Chinami is almost one year old!! And in this one year, I have made many parenting choices that benefitted the both of us...her, emotionally and physically...and me, physically, emotionally.....and financially!
From when I was pregnant with Chinami, I started taking control of my life and making conscious choices for the two of us. I chose to eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein while supplementing my diet with prenatal vitamins and superfoods such as chia seeds and spirulina. I chose to homebirth with a naturopathic midwife. I chose to breastfeed exclusively, and practice baby-led weaning, skipping purees. I chose to co-sleep and wear my baby when going out. I chose to use cloth diapers and early potty learning. I also chose to delay vaccinations until age 2.
My choices were partly for health reasons.
My pregnancy and birth were normal and healthy. There was no need for me to go to an OBGYN or a hospital.
I gained 35 lbs during my pregnancy and lost it all in the first 3 months, and at 11 months postpartum I have lost an additional 10 lbs. My baby was 7lbs 13 oz when she was born and doubled her birth weight in the first 3 months.
By being breastfed, she had natural immunity to most infections and diseases, as well as being able to experience many different flavors from variety of food I eat regularly.
By being given real food from the start, she developed her ability to chew and swallow without choking naturally, and continued to be able to follow her own instincts and know how much she needed to eat. She eats a variety of healthy foods, but there are some days when she doesn't eat much, and I know she is still getting what she needs from my milk.
By co-sleeping, she was able to regulate her breathing patterns, reducing the chance of SIDS.
By being worn regularly, her core muscles became very strong and it helped her reach her milestones. She rolled over at 3 months, sat up and crawled at 6 months, pulled up at 7 months, cruised at 8 months, and stood unassisted at 9 months and walks with help.
My choices were partly for financial reasons.
Even a used crib, with mattress and sheets would cost us about $200. We spent $20 on a used cosleeper that she only used for one month anyway before we felt it was safe to have her next to us.
Formula, in addition to being made from cow's milk, soybean oil, and corn syrup, is very expensive. http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/03/04/how-much-money-does-breastfeeding-really-save/ Buying formula, bottles, nipples and pacifiers would have probably cost me around $2,000 for the year, and maybe even more because she would have a higher chance of tummy problems and getting sick.
I was spending almost $100/month on disposable diapers in the beginning, and that was even with doing diaper-free time. If I had used disposable diapers for the entire year, I would have spent over 1,000 dollars easily. The $200 I spent on cloth diapers that I can use for at least 2 years and keep for my next babies, is much more worthwhile.
By continuing to nurse her and supplementing with normal, whole foods, instead of buying processed purees in jars and trying to force-feed her, I have saved at least $500.
There are no studies and no scientific evidence that expensive gadgets and DVDs help babies reach milestones faster, increase IQ, or even make them happier. Chinami has a few toys like a small keyboard, a "laptop" that says the ABCs, a walker our neighbor generously gave her, stuffed animals that were gifts from friends, and a small stack of board books, but she really enjoys playing with wooden spoons, plastic plates and cups, and absolutely loves water bottles and my cellphone (I gave her my old defunct one but she still steals mine whenever she can and calls people!) All together, I would say her toys cost me about $20.
Another perk about living in a shoebox 1 bedroom apartment, no need for baby gates! She is always within 5 feet of me and I put a box of her plastic plates and cups at the entrance to the kitchen, blocking her from going in but more importantly, distracting her from whatever she was going to get into. The rest of the "rooms" have doors so we can contain her in the bedroom when we need to.
Chinami's 1st birthday is approaching fast and now I have to think about her second year. She will nurse less and eat more, possibly go to a day care, and start learning to express herself more and more. But no matter how old she gets, I know there are so many things I can do for her that don't cost anything!