The baby industrial complex and the pink bathtub

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Pink baby bathtubSince we live in a very small urban home, we’ve had to be super selective with baby crap. Most of our baby supplies have been hand-me-downs, but I’m even picky about those: if it can’t collapse and slide under a couch, tuck into the closet, or fit on a shelf in Tavi’s mini-nursery, we probably don’t need it. Vibrating baby recliner? Don’t need it! Motorized swing? Don’t need it! Baby stimulation station with dangling toys, which we call The Neglector 1000? Ok, but only because it folds up for easy storage.

Other than one horrific trip to Babies R Us to get a breast pump and a couple sleep sacks, our very few baby supplies have all been hand-me-downs, gifts, or Craigslisted. As we ran screaming from Babies R Us, filled with pink and blue plastic crap we didn’t need, Dre said to me, “I never want to go there ever again.”

I nodded. All that molded plastic made me feel panicky, and most of it you don’t even need! The baby industrial complex tries to convince you to buy everything, but really all you need is blankets and burp rags.

One of the things I decided early on that we absolutely did NOT need was a baby bathtub. When Dre brought up the idea before Tavi was born, I poo-pooed him…

“We have sinks!” I said. “We don’t need some special molded plastic baby bucket to wash him in. If the sinks don’t work, we’ll just use that old dishtub with a towel on the side. We totally do NOT need a baby bathtub.”

We gave Tavi little washcloth baths for the first week of his life, since we’d been advised not to give him full baths until after his umbilical stump fell off.

His first real bath came at about 10 days old. Deciding the bathroom sink would feel too crowded, we opted for the kitchen sink with its spray faucet. It’s a deep stainless steel thing surrounded by granite counter tops, and it was immediately clear that the situation sucked.

Tavi screamed and screamed as we shuffled him around, Dre supporting his slippery body in the suddenly ENORMOUS sink while I juggled the faucet and the soap and the little tiny hand-me-down baby washcloth. Dre fretted about how insecure his grasp was on the baby (“He’s all soapy! I’m worried he’s going to slip out of my hands!”) as I tried to navigate Tavi’s flailing arms and beet-red screaming bobble-head.

“Next time we use the bathroom sink,” I said, as we dried Tavi off with a hand-me-down hooded baby towel.

Two days later, we repeated the trauma in the bathroom. Tavi fit a bit better in the sink, but the faucet didn’t detach and Tavi screamed and screamed as we used a little cup to pour warm water over his tiny angry fists and tried to clean out his milk-soaked double chin creases.

“Someday this will be really fun,” I tried to reassure the baby, chatting amiably with him as he screamed until he ran out of breath. “Bath time is going to be fun with rubber duckies and bubbles and toys!”

The baby was unconvinced. Dre looked like he needed PTSD therapy afterwards, moaning, “I’m sorry, Mr. Beebs” over and over again as he toweled off a still-miserable Tavi.

We spend Christmas in Portland with Dre’s family, including his brother and his wife who had a baby girl six weeks before Tavi was born. (Yes, there are going to be some crazy cousin times in the future!) My sister-in-law Sacha casually mentioned how much her daughter loves bath time, and I asked her about how they did it.

“Oh, we got this baby bathtub,” she said, taking me into the bathroom and showing me a molded plastic baby tub, complete with a little suspended baby hammock.

“Daniella loooves it,” she told me. “She dangles her little feet over the edge of the sling into the water and just smiles and smiles. Seriously, I think it’s the best part of her day.”

I thought of Tavi and his screaming and Dre’s white-knuckled hands trying to support him as he slipped around in the sink. Bathing was not the best part of Tavi’s day. Or our day. It was awful, and the plastic baby bathtub would make it not awful.

And so when we got home, I got on Craigslist and looked up baby bathtubs. There were a million of them, because of course the upside of the baby industrial complex is that everyone’s constantly shedding their crap. The most recent listing was a $10 tub just like the one my sister-in-law had. I sent and email and made arrangements to go pick it up.

