Tuesday, 23 July 2013

New Baby: New Clothes?

It's time to address a subject that I've had seven months to develop an opinion about now. I am of course talking about baby clothes and how I plan to dress my baby. What have we got for our baby to wear when she comes out? SO MUCH: is the answer!!!

After the first scan went well, I started hitting up the charity shops and a nearly-new sale for baby grows, vests and anything else that looked in good condition. At first it was a few things here and there, then we found that the charity shop at the end of our road sells all its baby clothes for 30p a garment! Umm, I went mental in there and hoovered up all the nice things, regardless of colour (i.e. gender) which seemed to really confuse the more conservative shop assistants, particularly when I told them we already knew the sex of our baby! And then the donations started to come in. Friends and relatives with babies and toddlers started giving us bags of baby garments (and heaps of equipment and other stuff). Even an associate of my best friend's dad who I have never met kindly gave us what must be over a hundred pound's worth of stuff. 


Sorting through it all I realised we had more 0-3 months things than we would possibly ever need so I had to place an embargo on myself when near charity shops and start donating some things to a friend of mine who is also expecting but not quite as prepared as we are in terms of 'stuff'. These two drawers pictured above and below are stuffed full with all of the 0-3 months clothes we now have, except for a couple of outdoor padded suits that won't fit in here. 


So, aside from a few pairs of tiny socks (eye-wateringly cute, BTW) and the trousers I have made (blog post to follow), EVERYTHING we have acquired so far, clothes, equipment, furniture, etc, is second-hand. The reasons behind this are predominantly ethical and secondarily financial. 

Ethical

As I have talked and written about many times, I dress myself exclusively in self-made or second-hand garments, aside from bras and hosiery. I do this consciously and deliberately for a variety of reasons that I feel passionately about. My feelings about the environmental damage caused by the production and transportation of mass-produced garments, the welfare of the workers in those industries, the 'disposability' of fast-fashion and the comparative lack of satisfaction shopping awards us compared to sewing or thrifting are not going to go away because I'm about to become a mother. In fact the opposite is happening. I'm more aware than ever of the shitty state our global eco-system is in (BTW, have you watched 'The Island President' yet? Such an amazing film) and the way our capitalist financial systems prioritise profit over human life, safety and well-being, and I feel guilty and embarrassed about the world we are leaving our children. 

My daughter is not going to be in any danger from second-hand clothing that has been thoroughly laundered before she wears it. Nor from unbroken equipment or furniture that has had a good clean before she touches it. There is so much damn baby stuff already out there in existance that has barely or not even been used (so many of the garments I've bought second-hand or been given still have the original price tags on), it will not make me a bad mother for (re)using those existing resources rather than buying more brand-new mass-produced items that will be useless to us within a couple of months. 

In fact I believe the opposite. I believe I'm a better mother for trying, at least in some limited way, to put less pressure on the social and environmental fractures that unchecked consumerism is causing. I am the first to admit I live a far from 'perfect' life (if such a thing exists) in terms of my carbon foot-print etc., but I will at least be able to have something to say for myself when she inevitably asks me what me and her dad where doing to stem the damage our generation is inflicting right now.

Financial

Aside from the ethical reasoning behind buying (or receiving) second-hand things where possible for our baby, ourselves and our home, there is no denying that there are real financial benefits to be enjoyed. I've written and spoken in the past about how being self-employed since losing our jobs has had its ups and downs and how it helps to have a certain disposition to ride those waves. 

Recently Pat and I attended a four week course called Parentskool that was chock full of advice for first-time parents of 0-6 month babies. A lot of the discussions revolved around what items and types of items are good and not so good to buy for a baby, including buggies/prams, high chairs, breast milk expressing machines, clothing, cots/bedding, nappies and much more. After a couple of sessions it dawned on me that none of the other couples had any intention of buying second-hand items for their babies, aside from the items that friends and family had already given them. I guess prioritising second-hand options when sourcing things is now so ingrained in me that it occasionally surprises me when people that I can really relate to in many other ways don't feel the same about that too. Then thinking about it a bit deeper, I realised through all the discussions we'd been having that all the other couples were in a much higher income bracket than Pat and I so they didn't have that extra incentive to source the cheaper second-hand options. 

