Become a Baby Whisperer

On September 27, 2012, in Blog, by Bellybuds

By: Mom Blogger motherofnine9
Original post here

Horse whisperers read a horse’s cues and respond in a way that the horse understands,using body language and voice tones. Baby whisperers relate to infants in a similar manner.

It is not hard to become a baby whisperer. Read all the books and then close them with a resounding slam. To become an expert on any baby you might meet, pause for a moment to look and learn from each infant, because he will be checking you out at the same time. Just keep in mind that infants are complex little people who see, hear, touch, communicate, receive information and who above all, remember.

Of course we can readily see that babies react to loud, sharp or deep voices but a newborn will even turn to look at a voice he remembers hearing in the womb. It was amazing to watch my first grand-daughter turn towards her mom and dad’s voices in recognition. When her parents cuddled her, she calmed down immediately because she was constantly reassured of their love and devotion while she was still in the womb. Now out in the world, she knows that she is safe and protected especially in their arms. This is why all babies are sensitive to the approach of a stranger.

The most blatant personal example of a stranger- infant situation that I can recall is my six-month-old daughter. I was holding her when a tall, slender, older priest, dressed all in black, gently reached out to hold her. He smiled and patiently waited while Rachel tensed her little body, drew back and looked him up and down very suspiciously. She drew back a second time, even further, and once again glanced from his head to his feet and slowly looked back at his face again. A third time Rachel repeated the process and then suddenly she relaxed, broke out into a wonderful smile and reached her own arms out to lean forward so Father could pick her up.

That baby was receiving unspoken messages from Father’s facial expression, tone of voice, body language and emotional and spiritual ‘vibes’ that radiated from his inner spirit. In short, even though Rachel was not talking yet, she was not an idiot. We tend to forget that.

Michael and I were lucky because we somehow understood, right from the start, that we were relating to another human being when we communicated with our babies. I stopped and listened when they cooed and then I answered them when they finished cooing. It might sound foolish but I believe that this attitude instilled respect for themselves and others. I tried to treat them as people, albeit little people.

Sometimes family and friends were critical of my inefficient way of mothering. I just couldn’t make myself mother them any other way. Perhaps it was because I was not used to children. On the other hand, my mother, let us ‘help’ her even as toddlers. Basically, I just included the kids into our life as intelligent little people with feelings, opinions, tastes and preferences. If we respected each child’s preferences , they cooperated and worked alongside us better. In the end, this impractical, slow way of doing things made life run smoother.

Some people are intimidated by babies and little chidren. Just remember, babies are not idiots but smart little people who can’t talk yet and you’ll be fine

 

5 Secrets No One Tells a New Mother

On September 18, 2012, in Blog, by Bellybuds

 

By Erin Loechner
Original post here

Now that my daughter is six weeks old, I’m feeling worldsmore comfortable and secure in my role as a new parent. I’m certainly not out of the woods yet, but I look back at the past month and a half and am amazed at how difficult the transition was for my husband and me. Sure, we knew our lives would change. But there are five secrets no one shared with us that, thankfully, we learned on the job:

1. So! Many! Tears!
I’m chalking this one up to the fact that I’ve had very little newborn experience, but the crying!? Wow, the crying. For some reason, I assumed babies cried when they wanted something specific. And when you gave them that specific thing? They stopped. I mean, isn’t that how it works in the movies?

Lies. All lies. Our little one is what I like to call an escalator. If she needs something, she cries. And then she cries because she’s crying. And then she cries more because she’s still crying and it escalates until she (a) exhausts herself, or (b) forgets she’s been crying. And then everything’s fine. It’s maddening, but it’s the reality. Sometimes, babies cry for no reason at all and you can do nothing but swaddle them and walk them up and down your hallway at 3am until they decide to be finished. Also? Ear plugs.

2. Nursing is a Full-Time Job
Again, I don’t know if this is my naivete speaking, but I honestly thought breastfeeding would happen naturally. And for me, it didn’t. Between the nursing, pumping, burping, cleaning up spit-up and nursing some more, breastfeeding was an around-the-clock job. And God forbid you have a cluster feeder (I do!).

