Tools for a new project? Baby gear? What do these things have in common?
We have two kids, and several friends and family members had children soon after us. What I noticed is that there are common behaviors between shopping for new tools and shopping for baby gear.
A lot of ToolGuyd readers are at the age where they might be starting families. I figure that some commentary might be helpful, and those of you have already had children could chime in with your own advice.
The first thing to know about having a baby is that everyone will throw unsolicited advice at you. I try not to do this, but it’s a hard compulsion to fight. I’ve learned that it’s best not to argue; just nod and smile. Maybe some advice might turn out to be useful.
Hey – the same thing happens with tools. “Oh, you don’t want the 12V-class brushless drill, get the 18V-class 1000 in-lbs behemoth.” But I’m looking for something for small holes and #6-sized fasteners…
Mistake #1 – Buying Too Much
The biggest mistake that people make is in thinking they must have everything. For those with small tool collections, a new project can be an opportunity to buy a new tool, but one can also go overboard. The same is true with baby gear.
I only bought a couple of things – thankfully inexpensive ones – that we ended up not using.
Someone I know bought a Milwaukee cordless power tool combo kit a couple of years ago. Why? “Because their ‘man card’ required it.” That’s a mistake – buying tools when you don’t know what you’ll need or use.
I’ve seen this on deal sites before. A couple of years ago there was a Craftsman or Ridgid drill press heavily discounted. There were a few serious-looking comments that read like “in for one, now what can I use it for?”
Similarly, there’s baby gear that sounds good but ultimately unnecessary or unused. I bought a “diaper bag for dudes,” and never used it. When we traveled by car to visit family, I used a Milwaukee tool box. For shorter trips or excursions, I had an EDC-style sling bag.
Gimmicks and Gadgets
You don’t need a “baby wipes warmer.” Babies don’t like being changed, period. Having “pre-warmed” wipes aren’t really going to change that.
I thought we needed a bottle warmer. I bought one. I was cleaning it for its first use, realized it was a useless hassle, and so I returned it. Do you know how I warmed a cold bottle of milk or formula? With a small round glass food container filled with warm (or slightly hotter than lukewarm) water.
The routine was simple – wash hands, prep bottle, set a mental timer, change kid, wash hands, swirl bottle once if needed for more even warming, feed kid. Sure, you could use a microwave, but you need to be extremely careful about temps. Every child is different, but both of mine drank milk and formula heated this way just fine.
Just like new homeowners, DIYers, or hobbyists can be with tools, a lot of new parents focus too heavily on baby gear, gadgets, and what-not.
Is that gadget really necessary? Is there an easier way to do things?
That’s not to say that gear and gadgets don’t help, because they can. When we had our son, I bought a Pocket Nanny ($20 via Amazon), and it was great for keeping track of feeding times. My wife thought it was unnecessary at first, but then we both used it all the time. For our daughter, I used timers on our Echo device. Smartphone timers can also work. Using an electronic timer of any kind beats the hand-written log we kept when our son was just born.
Similarly, retailers and brands would have you believe you MUST buy their latest tool innovations, problem-solvers, or gizmos. Sometimes they will help you, but other times you’ll have a lighter wallet and a new paperweight.
Online Advice and Recommendations
Looking for advice online can help, but it can also be frustrating. But, this is true for just about everything, isn’t it? It’s hard to know which sources and voices can be trusted.
When buying infant car seats, for example, I saw a lot of recommendations for a larger model, with people saying the higher 35 lb weight rating is better. Then, I saw a mention about it being larger and heavier than the 30 lb-rated model, and that a lot of children grow out of infant carriers before they exceed the weight limits. So, we bought the “30 lb” model and it worked out well. I tried to pass this info along to friends and family, but no, the 35 lb-rated model sounded too good to them on paper. When they complained about the size and weight of their larger infant carriers, I refrained from an “I told you so.”
These days, you have to be even more cautious. Trust more in information and insights than opinions.
All Users are Different
Swaddle blankets? I perfected how to swaddle, but our son liked to free his arms, rendering my swaddling skills useless. We had to move to sleep sacks. The velcro ones for older newborns and infants didn’t work well, or rather they were an absolute mess to use, and so we ended up with simpler ones.
Babies have different preferences when it comes to bottles, pacifiers, and even milk and formula temperatures. There are some things they can adapt to, and other things that they will be stubborn about.
Trial and Error
Different tool users also have varying needs and preferences. It’s almost never “one size fits all.” Sometimes that means having to try different things.
