By Request

Occasionally (rarely) I get email from a reader. It always makes my day, since just knowing someone took the time to type out my address and spend a few seconds telling me they liked my post or have a suggestion or agree with me makes all the time and energy I spend on this space worth it. What can I say, I’ve got an attention-seeking personality. Aaaaand everyone who new me in high school just said “DUH”.

Even better than “I like you” mail, sometimes people email me asking if I would consider writing about a specific subject. Take for example, this email I got from a lovely (and incredibly loyal) reader named Amanda:

In light of your comment recently about NOT buying thousands of dollars worth of baby stuff this time around, I have a request/suggestion for a future post. Feel free to ignore it if it sounds like a total pain in the ass designed for my own selfish purposes, which essentially it is.

I am 12 weeks pregnant with my first (due at the end of November) and both my partner and I feel convinced that a lot of the stuff that’s marketed as being essential for babies is really a lot of horseshit. I’ve found your posts on babywearing very helpful, and I think (I hope) I will end up having a fairly similar mothering style. I was hoping you might write something about what you think is *really* necessary for a fairly minimalist couple to buy before their first baby arrives. My list so far is basically bassinet, rocking chair, carseat, diapers, carrier, swing, infant bath, nail clippers and thermometer. (Oh, and slipcovers for the furniture that we spent a small fortune on not so long ago.)

I’ve written a couple of posts on baby gear before (baby carriers here, strollers here, baby gifts here) which in the blogging world pretty much makes me an expert on the subject. Also, having already gone through 14 months with an actual baby I can tell you definitively, YES, most of the stuff you are being told to buy is indeed horseshit.
The problem is: there is no way to know which stuff.

OK, some of it is truly unnecessary. You do not need a travel swing if you have a regular swing. You do not need both a bouncy seat and a vibrating seat. You do not need five dozen black and white and red “infant” toys. You do not need five different strollers for one baby.You do not need a high-chair AND a feeding seat AND a clamps-to-the-table seat.
BUT. I did not need a Bumbo seat, but about a zillion other people swear by them. I did not need a pack’n’play but some people use them for years. I regret buying a travel system instead of just a car seat but I see a dozen moms happily pushing the exact same system around the mall every week. Of course you need diapers but when you start looking at which diapers things can quickly get overwhelming. For the sake of answering the question though, I will combine what I personally loved with what I would change if I had to do it again.
Things to have:
1. Diapers. No cloth v. disposable debate today but for our next baby my plan is to buy 1 box of teeny tiny disposables and then switch to cloth.
2. Clothes. Those one-piece baby gowns were our favorite. 6 of everything (onesies, sleepers, socks, hats, t-shirts) is more than enough.
3. Somewhere for the baby to sleep. We had a crib and a co-sleeper and a pack’n’play….and ended up with the baby in our bed for 7 months. It depends on how interested you are in co-sleeping so REALLY think about it before buying any of the above. If the answer is “in our bed” you don’t have to buy anything.
4. Rocker/glider. The one thing I thought I didn’t need is our most important baby item. We still use it at least twice a day.
5. Somewhere to change the baby. Your back will thank you for not doing it on a bed or the floor for the first few months but a pad on a dresser works just as well as a changing table.
6. Something to put the baby in when you need to pee. Swing/bouncy seat/vibrating seat are all good. Don’t buy the most expensive one or I guarantee your baby will hate it.
7. Baby carrier. You can read my reviews of all my carriers in the post linked above. If you really wanted to buy just ONE I would recommend a woven wrap or soft-structured carrier.
8. Car seat. They won’t let you take the baby out of the hospital without one.
9. Baby health kit. Get one that has a nose-sucker, thermometer, nail clippers, and dropper.
10. Baby bathtub. Buy the one I have. Best tub ever.
11. Somewhere to feed the baby. For baby #2 I am buying one of those seats that clamps on to the table/counter. It’s really all you need unless you plan to start feeding a baby solids before the 6 month mark.
12. Stroller. This is my controversial inclusion (I KNOW I AM SUCH A REBEL) since some baby-wearers swear they never needed one. Personally, my back needs a break. Besides the jogging stroller I use at my fitness class, I use my tiny little umbrella stroller the most.
Things we thought were useless:
1. Bumbo seat. Baby Evan threw up every time we put him in it. Plus his thighs were too fat for it.
2. Recieving blankets. We have a million, used them for a week and then switched to a swaddler with velcro.
3. Bottles. Unless you plan to use formula from the beginning don’t bother to buy any until you really need them.
4. Diaper pail. A small trash can you empty regularly would work just as well and not cost nearly as much.
5. Travel system. The baby outgrew the bucket car seat really fast and I’m not in love with the stroller.
6. Toys for infants. Until they get the hang of hand-to-mouth all those “developmentally” stuff is bullshit.
7. Mobile. Baby Evan lost interest after 15 seconds.
8. Adorable matching baby bedding set. Bumpers are dangerous, quilts are useless and a crib skirt is just decoration. Buy a couple cute sheets and call it a day.

