Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Newborn Gift Guide – Part 1

2/26/11 Newborn Gift Guide – Part 1
Originally at:

By Mike Shinn

Once you have gotten over the excitement of learning that you are about to have your first child, fear quickly sets in. One of the largest sources of fear is the lack of experience and equipment. Those of us lucky enough to have family and friends who are interested in purchasing nice gifts for us have the added pressure of needing to set up a registry. The alternative is accepting well intentioned, but horrible baby gifts. One friend of mine even received baby clothes made of felt, a material typically reserved for immobile dolls. Unfortunately the practical gift guide for newborns in Santa Barbara does not come complimentary with a positive home pregnancy test. To fill the void, I have prepared such a list for parents who may not know what's worth registering.

Diaper Disposal: Whether you have chosen disposable diapers or cloth, you will one day want to store this soiled material in a location where the stench and germs can be contained and out of your way. There are many models to choose from and they're difficult to tell apart. There is one large differentiating factor - the bag. A wise choice is the model that allows you to use a standard trash bag. Avoid the models that require proprietary bags or you will be paying again and again until your child is potty-trained.

Note: when you receive your diaper unit, consider placing it in your bathroom or near where your pets relieve themselves instead of a bedroom or kitchen. There's no reason to have multiple rooms in your house smelling of biological waste - even the best diaper disposal units smell a little after a few months. This is a gift that anyone can buy and everyone with babies will get a lot of mileage out of. Cost: $25-30.

Stroller: Many families will inevitably end up purchasing the big, expensive stroller. This is typically not done in haste, is expensive and can potentially even attach to your removable car seat. This is not the stroller that just anyone can purchase. Eventually, the time will come when your back will ache from having lifted your child and their stroller too many times. You will yearn for the convenience of a stroller but without the weight or car trunk space. The answer is a lightweight, inexpensive backup stroller. The price is right on these, and they serve as a perfect backup and transition stroller from the more expensive one. Cost: $10-20. Note: At this price, you're paying too much to bring it on the plane with you when you travel. Simply pick one up at your final destination and avoid the hassle.

Bath Water Spout Cover: I wish I had known about these fun items as a child and later as an adult. Some of us are a little clumsier than others and can bang their head or feet on the spout in the bathtub. This protects your body parts and those of your little ones as they learn to bathe, something that becomes increasingly important as the child becomes increasingly mobile. Cost: $5-15

Snap Straps: This little device is simple - a foot-long ribbon with buttons sewn in to it allowing you to strap anything to anything. Perfect for the baby who is learning to toss their bottle or pacifier in your car when they really intend to keep it. Strap toys, pacifiers, bottles hats, etc. to the child's wrist, car seat, stroller, etc. Later your child will learn to use it to snap toys to other toys. Sure, you could make them yourself with material from the craft store, but for the price it's worth getting them pre-made by a company that is focused on quality materials and an interest in keeping the buttons perfectly attached. Cost: $5-10.

Nesting cups: There are many kinds to choose from and they never get old. Stack them, hide them, nest them, sort them, or fill them with sand. There is no limit to their uses. They also make an excellent travel toy. I keep a set in the bathtub; both for bath play as well as to rinse the hair of my son. He doesn't like the rinse, but since it's also used as a toy, he doesn't see it coming. Cost: $5-10

Snack Trap: While your child until won't use this device until after they have learned to use their limbs, it will eventually become a lifesaver. Put small crackers, fruit or any type of snack into the cup and then push on the cover. Your children can then reach in and grab a small snack, one at a time, and feed themselves. This eliminates spills and lost snacks as well as teaching patience and the use of hands for eating. You will save money from not having to purchase as much food (especially when out of the house), so buy a few of them. Cost: $5-10

While there are some great items out there to register for, there are also things to avoid. I did a lot of reading in advance of my daughter being born, and kept a list of all of the potential items. Two items that I still haven't found a use for are tongue depressors and a hot water bottle. A couple of weeks before she was born, my neighbor found me these final items - apparently Santa Barbara's drug stores no longer carry them. I was very thankful but they still sit in the bathroom unused more than three years later.

I recommend avoiding a bottle warmer and baby wipe warmers. I am not implying that babies prefer ice-cold milk or a cold surprise during a diaper change. It's just that these devices are wasteful and inconvenient.

Bottle Warmer: If you use a bottle warmer correctly, you fill the electrical device with water to a poorly-etched fill line before plugging in, waiting for it to heat up, putting the prepared milk bottle in, heating the milk, then testing the milk to make sure that it's not too hot. Don't forget to unplug the warmer when you're done. Under ideal circumstances, this is inconvenient and needlessly complicated. At 2am with blurry eyes and a screaming infant in one arm while you try to operate the device in the other arm, it is useless. Instead, go the easier route - fill a mug about a quarter of the way with water and microwave for 25 seconds. Place the bottle in the warm water for another 30 seconds once it is out. You're not micro waving the bottle itself, so no need to worry about the milk getting nuked. Also, muscle memory on the microwave is surprisingly good under non-ideal conditions. Money saved: $15-40.

Baby Wipe Warmer: This simply isn't as much of a problem in Santa Barbara as it must be elsewhere. A cold wipe can be upsetting to a baby who is already upset from having to wallow in its own waste. Later, they will come to associate the coolness with cleanliness. For now, your newborn will expect a warm and gentle clean. Much like the bottle warmer, this device will take unnecessary time and delay your diaper change, potentially waking up anyone else in the house from the baby screams. Fortunately, we're all born with our own wipe warmers - simply rub the wipe between your hands rapidly for about 5 seconds. The wipe that was cold is now warm and without the need to add a power strip next to your changing table. Money saved: $15-25.

Baby Bottle Cleaner: We received several complimentary steam bags as well as advertisements for whole baby bottle cleansing systems when buying breast pump attachments. These items ranged from single-use to ridiculously complicated and expensive. Instead of going through all of this buy a thin brush, the kind you would use to clean out a thin vase. When you do your dishes at night, use warm water and light soap and clean out the bottles and nipples (and spoons and pacifiers and toys) thoroughly. If you bought the complicated cleaning system, it will tell you to do this step anyway, so you have saved no additional work in this purchase. Now that the items are visibly clean, boil up some water and give them a bath. A good soak in a rolling boil will leave your baby materials cleaner than the day that you purchased them - fully sterilized. I recommend using a drying rack when finished, but a paper towel will do. Money saved: $50-200.

If you are newly expecting, this guide should help get you started on your new registry. Congratulations on your child, the greatest gift of all!

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