Soft Equals Death

As noted many times, FutureBaby is due in July, which means we’re at the point in the process where we need to start acquiring, or at least registering for, Stuff. Of which there is a frightening amount.

Kate’s big on consumer research, so we picked up the Baby Bargains book that several people recommended (this being 2008, they also have a blog), and Kate has been going through it carefully. I’m more happy-go-lucky than she is, so I’ve been a little more casual about it, just reading the chapter-opening lists of essential information, and not the reviews of specific products.

I have to say, this has been the most terrifying experience since our little adventure with the first-trimester screen. It’s not just the sheer amount of Stuff, or the froofy crap (there’s a discussion of how to make your own window valences out of extra dust ruffles, and I’m like “Dust ruffles? Window valences? I didn’t sign up to be Martha goddamn Stewart…”), but the constant menace of DEATH!!! and DOOM!!!

The crib and bedding chapters were the worst. There are about fifteen reminders that soft bedding is suspected to be related to SIDS (“Sudden Infant Death Syndrome,” probably the best example ever of the Medical Naming Punt). There are constant reminders that allowing anything soft to come near a sleeping baby means CERTAIN DEATH!!! Don’t buy a soft mattress! Don’t put a quilt in the crib! Don’t put blankets in the crib! Don’t put multiple sets of sheets on your rock-hard crib mattress! You’re giving the child a fluffy stuffed animal?!?! What are you, some kind of INHUMAN BABY-KILLING MONSTER?!?!?!?

I’m like “OK! OK! I get it! Soft Equals Death! I won’t buy soft bedding, honest!” But then, I started thinking, “Wait a minute, why am I contemplating spending $100 on a mattress in the first place, if Soft Equals Death?”

I mean, isn’t that just wasted money? Why not avoid the problem altogether, and just put the baby down on the bottom of the crib directly? OK, maybe they’re designed to require some sort of spacer in there, but you know, we have lots of books, and none of them are soft. Or, hey, we can buy our baby bedding at Borders– an infant’s not much bigger than a coffee-table book, after all. We can just hit the remainder table in our local big-box store, and FutureBaby can nap the days away atop deeply discounted art books and unpopular ethnic cookbooks. There won’t be any danger of suffocation, and there’s a chance of acquiring culture by osmosis…

I think I need to find some new reading material.

11 thoughts on “Soft Equals Death

  1. I *do* recommend the book, though. The authors are good about saying, look, you don’t need this stuff, but if you insist, here’s how to not break the bank on it. And it’s been a really helpful way to manage all the information there: this you need now, those can or should wait; these features are important, those features are a waste of money or actively dangerous; these brands are reliable, those brands are crappy.

    I may still have hysterics in the baby-stuff superstore today, but at least I’m going in prepared.

  2. I must admit, my response to going into the store to register for stuff was “What do I need ANY of this for – it’s all just useless junk that will clutter up the house.” I think it was the hormones talking, but my husband did most of the choosing that day.

  3. The 1950s US polio epidemic was caused by Dr. Spock’s baby book. Creating axenic children precipitated every kid of medical and psychological woe in proximate and distal life – as it still does. Evolution created survivable humans. Stick a lambskin over a small waterbed at ~90 F, add a ticking clock. Peripheral containment. Hugs. Nobody cares if there are Calvin Klein diapers (and have cases shipped from vendor not individual packages from the supermarket).

    Let the kid roll in dirt and bloody other kids’ noses. You can’t go wrong with a civil servant.

  4. Well…baby #1 slept in bed with us for a year before we moved her to the crib, baby #2 preferred sleeping in his infant car seat but then slept in the crib or pack’n’play. A lambskin is a GREAT thing to have for a baby Uncle Al, but you need a few more things in todays modern world.

    I remember Baby Bargains from way back in those days (my kids have managed to survive to elementary school age!) and it’s OK, but the baby industry is overwhelming, especially filtered through pregnancy hormones! Here’s what you need:
    Infant Seat (Graco, whatever, with a 5 point harness)
    Snap’n’Go stroller frame or something similar (wait to get a bigger stroller)
    Pak’n’Play (with the bassinet–makes a GREAT toy box later on!)
    Gymini Mat

    Reading material? How about “The New Father” by Armin Brott, “Touchpoints” by Berry Brazelton, and “The Scientist in the Crib” by Alison Gopnik(sp?)!!


