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Friday, August 10, 2012

Rational Baby Registry - Part 4 - Baby Gear

A note on health: I do try to limit the toxins to which my baby is exposed, but I don't want to drive myself crazy so I am super anal about the toxicity of places where he spends most of his time (like his bed) and less worried about toxic things that he won't be around that often (like an outside play pen).

Here is what Babies'R'Us calls the "must haves" of baby gear:

INFANT CAR SEAT & TRAVEL SYSTEM, CONVERTIBLE CAR SEAT & BOOSTER CAR SEAT

Toxic: The more time a baby spends in a car seat, the greater his chances of dying from SIDS. There is no definitive proof as to why this is, but what scientists do know is that in a car seat, infants are scrunched up, making it more difficult for them to breathe and that car seats are highly toxic and famous for off-gassing. The wise parent will make sure her child spends as little time as possible in a car seat.

Health issue: Newborns are most comfortable lying on their backs. According to Dr. Emmi Pikler in Bulletin Number Fourteen, this is also the best position for proper muscular development. Any time a baby spends in a "propped" position, his muscles are forming and developing badly. So again, the wise parent will make sure her child spends as little time as possible in a car seat.

For these reasons, I don't recommend buying an infant car seat at all and especially not a "travel system". Infant car seats with travel systems are made so that you can strap your baby in and never take him out. You put him in the car seat in the house, take him like that to the car, drive somewhere, take him out of the car (still in his car seat) and click that car seat right into a stroller, go for a walk, let him doze in the stroller/car seat while you have lunch at a restaurant.... Your baby can spend most of his day unable to breathe easily and only able to breathe toxic air.

Only uninformed parents carry their newborns around in their car seats. For people who know better, for people who plan to only have their child strapped into a car seat while in the car, there is no point in purchasing both an infant car seat and a convertible car seat since all of the nicer convertible car seats accommodate newborns all the way through booster age. Not to mention, that if you are buying one car seat instead of two, you will have more room in your budget to get something nice.

As for the booster car seat--your kid won't need this for years. Why register for something so that it can sit in your garage gathering dust for three to five years? The laws may change by then!

What I did: When choosing a car seat, I looked for safety first. But, knowing that eighty percent of car seats are not installed correctly (which makes them useless), looking for a user friendly and easy-to-install car seat was my number two priority.

After much deliberation between the Britax Boulevard, the MaxiCosi Pria and the Orbit Baby Infant Car Seat, I decided on the MaxiCosi Pria. First I decided against the Britax because it has sweater-snagging velcro on the straps. I then decided on the Pria because I could use it for much longer than the Orbit (the Orbit seat went from 4-30 pounds and the Pria seat went from 4-70). So far, I have been very happy with this choice.

Note: The first lay-flat car seats are already on the market in Europe but are still illegal in this country. When they are legal here, they will be worth your consideration.

CAR SEAT CUSHIONING, HEAD SUPPORT, FULL-BODY SUPPORT, NECK WINGS & STRAP COVERS

Unnecessary! If you buy a nice car seat, it will come with all of these things built-in.

CAR SEAT ACCESSORIES: SUN SHADE, BABY MIRROR, CAR SEAT CUP HOLDER, CAR SEAT TOYS, CAR SEAT LEVELER

These are personal preference items. I did not buy any of them except sun shades for my windows.

ADDITIONAL INFANT CAR SEAT BASE

Unnecessary! Since I did not buy an infant car seat, I was also saved this expense. My husband and I considered getting two car seats, one for each car, but then we decided it was easier to just make my car the "family car". I keep my car stocked with the stroller, backpack, a change of clothes, diapers, a nursing cover, a picnic blanket, water bottles, etc. It's nice to only have to worry about the inventory in one car.

TRADITIONAL STROLLER, LIGHTWEIGHT STROLLER, ALL-TERRAIN/JOGGER STROLLER, DOUBLE STROLLER

Health issue: The best stroller for a newborn is one that allows him to lay flat.

Toxic! But even strollers that enable your baby to lay flat are made of highly toxic things and babies should not spend very much time in them, similar to a car seat.

What I did: I as given a very nice stroller that I used sparingly. For my next baby I will buy a lay-flat pram style stroller.

STROLLER RAIN COVER, NETTING & SUNSHADE

Philosophical issue: Babies do not need to be sheltered from real life. Our genes were passed on specifically because we could deal with the elements of the outside world. If you teach your child to be afraid or needy, he will be. If you teach him that a bug bite is no big deal or that he can solve the problem of the sun in his eyes, he will be independent and confident in his own abilities to handle life. Even tiny babies are capable of solving problems.

What I did: When I want to take my baby for a walk in the rain, we bundle up and go for a walk in the rain (without the stroller). I carry him and let him feel the rain falling on him. I have never worried about bugs or bug bites. My little guy and I spend a lot of time in the backyard and we often have bites. My stroller has a shade that can go down to protect him from the sun if necessary but most of the time I allow him to close his eyes or squint. I like to let him solve the problem.

STROLLER ACCESSORIES: MOMMY HOOK, CUP HOLDER, SNACK HOLDER, STROLLER TOYS

Philosophical issue 1: If you are going for a walk, go for walk. If it's time for a snack, have a snack. No need to do both things at once. That does not teach good habits. That teaches chaos and mindlessness (there will be more on my eating philosophy later).

Philosophical issue 2: Stroller toys?! For your baby, the world looks like a crazy foreign country full of sights and smells he has never seen. Looking out at the world is the only entertainment your baby needs.

ENTERTAINERS & ACTIVITY JUMPERS

Philosophical issue: The name alone should stop you from buying these. What a terrible thing to do to a baby--force him to sit in something that he can't get out of with a mess of toys in his face that he can't escape from even if he wants to. These contraptions are perfect for future Epsilons: prison with meaningless entertainment. They do not belong in the home of someone who believes in freedom and wants to raise someone who thinks.

