Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baby Gear

When my mom offered to throw me a baby shower, it took me a long time to put together a baby registry. I just didn't know what to register for. I looked on-line, but everyone had a different opinion about registries.

I didn't want to buy into the hype of the baby gear market, which I think is a very successful industry because it is able to convince many soon-to-be parents that they need a lot more than they actually need. Since these parents have never had a baby before, they just don't know. All their friends tell them different things. Many parents resort to lists provided by baby superstores, which are self-serving at best. (Anyone who reads this blog knows what I think about such stores). Such lists seem to me to be the equivalent of going to a car dealership and asking the salesman which features you need on your new car.

In this posting, I will attempt to list what I think is useful to have when the baby arrives, and which things new parents should register for. Of course, I'm just throwing my opinion into the mix. There are lots of other blog posts like this on the web. But for what it's worth, here is my opinion.

Things that you need when the baby arrives.
An infant only does three things: sleeps, eats, and soils diapers. So your focus should be on meeting those needs. I recommend that you have the following ready:
  • Diaper wipes (see below for my thoughts on purchasing diapers)
  • Plain, white, cotton onesies
  • A hat to keep baby's head warm (hospital will provide one, but it might not fit well)
  • A few receiving blankets (either flannel or cotton work just fine)
  • A place for the baby to sleep
  • Bottles (if you're not breastfeeding)
  • A car seat (required upon discharge from the hospital)
  • A camera

Things that are nice to have but not required.
  • A diaper changing station with drawers or other storage capability (we are using a dresser with a contour pad on top - works great)
  • Spit-up cloths (we usually use cloth diapers for this)
  • A garbage pail with a heavy top for odorless diaper disposal
  • If you have two floors in your house, a place for the baby to sleep on both levels of your house (ie: cradle upstairs, Pack-n-Play downstairs)
  • Stroller
  • Sling or other baby carrier
  • A few (like maybe 5) cute outfits (newborn or 0-3 size)
  • 1-2 hooded towels
  • Diaper bag
  • Waterproof pads
  • Digital thermometer
Things that you will receive as gifts (so don't worry about registering for this stuff):
  • Baby clothes, all sizes, particularly onesies
  • Hooded towels
  • Blankets
  • Photo albums/memory books
  • Toys
Things that you will receive at the hospital:
  • Diapers
  • Aspirator
  • Pacifier
  • Thermometer
  • Diaper cream (zinc oxide, A&D)
  • Hat
Things to register for:
  • Rear-facing infant car seat
  • Crib accessories, such as waterproof pads, sheets
  • Pack-n-Play (I never thought I would like it, but it is actually super useful and will be great for trips to visit family, since the baby can sleep in it overnight and it's portable)
  • Stroller (I strongly recommend the Snap-N-Go - very portable)
  • Diaper bag
  • Bottles
  • If possible, register for classes! In the Boston area, Isis Maternity has excellent pre-natal classes, as well as all sorts of groups for new moms and dads.
Where to Register?

I looked into registering at Amazon and Target before I caved and registered at Babies R Us. I also looked into doing an on-line registry that was not linked to any store.

I chose Babies R Us mostly because their baby products can be purchased both on-line and in-store. Target and Amazon products are mostly available on-line only. I wanted both options available, because many people do not like shopping on the web, or do not know how to do so.

A registry not linked to any store initially seemed like a good idea, until you think about how it would work. People have to have the forethought to print out the list before going shopping, and they have to remember to return to the registry after they've purchased a gift to check it off your list. This is just too much trouble.

This is not an endorsement of Babies-R-Us, however. I actually think their customer service stinks more than Annie's diapers. You can go back on this blog and read about our saga with the crib. Furthermore, their on-line descriptions of products leave much to be desired. For example, don't you think it would be helpful if they included the dimensions of their cribs and mattresses? You know, so people can figure out if the crib will fit in their nursery and they're purchasing the correct mattress? But, at this point in time, their registry gives you the most selection and convenience.

Various and sundry thoughts.

Regarding diapers. You don't know what size your baby is going to be when s/he is born. Annie, for example, was 5 pounds. Many of the "newborn" diapers we had were for babies that were at least 8 pounds. These are easy to buy at the store, so I would recommend waiting until the baby arrives and then getting the diapers. You will have enough from the hospital to get you through the first couple of days at home with the baby.

I have also heard that some babies are very particular about their diapers. We have not found this to be the case with Annie, but every baby is different. Better to wait til she's born.

Regarding diaper pails. If you can believe it, I actually researched this topic before registering for one. There seemed to be two major designs of diaper pails. There's the "Diaper Genie," which scrunches up each diaper into a sausage-like shape and wraps it in plastic. You have to buy cartridges for this. Then there's the "Diaper Champ," which is essentially a garbage pail with a special "revolving door"-like lid that is supposed to keep the stink inside. The benefit of the Diaper Champ is that you don't have to buy cartridges; all you need is a garbage bag.

We registered for the Diaper Champ. Jim has renamed it the Diaper Loser. The revolving door function doesn't work very well. Often, you'll put the diaper in and revolve it around, and a soiled diaper or wipe from a previous changing pops out. We plan on purchasing a standard garbage pail with a pedal-operated lid as soon as we can.

And anyway, given the number of diapers I change, I am the Diaper Jeannie, and I don't come with cartridges.

Regarding bath tubs.
Even Consumer Reports recommended registering for one. Maybe my opinion will change once Annie gets a little older, but these seem to be unnecessary if you have a sink.

Recommended reading.

Consumer Reports has an excellent 0n-line section on all things baby. They are fantastic. I would print out their section on whatever it was I was purchasing and bring it with me to the evil superstore so that I wouldn't get sidetracked. Consumer Reports is a subscription service, but it is well worth the money. They have sections on just about anything you want to buy.

I also recommend a book called Baby Bargains, which just printed its 8th edition. I had their 7th edition. It is very similar to Consumer Reports, except that they only write up baby products, so it's more specialized and there's more information. In addition to detailed write-ups about just about anything you could consider buying for your baby, the book includes a simple ratings list for each product you want to buy, so that you can do a quick check while you're at the store.

...so there it is. My thoughts on baby gear. As a last thought, I should say that even if you don't have any of these things, you will be fine (except for the car seat, since the baby doesn't leave the hospital without it). You will figure it out as you go along. Take it from someone who knows - there's only so much you can prepare for, and even when you do prepare, things often turn out differently than you expected anyway. So try to be flexible and trust that you'll figure things out. I'm interested to hear what other people think.

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