a meditation on useless baby gear

sometimes i sleep like a rock, & sometimes i have really bad insomnia. it doesn’t help that the baby has decided that my bladder makes a really nice ottoman. i got up five times last night to pee, which is pretty typical at this point. i know this is one of the most routine & mundane pregnancy symptoms, but i kind of hoped it was another one that people were exaggerating a little (see previous post about the woman who is constantly pissing herself due to pregnancy). every time i went back to bed, i would start thinking about baby gear & what’s necessary & what’s a scam & how we can possibly afford it & where on earth we’re going to put it.

i’m reading a pretty good book right now called parenting inc., which is all about how parents get bamboozled into buying all kinds of useless junk for their babies. i love books like this! even though they pretty much all say the same stuff, & every single one of them devotes an entire chapter to debunking the marketing of baby videos like baby einstein. this book talked about the advent of luxury brands for infants, & the author specifically called out the stokke sleepi, a “sleep system” that can take your baby from birth to seven years as it can be transformed into a bassinet, & then a crib, & then a toddler bed, & then a kid bed, & then a pair of “stylish” chairs. i had never heard of this thing before & looked it up. & then…i admit it…started drooling. it’s not easy to find a non-ugly (read: plastic, augmented with flashing lights, built-in noises, & tacky mobiles) bassinet. & of course i got sucked into the idea that it can be converted for further kid use. i was all, “sure, it costs $700 but it’s an investment!” which is ridiculous. i too plan to use my bed for at least seven years & i would never spend $700 on it. don’t worry, guys, i’m not going to blow my entire baby budget on a sleepi. even though i did find a woman a craig’s list selling hers for $150. that’s how much a new ugly plastic bassinet costs & i vowed i’d never spend that much, but when it’s a $550 savings off retail price, your eyes start to cross & you start to rationalize poor decisions.

i have thrown the question out to parent friends: what do i REALLY need for my baby? what are the bare necessities, especially for a couple that plans to do some form of attachment parenting? how many onesies does the average baby require? how many cloth diapers are good to have on hand? is there any baby purchase you made that proved to be especially useful? is there anything you were led to believe you needed that wound up being completely useless?

one of the first answers i got was, “every mama i know swears by the sleep sheep, which is a little toy lamb that emits white noise & helps baby sleep.” um…that is like the definition of a useless piece of baby gear that parents are bamboozled into wanting because a) they think it provides a useful function (what parent doesn’t want to help their baby sleep, & will do almost anything to make sure the kid stays asleep once it’s down?), & b) it’s fucking adorable. but in no world can a sleep sheep be considered a necessity. i asked if my box fan or humidifier or air conditioner couldn’t achieve the same function, since i use them for white noise for myself. i guess the sleep sheep is helpful because it’s portable. toss it in the car seat with the kid & it’ll stay asleep even while you’re out running errands.

i don’t know, dude. people have been running errands with their babies for a long time & somehow they got by without a sleep sheep. jared said it should be called the “don’t wake up sheeple”.

a couple of other friends were like, “well, besides the necessities (diapers, onesies, crib), it’s also helpful to have…” blah blah blah. wait, what? since when is a crib a necessity? i had specifically asked what we need if we want to co-sleep, which by definition cuts a crib out of the equation. & even some moms i know who didn’t intend to co-sleep did anyway because it seemed easier in action, & their kids never used their cribs. one of them–totally not a crunchy earth mama at all–named her crib as her #1 most useless baby purchase. i read a book about “organic parenting” that went on & on & ON about how great it is to breastfeed & baby wear & cloth diaper & dress your little one in organic onesies, but it also listed a crib (& all its attendant matching bedding sets) as a necessity. how did we get to this point that otherwise thinking, hippie parents (way more hippie than me!) just roll with the idea that every baby needs a crib? get a crib if you want, but it’s not a necessity the way diapers are a necessity.

though i was telling jared about the american-made versus chinese cloth diaper controversy & how one buy USA cloth diapering mama went so far as to insist that if you can’t afford made-in-the-USA cloth diapers, you should let your baby go diaper-free & just hold it over the toilet when it looks like there’s a proverbial train a-comin’. jared said, “if you managed to time it right even like 60% of the time, that would be like a superpower.” i told him, “it’s far more likely that i would be really cocky about knowing when the baby needs to go & i’d whisk it off to the bathroom & you’d pop in like five minutes later to see how things were going & you’d catch me holding the baby’s hand in warm water.” so, according to some people, diapers are a bourgeois indulgence. but pranking your baby is forever.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

One thought on “a meditation on useless baby gear

  1. I stumbled across your blog after googling “sleep sheep is useless”. I am being haunted by the dang things. I received 2 at my baby shower, 1 from someone before baby, and then another one after baby was born. And every time, I return it. And everyone acts all weird like “But it was the #1 rated baby product! You cant hate it! You’ll rue the day you ever took a sleep sheep back to the store!”

    I still have yet to understand why I need a noise maker cleverly disguised as an Artiodactyla. We co-sleep, so nevermind that she doesn’t need white noise to sleep, I don’t want to lay there at night with it’s glassy eyes gazing at me being serenaded by a disembodied electric heartbeat.

    The sleep sheep wouldn’t be so bad if everyone didn’t act like it was some sort of necessity and that I’d die without it (oh ya, people act the same way about baby swings. My own mother chastized me for trying to sell the $99 motorized swing that my husband’s estranged dad bought us. Cuz there’s nothing better than listening to your child scream bloody murder as a metal arm swings them around to the theme song from the Nutcracker. Yay swing!)

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