Becoming a new mum can be an incredibly exciting time, but also an overwhelming one. With so many things to buy and prepare for, the expenses can quickly add up and it can be challenging to figure out what to spend on vs. what you can do without.
After surviving the newborn years twice (I have two kids), here’s what I would personally recommend investing in and saving on:
|What to invest in||What to save on|
|UV steriliser||(Branded) baby bottles|
|Baby furniture||Formula milk and diapers|
|Baby carrier/stroller||Baby clothes, toys and books|
|Durable car seat||Baby shoes|
|Confinement food catering||Changing table|
|Postnatal massage||Prenatal exercise classes|
|Breast pump||Nursing dresses|
One of the first few expensive purchases we made was a UV steriliser, which is used to sterilise and dry your breast pump parts, baby bottles, teats and pacifiers. Although a cheaper option would be to go for a steam sterilizer (or make your own, over a stove), that won’t dry your feeding parts so it is more inconvenient. Our UV steriliser cost us about $400, but it is still working after four years and we’re now using it for our second child, so it was definitely a worthwhile buy.
You’ll need to get your house ready for the baby, so baby furniture such as a crib or a co-sleeper (if you intend to latch during night feeds) will be essential. If you can, choose a baby cot that can last till your child learns how to walk, after which you can transfer them into a more permanent sleeping arrangement. (We’re using floor mattresses.)
Before your baby learns to walk, you will need to carry or push them around, so it is worth investing in a good baby carrier with back support so that you will not develop posture issues that will cost even more to treat later on in life. A good stroller that is easy to manoeuvre and can recline to sleeping position (for your baby to nap) is also a non-negotiable. If you intend to travel with your baby, you may also want to look for foldable cabin-size strollers from the get-go so you won’t have to purchase another later on before your trip.
For those with cars, a durable car seat is mandatory in Singapore, and is important to ensure your baby’s safety while on the road (you’ll never know when someone might crash into your rear while driving). Your baby’s body and bones are still developing, so it is crucial not to compromise their safety during this period.
During your confinement
Your postnatal recovery matters more than you might think, because the wellbeing of the mother does not end after the baby is out. While getting ample rest may seem difficult (especially for new breastfeeding mothers where clearing your milk is a three-hourly affair), you should at least make sure you invest in your recovery with nutritious confinement food and postnatal massages.
Hiring a confinement nanny is very much a personal decision. If you choose not to get one, confinement food catering can save your sanity and hours of time from having to prepare your meals.
Another essential during this period will be postnatal massages, which can help speed up your recovery process. Professional postnatal therapists can not only help you dispel excess wind in your body, but also reduce water retention and help with breast engorgement issues. Many also incorporate a binder after the massage to help reduce your belly size and realign the pelvis after childbirth.
Lastly, please invest in a hospital-grade breast pump which is a must-have during your breastfeeding journey. Such breast pumps come with a heavy-duty motor and can efficiently clear your ducts, thus reducing your chances of developing engorgement or mastitis. New mothers typically need to pump every three hours to clear and produce milk, so a good breast pump will serve you well. Medela and Spectra are the most popular brands, with the latter being a more affordable option.
Tip: If your pump parts spoil and the originals are too expensive for you to replace, you can use Maymom or Nenesupply as a cheaper option for Spectra and Medela parts.
Not everything is a must-have
There are many items being marketed to new mums which will supposedly make your life easier and better. However, not everything is necessary, especially if you are trying to save on your budget.
Here are some options I would personally cut back on:
|What to save on|
|(Branded) baby bottles|
|Formula milk and diapers|
|Baby clothes, toys and books|
|Prenatal exercise classes|
A changing table and a nursing chair are nice to have, but not needed. Laying out a waterproof mat on any flat surface (such as your bed or the table) will be sufficient to change your baby on, and that’s exactly how we did it for both kids. Instead of a nursing chair, I was mostly using the sofa which was comfortable enough for me to breastfeed the baby, while I used the dining table and a computer chair whenever I had to pump.
After two kids, I’ve come to realise that branded baby bottles are unnecessary. The teat matters more than the bottle. As long as your baby takes well to the teat, you are good. There’s no need to spend on expensive bottles that are just good to look at. And your baby is too young to care about whether they are drinking from a pretty or plain bottle.
Formula milk and diapers are consumables that last for the first three to five years of your child’s life, so if you can save on these, it will make a significant impact on your expenses. Read our take here on what to go for instead.
Another area to consider saving on would be the clothes, toys and books. Babies outgrow their clothes incredibly quickly, so there is little point in buying too many in each size. Instead, go for basics that can be mixed and matched, and add a few pretty outfits for special occasions. If you don’t mind second-hand baby items, there are plenty of clothes, toys and books that you can get from apps like Olio and Carousell, or even from freecycling groups on Facebook or Telegram. (For preloved baby or household stuff, try this. For school textbooks and uniforms, check this out.)
Baby shoes are also completely useless, as they won’t be walking in their first year very much. Get socks to cover their feet instead.
For any pregnant mother who wishes to save during her pregnancy, you can forgo paying for prenatal exercise classes and simply go for long walks around your neighborhood, or a swim.
Finally, the last item I would add to the list would be nursing dresses. While it can be tempting to buy multiple nursing outfits in different designs and colours, you really need just a few staple ones. I’ve seen plenty of mothers sell their nursing dresses on Carousell because they no longer need it after they stop breastfeeding. You can buy second-hand nursing clothes and save some money that way.
In conclusion, becoming a new mum may be an expensive time, but there are ways to manage the costs so that you don’t end up breaking the bank. As it can be hard for a first-time mother to figure out what is necessary vs. what can be done without, I found it useful to speak to other mothers who have already been through the journey and hear their perspectives on this topic.
By saving on certain items and spending only on what is necessary, you can stop yourself from buying things that will end up being used for only a limited time, or worse, become a white elephant in your house.
Dawn Cher is a mother of two boys and the founder of financial blog SG Budget Babe. Work aside, she is proudest about having lost 20kg in a year, becoming lighter than her pre-pregnancy days. She believes in fairytales (don’t tell her otherwise!).