Sunday, March 23, 2014

Buying for Baby

Raising kids isn't cheap, most parents will tell you. Babies are particularly expensive, as their arrival seems to come with an endless supply of “must have” items. I was not even aware of the amount of crap available for little ones these days. They even make warmers for wet wipes so your little bundle's tush doesn't get too cold when you clean his bum. How did we survive babyhood without these marvelous inventions? In China, wet wipes didn't hit the market until fairly recently, which made me realize that the Chinese have gotten by without a lot of stuff we consider the most basic in America. Not to mention, development-wise, China is ahead of the times compared to many countries. Somehow, babies around the world still mange to survive without both wet wipes and wet wipe warmers.
Who needs a Baby Throne when
a wash machine will do?
Photo via Taobao

It's made me realize that there's a lot of stuff out there that new parents think they need, that they don't really need. I've been trying to be realistic about what to buy, though Ming thinks I've gone terribly overboard by buying a breast feeding pillow and a sling. He claims that high chairs are a complete waste of money. His mom laughed when she saw the baby rocker (pictured) I bought. I told her my friends said they are great for soothing babies and having a place to put them down when you want to cook or clean. She told me she just put Ping in the washing machine when she needed to get stuff done. She wasn't joking. While I have my (fake) Moby sling, (knock-off) Boppy pillow, and (imposter) Fisher Price "Baby Throne" rocker, there will be no changing table, no bassinet, no car seat. We have no need and no room for all these items, plus they just aren't that commonly used among Chinese people.

Diapers are for suckers. Slit-butt pants
all the way!
Photo via Taobao
Clearly, by American standards, we are baby item minimalists. So having a baby in China must be cheap, right? Ha ha! No, not really. It doesn't have to be all that expensive, but it depends on a lot of factors. Firstly, having the baby itself costs money, as most people pay for hospital expenses out of pocket. I've heard wildly different estimates as to how much labor and delivery will cost. Anywhere from 2000 RMB (US$300) for a vaginal birth at an average local hospital to well over $10,000 RMB (US$1500) for a c-section performed at a “good” local hospital. I'll have to report back on this later. Currently, I'm budgeting 3,000-5,000 RMB.

Another major expense is, of course, diapers. Disposables have become very popular in China recently and aren't much cheaper than what you'd pay for diapers abroad. We, however, are planning on going the old-fashioned route and will be (mostly) cloth-diapering. Ming claims that they just used old rags to diaper Ping when she was a babe! Well, little Will is getting an upgrade because we actually purchased diapers with cloth inserts. On the cost saving side, most Chinese babies don't seem to be in diapers long, as many of them transition to split-butt pants before age one. If you don't know what that is, the baby's pants have an open seam where there butt-crack is so they can freely pop a squat wherever (see photo). How successfully this works will have to be a discussion for a future date. I'm still not entirely sure about the method, but I'm willing to give it a try when the time comes.

You want HOW MUCH money for that!?
photo via Taobao
I will just add one more to the list of expenses. . . can you guess what it is? Ah, yes, formula! Formula vs. breast milk, this seems to be on the forefront of the internet “Mommy Wars.” If I hear the phrase “breast is best” one more time I might puke. I am all for breastfeeding and intend to do it, but I don't have anything against formula, except the price! I was curious to see what it would cost if we ended up formula-feeding. I quickly realized that we probably couldn't afford it unless I was working. A four week's supply of Enfamil would eat up nearly 1/3 of Ming's monthly salary.

How do Chinese families do it? How do they pay for all the diapers and the formula, not to mention bottles and clothes and everything else? There's a phrase in Chinese that helps explain it, it goes something like: “One child, six wallets.” These days, since most parents are only children who only have one child themselves, many families only have one grandchild for two sets of grandparents. In other words, there are four grandparents and two parents for every baby and much of the adults' resources go to raising that baby. Our family definitely isn't in that position. We'll have two children with one grandmother in China, but I'm not too worried. I feel fortunate that I can work from home with flexible hours and Ming's mom will be around to help a lot--there are some things you can't really put a price on. 

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