As annoying as it made me, I liked knowing about baby gear. My wife liked me knowing about baby gear. And I found, to my surprise, that learning about baby gear was forcing me to learn about babies themselves — what they like, what they dislike, what ages they grow into and out of certain behaviors. As the due date approached, I felt more prepared and less hapless than many of the other expectant first-time dads I met in our birthing classes, many of whom had outsourced the gear decisions to their wives.
And when my wife finally went into labor, three weeks early, I was ready. I drove her to the hospital confidently, well-stocked bags in tow, not worrying once about whether the car seat was properly installed.
Since our son’s birth, I’ve found that my interest in his gear has made me a better, more capable parent. I can field his pediatrician’s questions about formula types and nipple sizes without breaking a sweat, and I know exactly how many diapers to pack for a three-day trip. I’ve read the user’s manuals and watched the YouTube tutorials, and I can operate, clean and adjust the vast majority of our baby gear without any help. (No weaponized incompetence here!)
I’ve also become well versed in what gear not to buy. I’m a staunch believer that parents should spend as little money as possible on baby clothing, for example, and no money at all on things that are designed to be peed, pooped, vomited or spilled on, including bibs and burp cloths. (An old dish towel works fine.) I wouldn’t buy the fancy, Montessori-style wooden toys that are all the rage in Brooklyn and Berkeley these days. And while I don’t begrudge anyone for putting a priority on convenience, I think any parents who pay $300 for the Baby Brezza Formula Pro Advanced — a Wi-Fi-enabled, Keurig-style machine that mixes and warms formula bottles for you with the press of a button — should have their taxes raised.
Gear can’t solve every parenting problem, of course. It can’t quiet a colicky baby, teach a toddler to walk or help a picky eater clean her plate. And families that can’t afford tons of gear, or choose to spend their money in other ways, will no doubt raise perfectly healthy, happy babies without it.
But there is something satisfying about giving into the gear itch, just a little. Because gear is, frankly, tremendous. It represents our progress as a species — each pacifier, diaper pail and bottle brush an expression of the Promethean itch to harness technology to bring order to a chaotic universe. And for new parents — a group with plenty of chaos in their lives — having the right gear can help us feel more in control, less at fate’s mercy.