beeswax, 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup almond oil, and 2 tbsp olive oil with a few drops of lemon essential oil.. it’s doing very well and is super moisturizing. Of course we only use creams on the diaper area and we cloth diaper and use cloth wipes (baby is changed in the bathroom so we just use water to wet them as needed) so I can’t really say much for the organic diaper and wipe scene. I am extremely chemically sensitive so almost any store bought items are not good in our home so I never even tried them! Frugal and natural can go together though! Good luck!

        1. Oh and regarding the light–yes we kept lights on in “baby central.” During those early weeks and months, most newborns will sleep through just about anything (lights, noise, etc). Then, it’s good to start teaching them night vs. day as they get older. But I found that teeny tiny babies don’t care!

  39. Btw-i saved some money later on by going through my gifted baby clothes and exchanging some for larger sizes. People for some reason loved getting me 0-3 month clothing and honestly babies grow out of that size in a blink of an eye! I would exchange anything really cute for 12, 18, or 24 months sizes. I feel like it’s a practical thing to do and spreads the gifts out to last longer. I also asked for diapers (or an amazon gift card) whenever someone asked what he needed. Also-I liked the book Babywise for sleep training.

  40. Hey! Love the post! Would also like to recommend Baby-Led Weaning – even easier than making your own baby food which was my original plan. Basically you just give them bits of whatever you are eating and let them experiment. It has worked brilliantly for my two (3 and 1) so far!

  41. I decided to go the frugal way with my first child and took some hand-me-downs from family and we found out the bad way that it was infested with carpet beetles. By the time we noticed, it was too late 🙁

  42. Wow Liz! I think you have just produced a draft version of book #2!!! Great post. Show your publisher!
    My kids are 15 and 10, so we are a long way on now. I experienced something akin to PTSD just now reading about childbirth and those extraordinarily difficult first months… Man oh man… Never again!
    Still, those baby photos are cute…
    Keep up the good work Liz. Nate looks better with the short beard by the way…

  43. Great post and great resource. My husband and I are just now starting to try for a family, so I have been going through advice and books non-stop. There are two great books that I really enjoyed- Expecting Better by Emily Oster (this is more for pre-pregnancy and pregnancy), and Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, who confronts some of the most common parenting “hypes and styles” in American parents today and contrasts them with a simpler approach that she experienced when bringing up her children in France.

    1. Awesome, thank you for the recs! I’ve been meaning to check out Emily Oster’s new book, Cribsheet, because I’ve heard such good things about Expecting Better. Best of luck with your journey to a baby :)!!!

  44. Great post – we enjoyed many of the books listed (although not a Ferber or sleep training fan). I’d also add in Gill Rapleys book about Baby Led Weaning. It was fantastic for our first, he has eaten family foods from the beginning, and we intend on doing the same with our second when he’s old enough. Along with learning to grow and harvest our food, he’s been involved in preparing and cooking food – and a toddler tower (bought or home made hacks) has been super helpful for a safe way for him to help in the kitchen before he was 12 months of age.

    1. YES to the toddler tower!!! Mr. FW built one for Kidwoods and it is used daily! Such a great way to get kids involved in the whole process of healthy eating!

  45. Great tips! Shopping kids consignment sales has saved my family a ton of money on baby and kid items. Hundreds of families will sell their gently used kids toys, clothes, feeding items, etc. over the course of a few days. I buy nearly all the clothes I need for my 3 kids for a whole season as a one stop shop. I also love the idea of giving my money to other young families vs. a store. I encourage all parents to seek them out.

  46. Great post! I’ve totally been looking for a good sound machine for my 13 month old so that I can stop using her humidifier simply for the fan noise, so may get the one you recommend— but I read the amazon description I wonder what exactly is pink and brown noise?? Hmm…
    About diapers— not quite as cheap as Walmart but if one does not have a convenient Walmart nearby then luvs on amazon are close. I did a size 2 price check for comparison sake since that’s what you priced out in the post and it’s $28.49 for a box of 228, so a cool $0.12/diaper with subscribe and save, or $29.99 ($0.13/diaper) without. Love the luvs!

    1. Thank you so much for the price comparison data on Luvs!! I really appreciate you doing that! I will update the post with your findings :). And re. the white noise machine, I have no idea what pink and brown noise are! We just use the white noise option and it sounds like regular old white noise to me.