We’re now keeping to somewhat of a regular schedule where I can soak up some boob-free time, but my gracious am I tired of walking around shirtless. (Speaking of shirtless, another secret no one shares? Breasts that leak like a faucet and painful milk letdowns!)

3. You Become a Billboard
This one threw us for a loop. My husband and I have had many conversations about how we want to raise our daughter with other parents in similar stages of their lives. And rather than having an open, honest conversation, we found that it was really difficult to voice our opinion without sounding judgmental of other parenting decisions.

Suddenly, we’ve become a billboard for our views and perspectives, because the choices we’re making with our children are obvious. Vaccinations, circumcision, birth plans… it’s all pretty clear where we stand because our children are living proof of the choices we’ve made. And while we try to verbalize that these are choices we’re making for our own lives (and there’s no blanket decision that’s better across the board), it’s hard not to feel defensive when you come across parents that choose a different, “better” path for themselves and their families.

The good news? Relationships will shift, but the great ones will hang around regardless of whether or not you choose to vaccinate for the chicken pox.

4. You Might Hate It At First…
During pregnancy, everyone shares positive moments and stories of their little ones. (Well, almost everyone!) Yet when your baby arrives and you find yourself resenting them because you can’t keep your eyes open and they’re screaming at you? No one really shares those stories. And they exist. I’m fully convinced they exist with every mother that has endured three all-nighters and her 12th diaper change in two hours.

It doesn’t mean you’re depressed, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t a fantastic mother. It simply means you’re exhausted and your hormones are still settling in for the ride. Hold on, take deep breaths and call a friend to take care of the 13th diaper change. You need a shower and a nap, after all. And the next day will be worlds better. You’ll see.

5. And Then One Day You Won’t
Seemingly overnight, if you’re like me, you won’t hate this new gig anymore. For me, it was when my daughter smiled at me for the first time. Until that first smile, it seemed my husband and I were taking care of a very, very needy plant. Lots of work, but very little reward. And then she smiled. And we realized that yes, this is an investment of time and energy, but the return? Whoa. We’re in for a treat.

We’ve had bad days since then. And good ones. And although there’s still no routine, schedule or relief from the sleepless nights, we do have a smile. And that’s enough to get us through the day.

 

Why Fathers Really Matter

On September 11, 2012, in Blog, by Bellybuds

By Judith Shulevitz
Original post here

MOTHERHOOD begins as a tempestuously physical experience but quickly becomes a political one. Once a woman’s pregnancygoes public, the storm moves outside. Don’t pile on the pounds! Your child will be obese. Don’t eat too little, or your baby will be born too small. For heaven’s sake, don’t drink alcohol. Oh, please: you can sip some wine now and again. And no matter how many contradictory things the experts say, don’t panic. Stress hormones wreak havoc on a baby’s budding nervous system.

All this advice rains down on expectant mothers for the obvious reason that mothers carry babies and create the environments in which they grow. What if it turned out, though, that expectant fathers molded babies, too, and not just by way of genes?

Biology is making it clearer by the day that a man’s health and well-being have a measurable impact on his future children’s health and happiness. This is not because a strong, resilient man has a greater likelihood of being a fabulous dad — or not only for that reason — or because he’s probably got good genes. Whether a man’s genes are good or bad (and whatever “good” and “bad” mean in this context), his children’s bodies and minds will reflect lifestyle choices he has made over the years, even if he made those choices long before he ever imagined himself strapping on a Baby Bjorn.

Doctors have been telling men for years that smoking, drinking and recreational drugs can lower the quality of their sperm. What doctors should probably add is that the health of unborn children can be affected by what and how much men eat; the toxins they absorb; the traumas they endure; their poverty or powerlessness; and their age at the time of conception. In other words, what a man needs to know is that his life experience leaves biological traces on his children. Even more astonishingly, those children may pass those traces along to their children.

