Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baby shopping: don't hurry to load the cart

Not long ago, Mrs. Parunak wrote a post I tremendously enjoyed, about shopping for a new baby.

What can I say? We all differ somewhat on the list of what we consider necessities vs. niceties, but the main point is very clear: you don't need a lot of expensive gadgets to raise a baby. You might even end up refusing some of the stuff kind people are willing to pass on to you (like a changing table – we never wanted one). The list of baby equipment we bought for Shira was very short indeed, and included just a car seat, a baby bath tub, a folding playpen in which she sleeps when we're away from home, and a (second-hand) baby bed.

There were of course also the gifts (some new and some used), such as a pram, a stroller, a high chair, a bouncy seat, a nursing pillow, two baby carriers, toys and books – which we were very grateful for, but which you don't have to buy if you're on a budget. There was also stuff we never used, like the pacifiers from the hospital.

Speaking of toys, we don't have a lot of those. It isn't exactly a secret babies and toddlers quickly get bored with their toys. If we bought a new toy every time she was bored with her old ones, we would have no room to store them (even omitting the budget question!). You just have to be creative. Children will find things to play with, and will not be mentally deprived. Right now our daughter is fascinated by teaspoons. I'm sure next week it will be another thing. Yes, she does like to play with toys and look at picture books. But she equally loves to rummage in Daddy's working tools and look at old magazines.

Much of the baby equipment is only used for a very short time in families and isn't worn out, and then people look for someone to whom to pass it along, which is wonderful. I think this should be common practice everywhere, to help spare environment and budget and take a chunk out of the Great Baby Manufacturers' profits. If you have an excess piece of equipment, look for someone to pass it along to, and if you need something, first look around – perhaps someone can't wait to give it away. Here in Israel we have a great swap website, though usually the passing along happens through networking of friends, family and neighbors.

Baby clothes are hardly worn out, too. Babies only wear a certain size for a very short time, and until Shira started eating solids and crawling (which happened roughly around the same time) her clothes were kept in an almost perfect condition. We hardly had any spit-ups and there was only the occasional diaper blowout, so there was no need to wash her clothes every time they were worn (around here, an item of clothing goes to the laundry when it needs to be washed, not just because it was worn once – helps us preserve our clothes and keep laundry to 2-3 loads per week, which saves electricity and water). Starting from the point of crawling and eating solids, of course, things changed and now what she wears must go to the wash at the end of the day. Crawling outfits got extremely knobbly at the knees by the time she grew out of them, too. So while people love to buy and give as gifts lots of tiny clothes for newborn babies, I think there's actually more need for clothes for older babies and toddlers, as those get more wear and tear. It's important to keep this in mind while shopping or choosing gifts. 

The only clothes we bought for our daughter so far, in nearly a year and a half, were three onesies and a couple of pairs of socks. We were flooded with gifts of baby and children's clothes, new and used. Truly, we were blessed to have more clothes than she could wear. By the way, I've noticed that very often, I found myself laying aside the new, extremely cute but not very practical outfits we got as gifts, in the favor of used, comfortable, sturdy and practical ones. Example: I never saw the point of dressing a baby who doesn't walk yet in dresses and skirts (except, of course, for them being so cute!). It usually interferes with crawling and simply isn't very practical – didn't work for me. Now that she's walking I'm starting to incorporate dresses and skirts in her wardrobe, with the goal of making it skirt-only by the time she's three years old (we will, of course, keep pants and bloomers to wear underneath). Another example: turtlenecks for babies. Didn't work for us – give me a wide neck or even better, buttons please!

I also didn't even think about, and found myself getting along just fine without, stuff that other Moms labeled as absolute necessity, such as special nursing clothes and nursing covers. I suppose different things work for different people, and the point is, even if someone said it's a must-have, it might be a must-have for them and nothing but a money and space-guzzler for you.  

This time around, I don't think we need to buy/get anything at all. Seriously. We're fully equipped! I expect we'll still get quite a few clothes and toys as gifts, which will be nice but not strictly necessary. However, who wants to deprive grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of the joy of baby shopping?          


Persuaded said...

