Christian Minimalism

Consumerism and Babies

Last month, our lives changed with one phone call.

After a long and involved process, my husband Will and I found out from our assigned social worker at the adoption agency that we were picked by the birth mother to adopt a baby boy! He had just been born two days ago. Could we come tomorrow morning?

Early the next morning, we grabbed the basic baby stuff we had been storing in a corner for such a time as this, hopped in the car, and headed four hours away out of state to meet our new son.

There are no words to describe the moment in which we met our son for the first time. Strawberry-blonde hair peeked out from the hospital-issued baby blanket. He was beautiful, and in that moment we were new parents. We named him Theo, often translated as “gift of God” in Greek. He was truly our gift from God.

The next evening, Theo was discharged from the hospital– but we couldn’t take him home just yet. When adopting a child from out of state in the U.S., both states have to approve you before you can take the child home. This meant that we were stuck in a hotel room with Theo until the approval from both states came through, not knowing how long it would take. We were there for 10 days.

And during those 10 days, we came face-to-face with an insidious type of consumerism– consumerism aimed at parents of babies.

Everything for Baby

The adoption agency gave us a list of basic baby things to have on hand while we were waiting to be chosen for adoption placement by the birth parent(s)– things like a car seat to take the child home in, diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, etc.

Inevitably, there were some things that we needed that weren’t on this basic list, like bathing materials (wash cloths, baby soap/shampoo, etc.), nail file/clippers, burp cloths, and many other things we just didn’t think of beforehand. While one of us watched and took care of Theo, the other one would run out to get the things that we discovered were missing as we needed them.

And while we were out, we found out how was easy it can be to get sucked into our society’s consumer culture around babies.

Yes, babies need stuff. We have to keep them alive, and that takes certain material things. But consumer culture sees babies (and children in general) as huge cash cows to be milked as much as possible.

Parents can quickly become convinced that they need every baby convenience they can get their hands on. The truth is, though, that most of these baby products aren’t necessary and aren’t used much once they are purchased and get through the front door– just adding more clutter to our lives.

Not Getting Suckered into Baby Consumer Culture

One of the things that helped us not buy things we didn’t actually need for Theo was asking if the product would add value to our lives. For example: will this bottle sanitizer add value for us? Definitely– our 45 dollar sanitizer ensures that we don’t have to boil water on the stove top every time we need to sanitize Theo’s bottles. It’s a huge time and energy saver.

But often the answer to that question– will this add value?– is no. So we didn’t end up buying a ton of stuff we didn’t need, and we are better off for it. We hope to continue this process for as long as we are purchasing things for Theo.

Another great way to make sure we didn’t buy a bunch of baby stuff we didn’t actually need was by getting hand-me-downs. A family friend has a one-year-old child, and they gave us all of the stuff they no longer needed. Clothes, toys, even an instant bottle maker were all given to us. Reusing gently used baby stuff from others is a fantastic way to avoid the baby consumer culture rat race– and it’s a good way to steward God’s creation, too.

Going to a baby store or the baby section of a store can be fraught with “but my baby could use this!” moments. When we start to feel that consumerism pull, Will and I try to remember this:

It is better to be content with what the eyes can see than for one’s heart always to crave more. This continual longing is futile—like chasing the wind.

Ecclesiastes 6:9

Whether or not you have a child, this Bible verse rings true. Constantly craving more is pointless; we will never be satisfied. We are invited to seek satisfaction in the only place it exists– in God and God alone.

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Becca Ehrlich, AKA The Christian Minimalist, is striving to be a Christian minimalist in a consumer society. She currently lives in Upstate New York with her husband Will and their son Theo. You can read more about her story and how her blog came to exist by clicking the website link above.


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