Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do you really need...

There is a lot of money to be made off parents and pregnant women, especially first time parents. If you are like me, you never spent much time around babies before having one of your own. It is hard to tell what you need from what you don’t before that bundle of joy arrives. Once that bundle does arrive, it might be joyous but tinged with sleepless exhaustion. This can lead a desperate parent to shell out big bucks in the hopes of regaining some sanity.

Sadly, I am not made of money and am often shocked by the price tag of many baby items. I follow a number of blogs and am surprised when they recommend a $40 sleep sack or $33 hooded towel. My husband does make enough money to enable me to stay home with the baby but that doesn’t mean we do not miss my previous income. Even with extra money I wouldn't want to spend $33 on a towel unless it can also give the baby a bath.

Truth be told, I am cheap and I have always been cheap. My mother said I was the cheapest person she knew. Not sure if she ever realized that I got it from her as she loved thrift store shopping, bargain hunting, and never let me spend more than $2on a pair of underwear. Old habits die hard but I am now realizing that there are a few things you should not cheap out on.

I hope this reoccurring feature will help you weed out what you need from what you really don’t.

First we are going to talk about baby containment devices. There are play yards, swings, jumpers, Bumbos, and exersaucers. When our baby boy first came home, the only thing we had to land him in downstairs was his carseat. I think this has turned out to be one of the best baby holding options. First, if you have a car and a baby you must have a carseat. We spent about $300 on the Chicco Key Fit this is one of those things you do not want to cheap out on. When shelling out those big bucks, you want to get your money’s worth. We love our stroller and find it very easy to use. The carseat worked well to hold our newborn because it was portable, snug, and rockable. The seat with infant insert envelopes the baby who has spent the past 9 months floating in goo, cozied up in your womb. This seat isn’t a swing but it can be rocked and I love a multitasker. I can remember having Orion in the carseat on the floor next to my bed and rocking it with my foot while I rested my eyes. To this day, the only way I manage a shower during the week is by putting Orion in the carseat and bringing him into the bathroom. I do have to strap him in now that he is such a wiggle butt but he can see me, hear my voice, and more important, I can see him. I do not have to worry if he is crying or if he decided to test gravity in his crib. Do not under estimate the power of a carseat. It might not work for everyone but it certainly worked for us.

We had an open top take along swing but Orion was never interested in it and it really wasn’t very portable. We put him in it a few times and he didn’t mind it but it was never a magic charm which would swing him to sleepyland. This was a hand me down which we later donated to Goodwill. I am glad we were able to try it out without spending the money. Go make friends with pregnant women and see if they are willing to swap stuff once they are finished with it. This was an item that was very bulky which I would not be willing to put into storage for years until baby number 2 shows up. I am sure many other moms get to a point where they really just want to downsize on the baby gear.

Most people have happy memories and childhood photos of them in a doorway jumper. When I was registering at Babies R Us, I assumed this was a must have. For Orion’s 4 month birthday, we instilled the Sassy Seat doorway jumper which he liked until he knocked his head into the door frame. His weight was never evenly distributed in the seat and he would end up being lopsided. He really loved the toys that came with that seat. Our pediatrician told us that he does not recommend these types of jumpers as they can cause hip issues. Thanks for telling me now Doc! But we did get some really cute pictures of a very happy Orion in his Sassy seat.

The Doctor recommended an exersaucer and I started to shop around. This is an expensive item which becomes obsolete once baby is walking or so long that he can stand up flat footed when seated. I looked at Kid to Kid for a used one but they all seemed pretty ratty. I ended up at Burlington Coat Factory and got a super sweet deal on a floor model. We love our exersaucer and the seat is removable for washing. It is also durable, Patrick fell on it once and it came apart into 2 pieces but was not damaged. Regardless of much we love this exersaucer, we will not be keeping it around once Orion outgrows as it takes up way too much space.

Highchairs are a wonderful thing and Orion loves being in the highchair and drumming on the tray. I often feed the baby when I am eating. Yes it is annoying and I have learned to use both hands, one feeding me and one feeding the baby. But I want us to have family meals and eat together. Orion likes to feed himself so I can get a bit of a break when I give him finger foods. There are many different types of highchairs so you can find one that works for your family.

If you plan on doing any traveling within your baby’s first year of life, you will need a pack and play/play yard. This was the first item we bought to have a place to put the baby down when we were downstairs at our old house. Orion was 4 weeks old when we bought it and even though we are now living in a one floor home, it is still set up in our living room. This is the pack and play we bought. It has hamper, shelves, bassinet, changing table, carry case, and a mobile with bears, lights, and music. Orion would lie in the bassinet and watch the bears with such intensity. They never put him to sleep but it kept him quiet and happy. The changing table was really great until Orion became too much of a wiggle worm. Now we use the changing table to put his coat and shoes on before we head out the door. This is an item that will grow with your child. The shelves that used to hold diapers, wipes, and burp cloths now hold Orion’s toys. Sometimes he will crawl over and help himself to a toy or two.

I hear a lot about Bumbo and sometimes wonder if we should have gotten one. I do not think Orion missed out on having one or that it would have been a magical answer to some prayer. If you do want one, buy it used. They are easy to clean and I have seen tons of these at Kid to Kid and on Craigslist. You might even be able to get a free hand me down from a friend or family member. There have been a few recalls on this item so be sure you are using it safely.

Bottom line, you need a carseat and you can use it in different ways. You need a highchair, and can find one that fits your price range and family life. Then it is a good idea to get a fun play seat for the baby and exersaucers seem to be the answer. If you will be traveling a pack and play is a necessity. Do you need anything else? Not really but that doesn’t mean you won’t want other things and you might find that they answer all your prayers.

When shopping for big ticket items, keep in mind that Babies R Us is always giving out 20% off coupons, use them wisely. When shopping for anything, ask yourself if you really need x, where will you put x once you bring it in the house, and how often will you use x. Try to practice mindful shopping.

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