February 11, 2009

DTQ: Forget The Must-Haves. What Are The Won't-Misses?

Some friends are expecting their first kid in a couple of months, and when we had them over for dinner, the wives took the nursery tour while the men adjourned to the library to talk about important stuff, like US vs Euro-spec Maxi-Cosi.

When we reconvened in front of our Juddy Ultra-crib [which was being used as a glorified shelf at the time, like how you blow a thousand bucks on a Soloflex, only to end up hanging clothes on it] we realized we had a bunch of stuff that we have never actually used with K2.

3-shelf service cart, aka changing table from harbor freight

Like the kid's red tool cart/changing table. For the kid, it was convenient to have A place to change her diapers, but with K2, we find we just grab a diaper [off the cart] and change here wherever. On the floor, the bed, the other floor, the other bed...

Also unused--in fact, we didn't have one anymore and didn't even notice until our friends asked--a Diaper Genie. That thing was such a headache with the kid, but now we put K2's diapers in the little bathroom garbage can, which is lined with plastic grocery bags, which gets emptied every other day or so at least. Poo, of course, goes in the toilet. It really doesn't stink, and it really doesn't seem like a hassle at all. And while we're trying to cut plastic grocery bags out of our lives, so far, we've never run out.

I bought a footmuff/sac thing for the Maxi-Cosi that we never took out of the bag. 69 euros, which was like $500 at the time.

Unfortunately for our friends, their visit coincided with the Great Commenting Collapse of Last Month, so it may be too late to save them any money on stuff they really don't need. But since the entire Baby Industrial Complex's business model is built on selling First-Time Expectants stuff they don't realize they don't need, it still seems like a worthwhile question:

What seemingly necessary things did you get that you ended up not using once the kid arrived?

Mid-evening update: so far, the useless list includes changing tables, bassinets, moses baskets, carriers, cribs, diaper bags, clothes, and strollers. And stuffed animals.

28 Comments

1. Johnson's baby lotion
2. Baby Anbesol
3. Bath toys
4. 90% of the blankets, onesies, towels, washcloths

In retrospect, I think the biggest mistake was thinking I needed LOTS of something when really a few would work just fine. For example, we asked for/received 6 baby hoodie towels when, in the end, we just used one. Or the 12 onesies we registered for and then realized that because we were doing so much laundry, we really only need three or so at the most.

Transport bag for the Cameleon.

Also important to realize that newborns change SO fast. Each "phase" seems to change within a few days.

When we came home from the hospital, our little one had a hard time swallowing. The "snot sucker" was a life saver to prevent choking for him, so I went out the next day and bought 10. One for nearly every room, bag, car, etc. He then learned to swallow a few days later and now I have 9 unused bulb syringes.

Other must-haves for the first month:

Dreft stain spray (!!!)
Lap Pads for the crib and changing table (so you don't always have to change the entire cover or sheet)
Swaddle Me "wearable blanket" (with wings)
Diapers.com (Love it)

The "travel system" came with a crappy stroller that we never used. I wish we would have just bought the bucket car seat and the universal stroller and then use the Maclaren. They never tell you that you are going to have to buy multiple strollers.


Useless? Fancy sonar ear-thermometers, or whatever that thing that's still in the box is. Use it, call the doctor, and they will demand a conventional rectal temperature.

Useless 2: The basinette. It looked cute and made us feel all warm and lovey when the bun was in the oven, but once he came out Baby 1 had severe acid reflux and couldn't be put down till long after he outgrew it, and with Baby 2 we co-slept. Basinettes seem like something from our cultural memory, not for present-day life. Also got a moses basket as a gift: Ditto.

But a lot of the useless/useful stuff I'd guess is personal: We never used a diaper pail (ditto the lots of plastic bags and a small garbage) but love our much-maligned wipe-warmer. And we have a vast stack of washable pads that go on top of the upstairs changing table, love them. Downstairs we just use this oilcloth circle-thing we also love, it's called a patemm pad, we give them as baby presents all the time, they're what we'd only use if we lived in an apartment, but we don't.

Oh right, one more: Stuffed animals! Useless useless useless! Both our kids think stuffed animals are some uninteresting midpoint between debris and pillows. And we get new ones as gifts from grandma every 10 weeks or so. Stop the Piglet Easter Bunny madness!

Our useless items are definitely not the norm, but include the Bugaboo, since we ended up using (and still use) carriers, and the Stokke Sleepi system since we ended up co-sleeping almost from day one. We did use the bassinet for a short time while I was still terrified of letting him sleep in our bed, but that was it. I'm still hanging onto the Bugaboo, though, for when my son, now two, gets too heavy to carry in the Ergo but still can't walk long distances on his own. Every time I look at it I am frustrated that we've only used it about 10 times in two years. What does that amount to per ride?

