Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Top Ten Baby Things That You Do Not Need

The future parent is such a soft target for the multi million pound baby-stuff industry: so clueless, yet so eager to do the best for their baby. But I am sure of this: buying lots of stuff for your baby does not equate to being a good parent. And here are the top ten things that I wish I had not wasted the Earth's resources on:

1. Scratch mitts

Before Cave Baby's birth I had no idea why you needed these, but I bought some anyway because it seemed like the thing to do (see also: baby hats). After Cave Baby's birth I still had no idea what they were for but I kept them in the drawer in case it dawned upon me one day. Now they have been given away to charity I still have not managed to figure out the point of these things. Do some babies scratch themselves a lot? Don't they just work the gloves off their hands? Can't you just trim their nails so they are too short to cause any damage? I don't get it.

2. Night nursing bras

The books tell you that you MUST wear a bra AT ALL TIMES following birth or your breasts will drop to the floor and never return. Well, they may drop to the floor and never return but a night bra isn't going to make much difference. I wore a night bra with breastpads for a couple of weeks after giving birth and can say that: (i) the breast pads usually fell out and I inevitably forgot to replace them after a feed anyway; and (ii) half the time my breasts fell out as well, nicking the delicate nipples on the elastic at the edge of the cup as they did so. In conclusion, a night bra is less than useless. Put a towel under you to catch milk instead.

3. Baby lotion

What is baby lotion for? I always assumed it was to moisturise the baby. But then my dad told me that they used to use it to clean my bottom when I was a baby. And I noticed that there were a million other products on the market that you were supposed to use to moisturise your baby. Is this a genuine mystery or am I just clueless?

4. Infacol/Gripe water

In my humble opinion, these preparations are nothing but cleverly marketed pharmaceutical quackery. We were told by the midwives at our antenatal classes that Infacol would be essential for those first few difficult nights. I duly went out and bought some before Cave Baby even arrived. Sure enough, she was inconsolable in the evening of her second day so we tried dosing her with Infacol. Did it make any difference? No. After using it for a couple of days I suddenly had a moment of clarity and wondered what the heck was I doing shoving bizarre white orange flavoured gloop down my precious newborn's neck. And I put her next to me in bed. Final score: co-sleeping 1, Infacol 0.

5. Baby hats

In my pregnant ignorance I bought a baby hat because it seemed to be what you were supposed to do. And Cave Baby did wear this hat during her first couple of days when she slept all alone in a moses basket. Then I read that you weren't meant to put hats on babies' heads indoors, and I got all confused. Meanwhile, almost every relation of ours bought Cave Baby a little cotton hat. Now I am not a hat person myself but even if I loved hats I don't think I would need twelve different ones, all in slightly different pink flowery designs. As soon as she was given a beautiful knitted pink bonnet I forgot about the naff cotton baby hats and used the knitted hat for the next six months.

6. Other baby toiletries

Baby bubble bath, baby bath oil, baby shampoo, baby talc, baby oil, baby lotion, baby cream etc etc. Since when did tiny babies get dirty enough to requite this kind of industrial cleaning? This might be just me, but I find that my baby spends the majority of her time inside clean clothes, in a clean house, with very little opportunity for dirt transference on or off her squishy pink body. I see no requirement to strip her body of its natural moisturising oils and replace them with nice smelling fake ones. Until she starts crawling around the garden and getting properly dirty, I will stick to cleaning her with plain water and plain water alone.

7. Thousands of breast pads

I believed the Mothercare catalogue. It said that in your first week after birth you would require 100 breast pads. 100! A bit of elementary arithmetic breaks that down to 14.29 a day! Or, 7.14 per breast per day, assuming you have two breasts. That is a lot of changes of breast pads. I only used about three per breast per day even in the early days before my milk flow had equalised to Cave Baby's needs. Am I lucky not to leak too much, or am I just really dirty? Maybe if you are bottle feeding you need this many to absorb the unused milk, but if that is the case then Mothercare should really state that in their advice in the catalogue. Here is my advice - buy one packet of disposable breast pads to use in the early weeks, then move on to washable ones which are much prettier, and don't resemble a sanitary towel quite so much.

8. Bibs in newborn size

What I cannot grasp about bibs is why bottle fed babies need them but breast fed babies don't. I didn't buy any bibs before Cave Baby was born but we were given tons of them. Most could be kept for when she began eating solids, but some were newborn size with a very small neck hole. So, hating to leave anything unused, I thought maybe I could use one to stop the newborn Cave Baby covering her clothes in sick. But then I ran into two difficulties: (i) it was impossible to predict when she would be sick, so she would basically have to wear a bib all the time; and (ii) when she was sick, it just ran down the bib and soaked into her clothes anyway. This was not a very successful experiment and the bibs were soon consigned to the charity pile.

