The Minimal Baby

Image courtesy of Miami University Libraries - Digital Collections
Image courtesy of Miami University Libraries – Digital Collections

In the event that you and your S.O. are spending time in the bedroom making babies, deliberately or incidentally, the following numbers might prove useful: The baby goods industry is apparently worth around $30 billion, and the cost of a raising a child to 21 is reported to be over $300,000. Scary, huh?

Our eldest son is now five years old, and our youngest is three. We’d like to try for another child, but it isn’t in the cards. As such, I’m tasked with the hateful job of divesting our remaining baby things. This started with Craigslist, which is comprised of people who email questions, book appointments, and then—quite tragically—spontaneously combust on their way over. It is ending with us simply donating these things to those in need.

As I purge all of this stuff, I realize just how little of it was ever necessary. Actually, almost none of it was.

Sure, you’ll need receiving blankets (read: cheap rags) to wipe up puke. Diapers are also a nice idea, unless you’re truly the adventurous type. A car seat is a good call, if you’d like said baby to maintain his/her current configuration. From there, though, most of the rest is a wash.

A fancy diaper bag with many useful pockets? Nonsense! Any bag or backpack will do. A crib? Unnecessary. Particularly once you realize that your baby is going to sleep with you, most of the time. Besides, a portable playpen (used price $25) will serve the same purpose, and be useful when traveling. Change table? Use the floor. “Genius” baby products? Not that important. My kid ain’t Einstein, and yours won’t be either. Sadly, no toy will change this.

Next up, clothing: don’t buy any. You’ll be drowning in it, in no time. Toys? Same deal. Family and friends will bombard you with this stuff, and more of it will go unused than you can imagine. While it sickens me to say so, we’ve come across some such things in our house that never even made it out of their packaging.

As for strollers, you’ll end up with a few at different times. I hated this idea when we started out, but it’s unavoidable. You’ll begin with a basinet model, convert it to the upright setting, and then find yourself buying an umbrella stroller. (This will be the cheapest one, and you’ll use it the most.) With the arrival of baby #2, you’ll once again be in the market; this time for a two-seater.

My suggestion for strollers: buy used, and go cheap. All the conveniences touted are overrated, and pre-owned ones are typically in great condition. Plus, it’s hard to not look like a douchebag when you’re pushing around a $1,000 Bugaboo.

Now, for the good part. Perhaps you’ve heard whispers about the Great Baby-Stuff Exchange. Well, these rumors are all true: a shadowy, underground market comprised of completely free baby goods!

You see, although you might not currently know many people with kids, this will all soon change. Once it happens, you’ll be forced to endure all kinds of mind-numbing blabber about lack of sleep, breastfeeding problems, and some Ferber dude. The upside? They’ll also be trading bags and boxes filled with things their kids have outgrown. You too can take part in all of this wonder, getting your hands on almost new stuff, at no cost, for as long as you need it! (You’ll eventually find yourself happier to see it go, than come.)

Ask most expectant parents how they’re doing, and they almost unanimously respond, “We’re kind of busy, getting the house ready.” These people are fools… hear me, fools! Sit back, relax, and collect some common sense. All the crap you’re being told to buy won’t make you an even marginally better parent, and there’s no real way to prepare for the changes ahead.

So, skip the prescribed consumption and do something important. By this I mean spending your last pre-child days indulging at restaurants and taking in as many movies as you can. You won’t be able to do this again, for a good, long while.


  1. Great article about what really matters. Aside from loving that you’re using the word ‘douchebag’ (new favourite word), the reminder to enjoy your last freedoms is a much better way to get ready for baby! I’ve seen many friends go through this and have often thought how manufactured the baby ‘needs’ industry is — our parents raised us without all this crap!

    1. Yes, Lisa, it’s bewildering to think of how much junk we think we need. Particularly when you consider how many generations had none of it (and still the species managed to persist).

      As for you Nina and Todd, congratulations! Nothing in my life has ever been as profoundly moving and enjoyable as the arrival (and presence of) our kids. You two are going to have an awful lot of fun!

  2. I found a Bugaboo stroller on the curb, left for garbage pickup.

    I brought it home, cleaned it up, and flipped it on CL for $350. Score!

  3. Here a minimalist mother of two who agrees wholeheartedly. One detail, though: one typically finds herself immersed in a sea of unnecessary things, while some good sturdy well-designed stuff is still missing.