Before I began reading up on fathers and their influence on future generations, I had a high-school-biology-level understanding of how a man passes his traits on to his child. His sperm and the mother’s egg smash into each other, his sperm tosses in one set of chromosomes, the egg tosses in another, and a child’s genetic future is set for life. Physical features: check. Character: check. Cognitive style: check. But the pathways of inheritance, I’ve learned, are subtler and more varied than that. Genes matter, and culture matters, and how fathers behave matters, too.

Lately scientists have become obsessed with a means of inheritance that isn’t genetic but isn’t nongenetic either. It’s epigenetic. “Epi,” in Greek, means “above” or “beyond.” Think of epigenetics as the way our bodies modify their genetic makeup. Epigenetics describes how genes are turned on or off, in part through compounds that hitch on top of DNA — or else jump off it — determining whether it makes the proteins that tell our bodies what to do.

In the past decade or so, the study of epigenetics has become so popular it’s practically a fad. Psychologists and sociologists particularly like it because gene expression or suppression is to some degree dictated by the environment and plays at least as large a role as genes do in the development of a person’s temperament, body shape and predisposition to disease. I’ve become obsessed with epigenetics because it strikes me as both game-changing and terrifying. Our genes can be switched on or off by three environmental factors, among other things: what we ingest (food, drink, air, toxins); what we experience (stress, trauma); and how long we live.

Epigenetics means that our physical and mental tendencies were not set in stone during the Pleistocene age, as evolutionary psychology sometimes seems to claim. Rather, they’re shaped by the life we lead and the world we live in right now. Epigenetics proves that we are the products of history, public as well as private, in parts of us that are so intimately ours that few people ever imagined that history could reach them. (One person who did imagine it is the French 18th-century naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who believed that acquired traits could be inherited. Twentieth-century Darwinian genetics dismissed Lamarckism as laughable, but because of epigenetics, Lamarckism is staging a comeback.)

The best-known example of the power of nutrition to affect the genes of fathers and sons comes from a corner of northern Sweden called Overkalix. Until the 20th century, Overkalix was cut off from the rest of the world, unreachable by road, train or even, in wintertime, boat, because the frozen Baltic Sea could not be crossed. Thus, when there were bad harvests in Overkalix, the children starved, and when there were good harvests, they stuffed themselves.

More than a decade ago, three Swedish researchers dug up records from Overkalix going back to 1799 in order to correlate its children’s health data with records of regional harvests and other documents showing when food was and wasn’t available. What the researchers learned was extremely odd. They found that when boys ate badly during the years right before puberty, between the ages of 9 and 12, their sons, as adults, had lower than normal rates of heart disease. When boys ate all too well during that period, their grandsons had higher rates of diabetes.

When the study appeared in 2002, a British geneticist published an essayspeculating that how much a boy ate in prepuberty could permanently reprogram the epigenetic switches that would govern the manufacture of sperm a few years later. And then, in a process so intricate that no one agrees yet how it happens but probably has something to do with the germline (the reproductive cells that are handed down to children, and to children’s children), those reprogrammed switches are transferred to his sons and his sons’ sons.

A decade later, animal studies confirm that a male mammal’s nutritional past has a surprisingly strong effect on his offspring. Male rats that are starved before they’re mated produce offspring with less blood sugar and altered levels of corticosterone (which protects against stress) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (which helps babies develop).

Southeast Asian men who chew betel nuts, a snack that contains a chemical affecting metabolic functioning, are more likely to have children with weight problems and heart disease. Animal studies have shown that the effects of betel nut consumption by a male may extend to his grandchildren.

Environmental toxins leave even more florid traces on grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Vinclozin, a fungicide that used to be sprayed all over America (it’s less common now), is what’s known as an endocrine disrupter; it blocks the production of testosterone. Male rats whose mothers receive a fat dose of vinclozin late in their pregnancy are highly likely to be born with defective testicles and reduced fertility. These problems seem to reappear in up to four generations of male rats after the mother is poisoned.

