Saturday, December 27, 2008

Baby Essentials

Pregnancy junk mail is sneaky, even more than its instant credit card and retailer coupon cousins. While credit cards or too good to be true discounts appeal to our more selfish instincts-- more money, more stuff, more consuming-- mommy mail often masquerades as earnest advice for confused newbie parents. My recent Baby Depot mailer promised to tell me what I really needed for my new baby....and conveniently they had all of it in stock for 60% off the regular price!
The list was as follows

  • changing table
  • crib
  • crib bedding
  • dresser
  • rocker or glider and ottomon
  • infant car seat
  • travel system/stroller
  • play yard
  • bouncer seat
  • stationary exerciser
  • swing
  • bottles
  • breast pump
  • nursing pillow
  • high chair
  • bath tub
  • receiving blankets
  • basic body suits
  • layette
Phew! No wonder some estimates state that new parents are going to spend three to five thousand dollars preparing for their bundle of joy....not even including prenatal care and delivery. First time parents, who more and more frequently have waited until later in life to have their children, are easy prey for this kind of money trap. Who doesn't want make a well-prepared comfortable nest for their newborn?

Don't get me wrong....I'm all for nesting. Readying the home for the baby is an enjoyable aspect of pregnancy, and necessary too because of course the baby needs things. But don't let a baby store tell you what those things are. Before you shell out two hundred dollars for a bedding set or a thousand dollars for a crib, ask yourself if it is really going to benefit your baby or just your idea of a fairytale nursery.

When my daughter Ember was born, we didn't have much money to buy all the things we were "supposed" to have, and neither did we care. The church shower provided us with most of the essentials, and we scrounged thrift stores for a few pieces of baby equipment that we thought we'd need. My parents loaned us the cradle they'd used for me. Ironically, most of these items were never used. The stroller sat idle because we'd discovered the joys of babywearing, and the cradle was empty because we also figured out that co-sleeping worked best for an all-night nurser. She didn't like the baby swings, having figured out that the Mommy Swing-- snug in her pouch-- was much more to her taste. We fashioned a homemade co-sleeper out of some tubs and the top of a pack and play but most of the time she ended up in the bed. We never had matching bedding because so many of our friends had given us beautiful handmade blankets that it was more fun to use them all than just one or two. We used the baby tub twice then decided that the sink or a shared bath with Mommy or Daddy worked much better. The "changing table" turned out to be wherever was handiest to lay the changing pads.

I never felt deprived of what I needed to mother Ember, and she certainly didn't seem to notice that she was missing quite a few of the "baby essentials." I'm not saying that every parent needs to make do with as little as possible, or that every parent will need the some things. For some, a crib or a baby swing or a stroller might be absolutely necessary. All I'm advocating is a bit of mindfulness in the process of preparation.

As I said, everyone's "essential" list will be different but if I had to come up with one here's what it would be. I'm an at-home mom who intends to exclusively nurse so my needs are somewhat different than a working or bottle-feeding mom. I'm also omitting the obvious such as clothes, blankets, diapers, etc.

  • Some type of soft baby carrier, be it a sling, pouch, wrap, or mei tai. The one thing I could not live without.
  • A boppy or some other type of nursing pillow
  • A baby seat
  • Swaddling blankets
  • La Leche League's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Certainly, every expectant mom should have fun feathering her nest, but ultimately, remember that your baby wants you. Mommy's breasts, Daddy's warm fuzzy chest, lots of holding and kissing and snuggling. If you can give them yourselves, even during the dreaded all-night cry sessions or four a.m. feedings, you've given them what they really need.

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