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Crash Course

Five weeks in Parenthood 101 provides an illuminating take on what’s truly a newborn necessity.

Working in the children’s industry, you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised by the sheer amount of stuff that comes along with being a new mom. Think again.

Living in New York City offers many wonderful benefits, but a surplus of living space simply isn’t one of them. When I first found out I was expecting, I was determined to ruthlessly “edit” my son’s belongings—only the best items on the market would make the cut. And after working in the industry for five years and talking to retailers and manufacturers on a daily basis, I thought I had a pretty good grip on the most practical, reliable and just-plain-pretty products. Ha! My son’s room is stuffed to the brim with boxes-upon-boxes of baby goodies. I feel like Ariel in The Little Mermaid: “You want thingamabobs? I’ve got 20!”

One of the blessings that comes along with being a new parent is the way friends and family all unite to help, sending along a plethora of practical staples like diapers and wipes (and pre-cooked meals!) as well as gorgeous décor and clothing. It goes to show why gifts, gear and baby apparel continue to be the bestselling merchandise for many children’s retailers—and why our industry offers such a wide array of mommy “must-haves.” A quick search on Babies “R” Us, for example, reveals that the retailer sells around 100 different stroller and stroller accessory brands alone. And it seems like every month a new website like Cricket’s Circle or Lucie’s List pops up, promising to cut through the overwhelming clutter and provide the perfect registry advice for new moms.

But here’s what no one tells new moms about those must-haves: Your baby will have a pretty firm opinion regarding what he wants and needs, too.

My little guy, for example, refuses all bottles and pacifiers. He was born weighing almost 10 pounds, so he zoomed out of newborn clothing after a week. He was allergic to the organic diaper brand I listed on my registry. (Anyone need a giant stack of diapers?) He loves to be rocked when he sleeps—until last night, that is, when he finally decided he wanted to sleep in his bassinet. He hates swaddles that restrict his arms. And as far as I can tell, he doesn’t mind that we purchased a mid-price stroller without all the bells and whistles of the high-end models.

Moral of the story? It’s hard to predict what you will truly need until you’re in the trenches of new parenthood, learning what your little bundle of joy prefers. And as I’ve already discovered in just five short weeks, those preferences can change overnight. (So long Fisher-Price Rock ’n Play, hello Nuna Sena Mini!) What works for one mom may be completely superfluous for another, even if those moms lead a remarkably similar lifestyle. You can take as many online quizzes as you want, but it’s impossible to create a perfect registry. Just like—in a bit of wise advice my mother passed along after my inevitable panicked phone call—it’s impossible to be a perfect mother. The only true newborn necessity is unconditional love, and thankfully that’s a renewable resource.

As for children’s retailers, I’ve determined there is just one mommy must-have they should be sure to offer: A generous return policy.

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