Health Advisory

Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your preferred medical professional.

Search This Blog

Friday, September 21, 2012

How to save $7379 in the first year of your baby’s life.

Having babies is expensive, however I tentatively put forwards that we make them more expensive than they need to be. Every baby forum, store, website and magazine seems to have a list as long as your arm telling you what you ‘need’ to buy. But with a little restraint and a little creativity you can avoid buying most of these must have ‘necessities’. Now I am not saying you have to parent frugally if you don’t want to and I imagine there are a load of things you are looking forwards to buying, also, what one person finds useful another will find useless. Nor is this a list of commandments, choose to utilise or ignore my advice as you decide. But this is me telling you that you don’t have to buy all of the things. You can get by with less and not miss it, if you choose to.


Most people know you can save money by going cloth with nappies, just one nappy can save you approximately $320 per year. There is a little problem in that once people go cloth they fall into a wormhole of cute MCN madness and buy ALL OF THE NAPPIES. If you can avoid this trap and stick to prefolds or old fashioned flats then you can save a bundle. The saving schedule for this one is a little complex and includes calculations for savings over 3 years vs outlay, laundry costs versus disposal cost and purchase cost for nappies. The figure reached is approximate based on information provided by Nudey Rudey.

Cost for disposable $4510 Cost for cloth $595          (calculated over a 3 year period)

$3915 SAVED

No Nappies

If you decide to give Elimination Communication a go you won’t even need nappies or you could certainly get by with less. If you are doing dedicated EC you would need a potty, no more than 5 cloth nappies and some baby knickers or baby training pants.

Cost for cloth $595 Cost for EC $85

$510 SAVED

Change table

While we are on the topic of nappies and changing, babies don’t need to have a change table. It might be useful to store nappies in, but an old basket will do just as well for that. We change our son on the floor or bed, it’s safer and cheaper. You can use a change mat, or even an old towel will do.

Cost of nappy change table $479 Cost of change mat $29

$450 SAVED


Wipes are one of the highest nappy rash factors, to save your baby’s bum and your wallet Instead you can buy a couple of sets of facecloths and use warm water for changes.

Cost for commercial wipes $622 Cost for facecloths $30 (calculated over 3 years)

$592 SAVED

Nappy bag

Purpose made nappy bags are handy, the really fancy ones are a fashion statement and a convenient carry all for baby related stuff. But you don’t need them. A large purse, existing back pack or sturdy shopping bag will do. You can put your nappy related stuff in a handy plastic ziplock back and tuck it into whatever you currently use. I have made an art of not needing a bulky nappy bag, it means I can get around a lot more easily

Cost of nappy bag $140 Cost of no nappy bag $0

$140 SAVED


Strollers are handy, I used our stroller almost every day for nap time. But they are usually expensive (Between $299-$1300 for sturdy ones) and they are not essential. I know that is a huge paradigm shift for most parents but since I ditched the stroller I have found getting around easier, more comfortable and much quicker. If you get a baby carrier instead, which range in cost from $80-$230 you can save yourself some dollars and get some nice one on one time with your baby, it also means you can get to a lot of places much more easily than parents who are trying to wrangle a stroller.

Cost of stroller $399 Cost of baby carrier $120

$279 SAVED


I get it, breastfeeding is not for everyone and for some of us it can be hard hard work. But if you can get the support you need and work through any issues then it can be a huge cost saver. Most women don’t have to increase their diet much if at all to account for the extra 300 calories used to make breastmilk and even then it’s just another sandwich and some fruit. If you avoid the need for pumping you save any more. Most nursing mothers need nothing more than some loose comfortable tops, some reusable nursing pads and a really great nursing bra or two. When you compare this with the cost of formula, bottles and steriliser it’s a big saving.

Cost of formula and equipment $1429 Cost of breastfeeding $195

$1234 SAVED

Nursing or feeding cushion

Any old pillow will do, or even better use nursing techniques that don’t require cushions. If you are bottle feeding, instead of propping you can hold your baby.

