• Catrina M.P.

Breastfeeding and Minimalism

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

Over the past 2 years I’ve learned just how well companies market items geared towards babies; they are aware that most families will spend their life savings to purchase whatever material things they think their newborns will need. We feel the need to put 500 items on our registries in order to be prepared for our baby's arrival. However, many of these “baby items” are only commonly used in westernized countries or exclusively in the United States.

Recently, many parents have been openly sharing their regrets of buying so much "plastic junk" for their children.

In fact, you may be delighted to discover just how valuable minimalism can be for your family. Babies will want and need nothing more than their parents’ time and attention. After just minutes, they’ll get bored of almost every single toy given to them, but will rarely get tired of silly faces, singing and dancing. Getting on the ground to be eye-level with your baby for playtime will keep them happiest because no object can replace a warm presence. Additionally, the closer you remain to your child, the more opportunity there is to encourage breastfeeding.

Photo of my little family (by Nicole Leigh Photography)

Of course breastfeeding is sustainable feeding (read more about this topic HERE) and is surely eco-friendly, but there are other aspects aligned with being a breastfeeding mamma that may also contribute to a more minimalist lifestyle and way of parenting. It may seem obvious that feeding supplies such as bottles, sippy cups, and pacifiers are not necessary when exclusively breastfeeding, but what other items could possibly be ditched all together?

First of all, your breastfed baby can transition right to straws or regular cups for drinking when he is ready to move on from being exclusively breastfed.

That’s right: YOU DON'T NEED TO BUY “TRAINING” CUPS! I know they look cute and have great designs, but your baby will love learning to use straws and drinking from a little plastic, silicone or paper cup; even if he does make a mess. If you really want to spend money on something, there are beautiful silicone cups that come in small sizes for little hands to hold and even have a weighted bottom for easy handling. In addition to only putting drops of water at a time into the cup, keep your baby naked during meals and keep a towel nearby to clean up the spills as they experiment with drinking.

Next up on the list of things you may never need to buy: nursery furniture. Don’t rush to purchase a big, fancy crib right away because it could end up being for show, especially if you're breastfeeding. In addition to the convenience of sleeping near your child in order to encourage breastfeeding on demand (including overnight) and maintain your supply, it is advised to sleep in the same room as your baby during the first year. Many families use a bassinet or a similar bedside option for their infants in the early months. There are other variations of cosleeping as well, including bed sharing or breastsleeping (read about safe bedsharing guidelines HERE).

My baby NOT sleeping in his crib

Furniture and cribs tend to be some of the most expensive items on a baby registry, so before you purchase these items, wait to see which sleeping situation works best for your family. A nice cosleeper or bassinet to keep your baby close overnight will allow mom to breastfeed easily if bedsharing is not an option. You can then use a mini crib to keep baby in your room once your baby outgrows the bassinet if you would like to continue staying close. When your child reaches toddlerhood, you may even transition straight to a toddler bed or twin bed. These are things we simply cannot plan in advance because each child and situation is unique.

Another item that often goes unused for many families is a playpen.

I’ve heard plenty of parents state they solely used their playpen for toy storage. In reality, the playpen along with all the toys inside probably could have gone to the garbage in my own personal experience! A more practical and economical item to splurge on is a soft, safe play mat or easy-to-clean rug. Make sure you order the appropriate size for the room it will be used in. A one-piece mat is easy to clean and can also be moved without much effort. If a home is baby proofed as it should be, there should be no real risk in letting your child roam around to explore under your supervision.

My baby's first walk in his stroller

Strollers are certainly functional but many babies go through periods in which they would much rather be held or remain free to explore on their own. A stroller with a bassinet attachment is ideal to let your infant sleep in during long walks, and a jogging stroller will be your best friend when your baby is a bit older if you wish to keep active by walking or running outside. However, before you go out and buy 3 different types of strollers, consider your lifestyle and which stroller, if any, is most ideal and useful for your family.

Another option is to instead wear your infant with a stretch-cotton baby carrier wrap whether you're working at home or going for walks. This will help to keep your newborn happy and secure at all times; he’ll appreciate the warmth and closeness during his fourth trimester and may even be able to breastfeed in it. As the baby gets a little bigger you may upgrade to other types of baby carriers which are adjustable and have straps like backpacks. The best part about baby carriers is that they are much more compact and portable compared to strollers.

My husband wearing our baby at the aquarium

Still need items to add to your registry?

Aside from restaurant and supermarket gift cards, here are several items I wish I had stocked up on as a breastfeeding mamma prior to my baby’s arrival:

  • Burp cloths

  • Bibs

  • Teething toys

  • Pajamas in all sizes

  • Microwaveable (breast) gel pads

  • Diapers

  • Wipes

  • Nursing pads

  • Books for BABY (durable, multilingual books with bright images)

  • Books for ME (about parenting, birthing, breastfeeding, etc...)

I remember my mother telling me that I wasn’t going to use half of the items I had in the house that were all set up and ready for my baby months before his arrival. She was absolutely right and I’m not quite sure why I couldn’t envision the type of mother I would be, although deep down inside I already knew.

What works for one family may not work for another.

If your neighbor swore by that super duper $500 swing, try it out! But be prepared to return it if it doesn’t tickle your baby’s fancy. You may find that your baby hates being in a play pen, but your cousin’s baby loved it. Perhaps the thousands of different electronic toys were a hit for your niece, but your baby just isn’t interested. The bottom line? Save your receipts or wait to buy everything! Your baby is constantly growing and changing and may not make use of every item you purchase. Remember, YOU are the most important thing your new baby needs.

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