THAT food and poison change us is not all that surprising, even if it is surprising how far down the change goes. What is unexpected are the psychological dimensions of epigenetics. To learn more about these, I visited the Mount Sinai Medical Center laboratory of Dr. Eric Nestler, a psychiatrist who did a discomfiting study on male mice and what he calls “social defeat.” His researchers put small normal field mice in cages with big, nasty retired breeders, and let the big mice attack the smaller mice for about five minutes a day. If a mean mouse and a little mouse were pried apart by means of a screen, the torturer would claw at the screen, trying to get at his victim. All this subjected the field mouse to “a horrendous level of stress,” Dr. Nestler told me. This process was repeated for 10 days, with a different tormentor placed in each cage every day. By the time the torture stopped, about two-thirds of the field mice exhibited permanent and quantifiable symptoms of the mouse equivalents of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The researchers then bred these unhappy mice with normal females. When their pups grew up, they tended to overreact to social stress, becoming so anxious and depressed that they wouldn’t even drink sugar water. They avoided other mice as much as they could.

Dr. Nestler is not sure exactly how the mouse fathers’ trauma communicates itself to their offspring. It may be via sperm, or it may be through some more complicated dance of nature and nurture that involves sperm but also other factors. When instead of letting the “defeated” mice mate, Dr. Nestler’s researchers killed them, harvested their sperm and impregnated the female mice through artificial means, the offspring were largely normal. Perhaps the sperm was harvested at the wrong stage in the process, says Dr. Nestler. Or maybe the female mouse picked up some signal when she had sex with the dysfunctional male mouse, some telltale pheromone or squeak, that made her body withhold nutrition and care from his pups. Females have been known to not invest in the spawn of non-optimal males, an outcome that makes perfect evolutionary sense — why waste resources on a loser?

When it comes to the epigenetics of aging, however, there is little question that the chemical insults and social setbacks of everyday life distill themselves in sperm. A woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever carry. By the time a man turns 40, on the other hand, his gonad cells will have divided 610 times to make spermatozoa. By the time he’s in his 50s, that number goes up to 840. Each time those cells copy themselves, mistakes may appear in the DNA chain. Some researchers now think that a percentage of those mistakes reflects not just random mutations but experience-based epigenetic markings that insinuate themselves from sperm to fetus and influence brain development. Another theory holds that aging gonad cells are more error-prone because the parts of the DNA that should have spotted and repaired any mistakes have been epigenetically tamped down. In any case, we now know that the children of older fathers show more signs of schizophrenia, autism and bipolar disorder than children of younger ones.

In a meta-analysis of a population study of more than a million people published last year, Christina Hultman of the Karolinska Institute of Sweden concluded that children of men older than 50 were 2.2 times as likely to have autism as children of 29-year-olds, even after the study had factored out mothers’ ages and known risk factors for autism. By the time the men passed 55, the risk doubled to 4.4 times that of 29-year-olds. Can the aging of the parent population explain the apparent spike in autism cases? A study published last month in Nature that used whole-genome sequencing on 78 Icelandic families made the strongest case to date that as fathers age, mutations in their sperm spike dramatically. Some of the mutations found by the researchers in Reykjavik have been linked to autism and schizophrenia in children.

In his Washington Heights laboratory at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Jay Gingrich, a professor of psychobiology, compares the pups of young male mice (3 months old or so) to those of old male mice (12 to 14 months old). The differences between the pups, he told me, weren’t “earth-shattering” — they weighed about the same and there weren’t big gaps in their early development. But discrepancies appeared when the mice grew up. The adult offspring of the older fathers had less adventuresome personalities; they also reacted to loud noises in unusual ways that paralleled reactions evinced by schizophrenics who heard similar sounds.

Still, Dr. Gingrich said, “the differences were subtle” until he decided to pool the data on their behavior and graph it on a bell curve. A “vast majority” of the children of the older mice were “completely normal,” he said, which meant their score fell under the upside-down parabola of the curve. The real differences came at the tails or skinny ends of the bell curve. There was about a sixfold increase in likelihood that one of the “abnormal outliers,” mice with cognitive or behavioral handicaps, “would come from an older father.” Conversely, the super-high-performing mice were about six times more likely to come from a younger father. “I’m an inherently skeptical person,” Dr. Gingrich told me, but he was impressed by these results.