Also, a lot of the infant toys we received were useless.

Otherwise, we were pretty minimalist, and that has definitely worked out in our favor.

1: I second the changing table. We didn't have one for #1 and aren't getting one for #2. We just use the waterproof travel-type changing pads wherever is convenient.

2: Diaper bags. We very rarely used ours. I found the gallon-size Ziploc baggies worked great for diapers and other essentials tossed in to whatever bag I was already carrying or in the bottom of the stroller.

3: Clothes. I second the idea of not needing so many multiples with clothes. I found that in the beginning, other than onesies and t-shirts, our baby spent so much time swaddled or getting fed or getting changed that outfits and extra clothes seemed a pain. Once she was older (3-4 months and up), I had developed real preferences for what type of clothes I found most convenient for quick changes, etc. that I wish I had waited on some clothing purchases until she actually needed them.

4: Baby blankets and stuffed animals. I received 34 baby blankets (I counted) as baby gifts and we really only used 2-3 swaddle blankets and 1-2 others as stroller blankets. Dara already said it about the stuffed animals, except our daughter does have a favorite. A nice place to donate both: projectnightnight.org

However, I ended up buying many more burp cloths that I initially thought I would need. Can never have too many of those. Used them for so much (diaper pads, spit-up, wiping a breast off after nursing, etc., etc.). Ditto with cloth bibs, but we had a real drooler. The bibs saved having to change the shirts so much. A burp cloth can double as a bib, too, though.

Useless:
1. Baby clothes gifted from anyone over 40 years old: Fugly, fugly, fugly
2. PeePee TeePees: the projectile flow from both our sons made the things fly off
3. stuffed animals: I second Elizatbeth's comments
4. basinet and bath tub: we used the basinet from my childhood for two weeks, then co-slept. It now resides in our attic, awaiting the first pregnant niece/nephrew in the family. We used the kiddie tub alot with our first; we get in with our youngest now.

Can't live without:
1. Chamleon: with the basinet attached, both kids were wheeled all over the house, imparting gymanast like balance and the abs of Rodney Yee
2. Wipe warmer: I thought the thing was ridiculous at first, but both kids love it
3. Miracle blankets: both kids loved to be swaddlled and these things rock
4. Maxi-Cosi (Euro-grade): best looking, cosiest seat out there. get questioned almost everytime we are out with it "Where'd you get that cool carseat?"

Must second the fancy $50 ear-thermometer. No matter how good it supposedly is, when you call the doc's hotline because your babe has a fever, they will insist that you take a rectal reading and call them back.

I don't understand the whole ear thermometer doctor thing. I protest because I hated taking a rectal temp and when you bring them in what do they use at the doctors' office? The same ear thermometer that I own!

We tried to be really minimalist about everything- almost too minimalist- so we ended up having to buy things. There isn't much that I didn't use. Now that I'm going through things for baby #2, I second the "too many onesies" and "too many stuffed animals. Why do people buy those things? DS barely ever plays with them. Maybe because I got rid of most of them!

nothing.

because we didn't buy anything.

You are not preparing for a siege.

That's the big lesson I've learned as new parent: You don't need everything right away. It is, in fact, perfectly possible to go to the store (even with a one-week old !) and buy more stuff, should the need arise.

Once you meet your baby, you will develop a parenting style and begin to figure out what gear will suit you.

Since bassinets have been mentioned a couple of times already, I'll just note that our wee one slept happily in a laundry basket for the first 2-3 weeks - long enough for us to figure out that co-sleeping wasn't for us and that a real bassinet in our room was going to be the best solution.

I'll second the diaper bag. I stick a diaper and some wipes in my larger purse and we're good. I do keep a few more essentials (outfit, toy, books, snacks) in the car, so we're never stranded. I got the Fleurville Sling with #1 and it's not as roomy as expected. Then, despite much protesting, was given a personalized Vera Bradley (bleh) for #2. Wondering if I can clip out the monogram and resell...

The crib in general was a waste... I think we got maybe a solid month total out of it, plus a couple more of just the mattress on our bedroom floor after the kid stopped co-sleeping around 3 years old. When we moved just after she turned 1 we never ended up putting it together... it's been in our basement storage locker since.

I didn't use the Snuggli much either; I prefered to just carry her in my arms when she was little... and diaper bags, total waste -- I get enough free laptop bags etc from tech seminars and conferences that I just piled stuff in those if I needed to carry diapers.

