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    step away from the amazon list

    Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


    When you're pregnant, especially when you're pregnant with your first child, you're the world's most vulnerable consumer. You're a target for retailers, purveyors of all things teensy, pink and blue (and green -- with frogs -- if you're the sort of spoilsport who chooses to deny your baby shower attendees the personal fulfillment that comes with knowing whether to buy the onesie that reads Daddy's Little #1 All-Star Football Champion or the onesie with puffed sleeves and a glittery ADORABLE! applique). You have nearly ten months to daydream about the person you'll be meeting, and you want to make them happy. You want to make them so deliriously happy that you, poor daydreamy pregnant lady, will take "advice" from a website that suggests things you might like to purchase, you know, out of the goodness of its heart. Because It just wants to help.


    7 month pregnant, summertime me

    Preparing for a first baby is kind of like getting ready to welcome an exchange student: you can run all over town looking for Vegemite, hang up Australian flags and learn the most current slang, but odds are the kid will just want to take a nap and hang out with some nice people. I'm the first to admit that I fell prey to the buy-this-now mentality of preparing for parenthood. I wanted my bases covered, and who was I to argue with Pregnancy magazine, or that person's "must have" list, or the people I knew who already had kids? If someone had told me that all my kid really needed was an attentive, loving, present parent, a place to sleep and some diapers, I'd have been skeptical but grateful. Well, if I had it to do over again, here's what I wouldn't buy, and what I would.

    I Would NOT Buy:

    1. A bumbo. There's a reason babies that age can't sit up. Give it... like, a week and a half, oh wait? He's sitting up. Now he's walking. Just let the kid roll around for awhile and be developmentally appropriate!

    2. A bouncer. George hated it. He was not impressed by the "mid-century modern styling" or iPod dock. I wanted to hold my baby, and he wanted to be held. Nature's bounciest bouncer is a walking mama whose milk's just come in. I don't come with an iPod dock, but my rendition of A Bushel and a Peck is not too shabby.

    3. An infant car seat. We didn't -- just went straight for the convertible -- and never wished we had one of what we lovingly call "the buckets." When we went to a restaurant, we held George so he could be a part of the action and nurse if he wanted, while we ate. At the store, he was strapped to mama or papa. No flat head, no giant contraptions to accommodate in small eateries. 

    4. Any baby food making supplies. I got a food mill and special baby-stomach-portion-sized silicone freezer trays that were glorified ice cube trays at four times the price of the ones meant for water. You know what works for mushing up food? Forks. Your fingers. Popping something on the stove to steam or in the microwave to soften doesn't take long, and if my kid is freaking out, Ican'twait hungry, I should've been paying better attention to his cues. 

    5. Toys. You'll get hand-me-downs and gifts, and unless something really speaks to you like George's Waldorf teether doll (hates it) did to me, you don't need to buy it. If you know any older babies, see what they gravitate toward. See if yours takes an interest in anything, and if you can find something similar at a consignment or second hand shop.

    6. Brand new parenting books. With the exception of the Sears' Baby Book, I don't need to own any of the books I've bought. Borrow from the library, or, if you're a bibliophile like I am, check thrift store shelves for deals. 

    7. A separate sleep space (crib, hammock, pack & play). It saves money, and it's nice to sleep with your family. It also makes breastfeeding easier, and the store will still be there if, after the baby's born, he turns out to be one of those have-to-sleep-alone types. 

    8. Shoes. Why did I buy shoes? They were just so cute. Those tiny Adidas still call to me. They call, "we cost $30 and never fit your kid!" 

    9. "Normal" clothes. If I think about my ideal wardrobe, it would consist of things with elastic waist bands, made of the softest knit imaginable. Socks that don't leave marks on my calves. Shirts that don't bunch up at my armpits or pull across my back. Nothing that gives me a muffintop. Nothing uncomfortable, ever. Then, still, people would somehow always think I looked completely precious. Babies have that last bit covered, so don't try to stuff their little bellies into jeans no matter how cute they are or what a great clearance sale Gap is having. 

    10. Fancy cloth diapers. Don't get me wrong, here: I LOVE cloth diapers. Constantly buying things for someone to crap into would be unbearable for me. But, I bought a giant stash of Bumgenius at $16something a pop only to discover after a few months of use that -- for US -- they leak, don't fit that well and get stinky no matter how diligently I strip them or painstakingly I make my own detergent. The prefolds and consignment shop covers, however, that total around $4 per set are reliable workhorses.

    gratuitous newborn cuteness

    Now, onto the positive. DO Buy:

    1. An Ergo. Baby wearing saved my relationship with my son. He wanted to be in my arms at all times, and I was a frustrated, tired mama who could get nothing done between hourly, 30-45 minute-long feedings. George learned to sleep in the Ergo and it was like having a new lease on life. 

    2. A king sized bed. We didn't originally intend to co-sleep, but clingy daytime George didn't turn independent once the clock struck nine PM. We tried to make our double bed work until tax season made a new mattress a possibility. Every night when we all snuggle into bed, it still feels like a luxury.