I’m sure I’m missing stuff in both lists so, dear readers, please help Amanda out. What did you LOVE and what do you wish you had never wasted the money/registry space on?

(P.S. After getting half way through this, I was about 75% sure I had already written pretty much the same post sometime last year. I can’t find it anywhere. Either I really am blogging in my dreams again or pregnancy brain is making me crazy. I suspect both are true.)
(P.P.S. I’m sorry for my apparent inability to add spaces between paragraphs in the second half of this post. WordPress is being a bee-atch and refusing to accept my ENTER ENTER ENTER <BR> <DIV> SHIFT+ENTER FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST PUT IN A SPACE commands.

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16 Responses to “By Request”

  1. Miranda says:

    I think you’ve got a pretty comprehensive list here. HOWEVER, for a first-time parent, I’d say that having at least one type of bottle on hand when baby comes home, JUST IN CASE, is not a bad idea. The last thing you want is to be scrambling to the nearest Wal-Mart at 2am, looking like you belong on peopleofwalmart.com trying to decide between the million and fifteen different types of bottles out there.

    Also, the My Brest Friend pillow will SAVE YOUR LIFE. And a pump, either manual or small electric for pumping the occasional bottle so you can go to yoga or the mall without the babe.

  2. Amanda says:

    I completely agree with the baby travel system – such a waste. Find a stroller you love and a car seat that lasts forever! We had a travel swing vs a regular one. We hardly traveled with it but it was small, compact and folded up nice and small. Even if you end up co sleeping I would totally forgo the bassinet and only get the crib – or even a mini crib which I am considering for the next. The bassinet only works for about a month if you are lucky!

  3. bellegourmande says:

    Thanks for this post! Though our baby is coming soon (in fact, looks like it will be today!!!), this post justifies our decision to not buy much of anything. And when I say decision, I mean mostly that we were too cheap to shell out money on stuff that may or may not be useless, so we got the essentials and then are planning on adding to that as needed. Also, we don’t know the gender (again, hopefully today we will!!!) so that helps cut down on the amount of clothes you accumulate, mostly because it is hard to find gender-neutral stuff. We did get two baby carriers (a Moby and a Beco) but I know so many people that loved both of those (or their Ergo) that I feel pretty confident they were good investments. We’ll add a stroller once we figure out which one we want and have saved up a few pennies for it.

  4. Michelle says:

    Ok, I have a few small lists on my blog of “Things I love” (parts 1, 2 and soon to be 3). But to pull from that–things I recommend (and I am far too lazy to find the links, so you are going to have to look it up yourselves!!):-)
    1.Nosefrida the snotsucker. Trust. Way easier, way more effective that stupid bulb.
    2. the front snap t-shirts or onesies. My son lived in these for about the first month of his life. we decided putting him in “outfits” was a huge waste of time and energy, since he was going to barf/poop/pee in them at some point anyways. (plus the snap-front keeps you from having to go over his tiny fragile little head!)
    3. we have a super small house. My son has two go-to toys that we keep in the LR: the exersaucer and the floor gym. He LOVES them. And we love them b/c they keep him busy enough for us to be able to do something (anything!) else
    4. We have a great “high chair” that is actually one that straps to a seat and then converts to a booster seat. its AWESOME, a space saver (come to think of it I think it is called space saver (or Sav-r) high chair, but I could totally be making that part up)

  5. Kimberly says:

    3 things:
    1- sheet savers. My boy is a leaker, and before I had them I was changing sheets at least twice a night :( When he slept in bed with us, we put a puppy pad under him just in case!
    2- Bright Start’s Baby Place Place floor gym. It has sides that fold up that kept our little dog from licking him to death.
    3- if you’re nursing, nursing bras in sizes larger than you could ever imagine.