Do you prefer chunkier cordless drill handles, or slimmer ones? Round screwdriver handles, or tri-lobed ones?
One of our kids liked Avent bottles. The other preferred Medela. Familiarize yourself with available options, which can be as simple as strolling through the aisles of a local store.
Did you know that there are different bottle valves (that’s not the right word, but I don’t want to trigger any work computer profanity filters), with more or larger holes for older babies? The starting size for a small bottle of one brand might allow for much faster flow than both starting and next-level bottle sizes of another brand. A look at the packaging will often tell you.
It wasn’t until I was 20 or so before I learned there were ball-end hex drivers. If you read ToolGuyd regularly, you might be more familiar with tools than most people. But do you follow baby or parenting blogs that regularly introduce you to new products? I didn’t and still don’t. Familiarize yourself with what’s out there.
It’s a learning experience. Nobody gets things right on the first try. Right?
Perception is a Bad Decision-Maker, Experience is Better
“I need such and such because…”
Back when I was a grad student, I had a friend who wanted to buy a DSLR camera. He knew I had one and asked for advice. “Why do you want one?” He thought it would make his photos better. I asked him how many photos he took in the past year or two with his current camera. The answer was “maybe 40 or so.”
I’ve known others who bought DSLR cameras and set them to “auto” with lackluster results. DSLR and mirrorless cameras require some time and effort to achieve the best results.
A different grad school friend wanted to get into woodworking, and was starting to build a list of tools and equipment he believed he needed. “What do you want to make?” He didn’t know. How can you buy tools if you don’t know what you’ll need or how you’ll use them?
Baby gear is similar.
I see people with huge diaper bags. Multiple diaper bags. They drag huge amounts of baby gear everywhere they go. Is it a perception thing, where new parents believe they’re supposed to be mules? I guess this might fit in with the mistake of buying too much.
After my wife’s maternity leave ended both times, I stayed home with our then-infants. Because of this, my habits and tendencies tended to dominate. I packed what I needed, and it fit in a small sling bag. I bought that bag for media events and work-related travels, but found a use for it between trips. I also bought a “diaper bag for dudes,” but ended up not needing it.
Different parents, different babies, different excursions, different needs.
Think about what you realistically need.
Reevaluate as needs change or you see from experience what might come in handy and what won’t.
It is OKAY to plan and prepare ahead of time for anticipated needs. It is also okay to learn from others, just don’t follow blindly, otherwise you’ll end up excessively tooled-up.
See Also: Using Any Tool is Like Changing a Baby’s Diaper
Bonus: Random Unsolicited Commentary
Note: I am a parent, not a professional authority. Following are only my opinions, use at your own risk.
In our experience, when our newborn son was crying, 90% of the time it was because he was hungry, at least until we learned this fact. That other 10% were “other reasons,” that we had to guess about, such as my parents’ in-wall air conditioner turning on and off overnight, or not being stimulated enough before driving home from a family visit.
You can learn to anticipate a baby’s needs with routines and signs. Good advice from a maternity nurse: if a newborn is crying because they’re hungry, you waited too long to feed them. “Rooting” is one of the most amusing things a newborn will do.
“You’ll never sleep again” is an exaggeration. Common advice is to “nap when the baby naps.” Routines help, especially at night. We were told not to let our son go more than 5 hours between feedings, which required us to rouse him at night. Changing him before a feeding was usually a good start.
Meet with a pediatrician before you have your baby. I’m sure there are sample questions online. The pediatrician doesn’t necessarily have to be affiliated with your hospital. Philosophies and practice policies, such as immunizations or how they handle “sick visits” can vary.
When you’re close to the due date, have a “go” bag. Our daughter was born early.
“A&D” ointment went on our babies with EVERY diaper change. It might be wasteful, but we used cotton rounds as an applicator. Putting it directly on the baby with a cotton round is more effective than applying some on the diaper. You could use your finger, but this stuff doesn’t wash off very easily. Also make sure to have a tube of “Butt Paste,” as you will probably need it at some point. Again, this is where strolling the baby aisle at Target can help.
Forget the “snot sucker” bulb that they send you home with from the hospital, buy a NoseFrida.
Mothers – decide if you want to do “skin to skin” or not. And if you do, don’t be afraid to ask maternity nurses for help. Dads – you can do this too, and it’s easy if you have a buttoned shirt.
