21st of January at 6.48 am we finally met our baby girl Sophia, two weeks overdue and weighting a mere 7 pounds despite my impressive bump. Seriously it was ridiculously big.
I don’t think i will ever forget those two days of labor and delivery – the emotion, the nerves and the excitement. When it was all over, i remember me and my husband cuddled in bed with this tiny little person just starring in silence, our heart bursting with love and feeling so excited to start our new life in three. Im still chuckling when i reminiscence – me, still high on the epidural, being wheeled out and waving like the queen to the nurses and doctors! Mortified! Everybody was so congratulatory so it just came natural i suppose ha!
First year now under our belt, i feel i know a whole lot more about babies and how to keep them alive and well. Neither me or my husband have been around babies ever, so we cant say that we knew much about anything really. The memory of the first year anxiety it will never leave us, from chilled out people – well more so him, rather than me – we become an on edge, anxious, Google searching fanatic couple. We are working on this though, stress ball in hand.
The reason of this post is to highlight a couple of budget friendly things that got us trough the first year, without breaking the bank. I feel lately is a huge pressure on new parents to accumulate a variety of expensive stuff that probably wont even get used for two months. I mean whats the point of €500 cot or €300 high chair? Not to mention having three bed/cots/moses baskets on the go in one household. Its a bit optimistic thinking the baby will sleep that much really.
As a bit of background, just so you wont think im this stingy, tight purse person: we decided from the get go when i got pregnant that i want to take 9 months maternity leave (6 months paid statutory maternity pay of €240 a week, followed by 3 months completely unpaid) and that i will step down from my full time position to a part time one, so i can spend as much time with Sophia as i could. She is in creche just two days a week, it does her good to socialize with the other babies and get independent, but on the flip side every week she gets a fresh new bug. Cue anxious googling symptoms and getting panicked is something really serious. In her first month of creche she got two vomiting bugs (which she shared generously with us) and one sinus infection. Marvelous!
We got ours second hand, a friend generously donated her Mamas and Papas Moses basket to us and i only had to buy a fresh mattress and cot bed linen. Adverts/ebay /friends and family – you are bound to get a Moses Basket for cheap and just get fresh inserts (a mattress costs about €10 euro). Actually ALDI have this week their Baby Event and they are selling lovely Moses Baskets for only €30! You have to think practical – yes they are cute and make great photo opportunities, not to mention they look great in the nursery but the baby will live in the basket for 6-10 weeks MAX. Sophia moved into her current cot when she was six weeks and it was a smooth and safe transition.
BUGGIE | TRAVEL SYSTEMS | CAR CHAIR
When it comes to this, it all depends on the family personal choice – most parents go for more expensive versions because they are planning ahead and consider using the travel system for future babies as well. We went with the budget version again and after road testing it for a year, i have no regrets and it was well worth it.
We got a red Graco EVO travel system for about €350 during a Smyths sale – you can still see it here but unfortunately is full price at the moment. One thing to start doing during the pregnancy is to buy your bits during Sales. I know its bad luck to buy early bla bla… but we ended up saving €250. I remember when i was chatting to other pregnant ladies at my hospital appointments, they were all taking buggies as there were the latest car models. Thousands were spent on rose gold models, which were pretty as picture but had the tiniest storage space. One thing to look when buying a buggie is the storage space, trust me you will need it.
We now have upgraded Sophia to a front facing car seat that we got in the Mothercare Sale for just €38. Its very sturdy and she seems to be loving it so far. In the coming months i would probably upgrade her to a new stroller as well, but at the moment she is comfy in her old one.
Probably no surprise there, we got ours in IKEA. Its white, sturdy and dare i say it pretty. It was €70 and the mattress another €75. Like i mentioned before, Sophia has been sleeping in her cot exclusively since she was 6 weeks old. She basically grew in it. Plenty of space still, she can star fish to her heart desire so i reckon another year will do the job quite nicely. This is the one we have here, mattress here.
This was a gift from my husbands mates, i really wanted the Angel Care Baby Monitor €140 (here) and they got it for us. Its great for piece of mind against SIDS – it has a plate that you put under the mattress and monitors the baby’s movements, temperature etc so if something is wrong it starts beeping to alert you. Some of my friends said they got some false alarms with it, but it never happened to us. After six months we removed the monitoring plate and just used as a normal baby monitor – basically just to hear Sophia if we are in a different room. It has a night light as well, so that’s handy when you are searching for the missing soother during the night. Ive seen some really fancy ones with cameras incorporated, but we didn’t need it at the time because Sophia slept in our room until just recently. It was a thing of comfort for us, we didn’t have to sleep half awake trying to hear the monitor and it was close enough just to reach out and soothe her. Now shes in her own bedroom, so we might invest in a fancier monitor.
