Summer Newsletter Editorial: TOO MUCH STUFF

Stephanie Ondrack

A CLOSER LOOK AT BABY GEAR

One can go a little bonkers when it comes to baby gear. There are so many nifty gadgets and devices that seem to promise a smarter baby, a happier baby, happier parents, more sleep, more quiet, more learning, or more time. Plus, so many items are simply too cutesy-adorable to pass up! Trying to filter the truly necessary from the nice-to-have from the total-waste-of-money items is not easy. New parents can be easily seduced by all the gizmos and gear available, while veteran parents’ advice varies wildly from person to person. So what is a new parent to do? How do we pick our way through the endless aisles of options in any reasonable way?

This issue on Baby Gear explores these very questions. Since we are ill-equipped to endorse specific equipment, we have instead provided a few expert opinions to consider: Sandra Poelzer, former owner of Wee Ones Reruns, and Tanis Frame, owner of MamaMaven, both weigh in on what to consider when choosing baby gear. Our question of the quarter considers what to look for in a Baby Carrier. Finally, we have reprinted the results of our 2011 online baby gear preferences poll: What have our readers found to be the most, and least, useful? Read on, the answers may surprise you.

SUMMER NEWS

PINECONE PARENTING

Do you ever feel stuck in parenting patterns that aren’t working? Do you ever wonder what motivates your kids to do the things they do? Is parenting fine, but you’d enjoy a deeper understanding of what goes on in your child’s head?

Pinecone Parenting presents:

“Smoothing out the Struggles: Practical & Useful Tips to Make Parenting More Enjoyable for Everyone”

coming to our Commercial Street location on Sundays 22 & 29 July 7 – 9pm.

Attachment-based, effective, and well worth the time, this class will change the way you see your kids and your own role as their parent. Treat yourself and your kids to an easier, more enjoyable family life.

more details

register

DOULAS OF VANCOUVER

Free monthly info nights at The Childbearing Society. These events, presented by the Doulas of Vancouver for both expectant and new parents, are opportunities to learn and gather information relevant to pregnancy, birth and parenting.

2018 dates: July 20, Sept 26, Nov 16 

 

LETTERS

My name is Laura Robertson and I took a prenatal class with the Childbearing Society just before my oldest son was born and it was that class that first made me consider the possibility of a home birth. I just wanted to say I am so happy you are running a course specifically on this topic. I had both my babies at home and I can’t imagine doing it any other way (although obviously I would if medically necessary). I am constantly surprised at how few people have home births and how few of my informed, smart friends would consider having a baby anywhere other than a hospital. I hope you have great success with this class. If I hadn’t already had my babies at home I would totally come. I will try to spread the word – I think this is such an important topic for people to know about.

Thanks for all that you do! And if there is anything I can do to help get the message out please let me know.

Laura Robertson

 

Thanks Laura! More info here: homebirth seminar

 

ASK CHILDBEARING: I have heard that some baby carriers are unsafe?

ASK CHILDBEARING: I have heard that some baby carriers are unsafe?

By Stephanie Ondrack

Q: I have heard that some baby carriers are unsafe, and that wearing your baby the wrong way can be dangerous. Can you explain the rules to me?

A: Babywearing can be a satisfying solution to meeting baby’s need to be held, while allowing yourself some much-needed hands-free time. Babywearing provides an easy way to transport baby on walks, without the hassle or bulk of bringing a stroller. Best of all, babywearing has many positive effects on baby’s sensory, emotional, cognitive, and physical development: it strengthens neck and core muscles, it promotes bonding, it lowers stress hormones, and it provides opportunities for eye contact, breastfeeding, and shared experiences.

BUT, as you rightly point out, babywearing can indeed be unsafe if done incorrectly. If you observe the following simple guidelines, you and your baby can enjoy safe and pleasant babywearing any time.