Newborns won’t remember if you have to leave the room to calm down or collect your thoughts for a moment. You’re going to get frustrated, and a clear head works a lot better at resolving things. (Just like on tool-related projects!)
A guy’s guide to nursing essentials: Lanolin cream – be sure what it looks like and where to buy it, a clean finger (for breaking the seal if needed), the phone number to the hospital lactation consultant, and maybe know where your washcloths are.
Never leave a baby in a car seat on a bed or other elevated furniture. I’ve seen people scolded about this by hospital staff.
We didn’t see the need for a diaper pail early on, but a pail or diaper sacks are essential once a baby starts eating solid foods.
We had a small Munchkin diaper bag dispenser (~$5 via Amazon). If you’re going to change a newborn in any public place, spare others the smell. Do NOT dispose of a soiled diaper in a teeny tiny pediatrician’s office examine room. Uch! Double bag it, or bag it and take it with you.
A back seat mirror is a great thing. We had two Britax mirrors. I spent $20 and $16, not the $35 they’re priced at now. Is the baby sleeping? Are they okay? What are they doing? Some people like to have a parent sit with the baby, but you can’t do that if only one parent is in the car.
We saved money on the cribs by going with basic models from Ikea, and splurged on USA-made crib mattresses. If there’s an Ikea near you, do check them out. I liked their play mat, changing station (there’s only so many times you can change a baby on the floor before it breaks your back), and they also have decent baby toys.
This is the style of pacifier our hospital told us to buy.
Make sure you have a pot large enough for boil-sterilizing things like pacifiers and bottle parts, at least initially.
Different brands have microwave bottle sterilizer caddies. Medela steam sterilizer bags worked well for smaller stuff. Get a bottle brush, they’re cheap enough, and make sure you have a clean area for drying baby-related stuff after cleaning them.
Take photos, videos, and notes.
Don’t let your baby near your phone. My son reset my phone when he was ~18 months old and wiped out maybe 6 months of photos. I made sure Google Photos was properly backing things up after that. Luckily I had regularly texted a bunch of day to day photos to my wife.
On our first night home with the baby: “I can’t believe the hospital let us take our baby home. What do we do now??!!” But on that note, hospitals usually have some requirements before discharge, such as ensuring the baby has a safe and proper place to sleep, and that their first wellness checkup with a pediatrician is scheduled. They require the baby to be taken out in an infant carrier car seat, but won’t help you figure out how to do it. They might also require or at least advise the mother to take a class or two while they’re there.
Oh, one more thing – you can *probably* burp your baby a little firmer than you think. Ask a maternity nurse to show you how it’s done.
Being protective is necessary, regardless of others’ feelings. Oh, you want to hold the baby? Wash your hands!!
My baby gear buying days are over, even with the grand kids! Unless Makita/Milwaukee /Craftsman starts making baby tools…
While not for babies, a lot of brands do make/rebrand some toys. e.g. https://toolguyd.com/craftsman-cordless-jigsaw-and-other-power-tool-toys/
FWIW…the Craftsman ones are pretty poorly made. We got some for my son last Christmas and almost all the pieces have broken in some way. They look awesome and have cool features, but didn’t hold up. My daughter’s Bosch set is still mostly kicking 3 years later. For hand tools, get the wooden ones from Melissa and Doug or somewhere else. Every single plastic hammer and most of the pliers have been broken by our kids “fixing things.” The wood ones are virtually indestructible and haven’t yet damaged our house.
Yeah the craftsman chainsaw was broken in 1 day, while it looked cooler and had some features over the generic other model we had. The no name brand generic still works to this day, the craftsman one is in many pieces which can not be fixed even with my arsenal of real tools.
My oldest’s Bosch toy power tool sets have been inherited by his younger brother- I’m a big fan lol My only gripe is that almost none of the batteries seem to work on other Bosch toy tools from separate sets. We’ve probably got 3-4 different style removable Bosch toy tool battery styles, and it’s frustrating to try helping them sort them out of the toy box lol
Bosch also makes a kids workbench that comes with a ton of tools and accessories- but at almost $90 on Amazon that’s pretty expensive
We have a formula that is made with room temperature water. No need to heat it. We use bottled water, previously we boiled some and left it to cool down.
Also thermostatic tap is very useful.
Interesting read. ANd I think my kids are nearly the same ages as yours. I can relate too the absurdity of some of the modern stuff and toys.