So so true Anna! With each baby we added to our family, I found that I needed less and less equipment! I think a lot of it had to do with my own confidence level... as I approached the birth of my first, I was unsure of my own untried mothering skills. It gave me a boost of confidence to have all of these "wonderful" things to "aid" me. By the time my final little guy came onto the scene, the only baby-specific-item I really used was a sling... and I do love me my slings♥

One thing I would do differently if I were to start all over again is to forgo all of the plastic out there for natural materials such as wood and wool. Just seems more nurturing and healthy to me somehow.

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh at this post because I thought back to when my son was born. Oh the stuff I got and even then it was far less than what many other new mothers receive. I did get a baby monitor because we do not co-sleep all the time and I liked being able to go into the yard while baby napped inside to tend the garden. I also NEEDED a stroller. Strollers are priceless to me.

I also had to laugh because I'm about to have my 3rd child and it's amazing what I'm not pulling out of storage for him. For one thing, we simply don't have the space!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Diane, I abhor plastic with its lurid colors for baby products and its annoying textures. However, it seems as though there's nearly no way to avoid the plastic paraphernalia! Plastic is everywhere: high chairs, bath tubs, toys, plates, cups... I wanted so badly to get a wooden high chair for Shira but just couldn't find one at a decent price around here. So plastic it is. A HUGE multi-colored piece of plastic adulterating my living room. Oh well, I suppose you can't have everything in life! :)

Luci said...

So true! The only thing I would add (and, not being a mother (yet!), would suggest to take this with a grain of salt) is that a crib, from what I've read, probably shouldn't be passed down. Cribs are used soooo much these days and, since people often move so frequently, can easily have loose screws or missing parts. In the US, the government is phasing out drop-side baby cribs because 32 infants have died as a result of getting caught between the mattress and the bar. :( I can't imagine the sadness of the mothers.

That being said, if a woman has a crib that can be checked out by someone skilled in woodworking and technical things, that's a huge help! But, the safety standards of even two decades ago aren't as good as they are today ~ since we know so much more about how babies sleep and babies' health in general.

But as for reusing clothes and such ~ my goodness, I've never seen the need for "designer" baby things. Some of the prices on baby clothes are just outrageous! I was shopping for the first baby of a dear friend and was stunned to see, of all things, baby high heels. !!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn't move for about a minute, since I was so shocked. Of all the things a baby would NOT need, that's got to be up near the top of list!!

I hope your pregnancy is going smoothly and that you're feeling great! :) (Have you revealed whether it's a boy or a girl?)


Mrs David W said...

I could not agree with you more on this post Anna! I am amazed at the things moms think they need these days. Wipe warmers, pacifier clips, fancy diaper pails etc. It is so easy to not use these things.
Also, if you do need things, for example my daughter grows out of her shoes like crazy :) (She is 2) I always purchase them at thrift stores or garage sales. I do that with a lot of her clothes. It shocks me that parents spend so much on clothes and shoes when they can only be in them for a few months.
Also, with our son (7wks) we hardly bought anything and what we did buy was all used.

Alana said...

Oh, it's been a lot of years since my kids were wee. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! My list of baby essentials: car seat, sling, jogging stroller (mama needs exercise), a good recliner/rocker for those nursing sessions, and a bed big enough to co-sleep (w/ side guard rail). Beyond that, something for baby's bottom and something for baby's body. ;-) and some nursing bras for mama. Depending on how many babies are in the picture at the same time, a double stroller and a baby back pack might also be indispensable.

By the time I had number four, I used to just take a bath with my baby. No baby tub needed. I also preferred a special seat that fit on our big toilet over a little potty for the potty training. Less mess to clean up.

A Marriage After His Heart said...

hmmmm * hint hint* Anna I had the same issue. Our second DAUGHTER was born a year and a month after our first daughter and I didn't have to buy anything either : They were born in April of last year and May of this year so the seasonal clothes work just fine, such a blessing to be able to recycle clothes. Thats what I told my husband when we found out we were not having a boy... No new clothes, or carseats, or blankets...

BTW I am just teasing about the hint... can't wait until you spill the beans about the baby's gender!


Mrs. Anna T said...

A Marriage After His Heart,

As a matter of fact, I don't see any problem with putting babies of either sex in clothes designed either "for boys" or "for girls". It really doesn't matter when they are so little! Baby clothes are mostly in soft pastel colors anyway. Yes, we did get quite a bit of *pink* in gifts, but we also dressed Shira in passed down boys' clothes when those were more practical. I think only now her clothes are more distinctly for girls.

Kittee said...