  1. You should be able to kiss the top of baby’s head. Your baby should be situated where he would be if he were in your arms. In other words, avoid carriers or wraps that position baby too low on your body, as this can be unsafe.
  2. Make sure baby can breathe. Basically, avoid covering baby’s face with fabric, and avoid crunching your baby into any position that prevents her from raising her head. Her chin should not be squashed onto her chest.
  3. Facing you is preferable to facing outwards. This is not so much a safety concern as a physical development concern. Baby’s spine and hips are in a healthier position when inwards, or in a ‘cradle’ position. When baby faces outwards, he is usually putting too much weight on his crotch, and his hips are leaning forward at an awkward angle. As well, babies benefit from being able to see your face, to feel reassured by your presence, eye contact, and facial expressions.

That’s it! If you follow these simple tips, you and your baby can enjoy babywearing for many months, or even years.

Baby Gear: The Good, The Bad, The Unnecessary 

Baby Gear: The Good, The Bad, The Unnecessary 

By Sandra Poelzer

What baby items do we really need?

This is a question we all struggle with.  It begins in the first trimester amidst all the excitement, as we start to ponder what we might need, how we will parent, what life with baby will be like. Becoming a parent is one of the biggest events in our lives. We start to research everything ‘baby’. During our endless hours of research, we are bombarded with advertisements in nearly every publication, all trying to convince us that we need every baby gismo and gadget out there.

 

Marketing companies see a new parent as a new consumer. Come on, they’ve got us believing that we need to purchase a book to tell us what to buy. Some of us ask our friends and family for advice, some of us ask the sales clerk at the local baby boutique. But the answers we get are all so varied.

 

So, what do we actually need for baby? Well, first, let’s separate the necessities from the conveniences. Think back to previous generations. Where did their babies sleep? What did their children play with? Now yes, times have changed, life is busier, but have our babies changed? No, our babies are the same as generations before. The difference is us, as a society. Statistics show, that we are now starting our families later in life. This is giving us time to be further ahead in our careers and more financially secure. Not only are we starting later, we are also returning to work earlier. According to Statistics Canada 65.8% of women with children under the age of 2 are participating in the labour force. So what does this mean? Well as parents, we are now busier than any generation before us. In order to keep our households and lifestyles running, we need to make our lives easier. We need to buy items that offer us convenience and free up some of our time.

 

Ongoing Car Seat Clinics By Donation

Number one on any new parent’s list is a car seat. When picking out a car seat, do your research. Some of the most important considerations are; how well does the seat fit in your car? How well will a newborn baby fit in the seat? Will you be using the car seat in multiple cars? When buying a car seat, check the store’s return policy just in case the seat does not fit properly in your car. Once you have purchased your car seat, it is a good idea to have a certified child restraint technician check/help install the seat and go over car seat safety. To find a workshop run by a technician near you, call Kids In The Back @ 604-617-0624. It is not a good idea to buy a used car seat, as car seats have expiry dates, regulations change and there is no way to tell if the seat has been involved in a collision. Your child’s safety is not the place to save a few dollars.

 

Making the nursing pair (mom and baby) comfortable is very important. There is no need to go out and buy a special chair. Instead, use what you have at home. Getting comfortable is all about the accessories. I found a nursing pillow very helpful, especially in the beginning. Make sure that the nursing pillow is large enough to wrap around a postpartum mom’s tummy. A removable, washable cover is also good feature. Some moms prefer to use throw cushions. It’s really a matter of what works for you. For me, a good quality breast pump was a must, as I was worried about engorgement and I intended on returning to work early. Whether you go with an electric or manual pump really depends on how much you will be using it. For occasional pumping, a hand pump should be sufficient. Some women even discover they prefer to express milk by hand, and forego the pump altogether.

 

Babies are happiest when they are close to someone. A baby carrier is a true necessity! Not only will wearing your baby encourage bonding, but it will also make your life easier. For my own sanity and my child’s, nothing beat going for a brisk walk outside with him/her on me. There are many great carriers on the market. You may end up with more than one carrier for different stages and situations. When purchasing a carrier, take into consideration who will be using it, and what your intentions are: Will you be using it for long periods of time or just around the house? Will the carrier fit both you and your partner? Do you feel comfortable wearing it? Is it washable? Can you breastfeed in it? Is it primarily for newborns, or will it carry the weight of a toddler? If you can, borrow a few different carriers from friends to see what you like best.