  4. Bang on mostly. Bugaboo. Best decision to buy ever. 2 kids, 7 years, then lent it to a friend. Still fully functional, decidedly not a pain, and easy in an urban setting because it’s not a SUV stroller. It’s gear you’re bolted to for a huge chunk of your stressful life, might as well be nice and functional gear.

    Crib? Critical. Don’t be a sucker and have a kid that sleeps in your bed. Who needs that? Everyone needs a bit of space including the kid. Everyone sleeps better too. Quite frankly, you are a better parent if you put your kid in their own room in a crib from the earliest age possible. Any deviation from that means that you are a horrible parent and your kids will hate you and get tatoos on their respective faces.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed your Bugaboo that much. A good object that you really get use out of is worth the investment. We too purchased a high-end stroller, but found it far less practical for our needs. Amea preferred using a baby carrier, and once our second son arrived, the good stroller was rendered pointless. As a result, I wouldn’t do it again.

      We slept with both of our boys off/on as they’ve wanted. Sometimes it’s made our sleep harder, but I feel there are real benefits to them being right at our side. The first is functional: Amea could turn over and breast-feed readily when they were really young. The second is more ideological: I like that they’ve had us close at hand for the first few years. Plus, there’s something really wonderful about having them beside you like that!

  5. So true! On baby #1, I must admit I was tricked by the notion that Baby needed all the outer trappings. By baby #4, who is now nearly two, I’ve realized that the little humans need no more clutter in their lives than the big ones do. And the GD toys?! Unnecessary. You know what our baby plays with? Cardboard boxes, my iPhone, the dog. Lint from the floor. Her clothes. If it came in packaging and looks like it should belong to a 2-year-old, she decidedly ignores it.

  6. Totally agree. We were given a used stroller when our first daughter was born and its the only one we have ever used. When she was a baby we just carried her around in a snuggli wrap. Number two is on its way and I am hoping that we can get by with the combination of a snuggli wrap and our squeaky wheeled stroller.

    We bought an expensive crib before she was born – isn’t that where babies sleep? I don’t think she has ever slept in it and now it is sitting in the garage until our second child is born – although I am not sure if I will be able to use it the second time around.

  7. “Plus, it’s hard to not look like a douchebag when you’re pushing around a $1,000 Bugaboo.” That made me laugh out loud. So true. I assume that my 1990’s model sit-n-stand that had been through at least three kids before I got it doesn’t make me look like a douchebag :-) Great post.

  8. Wow – this post really resonated with me.

    We’ve spent about $500 on baby stuff in 2.5 years of parenthood. Our first child was raised on hand me downs. Planning on doing the same for our second (on the way).

    When we can’t get stuff we need from friends, we buy it secondhand.

    We’ve spent the money we saved on travel with the kiddo.

    Oh, and to cut back even more, check out the site I built for her birthday ( You can collect money instead of gifts at a birthday party. Worked great for us, we collected upwards on $400 on her 2nd birthday and sent it off to an orphanage in India.

    1. We do something similar: two dollar birthday parties. Instead of a present, each guest brings two dollars. Our sons then use half of the total sum for a gift, and give the other half to a charity/organization of their choosing.

  9. ummm you’re a freaking genius! but i was one before you. i have four kids and we learned early on not to indulge in luxuries such as expensive diaper bags, toys and clothes. we got most of this stuff from visiting friends and family. we used one car seat for all of the babies and then the same boosters as well. we are the champs of hand me downs in this household. to this day we do not buy our kids toys. they won’t get cell phones or laptops until they are out of high school. i’m glad you wrote this blog/article. i think new parents should really stand back and assess the situation. it’s okay to be cheap when it comes to your child. giving him the best of useless stuff will not enrich his life.

  10. This piece is fantastic. I don’t have kids yet, but I know it’s soon. And your sentiments are how I already feel. I hope I’m sort of ahead of the curve here. Still, I’ll be sharing this with all my baby having friends.

  11. Love the $2 idea! Do people honor it without supplementing with a “real” gift? I’ve tried the “no gifts please” invite with no success…gift giving is so ingrained in humans that guests bring stuff anyway.

  12. Mostly agreed. However, at 3 months after the birth of our first, I will say that my approach to baby stuff minimalism has evolved with my new understanding that a lot of it isn’t for the baby, but for the sanity & well-being of the parent(s).

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