We are kind of in a funny situation in that we are classed (in the UK) as a low-income household, but not low enough to be entitled to any assistance or benefits. I have applied for and been told I'm entitled to Maternity Allowance (the self-employed person's version of a salaried employee's maternity pay) which isn't much but will help with my disappearance of income at the end of my pregnancy and first chunk of our daughter's life. Plus, when she comes along there are some benefits and assistance we will then be able to receive that are designed to help make sure she is secure and well-nourished. As I've said before, I'm not in the habit of overly planning or worrying about the future, so we'll see what happens. 

However, the upside of being self-employed and therefore more flexible is that, unlike the other Parentskool couples who all have complicated plans for their maternity and paternity leave and for what will happen when those allocations dry up, we have time on our side. All being well, touch-wood, Pat and I will be able to share childcare so one or both of us will be with her all the time. We won't need to worry about finding the cheapest nannies or nurseries to leave her with, or experience the guilt (not that anyone should necessarily feel guilty about going back to work) of leaving their baby with strangers, or wrestle with the frustrating reality that childcare costs about as much as the wages you are going back to work to earn. 

We've had a tricky spell, financially speaking, recently. And I'm sure that if we'd gone out and bought new all the things we've so far acquired second-hand, we would be in a really difficult situation right now. And there really is enough to concern ourselves with at the moment with the prospect of very shortly becoming parents. 

37 comments:

Marie said...

Well I for one applaud you! If I'm lucky enough to have children of my own (hopefully in the not too distant future) then I fully intend to do the same!

G-mama said...

I've bought nearly nothing new for my children for the last couple years. With the exception of a few nice wooden toys for their birthdays and Christmas, it's all homemade (usually upcycled) or second hand. Our most recent score: high quality art supplies for pennies. I am amazed at what people discard. I don't know much about thrifting in the UK, but here in the US, you can find anything second hand. Oh and don't go crazy. You wouldn't believe the things we got gifted from other parents, only to find we didn't use them either, (i.e. jumpers, play yards, etc.)

SunnySewing said...

I love your post :) It is so nice to see someone so grounded. And my children, now 7 and 11, have no idea what they did or didn't have as babies. What they do remember is the time we've spent with them. Good luck to you!

karla said...

Well done, I totally agree with you. I think that the only things we bought were a bumbo (seems gimmicky but was very useful) and an umbrella pushchair. Everything else was lent or gifted(pre-used) and have since been passed on to other friends. Babies grow so quickly it may be worth having a small amount of 3-6 month size clothes around too. Good luck!

shivani said...

I love this post. I've seen a bit of a baby boom in the past couple of years amongst friends and family, and the amount of new baby stuff that is only worn a handful of times before it's no use is astounding. I plan to do the exact same as you when I'm in that position. It's crazy not to!

Miriana said...

The compulsive purchasing associated with pregnancy baffles me. I once caught a John Lewis assistant trying to sell special mirrors for the car so that you can watch your baby while in the car seat. My eyeballs rolled.

So much baby stuff (and child stuff) just doesn't wear out so it's ideal for being re-used.

If you have friends with older children, you'll find that they are really keen to hand things down as they dislike the idea of toys and clothes that are in perfect working order (just no longer the right age for their chilren) being thrown out. 80% of my daughter's wardrobe is via the kids of two friends of mine. Having said that, I end up buying new tights and shoes as those don't last well.

You can occasionally pick up toys up via the doorstep recycling scheme that seems to operate in many areas. Charity shops are also excellent for toys and books (for when your daughter is open), and having children is the best reason to join your local library.

And free stuff to do (as it's good to get out of the house so that you don't go insane and to meet other mothers). Surestart centres are great and libraries often have singing sessions.

Am very excited for you. And babies don't need stuff, they need loving.

Sew little time said...

we bought loads of stuff second hand and were given a lot by my brother and SIL. i also bought (and still would buy) second hand toys and equipment - NCT nearly new sales are great for these. you can often sell things on that you don't need any more as well. not saying she doesn't have new stuff as she certainly does, and has more toys that she can probably ever play with! even school uniform can be bought second hand as lots of schools have uniform sales. i actually know very few freinds who wouldn't happily take stuff passed on or buy in second hand shops, which is great!