 

Strollers come in many different price brackets, sizes and shapes. The stroller may be the most expensive baby item you purchase, so it’s a good idea to research them thoroughly. Think about what your needs might be. Will you be taking the stroller in and out of the car a lot? Will you be using it on the bus? Do you have stairs to ascend? You may want to pay close attention to the size and weight of the stroller. Do you enjoy long walks? Live close to gravel/mulch trails? Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Perhaps an all terrain stroller with large pneumatic tires is more your style. Are you planning on having another baby soon? An add-on seat would be a great option. What about the size of the basket? Can you push the stroller with one hand? Is a cup holder important to you? Does the seat or handle reverse so baby can see you? There are many options in both single and double strollers. You can almost compare it to buying a car. In fact, the stroller might even cost as much as your first car did. Forget about asking the salesperson at the boutique what stroller they like. Anytime you see a stroller on the roll that you are attracted to, ask the parent how they like it, what features are good, and what’s not so good. Fellow parents can offer great advice.

 

Do you need an exersaucer, bouncy chair, jumper and a swing? No, not really, but one of these might be quite convenient. There will be times when you need a break, baby needs a change of pace or perhaps you need to make dinner. This is when one of the above-mentioned items would be helpful. Swings and bouncy chairs are generally used with younger babies and can have a calming effect on them. The exersaucer and jumper are best used with a baby who is over four months old and has strong muscle control. Exersaucers and jumpers are meant to be fun and entertaining to baby. They do not help baby walk earlier. It is recommended that you limit baby to 20 minutes per session in any of these entertainment devices: Everything in moderation. And of course, supervise baby.

 

In the beginning, it is tempting to go out and buy everything that you think you will need for baby’s first year. But it may be wise to wait until baby reaches the correct age and stage for each item. By waiting until baby is ready, it will give you more time to research what model will be the best fit for your family. You will spread the financial cost out over the course of the year. You will avoid cluttering your house, helping to create a more calming, welcoming space for everyone. And best of all, you may find friends are willing to loan you many things, especially items that take up a large amount of space or are used for a short period of time.

 

Have you considered buying used or borrowing baby items?

Babies grow out of toys, equipment and clothing very quickly. It is always nice to be on the receiving end of quality hand me downs, and to continue passing items along to others. It is also nice to save some money and the environment by purchasing pre-loved items. There are many places to find used baby gear, from Craigslist and garage sales to consignment stores. When purchasing anything pre-loved, it is always wise to check the overall condition of an item (mold, stains, frays, cracks, missing parts). Make sure that the item has not been included in any safety recalls. To check items for recalls, you can contact the manufacturer or check out Health Canada’s site www.healthycanadians.gc.ca This site is easy to navigate and has an internal search engine for recalls and safety advisories.

Craigslist can be a great resource to find those larger, more costly baby items such as strollers. Sometimes baby gear can be in near new condition and almost half the retail price. The downside can be that sometimes items may not be exactly as described by the seller.

Garage sales and swap-meets can offer great deals. But be cautious, some items may not meet current safety standards or may be recalled.

The bonus of swap-meets is that almost every seller is a parent and potentially has good advice as to what you may need and what items really worked for them. Kids’ swap-meets have a varied selection of items, from equipment to clothing and books. The prices and quality will vary from table to table. Check out local newspapers, local parenting publications and bulletin boards for locations and dates, and remember to bring cash.

 

When it comes to buying used clothing and toys, thrift stores can be fun. The key to finding good items at a thrift store is sorting through the not-so-great items, and checking back often. The rewards can be considerable, especially with baby items priced at a dollar or two a piece.

 

Consignment stores are a reliable option, although a little pricier than kids’ swaps or thrift stores, they offer a wide variety of almost new items at approximately half the retail price. Stores are generally well organized and full of quality, brand name stuff. Most consignment stores will accept credit cards, and some have return policies. Stock and selection are constantly changing, so it is worth checking back often, and remember, if you see something you like, grab it, it won’t be there next week.