This one was a must for me, because i had an epidural my back was sore and stiff for months. I actually ended up having two epidurals, the first one just went awol so i was in shambles. We got the Babylo Baby Changer from Smyths €90 (see it here): it was the perfect height, cushioned changing mattress and plenty of under storage. We used it until Sophia was about 6 months and then sold it on adverts (for €50 mind you!) as she was so active that i was afraid she’ll fall off it. Now we just have a Tesco Changing Mat (€10) that we put on the bed or floor during nappy changing. Its grand, has polka dots! We initially got a Baby Nappy Bin as well (€30) but because we were living in an apartment at the time, we could get to the main rubbish bin with no hassle. We gave it away, so im considering getting another one and just keep it in the Bathroom upstairs as we live in a house now.
We got ours from Smyths for only €30 (here) – it had a vibration setting and i could move Sophia around the apartment with me. She lived in it until she was six months and then she realized she can bounce herself and was afraid she’ll end up upside down. I’ve seen some real cool gadgets, they almost look like space ships that rock the baby themselves, they seem awesome but in reality i wanted her in my arms or to do tummy time. Plus my Sophia hates to be in one place for a long time so we kept shuffling her around. Again this ended up on Adverts and i’ve sold it for €20.
My tummy time mat was a special gift from my friends at my baby shower, its the Mother Care Loved So Much baby mat – you can see my review here. Sophia loved it! She played in it, slept in it and still sits on it. Its so cosy, soft and cuddly. Sophia still loves it, i have it in her room on the floor as a play mat.
When Sophia started to stand up on her bum, i was so afraid she’ll fell flat on her face that i was creating this safe circle of pillows on the floor to let her climb up. Until Mags came to the rescue and borrowed me her Baby Ring – its an inflatable, blow out ring (like a swimming one but huge), dressed in soft plush and with a funny head. The baby sits in the middle and helps her sit up straight and maintain her balance. Sometimes Sophia would just lounge in it when she got tired of climbing, head on one side and legs propped on the other. I wish ive taken a picture! I felt safe leaving toys in the center so she could sit up and play and have a cup of tea in peace, without the stress of her banging her head.
We decided on the puree route with Sophia, to be honest shes so petite and doesn’t have a huge appetite – this baby lives on air – that if we would’ve gone on the baby led technique she would probably starve herself out. Even now at 1 year old, she does a mixture of feeding herself with me sneakily feeding her a few spoonfuls of food. Her latest craze that brings me to tears, is to take a bite of whatever shes eating and trow it on the floor like the diva she really is ha! I know its a new learning process of action and reaction, but honestly it drives me bonkers! Ive resorted on having a black bin bag underneath her high chair for this very reason. I paid a lot for my floors!
When im cooking for her im using two utensils: a hand held blender (€25 – here) and a pot steamer. Thats it. Im steaming whatever veg and then blast it with the mixer, i can create smooth purees or chunkier, thicker ones. It all depends on whatever stage shes at. I got a Kenwood Food Processor on Sale too (€50) but its such a pain to clean that i end up using the hand blender.
As cooking books i found Annabel Karmel’s one very good (got the app in the meantime for looking up ingredients while im shopping) and Feed Your Child Well: Babies and Toddlers a Handbook for Parents in Ireland (see here). This one in particular is written by the nurses in Temple Street and its so useful for meal planning, what foods to introduce when and how often a baby should eat. I found it brilliant. Covers vegetarian and non vegetarian meal plans and information.
Ah good old IKEA, where would i be without you! My one and only highchair costs only €24 and its just perfect! Its lightweight, so easy to clean and Sophia seems to love it. I got her the cushion as well, for extra comfort. See the chair here and cushion here. At the moment, Aldi have a Stokke look alike in their Baby Event that its worth checking out. I found that the plain plastic Ikea highchair was just a dream to wipe down, it doesn’t take too much time to give it a good scrub as opposite to fully cushioned ones. Babies are messy creatures and in 3 seconds there will be pasta bolognese every where!
This is it, these are the big things that we used during Sophia’s first year. Clothes we got from Next, Zara – only during their sales and always a size or two up, Penneys, H&M and Tesco. FYI Zara baby clothes are tiny, so always take the next size up or your baby will get only a wear or two out of it, H&M and Next run bigger, while Tesco and Penneys are true to size.
For cosmetics we go to Boots, they have this Baby Club Promotion: when you buy baby products you get 10 points per euro spent, hence i have €100 on my Boots Club Card. We get her toiletries there: Avene Body Cream, Weleda Calendula Hair and Body Wash and other bits and pieces. Nappies and wipes are always from Aldi – im not sponsored by them i swear! They seemed to fit her best and never had irritations.
Always keep an eye on sales and baby events – Aldi and Lidl have them regularly, same does Boots or Tesco.
I mentioned Adverts as im not a fan of keeping stuff for the sake of it, so im always reselling what im not using anymore – granted if its in good condition – and then use the money against future purchases. Its a great money rotation cycle that allows me purchasing items that Sophia might need and at the same time keeps my home tidy.
If i forgot to cover something please let me know in the comments and i will update the post. Also if you have practical tips, do share them!
Im not trying to dis on anyone wanting to spend a bit more money in preparation, at the end of the day if you can afford it and if brings you joy, life is to short not to do it. However, if like me you are forced to choose between being able to spend more time with your baby or splashing out on material things and having to go back to work early, be sensible it can absolutely be done!
Birthday Cake created by the fabulous Christina Carolan - check her work here.