Cost for specialised nursing cushion $109 Cost for existing cushion $0

$109 SAVED

Baby food

Babies need to eat at some stage, this is true. But they don’t need to eat as early as 4 months and they don’t need pre packaged food. You can skip the puree stage altogether and at $1.50 per jar that’s not small change. Babies can eat what you eat or you can make your own puree for them if you are taking that route. Overall a much cheaper proposition by up to half the cost of pre prepared baby food.

Cost for packaged baby food $864 Cost for home made baby food $432

$432 SAVED

Bouncer/Walker/ Jolly Jumper/ Entertainment unit

Okay well the last one was a joke, kind of. I was in a baby store the other day and saw a wiggling, jiggling, music playing, hypnotising strap in baby pod. I had flashbacks to the matrix. Now babies do love to be jiggled, sung to and held it’s true but you don’t need to buy something to do it.You may want to, but if you are money conscious you don’t have to, and there is actually plenty of evidence that indicates a lot of these things can be developmentally inappropriate or downright dangerous. Best to skip them or if you really want a baby gym then a string tied between some furniture with socks or pegs hanging off of it is just as exciting.

Cost of bouncer or equivalent unit $149 Cost of alternative $0

$149 SAVED


Babies don’t need shoes. Shoes will not help them walk faster or better. Shoes DO make great chew toys, they are excellent at falling off of feet and making your child’s journey from rolling to crawling and sitting a little more cumbersome
 Cost of shoes $80 Cost of no shoes $0

$ 80 SAVED


Okay you got me, babies probably DO need clothes, but I bet they don’t need as many as you have bought. For newborns, the best way to regulate temperature and keep baby content and protected is to wear them close to you and to wear them skin to skin. Wearing a baby means less layers and less clothes overall. Especially in newborn sizes. Babies also don’t need to be changed and bathed every day. Layers close to the skin can be left on for up to 3 days or more barring any poosplosions.

Cost of full layette for newborn baby $199 Cost of baby basics $100


Eating utensils

If you are skipping the puree at early ages you can ditch the special plastic weaning spoons, you can also skip the food storage containers and food bowls. If you choose to do baby led weaning then the only utensils baby needs are known as ‘left’ and ‘right’ and they have five fingers each. When your miniature gourmand moves on to cutlery there is nothing wrong with the family cutlery, family plates and family cups. Learning to drink from a cup is a steep learning curve but it is surprisingly quickly mastered if you just let them have at it and accept a short period of mess. If you really must have a sippy cup you can jerry rig one out of a mason jar and a straw or use your own reusable eco coffee cup.

Cost of full utensil and dish set with sippy cup $59 Cost of eco cup and existing foodware $7



You know what works just as well as a bib? A teatowel and a peg. High tech I know but you should try it one day!

Cost of bib set $30 Cost of existing teatowels $0


Highchair or specialised seat

It’s often assumed that a high chair is essential to feeding your baby, but they are not. Especially if you are using baby led weaning, a rug on the floor is sufficient. Highchairs are really only essential if you are starting to feed your child before they are able to sit unsupported and even if you are doing this there is nothing wrong with sitting your baby on your lap, at the table and feeding them this way. If you are handy with a sewing machine you could even sew a strap in seat for the family dining chairs. We have a high chair, but 90% of the meals are eaten on the floor on a kai mat. Easy as and much less cleaning.

Cost of high chair $199 Cost of washable rug $24

$175 SAVED


Babies don’t need toys, they don’t need flashing lights, canned music or bright colours. A full toy box does not necessarily indicate a happy engaged child. Babies are happy exploring anything really and can learn more about the worlds from an interesting stone or a bowl of water than they can from the latest gee gaw. Before toys became a commercial endeavour babies played with piles of stones, they emptied out the pot cupboard and explored the wooden spoons. Mums scarf collection became a sensory adventure and dads tie collection became a visual smorgasbord. Entertain your tot with a bowl full of pegs or a bowl full of soapy water. Macaroni becomes a great threading toy and can be eaten later, autumn leaves are a great rustly toy and can be composted. An afternoon strolling at the beach can fill a toybox with wonders that can be returned to the ocean when we are finished. And don’t feel that you are depriving your child with less toys. There is every reason to believe that the opposite is true.