  6. brigidkeely says:

    In theory, the travel systems are totally great. If our family was more car centric, we’d have used ours a lot. Alas, our family is city dwelling, flights-of-stairs having, public transit using. I almost got hernias hefting the stroller around. We have a cheap umbrella stroller now, and I take the kid out a lot more.

    Niko loved the mobile. If I needed to keep him occupied in the crib, I’d turn it on and he’d just watch it. If it wound down, he would drum his heels against the crib mattress to get it moving again.

    We got a huge amount of baby clothing from thrift stores. Unique, a chain of stores in the USA, has everything for half off on Mondays. I’ve gotten a lot of stuff for under $1, and a boppy pillow with (ugly) cover for $2. Unless your baby is premature/tiny, don’t buy new born sized clothing. He’ll grow out if it in about a week. Literally.

    We have a 14 month old and still don’t have a rocker or a glider. I would like to get one, even still, and especially if we have another baby. But you CAN live without one.

    We live in Chicago, and have lived in vintage buildings. They have funky sinks. Our baby bath tub did not fit in the sink and we had no counters. We just bathed Niko in the sink with a towel under him, or else his dad would take him into the shower. Now Niko just splashes around in the tub. Baby bath tubs: probably not necessary. (squeezy baby bath toys: totally necessary)

    We had too many receiving blankets, truth. However, we used them as lap pads, as burp cloths, and as cleaning rags. The swaddling blankets with velcro? Niko just busted out of them like the Hulk. What we found worked best for swaddling was rectangular jersey knit blankets (I got one at a thrift store and one from Target) which we wrapped around him, pinning his arms at his sides, and then tucked the end under him. He was still pre-mobile and so his own weight kept the blanket in place.

    We did use bumpers, because Niko kept shoving limbs between his crib bars and then getting really stuck. Like, red-marks-on-the-limb, mama had a hard time pushing the limb back out stuck. Also he crammed his head into the corner and was getting pointy head. We removed the bumpers as soon as he was able to pull to stand. We also removed the mobile at that point.

    Niko’s god father gave us a boppy bouncing chair (it also vibrates and plays music) and it was one of the absolute best baby tools we had. Niko slept in it when he was super fussy, napped in it during the day, watched the world go by in it, bounced in it, sat there while I showered/used the toilet, and ate in it before we got a highchair. It was warm, snuggly, soft, comfortable, and fun.

    My favorite baby clothing for infants is the kind with the kimono style front, where it snaps up the front or the side and along the legs. I don’t like the shoulder flap openings so much and I hate hate hate the stuff that fastens in the back. UGH ARGH SO MUCH HATE.

    I wrote a thing about some of Niko’s favorite toys if anyone wants to take a look at it: http://brigidkeely.com/baby/?p=351

  7. Amy says:

    I would add wash cloths and burp cloths. You can use regular sized wash cloths or the baby ones and for burp cloths either use the burp cloths, cloth diapers, kitchen towels or hand towels. We had a ton and used them all. Maybe I had a really spit-up prone baby, but we had a little stack of these every where and it was quite handy. Also, a second laundry basket was a life saver.

  8. Kimberly says:

    I totally agree with the ladies above. Great list of essentials, Suzanne. There hasn’t been a day yet that I haven’t used my Baby Bjorn. It’s a relatively inexpensive wrap with 2 positions. My Peanut has loved it from day 1 and still does (7 1/2 months later). A few additions…My Peanut loved her jungle aquarium thing by Fisher Price that gets attached to the crib. We called it the “free babysitter”. Also, the sensory toys by Lamaze http://lamaze.my-babytoys.com/ are helpful for a curious baby.