Andrea said...

Good on you! My children were born during the dot com boom, when my husband was at the height if his earnings and I still bought nearly everything from yard sales and charity shops. It makes no sense to buy new when babies outgrow their wardrobes every 2-3 months. I just wish I could do that now. My boys are at that stage when all they want is Levis and band tee shirts. My niece, whom I used to sew for, is 13 and only wants what her friends wear and refusing to wear handsewn or charity shop clothes.

Patricia said...

have you thought of using washable nappies?

if so and you would like some for free I have some Motherease nappies in very good condition that I would like to donate to you,
I don't have many outer wraps I think xtra small and large I do have but let me know @ trish42@live.co.uk or you just want to chat about using them.
Trish

Kestrel said...

I'm really not used to shopping and spending so much money that I couldn't bear buying everything new! We received quite a few hand me downs of clothes and equipment and I've bought stuff from charity shops. Gumtree has provided a pram and a sling and we have a great NCT shop nearby where we've bought some reusable nappies which we hope to use. I find going to those shops full of baby stuff pretty stressful, as you feel like you might be a bad parent if you don't buy x or y gadget. It's good to know there's another way!

Donna Hensley said...

Kudos to you guys!

Rachel said...

I wore entirely secondhand clothes until I was about 10, when according to family legend I asked if I could have something new. Baby clothes in particular have such a short lifecycle, buying new makes no sense to me!

mumasu said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that wont be needed in a couple of months. Babies grow so fast that it's never worth the extortionate cost of new stuff that will be hardly worn. My children (19-12) still wear tons of second hand stuff. The hardest to find is boys 11 up lol. They have all had new shoes, but often second hand trainers.

marthaeliza said...

Good for you! I sewed all my daughter's clothing and kept her in soft cotton knits. She refused to wear anything woven until she was about thirteen! Her friends called her "Yogapants". One thing to be careful of purchasing used is a car seat. Do your research to ensure it meets current safety standards. Also make sure any other "baby-phernalia" hasn't been recalled by the manufacturer. There is such a constant spew of junk manufactured that, inevitably, some of it isn't safe.

Suzy said...

Well done, I think you are being very sensible.
When I was pregnant with my first baby I didn't want our (tiny) home to be cluttered up with things we didn't need, so I bought the bare minimum and then picked up other things as we needed them, but not until we needed them. I have had friends who were encouraged by baby shop staff to buy every conceivable gizmo (breast pump, bottle steriliser, vibrating swing seat etc. etc.) before their babies were born, and then found that they didn't end up using half of it because their baby didn't take bottles or didn't like swings. If I was thinking about buying something (like a baby carrier) I always tried to test out a friend's first, just to make sure that it suited me and my baby, and then if it did we could buy one or source one second hand - far less wasted purchases that way.
And as the children have got older I have had fun tracking down pre loved gifts for them - it takes a little bit of planning, but last year I found a vintage doll cot for my daughter on The Gumtree, painted it and made a bed linen set out of my fabric scraps. It's one of her favourite things, and so much more satisfying (and cost efficient, and environmentally responsible) than buying things new.

TinaD said...

Babies are the second most pointlessly hyped life event after weddings. There was a time when, regardless of gender, the sprog got a handful of open-bottomed dresses and lots of socks and that did for them to/through toddlerhood. These days we dress infants like teenagers. As far as I know, only cribs and carseats are problematic secondhand--they keep reinventing the safety regulations pertaining to cribs, and a carseat that has been in an accident may no longer be structurally sound (but your urban lifestyle is car-free, correct? Kudos!) Otherwise, why waste all that lovely second-hand gear? (Or space. When I was carrying my first and we lived in a 2-room flat, people kept inquiring about my "nursery theme." Em. How about "this is the room where we keep the baby"? Or perhaps "the front room"?)

Jen said...

I don't know how it is in the UK, but I do know that in the US there are loads of 2nd hand shops that specialize in baby gear exclusively.

