Baby Items You Can’t Live Without

I know I’m not as tough as my Grandma, but I try to keep her life in perspective when I want things. When my Grandma was pregnant with her first baby she had nothing, I mean literally nothing. She grew up in backwoods rural Arkansas during the 30’s and has often said they never really noticed that it was the “Great Depression” because they NEVER had anything to begin with. They almost always had something to eat, you just weren’t allowed to be picky and it required backbreaking labor.   I have to admit I was kind of proud of myself for all my shopping restraint this time around… and no I don’t think I would have survived my Grandma’s life!  What I decided in my quest is that there aren’t many baby items you can’t live without.  Sure there are things like bouncy seats and swings that make life easier… but you can get by without them if you have to.

Baby Items You Can’t Live Without:

#1 Diapers

I use mainly cloth diapers with some disposables here and there.  My Grandma never had any disposables (I don’t think they existed yet).  So after she had her first baby her mother came over to give her a present.  Keep in mind that her mother had eight kids and no money of her own.  So her mother gave her some flour sacks to make diapers and clothes out of, and that was a sacrifice because she could have easily used them herself!  Oh and if you’re using cloth diapers and want to complain about washing them… know that back in my Grandma’s day if it was winter there were different laundry standards.   Washing was done by hand in the creek and in winter the creek was frozen.  So in winter they’d hang soiled pee diapers up to dry… and then put them back on the baby to use again!  Talk about diaper rash, OUCH!


Flour sacks used to be fabric not paper and they had floral prints and such on them.  Check out this fascinating site if you want to learn more about the history of flour sack crafts!

#2 Clothing

I just had my third baby.  Fortunately we’ve been blessed with hand me downs because my first two kids wore a lot of pink and my third baby is a boy!  I’m going to fill in any missing pieces by sewing stuff out of scraps from daddy’s old clothing, or from the first Sat of the month at Goodwill where everything in the store is half off.  I try to keep in mind when I want to go shopping for that “new” & “adorable” stuff, that my Grandma made a couple of outfits out of those flour sacks, and that was IT.


Baby Gideon is telling us that he doesn’t care what clothes he wears… he knows he’s cool regardless. 

 #3 Crib

We already had the crib from the first pregnancy, and it only cost $100 then.  We considered replacing it because they’ve recalled all the drop side cribs, but we’ve decided to add screws so it no longer drops down instead.  My Grandma never had a crib for any f her 5 children.  The original “Co Sleeping” was done out of necessity!  She took every baby to bed with her which given the lack of rubber pants has to have been a BIG sacrifice!



We also have a cradle that Travis very talented Grandpa made for our first baby.  Gideon is such a big baby that I don’t think he’ll fit in it for very long!

#4 Pacifiers

You don’t have to have a breast pump in order to feed you baby (although it makes things easier).  But I recommend buying several pacifiers (they get lost easily).  My Grandma never had a pacifier or a breast pump.  She just fed the babies when they cried.  And if you ever had to leave your baby with a friend… let’s just say she didn’t need bottles because she had her own kids… and she had everything your growing baby needed!  No judgment people… it was a different time period.

Aren’t pacifiers great! 

#5 Rocking Chair

This item almost didn’t make my list.  I had managed to survive my most horrible labor ever (I’ll tell you more about that some other time). I was exhausted but unable to sleep with the constant interruptions from the hospital staff.  So I was a little short with my husband(sorry sweetie) when he asked me if it was time to feed the baby again. He’d already changed his diaper and since we hadn’t had a baby in over 3 years he’d forgotten that babies want to suck on something NONSTOP. I quickly informed him that it was NOT time to feed him yet, and that I am not a human pacifier. I motioned him to the rocking chair and of course the motion made the baby calm down instantly.

That’s when I panicked! I didn’t have a rocking chair anymore. A few months before I found out I was expecting again we’d set the old rocking chair on the side of the road. Now, before you consider me wasteful let me tell you more about this chair. I think my mom had already owned this chair a good 20 years before I got it, and I have to say it looked good until my kids started using it! Through the combined years of horrible potty training fiascos the chair had become horrible stained. I tried to fix this problem by reupholstering, but the foul smell of urine was not to be beaten. I poured every chemical imaginable down that chair. When the metal on the bottom broke and it was lopsided, stinky, and ugly we admitted defeat.

