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.
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.