The problem comes, of course, when the people don't know what they're selling and have things for sale that may have had recalls on them. Also, in the US, in many states it's illegal to sell used car seats because you don't know if they've been in a car accident. It's illegal to sell seats that are past their expiration date, too. Many people who open 2nd hand shops don't check for recalls, although the more reputable ones do check.

I've saved pretty much everything from my 1st child - I use cloth diapers and the small size ones I have for the new one are the same ones that I bought 13 years ago for my oldest. The bouncy seat I have was purchased 2nd hand for my oldest, as well as several other items. In our house we joke that my younger daughter doesn't get anything new unless I've made it - even her knickers used to belong to her big sister! Most of the time her shoes are hand-me-downs, too. And I got a kick out of seeing a neighbor's daughter in a top that I'd given her - both my girls had worn it and it had originally belonged to their cousin. I don't understand the people that buy things to use for 1 child and then get rid of it if they plan on having others, although I do know some moms who do it because they simply don't have the storage space.

4f820c5c-2fda-11e2-b16e-000bcdcb2996 said...

Oh I am so with you on this one, Zoe. I am rarely buying new clothing for our daughter either. I think last time was christmas - a few sweaters that were on sale and a bathing suit. The only new clothes she is wearing now are either self-made or gifted from grandmas. I actually also went the cloth diaper route when she was still in diapers. And even those I bought alot of second hand (cause an AIO-diaper can be really expensive - I love the scottish brand "Tots Bots" by the way, its a small business that produce the diapers locally) especially when she started to attend childcare at 12 months and they agreed to use cloth diapers as well.
And of course its true a little baby (and even a toddler) needs very little to be happy (love and food being the main things). Our daughter plays with anything like kitchen supplies (like little pans and wooden spoons are her favorite) - this keeps her going quite longer than the usual store bought plastic toy (she is three this fall).
Keep going the sustainable route. Love to read how it is working out for you :-)
Love,
Susanne

badmomgoodmom said...

I really admire you and Pat for your ethical choices.

Here in LA, most people are short on storage space and couldn't wait to give me their used stuff. People also bought me so many gifts, I had to return quite a bit for store credit, which I used for diapers. I don't think I paid for diapers for the first year.

Fortunately, a scientist did the calculation for environmental footprint of cloth vs. disposable diapers and the conclusion was that it depended upon availability of water (for washing). So I was saved from doing even more laundry (cloth diapers) and enviro-guilt for using disposable diapers in arid LA.

eline said...

I love your post.
We got all of our baby stuff from people around us and have bought almost everything else second hand (not much!). Some of the things we're using now have already had a long and fruitful life: the baby bed my daughter sleeps in is the one my grandmother bought for my mom and my aunts and uncles. It has been used for well over half a century and now it's called vintage! Hehe.
It's true though that most people want to buy a lot of useless stuff and intend to buy it new. In my country we have the tradition of a 'baby list' and I think that this actually contributes to all this consumerism. The parents make a list of all the things they would like for their new baby (they choose all of this on beforehand in a shop, that's where the list is made). When the baby is born, you choose an item from the list and give it to the newborn. That way the parents get what they want and you can decide how much you want to spend. (Bigger things are split so that you can contribute along with other people.)

Calina said...

I totally agree with you on used baby clothes - including not fussing over gender specificities. And there is one more advantage of used baby clothes, a not unimportant one I find: used baby clothes are typically already washed many times, which hopefully washed out the potentially harmful residuals from pesticides, dyes and manufacturing.

Jo Campbell said...

I love your thoughts and the great comments from other readers. Most of the baby equipment, toys and clothes we had for our son were bought 2nd hand or obtained free through Freecycle. We hardly bought him any new clothes until he was about 4 or 5 as a friend passed on all her older son's clothes, then he caught up height wise. I still buy 2nd hand when I can - he's now a very tall 10 yo - but we're rather short on good local charity shops where we are (and what they do have is expensive). He loves that I make some of his ice skating clothes but I really need to try making some more of his everyday clothes (he really likes formal button up shirts).

Anonymous said...

