Must-(not)-haves for the first-time mom

March 5, 2013 at 1:43 am

“Most children’s shoes ought to come with a government health warning.” -Tracy Byrne (podiatrist)

When I was pregnant for the first time, I was fresh out of college and my husband was starting graduate school. We answered phones after-hours as live-in caretakers in a mortuary (seriously) for four years so we didn’t have to pay rent while my husband finished his schooling. He worked in addition to his graduate school responsibilities, but we had very little money.

Not all families start out as low on funds as we did, but I know many of them do. The marketing targeted at first-time moms is overwhelming. Magazines, television, internet ads, and sometimes friends and family can fill our heads with so many “must-haves” for our babies. After 9+ years of motherhood, I think often of all the baby paraphernalia that seem so essential when you’re pregnant for the first time but really aren’t necessary at all. It’s astounding how much stuff you can accumulate once a baby joins the family. And when we had our first baby, space was at a minimum in our tiny apartment.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your stress levels at a minimum, simplify, and cut clutter and costs as you enter parenthood, here’s my personal list of items you may want to leave off your list.

1) Changing tables. We got by just fine with a towel (for leaks) on the floor or on our bed. My goal was always to not leave my bed for night-time feedings and diaper changes… none of this going to a changing table in the middle of the night thing. They may be nice to store all the diapers and wipes, but a nightstand, closet, or cupboard works just as well for that. I’d also include the entire “baby nursery” as unnecessary, but that could be a whole other blogpost in itself. ;-)

2) Baby lotion. We got bottles and bottles of the stuff for baby shower gifts as first-time parents. Most of them got re-gifted to other new parents… you know, let’s spread the useless wealth, right? Here’s the reality… babies have lusciously soft skin as it is, and baby lotion may actually be harmful. If you’d like something to use for baby massages or skin irritations, I’d recommend coconut oil or olive oil.

3) Pacifiers and bottles. I realize that these are life-savers (or absolutely essential) for many moms, but if you’re certain you want to breastfeed, you probably won’t need them. My babies simply wouldn’t take any size or shape of pacifier (except our pinkie fingers or my own real-life nipples). And they wouldn’t take bottles either. We wasted a lot of money trying different brands and styles in search of “the one.” In the end, it was just easier to breastfeed exclusively… and the good news was that we never had to break our children of their binkie or bottle addiction.

4) Baby wash and wash cloths. Babies really don’t get very dirty until they start eating real food and playing in the dirt. And, even then, plain old water will usually get them clean. My first baby had very sensitive skin (eczema), so we couldn’t use any soaps on her body anyway.

5) Rocking chairs. I should preface this by saying that the wooden rocker I had wasn’t very comfortable, but I really just didn’t use it. It was awkward to nurse in, so I just nursed on the couch or on my bed. Plus it just didn’t make sense to get up out of bed and sit in a chair for night-time feedings. Learn to nurse lying down, and you’ll get a lot more rest. You’ll need that rest as a first-time (and many-time mother).

6) Baby fashions/shoes/accessories. OK, I know they’re cute. They really are. But your baby is even cuter. And that is true regardless of his/her attire. Stock up instead on basic onesies and comfy sleepers. They’re all going to get covered in spit-up, mustard-colored diaper blow-outs, and a variety of other body fluids and mystery stains, so I highly recommend keeping clothing inexpensive and simple.

And babies don’t need shoes. Even when they’re learning to walk, it’s better to do it barefoot. Once your baby is ready to explore outdoors, you can get leather-soled shoes that enable your baby to better grip the ground for balance. Check second-hand stores, yard sales, or clearance bins for these. We got our Robeez for $6.99 at Ross.

7) Baby bouncers, swings, exersaucers, jumparoos, seats, etc.  I’m not suggesting that these things aren’t helpful at times. I’ve used them and appreciated them myself. But if you’re low on funds and low on space, they’re really not essential. You are your baby’s favorite “seat” and entertainment, and if you’re not available then another person is definitely preferable to a device. Most baby entertainment/containment devices can be replaced by one or two good baby carriers (My favorites are stretchy wraps and mei tais). Your baby wants to be with you, is safest/healthiest/happiest with you, and gains so much entertainment and education by watching you go about your day-to-day life. If I could go back to my first pregnancy, I’d replace all our bulky baby gadgets with a stretchy wrap. You can make your own no-sew wrap for $5 if you find clearance fabric. Sure beats $200 for a bouncer/swing that will “move like you do.

8) Baby food. When your baby is ready for solids, he/she’ll probably start trying to reach food out of your hand or off your plate. If successful, baby will probably put it in his/her mouth. Voila… introduction of solid foods. Read more about “baby-led weaning” here. If you still want to offer pureed foods, make your own in a blender with cheaper fresh ingredients. After all the processing baby foods go through, there is very little nutrition left.

Any more you can think of?