In this day and age of smaller homes, environmental conscientiousness and consumerism gone wild, it can be difficult to decide where to draw the line when it comes to what to buy and what to leave on the shelf. I chose to wait until the final few weeks of my pregnancy to buy anything — up to that point, I loved going through the pregnancy and parenting magazines, circling a variety of items, and making mental lists of what I’d buy.
The first time I hit the shops with my mother, I felt so overwhelmed that all I came away with was a cinnamon donut.
Bassinet, cradle or cot? Co-sleepers, cuddle nests and co-sleeping pillows? Stroller, pram, sling? Will a bath seat make a difference to bath time? Which car seat? Which bouncers?
It’s a minefield out there, and that’s not even looking at toys and clothes and smaller items!
Each new magazine seemed to have new improved items, newly developed products – I can still remember the horror I felt when reading about breathing monitors for newborns — the testimonials swearing that without the monitor’s alarms, their newborn would no longer be with them. Well crap, I’d have to get one of those too! But where was I going to find the money for all these things? I just didn’t have the budget – or space! – for all this stuff.
Ultimately, I went right back to basics. I asked my mother what she had found necessary when I was a baby. Her suggestions? Plenty of changes of clothes for the many, many accidents baby was bound to have. Plenty of nappies. Plenty of sheets – again, for the many accidents baby and mum were bound to have (I still ended up having to buy more).
We got by with a car seat for my mother’s car (I don’t drive), a cot, and a sling. A friend gifted me with an inflatable baby bath in the shape of a duck; another friend lent us the Tetra snuggle bed, promising it would come in more handy than I might think (and she was right – I lugged that thing from room to room, from house to yard. When my son wasn’t in it, my cat was. Sometimes they both were).
There are very few “must haves” for your new baby, and even many of those “must haves” will be debateable, varying with the needs of different parents. If you live in an apartment complex, you might find it necessary to have a nappy bin that conceals nasty odours until you have time to take the rubbish out. You might use cloth nappies and not need a nappy bin at all. For my part, I live on the ground floor of a small block of units, and have had no problem dashing outside to throw dirty nappies straight into the rubbish, so I never had a nappy bin. Everyone has different needs.
Similarly, I lost count of how many people told me I’d need a stroller or pram, that I’d regret not having one, that I’d change my mind as my son got bigger and heavier, particularly as I’m a single mother and don’t drive. Wrong! I’ve managed just fine without. But, when a neighbour offered me her son’s old stroller, I accepted it – and gave it to my mother, who did struggle to carry my son as he got bigger.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, working to a tight budget, living in a tight space, or just don’t want to buy into the consumerism of it all, just start with the absolute basics. Ask yourself what your parents — and what many women in less developed countries — deem “essential”. In this case, you probably will need a little more than love — but not by much!