Cost of a range of toys and toybox $299 Cost of home made toys $0

$299 SAVED


There is a perfect skincare regime for babies, it’s called use-nothing and water. When babies are born they come with their own protective layer, they don’t need a hasty bath. Later on they only really need to be bathed if they have had a poosplosion and in almost all cases water will suffice. A little sensitive or natural bar soap is sufficient to remove any stubborn grime and if their skin needs moisturising then a skin friendly carrier oil will do. Olive oil is fine and most people have that in their pantry.

Cost of skincare range $39 Cost of water and olive oil $3



I don’t know about you but bathing a baby in a baby bath is a pain in the neck, or back to be more precise. I prefer to just hop into the big bath with baby when I have my own bath experience. If baby really needed a clean when I wasn’t going to bathe then a washing tub bucket or sink worked just as well.

Cost of baby bath $20 Cost of using existing bath, bucket or sink $0



Sharing a room is a good money saver, and here is why. Setting up a separate baby nursery has a lot of cost involved. Some people go all out and gussy up a room for baby and others simply put a cot in the spare room but most people stand somewhere in the middle and do a little decorating to make a special space for baby. But here is a newsflash, the most special place for baby is next to you. That’s what they love the most. But that’s not the only benefit from sharing a sleeping space. Moving the cot into the master bedroom means you can ditch the baby monitor as well as any extra baby related furniture. It also means you are heating one room instead of two so you can save on power bills as well.

Cost of nursery décor, baby monitor and heating $1689 Cost of co-sleeping $0

$1689 SAVED


If you’re planning to sleep baby in their own space you should know that a bassinet is not essential. It’s a nice to have, but babies can progress straight to a cot. They don’t need a bassinet and at a pinch, if you really want baby to sleep in a smaller space initially then a banana box made up with a well fitted mattress is perfectly safe. I can hear a collective gasp, but this method is approved by the NZ Parent Centre and if you have nothing else then why not?

Cost of bassinet plus bedding $339 Cost of no bassinet $0

$339 SAVED

Bed sharing

Bed sharing isn’t for everyone; I prefer my own sleeping space even though our second son had a different plan. For many bed sharing is a safety issue, there is however plenty of science to indicate that bedsharing is just as safe, if not safer than isolated cot sleeping. If you choose to bedshare it means you don’t need to buy a cot and if the family bedding is safe then you don’t need to buy any baby blankets. Because you are close enough to regulate and monitor your child’s breathing you also don’t need a breathing alarm system.

Cost of cot, mattress, bedding and sleep alarm. $1600 Cost of bedsharing $0

$1600 SAVED


This is one area where you shouldn’t economise. Don’t get a second hand or expired seat, don’t buy an unknown or unrated brand and certainly don’t do without. For the safety of your child you should buy your seat brand new and get one that rear faces until at least 2 years of age.

$300 Saved

As soon as I post this I expect a barrage of people telling me that they personally didn’t spend as much as I have estimated or that with a little ingenuity you can build, beg or borrow any number of these things. Which is totally true, I myself have done this. Using this tactic it’s totally possible to compress the numbers I have estimated somewhat which is another excellent way of saving dollars. The idea of this post is to question the assumptions of need vs want and hopefully offer up alternatives previously unthought of by most. Ideally this post is to acknowledge that to parent well you don’t need things to do this and that the most valuable ‘thing’ you can offer is closeness to your child.


I sourced my prices from NZ based websites and stores. If there was a price range from very cheap to very expensive I tried to pitch close to the middle or median price range. For things like nappies where there is an initial outlay I made a comparison over the expected life span of the products but the final figure calculated for the title of the post was for one year only so in the instance of longer estimations I simply divided the final figure by the number of years I extrapolated for. In some instances you could spend less and in some instances you could spend more but the general figures are based on common prices for common purchases. When there was an option of picking between two kinds of cost saving exercises I chose the most socially acceptable to get to my final figure. In this instance it was cloth nappies and co-sleeping vs Elimination Communication and bedsharing. The final figure if you chose the latter options was $9498. In the instance of breastfeeding I elected not to assume that pumping was a necessary part breastfeeding. I did this because quite simply it isn’t, and often it is a marketing tactic to imply that breastpumps are essential to good parenting and successful breastfeeding. Which can more often than not lead to unnecessary outlay of money and breastfeeding failure. If you wanted to add pumping to the breastfeeding equation the figure is approximately $390 including bottles, steriliser and pump.

