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Just the Essentials (What Are Those Again?)

Jenny Feldon

#2’s room is coming along nicely. Almost all of the office is gone, except for a few extension cords and some boxes of miscellaneous junk I need to find a home for. He’s got an (assembled!) crib, a new rug, a bookcase, a changing table, and really cute helicopter lamp. All the recycled items from E’s babyhood are in there, along with a blue thing or two that are all his own. And, of course, the aforementioned elephant doll I couldn’t resist.

Just the basics. Neat, sparse—almost zen-like in its simplicity. As much as I appreciated my baby shower for E (no idea how we would have afforded all that stuff without it!) it’s nice to be free from the tyranny of a gift registry. Some pregnant mamas love walking around a baby megastore shooting barcodes with the registry gun, but I found it overwhelming. My friends who had kids already all contributed their advice and opinions on the best pacifier brand, the correct dimensions for a hooded towel, the absolute necessity of a wipe warmer. Excited, gullible and utterly without a clue about how to take care of an infant, I followed their lead and registered for everything under the sun.

I agonized over that baby registry. Revised, added, deleted. Changed color schemes and bouncy seat brands. I read product reviews the way I used to devour Us Weekly. If the recommended amount of something was 3, I wanted 6. I hovered over my computer, obsessively refreshing the page to see if anything new had been marked “already purchased.” How much of it did I actually need? Turns out, not so much.

E came home from the hospital at just over five pounds. I had bottle warmers and sterilizers and adorable outfits with matching hats in size 0-3 months. But she was too little for anything but preemie sizes, and it was too hot out for hats AND anything that could be classified as an “outfit.” She was colicky and needed to be swaddled all the time. The only things I truly needed, I didn’t have: onesies and swaddling blankets. And itty bitty diapers.

As she grew, so much of that coveted baby stuff sat in boxes, gathering dust. I breast fed E, so bottles and sterilizers were useless. As it turns out, I’m philosophically opposed to wipe warmers—they don’t make those small enough for diaper bags or that plug into my car, so E needed to be able to handle a room temperature wipe. (Actually, I feel this was an important life lesson: sometimes things are cold. Learn to deal with it.) And every pacifier that was “the very best one” according to other moms got spit across the room until I stumbled across a plain old brand in the drugstore that E decided was acceptable.

So this time around, I’m determined to fall into fewer consumer traps and buy #2 only the essentials. Diapers, onesies (we already have the swaddling blankets,) a pacifier or two. And…what else? For every item that sat lonely and unused in E’s nursery closet, there was something else in my arsenal of mom supplies that I couldn’t live without. Maybe it’s the pregnant brain haze, or I’ve blocked out all the details from my days of total sleep deprivation, but I can’t remember anymore what those essentials were. We have a car seat. And a crib. And a diaper genie. What else do I really need?

I realize it’s different for every kid (part of the reason why even the best-intentioned mom friends can steer you wrong when it comes to a baby registry.) But I’d love to know…if you could pick just one or two baby items beyond the barest necessities, what would they be? I’m going to keep #2’s room as sparse and zen as possible. But everyone knows babies (and moms!) require lots of accessories on the front lines. Help me find the perfect weapons!