 

The most economical way to outfit baby is borrowing items, or being on the receiving end of hand me downs. Friends and family with older children are often happy to pass their baby items along in order to regain some much-needed space in their homes. Another great idea is to set up a toy lending library with your friends. There are many ways to save money, you just need to be creative.

 

Yes our lives are busier than previous generations, and yes there are more things touted as necessities to modern parents. But keep in mind, the more stuff we buy, the more money we spend, which means the more we work and the less time we spend with our children. Be choosy about what you do purchase for your little one. And remember, the best way to encourage your child’s development is to play with them, as mother nature intended.

 

Sandra Poelzer is a homeschooling mother of three children, and the former owner of Wee Ones Reruns, a popular children’s consignment store that used to be located in East Vancouver. She is currently a trampoline athlete and gymnastics coach.

Gearing Up: Simply Green and Healthy

Gearing Up: Simply Green and Healthy

By Tanis Frame

After over a decade spent with parents who are overwhelmed trying to navigate all the STUFF that comes with kids, and in particular trying to sort out what is green and healthy for both the planet and for their little ones, I’ve uncovered a few tidbits that may help. We are in this together, so let’s explore, shall we?

As the marketing machine of our consumerism-oriented society preys on our need to get it ‘right’ and be ‘good parents’, we are sadly led to believe that without oodles of gear we’ll never be able to raise a healthy happy child. In fact, the reality goes something more like this…

All your baby really needs is YOU.  

Sigh, what a relief!

Not to say that some gear, like a great baby carrier, some clothes, and perhaps some diapers aren’t very useful- they are! And you will no doubt have those one or two pieces of kid gear that you wouldn’t have survived without. But the thing is…your favourite item will no doubt be on someone else’s list of completely useless purchases.

Yes, we are all different, and so are our little ones. That can come as both a huge relief, and also a burden. When it comes to gear and everything else about parenting, you get the honour and responsibility of figuring out what works for you.

You’re going to get to balance the ‘oh that’s SO cute!!’ with your family’s values regarding health, environment, social justice, budget, local/imported, etc. Wowza – welcome to the matrix! With all the science, label reading, marketing hype and green-washing, it can all certainly begin to feel complicated to say the least. Then you sprinkle in a healthy dose of mama-guilt and you’ve got a recipe for overwhelmed and confused. Deep breaths, don’t worry, you’re totally going to figure this out. Hopefully these ideas will help… Let’s dive in.

More often than not, we can just decide to make it all less complicated. Simplicity is your friend. SIMPLIFY.

When it comes to going green, creating healthy spaces for your kids, and making life less overwhelming – LESS REALLY IS MORE.  Plus, you often end up saving yourself money, chores and headaches while you’re at it.  Now that’s multitasking!

Make your STUFF multitask as much as you do! Resist the urge to buy products that are disposable, have a short lifespan, or only one purpose. For example, select a wet bag that will work for cloth diapers, then bathing suits, and one day soccer cleats. I know it’s hard to think beyond newborn baby right now, but they do grow up, and fast. Cliché but true.

Simply Green Play? How do we simplify while greening the toys?  Let’s take a look at a wool felt carrot- so simple – for baby it’s an ideal teething toy- feels great on sore gums, is a natural and healthy option for chewing (no need to fret about which kind of plastic and thus which chemicals are being dined on), and wool is naturally antibacterial (bonus!). Then, when baby grows, instead of tossing your plastic teething toys, that humble felt carrot moves into the play kitchen and lives on for years! Plus it’s made of a material that is not only natural, but one that can be repaired- rather than tossed- should it get ‘broken’. The lowly felt carrot can give a new perspective on what kind of toys really are more economical.

Share and share alike? In addition to the wonder of hand-me-downs, and visiting your local library…. you could also try a toy exchange with other families – new toys rotate in the door as others rotate out, then they magically reappear a few months later- without shopping, and without buying another storage system. NICE! Save money, save the clutter, and build community while modeling desirable behaviour … that’s some more good multitasking.