So give it a go, change the world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


When Heracles was a baby his father Zeus took him from his mortal mother Alcmene and let him nurse at his wife Hera’s breast while she was sleeping. When she awoke she thrust the infant Heracles from her in a rage and milk flooded the night skies, thus creating the milky way. The Greek name for galaxy Γαλαξίας or Galaxias is derived from the word for milk, gala. The theme of milk is not isolated to Greek mythology, the Romans, Egyptians and even older Greek stories all have some reference to milk, whether it be from the gods or astral cows.

And galaxy is where we get the term ‘galactagogue’ from. Galactagogues, or lactogenic herbs are supplements that are said to increase milk supply. As you can imagine, in a society where ‘low supply’ is one of the key reasons for the end of a breastfeeding relationship, galactagogues are in high demand.

Rubens, Birth of the Milky Way

I follow a lot of breastfeeding support pages and not a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask about supplements to boost their supply or offer some secret recipe that will guarantee more milk. These posts always make me sigh, it’s not that I don’t love breastfeeding support. It’s just that no matter how well placed these suggestions are they can just be one more booby trap interfering with the breastfeeding relationship.

That’s not to say that these remedies don’t work, some of them can be very efficacious. But if you have the basics wrong then no galactagogue on earth will successfully increase your supply in the long term. So if someone tries every galactagogue under the sun but doesn't fix a poor latch, then they are destined to fail and that can be really hard on nursing mamas.

So before we dive in to taking supplements the first thing we need to do is establish any obstacles to supply. Common obstacles are having a caesarian birth pre labour, reduced skin to skin contact, early routines, reduced breast stimulation, timed feeds, poor latch, certain medications, lack of sleep, stress and poor support.


Some of these things are easy to resolve, for example if you are engaging in a strict routine or timing breastfeeds then taking a step back and letting baby dictate the pattern will help immeasurably. If baby can’t dictate supply then supply will drop, unlimited access to the breast, especially in the first 72 hrs is one key factor to ensuring supply meets demand. The sooner baby gets to the breast after birth is also an indicator. If you have a surgical birth it’s important to push for contact with your baby as soon as is possible. If nothing prevents you, immediate skin to skin for at least 90 minutes and longer is ideal. Kangaroo care for premature babies whenever possible is gold standard even if they cannot nurse.


Stress is another obstacle. Contrary to popular belief stress does not explicitly affect supply but it does inhibit let down and loss of supply can be a secondary effect. If mum is stressed out and tired then a roster of drop off meals, friendly helpers and house tidiers would be ideal. A supportive partner even more so. A shoulder rub, foot soak or relaxing bath can help relieve the stress and release the hormones responsible for milk production and let down. Someone to bring you snacks and drinks of water can take the pressure off and simply taking time to breathe and be mindful can take you out of the stress loop. Remembering that your first and only task is to provide for your baby, can help you re-prioritise.


If you are doing a lot of tight swaddling, sleeping baby alone and limited carrying or holding of baby then you both might be experiencing a lack of skin to skin contact which will inhibit milk production. The reason for this is twofold, first off skin to skin contact releases oxytocin which is not only the bonding hormone but is responsible for let-down. Secondly babies naturally know how to build supply by kneading, massaging, pummeling and stroking the breast. If they are swaddled tightly or have reduced physical access to the breast then this can limit their ability to maintain supply. I often think of babies as little milk farmers, they know how to nurture their ‘crop’ of milk.  Taking a ‘babymoon’ in bed with baby for even a couple of days can help immeasurably. Wrapping baby close to the chest without clothes on, or even giving safe co-sleeping a go will help boost oxytocin levels and help mum become more responsive to baby’s cues. Skin to skin is even more vitally important for mums who have had medical births or pre-labour caesarians.


