The Mother of Invention

10.8.07: Are all of these products really necessary?


My dear friend Jenny is pregnant with her first baby and just went to register for her baby shower. She called me afterwards, completely overwhelmed by the whole experience: "I have no idea what we're going to need!" she sighed over the phone. "I wish someone would just give me a list." (Incidentally, the Fit Pregnancy editors were already hard at work answering Jenny's prayers with our new Just Give Me a List feature of essential gear.)

I blathered on about all the baby products I simply couldn't live without—of course the crib, the high chair, and the car seat, but also, my Boppy pillow, our swing (for those early sleepless nights), our Baby Bjorn carrier, and so many things I probably take for granted (that extra car seat base, the stroller, the rocking chair, the baby bathtub...)

I felt like such a smug know-it-all lecturing Jenny on what she really should buy, and what I thought would be a waste of money. But, after we hung up, I remembered exactly how overwhelmed I was when I was pregnant with Julia and trying to figure it all out. After three trips to register at Babies ‘RÂ’ Us, and at least ten follow-up online editing sessions, I still found myself running out to pick up a few more things in the days and weeks after Julia was born—some extra long-sleeved onesies, because she was going through our entire supply in a single day; some nipple ointment, because my nipples were unexpectedly cracked and bleeding; some breastmilk storage bags, because I was having to pump on one side and needed a way to store all the milk; a rearview mirror for the car, because I was so convinced that Julia would succumb to her imminent death if I didn't have my eyes on her every minute of every day. I thought we were prepared, but once we got our baby home, that stimulating baby gym and the classical music-playing mobile didn't seem quite so important anymore. We needed diapers. An extra crib sheet. And later, baby gates. A bigger car seat. Bigger clothes. Diapers. And more diapers.

All the extras have certainly been nice. Convenient? Yes. But, necessary? Probably not.

After my chat with Jenny, I found myself flipping through one of the bazillion baby catalogs that seem to land in our mailbox every other day. I was flabbergasted by all the innovative new products that have hit the market since I was in JennyÂ’s shoes:

* A plastic pitcher with a rubber panel to prevent soap and water from getting into baby's eyes when shampooing hair (i.e. a bucket)

* A freakishly large padded helmet for babies to wear around the house when they're crawling (A helmet. For crawling.)

* Juice box holders (Boxes to hold the boxes that hold the juice.)

* A portable rinsing system to spray off a pacifier that falls on the ground. (Whoops—I guess that means I'm not supposed to just lick it off?)

* An absorbent "dome" to place over a baby boy's privates while changing his diaper—"to catch your little guy's geysers." (OK, maybe I really do need this one.)

No wonder Jenny's feeling overwhelmed. I don't know how much of this is really necessary, and how much is preying on the hopes and fears of first-time parents. But, as long as we're inventing all these new-fangled products to make parents' lives easier, I have a few suggestions of my own:

Attention inventers: please design a product that will:

A.) Wake up at 2 a.m., and then again at 4 a.m., and again and 6 a.m. to give my baby a nutritious diet of breast milk while I sleep soundly through the night.

B.) While you're at it, please invent a product that will change baby's diaper during middle-of-the-night feedings.

C.) Please invent a product that will make laundry obsolete so I can spend time with my baby instead of folding laundry. While you're at it, a dirt-repelling house would be nice.

D.) Please invent a no-cost, no-guilt babysitter, so that my husband and I can have some time together, and some time to ourselves. E.) [I'm open for suggestions here...]

Also, please do not invent any more products that:

A.) Require batteries, not included

B.) Require me to stay up for hours on end in my already sleep-deprived state to assemble a hundred different pieces parts, especially when one of said parts is missing, thank you very much

C.) Are so "easy to fold" that I will end up kicking said product and swearing like a sailor because I can't figure out how to freakin' fold the freakin' thing already

D.) Beep, honk, sing, shake, or otherwise make such loud noises that my throbbing brain will want to toss your product into the diaper bin which we spent a lot of money on, but which doesn't contain any actual diaper odors. [Like the "Let's Drive (Mom Crazy)" honking car book, shown here.]

Needless to say, there are a lot of choices out there on the market. What's really necessary comes down to personal preference. Right now, I'm thinking the only thing I can't live without is: my family. I'm sure the rest will somehow take care of itself.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 10.15.07: A Baby Blessing