Posted: Jul 21, 2014 7:00 AM
 
From the moment I became a mom, it's been overwhelming. How's the baby's weight? Please enjoy this super-formal and complicated baby outfit. Is he crawling yet? Here, have 75,000 toys. Can I watch you nurse so I know you're doing it right? How much help do new moms and infants really need?
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The stroller. The car seat. A Pack 'n Play. A bassinet. Unsolicited advice and visitors. Swaddlers and wraps and burp cloths and booties. Toys that rattle and toys that crinkle and toys that teach foreign languages.

You'll likely buy or receive these and much, much more before your baby arrives, which will leave your house (and mind) cluttered and cramped. If you want to avoid the deluge of "stuff," I'll let you in on a well-kept secret: You don't need most of it.

Hats

You can read about the many reasons not to put a hat on your newborn here, but to sum up, unless you're going out in the freezing cold, a hat will do more harm than good. Baby and mom are built to regulate temperature as a team, and the intoxicating smell of new baby helps with bonding and recovery after birth. Stash those knitted hats away as keepsakes or Christmas ornaments… your baby doesn't need them.

Toys

Every seasoned parent knows the scenario: You pay $70 for the coolest new toy, and the kid is more interested in the packaging. Or you have a full-to-bursting toy chest, but "there's nothing to do!" Let me save you time and a small fortune. Your child needs very little in the way of toys. She will love plastic cups, pine cones, pots and pans, board books, crinkly leaves, mirrors, and of course, the best toys are Mom and Dad. You'll be amazed at your child's creativity if you keep the high-tech toys to a minimum.

Visitors

Your family is excited to meet the new arrival. Of course they are. But if you're not comfortable with a crowd in those early days, there's no shame in keeping visitations to a minimum. Often, the contractions continue for a few days after delivery (less frequent and intense, thankfully), and with both of my children, visiting immediately postpartum was difficult and stressful as I'm bleeding and cramping and being stitched up. Your comfort as a new mom is just as important as your baby's. You can ask that nurses not bother you at night if you're low-risk, and you can also request that only doctors and nurses enter your room uninvited. Communicate reasonable boundaries to your friends and family so they're not surprised to find that their visit needs to be short or delayed. It's OK, Mama. Be selfish with these first moments. You'll never have them again.

Baby food

With my firstborn, we did what we saw everyone else doing, and bought jars and jars of baby food. It was a fun experience but quite expensive. It was four years before our next baby arrived and in that time I did a lot of reading and researching of baby nutrition and feeding methods. So this time around, we're taking the much cheaper and laid-back baby-led-weaning route. All that means is that we let Baby sit with us at meal times, and when she started showing interest in food and gained a couple of teeth, we started giving her little bites of whatever food we were having. At 9 months, she loves bits of meat and cheese, gnawing on carrots and apples, but still gets most of her nutrition from breast milk. If you are determined to go the jarred food route, you can easily make your own by steaming food and throwing it in the food processor.

Play centers

We had a couple of these lying around in the basement from our first child, so we pulled them out when the new baby came along. However, I find that interest in these sort of toys doesn't last long enough to justify all the space they take up (and noise they produce). What she loves even more is our little cardboard box of toys stashed next to the couch. She climbs in it, dumps it, pushes it around, and on occasion, plays with the toys inside. Kids love boxes. Boxes are cheap. Roll with it.

To sum up, your house doesn't need to be flooded with baby stuff. It's hard enough keeping up with house work and a new baby… why give yourself more work than necessary? And if relatives shower your little one with stuff, just ask them to keep most of it at their house as a special toy to enjoy while visiting.

More on the first year

I wish you knew the truth about breastfeeding
How I had natural birth in a hospital
The dirty truth about breastfeeding in public

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