The seller, a young Russian mom with a toddler, came to the door of her home with the tub.

“How old is your baby?” she asked me, making small talk as I dug into my wallet for cash.

“Oh, he’s just about a month old,” I said.

She looked at me with horror, and held up the tub. “But this tub — IT IS PINK!”

I waved my hand in the air. “Oh, HE doesn’t care,” I said. She still looked aghast, holding the pink tub limply like she expected me not to take it.

“Plus,” I reassured her, “pink matches my hair.”

She seemed unconvinced, but sold me the tub for 10 bucks.

The first bath with the ridiculously pink molded plastic bathtub was that night. We filled it up with water, stripped Tavi down, and prepared for the worst.

Reclined on the baby hammock dangling in the warm water, he looked up at us with a surprised face … and then kicked his legs and made his happy snuffle. As we cleaned out the crease under his third chin, he waved his Michelin Man arms at us and cooed.

In other words, Tavi loves his bright pink bathtub.

And I had to admit that sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES, every once in a great while … certain molded plastic baby industrial complex supplies are actually useful. I reassure myself that I bought it used and that it thankfully hangs out of the way in a hidden corner of the bathroom.

So now I must know: what ONE stupid piece of kid crap has actually turned out to be mission critical for you?

Comments on The baby industrial complex and the pink bathtub

  1. We've had all those things, and the vibrating bouncer and the swing were are miracle workers when he was itty-bitty; he might scream and scream if we were holding and rocking him, but put him in his swing or bouncer and turn on Dr. Horrible, and he was calm as could be. It was good for all our nerves. He grew out of them both by the time he was five or six months, but until then it was amazing. Thankfully they were gifted to us — one was a hand-me-down, and the other came from a cousin — because if not for it, we wouldn't have bought either. Not out of not wanting as much as not being able to afford.

    The dangly thing wasn't as entertaining to him as a cell phone is, though. And I've discovered that high chairs are highly overrated, though.

  2. I am totally LMFAO at this story and love that you got Tavi a pink tub tee hee 🙂 Happy bathtime isn't stressful anymore for you all haha… my first daughter hated her swing so it is def not something I have on the list for this next bundle…but I do have a coworker that is giving me a used one which I will gladly try 😉 craigslist rocks and I have gotten our bumbo aka baby display stand, cloth diapers, a way cool dresser we re-painted, etc…off of there!

  3. I bathed with my daughter in the bathtub until she was a year old. We tried to use the baby bathtub (just like the one you pictured, but blue) one time and she HATED it, totally freaked out. So we gave it away and never looked back. Bathtime was the one time of day that my daughter wasn't screaming ("colic" for 6 months+) so I enjoyed bathing with her and being in that calmness for a little while. But I was glad when she was old enough to be in the tub alone–with me sitting in the bathroom there while she plays.
    Our best babyjunk investment was our myriad of slings and carriers, especially the Moby wrap and the Pikkolo. Oh, and as someone else mentioned, the big yoga ball, which we bounced her on for over 6 months…

    • Seconding the yoga ball. We bought ours for birthing (long story, didn't end up using it)…but my god, it was the ONLY thing that would knock my daughter out when she was in the midst of "the witching hour"!

  4. Gotta tell you: the vibrating bouncey chair and the exersaucer have been great! We had to retire the chair a few months ago and it was sooo sad. We had attached a plastic-molded baby industrial complex (BIC) kick toy to it and she would spend so much time kicking at it and having a great time. She's almost outgrown the exersaucer, and I'm sad about that, too. It gave me the freedom to actually do dishes or sweep the floor — or check out my favourite blogs… She's moved on to some great toys now that are entirely from the BIC, and boy, does she love them! Sounds! lights! Music! The fair trade, pesticide-free wooden toys just don't cut it, sadly.

  5. This was the BEST investment and I must say the CHEAPEST! even new it was only like $18.00. Super cheap. And my daughter now 9 months LOVES it!

