Two Jews On Parenting: Baby Gear Dos and Don'ts

By Jeff:

After months of procrastination, we finally had a blowout garage sale a few weeks back. Against popular opinion and the opinions of the garage sale “experts,” we pulled in some serious dough (even though we didn’t start on a Thursday). And we got rid of a lot of crap. The biggest category of crap was baby gear. We had old stuff and new stuff. We had hand me downs and donations. We had stuff still in the box and stuff we used every day.
The mommy bloggers have taken the subject of baby gear to an extreme – with books and ratings and guides and YouTube videos. But who do you trust? Do you have to get the $1000 stroller just because you saw a celebrity in People Magazine walking with the same one? Do you have to get the baby carrier that’s made from organic Truffula tree fibers?
Don’t you worry panicked expectant moms and dads of the TC – let the Two Jews on Parenting guide you to some of the stuff you will actually use.
In my case, there were friends and relatives who beat us to the baby punch. And they all had different explanations for their choices in baby gear. From the “everyone says it’s the best” to the “it was rated the best in the book I read.” We took it all in stride and made our own decisions. The process reminded me of our wedding registry – and the sickening amount of serving platters we just had to have (FYI: we use the same 3 and the other 12 sit in boxes in the basement. They didn’t sell at the garage sale).
So for the sake of keeping this piece less than a Harry Potter book, we’re going to have 5 categories of products.
Without further adieu:

  1. Totally Worth It
  2. I Wish They Made This for Grownups
  3. Biggest Waste of Money
  4. Best Gift Received
  5. Product That Caused the Most Fights

Totally Worth It: Deluxe Baby Swing and Hospital Grade Breast Pump

Exactly why a fancy swing is worth the cash

Jeff’s Says:

The Deluxe Baby Swing.  Don’t skimp on the swing for it may save your sanity. We bought a super fancy one for my niece, “borrowed” it when our son was born, gave it back for my niece and nephew, and “borrowed” it again when our daughter was born. No cheap ass swing is going to make it through 5 children. And I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have that handy device ready to rock my babies to sleep.

Carin’s Says:

My Totally Worth It item isn’t even for the baby, it’s for the mom (because moms get to have nice things, too, dammit), and it’s a hospital grade breastpump. And Jeff is giggling because I said “breast” in the Two Jews column, but now that it’s out there, let me say it again: hospital-grade breastpump. If you’re planning to go back to work and continue nursing, you kind of have to invest in a good pump. I could write a whole post about pumping and how it’s like this microcosm of working and parenting: always trying to do more in less time, scrutinizing your productivity, worrying that it won’t be enough, that you won’t be enough, but that’s a different post. For now, I’ll say that after nursing two kids and having done this once with my sister’s old hand-me-down pump and once with this one, spend the money and go for the (liquid) gold.

I Wish They Made This for Grownups: The Deluxe Baby Swing

Jeff Says:

Seriously folks, who wouldn’t want to be gently swung back and forth while listening to nature sounds? Who wouldn’t want to feel weightless while drifting off to sleep? I’m sure it exists somewhere – a motorized hammock perhaps? I would sit there, stare at my kiddos, and dream of a gift card from Hammacher Schlemmer.

Carin Says:

Also the swing! I too would like to experience the rocking and the weightlessness, and our swing vibrated as well, and….zzzzzzzz. Actually, though, we didn’t have the deluxe swing like Jeff’s fancy babies. We got this as a gift when Henry was born and we LOVE it. It’s a frame your car seat snaps into rather than a full swing, so it folds very flat and slides under a bed or couch when not in use. It was also great because Henry would fall asleep in the car, so we could just carry him into the house in the car seat, drop the car seat into the swing frame, turn it on, and he’d stay snoozing forever. Miriam never did that – as soon as the car stops, she’s all “I AM AWAKE PLEASE ATTEND TO ME,” but I digress. If this came in a grownup size, I would buy two – one for work and one for the office.

Biggest Waste of Money: Any stroller that costs more than $150, and a wipe warmer

Jeff Says:

We had our first while still living in New York City, so our thoughts on this subject are a little warped. My wife and I invented a game – akin to Punch Buggy. Instead of Volkswagon Beatles, we would call out and proceed to punch each other at the sight of a Bugaboo stroller. Trust me when I tell you that the Upper West Side caused some severe arm pain for both of us. And on more than one occasion the mom (or nanny in most cases) would give me THE look as I screamed out BLUE or ORANGE while standing 2 feet away – not realizing the mockery in progress. Over $1000 for a stroller (and hundreds more for all of the accessories) was is so commonplace, a lot of regular folks must have undeniable stroller envy. Or in my case, I would just laugh.
I would laugh because those fancy shmancy strollers were typically poorly rated and reviewed. And I heard firsthand accounts of moms pulling out their backs lifting those Bugaboos into their Land Rovers. And most hilarious of course were the Bugaboo thefts and black market re-sale. So while we used a more moderately-priced stroller, we used the lightweight umbrella one much much more. And when #2 arrived, we were already living in Minnesota, so we got a cheap all-terrain one that can hold all sorts of crap.