    3. Our highchair. It's small enough to fit in our little kitchen, is all wood and inoffensive. It was also $60 (take that, Stokke). It converts into a little chair and table, and I love to imagine toddler George sitting there, helping himself. 

    4. Cloth diapers. Just not the fancy ones.

    5. A sling for papa. One he will actually wear. Nathan was able to bond with George by wearing him, and it's still their special, sure-fire nap time spot. 

    6. Dr. Sears' Baby Book. Even though some of my friends were attached parents, I felt awash in unsolicited, unhelpful advice when my baby was pegged as "needy," "fussy" or "high-maintenance." When I found Dr. Sears, and read that it was OKAY to sleep with my baby, GOOD to feed him when he seemed hungry rather than on a schedule, HEALTHY to keep him close by wearing him, it felt nothing short of revolutionary. Dr. and Martha Sears have solved so many of my "problems" just by encouraging me to follow my instincts to provide loving care to my child. 

    7. An iPod or Kindle or something to entertain you. Gazing at your beautiful newborn is great for awhile, but when you're nursing for eight hours a day, you need something to do so you're not frustrated, trying to hurry him up. 

    8. Good quality toiletries: body wash/shampoo, diaper cream and massage oil. Don't skimp on the products that go on your naked baby. 

    9. A few pretty, functional mobiles. I made ours, and the black, white and gray one that hung over George's changing table for the first few months was the first thing he smiled at.

    10. Nice nursing bras that fit you. Get fitted by a professional at Nordstrom or a local lingerie shop (NOT Victoria's Secret). Don't underestimate the difference this can make in your day to day. 

    magical Ergo

    We made a lot of mistakes and continue to buy things we don't need, but I hope these top and bottom ten lists help someone avoid the "Amazon recommends" trap that is so easy to trip right into when your eyes are starry and nine months seems forever away. 


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

    Reader Comments (25)

    Fantastic lists! I could hardly agree more! It's amazing how much stuff you can feel like you *need* when you're having a baby- stuff that ends up gathering dust. We have tried to be pretty minimal, and it has served us well.

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

    We had the same issue with a different expensive brand of washable nappies. Very frustrating, put me off washables altogether :(

    With 3 under 5 i don't need anything else to keep me entertained, getting enough time to breastfeed is more the issue! So no ipod or kindle here! Totally agree re bed situations tho!

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucy

    I love your lists! We had the bucket car seat and crib and a few fancy nappies, and since they were all handed down to us I didn't sweat the fact that we didn't use them much. I now regret buying any baby clothes brand new and at full price - what was I thinking?? It is so hard to grasp just how fast babies grow when you have your first.

    Also, what a cute photo of you 7mo pregnant! I can hardly see a baby belly at all. :)

    The part about being a spoilsport for not finding out the gender had me rolling. Talk to my mother-in-law about her disappointment over that one!

    We really did get rid of so much stuff we never used — and we were even pretty minimalist about stuff, refusing extras left and right. The babymill — never touched. The bumbo — our chunky monkey didn't even fit in ours. :) We did the convertible carseat, too, and it was totally fine. We got rid of all our baby-specific toys for this next one, because they were so pointless.

    I will say, we were NOT going to buy Mikko a bouncy seat — until we were at the consignment store and popped him in one for fun, and he immediately stopped fussing and was like, "Ooo…I liiiike." Yeah, we bought that one.

    Also? Cute pictures!!

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren @ Hobo Mama

    You cracked me up! And I love this post. I agree with you totally!

    Your list is PERFECT!!!!! I could have written this myself. I have a couple of friends who are pregnant for the first time and they are freaking out becuase of the pressure to buy, buy, buy! I have given them similiar lists of what to buy and what not to get suckered into. I will pass along your link as well. Helps to hear it from multiple sources! I love that you put a King Sized Bed on your list of "to buys." We bed-share and I would hate to not have all of the room a king size offers!

    amen, amen, amen

    also, I am so glad to know that G never used a infant bucket either! I am SURE you have heard my soap box more than once (like, 40ish times?) about those containers, and all the others too. I just finished up a post for a blog and gave similar advice about "baby must have's" being a huge crock. Boobs and diapers are about all you need. Love these lists.

    ps. just got Nolie down for her nap using ye old ergo transfer. We would be totally lost without our Erg.

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAutumn Baughn

    I bet there are a ton of people who wish they saw this post back when they were pregnant :-) The marketing toward pregnant moms is insane these days. I remember how overwhelming it was, and I would have been psyched to have this info back then.

    I couldn't agree more! With both lists. I can't believe the stuff we had with my daughter that we didn't need or never used. When I was pregnant with my son I knew we didn't need anything extra. Except an Ergo -- didn't have one with my daughter. Oh how I wish we had.