  6. Ugh, the worst thing that I ever bought for my daughter was this cheap $10 baby doll stroller at Wal Mart when she was 13ish months old. She was trying to learn how to walk, she just needed something to hang on to and this was the ONLY thing I could find that fit the bill. After I got her the stroller, she started walking within 2 days by herself! She still plays with the stroller and she takes her babies for walks in it….best purchase I ever made.

  7. With both my kids I took them in the shower with me to clean them then handed them off to dad to dry. I loved it, they loved it…to this day they both prefer showers. I never had any problems with squirming because I think I started when they were so small – my preemie daughter weighed 4 pounds when she had her first shower with mom!

    Item the drove me nuts but couldn't live without – the excersaucer. Huge, bulky, garish item from hell. Blessed soother of the savage beast, "oh my gosh I can actually get 10 minutes of peace", item we couldn't have survived without.

  8. Bruin had a pink craigslist bumbo he hated and I kind of suspected he was rebelling against the color. The vibrating baby chair was our savior though… It was the first place I could put him down without him screaming and have TWO HANDS FREE!! I used it for months – he'd sit in it when he was really way too big for it, strapped in on the bathroom floor while I had a shower. Then, when he eventually flipped the entire thing over on himself I had to admit that it was time to move on. Sigh.

  9. Every parent / baby is different and what works for some one baby may not for others or may be necessary for sanity for the parents (colic)!

    Certain things we thought we'd need but ended up not needing or needing only for a short time…like our Euro bath tub. It was a gift which we loved but we only a few weeks and then just used the big bath tub. Also got a $5 garage sale breast pump…so glad I did not fork over the cash for a fancy one as I barely used it (twice I think). We purchased one of those portacrib/bassinet things for bebe to sleep in next to our bed but when we realized it wasn't really that portable (we have two floors so having newborn bebe all the way upstairs sleeping by herself seemed odd), we ended up using a big basket that I actually had for years to keep old books and magazines in. It was perfect! We could move the basket around the house with sleeping baby and move it into bed with us. She outgrew it at 4 months and we moved her into our bed for a while and finally into a proper crib.

    The one thing that was great and we purchased though was a aquatic/neptune themed playmat. We debated about getting one at all (pricey!) but after having my daughter try it out at her cousin's who was two weeks older, you'd think she was underwater scuba diving…she looooooved it. So we got one and it lasted for months and made some of my mornings bearable in catching 20 minutes more sleep as she played right on the bed on the playmate next to sleeping me.

    • my FH is obsessed with all things "under the sea" and he saw that playmat in the store recently…he said he wanted to have kids just so he had an excuse to buy it. Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't buy it for our future kids then and there!

  10. For our son, someone gave us an exersaucer. At five months we put him in it, and he used it for about a month before he started crawling. After that he lost all interest in being in it, and preferred to crawl under it. I'm happy we didn't buy a lot of baby stuff. We just didn't have the space and our son was happy to be on the floor.

  11. I need to show my mom the first half of this article whenever we have a kid. She thinks she's smarter than marketing, but (as I saw with my wedding) she embraces the _IC like crazy. It doesn't help that I'm an only child and therefore her only chance at grandkids. We're already fearful of all the crap we'll end up with.

  12. My favorite item was (and still is) my ring sling. But, Great Grandma made that, so I can't count that as a plastic crap purchase. We also had mostly hand me downs (for both our kids). But, last year we bought a Baby Trend Sit and Stand stroller. At the time, our son was 5 1/2 and our daughter was a year. Since I have small children, my son fit perfectly in the back seat and loved being able to get in and out alone.

    Now, a year later we still use that thing all the time, as I do my slings. That was the perfect investment for us.

  13. Oh I can so relate to the strong "I don't need all this crap" feeling. We got most of our few supplies (carriage, tub) from a neighbor who was a bit concerned 'cause they're blue and we have a girl. My mother-in-law seemed to think I was an awful person who didn't want to provide any stimulation to our daughter when I refused endless play gyms and plastic toys. But a neighbor gave us a chair with hanging toys which I had been avoiding. I eventually took of the toys so our daughter could see, and, I must admit, she loves the chair. I feel strongly that the world is plenty stimulating enough for someone who's only been in it for a few months! And one or two toys (it's not like she remembers them from one time to the next). Such an exercise in when to compromise and when to stand one's ground, motherhood has been.

