Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Baby gear

I got an e-mail a few weeks ago from one of my pregnant friends, asking the age-old question: "What do I really need?"

Since nearly everyone I know who's having babies is a) on a budget and b) living in somewhat cramped quarters, it's a good question. Walk through a Babies 'R' Us store and you can start getting the idea that unless your child has the $600 convertible crib-to-bed furniture in the walnut finish — with a $120 crib mattress (!) and matching sheets, rug and wall sconce — you're a baaaaaad parent. Shame on you. Oh, and just hand over your checkbook, because there's more to come, beginning with the very latest in developmentally-appropriate educational toys and DVDs.

The reality is that babies don't care where they sleep or whether or not their teddy bear has a Steiff label, and acquiring the stuff that will fill your house and your diaper bag is expensive and space-consuming enough without going overboard. That said, here's my list:

Crib/bassinet/cradle/pack-n-play: We have a family heirloom cradle my mom made for my oldest cousin. It gets passed around a bit and is currently at a restoration shop after 40-plus years of wear and tear. Beth didn't get it until she was nearly two months old, so the truth is that she didn't sleep in it a whole lot. Since we had a whole room for her (a luxury her little sister isn't going to have until we move next summer), we just bought a crib and let it go at that. I have friends with kids Beth's age who've only ever slept in a pack-n-play — a great option if you don't have lots of space. My opinion (and I'm still waiting for the baby police to come read me my rights) is that a used-but-reasonably-new crib or pack-n-play is fine — just check the recall notices to make sure it's still safe. (You can find a recall list at Babycenter.com) I do have a pack-n-play that we bought used — it works great when we're traveling. If you have a Once Upon a Child or a Kid to Kid store close to you, I'd look there — they tend to have great used stuff in very good shape at pretty reasonable prices.

Bouncer/swing: Beth loooooooved her swing. We have a Fisher Price cradle swing that we got off of eBay — the great part about this one is that it swings either front-to-back or side-to-side. There were many, many days (and nights, come to think of it) when she just slept in the swing instead of the crib. Very soothing. Will keep you sane. Doesn't have to be new. A bouncy chair of some sort will allow you to take a shower. (Or, if you're very lucky, a long soothing bubble bath. Cross your fingers.)

High chair: Sheesh. You don't need one of these 'til the kid's six months old. Wait. See what your friends have that they're willing to lend you. Check Craig's List and the abovementioned secondhand stores. We got Beth's for $25.

Sling/carry pack: I had both a sling and a Snugli for Beth, and we both vastly preferred the Snugli. I hear Baby Bjorns are even more fabulous. Whatever you go with, buy it used (or cheap) and experiment — you and your baby will have to both like the arrangement. (See "stroller" below for more.)

Car seat: This is something you absolutely must, must buy new. Just bite the bullet. If you want a bucket-type carrier for the first ten months or so, great — it's lots easier to haul around and/or snap in a stroller or stroller frame. Just know that eventually you'll have to get a convertible seat. We had a bucket seat/stroller combo for the first ten months and now have the Cosco Alpha Sport carseat — it's designed to fit in smaller cars and fits kids from 5-80 pounds (converts from a rear-facing to a front-facing seat, then to a booster seat) — it's also around $100 at the abovementioned parental-guilt-trap store. Easy to install, too.

Stroller: I looove my jogging stroller (thanks again to my grad school buddies!), but you can't start using one until your baby's five months old or so. Same deal with umbrella strollers. My solution (even better than a stroller/car seat combo): strap the baby on in a Snugli and go for walks. Baby's happy; you can move faster than you could with a stroller; you get cuddle time. Husbands get the added "awwwww" factor. Scott got SO much attention when he "wore" Beth to school!

Breast pump: I borrowed my friend Betsy's Ameda Purely Yours breast pump and loved it. It's a dual piston-driven pump that's marketed to full-time working moms, is rated better than the similar Medela pumps, and you can find it on-line (new, of course) for about $150. Since Betsy just had her third baby, the pump is back with her and I just bought one for myself. We loved it because it meant Scott could feed Beth too (and I could pump ahead of time if I was leaving her with a babysitter or if I wanted to go to a movie). One caveat: Mooooooooo! You'll feel like a cow for a few weeks. And then you get over it and everything's fine, and you wonder why you felt so weird in the first place.

Nursing bras: Sheesh. I tried a bunch of different ones and ended up living in a Bravado maternity/nursing bra (available on Amazon.com). It's not the most supportive bra I've ever owned, but to be perfectly honest I didn't care. And it was very, very comfy. (Note to self: buy a few more of these before next baby comes.) Oh— and while you're thinking along these lines, stock up on nursing pads to tuck inside said bra.

Baby monitor: Beth's grandma bought us one, which we're very grateful for...and which is quite useful in our two-story place. If your apartment's small, though, it's not really necessary. Honestly, you're going to be so tuned in to the baby's needs that you'll hear every little snuffle.

Day care: Sigh. This one's hard. How do you let anyone, no matter how many Nobel Peace Prizes they've won, take care of your baby? We eventually found someone in the ward who was already tending one baby and was willing to take Beth too. And then I quit my job. My friend Lisa found a terrific in-home day care situation that she was very, very comfortable with. I'd say: visit a bunch of places. If anything makes you uncomfortable, don't put your baby there. You'll find someplace that you love. Don't be afraid to keep looking.

Changing table: We never bought one. Don't have the room. Beth is perfectly content being changed on a bed, on the floor, whatever. I changed her today on the floor of a public restroom. (You on the baby police squad, make sure you knock softly if you come to arrest me while she's sleeping.)

Diaper bag: You'll need SOMETHING to carry all of the baby junk (diapers, wipes, bottle, change of baby clothes, Ziploc bags for dirty baby clothes, toys, blanket, binky) in, and you'll definitely need something with pockets to keep it all organized. I have a Gap diaper bag that I think is terrific (and which is also nearly in shreds and needs to be replaced). In an ideal world I'd buy the big leather Coach tote I've been coveting for a few years and use that. Just find something that works that you think is fabulously stylish, 'cause you'll carry it everywhere.

Boppy: Loved mine. Register for it.

Baby books: What to Expect the First Year is good, though a bit alarmist. Dr. Sears' The Baby Book is also good, but definitely skewed toward the natural side of things. Get a good solid general book, read it, and then do things your own way. You're a parent. You'll be fine.


Scott said...

Blatant Husband Comment:

While Libby didn't like it as much, a book I thought was good (and my brother Alan swears by) is The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. You can get it on Amazon.com

Libby said...

Hey! I liked it fine — and it's true, his ideas actually work really well. But it isn't a general everything-about-your-baby book, so it didn't get special mention. Sigh. Everyone's a critic.

Sarah said...

Is it bad that I don't know what Steiff is? (jk, but not really)