    And I REALLY want a king size bed :)

    I think I agree with everything on your lists, except I don't think I could go without a bouncy seat. That, in conjunction with my clear shower curtain, is the only way I get a shower when I'm home alone with the kids! We have a Bumbo because my friend gave me hers, and my 1.5-year-old loves to play with it. I bought one for my first baby but was never in love with it. I love your high chair! We have a Fisher Price one that hooks to a dining room chair, but I totally would've gotten one like yours if I'd known about it.

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

    Ha, definitely agree about the nursing bras. I picked up four at Target, cuz hey, they were cheap. Indeed. I found that when lying down with a nursing bra that is not "soft cup", it tended to stay firm when I moved. Not so good.
    Love your list!

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCatholicMommy

    Both my husband and I agree that our Ergo was the best piece of baby gear we bought. We use it every single day. The ergo saved our sanity, too!

    March 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

    I adore this post. Adore it. You've hit it spot on--the madness that takes over when we learn we're preggers (or that takes over others, like our families!). I haven't used an Ergo, though I am a big fan of babywearing. I think my husband would freak-out if I bought another carrier (hey that's part of it, right? Use what we have?) I'm totally reposting this on FB. Thanks!

    March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThomasin

    Fab list. I laughed a lot at Normal clothes...hahaha. Overall I pretty much agree.:)


    March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNev

    Great list! I'm passing it on to a few preggo friends.

    March 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

    I wish I'd had this list when I was pregnant. We didn't get a LOT, but we still got too much - looking back I wish I'd asked for practical gifts (a photographer, meals, etc.), instead of registering for stuff I wouldn't need. Thanks for compiling this!

    I have to add one book that I refer to quite frequently: if your kid eats this book, everything will still be ok. (

    It's written by an ER pediatric specialist and it's full of helpful things like "that color poop is fine. Your child will live." and "ok, if it's *this* then you need to not pass go and go directly to the ER." I would have made many more panicked calls to the advice nurse and my mom if I hadn't had that book to flip through.

    March 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

    LOVE your title; it was so compelling and I found myself nodding in agreement with your list - all you need is a great big bed and a decent sling. Fab post, thanks mama!

    I found myself nodding in agreement with just about all of these! Except the bumbo. I loved my bumbo. :)

    This is awesome. We bought pretty much nothing for the baby till after he was born. I figured we'd waste less money if we could actually try stuff with him. That's how we discovered that the bouncy seat WAS a need (he loved to be where he could see everything that was going on) and what sort of high chair to buy (at Goodwill). All we had before he was born was diapers, my Moby, and a ton of clothes that people had bought for him.

    March 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

    Awesome post! I could not agree more, ESPECIALLY on the Ergo and the convertible car seat. And a sling/carrier/whatever for Dad! More lists should stress that one: each parent should have a carrier that fits his or her style and body type. We ended up with two Ergos, because it meant that we each always had one adjusted to our size.

    March 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNoelle {Baby in Broad}

    I can probably fill 10 or more boxes with all the useless stuff we have! Totally agree on the Bumbo (it's cute but pretty useless and expensive to boot!)...and I love how you describe "normal" clothes! I always dress my kiddos in elastic band, loose cotton pants and comfy shirts...doesn't mean they can't be "cute"! I used to always ask myself, "why would you put jeans with buttons and a zipper on a 3 month old!?"

    I did however get really good use out of our bouncy seat. It's not super fancy, but it did save me for shower time. For us the swing was a big waste of money!

    Love the pics too!

    March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

    I mostly agree with these suggestions, although we did buy and use a bouncer, fancy cloth diapers, and a bucket seat. In general, I would recommend that people wait to buy stuff until they see what they need. That way, you end up with exactly what you need and want, and not the stuff you don't. My first kid loved the bouncer. He napped in it very contentedly which was important because we were both working and we didn't have any childcare. I had a second bouncer at work that really came in handy because it was a place that I could put the baby down but I wasn't comfortable putting him on the floor at work. With kid #2, I rarely use the bouncer, but it came in handy in the reallly early days before kid #1 had fully learned the boundaries about being gentle and not trampling her. Also, it is great in the bathroom and allows me to occasionally pee in peace and also to bathe and helps at kiddy bath time too.

    We could have done without the bucket seat, but I don't regret buying it. I liked being able to get the baby all bundled and settled before heading out to the car. With my first, I also liked being able to carry a sleeping babe into the house after driving half an hour to put him to sleep. It made the transfer so much easier.

    I love the high chair recommendation. We had a similar chair with kid #1 before we moved and it was awesome. Ours was a similar design but about 50 years old.

    With my second kid, I am finding that almost no stuff is essential except for my baby carrier and diapers and the nursing bras and the waterproof mattress protector on our (king size :)) bed. I already have stuff, so I use it but most of it, I could live without.

    March 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

    What a great list...but I also could live without my bouncer. I still use it even though it sags to the floor while she naps in it. Don't judge! ;-)

    March 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee

    Damn, I'm going to lodge a complaint with George re: his refusal to love a bouncer. He must've missed the memo.

    March 27, 2011 | Registered Commenterstefanie

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