One unanswered question about autism and schizophrenia is how they crop up in generation after generation; after all, wildly dysfunctional individuals don’t usually flourish romantically. “I think we’re going to have to consider that advanced paternal age, with its epigenetic effects, may be a way of explaining the mysteries of schizophrenia and autism, insofar as the rates of these disorders have maintained themselves — and autism may be going up,” Dr. Gingrich said. “From a cruel Darwinian perspective, it’s not clear how much success these folks have at procreating, or how else these genes maintain themselves in the population.”

When you’re an older mother, you get used to the sidelong glances of sonogram technicians, the extra battery of medical tests, the fear that your baby has Down syndrome, the real or imagined hints from younger mothers that you’re having children so late because you care more about professional advancement than family. But as the research on paternal inheritance piles up, the needle of doubt may swing at least partway to fathers. “We’re living through a paradigm shift,” said Dolores Malaspina, a professor of psychiatry at New York University who has done pioneering work on older fathers and schizophrenia. Older mothers no longer need to shoulder all the blame: “It’s the aging man who damages the offspring.”

Aging, though, is only one of the vicissitudes of life that assault a man’s reproductive vitality. Think of epigenetics as having ushered in a new age of sexual equality, in which both sexes have to worry about threats to which women once felt uniquely exposed. Dr. Malaspina remembers that before she went to medical school, she worked in a chemical plant making radioactive drugs. The women who worked there came under constant, invasive scrutiny, lest the toxic workplace contaminate their eggs. But maybe, Dr. Malaspina points out, the plant managers should have spared some concern for the men, whose germlines were just as susceptible to poisoning as the women’s, and maybe even more so. The well-being of the children used to be the sole responsibility of their mothers. Now fathers have to be held accountable, too. Having twice endured the self-scrutiny and second-guessing that goes along with being pregnant, I wish them luck.

 

Baby Sleep Training Methods Safe For Infants [STUDY]

On September 10, 2012, in Blog, Research, by Bellybuds

Original post here

Few parenting decisions are as fraught or as controversial as the choice parents make about how to get their babies to fall — and stay — asleep.

But a new Australian study may provide some reassurance to those who are trying to sleep train an infant. The study finds that there are no long-term emotional harms linked to two popular behavioral sleep interventions.

“Parents can feel confident using, and health professionals can feel confident offering, behavior techniques, such as ‘controlled comforting’ and ‘camping out’ for managing infant sleep,” claims the study, published online in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

Researchers tracked 225 children who were enrolled in the study when they were 7 months old and experiencing sleep problems, through age 6. Half underwent some form of sleep training, either “controlled comforting” (often called “graduated extinction”) or so-called “camping out.”

Graduated extinction is essentially a modified cry-it-out method, in which parents let their babies cry and respond to them at increasing intervals in order to teach them to self-soothe. In camping out, parents sit or lay in their babies’ room and may pat or stroke them while they are in their crib, but do not feed or cuddle them to sleep. Gradually, parents move back from the crib and eventually out of the room.

“The key to both of these methods is that you put the child down when he or she is drowsy, but awake,” said Dr. Kyle Johnson, a pediatric sleep specialist with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University. “You have them fall asleep on their own at bedtime. It’s a learned behavior.”

At age 6, the children in the study who’d received some form of sleep training as infants were no worse off than those who had not. Researchers measured outcomes such as emotional behavior, psychosocial functioning, sleep quality and stress levels as well as how close children were to their parents.

However, children who underwent sleep training did not experience any lasting benefits, either. Yet in an earlier study using the same pool, the researchers did find that sleep training helped moms’ mental health and children’s sleep through around age 2.

Despite those potential short-term benefits, “unproved concerns about [behavioral sleep techniques] are limiting their uptake and provoking vigorous debate,” the authors write. For example, opponents of cry-it-out methods point to research that has linked persistent crying with later hyperactivity problems.

“Parents often [and] very appropriately ask questions about ‘What does having my child cry at bedtime for a number of nights mean in the longterm to them?’” Johnson, who was not involved with the research, told The Huffington Post. “This study is very reassuring in that there does not appear to be harm.”