  5. we have lots of books, and none of them are soft

    Not recommended, if you want to use the books again for their intended purpose. Babies tend to … excrete … stuff.

  6. Except for certain safety related items that you should buy new, you can get a lot of this stuff at garage sales/Craig’s list. It is shocking what you can find for a tiny faction of the store price. Many of these things don’t wear out until they have been used by O(10) children.

    What wouldn’t I buy used? Baby seat and crib mattress (God knows what is growing in a used mattress) comes to mind immediately. We also bought the stroller new since we wanted a fancy one – I’m tall and most of them make tall people stoop horribly. I’d say pretty much everything else we have was either a gift or purchased used. Some folks have a huge advantage since they have friends/family with kids that can pass down a lot of stuff, but we had our daughter just as I was finishing my grad work and then moved for a post-doc when she was 2 months old. My wife went garage saling every week and it really paid off.

    Good luck with the baby stuff acquisitions!

  7. As long as you don’t let the baby physicist sleep on its stomach you should be fine (re. SIDS). The numbers dropped so much as to almost disappear when the Official Advice changed from “they must sleep on their stomach” to “they must sleep on their back”.

    Trivia: SIDS is correlated with schizofrenia in the family, for some strange reason.

  8. One of the best sources for bargains, at least for baby clothes, are second-hand sales that are fundraisers for organizations that rich people belong to. Relatively wealthy people generally buy good stuff for their kids, and usually don’t bother to re-sell it unless there’s a good reason like a fundraiser for an organization they care about. I know we found some stuff that still had tags on it, which happens more often than you’d think, because it’s easy to have a size-season mismatch that results in completely unworn items.

  9. Another Uncomfortable Question challenge for you. Some years ago, a scientist wrote a great essay after noticing that his baby consistently ignored all the fine baby toys, and instead much preferred playing with the dog’s toys. Being a scientist, this observation led to theoretical analysis, experiment, and publication.

    Turns out that the criteria for good dog toy and good baby toy are identical. (Durable and safe enough to withstand hours of chewing. Emits an amusing squeak. Etc.) Testing systematically, the scientist found the dog toys were uniformly either equal or better for _all criteria_, with the only really major differences being that (a) babies prefer the dog toys and (b) the dog toys are WAY cheaper. This forces anyone worthy of the title “scientist” to eschew all baby toys and instead head straight to the pet shop for all baby-amusement purchases.

    But the poor guy just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Just couldn’t. He kept forking over cash for baby toys and kept forcibly separating the vigorously-protesting baby from the dog toys, even though he knew it was objectively, demonstrably wrong to do so.

    So there’s your new Uncomfortable Question. AS A RATIONAL SCIENTIST, will you be able to take the ONLY LOGICAL PATH when (not if…, when) FutureBaby goes straight for the dog toys? You KNOW that just changing a store label doesn’t cause a magical alteration in the physical properties of a squeaky piece of rubber. But can you ACT consistent with this knowledge?

  10. Future baby is coming, oh yes it is on it’s way.

    If I can offer one or maybe multiple words of advice.

    Buy a diaper genie now. If you doubt the sense in this then don’t buy one and wait till birth+one month. At that point you can still buy one, however your nose may not forgive you. The genie also is a source of amusement when you empty it and find little diaper sausages linked together.

  11. The SIDS stuff, I don’t know… The big things I remember are, don’t use a second-hand mattress, and don’t have the baby in bed with you if you’ve been smoking/drinking. ISTR the biggest other risk factor was genetic. I’m certainly not going to argue with the sleep position advice, but a lot of the other stuff is simply common sense. If you’re small, and can’t control your movements, you don’t want to be sinking into the bed, or surrounded by things that can fall on you (why put toys in a cot at that age anyway?), or covered in blankets that you can’t push off yourself.

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