    • I totally agree!! I am still waitingfor baby, due in the fall, and when I made my plans known that I didn’t plan to have “all that stuff” my sister had a fit that I wasnt going to stimulate the child. Just because I don’t want plastic electronic light up musical toys doesn’t mean I am going to ignore my baby… in fact I just may be paying more attention… grrr I can see I will have to hold my ground on some things and relax on others, but at least I know I am not alone!

  14. I did a lot of shopping on craigslist as well, with a minimum of baby crap hanging around the house; the one "baby crap" thing we picked up was a play gym. Our guy loves it, and it's great to see his motor skills progress weekly as he first hits, jabs, then fully grabs on to the items hanging down. $60 seemed like a lot at the time, but it's one of his favorite things. Babies do seem to need some 'alone time' play and in the morning he gets a little bit of time hanging out there while I load the wash and fix my crack (i.e., strong PG Tipps tea) so mama can get a head start to the day. he loves it!

    Re: Pink for boys- we use Thirsties absorbent diaper covers over his gdiapers to prevent leaks on his clothes, and the cheapest ones I found were hot pink. With us down to one income (heck, NO income with the hubby recently laid off), I figured it doesn't matter what color, as long as they work!

    • Don't you love the gdiapers? I plan on using them when we have a child, I learned about them in September when a friend came to visit with her 8 month old. I watched in facsination as she flushed down that poopy diaper!

  15. My LO hasnt had a bath in 2 weeks…I haven't had the heart to do it since he screamed the place down in the bath with me – the midwives said the skin to skin would keep him calm! LOL.

  16. I might not survive without the Moby wrap. Miles doesn't like to be put down. Ever. So I just wear him almost all day, and can still do most things with both hands, and he gets to be part of whatever I'm doing.

  17. the back pack toddler "leash". i got alot of hassle about having one but when my daughter was around 13-14 months i got one for her. i know most people believe that having a child "on a leash" is just horrible but in with situations like street fairs and trick or treating my daughter hated being confined to the stroller and forcing her to hold my hand when she wanted to run free and was torture on us both and there was no way she was gonna have me carry her when she had just learned to walk. the backpack "leash" allowed her a little freedom to explore but kept her from running off and getting lost, snatched up, or hurt. i only used the thing twice (once at a street fair and once trickortreating). afterwards it just served as a backpack she like to carry around and eventually went to good will. i have no regrets

  18. While I'm not a mom (yet), I work with infants, and with lots of babies (9) and only 3 teachers, sometimes we need all the help we can get. The BEST thing we have in the infant room are boppies. They are great for helping support a baby just learning to sit on his or her own-that way if we need to get up, we can slip one behind them and if they go plop, they don't get hurt (or angry at us for lying them down). And I have no shame in admitting that I've used the purple floral or candy pink ones for the boys as well as the girls.

  19. I am babyless (for now) but am an offbeat bride growing up so I check out offbeat mama on occaision. I just wanted to pass on this… from a daddy blog I regularly read. I only pass it along because the seat Hunnydu references in the first comment reminds me of this scary seat. I am certainly not a fearmonger, but thought I'd put it out there if folks are shopping for a similar seat.

  20. Oh, the baby crap. With our first, we really wanted to keep the stuff to a minimum, but ended up with a lot of gifts, including the baby tub. The tub was a major fail for us – the kiddo just never liked it. He was way better with showers with us.

    We did end up with a massive swing, which was a huge "worth it" item for us – it calmed the baby, and he slept in there a lot of nights. We finally retired it when the weight of our (large) baby maxed out the swing – it creaked and groaned under the strain. Sad day.