When our son was born a lot of people wanted to buy us stuff, but we were able to get almost everything we needed for free as handmedowns. We asked some of the people eager to give us presents to put in for a car seat and others to make a donation to our 'maternity leave fund' (Australia didn't have paid leave at the time) so I could have longer at home. Obviously not everyone is comfortable with asking for/giving cash, but it was far more useful to have rent/food money than yet more new baby t-shirts.

SugarSystem said...

Thank you. One day I hope to have a child and I always said to my partner that I wouldn't buy a new buggy if I could help it, but I never thought about clothes or anything else. I'm at the age that I really ought to start thinking about this and you've inspired me to do better!

Eirian said...

I will second the recommendation for Motherease nappies, we loved the Sandys. So easy to use, to wash and much better at containing runny baby poop than disposables. I bought all of mine second hand and they lasted my two babies and a friend's baby thus far. Some people refer to a study which says that the environmental impact is the same or worse if you use cloth nappies. That study is based on the assumption that you buy brand new nappies, only use them for one child, wash at incredibly high temperatures and tumble dry. I don't know very many people who do any of these things with their cloth nappies, but even if they did, SURELY it is worth using them just to prevent the landfill? FWIW even when I had two babies in cloth nappies (for two years) I only washed them every three days, so it's not a massive amount of time to spend. Take off dirty nappy, place in bucket (until they get onto solids, baby poo can go in washing machines), when bucket is full, put in washing machine. When washed, dry by hanging from one of those Ikea clippy hanger things near a window or radiator (or outside in this glorious weather). You can wash in eco powder if you like, with or without napisan, or even with eco balls. I try not to preach, but don't be put off by naysayers, it's really not very much effort at all!

Margo Bergman said...

Zoe, I think it is wonderful that you plan to clothe your new precious baby with second hand items! You will be such a great example to her! I am a long time "thrifter" and am planning to share on my blog some of the wonderful things I have found second hand to try to convince others to give it a go. Thanks for sharing you convictions in this area! Bravo!

Zoe said...

Thanks everyone for your lovely and interesting comments. It's great to hear so many women who has or plan to approach having children in a similar vein.

For the record: Please do not worry, I am fully aware that a second hand car seat that has been in an accident is dangerous. We have been given a car seat by a close friend who bought it new so I know for sure it has not been in an accident. However, seeing as we don't have a car I'm not sure how much use it'll get anyway!!!!

Also for the record: Yes I have considered cloth nappies, however, as has been proven by the comments garnered by this post, I understand the the disposable V.s cloth debate is not a cut and dried one. I have gone for a compromise: gnappies:
They have a washable cloth outer (that will hopefully not need washing each time the nappy is changed) with a plastic liner. You can then insert either 100% biodegradable disposable inserts (which we plan to use for the first 3 months) or washable cloth inserts (which we will have a go at when we have got the hang of being parents a bit more).

Thanks again one and all for your involvement in these issues!

Zoe xxx

jess said...

My son is 8 months and we had the same views as you. We did get a new car seat and crib mattress although freecycled the crib. We repurposed a lot of things we already had furniture wise and dress him exclusively in thrifted or hand me downs. A work colleague was pregnant at the same time as me and bought heaps of new things and was gifted loads of new things. I. Could never wrap my head around it. I have been using gdiapers since he was born and really really love them. I managed to find the pants used on craigslist. I suggest making your own cloth inserts even during the first 3 months for night time to use under the disposable insert that way you wont have to wash pee pants every morning. Now that hes eating solids I will transistion him to cloth inserts only and place the flushable sheet on top for poo. I hope you love them as much as we do. I only do one load of laundry for my son a week.

Roobeedoo said...

What they said! ;)
Both my kids wore hand-me-downs and NCT-sale items until they went to school and had to wear uniform. Sadly, second-hand uniform items were few and far between, though some schools sell them on behalf of other parents. Shoes are the killer item. They need to be breathe-able and to fit properly and they cost a bomb. Luckily, you have a couple of years before that becomes a worry. I was going to say I didn't think you'd need a car seat! I bet you get a lot of dropped jaws when people find out you have a baby and no car - that always used to confuse other parents at the NCT classes!