This is very, very true!

My time is short today but here is a quick list of things I found essential. (For our life anyways!)
1. Boppy Pillow for nursing and feeding. Works now also as a prop for baby to sit.

2. Bouncer chair/papasan chair/infant swing. Keeps baby safe and occupied while you clean the house, cook etc. A bonus with a bouncer/papasan chair is that you can bring it into whatever room you're working in.

3. Pack-n-play. Great for traveling and daytime naps downstairs in the living area.

4. Some type (your choice) of baby carrier. I use a Mei Tai style now but before I used a Moby. Great for going into stores or walking around the block w/o pushing a stroller.

I believe that's it for my short list!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Luci, since my husband is the son of a carpenter, he knows quite a bit about woodworking and is quite skilled with his hands. I trust his judgment when it comes to matters like these. :o) Of course safety is paramount!

justme27 said...

On the crib thing, we're planning to co-sleep to help my sanity... as well as to help space our kids. I know a lot of moms don't know, but one of the "rules" of ecological breastfeeding (child spacing with nursing), is to co-sleep with baby.


After having to get up all night long with our adopted daughter and her bottles, I'm so looking forward to night nursing as a great alternative. :)

Persuaded said...

Oh Anna, we think just alike... the garish colors and icky textures of plastics are exactly the things that repel me as well!

I have a beautiful wooden high chair that's just gathering dust in my attic right now. I wish I could send it to you♥

Mrs. Anna T said...


Shira wasn't transferred to her crib until she slept through the night. Until then, she slept in her pram by my bedside. I found I simply can't fall asleep with her right next to me (out of anxiety of rolling over her), so keeping her close was the next best thing. I agree with you, schlepping to another room five times every night makes you feel like a zombie in the morning!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about the garish colours of plastic. I too try to avoid plastic. I prefer the more earthy tones and somehow, having EVERYTHING in super bright colours really bothers me...I just wish the wood and natural fibers were a bit cheaper!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how helpful this post is. You mention what you bought, but it sounds like you were also given a lot of things (for example would you have bought a stroller and/or baby carrier if they had not been given to you?) If you have bought no clothes besides a few onesies, you must have been given a fairly good amount of clothes and in a wide variety of sizes.

Anonymous said...

While I dearly love my sister, she and I vastly disagree on parenting styles/methods. I feel thoroughly exhausted just visiting, as her children have way too much stuff. I would love to buy them something nice for birthdays and holiday gifts, however since they already have everything (so it seems), it's difficult.

As an example, she recently had a yard sale and sole $1,000 US dollars worth of childrens toys and clothes. All areas of her house are filled with kids toys.

I also feel that this sets a bad example. First, that things are not to be valued as they can just be re-sold and more, new, better stuff can be purchased.

Second, with all of the kids stuff overtaking the house, they now need for constant stimulation. She also frequently has a TV on in the background, with some "kids" show playing.

Finally, their is a lack of respect for their parents' belongings. They are so careless! Contrast that with how our little ones were cared for, and my sister thought they were deprived. My husband and I felt to the contrary, they had a lot more opportunity to interact with us, gave ideas for creative play, and helped them learn to value and care for their things.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon, yes, we were very blessed indeed to get lots of things from people who didn't need them anymore. There are SO many people, at least here, waiting to pass on their baby stuff. I'm not sure how much of it we would have bought if we had to. Probably not the carriers and certainly not as many clothes as we currently have.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the thing about toys. I am still in my teen years, and often have babysitting jobs. Sometimes it sickens me to see how many toys some children have. I just babysat a day or so a go for a family with 2-year-old and an 11-month old. All of the closets, living room space, basement, and kitchen was FULL of their toys. Their garage was so packed with baby things that they could no longer pull their car in. I just wonder how much money was spent on all those toys, and the children hardly played with but a few of them!

Silvia said...

concerning Highchairs:

I can highly recommend the swedish brand STOKKE - wooden highchairs that last a life long. As well you can use them right from 6 month (preferably a year though - if you don't want to purchase the extra infant seat) until your child is a teenager or an adult. I use it all the time as a handy stepladder as well... :-)
On e-bay, craigslist, gumtree you can find reasonable prices for used ones.
The best thing of all is, that even if it is ten years old - you won't recognise it - timeless, beautiful and sturdy piece of furniture :-)

kind regards