Can babywearing save you money?
This post also appears in the current edition of Carrying On, the official newsletter of Babywearing International (BWI).
At first glance, most people would argue that a quality baby carrier is not going to save them money. After all, if you are going to wear your baby, you're going to have to buy a baby carrier to do it, right? And that means spending probably between $50-150 for most popular, comfortable carriers. Plus, many people find not just one carrier they want, but 2-3 that together cover all the bases for 99.9999% of their possible babywearing situations.I would like to make the argument that buying (or making) and using even as many as three quality, comfortable baby carriers could result in the carriers actually paying for themselves, plus some.
First, I would point out that (yes, as a manufacturer of baby carriers that I think are great and that I want you to buy, I am going to admit this anyway) is that babywearing can be a do-it-yourself activity.
I don't even mean that you must have mad sewing skills in order to make a baby carrier. You really can comfortably and safely carry your child in a bed sheet, table cloth, or sarong.
Or you can "make" a fleece wrap by finding the cheapest polar fleece you can find and buying about 5 yards of it (the person at the fabric store counter will cut it for you and you could wear it out of the store).
Of course, many of you are quite crafty and could sew a carrier using one or more of the many tutorials available online for making a pouch, ring sling, mei tai, buckle carrier, podeagi and on and on.
If a baby carrier is just another item that we add to a long list of items that we feel we must buy for baby, then no, it's certainly not going to save anyone any money in the long run.
But let's say that you really like the idea of babywearing and its many benefits and decide to give it a try; as a result, you might find that you have less need or desire for some other products, such as baby swings, bouncers, strollers, or infant car seats.
Perhaps since you end up using baby carriers so much you decide that you don't need both a bouncer and a swing. If you decide not to purchase a swing, that could save you anywhere from about $50-150. Now, of course, this is also the range we've cited for a good baby carrier, so at this point, you're just breaking even.
Total potential savings thus far: $0
If you decide you do not need a bouncer either, that will result in a savings of about $35-200.
Total potential savings thus far: $35-200
While an infant car seat (the kind you click into a base installed in the car) can be quite convenient and may fit some infants better, they are not actually necessary. A convertible car seat may be used from 5 lbs and remains installed in the car. And since you will have to evetually buy a convertible car seat anyway , you could skip the infant car seat altogether and simply pop the baby in the carrier to and from the car. This would result in a savings from approximately $100-250.
Total potential savings thus far: $135-450
(As an aside, babies' oxygen levels can desaturate when they are in infant seats and their use is not recommended for long periods outside of car travel anyway. So if you're on a budget, it's certainly something to consider.)
While it is common to use infant car seats to transport babies to and from the car, using stroller frames that accept infant car seats around town during many activities is also seen by many parents as an easy and convenient alternative to carrying the car seat with the baby in it. If a baby carrier is used in these instances instead, you can forego the seat obviously (tallied above) and the frame (range: $50-125).
Total potential savins thus far: $185-575
Admittedly, the vast majority of people who babywear are also stroller owners. But there are some who never feel the need for a stroller, which will save you anywhere from $25 (*very* cheap umbrella stroller) to $1,000.
However, if you frequently rely on babywearing as a method of transit but still feel you need a stroller on occasion, perhaps the stroller you end up buying will be a simpler, less-expensive model than you might otherwise have chosen.
For example, I know someone who bought a mid-range stroller (around $350), a 3-wheel jogging stroller with air tires (around $400) and a quality umbrella stroller ($120) before discovering babywearing.
With her second child, she sold the first two and occasionally used the umbrella stroller with her older child while wearing her newborn. So, she spent around $1000 on strollers and the one that cost $120 was the most useful. She could have saved $880 on strollers.
For the sake of our math, let’s say the average babywearer spends $150 on a stroller and the average non-babywearer buys two strollers totaling $350-700, saving the babywearer $200-550.
Total savings thus far: $385-1,125
A baby carrier can also serve as a useful tool to make breastfeeding easier. I know it's not magic and doesn't solve every breastfeeding difficulty, but many moms do find that babywearing makes breastfeeding easier and they can remain more active than they would or could otherwise, thus precluding or reducing the use of formula.
While the costs for formula will obviously vary depending on baby's age/weight/nutritional needs/allergies, estimates for full-time formula feeding range from about $75-150 per month (obviously much less if only part-time formula feeding). If we do the math for the first year, which is also a realistic amount of time for babies to be worn, the total is $900-1,800 for those 12 months. Since a quality breast pump may be key in helping some women to continue breastfeeding as well, we’ll deduct $300 from the savings breastfeeding generates, which puts the range at $600-1,500.
Total potential savings thus far: $985-2,625
Let's say that you end up buying a stretchy wrap for $40, a mei tai for $85, and a ring sling for $55, for a total of $180. And let's say that you use one of the carriers for at least 15 minutes per day every day for baby's first year, and then half the days for baby's second year. That is 547.5 days (let's round down to 547) and comes out to just under $.33 per day!
So, for roughly $.33 per day ($180) for your baby’s first two years, you could potentially save nearly $3000.
It goes without saying that it's possible to engage in conspicuous consumption in this area as easily as any other. Some people end up loving baby carriers so much they buy 10 (or more) and that's obviously not going to save you any money. Others want to have one of everything to make sure they have all the tools they might want or need. Still other babywearers find that one carrier is all they need and use it for years.
Don't think I'm accusing anyone who makes the choice to purchase a stroller or strollers, a bouncy seat, a swing, a play yard, baby gym, exersaucer or any other piece of baby gear (or all of them) of being foolish, extravagant, or ridiculous. Different people have different styles, tastes, and needs.
But it's interesting to think about babywearing as an investment. A few quality carriers have the potential to have a big impact on our parenting, as well as what we end up spending on baby gear, in a way that could significantly benefit our bottom lines.
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