But Johnson stressed that the way parents approach sleep is a complex and personal issue: Just because the new study found that there are no long-term harms from the two sleep-training methods does not mean they are appropriate for everyone.

Indeed, the authors of the new study caution that there might be groups of children, including those who have experienced early trauma or who are especially anxious, for whom the techniques might do more harm than good. Further research is needed to determine if that is the case.

“This paper is not saying that this is the right way or the wrong way,” Johnson said. “What it is saying is that there does not appear to be harm induced in a child over the long term — at least five years.”

 

‘My Advice to New Moms’

On September 7, 2012, in Blog, by Bellybuds

By JJ Keith
Orignal post here

What advice would you give to a woman pregnant with her first child? I mean, I don’t know. Don’t drop the baby? Don’t forget to change their diaper every few hours? Find a wooden spoon and bite on it until the baby turns 1?

I have two friends pregnant with their first babies, both of whom were recently kind enough to pretend that I might have some advice for new mothers. I couldn’t come up with much useful information on the spot. “Uh, you don’t need a stroller, but it’s nice to have one?” “Definitely get a carseat.” “Swaddle, I think, if it works. It’s like wrapping a burrito. Eh, Google it.” As for books? “Anything but Babywise” was my best tip.

My youngest isn’t quite 2 yet, but already that baby stuff seems far away. My kids are almost people now! Some of the time they even voice their preferences with words , and I couldn’t be more pleased with this development. But my “smell ya later, infancy” attitude isn’t helpful for my pregnant friends, so I gave it some thought. Here’s the best bits of advice for new mothers I could come up with:

Childbirth is just one really rough day with — odds are very good — a happy ending. Prepare for it, but don’t let it define you. Epidurals suck, but there’s no gold medal for pain endurance. If you get a C-section, you still get a baby. I bore one with an epidural and bore one without. It really wasn’t all that different. Both hurt before, during and after. In one case, I also got a nice rest that I paid for with having to get a catheter. It wasn’t really worth it for me, but it might be for someone else.

You don’t need a title for how you parent. Have one if you want one, but it isn’t essential. You can pick and choose from different philosophies. I might be a minimalist parent or an unparent. I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter. I just do sh*t and sh*t happens. I try not to be a di*k to my kids, but it’s okay if sometimes they’re inconvenienced by my needing to be a human in addition to being a mother.

Co-exist with your children. They don’t revolve around you and you try to get to a place where you don’t revolve around them, but forgive yourself for the fact that itty bitty kids require an intense buy-in and you might not have much of a personality for the first year or two of their lives.

You might lose your mind. That’s okay. Get help.

If you have a partner, use him or her. Co-parent! Leave your partner home alone with the baby while you go to the grocery store. Or even better, send them to the grocery store together while you stay home alone. Don’t fix it when your partner dresses the baby in two types of stripes. Don’t deride your partner’s babyminding faculties. Don’t believe that only you have the magic to make your baby happy. Don’t hover over your partner when he or she’s with the baby and treat him/her like an employee who has to be trained. Don’t refer to what your partner does as “babysitting.”

Both sleep training and not sleep training are messes. Figure out what you can tolerate and then act accordingly.

If you don’t control your tendency to be controlling you will imprison yourself. Go ahead and try to be perfect if you want, but don’t blame the institution of motherhood or your baby when you go two years without finishing a sentence, sleeping through the night or having sex.

Join a mom’s group, but stay with it only if it’s nurturing to you. If you feel judged or you feel judgy of the other moms, quit. Find a new group. Or don’t. It’s not high school. You don’t need a clique.

This homemade baby food nonsense ends with you. Grab a banana, smoosh it with a fork, then feed it to your baby. You don’t have to puree peas. When they want to eat peas, they will just eat them with that cute little pincer grasp they’ve been working on. Carrots too hard? Steam them. You do not need a two-week course, several reference manuals and specialized appliances. It is so much simpler to feed your kid fresh fruits and vegetables than anyone lets on. It’s not a thing. It’s just food. Also, they sell this stuff in jars and pouches and it’s not too bad.

