Sifting through the baby gear hype

Just read this really cute article on what is helpful and what is not when caring for a baby. There are thousands of articles like this, because there’s that much crap marketed to first-time parents. (Experienced parents know better.)

When I was pregnant with Anya, I spent the entire pregnancy (and I do mean that literally; I was shopping for her up until the day I had her), and most of the following year, researching and purchasing and lovingly organizing baby crap. I made myself crazy reading reviews and comparison shopping, pestering family and friends for advice, and filling online shopping carts only to second-guess myself and empty them again.

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I still feel the same way 5 years later.

Part of parenting is insanity. Manufacturers know this, and exploit it.

My cousin is pregnant with her first child, and I’m clearing out Kai’s old stuff to give to her. It’s made me think a lot about what you really need – and what you don’t. In this spirit, here’s my list of gotta-haves and frivolous purchases. Had I seen this list when I was shopping for Anya, I’d have been surprised. So I hope it is helpful to someone.

What babies absolutely, definitely need in the first year:

  • Food.
  • Clothes. Go easy on the newborn sizes; my daughter was born too big for much of it.
  • A few lightweight blankets. Buy more than you think you’ll need. They’ll get used.
  • Diapers and wipes, plus a few waterproof changing pads.
  • A safe place to sleep. My kids sleep in my bed, but that doesn’t work for everyone.
  • To be clean. A warm room, a soft towel, and a damp washcloth work if your baby doesn’t care to be immersed in water. Don’t get too hung up on fancy baby tubs; both of my kids started showering with me before their first birthdays. (I know!)
  • A car seat.
  • Somewhere to store all their gear.
  • A safe home. Start babyproofing with the basics (outlet plugs, corner pads, etc) and work your way up as they become more mobile; not all kids require all babyproofing measures.
  • A secure place to play. A playpen works for some, but not us. We just closed our living room off with baby gates and babyproofed the heck out of it.
  • A play mat. Go for a nice cushy one. But make sure it’s washable.
  • A small pillow with a washable cover. I bought mine, a wedge-shaped pillow, to support my third-trimester belly while I slept, but we used it as a feeding aid for both kids.
  • A high chair.
  • Feeding spoons.
  • Toys – but don’t go nuts buying them until you see what they like.

And that’s pretty much it.

Here are some nice things to have:

  • A microwavable bottle sterilizer and bottle warmer if you bottle feed.
  • If you breastfeed, a good electric breast pump and extra parts. Plus microwave bags for sterilizing breast pump parts.
  • A bottle drying rack. We still use ours for small dishes.
  • A travel system (stroller and car seat set).
  • A bouncer/exersaucer.
  • Sturdy baby gate(s).
  • Somewhere portable for baby to nap.
  • A co-sleeping bassinet.
  • A bedside baby gear storage container for diapers, wipes, spare clothes, blankets.
  • Drawer space and hanging space for baby clothes and textiles.
  • Lotion, diaper cream, baby oil.
  • A Boppy.
  • One really cute newborn outfit for pictures.
  • Newborn pictures.
  • Feeding bibs.
  • Baby Bullet.

Here are a few of the things we didn’t have/use:

  • A swing.
  • A changing table.
  • A diaper pail.
  • A crib.
  • Pacifiers.
  • A mobile.
  • Refrigerated teething rings.
  • Baby robes/hooded towels/special baby washcloths.
  • Wipe warmers, changing table organizers, peepee teepees, etc.
  • Baby recliner.
  • Burp cloths.
  • Drool bibs.
  • Baby food cookbook and baby food freezer containers.
  • A Bumbo. My daughter hated the thing.

    IMG_0704.JPG
    She’s cussing me out in Baby.

These are by no means comprehensive lists, but you get my drift. Personally, I recommend saving the money you’d spend a changing table and springing for a newborn photo session instead.

There’s a tremendous amount of pressure to put together a perfectly coordinated, extensively outfitted nursery before you give birth. I could not do that with Anya because she didn’t have her own room at first. By the time we got into this house and got settled, we didn’t have the money to (unpaid maternity leave sucks, people).

The bedroom in our apartment was only big enough for a mini crib, which per the paperwork would not hold her much past a year. So when she was 6 months old, I put us even deeper into debt purchasing a full-sized crib (which converts to a toddler bed!), mattress, conversion rails (to turn the crib front and back into a frame for a full bed!), and bedding set (plus coordinating rug, curtains, and wall decals, because how could I not?!) on credit (which I’m paying for to this day!) and decorated her room. She’s slept in there maybe 10 times, including naps, in the past 4 years. But she’s chewed on the crib enough to guarantee that when she’s a little older, she’s going to beg me for a bed frame that doesn’t look like small rodents have snacked on it. Meanwhile, Anya (4) and Kai (14 months) play in the mini crib together while I shower and get ready. It holds them both just fine. But the toddler bed sure does make for a cute place to store stuffed animals.

When I got pregnant with Kai, I skipped the furniture purchases and bought a second shelving unit for canvas drawers. I figured that more than anything, we’d need extra toy storage, and I was right. When the kids are older and have their own rooms, they can use the units to store clothes, toys, school supplies, whatever. Or I can take them back and have a fabulously organized laundry room. Canvas drawers are versatile like that.

Now that was $100 well spent.

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