Buying less stuff, means less labels to read and decipher, less green-washing to navigate, less to send to the landfill, and less to manage, to trip over and clean up each night!  Less is more in this mama’s book.

The good news is that as parents, we are blessed with endless options to select from that will fit our unique family with our unique values, lifestyle and priorities… the challenge comes in figuring that out and being discerning.

So next time the latest coolest gadget catches your eye- check it out for sure, then decide… ‘is this the one for me?’ ‘Is this REALLY going to make our life better or my days simpler?  …or shall I treat mama to a massage instead?’ 😉 Now THAT would make a happy, healthy baby.

Then just go outside and play… it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

 

Tanis Frame is the mom of two, behind Decide to Thrive. A thrive-catalyst and trusted resource, she supports parents as they figure out how to thrive deeply while raising the next generation. Tanis serves up her depth of knowledge and resources with a healthy dose of inspiration and playfulness and truly believes the right choices are different for each family. If you’re curious about what’s going to support you to thrive deeply as you navigate your parenting journey, visit www.tanisframe.com and sign up for her email updates loaded with tips, tricks and tools to thrive deeply.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!”   – Vivian Greene

Come play with the Decide to Thrive community and learn a few new dance moves.Get ready to be nourished, inspired and empowered as you decide to thrive.

connection – insight – tools – traction

www.TANISFRAME.com

Workshop: make your own healthy baby care products!

Did you know most commercial baby care products contain ingredients that are linked to diseases like asthma, allergies, and even cancers? Do you want to learn how to make your own safe, natural and effective baby care products? Join Iona Bonamis from A Healthy Beginning on Wednesday, June 13th, 7-9pm to learn how to make 5 different baby care products. In the workshop you’ll get all the supplies to make:
 -Baby shampoo and body wash
 -Baby wipe spray
 -Diaper cream
 -Sleepy time essential oil roll-on blend
 -All-purpose / toy cleaner
Afterwards you’ll get to take all the products home!
Babies are welcome to come, as long as they can be worn in a carrier, as you’ll need both hands free to make your products. 🙂
To learn more visit

BEWARE SUBSTITUTES

By Stephanie Ondrack

A lot of baby items are marketed under the auspices of providing what babies need: what calms them, soothes, them, settles them… If you consider the function of any of these items, they all have something in common: They replicate something that baby would normally get from a parent. And the unstated subtext—the true reason they maintain popularity with parents—is that they are meant to act as a substitute for parental time and parental touch.

Picture all the baby items that rock, swing, bounce, or gently jiggle baby. These are meant to mimic the rocking arms of a parent, the feeling of movement while being held. Consider sound soothers and white noise machines. These are intended to replace the comforting background noise of a caregiver’s breathing, heartbeat, whispering voice, calming lullabies. Think about warming pads, heated mattresses, and soft stuffed animals. These are all in lieu of warm parental arms and body heat. Consider swaddlers, swaddling blankets, and cuddle wraps. These are meant to replicate the feel of being snuggled safely, held and protected in loving arms. And of course, think about a pacifier, which is a synthetic breast, aimed at simulating the soothing impulse to suckle. I could go on.

Now all of these items have their place. There are times when we can’t be with baby, when offering baby a simulacrum is the kindest of gestures. When we engage a babysitter, a day-care, or a nanny, it is simply considerate to give baby the semblance of familiarity and comfort. When we need a hands-free break, or a couple hours of sleep, or a few minutes to take a shower or eat a snack, it is useful and appropriate to offer baby these comforting substitutes. Pacifiers are miracles on long car trips, for example, when the actual breast is out of reach.

But the way these items are marketed commits, as social psychologists say, a “fundamental attribution error”. Babies do not need these items. I repeat: babies do not these items. Nor do these items actually meet babies’ needs. The reason babies crave body heat, movement, suckling and sound is not because these experiences offer independent benefits, but to ensure that babies spend time in close proximity to their caregivers.

Babies thrive on our bodies because humans, more than any other placental mammal, are born developmentally premature and require a womb-like environment to grow, learn, develop, and thrive. As Dr Nils Bergman points out, a parent’s body is baby’s natural habitat. And it is no coincidence that our babies crave all the sensory inputs associated with being in their natural habitat.

