When pregnant with my first child, my partner and I dutifully put together a baby registry by carefully studying the plethora of available products that promised to offer us a glamorous, Pinterest-worthy go at parenthood. We were showered with love and gifted generously. In hindsight, we may have been a little too focused on the aesthetic of what parenthood ‘should’ resemble, rather than acknowledging the messy truth. Now that we’re weeks away from the arrival of our second baby, we’ve learned which items are useful, and which are not. Here is how I would redo our registry knowing what I know now.
MUST HAVE: Multiple snot suckers
I had been hesitant to put a nasal aspirator on our list; the thought of sucking snot out of another being’s nose made my stomach churn. But after receiving one as a gift, we enthusiastically used it at every opportunity. So why would we need more? As our baby grew into a toddler, he also recognized the snot sucker’s value. Admiring the aspirator’s short length of tubing, he adopted the snot sucker as his pet “snake” and would cuddle it lovingly, making it impossible for us to pry it out of his hands. I know, I know, it is definitely NOT a toy… but seeing my baby care so tenderly for his own “baby” made my heart melt. Is it gross? Absolutely. Have I become immune to all things yucky since becoming a parent? I’m getting there.
PASS ON: A wipe warmer
The verdict is in: Wipe warmers don’t make diaper changes any more pleasant. According to all the experts I have spoken to (read: fellow parents), wipe warmers make for great paper weights—and that’s about it. Warm or cold, you grab whatever is closest when it’s 3 a.m., the baby is screaming and there’s poop running up his back.
MUST HAVE: All the swaddles
My partner couldn’t understand why we would need more than one receiving blanket. But it quickly became clear that they come in handy at every turn. The Canadian Paediatric Society offers guidelines for how to safely swaddle babies, though the uses we found for these blankets went beyond soothing our bundle of joy. Baby spit up? Wipe it with a swaddling blanket! Breast milk leaked? Fashion a swaddling blanket into a chic scarf. Forgot the wipes and the baby had a diaper explosion? Thank goodness we have a swaddling blanket!
MUST HAVE: Reusable menstrual pads
In my naivety, I never knew that those postpartum weeks would be as, well, sopping as they were. But my savvy sister, who works in the field of labour and delivery, kindly gifted me some beautifully crafted, locally made reusable postpartum pads. After getting past my initial apprehension, I soon learned their benefits: They’re soft, highly absorbent, and they don’t make that obnoxious plastic crinkling sound like disposable pads do. Plus, they were easy to wash; I threw them in with the loads (and loads and loads) of laundry I was already doing. They also come in a variety of pretty fabric patterns, which in turn made me feel pretty, too—an impressive feat for a sleep-deprived mom grappling with a major identity shift.
PASS ON: A baby comb
Our little one was born with a full head of hair, and my partner quickly became fixated on ordering a comb designed specially for babies. I can still hear the dismay in his voice when it arrived and he exclaimed, “Hey, this is just a regular comb!” Yup. And it did exactly what a regular comb does: sat on the dresser unused. Because if anyone has an excuse for a serious case of bedhead, it’s a newborn.
MUST HAVE: Postpartum underwear made to fit a grown woman
Similar to the reusable menstrual pads, owning some decent-fitting postpartum underwear never crossed my mind. Instead, I delegated my partner the simple task of ordering the cheapest pair he could find. It wasn’t until I arrived home from the hospital and begrudgingly threw away the disposable mesh undies (do they make underwear more comfortable than that?) that I realized his frugal find would fit the baby better than they fit me. These teeny, tiny panties had no stretch and I couldn’t pull them up past my knees. At the very least, they provided me with a good laugh—and then a cry, and then another laugh and… well, you get it.
MUST HAVE: Anything second-hand
I’ve noticed more online registry services providing options for requesting second-hand items, which is a great way to flag to friends and family that hand-me-downs are welcome. Babies and children grow and change very fast, and trying to keep up with their evolving needs can be very expensive. So it makes sense for kids’ items to be circulated like library books: borrow, use, and then pass them on. Also, to my dear friends who get hand-me-downs from my kids: I promise that stain is just from the time his clothes accidentally took a spin through the dryer with a brown crayon.
PASS ON: A diaper pail that overpromises
From what I’ve been told, a specialized diaper pail is an expensive way to get a strong whiff of eau de ‘toilet’ upon opening. And while these contraptions may be able to contain smells when closed, your room can quickly become perfumed with a Pepé Le Pew aroma each time a diaper deposit is made. Other parents have told me that a regular garbage bin with a lid is sufficient, as long as it isn’t left to…ahem, stew, for too long.
MUST HAVE: A baby carrier
I didn’t realize how clingy newborns are—they definitely don’t play hard to get! When I finally made the plunge and picked up a used carrier, I realized that I’d been seriously missing out. I could now have my baby safely strapped to me and get a cup of water for myself at the same time. No more would I have to place my baby in his bassinet and run to the tap while he wailed, leaving me with the crushing weight of guilt. If I’d just added it to my registry, I probably would have been a lot better hydrated.
MUST HAVE: Meal cards with a side of anecdotes
Gift cards for food can be a lifesaver during those first few sleepless weeks. Our brains were lost in a fog of exhaustion that made it hard to remember how to use a toaster. If gift-giving folks are concerned that a gift card for a meal might seem impersonal, then here is an idea that could be the cherry on top: Include written stories with the card about their own parenting experiences. Kicking back with a warm meal and a side of story time sounds like bliss! I want to read about the cherished moments that make all the tantrums worth it. I want to hear about lessons my loved ones have learned, and to feel validated knowing that I am not the only one who questions every parenting decision I’ve ever made. And I want to rest assured knowing that I’m not a bad parent when I go through the McDonald’s drive through for an ice cream and tell my kid that it’s spicy hot tea so that I don’t have to share (right? Right?!). As overly sentimental as it might sound, hearing about others’ parenting experiences and knowing that I am surrounded and supported by a community is really the best gift of all. Oh, and the fries are good, too!