Miriam said...

good for you Zo! With 2 boys almost 5 and 7 we have had to buy VERY little for our boys. The grandparents have bought them new PJs each winter but apart from that and shoes and school uniforms pretty much everything they wear is second hand. It's just a way of looking at life. The cloth nappies I used for both of them (bought new by my MIL) are now on my sisters little man and will probably see at least one or 2 more children before they become cleaning rags. You really don't need new and we're still pretty much in the same boat now. (although I am happy to buy new and second hand books - and I read my boys second hand books my mum bought for me as a child too!) anyway, good for you girl - fly the flag xxxx

Maggie said...

Second hand baby clothes are a great idea. Babies are leaky, and they don't care if the clothes they are staining are cheap hand me downs or new expensive designer duds.

Years ago I bought a summer baby outfit advertising our local baseball team at a flea market for 25 cents. My son wore it, then 3 more cousins, then my second son- none of the other moms knew it was used when I got it, they thought it was bought at the ball park for full price. Anyway 6 babies in our family wore it, and it was still in good shape so I donated it. I would love to know how many babies wore it before I bought it and how many more after we donated it.

Lovenicky said...

I totally agree with you! I got loads of gently used baby/kids clothes and gears from friends. My friends were actually scared to ask if I wanted them because they thought that I would be offended (like I can't afford to have kids or something like that). Heck no! I love free gently used stuff! Once I started saying telling friends I would love their 2nd hand kids' stuff, they started dropping them off every couple of months. I pick and choose what I like and donate the rest. So don't be shy to ask your friends and family for used stuff. They would probably be grateful that you are taking their 'trash' away!

gingermakes said...

It's interesting-- here in the States, it's very common for people to share, trade, and give away baby clothes and items (as well as maternity clothes), even people who wouldn't consider shopping secondhand for older children or adults. It's so sensible to not spend lots of money on things that will be worn for such a short amount of time, especially when there are so many nice options for secondhand baby things! At the same time, as you described, many people buy soooo much stuff for their babies without really knowing what they'll need. Sometimes I wonder if they're trying to assuage their fears/nerves about the upcoming change in their lives by buying every little doodad invented for babies!

I'm so excited to see what kind of refashioning you get up to for your little girl!

Giggles said...

Sorry I am a little late to this post, but the topic is very close to my heart. We had our lease terminated 2 days after our son was born and we had no idea how we were going to afford living somewhere else.

Both my kids started their lives out totally in second hand clothes and considering the oldest one is 8 and he too gets excited when he sees something in a charity clothes store that he likes, I think it's alright. There is a problematic age between 2 and 4 when they wear their clothes out more when it gets hard finding good condition second hand clothes for kids.

The only thing we bought new was a stroller and it lasted us for both children.

I will never forget how I almost cried for joy when a lady I had only talked to twice gave me 2 huge bags of girls toddler clothes when my little girl was just born, because I had lots of little things, but these 2 bags are still forming the base of my daughters wardrobe 4 odd years later :-)

Gaenor said...

I have been really lucky on this score - my aunt gave us so much stuff when I was expecting my first child (my cousin is 26 years younger than me!) I this included clothes for the first few months, cot bedding, steriliser and breast pump (which came into their own, especially when my son stopped breastfeeding at 9 months (his choice not mine) and baby seat - which is now on it's 5th go and being enjoyed by my nephew. Since then friends with slightly older children have been eager to pass on the clothes they have finished with for my three children.
My trouble is finding people who need our hand-me-downs.

Amy said...

Great post Zoe - I'm also trying to source as much secondhand baby stuff as possible, and enjoying the kick of finding what I need on Freecycle and the like! It seems crazy to buy new stuff that'll only be needed for a very short amount of time, before they grow up and out of it. And like you, I'm looking forward to passing it on to others when that happens.

Alison Perris said...

There are many ways you are helping the world by patronizing these charity shops. First off, you are saving a lot. Plus you are practically involved in a charity cause by simply buying these items. And lastly, I haven’t put it this way before, but I have to agree that you are helping the environment by not contributing to the production of brand-new and mass-produced garments. ~Alison

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