2014 to Mar 2016

The Art of Minimal Parenting

When I started out as a parent, I was overwhelmed by all the baby shopping and parenting gadgets to buy. Everyone told me I needed this and I needed this, and I absolutely have to have this and I absolutely have to have that.  I really felt that I did not need most of these things that people recommended to me and part of it was about being practical because we lived in a small apartment and space was an issue.  I was also still in school (in USA) and my husband was still in his first year at work at his first job, so we did not have that much money to spare to buy anything but the necessary. Even with three more babies in the picture and a lot more money saved up these days, my view has not changed.  I really believe you do not need most of the things that people or ads say you should buy as a first or second time parent or parent of multiples.  Things like milk bottles and pacifiers, which are total essentials are obviously needed so I’m not including them in the list. Though if you breastfeed, I would also make the case that even bottles and pacifiers are unnecessary because basically you use your boob to provide milk and to pacify.

When you are pregnant with multiples, its always wise to save money for their food, health and education, hence very basic things.  With three eating, getting sick and going to school all at the same time, you are going to find your finances exponentially and drastically increase.  And babies are only small for such a short while, it is not therefore not wise to spend too much on baby things. When they outgrow it, you have to go through the hassle of trying to re-sell the items or give them away.

If you do buy items, they should be things that can be passed down to siblings or items that can be shared.  I made a lot of wrong choices when it came to purchasing things for Livia, but she was my first-born and I was still learning.  After having all four, I find that you only need to survive with these things if you have one or more than one baby.  My items are a bit controversial since I co-sleep and I don’t think that babies even need a cot.

1.  A simple mattress on the floor.  If you have more than one kid, they can share the mattress. Young infants and bigger children, however, should not co-sleep together, although I am flexible on this.  Once Livia showed that she knew how to be careful around the triplets, I allowed them to sleep together during nap time.  Right now though, my triplets are sharing a long pasar malam $30 mattress.  I make it more comfortable by adding a luxe Ikea bedsheet and a comfortable quilt.  Each kid also has an attachment bolster which I give to them for comfort.  I got the bolsters from Happy Beanie Embroidery Room, which is owned by a single mom who does a wonderful job with baby accessories.  When they all become toddlers, they are all getting their own bunk bed and I simply have to do with away with the mattress, with no cot to deal with.

2.  A simple diaper change pad placed on high furniture like a table or a cabinet.  I think diaper changing stations are useful but you don’t have to go buy a whole diaper changing furniture piece. A simple changing pad (only $14) which can be moved anywhere is more than enough.

3. Breastfeeding pillow.  It really does make breastfeeding more comfortable.  But you can actually just use a typical pillow for this and you don’t actually have to buy a breastfeeding pillow.

4.  A baby carrier.  It can be a soft structured carrier or a woven wrap, both of which can be used from infancy to 3-4 years of age.  Slings are great for newborns but they are short-term and find they are not very comfortable once the baby starts gaining more than 8kg.  Another controversial point I make is that strollers are unnecessary, as far as Singaporean living goes.  Except in open and empty spaces, traveling with a stroller is quite a hassle in Singapore.  If you do want to get a stroller, because some parents do have bad backs and cannot carry a child for very long, I am in love with the Bugaboo Bee which I own.  It is expensive but that thing can navigate around the smallest of spaces, its no joke.  I have used cheaper strollers and I found them maddening to use in Singapore where you keep hitting people and you can’t squeeze in an elevator full of people but with the Bugaboo I could squeeze almost anywhere – tight supermarket aisles, crowded lifts, etc.   But to be honest, we rarely ever use the stroller, so you can definitely do without them.

5.  Bottle Steriliser and warmer.  Which parent, especially parents of multiples, has time to sterilise and warm bottles one by one in a pot of boiling water?

6. Cloth Diapers.  Reserve your disposables for outdoor use and at home use cloth diapers to keep costs down, at least after they turn six months.  I am sympathetic to using disposables for very young infants because its a tiring phase and it makes life easier.