Furthermore, social and psychological development begins with attachment through the senses. As Dr Gordon Neufeld explains, babies use all of their senses to attach to the caring adult(s) around them, to develop a sense of safety, trust, and bonding. It is vital to their brain growth as emotional and social beings that their high need for physical proximity is met during the first couple years of life, particularly the first six months. Babies need to be able to see, smell, hear, and feel us nearby most of the time. As they get older, if this deeply primal need is met, they can progress to forms of attachment that are less demanding of our physical presence: they can ‘hold on’ to us even when apart. But babies are not yet equipped to do that.

So even though these items are aggressively advertised as if they meet babies’ needs, they actually seek to meet our own—the parents’—needs. They target our societal desire to carve out more time for ourselves, to get more rest, to have more hands-free time, to be able to calm baby easily and effortlessly without the hours of nursing and rocking. Who wouldn’t want that?

But the danger is the confusion between what babies actually need (the physical proximity to us) with the markers that fool babies’ senses into thinking they’re getting what they need. It’s the nutritional equivalent to eating food-flavoured Styrofoam—it may fool us, we may eat it willingly and with delight, we may not be able to tell the difference; but it is not actually nourishing. And that’s what we have to remember about all these substitutes for parental proximity: they may satisfy baby, they may satisfy us, but they are not actually nourishing.

So go ahead and use all these items. We all do. I do too (yes, it’s true). They come in really handy sometimes. We need the breaks, and we need to be able to offer baby comfort even when we can’t be there, or when we’re simply worn out. But never lose sight of the fact that these items only fool baby’s senses. They don’t actually nourish. Ultimately, they are not true substitutes for what only our own presence can offer. We, the parents (and other loving adults in baby’s life) are the true stuff our babies need

Stephanie is an instructor with the Childbearing Society, and an instructor with Pinecone Parenting. She is also a homeschooling mother of three.

ACCORDING TO YOU: The Top 10 most used, and most useless, baby gear items, according to our readers

BABY GEAR: The Good, The Bad, and the Unnecessary

By Stephanie Ondrack

(This is a reprint from 2011, when we used to have a Yahoo Discussion Group. We have replicated here it in it’s unedited entirety.)

As many of you know, we conducted a loose and unofficial poll on our Yahoo group this summer. We asked the question, “What baby gear items did you find the most, and least, useful?” We received about 50 responses, with some people limiting themselves to their number one item for each side, and others contributing long and comprehensive lists. Far from scientific, with no hint of statistical significance, we present to you an edited summary of the results. To merit mention in our tally, baby gear items had to elicit more than two votes. Thus, many items that you submitted are not present in our summary.

DRAWS, TIES, AND CAT’S GAMES

Some things appeared with almost identical frequency on both lists. These included:

Bottles: The usefulness of bottles, evidently, depends completely on whether you use them or not. If you bottle feed, they are literally and unarguably essential. If you do not bottle feed at all, they are clearly unnecessary. So while they appeared a couple times on both lists, I am mentioning them here instead of including them in the tally.

Nursing Covers: These also deserve a special mention. They only appeared on a small handful of lists, but some mothers described them with affronted indignity, while others praised their contribution.

Quotation, “What an insult! I don’t cover my own head while I’m eating, I need to see my baby’s latch, we like to make eye-contact, the cover got in the way, and besides, its airless and stuffy under there!”

And, “They allowed me to breastfeed in public while retaining a sense of modesty”

 

  1. MOST USFUL: CARRIERS:

Absolutely resounding winner, with over 30 mentions. Many people just listed the generic term “carrier” or “sling”, while others specified brands or types. Of the brands mentioned, ERGO was the clear favourite with about 18 hits. The runners up, in order of preference, were the Moby or Cuddly Wrap (combined, since they’re so similar), the Beco, the Baby Buddha, followed by single mentions of various brands of other carriers, such as the Bjorn, woven wraps, and ring slings.

