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Thursday, August 5, 2010

baby gear or, how Babies R' Us is taking over babyhood...(ha!)

babydear, in all her fat glory,
modeling an amber teething necklace.
I spent the first several months of pregnancy with babycakes-the-first absolutely obsessed with maternity wear.

“My clothes… They don’t fit?!.... I am getting fat?!..... ACK!”

So I was rather late to the game when it came to baby gear. Also we were broke, husband being in law school and me back from an adventure and trying to start a consulting business. And trying to prepare for a baby when one is broke is INCREDIBLY stressful. Especially for a Type A planner like myself.

True story re desperation of those times. My husband went to a casino when we were expecting babycakes and had no crib. He plays poker very well (husband, not the baby) and came home with $150 which we then used to go buy a crib at that mecca for expectant mommies, Babies R’ Us (…a crib which we never really used - refer to blog post above - and which has since been recalled due to its apparently dangerous drop sides.)

True story.

Gambled for baby crib.


Makes me laugh just thinking about how neurotically I planned that darn nursery. I spent HOURS pouring over Pottery Barn Kids website (the apparent gold standard in planning nursery for yoga pants wearing mommies like myself) I would never have that glorious nursery. But dammit, I was gonna try.

Our first trip to Babies R’ Us was like entering heaven/purgatory. ALL THE BABY THINGS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD YOU COULD EVER WANT….and I have no money.

But, of course, you must have it all, right? Wipe warmer? Poor little baby bummies must have this! Changing table? But of course! Crib? A given! And preferably the kind that morphs into toddler bed/adult headboard because of course your teenage son is gonna wanna sleep on the same bed his ENTIRE LIFE. And the list of must-haves goes on and on and on. Baby gym. Play mat. Exersaucer. Bouncy seat. Bouncy Swing. Door jumper seat. Car seat. Stroller for infant. Stroller for jogging. Stroller for toddler. Umbrella stroller for travel.

Then the nursery decorations. Which scheme to choose? Avant garde? Straight up Winnie the Pooh? Princess? Butterflies? Choo-choo-trains? Farmyard? A side table lamp. A rocking chair. A table. A dresser. Coatrack. Pictures.

And then the clothes. Oh my Lord the clothes. The sleepers and the onesies and the teeny tiny socks and the teeny tiny hats and the shoes and the teeny tiny jeans and the dresses and the butt covers with ruffles (love those!) and the rompers and the etc etc etc.

You don’t just need a rattle and a blanket. You need serious gear to raise a baby in today’s world. Why?

Well, it is required.

It is, frankly, overwhelming.

My God. I need ALL THIS? Of course I do. I must have it now if I am to be a quality graduate-degreed parent. I must must MUST.

We walked in, my husband and I, and timidly approached the registry desk. I tried to showcase my belly to its best advantage.

“See, I am here. I have a belly. Give me a gun. Let’s register.”

Registering for baby gear is a rite of passage for the yoga-pant-wearing set. The reality was I knew very few people that would actually go to a Babies R Us, print out my registry, and purchase accordingly. Maybe my mother-in-law? Seriously though there are no Babies R Us’ in my parents small town where my mother would soon be hosting a shower for me (so that the ladies of the church could ooh and ahh over tiny baby things purchased at the local Target, which is of course why grandmothers throw baby showers).

But still, I wanted to register. More to track the things I wanted to buy for our little blessing.

We walked around and daydreamed away our nursery. This hundreds of dollars crib. That classic wooden highchair. This stroller. That leather rocking arm chair. Hundreds of dollars that we didn’t have but, gosh but that little gun makes it feel real. “Click.” It’s mine! It’s on my list!

Of course I had no idea at the time but Babies R’ Us represents the required gear only for middle class babies. Not till I went to the nearby galleria with the “fancy” baby stores did I realize one could spend $500+ on a stroller, let alone $250 like the one I coveted. Oh, the clothes in these stores! Oh my. Being in the baby time of life I still peruse these stores. Last time I was in one the sales clerk went crazy over my babydear when I said we might be in the market for a sun hat. $50 sun hats, I kid you not. I was all encouraging her to try them on babydear, secretly plotting how I might reproduce one on my little Singer at home. (If I am successful I will post a pic here. Such a cute design.)

In any case. Reality loomed as my due date approached. Also babycakes was a boy baby, which meant no light pink walls and subtle flower theme that I had been planning for him. So I retooled the nursery ideas and came up with red, blue, yellow flower print pillows (baby boys appreciate flowers too!) and pillows that said “sweetpea” and “baby bug” (I cut out the lettering and sewed in on myself. I literally CRIED over those pillows, cutting the fabric wrong, sewing seams backwards, etc. etc.)

I found my ideal side sleeper bed in a Once Upon A Child (man I love that store). Purchased the crib, by above methods, as well as a carseat, bought a rug at Ikea (wooly and nice) found a rocker at a garage sale ($20!), found a used changing table at another garage sale (it even matched the crib!) and then I did the whole closet organizers, baskets for diapering supplies, hanging wall shelf for cutesie knick knacks, etc. etc. I was also given a used playmat, bassinette, bouncy seat, highchair, play piano, and more.

And then the clothes. Boy clothes are not as irrisistable and I was fortunate to be given a lot of used things. But man, I stressed over not having enough onesies, wanting Baby Gap layette sets, etc. etc.
So. Four years later, were I to do it again…(say when i have a surprise baby at 40 and am living in a yurt, i really want to do that actually, live in a yurt, although a baby at 40 would be fine too, insert smiley face guy) Well, here is the deal. Decorating a nursery is really fun. But babies don’t need all that. Mama needs it. Nesting and all that maybe.

My recommended baby gear for a new mommy?