  47. This entire post is such a gem!! We have a 6-month old and have been trying hard to minimize our stuff due to space constraints (one bdrm apartment) in addition to $$. It’s so lovely to hear how other families decide what is worth it for their particular family values — I weirdly love that you did disposable diapers (is too). I’m working on having confidence that we’re making the decisions that work for us, rather than feeling pressure from other people to use their system which isn’t quite right for our context (see: tiny apartment!)

  48. Another vote here for Target Up and Up diapers. Not only are they a great price, they work great for sensitive babies as they are bleach and perfume free. Size one giant pack online is currently $21.99 for 176 diapers, which works out to 12.5 cents diaper. Then, they regularly offer a gift card bonus. Usually it’s $15 bonus gift card with $75 purchase , or $20 with $100. Stock up depending on their offer, get as close to their amount as possible, and use the gift card next time around when you buy in bulk and they do the same special. Same goes for baby toiletries and formula, check to see what’s included in the bonus card offer as many other baby consumables are usually included and count toward your $75 or $100. If you bought today, you could buy three boxes 3×21.99=65.97 and find one other item you need on the list for greater than $9.03 (but as close to as possible) to maximize your reward ratio.

    Also, I’m not sure if Amazon still does this, but we used their registry perks to earn $100 in free diapers. Might be a prime thing? Check to see if they still do this, and if they do…If you do buy anything, or others are buying you something via amazon, make a registry. Then, add every single thing you buy (even if it’s your own consumables not related to baby) or get as a gift to that registry. Amazon will flag the item as “baby bucks eligible” and once your total purchase of these baby bucks items from your registry reaches $1000, they give you $100 to use towards a list they provide of diapers (both disposable and cloth options were on the list I got), and some other consumables like diaper cream and aquaphor. You will be surprised at everything that counts, towards the $1000, so many everyday things you are already purchasing for your household! Need TP? Add it to the registry before you buy. Need lotion or body soap for yourself and buying a big bulk set? Add to the registry before you buy. Grandma wants to buy a first aid kit, and will shop on amazon ? Add it to the registry and send her the link to buy from. You get the point. You can set the privacy to only yourself, or to those you share a link with (for instance, if grandma wants to buy that first aid kit, or a certain sleep swaddle you want but couldn’t find used). When you use the reward, just buy a bigger size (like 3-4) as your babe will be in those longer and you reduce the risk of outgrowing them while stockpiled. There were also several other things we got for free as an added bonus just for having the registry.

    Last, this goes without saying on this blog, but use your library for those baby books! Or, ask your friends as they are just as willing to hand down a book they felt was very helpful (or maybe one that wasn’t their style but piqued your interest). Chances are you are going to have too much going on, and you’ll feel like you won’t have time to return a library book. Get a library card that has an eBook app (if your local doesn’t, go to the nearest big city to get one, most don’t require you to be a resident to join). Several on this list are available on my library e-reader as ebooks or audio books. And they auto return! Speaking of library – if you don’t have time to read the book (I didn’t), check out the Happiest Baby On the Block DVD from your library. Both you and your partner should watch it. Best 60 minutes we both spent prepping for those first nights with a crying baby!!

    1. Catherine! Thank you so much for mentioning Amazon! I forgot about them, which is silly. I am on a no spend 2019 and I just got invited to a baby shower. I will be making two quilts, one geared towards boy and one geared towards girl because they are going old school and not finding out sex and I’m sorry, I’m a grandma of three little girls. I like to get pink stuff for girls. Anyhoo if you bring diapers you get to be in a drawing and of course I want to up my chance of winning things. I get around the no spend on Amazon by saving all my change and running through Coinstar and getting 100% of proceeds in the form of an Amazon gift code. Am I cheating? Maybe but cheating myself. Haha! Thanks again!

  49. I felt the same way as you when my second child turned one this month. All of a sudden I was all nostalgic and sad that this was going to be my last baby. But then I listened to the recording I made on my phone of said baby screaming her lungs out at 3am when she was 3 weeks old, and then I quickly snapped out of it. 🙂 (I made that recording so that my husband and I could listen to it in the future in case either of us ever got clucky again.)
    Regarding parenting books, I really love The Parenting Junkie YouTube channel, and here is a list of books she recommends, which I’m slowly making my way through:

  50. Love this post! My husband and I are thinking about kids soon and this is such great advice. Also “And that thing was cereal.” made me laugh out loud. 🙂

  51. I had two under two (daughters) two months after I turned 23! The only thing I have to say is why in heck are you pumping at 3:00 a.m.? Was baby sleeping through the night and your boobs hurt? Just put a menstrual pad or cloth diaper over your boobs and sleep! they can just leak onto that. Can you tell that’s what I did? Besides the fact I was too poor to buy an electric pump and those hand ones just never worked for me. Wait did they have electric pumps we could buy 38 and 40 years ago???? Your girls are darling!