I have to second the gifted baby clothes. What a waste! Other than that though I loved having a changing table with baby 2 and used it faithfully until she was two and then it started getting scary because I thought she might jump off it.

We went into all three children's arrivals with the expectation that there was enough baby stuff floating around in the world that we would never need to buy anything. So please note, all things listed below were either borrowed or given.

Little Mary Sunshine:
Useless: Those white snap onsies - never wore them once. Stuffed animals. Bjorn (but wait...)

Useful: Neglectomatic (swing) and exersaucer (Her Office). Asking for a diaper shower - got a pail and enough diapers we hardly needed to buy diapers.

Chang & Eng:
Useless: Those white snap onsies - never wore them once. Stuffed animals.

Useful: Crib bolster so they could both stay in one crib for awhile. Bjorn (for grocery shopping - wear one, cart one so there's actually room for groceries). Antilop high chairs - hose them off, and they stack. Again the diaper shower, but this time, even with same amount of merchandise, diapers only lasted a few months with twins.

Best invention ever (for twins): Milk Maid Bottle Proper

I am determined to make use of our diaper genie. Of course, my sense of smell has been diminished by seasonal allergies and my gag reflex is not stirred by flipping the top mechanism, so in my case ease of use is elevated. We adopted an 8-month old baby and the changing table was used once until we realized our active baby was best changed on the floor. We have been, however, getting a lot of use out of a simple sewn changing pad that a friend made for us. It has saved the new carpeting in the baby's room on more than one occasion.

Bottle warmer. We used formula, and just filled 'em up with tap water. The kid never got used to insisting on warm food. Of course, now that she's 4 she dawdles until food gets cold.

Boppy.

Changing table. Never bought one; we just used one of the mats and whatever was at hand. We did use the diaper bag, though, because it packed with diapers, pad, and pre-loaded bottles of formula. The complete baby survival kit, and either The Wife or I could just grab it on the way out the door.

Blankets. You need like a million burp cloths, or you'll be washing all the time, but the cheap white ones - or cloth diapers - will work just fine. When we felt safe letting her sleep with them, The Kid glommed onto two fleece blankets, and we were given a couple of handmade that we've kept for sentimental reasons, but the rest just fill up a drawer in the bureau or get in the way.

Wow! This is a great post and excellent comments as well. Thank you so much for this. I'm a first time expecting father in Brooklyn and have always been quite perplexed by the amount of gear the moms over in Park Slope seem to lug around...it has been a little scary to think of the investment required if that was all that stuff I was gonna need for my newborn. This post has really helped me see that my minimalist approach will do just fine!

we didn't need a stroller until like 6 mos b/c they each lived in the sling. we didn't use the fancy ouef crib (gift) until it was time to make it a toddler bed b/c we all slept in the same bed. it all seems like so long ago...
one note about changing table: everyone I know in NY has recently had a nasty stomach virus, transmitted through, you guessed it, feces. We were in the habit of changing number two wherever, even have a little 'diaper caddy' that we can take in any room, etc., but now we change all diapers in the kids room and extra sanitize everything so as to not spread nasty germs. So one good reason for a changing table (or, in our case, a changing table thing that came with the oeuf crib that we have on top of an ikea kids dresser)

also its not exactly relevant but i sure came to hate ugly dolls quickly. everyone who gave one to us thought it was some cool gift that no one else would think of. we literally have at least 10. the only one i like is 'knock-off' made by our 8 yr old neighbor in new zealand, but the eyes/buttons are 'hanging on by a thread' as they say, so it lives in the closet.

Bumpo baby seat. Completely worthless.

Also the many, many receiving blankets, as people have mentioned. He got one blanket that's icky colors but great textures & it became the item with which he wants to sleep. We had to scramble to find a duplicate online before it was too late.

Ditto on the stuffed animals, but at least he didn't get very many.

Most used, beyond the hand-me-down crib & changing table, were the Bjorn, the Bumbleride stroller, & the Fisher Price pack & play (or whatever the generic term for that is). He slept in the latter for the first six months in the bassinet attachment thing, next to our bed; it also has a changing table thingamajig that we used. We still cart it around for trips so he has something to sleep in. Worth its weight in gold.

Oh, and the high chair, a Creative Playthings version of the ubiquitous restaurant high chair (I know the original has been written about here, but I can't remember the designer), bought by his grandma at a church fair.

I agree on the Bumpo baby seat. By the time the kid was okay with it, his legs were too big for it. Rarely used.