Your Doctor may not be up to date on how certain medications affect breastfeeding and some over the counter drugs can inhibit supply as well, especially some painkillers, hayfever, or cold and flu meds. Before taking anything, contacting your local La Leche group is a good idea. They have access to documentation on a huge variety of medications and can let you know which ones to avoid. They can also let you know which medications are safe. Often mothers are told to end breastfeeding simply because a health professional is not sure about the effects of a medicine they wish to prescribe, when another medicine will do perfectly adequately or the the medicine is in fact safe.


The most common issue with poor supply is related to latch, indications of a bad latch can be pain during feeds, a damaged or flattened nipple when the feeds end, a frustrated baby who doesn’t fall into a good suck suck swallow pattern and long feeds that end with a still hungry baby. Latch is vital because if the breast isn’t being emptied then milk production falls and baby gets hungrier and hungrier and in the earlier days they can become weaker very quickly. If you suspect your latch is not great then seek help, a friend who has a lot of breastfeeding experience is a good start but you will get the most knowledgeable support from a La Leche leader or Lactation consultant. Dr JackNewman has some great videos on the topic and also covers breast compressions which help immeasurably.

Medical Conditions

 There are other reasons for low supply including PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), IGT (insufficient glandular tissue), thyroid issues and breast surgery. If you have a more complex issue going on then it’s really important you have a health professional assisting you. These conditions don’t rule out breastfeeding but you will need a lot of support and perseverance. A naturopath can help in some instances and if supplementary feeding is happening then using a tube feeding system is your best bet for nurturing supply. Again your local La Leche organisation will have a host of resources that can help you along.

Once you have ruled out all of the above and you would still like to boost supply then the following galactagogues can help. It might be that upon facing one of the difficulties above your supply needs help getting back up or it may be that you want to pump for future supply or simply want a little help to meet demand. Some people will use lactogenic herbs to bring in supply for adoptive feeding or to help keep supply up for a premature or preterm baby. It’s important to realise that different women will respond differently to the many options available so what works really well for one person may not be so effective for another. It’s worth trying a few things.

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare:  Fennel does not directly affect your supply but it does improve your ‘let down’ it is perfect for the four o’clock fuss, stressed mums or babies who experience sore tummies, as it is also carminative. Great for mums who find it hard to express due to let down issues. You can get it as a tincture from an herbalist, or make your own tea or decoction with fennel seeds. You can find them at most organic, health or ethnic stores. Twinings also make a tasty fennel tea which is pricey but convenient. Fennel tea is a great ‘go to’ for new mums who aren’t having supply issues but want a soothing tea that facilitates breastfeeding.

Safe in pregnancy? Not in high doses. Tea is fine

Fenugreek Trigonella foenum-graecum: Fenugreek is one of the most common galactagogues and can be purchased in capsule form. Doses usually have to be quite high (3 grams + a day) for it to be effective but once supply is boosted you can stop taking them providing breast stimulation is sufficient. Taking lots of fenugreek can make you smell like maple syrup and may cause a sore tummy in some people if taken in very large doses. It’s important to note that even though Fenugreek is considered very safe, that in the large doses recommended for increasing milk supply it is not recommended during pregnancy.

Safe in pregnancy? No

Oats Avena sativa: Oats support lactation and aside from that, are a nutritious powerhouse that will help stabilise blood sugars. Found in a bowl of porridge near you

Safe in pregnancy? Yes

Dark beer: When my mum gave birth in Ireland she was given a pint of Guinness to bring her milk in. While I don’t suggest mothers glug down beer to support breastfeeding a small glass of an eveningwon’t hurt. Normally alcohol inhibits letdown but the beta-glucan in the malt, brewers yeast and hops all have a lactogenic effect which means dark beer can act as a galactagogue. But if you prefer not to be a lush you can get brewers yeast, malt and hops individually and take them as supplements. Be wary though, too many hops can make you drowsy!  Light beers will not work. For more information on how beer works as a galactagogue I highly recommend this blog, the lactogenic diet.

Safe in pregnancy? Not recommended

Brewers yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae: This is often seen as an ingredient in nursing cookies or tigersmilk. It is a great galactagogue and can be easily disguised in baking. Because brewers yeast is a food it can be eaten to taste. Brewer's yeast comes from the Saccharomyces cerevisiae fungus and is a great source of B vitamins, including niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, and biotin. Brewer's yeast also contains trace minerals such as selenium and chromium, which are a great health booster for nursing mothers. If you are prone to fungal or yeast infections then brewers yeast may not be for you.

