Friday, June 6, 2008

Buying for a Baby - Temptations to Resist

S.B. at Be Thrifty Like Us had an interesting post recently about buying baby gear, specifically what she and her husband did right and what they did wrong when buying for their daughter, who is now 1.

I've thought about this issue a lot -- usually everytime I go into Jackson's room -- so I'd like to add my thoughts about some other things you should avoid buying when you have a baby. And I'll follow up later with our list of must-haves now that we're veteran parents of an almost 2-year-old.

If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't buy...

A big, fancy diaper bag. For my baby shower, two dear friends of mine pooled their money to buy me a fabulous -- and fabulously expensive -- Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag. It's gorgeous, but it isn't practical for everyday use. My diaper bag is still bigger than my son. It wouldn't fit under the stroller, and if I hung it from the back of our umbrella stroller, it always threatened to tip the thing over.

I do use this diaper bag to pack Jackson's things in for overnight trips. But a diaper bag isn't supposed to be luggage. It's supposed to be used every day.

I ended up buying a very simple chenille polka dot bag and using that as my diaper bag. It was no bigger than a purse, had to pokets on the outside, a small pocket on the inside and a removable cardboard bottom. (I've found that some Vera Bradley purses also have designs that lend themselves to be used as diaper bags.) I'm of the opinion that a diaper bag should be cute because you'll be carrying it instead of a purse for quite a while. And I think the bag should match the mom, not the baby. I had a boy, buy my diaper bags -- the big one and its replacement -- are very girly because that's my style. Jackson never knew the difference.

Stuffed animals. When I found out that I was pregnant, the first thing I bought for the baby was a stuffed animal. Because it was cute and soft, just the kind of thing that stoked my hormone-fueled image of what motherhood would be like. Because in our minds, it's always cooing babies being rocked by beautiful mommies in nurseries decorated with lucious linens and bunny-soft stuffed animals. Cue the lullaby.

Everyone thinks that about babies, and they'll shower you with stuffed animals and keep buying them for every occasion in your child's life. Several months back, I counted Jackson's stuffed animals and was amazed to find that he had more than 20 -- not counting the ones that are in the toy bin in the car. His room and our entire house was turning into a zoo for plush playthings.

Since that count, Jackson's grandparents, aunts, uncles, other relatives and friends have added ot the menager.

This week, Bruce and I decided -- enough. After Jackson was asleep (in our bed), we tackled the chore of cleaning up and cleaning out his room. We took some of his baby stuffies with special significance and stored them in bins with other outgrown toys. (We're saving them for Number 2 -- if we decide to have a Number 2.) We also picked through the stuffed animals -- some of which have never been played with -- and choose a few to donate to Goodwill.

We still have too many for my liking, but Jackson has his favorites and is very attached. I don't have the heart to banish Elmo or Snoopy, his mo-mos (monkeys) or even that annoying, emotially needy Learning Puppy.

Receiving blankets or any other kind. Blankets are kind of like stuffed animals. They evoke images of sweet, sleeping babies. When you see them, you want to buy them to swaddle your little one in.

Don't. Resist the temptation. Take it from someone who knows. In a house with a baby, blankets are like kudzu. They seem pretty and innocuous and even useful, but they have a way of taking over...

My mom is a crocheter, and before Jackson was even born -- heck before any of her grandchildren were even conceived -- she had a drawer full of blankets in baby blue, petal pink and "we're having a surprise" green and yellow. When I was pregnant with Jackson, she gave me several handmade baby blankets. After he was born, she gave me more.

We still have all of those blankets, and we cherish them. They are keepsakes, and I will never throw them away.

Only problem is, my mom wasn't the only one buying blankets.

I bought some because I couldn't resist the cute factor. I got some at my baby showers (all of them beautiful, I might add.) People shared their hand-me-downs. Suddenly one little boy, who doesn't much like being swaddled or covered up, had dozens of blankets. They were everywhere. In his room. In the car. In our room. In the living room. In the laundry room. In the kitchen.

Blankets are one of those baby necessities. You will need them, but you don't need to buy them. Because you will get them as gifts. In this case, it's OK to have more than you need -- because when you have a peeing, pooping baby being cared for my sleep-deprived parents who have trouble finding their own feet, much less a blanket, you're always going to need a backup.

As my son has grown from baby to toddler, I've slowly pared down his linens, stashing the extras in the attic for Number 2. (That nonexistent baby has a great headstart on a life of excess.) We have just a few special, cozy blankets in Jackson's room now.

Baby bottles. S.B. mentioned this in her post, but my reasoning is different. Her daughter was picky when it came to bottles, but Jackson's never met a nipple he didn't like. But we didn't need as many bottles as we had. Jackson nursed until he was almost 16 months old -- and by then he was drinking from a sippy cup. He would take a bottle if I wasn't around, but we never needed as many as we had in the cabinet. Two or three would have been fine for us.

Of course, this bit of advice doesn't apply to babies who are formula fed or whose mommies aren't able to stay home and nurse them. (I'm lucky to have a flexible career as a writer. Many times, I've left my computer to let Jackson refuel.)

Interestingly, now that Jackson is a toddler, we never seem to have enough sippy cups. He goes through... I don't know how many a day. Leaves them everywhere. Drips them on the carpet. On the sofa. On the bed... but I digress.

Extraneous baby-proofing gear. If you have a child, it's essential that you take proper steps to babyproof your home to protect your child from some very real and very scary dangers. But there are some baby-proofing items that you may never use or need.

Case in point -- our toilet locks. I bought two of them (or maybe three) because that's how many thrones we have in the house. I installed one of them before Jackson was even crawling, just to test it out. Only thing it proved was that we adults are idiots. My husband and I and everyone who visited us struggled to work the thing and ended up just taking it off to do their business. (And can I mention that you don't want to be messing with a toilet lock when you've really got to go.)

Interestingly, Jackson has never been very interested in throwing anything but toilet paper into the toilet. We usually keep the bathroom doors shut, so he stays out. (I know that may change as he gets older and tall enough to reach the door knobs.) But at that point, a toilet lock won't be very effective.

We also didn't use furniture corner covers. Jackson walked pretty early, and he became fleet of feet very early. I can't remember him falling once or hitting himself on the edge of a table. So, we never used the cushioned furniture corners that I bought too early in his babyhood to return by the time he was walking. (They're in a box destined for Goodwill.)

When it comes to babyproofing items, my advice is that you shouldn't buy these items on the hunch that they're be useful. Observe your baby and see what attracts his or her attention. Things like gates (especially on the stairs), plug covers and cabinet latches are essential, but you may not need all the other things you find in the safety section at Babies R Us. You'll end up wasting time and money. (Babyproofing is time consuming.)

And you may be able to find frugal or no-cost solutions that work just as well. To keep Jackson out of my jewelry armoire, I tied a scarve through the drawer pulls. To keep him out of our living room end table (our junk drawer), we removed the drawer pull, as my own parents had done decades earlier. I'm sad to report that Jackson has now figured out how to open that drawer. He delights in grabbing pens and running off with them and in wiping his bottom with neon pink Post-It notes. That's a problem I don't know how to solve.

Do you have children? If so, I'd love to hear what you'd add to the list. And if you're a mommy- or daddy-to-be, feel free to ask me if the baby gear you're planning on purchasing is really necessary.

1 comment:

  1. My Husband and I chose to pass on the cabinet locks. Instead we trained our daughters (now 5 & 2) not to open the cabinets. We've never worried that our girls will get into things in kitchens of those without children. It's worked out great and we hope to do the same with our boy (2 mos) when he is mobile.

    Thanks for the tips.