With the Boppy, the Mrs tried to use it for breastfeeding, but it wasn't at all good for that. But it was decent for putting the kid on the couch facing us so he could move his hands and feet without worry of rolling off. (no, he wasn't left unattended in it)

We have a sling that we never used. The D ring system slipped the first time I tried it, and I never got it out again. Besides, the kid gets heavy quickly!

We love the changing table on top of his dresser. And we got the bassinet attachment for the Uppababy stroller, which was brilliant - letting him sleep anywhere in the first 3 or so months. The Uppababy in general has been a great purchase.

useless - any short sleeved onesies if you live somewhere like San Fran which almost never has warm enough days.

since we got so little i better write what *was* useful.

candeloo - rechargeable lights - useful at the beginning when they poop at night, later as friendly light to hold when going to the toilet.

stroller - bugaboo was a gift. with no. 2 we added the bugaboo board and the bugaboo seat (called twoo )

face cloths to put under breasts when feeding them in bed, didn't want stale milk scented mattress. used lots of them - just ones we had around the house.

mirrors in car to see what kids are up to when they face backwards.

useful toy - used in soooo many imaginative ways - large rainbow stacker by grimm's (childtrek has it). not cheap but been a hit more than any other toy (kids aged 4 and 2)

useful toy - washable wax crayons originally made for use in bathtubs - we use them on windows and mirrors too - fun and easy to wash off.

useful toy - squish by manhattan toys

lots of little wooden cars - no paint just oiled - from a retired marine who sells on ebay.

second the comment about there being enough kids toys/clothes in the world to not have to buy new ones. most of ours came from friends or second hand stores.

we don't use diaper bag, put poopy ones in plastic bags you buy fruit in, then in the trash. trash gets taken out every day or so anyway.

never used hats or more than 3-4- blankets (made about 10 in my pre kid nesting flurry...)

never used bugaboo bassinet - live on a steep hill so rarely went anywhere by foot, or any of the other bugaboo things like rain thing (doesn't rain much here), mosquito net etc.


Different things were useful/useless for different kids (we have 2 - 3.5, and 1.5). Echoing previous commenter - a lot of the newborn/toddler stuff is incredibly useful for a limited amount of time, so borrow wherever you can. Most stuff is essential for 6mo or so, and then totally useless (including infant car seats!). I run NCT (National Childbirth Trust) Nearly New Sales in the UK - check them out if you're in the UK, as you can get nearly new equipment, clothes and toys for next to nothing.

Anyway.

Useful:
Bumbo. Good for feeding first kid (easy-wipe!) when at Grandmas or picnics. Lives in our en-suite now, my 2nd (19mo) is very skinny and she sits in it when I have my morning shower, it makes sure she doesn't slip on skiddy floor and encourages her to stay put for more than 20 seconds. Used for 3 yrs and counting.

Baby Bjorn & all-weather cover. Got cheap-ass copy first time round and hated it. Got real deal in sale bargain and lived with it on 12 hours a day with 2nd kid. Allowed me to wrangle 21mo toddler plus newborn - fantastic. All-weather water/windproof cover was a dream and allowed me to get out of the house as soon as I could walk again ;)

Door-hung Cloth cradle. Lent by bro in law, was essential for 2nd child as meant she could sleep 'in the thick of it', but without being in the path of a runaway toddler in a rickety ol' moses basket. And one quick bounce and they're asleep. Grew out @ 6mo.

Baby monitor. I know some people don't use them, but our house is large and well insulated, with a large temperature fluctuation between rooms. Our monitor told us the temperature and allowed us to talk back to the kid(s), saving us having to disturb them to check the temperature (baby), and tell them to get back into bed when they were making a racket (preschooler). And ours has a nightlight too. Fab!

Pack'n'play. Great portable crib for travelling, and great playpen for the living room, particularly for child 2 (keeps them somewhat safe!). Also great for putting outside in the garden for fresh-air naps!

Lightweight stroller. We got a Phil and Teds because my other half is from NZ. And then a Maclaren as the P&T weighed a ton, and we went on an overseas trip. Wish we'd got the Quinny Zap (our MaxiCosi would have clipped on, and I missed that on my strollers as had to keep getting the darn baby out of the seat when we got out of the car). Only use the P&T when out in snow or sand, or if Kid 1 being particularly wimpish.

Parent-purchased soft toys. We only bought washable and cute. Both kids 'talk' to their animals in their cribs, buying us another hour in the morning.

Waterproof/breatheable all-in-one suits. From 6mo+, these were great for throwing on top of any clothing for crawling around beaches, snow, fields, gardens (we live in the UK, it is often very damp!). Saved a lot of clothing from ruin, allowed our son to wander around the garden emptying buckets of water for hours in complete happiness, and our daughter to sit in snow and stay dry.

