When you're a new parent, you share a lot with your baby, from your time and energy to your nighttime hours and nuggets of wisdom.
But you may not have realized that you can cut some of the staggering costs associated with baby care and gear by sharing certain products with your baby. In other words, instead of buying one item for yourself and another likely more expensive, similar product marketed just for babies, you can cut your bill by only making one dual-use purchase.
To be sure, you're not going to be able to share your baby's onesies and you probably don't use a stroller to cart yourself around, but there are other baby care product categories where a little mommy-and-me and daddy-and-me sharing can add up to lots of cost savings. Here's a look at five such product categories:
1. Body washes and lotions. There's no shortage of baby washes and lotions on the market marketed specifically for babies. But a number of products marketed to adults generally work just as well on babies. For instance, many doctors recommend using mild, unscented body care products found in the adult care aisle to clean and moisturize babies. Products that make this cut include Cetaphil's Gentle Skin Cleanser, which can work as a baby soap and to clean hair; Cetaphil's Moisturizing Lotion; Dove's Sensitive Skin Unscented Beauty Bar soap and fragrance-free Eucerin lotion.
2. Laundry detergents. Assuming your baby doesn't have particularly sensitive skin, experts say it's totally fine to use your regular detergent to wash your baby's clothes. "We've found that many, if not most, parents simply toss their baby's clothes in with the rest of the family's laundry without causing any problems," write doctors on the American Academy of Pediatrics' healthychildren.org site. In fact, they write that it's only necessary to buy a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free adult or 'baby' detergent if your baby has irritated or sensitive skin.
If you're going to go the regular detergent route for your family, just make sure you use a liquid detergent and don't use fabric softeners. The same American Academy of Pediatrics doctors write that soap flakes can "strip away the flame-retardant properties of sleepwear," and according to the Baby Bargains book, fabric softeners will leave a flammable residue on polyester.
3. Thermometers. There's no need to buy a special baby thermometer, a product that makes my waste-of-money baby product list. Based on my experience, and the advice of my pediatrician, regular old digital thermometers work just fine on babies (we use the under-the-arm and on-the-forehead methods depending on which digital thermometer we're using).
4. Toothpaste. It used to be that you didn't want to use a toothpaste containing fluoride on tiny teeth. But in February, the American Dental Association announced that it now recommends brushing the teeth of those under age 2 with a tiny smear (the size of a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste. The upshot: you can now use adult toothpaste, albeit a very small amount of it, to brush your baby's teeth, and you can skip buying special fluoride-free toothpaste for babies. Just make sure to go with an adult toothpaste that doesn't contain whiteners, which are too abrasive for kids' soft enamel. Also, consider a low-abrasive toothpaste and be sure to keep the toothpaste tube out of reach of small children.
Finally, keep in mind this big caveat: Oral health experts generally recommend that each person in the family have their own tube of toothpaste to avoid sharing cavity causing bacteria. So, if you're not comfortable sharing your toothpaste with your little one, consider buying kid-friendly adult toothpaste tubes in bulk from stores like Costco, so the new guidance can still help you save money.
5. Hairbrushes. Many parents say their brushes (especially boar bristle brushes) and combs work just as well, if not better, on their little ones' hair than special baby hairbrushes, and often babies don't even have that much hair to brush in the first place.
To be sure, not all baby products are more expensive than adult versions, and many parents prefer to use baby products on themselves instead.
But if you're on a budget and the baby-care items you gravitate toward come with higher price tags than their adult counterparts, you may want to employ this frugal strategy when you're putting together your next shopping list.
Jennifer Saranow Schultz, formerly the "Bucks" blogger for The New York Times and a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, shares daily hints to help make parenting easier and cheaper at HintMama.com, on Twitter at @HintMama and on Facebook at Facebook.com/HintMama.
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