7.  Food blender (any typical household kind which you probably already own) for pureeing and ice-trays for freezing large batches of puree foods. Once frozen, pop them into any container and the ice-trays can be re-used to freeze another batch of puree foods.  Or if you are like me and hate puree-ing (and its not such a bad thing because solids are truly not necessary in the first year – milk is!), you only need to feed them solids as dessert, their main course being milk.  Its good to let them try different foods from young but its not necessary to make it a filling meal because its milk that babies truly want.  I only gave Livia purees when I feel like it (there were days I made zero puree and she would just drink milk) and when she developed teeth which came really late at around 8 months, she ate whatever I ate thus saving me the job of making a separate meal for her.  Of course I knew that she was sharing my food, I would reduce the salt and have more kid-friendly options at the table. She grew up fine and was always in the 95th percentile in weight and height so seriously don’t rush into solids and you can totally skip to table foods when they show interest in eating them.

8.  $25 ikea high chairs.  Seriously why does one need any other high chair.  This one is only $25 and it comes with a table.  We do have one very expensive high chair that converts to a toddler chair but even with this flexibility, I cannot justify the cost.

9.  Toys.  Babies actually do not need toys.  If you really want to stimulate their senses, read to them, sing to them and talk to them.  And if you really do want to buy a few toys, sensory balls, rattles, touch and feel fabric books, and anything from IKEA is cheap and good.  When they are older, simple toys like blocks, nesting cups, etc., all of which can also be purchased at IKEA, are simple and long-lasting toys.  We do have Sophie the Giraffe and it was passed down from Livia and the triplets share it.  I now call Sophia indulgent crap.  Its crazy to buy such an expensive teether.  Give them an icy cold rug or ice popsicle to bite on if they are teething.

10.  Silicon scoop bib.  Its the only bib you ever need and you only need one.  When its dirty, you just wipe it down and there is no need for laundry and drying.  Ikea sells a frog themed scoop bib that comes with a sippy cup, fork and spoon and a plate.  But I like the OXO tot rolled-up bib because it rolls up nicely so you can pack it in your bag.

11.  Any bag, backpacks, totes or slings which you probably already own.  You really don’t need a special diaper bag, or any special pouches or containers.  A wetbag will indeed be useful if you use cloth diapers outdoors.

12.  A quilt.  A baby is happy on a comfortable quilt or on a breastfeeding pillow when she is not asleep. Being on their tummy or backs will help strengthen their muscles and prepare them for crawling.  I don’t advocate bouncers, bouncy chairs, exersaucers, jumperoos, and baby walkers.  Totally unnecessary and space-consuming and if placed in these thing for long hours actually inhibit their physical development.  I do have a bouncy chair and they were gifted to me and I found that the babies started developing a slight flat spot on their heads because of it.  So I only use them rarely now.

13.  Some onesies and some tops and a bucket hat.  This only applies to tropical climates like ours.  You can get a few nicer pieces for going out but otherwise at home, all babies need are onesies (they can even go naked when they are older, saving you lots of laundry) and a few tops. After 8 months, I find onesies look ridiculous on kids and I like using singlets and tees.  They don’t need skirts, shorts or any other fancy bottom at home because you are always changing their diaper and why would you want the additional work of removing their bottom before getting to their diapers. And they absolutely do not need shoes.  If they are not walking, they don’t need shoes.  If they are feeling a tad cold in an air-conditioned space, just put on socks.  A hat is necessary because Singapore is near the equator and you want to protect your kid’s eyes and skin from harmful UV rays. Plus wearing brimmed hats helps them sleep easier outdoors when their eyes are shaded.

Not too sure what I’ve missed out but if you ever have think you absolutely need something, chances are you probably do not.

I will think for a bit and do another list about Toddler toys.  I am re-thinking my own set of toys for Livia.  I find them excessive and there should be a way to have a minimal set of toys that can be used for multiple sorts of play.  As you can tell, the art of minimal parenting actually does not come naturally to me.  But I’ve always aspired to be as minimal as possible these days but in practice its quite hard to do.  We are programmed over the years to consume and purchase.  But since having children I have really tried to cut back because I want the kids to learn to live life minimally and expansively.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Minimal Parenting

    • Its one of those things one realises only after the fact. I also had to actively persuade friends to give practical gifts because otherwise I have the unenviable job of finguring out how to get rid of them when the child grows older.

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