  52. Great post! And so comprehensive! I’m super impressed—as a fellow blogger, I can recognize that this must have taken you FOREVER to put together. And it’s appreciated!

    I have mixed feelings about parenting books, but I seem to gravitate towards ones where they’re written as part memoir (and where the author learns from foreign cultures, apparently). I’ve especially liked There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather (though you’re so great at taking your kids outside year-round that you probably don’t need the push), French Kids Eat Everything, Little Soldiers (though that’s less parenting and more just an interesting look at different views on education), and Bringing Up Bebe. I also LOVED The Whole-Brain Child, partly just because it was so helpful for ME and MY emotional needs, too! Great stuff.

  53. I so understand the bittersweetness of the second getting bigger. The newborn stage for both my kids was hard as well, but I can vividly remember the day my youngest stopped nursing being sad not to have those little moments. But loving how fun they are as they get bigger and trying to appreciate the “days are long but the years are short” with my 2 and 5 year old girls! They love being with each other right now, I’m so grateful for both of them!

  54. One thing I would add is just because someone uses something or swears by something, doesn’t mean you’ll find it useful in the least! I got one of those cart covers because you swore by it, and I think I used it two times. I got it used (for a trade), but it still wasn’t worth it. I also experienced the same thing with the baby carrier (I got a lillebaby for cheap on ebay)–I maybe got up to 10 uses out of it with my son. He really preferred just hanging in the stroller, and being that we usually drove to destinations with him, the stroller worked out for us fine.

    The lesson that I learned: We’re often all so very different in personal preferences and needs so staying away from buying something until you actually experience a need seems to work out best for baby items, at least for things that are non-necessities for babies. If you can get it for free, great! But if it’s something you have to pay for, try borrowing one first (if it’s portable) before going the distance. I will say the jogging stroller I got used did come in super handy for walks in my neighborhood with all the tree-root raised sidewalks, so I highly recommend that for people who already enjoy walks and need something to make it easier.

    In terms of diapers–Aldi and Lidl both have excellent diapers that are super cheap (also available in smaller packages which is better for people who can’t drop $20 on a pack of diapers). We now use Lidl mostly but I’ll still buy Walmart or Aldi if it’s where I’m shopping.

    And I also DEFINITELY recommend night-time diapers for heavy pee-ers. You probably don’t have kids that pee a ton, but my son sure does. He can fill up a night time diaper (and even overflow it), wetting his pjs and the bed in the process. Every kid is different, so I just recommend them for those who are at a loss with wet beds. Keep in mind that Target sells a generic night-time diaper that is much cheaper than the Huggies brand (the original night-time diaper I think). I believe Walmart has begun selling one too, so they’re all worth trying.

    Also, you are so lucky having a potty trained toddler so early. My son is still not into even doing the potty and he’s at school with kids too, so it’s rough!

    Lastly, in terms of clothing–not everyone has access to hand-me-downs, so just keep an eye out for second-hand kids stores and pop-up parent consignments. Boys can be harder to source hand-me-downs from as stores in general just sell significantly less boys clothing than girls. In our world, we don’t have a lot of friends in our area to pass us down stuff and since my son is giant (just now turning 3 and needs 4T pants and shirts) and the one person we see occasionally with a 5-year-old is still wearing some of that 4T stuff, we’re hard pressed for seconds. I have had good luck at the pop-up consignments in my Philly burb, and LOVE Kid-to-Kid consignment when they have their crazy sales. We don’t go crazy as you only need like 1.5-2 weeks worth of shirts/pants/sweaters, but they help make up for any lack of hand-me-downs, without breaking the budget (I recently scored 9 good condition long-sleeved button-up and cotton shirts and a sweatshirt and a book for $13 which made me pleased).

    1. I love this: “One thing I would add is just because someone uses something or swears by something, doesn’t mean you’ll find it useful in the least!” So very true!

  55. I am totally on board with your choice to use disposable diapers, but wanted to chime in for parents who do use cloth. We’ve made them extra-frugal by: 1. Using cloth wipes (a 20-pack of facecloths we got at a hardware store) and throwing them in with the diaper wash, and 2. Reusing our stash on #2. We probably paid $400 for our cloth diaper stash, and now that we’re using it on kid #2 we are really saving cash. 3. Planning to sell them when we are down with them. We’ve taken really good care of them, and can probably sell them for $200 when we’re done. So the actual total will be more like $200 for two kids. Plus the cost of an extra load of laundry every three days. 4. If cloth is a route folks are exploring, they’re a GREAT think to ask for new from generous family members.

