Why Baby Must-Have Lists Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be

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Must-haves for the new baby:

  1. Search Pinterest endlessly
  2. Feel guilty over every decision
  3. Search online some more
  4. Talk to all the people you have never met in your baby group to get their opinion.

Kidding aside, it’s crazy how many must-have lists are out there on the internet.

People always talk about “Mom guilt.” It’s associated with almost every parenting decision you can make. You feel it at the 1st birthday when you don’t spend your life savings to have an extravagant party for someone who doesn’t even know what day of the week it is, let alone that it’s their birthday… Now, I’m not knocking celebrating your child’s birthday; I think it’s important, but I also think it needs to be done within your means and in a style that fits with your life.

So, on top of being worried about the act of actually having the baby you’ve been waiting these last nine months for (not to mention the wait to actually get  pregnant, which is a whole other story), you also second-guess every decision thanks in part to the overwhelming amount of “advice” available at your fingertips.

Before my first child was born, I read all the lists I could find and talked to strangers on the internet about one of the most personal moments of my life: my pregnancy. Looking back, I feel a bit ashamed and silly. Why did I find myself turning to strangers on the internet instead of friends and family? With more people waiting longer to have children and how far people roam now, there is less of a sense of a village to raise your children in. When it comes to asking family, it can be hard; with so many changes in child raising over the years, it can make you doubt that they can answer your questions (when, in fact, they usually have answers that make your life a lot easier!). I have digressed a bit, so let’s get back on track.

Those ‘Must-Haves’ Don’t Always Work

A couple days ago, my son started playing with his musical giraffe — it’s one of those toys that plays music and white noise. It was repeated multiple times on “must-haves for baby” lists floating around the internet. It’s the first time he has used it. We attach it to the handle on his play car and it’s the radio… not quite what it was designed to be.

I tried it when he was a baby, but it didn’t do anything to help him sleep, and was very annoying – it must work for some kids, but not for mine, and what happens when it runs out of batteries and you don’t have any more? Why do we need to create a dependence on a white noise toy? Something that is marketed to make parents’ lives easier will actually make it harder in the long run when you find yourself dragging a white noise machine with you whenever you go away.

Another must-have item was a wipes warmer. Well, what happens when you are out and about and have to subject your child to a cold wipe? Or how about the extra time you lay awake wondering if the whole gadget will catch fire or something else drastic – as if you aren’t already worrying enough with a newborn to care for! If you want your wipes to be warm, just hold them in your hand for a few seconds to take the chill off. Or, if you’re like me, do the diaper change as fast as you can so you don’t get peed on and don’t even notice the temperature of the wipes.

The Only Way to Learn to Parent Is By Doing

Must-have lists offer comfort to parents: We can check off all the boxes (receiving blanket: got it, soother: got it, etc.), but once you’re done spending a fortune on all the “must haves,” maybe you only have a few that are actually a must, while others are nice to have, and some are never coming out of the box.

Giving birth and parenting is something that cannot be controlled. You can read all the books and buy all the things, but the only way to learn is by doing, which is scary. Almost everything else in life can be prepped for; tests in school can be studied for, you can predict outcomes in a new sport, etc., but when it comes to babies, everything is up to them, really.

To me, the must-have lists help with getting ready and doing all you can before baby comes. But just because they make people feel a bit better doesn’t mean they are actually helpful when baby is 4 months old and you are sitting in a nursery you spent hours decorating, and it’s filled up with boxes of baby things you’ve never opened and clothes baby never got to wear because newborn clothes were too small even at that stage. Then there’s you covered in spit up, wishing you could trade that warmer for a box of muffins.

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2 thoughts on “Why Baby Must-Have Lists Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up to Be”

  1. I love this! I have a similar post that just lists the baby essentials because I couldn’t believe some of the registry lists I was reading! But, you’re right that some of the items on my list may not be essentials for everyone. The baby is the boss! Love your writing!


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