When it comes to our children, we want the best that money can buy. However, in these difficult economic times, I want to offer some suggestions from the medical perspective that can save you money without compromising your child’s health or safety.
Don’t buy “Sippy cups.” Just teach your child to drink out of regular open cups. Sippy cups are for parents who don’t like mess-they are not a required developmental stage. They are actually bad for teeth when they contain juice or milk and they do not aid in child development.
Buy generic acetaminophen (brand name = Tylenol), ibuprofen (brand name = Motrin, Advil), diphenhydramine (brand name = Benadryl), allergy medication (brand names Claritin, Zyrtec). If your child’s health care provider prescribes antibiotic such as amoxicillin (for ear infection, Strep throat, sinusitis), ask the pharmacist how much it costs because usually the cost of paying for this commonly prescribed antibiotic out-of-pocket is less than your insurance copay.
Accept hand-me-down clothes, shoes, etc. The purpose of shoes is to protect feet. Contrary to what the shoe sales-people tell you, cheap shoes or already-worn shoes will protect feet just as well as expensive, new ones. Just make sure they fit correctly.
Don’t buy “sleep positioners” for the crib. Place your newborn to sleep on his back and he will not/cannot roll over. If you need to elevate your baby’s upper body to prevent spit up or to provide comfort from gas, don’t buy a “wedge” but instead put a book under each of the 2 crib legs so the entire crib is elevated. Wedges and positioners are NOT shown to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and are NOT endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Make your own baby food and do NOT buy “baby junk food” such as “Puffs” for finger food practice. Instead buy “toasted oats” (brand name = Cheerios) which are low in sugar, contain iron, and are much less expensive. “Stage 3” foods in jars are finger foods so just give your kids what you are serving the rest of the family cut into small bite-sized pieces instead of buying the expensive jars. One exception: do buy the baby cereals (rice, oatmeal, or barley) because they contain more iron than regular oatmeal and babies need the extra iron for their growth.
The best toys are ones that can be reconfigured and used again and again. Legos, blocks, crayons/markers/chalk, small cars, dolls, balls come to mind. Avoid one-time only assembly type items, breakables, etc. Have a “toy recycle” party or a pre-Halloween costume recycle party: everyone brings an old costume/toy they would like to trade and everyone leaves with a “new” item (kids don’t care if things are brand new or not, only if you teach them to care will they care). Along these same lines, inexpensive paint can turn a pink “girl’s bike” into her younger brother’s blue “boy bike.”
Borrow books from libraries instead of buying them in stores or look for previously owned ones at yard sales, thrift shops, etc.
Do not buy endless videos for your child. First of all, despite claims made on the packages, NO video has been shown to advance baby/toddler/child intelligence. In fact, almost all studies show that the more screen time a child logs in, the worse they fare in their language and intellectual development. Also there is some evidence that TV/video viewing in babies can be detrimental to their brain development. Now, as a pediatrician mom, I am not saying that I never sat down and watched Sesame Street with my children (I am a product of the “Sesame Street Generation,” after all). I’m just saying that I recommend using moderation and taking advantage of free offerings on public television instead of spending money on videos. Many libraries also offer free lending of videos if you and your child want occasional “down time” in front of the screen.
Julie Kardos, MD