Babies don’t need fancy things | Catch My Job


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In the months leading up to the birth of my first child a little over a year ago, I often lay awake at night letting parenting worries swirl. Chief among them was a decision that seems trivial now, but at the time seemed crucial: What should our baby sleep in?

The best option, according to online sources I consulted, was the Snoo — a $1,695 “smart” stroller that responds to baby’s cries with soothing rocking motions. I could have accepted this recommendation and moved on; instead, I dwelt. Buying the “world’s smartest and safest baby bed,” as Snoo claims it is, seemed like a responsible choice. But generations of babies have slept well without Snoo, so we certainly didn’t need him. Then again, now that such a thing exists, shouldn’t I take advantage of it? But he was spending so much money financially irresponsible, considering my budget? And was that even the best option? Could it be something even better?

Almost every potential baby purchase has cost me this way. I studied reviews of strollers that sold for over thousands and dragged my partner to a big box store to sit in various nursery gliders, testing them for comfort and fit. Not sure which pacifiers or swaddles to get, I’ve added sample boxes to my registry so my newborn can try lots of options and gauge which ones she likes best. Obviously, the modern baby is a product reviewer in his own right. Before this, I found no need to scour the internet for the world’s best tweezers or the toaster to rule all toasters. But this time it felt different. I was responsible for another person, and even the bikie felt painfully consequential.

While people have always been able to consult their friends, retailers, and even product magazines, the Internet has introduced a new set of resources—such as recommendation lists, comment sections, and Amazon reviews—that tell you what to do and what not to do. t bui. We live in the age of optimization. For parents, the pressure is even more intense. When you have a baby on the way, shopping for a stroller doesn’t feel like just shopping for a stroller; it feels like a measure of your worth as a parent and your child’s future success—or lack thereof.

Steven Abelovitz, a pediatrician at Coastal Kids in Orange County, told me he’s seen new parent anxiety worsen among his patients in recent years. Parents may have always wanted to do everything possible for their child, but social media has amplified that desire while making the process of choosing what’s best more overwhelming. Almost immediately after I found out I was expecting, my Instagram feed was flooded with baby products. Videos for fancy diapers promised better sleep—a prospect that seriously tempted me during the height of my exhaustion, even though the diapers cost twice as much as Pampers. The website for one high-tech baby monitor claimed to allow parents to “monitor their baby’s health, well-being and development,” which made me wonder if I would be depriving our child of good health without it.

New parents are especially vulnerable to this kind of messaging, because raising children feels—and is—incredibly high stakes. Describing products as “necessary” or “necessary” can make parents feel like their children can’t thrive without them. Worse, it equates certain types of spending with responsible parenting.

Take toys, for example. After I got pregnant, among the first Instagram ads I saw were premium toy subscriptions like Lovevery, which claimed to deliver “stage play essentials for your child’s brain development”; the baby version comes every two months and costs $80 per box. Reading this, I immediately felt guilty for not having a kit. Other companies sold beautifully crafted toys sold as part of Montessori or Waldorf early childhood education schools, sometimes for more than $100 apiece. Reports from wealthy families showed items like these displayed in pristine nurseries, awe-inspiring me with a way of life that was beyond my reach.

The illusion that choosing a fancy toy (or any other baby product) could help your child appeal to many parents. “Companies know we’re stressed and play on that,” Haley DeRoche, a parent and TikToker known for making fun of toy commercials, told me. The products promise dazzling control over a process filled with uncertainty. Maybe I won’t be able to protect our child from bullies and climate disasters, or pay private school tuition, but a $96 debt? It is (more) within my reach.

The underlying assumption for many parents is that if they follow the right spending formula, they can ensure their child’s success — the idea that “if you just put in the right inputs, you’ll get the right results,” says Sarah Jaffe, author of You want the best: parenting, privilege, and building a just world, put that on me. Indeed, channeling generalized parenting concerns into a manageable focal point, such as choosing the right stroller, can offer relief, as can relying on the judgment of an expert (or even just an influencer or Amazon reviewer) when deciding what to buy. Someone has made a hard choice for us, at least in one small area, and it’s one less thing to potentially get wrong. Even the time- and energy-consuming work of sorting through reviews and lists of recommendations can feel like good parenting—a noble sacrifice in the interests of our future relative.

Most parents actually don’t they believe that smart purchasing decisions will overcome the systemic obstacles their children face. I certainly don’t. But that doesn’t stop me from fixating on small decisions. In this hyper-competitive economy, it can feel like there’s little room for error. Even those with financial security can lose their footing. And the stakes for buying the “wrong” thing are higher for those on a tight budget. A bad purchase is, after all, a waste of money.

But those worried that they don’t have the money or time to get what the Internet Hive has deemed top-of-the-line need not worry. According to the experts I spoke with, there isn’t enough research to say that fancy gear actually makes a difference in healthy baby development. Caregiver attention is much more important. Aside from making sure something is safe, choosing less expensive products won’t hurt your baby, whether it’s toys, clothes, or anything else, says Rebecca Parlakian, senior program director at Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of babies and young children. . When it comes to toys, for example, “the whole world is new.” [babies]Parlakian told me. “You can put a rubber spatula from the kitchen on the floor, and it would be the most amazing toy in the whole world for them, because they can touch it and they can swallow it.” As for the cradle or crib, Abelovitz, the pediatrician, said as long as it meets safety standards — as required of any new one sold in the United States — its price won’t affect the baby’s well-being. (This is assuming parents also follow standard safe sleep guidelines.) And while many people swear the right stroller has given their families more sleep, nothing can change the inevitable fact that waiting for new parents is like splashing ice water in the face. that newborns should be fed every few hours for at least a few months regardless of how well they sleep.

Of course, people may opt for certain products for other reasons, such as aesthetics, environmental concerns, and convenience. Fancy things can absolutely make daily care more enjoyable, but while they’re nice to have, most of them aren’t necessary. “I always try to ground myself in the long historical context of the human baby,” Parlakian told me. “We have been without these products for millennia. Even today, raising a baby looks completely different around the world. Many parents, for example, can manage without a monitor. Although American families may have two or even three strollers for different purposes, in many places, including major cities, even one would be impractical because the roads are not smooth enough. And in Finland, the government gives new parents kits with items such as a makeshift crib and a small snow suit — gifts that provide not only material support but also “comfort… knowing that every woman starts with the exact same baby box,” she writes. Abigail Tucker in her 2021 book Mom’s Genes: Inside the New Science of Our Ancient Maternal Instinct.

I ended up splurging on a few things, like a lightweight nursery glider and a super-durable Uppababi stroller that cost hundreds of dollars, even though I bought them used. But I also found a lot of free or cheap items on local Facebook groups. I don’t regret buying our nicer baby stuff, considering how much I’ve moved on from them, but I’m not sure how much any of it actually helped, especially with what ended up being my biggest challenge: mass lifestyle adjustments. style of becoming a parent, navigating the pandemic and childcare affordability crisis. So while I don’t think I made the “wrong” choices, they just weren’t that consequential. No product could take away the darker fear that I would be a bad parent, which was what underpinned all my hand-wringing. If nothing else, though, the decision-making process was a lifetime of practice for the tough parenting choices that lay ahead—even those that couldn’t be solved by spending. Learning to live with “good enough”—whether that means my possessions, my own ability, or my child’s future—may prove to be one of the most important things I do as a parent, even if it’s a lesson I’ll have to learn again and again.


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