Carin Says:

My co-author Jeff and I had a conversation about this one evening after a TCJewfolk board meeting, and while he harbors a creepy and inexplicable affinity for a warm damp tushy, we are going to have to disagree, because the wipe warmer got big thumbs down in my house. We received the wipe warmer as a gift, and we were psyched. We plugged it in, positioned it on the changing table, and within days of his birth, Henry showed his appreciation by projectile pooping (spraying, really) directly into it and then kicking it hard enough to send it clattering to the floor. The decorative light cracked and popped off, but we were not deterred. We were enthusiastic about our new baby getting to enjoy a warm tush. We cleaned it up and set it back on the changing table. And he did it again. And again and again and again. And by the time he was a month old, that thing was smoked. And here’s the thing: when we switched to plain, unwarmed wipes, his butt did not notice the difference. So I say it’s a waste (no pun intended). Skip this one.

Best Gift Received: The Baby Briefcase and Ergo Baby Carrier

Jeff Says: 

Normally I would put The Baby Briefcase into the completely ridiculous column. But when you have a child with medical issues (as we did), it sure came in handy for all of those doctor and hospital visits. Nowadays it collects dust – but for a few months, we didn’t leave home without it.

Carin Says:

This is a tie between an actual gift we received and something that we had to sign up for but was free. First, the Ergo Baby Carrier. My mother-in-law gave this to us when Henry was born, and 5 years later, we’re still using it for his little sister. We had other carriers – the Bjorn was hard on our backs, the sling felt unstable (when I walked, Henry whapped and flapped against my stomach), the Moby was just too much fabric for my short torso and I ended up sweaty and tangled in six yards of organic cotton, but the Ergo was perfect. It’s tough and durable, it distributes the weight across your hips rather than your back, and it adjusts easily so that Mike (who is almost a foot taller than me) and I can quickly switch between us. Love the Ergo.
Next, the PJ Library. Sign your family up and each month your child(ren) ages 6 months to 8 years will receive Jewish children’s books and music in the mail. It’s a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, administered and funded locally by different philanthropists and organizations depending on your city, but it’s free to you and it’s totally awesome. We’ve gotten CDs of music and books about holidays, but our absolute favorites have been the books about general funny Jewish stuff that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Raising Jewish kids I’m always trying to figure out how and where to incorporate Judaism into our daily home life and always having a new Jewish book to work into our bedtime rotation creates one more opportunity. Henry’s favorites: Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken and Fox Walked Alone. Do this. Your kids will be psyched.

Product That Caused the Most Fights: Baby monitors, and strollers

Jeff Says:

For kid #1, we used a fairly well-reviewed and basic monitor. It worked ok – battery life was terrible, interference was annoying. But it was fine. For baby #2, we decided to upgrade and I plunked down some coin on the top-rated baby monitor. This one could measure the room temperature and work as a two-way intercom. Cool, right? After just a few days of use, I found a bag from Babies R Us in my wife’s car with a new monitor – a video monitor. Poorly rated and twice the price. She claimed the better-rated one didn’t work well – and wasn’t loud enough. Phooey. Guess who won that battle? So my brand new and top-rated monitor got shipped over to my in-laws for the 2 days a week they watch the kiddos. And I was stuck with the video monitor – which is lovely except it becomes an inevitable distraction from life itself. Simple audio was fine for #1. It should have been fine for #2.

Stroller #6

Carin Says:

Okay, this isn’t a product, but a genre of products, and it hasn’t caused as many fights as some long-term good-natured ribbing, but here it is: strollers. Mike doesn’t get why we need so many strollers (he also doesn’t get why I need so many different pairs of jeans, but whatever). We have 5 (we had 6 but I gave one away).
But it’s not like I got them all at once – that would be totally ridiculous. It’s been an evolving stroller journey, filled with growth and learning. It has! First, we got the stroller that went with our car seat. An obvious choice. Everyone gets that one. But after Henry was born, I also wanted a jogging stroller. For jogging! So while I was on maternity leave, I bought one used on Craigslist. Except it was missing the rain awning, and while the woman I bought it from assured me I could call the company and they’d send one right away, that turned out not to be the case. So I gave it away to a friend who didn’t mind the lack of awning and I bought a different jogging stroller, whose awning has enabled me to do races on two different rainy spring days (purchase justified!).
We also needed a lightweight umbrella stroller for traveling, so we bought one like this, but two days into our first trip, Mike began complaining that he was too tall for the stroller (again, he’s almost a foot taller than me) and that it was hurting his back to lean over so much to push it, and I ended up bearing the entire stroller-pushing burden for all of our travels until we finally got this one on Craigslist. So that’s 4, not counting the first jogging stroller that we gave away. To be fair, I should really move that first umbrella stroller along, but I’m waiting until we do our own big garage sale purge next summer. Number 5 joined our family this fall, when we welcomed our fourth member, and we entered the ranks of People with Double Strollers. Wait, that doesn’t make it count as two, does it?
Jeff opened this piece talking about having to get rid of a lot of crap, so I’d like to close it with this truth: it’s fun talking gear, and I clearly appreciate shopping as a pastime (I like to think of catalogs as the quarterly newsletters of organizations I support), but you really don’t need a lot of stuff to have a baby. If you’re reading this online, chances are you aren’t living in an abandoned Port-o-Potty in the Alaskan wilderness. There’s a Target within a few miles and Amazon delivers (and if you sign up for Amazon Mom you get free Prime shipping!). What you need will find its way to you, and the rest is just crap you’ll eventually have to get rid of anyway.