Quotation: “The Ergo was by far the best carrier I have used. In the beginning it took some time getting used too but once I figured it out it made my life SO mucheasier, especially once I learned how to breastfeed in it.”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: “Somewhere safe to put your baby down while you do stuff”

This category got quite a few votes. Broken down, the bouncy chair was in the lead with about 10 mentions, followed by Baby Arches or Play Mats (combined) with 5 mentions, and then the exersaucer with 2 mentions. Several other devices in this category (swings, jumparoo, bassinette with mobile, etc) got one mention each.

Quotation, “You absolutely need somewhere to keep baby content for a few minutes while you brush your teeth, grab the laundry, or make a sandwich”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: CLOTHS, BLANKETS, and WASHABLE WIPES

I combined these three categories because so many people merged them. In total, these items formed a coalition that earned an impressive 16 votes. While some people were clearly talking about one single use (wrapping baby) or another (cleaning spit up), there was no obvious way to separate them. Too many of the mentions referred to mixed use. For example, “lots of soft, flannel, receiving blankets or cloths… carried everywhere to clean up messes, wrap babes in, and generally solve all manner of problems”.

 

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: STROLLERS

Strollers ranked high on both the most and least useful lists. Perhaps this has to do with the age of the baby in question, since many people mentioned that they did not use one for the first several months, but found it indispensable later. As a ‘most useful’ item, the stroller merited 8 votes.

Quotation, “Yes, the stroller was essential for us. And really, even if you prefer baby-wearing, grandmoms and other ‘old school’ caregivers love taking baby for a stroll while you catch up on your sleep or need to eat. The stroller will grow with you. When baby is holding his/her head up; walks to the park, beach and excursions are great with a stroller. I did love the baby carrier; but could not do without the stroller too.”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: CLOTH DIAPERS

Cloth diapers got 7 mentions. These, obviously, are of no use to anyone exclusively using disposables, but unarguably essential to anyone using cloth.

Quotation, “Cloth diapers were an upfront investment but has already saved us so much money and since we plan on having more children there will be additional savings.”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: DIAPER BAG

Diaper bags scored a solid appearance on 6 people’s most useful list. Interestingly, most of these entries explained that they do not use an actual ‘Diaper Bag’, but some other, less iconic substitute, such as a MEC back pack or a simple fabric produce bag.

Quotation, “Baby bag – No need to purchase a fancy baby bag from the baby store. We used a black tote (actually a yoga bag that I already had) that had lots of pockets and storage space”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: HIGH CHAIRS

High chairs were next, ranking a total of 5 mentions. Almost everyone specified the brand they preferred, or at least described the style. Most people seemed to value light & portable, or easy-to-clean as the guiding features.

Quotation, “My high chair is cheap and easy to clean, no nooks and crannies. With a plastic shower liner underneath I didn’t get stressed about letting my child learn to handle food at his own pace”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: KING SIZE BED

Next in line was the venerable King Size Bed. Not technically a ‘baby item’, this still received 4 independent mentions.

Quotation, “I would say that a king size bed is an essential baby item.Got onethe second time round, and sure wish we had it the first time round!!!”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: BOUNCY BALL

Again, not marketed as a baby item, yet 3 people mentioned an Exercise Ball in their list of most important things.

Quotation, “Good for bouncing baby when you’re too tired to stand”

 

  1. MOST USEFUL: CHILD’S LIBRARY CARD

It is fascinating how many of these most-mentioned items are not traditional baby gear! 3 people mentioned their child’s library card, and another 4 people mentioned books or CD’s.

Quotation, “We love the library! We visit the library as often as we can and have access to (what seems like) an endless supply of books and children’s music whenever we want”.

 

And now, for the other side of the coin, the items most often relegated to the basement, the Re-Gift pile, or Craig’s List.

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: CRIB

Traditionally regarded as one of the most essential baby items, our respondents ranked it as the very least useful. The crib got mentioned 14 times as an item that never got used. However, two people added the caveat that after they removed one side of it and used it like a co-sleeper, they got some mileage out of it after all.