  56. There’s another way to be frugal and have a simple, minimalistic approach to taking care of a baby: just don’t get any of the supposedly “necessary” accoutrements. My kids are 29 and 26. We had a crib, stroller, portable crib, changing mat on top of a dresser, and a high chair. I belonged to a toy sharing club that gave us access to the bigger toys that they use for a month or two. They laid and then sat on a blanket on the floor, so never needed a bumbo (I had to look that one up). Kid junk is similar to kitchen junk. There are a lot of gadgets you can buy, but you don’t need 90% of them.

  57. Great advice all around. I was a HUGE user of Parents’ Choice and White Cloud diapers (generic brands from Walmart) back in the day. (My kids are long out of diapers. I was not a fan of the Costco/Kirkland diapers, though—they leaked/had catastrophic failures on my kids. (But I do use a lot of other Costco Kirkland stuff). Most of our baby gear was either hand-me-down from my kids’ cousins or given to us for free via baby shower. I did buy a secondhand baby jogger stroller on Craigslist ($75 for something which retailed for over $500! Win!) I then either resold all this stuff/gave it away to friends once the kids outgrew it!

    I didn’t have time to read everything here but will share this with some friends who have little ones, now that I have no more baby gear left to hand down to them!

  58. Another suggestion: I used a doula for both my births. While I paid my doula, one thing she did as a FREE service to all her clients was to provide them with a giant bag of FREE BABY SAMPLES which included everything from diaper creme, diapers, baby wash, nipple cream, nursing pads, prenatal/postnatal vitamins, and a bazillion other things you never knew you needed for baby but always somehow came in handy. She was able to get all these FREE SAMPLES by writing to the manufacturers and requesting them! Many doula orgs also provide these goody bags. I did not have to buy a single consumable baby item (other than diapers, and the sample diapers got me thru the first 2 weeks) for either kid because of this! Check with your local doula orgs and/or write to Baby Samples By Mail, here:

  59. Don’t forget your local libraries! Between story and reading hours, play areas, books and toys available to borrow, and other resources, libraries were wonderful.

    We use disposable diapers, and to each their own on preference. For us, the Amazon brand diapers work out overall best. The cheaper diapers were less expensive per diaper, but for our kid ended up being less absorbent or did not fit right. Our kid also hated being in soiled diapers, so we ended up plowing through the cheaper diapers faster than the Amazon brand. We also found the overnight diapers were worth the extra cost.

    Although I do not always find deals this way, I always check Amazon’s “Open Box” options for diapers when needing to order. From time to time I can find a giant box of diapers in brands that fit my kid best for $0.10 or less per diaper.

    As for reading suggestions, I highly recommend “Mama Natural” while pregnant.

  60. Loved your thoughts on the dissonance of parenthood. So true–couldn’t have said it better myself. We’re going to try for our second baby in a few months and I’m already starting to mourn the loss of all the firsts.

    I just wanted to add a few thoughts about formula. We used Up and Up formula and took advantage of that Target deal where you spend $100 and get a $20. We easily spent $100 a month on formula and saved those $20 gift cards to buy a convertible car seat!

    With that said, a co-worker gave me an excellent idea that I’ll take advantage of for next baby. I never had a full supply and had to supplement with formula. She said she would pump and use the milk at home and then baby would use the free formula provided by daycare. She never had a full supply but never had to pay for formula. Amazing!

  61. There are so many great comments that I haven’t been able to read them all; I’m sorry if this is a repeat. You can make detangling solution for kids’ hair by squirting a bit of hair conditioner in a spray bottle, and diluting with tap water. I use whatever adult conditioner we had on hand (like Burt’s Bees), because my kid doesn’t have any issues with skin sensitivity.