    We also had an exersaucer, which was a wonderful relief for my arms, which were so tired from holding and bouncing my (large, did I say large yet?) baby all. the. time. It was ugly, made a huge amount of noise, and took up a ridiculous amount of space.

    What helped the most was storing or getting rid of itmes once we had outgrown them. We have more space than you, and planned on antoher, so we stored them. But if we'd been done with one, I'd have passed them on or sold them as soon as we finished. One big piece of junk at a time seems not too unreasonable.

  21. It's funny– we got a baby bathtub as a gift and I ended up giving it away on Freecycle. It took up too space! For Alice's baths in the kitchen sink, we just lined the sink with a towel to prevent slippage, then when she was sitting up on her own, baths moved to the tubs.

    Our godsend was the Boppy Swing. We went out to BRU right before closing time to get one when she was about a month old because we were so desperate for something that would soothe Alice besides the sling and our arms. Best thing we ever bought!

  22. This is hilarious! Gosh why on earth would he care what colour it is (as if he could somehow tell…) Glad you have made bathtime a better experience for everyone involved 🙂

  23. I was against the idea of any type of infant seat/swing, etc. I, like you, thought they were just ways to neglect an infant. However, I have been THRILLED with my son's vibrating seat because it keeps him from screaming while I make my lunch and use the bathroom. He just sits there smiling at me and playing with the little toys that dangle from it. Yup, I leave the little dangly toys… but if I walk away, his fun doesn't last. So, it turns out that it is the parent that makes these things neglectful, not the things 🙂

    • Mine never lasted in any of the baby "holders" either. I can (or could before separation anxiety set in) sit her in her bouncer or swing or whatever for a few minutes. But she basically tops out at 10 minutes of "independent play". Sometimes I'm so jealous of people with babies that just love hanging out in their play things, but then EVERYONE comments on how calm and happy she is (like it's abnormal…hmmm), and I have to believe that my almost constant attention has to be partly to blame for her sunny disposition 😛 One can hope right?

  24. YES! I hate the BIC! I failed at the "baby registry" because after the hand-me-downs I really couldn't think of what to add on a registry….

    Didn't want to buy? A swing. Bought one second hand and IT SAVED MY SANITY. When our little girl hit 6 weeks she started going on a 3 hour scream-a-thon every night from 7pm-10pm. Swinging her in our arms seemed to really calm her. But after a couple weeks we were soooo tired of the swinging. I *knew* there was product that did it for us…but…I still was hesitant. By the third week though of swinging her in the bassinet, the moses basket, and anything to get her to calm down …. I caved and bought a swing. IT WAS AWESOME. And, I could even park it in the bathroom and let her swing and look up the little lights and music while I took a shower. I was very sad when she finally outgrew it.

    Best hand-me-down? THE BUMBO SEAT!!! We took it with us everywhere, it was so great before she could sit on her own. I think the "back problem" thing is so that people don't just sit their kid in for hours on end. In fact, I think most baby products are only unsafe developmentally if you use them as a babysitter instead of a 15-minutes or less item. Anyways, at 11 months she still sits in the Bumbo and we use it as an ad-hoc toilet training tool. (Mostly because if she sits in for more than 5 minutes she poops, ergo…I sit her in when I want her to poop! (in a DIAPER, not in the seat of course)). Anyway, it's awesome and it was free. 🙂

    Most of her toys are also hand-me-downs — sometimes I pay $5-6 for a yard sale toy. I'm hosting my mommy-group for the first time at my house next week and after seeing the other babies' brand-new toy paradises … I am a wee-bit ashamed of my "old" toys… but god, whatever. They want to judge me, they can go right ahead – my kid doesn't know the damn difference between a new toy or an old toy. And the fact that most of the sound features are broken is a GOOD thing in my book!! 😛 hehe

  25. My son HATED being given a bath in the sink also. He screamed & flipped out of my arms so I got on craigslist & got him the rainforest tub with baby hammock for 10.00 & not he just lays there & dips his feet in the water & laughs at me.

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