This is my Grandma, a truly amazing woman.  She’s survived so much and she loves her great grand babies!

So here I was, ready to leave the hospital and upset that I didn’t have a rocker. I couldn’t decide if I was overreacting… I didn’t want to spend money if it wasn’t really a necessity. When my mom came to bring our car seat to the hospital she said that she’d just realized we didn’t have a rocker. I knew if my mom agreed with me I had to be right! So we headed off for Biglots on our way home from the hospital. My husband sat in the car with the sleeping newborn. And I went inside… daring people to judge me for wearing my pink heart PJ pants in public. My parents surprised me and paid for the amazingly comfortable black “pleather” rocker recliner I’d picked out as a baby present. As I’m spending half of every day in this thing feeding and holding the baby, I couldn’t imagine having a newborn without it. I guess my point is this, ladies remember to take care of yourself in your quest to be frugal, because sometimes you need to spend money to keep your sanity.  There are a lot of unnecessary baby items, but there are some baby items you can’t live without.

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8 Comments on “Baby Items You Can’t Live Without

  1. Wish my second would use a pacifier. She is a thumb girl…which is nice at times but somtimes it would be nice to soothe her with a paci. My list would include the miracle swaddling blanket. Both of kids were wrapped up “burrito” style before going to sleep. My first was swaddled until he was over 9 months old!! Loved reading about the flour sacks. Very interesting!

    • I don’t know what I’d do if mine wouldn’t take a pacifier. It’s not just about soothing them right now, it’s about weaning them off later. I can take away a pacifier… but you can’t take away your daughter’s hand!!!

  2. I must agree with the importance of a rocking chair. We had one child, a very fussy child. I believe a rocking chair would have come in handy on many of the nights when we were walking the floor trying to get her quite and to sleep.

    • Sounds like your rocking chair was a real lifesaver! How old is she now?

  3. I think Paci is #1

    I lived almost entirely without diapers by practicing EC, my babies were toilet trained by 4-6 months so long as I remembered to take them in a timely fashion. I only used diapers when others were holding them and we used cloth.

    The pacifier on the other hand was an absolute necessity!

    As other said: you can take away a pacifier you cannot remove your childs thumb… also fingers are DIRTY where as a paci can be cleaned and stored when not in use. I don’t know what I’d do without a pacifier for my baby- I’d probably invent one all by myself!

    • You’re right, pacifiers are a life saver. I’m impressed by your super early potty training. Not something I excel at with my kids. I’m waiting longer to even start with my third child because it went so horribly with my girls!

  4. I so enjoyed reading your ‘must have’ list and the references to your Grandma when times were even harder than they are today. I live to the west of London, England and have only visited the US once (Virginia, N Carolina and Tennessee – beautiful!) but, of course, I’ve seen many films set in various parts of the US and lots about the Depression. Pretty much the same the world over, I think…the rich have always been rich and the poor usually rich only in their love and inventiveness! Needless to say, I come from a humble, working-class background…my Dad was the youngest of 4 boys and the family lived in 2 rooms in the East End of London (mostly flattened during WW2, which was good in terms of getting rid of the slums but not so good in terms of all the folks who died…fortunately, none of my relatives). I do patchwork and started doing it, back in 2001, because I’ve always loved all forms of craft work and it seemed to offer a great opportunity to recycle and thrifty, whilst producing new items; I found out about the history of grain and flour sacks, the advent of aniline dyes and Eleanor Roosevelt’s part (so I understand) in getting the manufacturers of the sacks to print them, so folk could use them to make into garments. Your writing here took me straight back to that…thank you for sharing. PS I also have 2 girls and a boy, although my eldest will be 40 next year and the youngest 37, so I had 3 under-5-year-olds and remember well how we managed on not-a-lot…but rather more, back in the 1970s, than in 1930s! God bless you and your family.

    • Eileen, thanks so much for leaving such a lovely comment. I’m sorry it took me so long to respond. It got lost in all the spam 🙁 I always try to compare my circumstances to those of my ancestors, because then it’s easier to see how good we have it. 40 & 37! I’m a little jealous. You made it to the finish line 🙂 So nice to see that now you can look back and appreciate your frugal moments. I’d love to see some photos of the quilts you made (or any of your current projects). I bet their beautiful.

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