9. Cotton buds

You know, the little plastic sticks with a swirl of cotton wool on each end? I know they are useful for putting on make up and taking off nail varnish. But what is their application as far as a baby is concerned? What part of a baby's body is too small to admit a normal sized ball of cotton wool but robust enough to withstand an invasion by one of these mini pugel sticks?

10. Breast shells

What a great idea. Shaped plastic cups that sit on your breasts, with a little hole for your nipples, catching any milky leakage for you to feed to your baby on a later occasion. There is only one problem. How the heck do you fit your ample breastfeeding bosom and a pair of these inside your bra? And how comically large will your chest look if you do manage to fit everything in? The mind boggles.

So glad I've got this off my chest! Have I missed anything?


Amity said...

I agree, particularly with #4, #7 and #9. Gripe water used to have alcohol in it, that's what made the crying stop. lol

zooarchaeologist said...

The cotton hats are quite handy in the winter if you have a winter baby or its very cold as woollen hats can aggravate them and cause eczma. That said, i think i agree with you on the rest, although I did use breast shells in my 2 weeks of breasfeeding as I kept leaking but didnt have enough at any one feed!

Mel said...

I had never even heard of breast shells until now...most bizarre! Why not combine forces and just wring out a breast pad to use for later? :)

I have to admit to using a fair amount of breast pads in the early weeks....seems I had a ferocious let-down and enough milk to feed a small village....

Scratch mitts...I think I still have a pair in a drawer some where...how unbelievably unnatural and entirely useless...

Great post -- it should be published for every mother-to-be...

~brightest blessings~

Earthenwitch said...

11. Travel systems: we use ours as a seat for the witchling in the kitchen. That's it.

12. Bouncy chairs: about ten minutes into her first session, the witchling expressed a preference for the sling. Plus, bouncy chairs - s very low that they are so very easy to trip over.

Cave Mother said...

Amity - the midwives told us about the old fashioned alcoholic gripe water - probably could have done with some of that when my little one was newborn!

zooarchaeologist - interesting to hear someone who actually used breast shells

Earthenwitch - agree with both. We're thinking of selling the travel system. It sits unused in the dining room. And Cave Baby HATED her bouncy chair. In fact she has hated any reclined position since she was about 3 months old (hence my avoidance of car journeys).

The wife of bold said...

You are spot on cave mother and i am ashamed to say i did not learn my lesson after baby number one, i still bought into the whole "more stuff" better mummy philosophy. I think the baby walker was a big no no as all my girls were quick crawling and walking and hated being trapped in them, and my icandy pear twin travel system cost a fortune and is now sat outside covered in rain and it has been there for 2 months!

Anonymous said...

I dont know what breast shells are, and i def' dont like the sound of them!!

I am having a winter baby so have a few hats (already!!!) but thanks for all the other tips!

Dancinfairy said...

I've been given some hats and scratch mitts but as my baby is due in mid July I'm thinking it will be too hot for all of that anyway! This is a great post with brilliant advice, thank you!

Jessica said...

I love this post - what a terrific idea. I have a couple to add and will in a future post. I'll link back for sure.

allgrownup said...

Ha ha, this is totally inspired!! We had a scratcher, and he looked like he's done 10 rounds in the ring every morning, but you're right, scratch mits don't stay on anyway. Matalan and Pumpkin patch had the ingenious idea of putting "turn ups" on babygro sleeves: cannot be pulled off! Feel very strongly about baby toiletries: my young man is a bouncing toddler now, and since toiletries brought on the ravages of eczema at 4months old, we haven't used anything but water since. Even though he insists on swimming head 1st in muddy puddles, water still does just fine. I've never, ever "washed" his hair! and it's stunningly golden and shiny. Also agree on the pram thing, ours is in Nana's garage for her use only, we've not pushed him in it since 4 months, the sling is the clear winner, and now he walks a bit too! Breast pads?? Got millions of the buggers (presents, supplies) never leaked a drop. Only use was to stop my bras becoming stained with Lansinoh cream (which is possibly in my top 10 baby buys.)

Grit said...

absolutely right. we never succumbed to any of this stuff.

however we definitely needed a complete gym baby kit complete with bendy exercise poles, swinging giraffes and a lion in a hat (retail £129) useful for approximately two hours one afternoon. bargain.

Katherine said...

Even the Moses basket was a step too far for us in the end as we co-slept. It ended up as an expensive laundry basket! I must say though, I found breast pads a must. I had so much milk, I would leak copious amounts after each let down...I found it hard to cope with for the first few days as I couldn't really go anywhere without leaking. I discovered a well known brand of pad which gave me dome respite from changing my top half a dozen plus times a day (but, yeah, most brands are rubbish I have to say)

Pickle said...

AHH, i hate newborn bibs too. I can almost see a need for a bib now at 10 months, but, uh, i have a clothes washer, so i just wash his clothes. There's no way he keeps food in that little area anyways, he would need a sheet sized bib.