Safe in pregnancy? Yes

Alfalfa Medicago sativa L: This is a galactagogue that helps support the glandular tissue of the breast, and can be taken through the last trimester of pregnancy as well as during breastfeeding. It is available from many health food stores in capsule form. Alfalfa is a wonderful superfood as well, rich in chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, zinc-numerous vitamins-A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, D, E, and K-as well as essential and non-essential amino acids. Make sure you adhere to the dosage advice as it is a mild uterine toner, it has not been linked to any pregnancy complications but it is still better to be cautious.

Safe in pregnancy? Yes – in normal doses

Blessed thistle Cnicus benedictus: Blessedthistle increases the flow of gastric and bile secretion, and is said to increase milk supply by increasing blood flow to the breast tissue. You can get it from health stores as a supplement and should not increase the dose beyond what is recommended as it can act as a purgative in very high doses. For you to harness the digestive benefits you need to have it as a tea or tincture to stimulate your tastebuds with the bitterness.

Safe in pregnancy? No

Goats rue Galega officinalis: This is a great supplement for mothers with insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). Goats rue is a stinky herb that is toxic when fresh but safe when dried. It is also used to balance blood sugar. Should be avoided if you regularly have low blood sugar but fabulous if you have borderline high blood sugar. You can get it at most health food stores as a tea or a tincture.

Safe in pregnancy? No.

Garlic Allium sativum: Garlic does not actually do anything directly to boost supply but several studies have shown that garlic makes the breastmilk more pleasant for babies and as a result they spend more time at the breast. Garlic is an amazing super food so no harm in boosting your intake.

Safe in pregnancy? Yes

Hops Humulus lupulus: Hops are deeply relaxing and are useful in instances where stress is inhibiting let down, hop tea or a hop compress directly on the breast can help. Avoid hops if your baby is overly drowsy as hops are a powerful soporific and may make your baby less easy to rouse.

Safe in pregnancy? No

Nettle Urtica dioica: The function by which nettle improves supply is unknown but there is a long history attached to nettle being an effective milk booster and a number of scientific studies linking it to improved milk output in herd animals. Nettle is  a good source for calcium and iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zinc, copper, chlorophyll, fatty acids, folate, plus vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E. The minerals in nettle help build blood, and it is a wonderful tonic in the treatment of iron deficiency. Nettle is a fabulous all rounder to take during pregnancy and post partum as it will help with fatigue, blood loss and deficiency. Traditionally it is taken as a tea but you can eat cooked nettle greens or buy it in supplement form.

Safe in pregnancy? Yes

Umbel Seeds

This is a broader category that encompasses Anise, caraway, cumin, dill, fennel, and lovage. These plants all share similar properties. Umbel seeds are believed to promote supply and let down as well as offering digestive benefits for colic in babies. There are substances in them similar to oxytocin and they are mildly relaxing. In one study, umbel seeds tested on rats generated greater mammary tissue growth than was seen with rats on a control diet. Interesting to note, the seed formation of the umbelliferous plants mimics that of the milk glands and ducts in the breast. Because umbel seeds are aromatic the traditional way of taking them is steeped in tea, up to 3 cups a day.

Safe in pregnancy? Not in high doses but teas are fine.


Tigers milk is frequently recommended to nursing mums to improve supply, if nothing else it provides a nutrient dense meal to help nursing mums along. It’s a recipe first created by Adele Davis, in her book "Lets Get Well" (which was written in about 1970's) and included milk, milk pwder, malt, raw egg, wheatgerm and brewers yeast. 

This is my version of her recipe.

Soak overnight: 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds, 8 almonds and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds

In the morning strain them and place in blender with 1 banana, ½ teaspoon of  raw cacao, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 heaped teaspoon of brewers yeast, a splash of coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth and drink while nursing. You can use any milk or milk analogue you like instead of water but the nuts should provide enough creaminess to omit it if you want to.

and here is my recipe for delicious lactation cookies.