  62. I have one more parenting book to add to your list. It’s kind of niche, but “Raising Your Spirited Child” has saved. my. sanity. I cried while reading it because it confirmed that my kid IS slightly different than others, “regular” parenting methods just won’t work on my kid due to her temperament, and all sorts of other things. Like, baths don’t soothe either of my kids, they just get MORE energetic! I was in tears so many times during my first kid’s infancy because everything I read swore that baths are soothing. The worst nights we had were when I tried giving her a bath at bedtime! I have to give baths mid-afternoon. This book was so validating, and really helped me in a rough time to put my kid’s personality in perspective. It helped me see all the great attributes she has, rather than focusing on just how difficult she is and wondering why she couldn’t be like other kids. For any parent whose kid defies what all the “experts” have consistently told you, for kids that don’t get into a routine no matter how hard the parents work at creating one, for kids who have bigger emotions and more energy and are just more demanding and more of everything, that book should be mandatory. Again, I cried while reading this because it was SO NICE to finally get some validation, and to actually find something that understands my kid. I’m about to buy the book so my spouse can read it too!
    It’s also more of a guiding principle and tricks to help you parent, not to mold your kid in any one way. I really appreciated that, because the goal of parenting is to bring out the best aspects in my child, not to make her into something different.
    There’s another book, which is “Raising Your Sensitive Child”. I’m sure there are plenty of people who could use that. Some spirited kids are ultra sensitive, and vice versa, but not all. So the one about spirited kids touches on that aspect lightly but this would be a more in-depth read for anyone whose kid, say, throws tantrums daily about sock seams and other “minor” clothing issues. (My brother did that! He’s still weird about socks as an adult….)

    1. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this insight and that book recommendation! I really appreciate it. SO true that each child is unique and requires a different approach.

  63. We have two not-babies anymore that are 17 and 23, so enjoy the time — it goes fast. I recall the biggest expense for us was daycare — we live in NYC, and the annual cost is equivalent to what a lot of people spend on mortgages. Another interesting comparison I noted recently (since I have college tuition on the brain) is that I compared my oldest daughter’s city college with my husband’s state alma mater and my private alma mater and the range in cost totaled more than $200k — enough for a house and then some!

  64. This is absolutely amazing advice for raising kids with a frugal mindset. With our two children we bought everything used which raised some eyebrows with family and friends. But when we were donating/selling all of the no longer needed items 3 years later we knew we made the right decision for us. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

  65. I forgot to mention in my first comment that Amazon subscribe and save prices can vary wildly from month to month. Right now, I have Size 2 diapers in my upcoming order for 18.39 for 184 diapers. That works out to 10 cents per diaper. I have an Amazon card too that gives me 5% cash back on all purchases, so for me it’s about 9.5 cents per diaper. I just have to check every month to make sure the price is still a good deal.

  66. Super Swaddle – how could I forget. This was life changing for our Houdini. Look it up on YouTube. We used a small flannel blanket from Target that was a gift as the inner blanket when he was smaller and now the larger flannel hospital blanket and a Velcro swaddle blanket blanket on top. Swaddle Me is the brand we have and they are cheaper than some other brands. I found large size for $8 on Walmart sites on sale when we needed to size up. Size S was a gift and it quickly became a favorite baby item i didn’t know existed after many failed attempts of using a swaddle blanket.

  67. I keep remembering things – no need for an infant bathtub if you are willing to bath with your baby. I jump right in and my husband stays in the bathroom to assist and do towel duty!

  68. This is wonderful and even though I am no where at a point in my life to be thinking about kids, it’s great to know how frugal principles applying to everything in life – and that includes raising kids. Love the ending part about saving money for things that will truly matter to the kids lives.

  69. Hi Mrs Frugalwoods, I have been following you for two years! Could you write an article and share how much exactly did you spent on babywood’s first year?

  70. Such a great post! Thanks for all the recommendations. The Montessori Toddler is a great read and so is The Joyful Child- both super simple and easy to read and informative! How to Raise an Adult focuses on older children, but was also interesting.

  71. My daughter is 4 months old now, but when I was pregnant I read all of your baby posts to get tips. The funny name “Merlin’s sleep suit” really stuck with me and I am so glad!!! We were struggling after we had to give up the swaddle. I tried hard to find them used, but kept missing out on Facebook marketplace. I finally paid full price (how not frugal of me) and wow, it was worth it. First night: slept 13 hours, woke once to eat. Second night: slept 12 hours, woke once to eat. Thank you again!!!! Also my husband belly laughed for a long time the first time we put her in the suit 🙂

    1. Oh good!!! I’m so glad to hear the Merlin Suit is working its magic for you!! And they do look SO hilarious in there! Happy sleeping 🙂

  72. Hi-
    This comment is in 2020 but here is my 2 cents: use generic diapers and wipes and don’t buy expensive clothing or bottles either. We got a new carseat and bottles because we had a 4.5 age gap but have hand me down clothing and go for whatever diaper and wipes are on sale and get a lot….
    We also buy formula at Sam’s in bulk and that is great!

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