Sunday, August 23, 2009

Does a newborn really need that?

I have a confession, and I hope my brother and sister-in-law aren't reading this post: I have no idea what to give them for their baby shower.

They are expecting their first child in just a few weeks, and the baby gear-buying madness is well underway. As an experienced parent and older sister, you'd think that I'd know exactly what to get for my little nephew-on-the-way and his about-to-be parents -- but you'd be wrong.
I'm stumped. There's just so much out there -- and so much of it seems totally unnecessary. How much stuff does a new baby really need?

My oldest kids weren't babies when I started parenting them, but my youngest two are "from scratch," so to speak. And I remember feeling overwhelmed with products and gear and gadgets back when they were born. (Wipe warmers? Why?) But there were a few things that made those first several weeks easier, and there were a few gifts -- other than clothes -- that I was grateful for, time and again.

The best gifts by far were the most practical ones. Baby gowns that were open at the bottom, to make midnight (and 2 a.m., and 4 a.m., and 6 a.m.) diaper changes easier. A baby "sleep sack" that zipped up like a roomy sleeping bag with sleeves. A softly glowing nightlight that clipped onto the crib and turned on or off with a tap.

One friend gave us a pretty wicker basket filled with the kind of things new parents don't usually think to get until they already need them. Allergen-free laundry detergent. A large package of newborn-size diapers. Wipes. Teensie nail clippers (newborn nails are like adorable, barely visible, rapidly growing talons). Infant Tylenol. A digital thermometer. She topped it off with a kit to make a framed print of my baby's tiny foot, something I never would have thought to buy on my own. Now, with my Amazonian 4-1/2-year old outgrowing size 6X clothing, I look at her and marvel that she was ever small enough to make the 3-inch footprint that hangs on her bedroom wall.

So I threw the question out to the community, via my Child Caring column there. Experienced parents, help a couple of newbies out. What baby items did you think were completely unnecessary? And, perhaps just as important: Which ones were essential when your first child came along?

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