  9. Emmie Bee says:

    Necessary items: a few outfits, diapers & a squeezy bulb syringe thing. Everything else is basically not necessary. However, things that have saved OUR lives in the past: a nice bouncer/vibrating seat thing for when you need to set them down for a second. The sheet saver helps a ton when diapers get overfilled during the night. LOTS of burp cloths. We swaddle the twins still at 3 months & so we use a lot of receiving blankets. The free hospital ones work better than any other fancy ones. And we have A LOT. I love my stroller but also love the ergo carrier. I use the pack in play in the living room when I am trying to keep Hudson contained for 5 minutes so I can pee or whatever – and the twins still wake up sometimes in the night so they sleep in a pack in play in our room until they can be trusted to sleep upstairs without waking Hudson up.

  10. barbra says:

    thank you for this list!!! i am 15 weeks with my first, and my husband and I are convinced this is the route we want to take. we have not bought the first little thing for our baby yet. and we don’t plan to begin purchasing anything until i’m much further along. the list of things we want is quite short, right along the lines of what you listed. it’s really reassuring to hear other moms say we can get along without all the “stuff”. btw, i do love your blog and read every post. thank you!

  11. Jill says:

    i agree with SO much of this. i hated our travel system. corbin still sleeps in our bed so the $200 crib and $200 fancy organic bedding set were a total waste. a few sheets is all you need. im also a HUGE fan of the my breast friend pillow over the boppy but i do use the boppy in the car now to feed him when i need to. he just rolled off of it as a tiny infant. corbin never spit up much so all those etsy burp cloths i just had to have were never used. a hand towel from the bathroom would have done the trick. and we never bought a changing pad or cover, we just used the one that came with the changing table for free. baby #2 will be cloth diapered too. it grosses me out to see all the diapers we use and to think of them sitting in the landfill for the next 500 years!

  12. TMae says:

    We bought very few things pre-baby. We had a stash of cloth diapers, but also some ‘sposies for the first few weeks. We bought half a dozen or so kimono style t-shirts, some gowns for sleeping in, a thermometer, a glider, and a co-sleeper that I got off Craigslist in a deal that was too good to pass up. We waited to buy other stuff (swing, stroller, carriers, etc.) until we had some idea what we would work to make our lives easier. The glider was the biggest MEH pre-baby purchase we made. If you’re planning to nurse, grab a doll and try to approximate where you think your arms will be. I’m short, and the arms on the glider are too high for me to nurse comfortably, so it’s now a TV watching chair.

    I wish I had gotten my MOBY wrap sooner. I waited until he was about 8 weeks old to get it, and the first time I put him in it was like, “OMG I can use BOTH hands! At the same time! To eat!”

    We’ve bought stuff that we thought we were going to use forever and ever that really didn’t work for us (see glider, and baby swing), and it’s annoying to spend money on stuff that gets shoved into a closet after a week, but that’s the way babies are. Every one is different. And some stuff they love today – GET THAT AWAY FROM ME RIGHTHISVERYMINUTE tomorrow. They’re cute that way. :-)

  13. I co-sign the floor gym suggestions. The Boppy as well. We have two, still use them on our couch because they also make for excellent back support for adults.

    Ear thermometers are USELESS. They are inaccurate. Find a digital thermometer than lights up in the dark and has a quick response time. Then buy two and label which one goes in the tush. This is not something you want to have to think too hard about when YOU get the flu and need to take your own temp.

  14. susan says:

    I also can’t imagine life without the glider, which I almost didn’t get. I’m pretty sure we COULD live without it, but I wouldn’t want to risk it.

    Boppy pillow – also crazy useful.

    A good pump is a big investment but critical for working breast-feeders.

    Biggest piece of advice I have: the second-hand baby gear market is a total buyer’s market. Craigslist, garage sales – you can get most of the stuff that you need for a fraction of retail price, and that way, when the baby hates it, you can just give it away or resell it and not lose so much money.

  15. Merin says:

    I found both the Boppy and my Brest friend pillow to be useless. I highly recommend the Blessed Nest crescent-shaped nursing pillow. It’s like a firm bean bag and you can shape it so many different ways-really helpful if you are using non-traditional nursing holds. It also makes a nice wedge for supporting a side sleeping baby. It’s not cheap but it is now my go-to shower gift for new moms who plan on nursing.

  16. Amanda says:

    You guys are so awesome! This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for (and I can’t believe Suzanne actually responded to my selfish plea). Thank you!

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