Health issue: According to Dr. Emmi Pikler in Bulletin Number Fourteen any time you prop your baby into a position into which he cannot get on his own, you are encouraging poor muscular formation. Babies who strengthen their legs before their strengthen their cores will walk early, yes, but they will be clumsy and their posture will only continue to get worse as they get older.

What I did: I was given one of these. I sold it.

SWING: FULL SIZE & TRAVEL

Health issue: Propping your baby into artificial positions is not good for his health--from scrunched up lungs to improper muscular development.

Toxic: These are just as toxic as car seats.

Practical issue: Rocking babies to sleep--and especially by a machine instead of by a person--is a terrible habit to get your baby into. A baby who learns to fall asleep being rocked will come to need that in order to fall asleep. This means you will be getting up 5-10 times every night for months to rock your baby back to sleep every time he wakes up. Better to teach your baby to fall asleep without motion.

If you want to rock your baby to sleep because you enjoy it, get a rocking chair and rock your baby but don't hire a "machine nanny" to do it for you--and be clear on what you are doing: you are rocking your baby for your enjoyment. If your baby comes to need it because you have made it a habit and you no longer enjoy it, stop doing it. Instead of putting him in a toxic cloud that will give him a crappy body, teach him to go to sleep without motion.

Philosophical issue: When used as a toy, swings are noisy and overstimulating. They are active toys that entertain passive babies. This is not a wise kind of toy to have.

WALKERS

Health issue: See what I have said about propping and body development above or read Emmi Pikler's Bulletin Number Fourteen.

Philosophical issue: Maria Montessori supported walkers as long as the baby could use it volitionally i.e. no toy that the baby cannot get in and out of on his own. Magda Gerber believed that babies should not be encouraged to do things that they cannot actually do. If your baby can't walk--he can't walk. He doesn't need something to help him pretend he can. I am a big fan of reality so I am with Magda on this one.

BOUNCER (CHAIR)

Health issue: See what I have said about propping and body development above or read Emmi Pikler's Bulletin Number Fourteen.

Philosophical issue: When all a baby can do is lie on his back, that is all he should do. There is plenty for him to do on his back and there is plenty of time for him to sit when he is older.

What I did: One of these chairs was given to me. I removed the toys and used it as a chair. I put my baby in every now and then during a festive meal when I wanted him to be able to be part of the group and could not have him on my lap. I never used it to bounce him or as an entertainment center. I would not have purchased one.

PLAY YARD, PLAY YARD SHEETS & PLAY YARD NETTING

Practical issue: There is no point in putting an immobile baby in a pen. Once a baby is mobile, the pen has to be, at minimum, 4' x 4' for proper body development. For my thoughts on netting, please see the section on stroller netting.

Toxic! Most of these pens are made from toxic plastic materials.

Philosophical issue: Many of these pens come with built in entertainment. That makes this a toy which harkens back to--active toys make passive baby brains; passive toys make active baby brains.

What I did: A "pack'n'play" was given to me. Because it is not the proper size for a mobile baby, I did not use it and am still not willing to use it. I keep it in case I want to try using it while traveling. I will update this post if it ends up coming in handy! For now, I recommend skipping this purchase.

HIGH CHAIR, HIGH CHAIR COVER, EXTRA HIGH CHAIR PAD, SPLAT MAT & BOOSTER SEAT

Philosophical issue: Both Maria Montessori and Magda Gerber believe children should never be put in something they cannot get out of on their own.  Both recommend waiting until the child is really ready to eat (around nine months) and then providing him with his own child-sized table and chair.

My story: In the last decade I spent caring for other people's children, I found the whole high-chair feeding process to be loathsome. When my son was just starting to take an interest in foods (around six months) I let him taste things from my lap. When he could sit on his own (around eight months) I put him in a bumbo chair that was given to me. It sits on the floor where his own little setup will be eventually. Bumbo chairs are restrictive and not ideal but since I already owned it and didn't use it for anything else, I figured, "Why not?"

My plan is to replace my traditional dining room table with a Japanese style table that requires people to sit on pillows on the floor. Not only is this better for my body and all the bodies of every adult present, it enables children to eat with their parents in an easy fashion!

BABY CARRIERS: FRAMED, FRONT & HIP CARRIERS, WRAPS

Philosophical issue 1: Carrying a newborn (three months or younger) makes life easier on the parents in many ways and makes the baby happier but--

Practical issue: I cannot recommend doing it all the time as your baby will develop a habit and come to need to be afraid of being put down. There is a whole branch of parenting called "attachment parenting" that believes in never putting babies down. I will write an article about why this is founded on bad ideas soon.  Here is a snippet on what Magda Gerber says about these ideas: "There are sound physiological reasons why a newborn should not be held all the time. To begin with, he must adapt to his new capabilities outside the womb, by kicking, stretching, curling and uncurling his body.... I see lots of infants hanging on their mothers or fathers in carriers. The babies are cramped and confined [unable to move or exercise their muscles]...Parents often say to me, 'I want to hold my baby all the time to show him how much I love him...' A mature, evolved person shows love by respecting the otherness of the beloved. You become a good parent... by paying close attention to your baby... How often I see parents holding their babies, or carrying them in contraptions close to the body without paying the slightest attention to them."

Philosophical issue 2: Whether or not babies should be sleep trained before three months is a hotly debated issue. If you are going to sleep train him as a newborn, carriers are not necessary. If you plan to wait until he is three months old, a newborn carrier that he can nap in while you are out and about is useful.

Practical issue 2: Baby backpacks with external frames are useful if you like to hike. I have yet to find one that I find as comfortable as a backpacking backpack though.



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