A wool fleece, baby lies on it, wool keeps baby warm/cool (wool is fab like that) wool repels pee/puke, perfect.

A sling or pouch (I LOVE babywearing gear. Ergo. Sling. Pouch. Love it. Love them all, except baby bjorn. It kills your back. Get an Ergo or sling.)

A stack of prefolds, 3 or 4 covers, some woolie pants (more posting to be done on cloth diapering later. I LOVE cloth diapers.)

A couple gowns, booties/socks, a hat (onesies are highly overrated in my book. I never use them. With cloth diapering I find that they prevent easy diaper checks and they lead to leaks as they get caught under legholes, wick moisture onto jammies, etc.)

A nice cashmere blanket, a quilt, some flannel swaddle blankets

A countered changing pad and cover that you can lie on a bed or floor to change diapers.

An amber teething necklace (a Scandanavian traditional remedy for teething, amber is said to warm against the skin and absorb into the body to relieve pain. Plus they are DANG cute)

Ummm…what else?

Maybe a small bassinette or Moses basket for safely placing baby down for a nap while you are in the kitchen or folding laundry or to prevent older brother from tackling you while you lie peacefully sleeping on mama’s bed….

Of course, you need to have a carseat. (we loved our Graco Safeseat. Affordable and, well, safe.)

And as far as the incidentals…I literally stressed out when babycakes hit around 3 months and we didn’t have any real toys in the house. My God, I thought to myself, how is he ever going to get mental stimulation! We have no doo-dads hanging from his seat! We have no flashy light swings with Elmo reciting the alphabet! How the hell is he gonna succeed in the world!?

But really, your voice is as much stimulation as they need. Maybe a wooden rattle or a teething ring. A soft wool ball with a bell inside. Soft, natural, simple toys are what I go for now for new little ones.

And seriously, that is it. Sure, strollers and playmats and highchairs are great but really, really not needed.

The whole Babies R Us picture of what you HAVE TO HAVE for baby’s arrival is really…ok, I will say it…. it really is corporatizing childhood, babyhood itself, you know? And how wrong is that? All the junk flashy lights exersaucer/bounce seats (I have them all, no judgement) is like all the same and we are shoving our little innocent sensory overloaded babies in front of these things, overwhelming them from day one. And some of it is truly disturbing to me. Bottle propping gadgets? A beating heart teddy bear for your baby to sleep with (instead of yours?!) And then later come the toys, like an avalanche of plastic made from God knows what tainted crap.

Suddenly we find our houses flooded with this stuff and we try to make sense of our child’s room, the playroom, not to mention the junk that overflows into the rest of the living space until it looks like Babies R Us threw up on our house and left us to wallow in it.

Ok. That was way harsh (hello, Clueless quote!) but it does make me kinda mad.

Babies need love. Arms. A breast. When we get caught up in the hype we lose out on that simplistic state of being that our new little ones bring to our world.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing when you are a parent, to be cherished, for soon your child will be whining about that horrible looking plastic, talking McDonalds toy and you will buy it for him (although you will then perhaps chuck it in a month when you find it broken under the couch – more on that topic later.)

Next up: Dunno…still writing.


  1. dearest sara, as we have been nominated by the universe to be the next expectant parents come February :)... your list is unbelievably appreciated. I will read this over and over again, as I am being asked to register for plastic and things alike. Your style of mommy-hood has always resonated well with me, and I know that this list will be soon turned into a word document so that I can pour over it for the next few months! Thank you! It is wonderful!!!

  2. OOH! LINDSEY! YAY! for you i will post my actual list, complete with favorite brands...
    i will put it in comments soon.

  3. Great post, baby. I know I have not commented before and have thought about not commenting at all. I feel like this is your space, not mine. But I do want to say a quick something about this post. I feel like what we did not know at first and still occaionally lose sight of is this: all of the things we buy/make should have a purpose in relation to our kids. Car seat=safety; diapers=no excrement on the floor; clothes=protecting skin and keeping warm (the empiric part is nice too); etc=etc. But the toys, oh God, the toys. Whether it is the plastic junk or the natural tactile stuff, I think the best toys are the ones that allow/assist us to interact with the kids. The best stuff for me have been the blocks, I think. I have become really bothered by all of the crap out there that tries to take the place of parent interact. Blinking, noisy, motorized junk when our kids all time favorite game is steal daddy's glasses off his nose. Parents blink, are noisy, and are motorized. I'm not saying we shouldn't have toys that the kids can play with sans adults; we need that. But any purchase made whose explicit advertised purpose is to replace us, is just dumb. Anyway, just my two cents.
    Also, for the record, I went to play poker with $40 and came out with about $250 after three hours.
    Much love to all,

  4. That is a great story! The gambled-for crib.

    I am SOOOO with you guys on this. We had to go low-key out of necessity, since Indiana is our temporary home. The "nursery" furniture consisted of a pack-n-play and a $20 yard-sale rocker, and a wooden chest made for me by my grandfather as storage/table, all in a corner of our room, and I've loved it that way. Oh, then there was the stroller and car seat, plus a gifted bouncy seat and a gifted Ergo. And... the other fancy stroller I won in a random online lottery. Sort of like a gambled-for crib?

    Here in Barcelona everything is hand-me-downs or borrowed. One exception: we just got Gabriel a Stokke high chair with credit that we still had in our wedding registry. Am very excited about that. Even though we're not here most of the time, he'll be able to use it as he grows.

    LOVE Once Upon a Child. I bought Gabriel a big pile of clothes and sold them right back when he grew out of them.

    Steve, I agree with what you say about toys. Looking forward to a post on that, Sara!

  5. Great story. I have a lot of hand me downs like yoga pants.


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