Fleece all-in-ones. Pull over vests / PJs in the morning to allow us to have breakfast first and dress later. Don't get all tangled up like dressing gowns, but warm and snuggly.


-------

Useless / Not bought

Gifted soft toys. Ugly, non-washable and often not age appropriate. Consigned to charity shop / bag in wardrobe.

Baby books. I am sure my kids will be in therapy for years because of it (!), but neither kid had theirs filled out. First time round we were too tired, and 2nd time round we were too busy. Doh!

Excessive clothing. As per previous poster - if bought by over 40's, usually totally inappropriate/ugly/wool/wrong season etc etc. There are some really hideous clothes out there. And, we haven't bought any clothes for kid 2, as did straight swap with neighbour with opposite-gender but same-age kids.

Changing table. We don't have room for one, but we never needed one. When we bought the house I was 7mo pregnant and both bathrooms had a perfectly sized tiled countertops - we bought the house because of them! Cheap-ass plastic padded mat on the family bathroom counter, and we were away..

Changing Bag. Given two of these. Used both - for about a week. I find them either bottomless pits, or too fiddly. Not comfortable to wear once full, and tipped the stroller when slung over the bars. Moved to a multi-pocket hiking 15litre rucksack (esp. great to have 2 hands free when two kids to wrangle) and never looked back. Back hurts less too!

Moses basket. Would never use one again. We borrowed one for first child, was used for 2 months. Useless now as is a liability with older toddlers running around. Just swaddle & put in crib/pack'n'play.

Diaper Genie. Given one, never used. Just used regular bin plus grocery bags, changed every night.

Mounds of plastic cr*p. Your kid really doesn't need *another* toy. They will be bought enough to keep them occupied, and it will only fill your house with ****. A cupcake tin, a wooden spoon and some suds will keep them occupied for an hour or more.. ditto with a cardboard box and ball, or a roll of tape and some empty grocery boxes.

Cat Net. If the cat wants to sleep with your kid in the crib, a net won't do anything. Our cats just slept on top of the net, which was even more dangerous. A £1 water-spray bottle worked better :)

Those patterned/matching, cloth hanging Diaper holders. We have a plastic carton under the counter in our bathroom. Works for us..

Crib bumpers. Our kids never hit their heads on the cot despite not having them; and they never suffocated, either. These should be banned.

Cot mobile. We had one, we used it a couple times. We sold it on eBay. If the kid is in bed, he/she wants to sleep. If awake, pick them up / put them on a nice folded blanket and talk to them!


--------

Wish I'd bought...

Quinny Zap (see above).
Bjorn the first time round.

It's interesting to see something on someone's "useless" list land on someone else's "useful" list. Everybody's needs/babies are different - funny to see what worked for some didn't work for others.

That was just the handiest piece of marketing research available! Thanks Greg! (check is in the mail) :)

glad we could clear all that up for you.


Great discussion - so I thought I'd add our experience to the thread. Baby (S) now just over 8 months - but from experience so far..

Useful:
Amby Baby Hammock - Fantastic. S wouldn't sleep in flat moses basket - but happy in hammock. Collapses and portable for travel, and lasts till c. 1Yr.

Bugaboo - great. But we haven't had number 2 yet. Maybe they will come out with a double buggy attachment

Baby gym - hours of free baby distraction

Baby Bjorn + all weather carrier - comfy, practical, indispensible.

Premaxx baby carrier / sling - S was very small (too small for Baby Bjorn for c. 2 months) - so this was ideal - for several weeks it was the only way to get him to sleep

'Pass on' clothes - we have bought very new few clothes, but have loads - there is a (growing) collection circulating round our friends as kids arrive.

eBay - great for big job lots of clothes and toys. I agree with lots of comments above re. volumes of both - but at a few £ for a pile you can't go wrong

Gripe water - we use in almost industrial quantities

Cot mobile - as he's not (yet) sleeping in cot - putting him in with mobile is perfect way to grab 10 minutes for a shower with S in safe, distracted, comfort

Nappy disposal bin - sorry to those who hate them, but I wouldn't be without ours. (Mind you, it does take standard bin liners, not the complex cartridge things)

Muslin squares - just can't have too many. Ditto bibs.

Useless:
Moses basket - S had a bit of reflux and so wasn't happy flat on his back.

Baby gaviscon - have you ever tried to mix that stuff?, let alone give to a baby

Sling/ harness (optional) for Stokke high chair - possibly the hardest to adjust harness I have ever encountered. Shame, because the high chair itself is superb.

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