Quotation, “I also wish that we never bought a crib as we quickly turned into bed sharers”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: SWING, EXERSAUCER, BOUNCY CHAIR, JOLLY JUMPER

These devices share second place in both the most and least useful lists. I suspect this is partly because I combined the categories, so that people who love the bouncy chair but loathe the swing end up in both lists. Nonetheless, 11 people mentioned one of these items as completely useless.

Quotation, “The mechanical swing was an annoying waste of space. It took up a lot of room and our daughter didn’t ever like it. If she’d liked it, my opinion might be different!”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: STROLLERS

The usefulness of the stroller seems to depend largely on the age of the baby. People with younger babies generally seemed to make do without, while people with older babies / toddlers seem to use them regularly. Altogether, strollers got 7 hits on the ‘unnecessary’ list.

Quotation, “ Our stroller was totally useless for the first months (we preferred the carrier)”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: FOOD MILLS / PUREE-ers

Featured next on the useless list, with a total of 5 hits, are Food Mills or other gadgets to puree baby food. Since babies don’t begin solids until at least six months, they are generally ready for table food at that age, completely bypassing the need for purees, cereals, or other glop.

Quotation, “The food mill someone got us never got used at all, since our baby skipped purees entirely”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: CARRIERS

While no one listed ‘carriers’ as categorically useless, many people described one particular style or brand as something that did not work for them. The Baby Bjorn was the only repeat in this category with 4 mentions, followed by a few brands mentioned only once each. My impression is that preferences for particular carriers and slings are quite personal, and the same ones that work for some people do not work for others.

Quotation, “Baby Bjorn Carrier – I did use this for the first month and not only was it very uncomfortable to use but it felt like she was uncomfortable in it as well”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: DIAPER BAGS

Similarly, while diaper bags got listed several times, it was always to critique a particular style or price-range, not to pan bags in general. 4 people mentioned diaper bags. It sounds like there’s an opportunity here for a redesign!

Quotation, “Way too pricey, and not at all designed for walking while wearing baby in a carrier”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: BABY BATH TUBS

Although a couple people did like these, they appeared 4 times on the unnecessary list.

Quotation, “We found it so much easier to just bring him in the tub or shower with us”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: SWADDLERS

Swaddlers appeared 3 times on the useless list.

Quotation, “We tried and tried, but our baby just hated being confined!”

 

  1. WASTE OF SPACE: PACIFIERS

These also ranked 3 votes for unnecessary, although I suspect an equal number of people, if asked, would say that they do find them useful.

 

  1. SPECIAL MENTIONS

A few other items stand out, not because they got listed a lot—they did not—but because they appeared so completely unanimously on the “useless” list. It seems like none of the responders had any use for the following items:

Pee Pee Tee Pees

Wipes Warmers

Bottle Warmers

Tiny Baby Towels

Baby Shoes

Baby Hand Covers

Diaper Stackers

Baby Nightgowns

 

So, although opinion varied greatly on certain items, while others were clear winners or losers, we will close this poll with two final opinions from readers, “You hardly need anything, really. For the first few months all babies want is you”, versus “There are no useless baby items. You will use everything”. You decide.

 

Spring Newsletter Editorial: Love Thy Labour

By Stephanie Ondrack

This is issue is all about labour. Often, birth is portrayed in movies and other media as a fast, dramatic cascade from waters breaking to agonized pushing; a rapid escalation fraught with peril and screaming, with the mother a victim rather than a participant. In reality, labour usually moves pretty slowly, especially for first time moms. While fast labours do happen, the more common pattern is a more leisurely, gradual ascension as labour builds dilatory momentum, heading tortoise-pace towards the birth of the baby, contraction by contraction, hormone by hormone, punctuated by swaying and deep breathing. We see the mother not as a victim of labour, but as the creative force channelling it. When the oxytocin is high, time seems to slow down, almost stand still, revealing an altered space in which the mother can lose herself in the task of bringing forth new life.

In this issue we explore different approaches to labour, different choices you can make, different ways you can spend this slowing of time. Every birth is unique, every mom experiences labour differently, but we hope you find one or two insights in here that might be useful for you. Our wish for you: Love thy Labour!

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