All the seemingly divisive decisions — pain meds in labor/newborn sleep arrangements/feeding — are often phrased as moral imperatives from both sides. Screw that. Take care of your kid. Do what works.

You can’t win at parenting or homemaking. If you think you’re winning then everyone else thinks you’re a di*k.

My philosophy can be summed up with “Really?!” It’s what you say when strangers tell you that your baby is freezing in 85 degree weather and how to respond to the moms in your play group who tell you either “Ferberizing is the only way to go” or “Sleep training causes brain damage.” And “really?!” is the only acceptable response to a partner who claims “I don’t know how to change diapers as well as you.”

When in doubt, ask yourself what a pioneer lady on a wagon train would think is important. Suddenly, organizing baby socks will fall off your to-do list and you’ll feel a lot better about your day. (“Sock organizing? Really?!” you’ll say to yourself.) And “really?!” will come in handy as your baby gets older. Kids are beautiful and majestic little human unicorns who are full of total bullsh*t and they need to be called out on that.

That’s all the wisdom I’ve gathered three-and-a-half years into this gig. What would you add to it?

An earlier version of this was posted on JJust Kidding.

 

What Babies Really Cost

On September 5, 2012, in Blog, by Bellybuds

Original post here

Ready for some sticker shock? Here’s a look at what you’re likely to spend on some basic baby items.
 

There’s no question that your little baby-to-be will be worth every penny (and then some), but having kids does come with a hefty price tag. The U.S. government estimates that middle-income parents of infants born today will spend at least $242,000 each to raise those babies to age 18 — and that’s beforeyou factor in college tuition (ouch!). What’s more, you’ll probably start feeling the pinch even before the stork arrives: Pregnancy tests are about $10 a pop, prenatal vitamins can cost $10 to $25 for a month’s supply, and maternity clothes can add up to hundreds, depending on where you shop. Once your little bundle arrives, the fiscal fun really begins (not!). Here’s a quick primer on what you can expect to spend on some key baby items. The upshot? Starting a baby budget plan now will give you extra time to sock away savings!

  • Nursery furniture. For a basic setup — crib, mattress, changing table, and glider chair — you’ll pay at least $150 for each item, and that’s if you’re an eagle-eyed bargain shopper. If you’re dying for a chic, super-deluxe look, set aside $3,000 — just for the crib!
  • Car seat. An absolute must (can’t leave the hospital without one!), infant car seats are something you’ll need to purchase new to ensure safety. Figure on spending $90 to $350 on one.
  • Stroller. When your baby’s a little older, an inexpensive umbrella-style stroller ($20 to $100) will do. But infants need more support. Durable, all-around stroller systems start at $100 and go up to as much as $1,000! (Yikes!)
  • Diapers. During your baby’s first year, you can expect to change 2,500 dirty diapers (yuk!) at a cost of at least $600 for disposables. Cloth diapers from a diaper service are comparable; if you buy and wash your own, you’ll save big (although your water and electric bill will go up, and you’ll need to stock up on detergent).
  • Formula/food. Naturally, breastfeeding has big health as well as cost-saving benefits, though you’ll still need to invest in nursing bras (about $20 to $50 each or more) and a pump (from $20 for a simple manual model to $250 or more for an electric double one). For a year’s worth of formula, count on spending $1,500 to $2,000 or more, depending on the brand. Bottles run about $5 apiece, and your baby might go through a few different models before finding one he or she likes!
  • Childcare. A biggie. If both you and your partner will be working full-time, you’ll spend an average of $6,750 a year on care for your baby (the cost drops as the baby gets older). Since costs vary widely by location and by type (i.e., daycare versus nanny), you may be looking at a more substantial bill, especially if you live in an urban area.
  • Clothing and other accessories. All those teeny-tiny, utterly adorable outfits add up. And then there are other baby gear essentials like bouncy seats, swings, and diaper pails to consider. The good news: Friends and family will most likely fill your nursery and your little one’s closet with gifts. To encourage that trend (and ease your baby budget burden), take advantage of gift registries. Then fill in the gaps with garage sale and consignment store buys. Since babies grow so fast, it’s easy to find good quality, barely used items!
 
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