However (and I have to phrase it this way on purpose) you are completely wrong about the bulb sucker from the hospital. get 2, and once you use it rinse it out – then put it in the microwave for 1 minutes.
(wifey didn’t want the idea of the nosefrida thing- shrug). We worried about all the reports of mold, germs . . . .. . . that live in those things. So I figured what would it hurt if it was nuked by the microwave which kills germs and such anyway. I did actually cut one open to check after 2 or so weeks of sitting – clean as a whistle. But no it’s not for everyone.
Just like you can live just fine without the bottle warmer device. you already have one it’s called a hot water tap, or a pot of hot water – or . . . . . .
Yes – yes you can indeed put tommy tippe bottles and caps etc into the dishywashy – yes it gets a touch cloudy – still safe. And get this – it’s sanitized. BUT you have to read the instructions and capabilities of your dishywashy. I got so tired of washing crap by hand. yes I used organic dishwasher soap but that’s not what I would call necessary.
etc etc. Great read. baby gadgetry is probably the bigger racket of most home products.
OH and put the kid in their crib in their own room as soon as possible – both of ours spent their first night home in their crib. No thingy in our bedroom for the first ____ months or ___.
With the bulb snot sucker, contamination was a concern, but it also didn’t work all that well for us. As I said, it’s all a matter of opinions. You get the bulb, and can get them cheap at drug stores or online, so they’re worth trying.
My son’s crib was in our bedroom for a while because the other bedroom was my office/workshop. When we moved, he had his own bedroom fast. Our daughter was in our room for a while, but was sleep-trained fairly quickly. I don’t remember her waking up in the middle of the night, at least not as an infant.
I was a hot tap interceptor pro lol got over cleaning that bottle warmer the second try. Just held my wrist under the running tap on hot, and threw the bottle under at the first flash of heat, too soon no problem, just dump a little out and splash some hotter water in it to bring it up, swirl liberally and test bottle temp regularly-easiest thing in the world.
Oh so many mistakes I can share…
Let me throw something out there that I DID do right and that has paid so many dividends. Take your kids everywhere all the time. This may sound like a stupid idea, but stay with me. When you do this, you realize that you don’t need to bring six different kinds of ointment and eight changes of clothes, etc. You bring some diapers, wipes, bottles and a couple other things. I used a small backpack. I learned that a big comfortable stroller is all we needed when leaving the house instead of a playpen, high chair, sleeping chair and more. You can buy so much baby junk, and you probably will. You just realize quickly that you don’t need 90% of it. Your parents didn’t have most of it and you turned out fine. (I hope)
Back to taking your kids with you. Our oldest always stayed home when one of us went to the store for anything and to this day the 12 year old doesn’t like to leave the house. Our youngest is almost 5 and since she was a couple weeks old, I took her with me every time I went anywhere, still do. She LOVES to leave the house with me for any reason. She’s completely game for anything no matter if it’s mundane or an adventure. Notice I said me. Yes, Dad would take the infant out without Mom. She pumped, so I had bottles. Other than producing milk, Dads can do anything Moms can do. Don’t EVER be afraid of you kids, LOL. If you are, you’ve lost.
And I thought the wipe warmer was for me! Works well in a cold garage….
Another note, I thought commercial video baby monitors were a total waste of money. Brother-in-law had one: it had awful video and sound quality and was limited to that display, when it actually didn’t have interference. We just put a $40 WiFi camera in the baby’s room and could access video and audio on our phones anywhere on our home network, as well as saying something to the child (e.g. when they wake from a nightmare). Just ensure that port is closed out from your router (not available outside your network) and also know what age to remove from the room.
And despite all the choices, some desirable products don’t exist…
like a small, maneuverable, affordable, two seat baby stroller. They’re either really wide (side by side) or really long (one after another), or weird (I remember seeing an ad for an expensive one that put the second kid like behind the other kids’ butt).
My compromise solution was the Marco Sky L , but it has no storage (so have to hang bags off the handles), isn’t super light (it’s made from steel, not aluminum), and isn’t available in the US (we bought it from a family who had imported it from Austria).
Kids are definitely different. I took my eldest everywhere in a Baby Bjorn carrier, but my youngest didn’t like it at all.
We have the Baby Jogger City Select. Great double stroller with a relatively small footprint. https://www.babyjogger.com/en-US/city-select%c2%ae
I have twins and a bad back. I tried a steel tandem and it was like driving a limosine.
Aluminum frame so it weighs only 19lb. Which is lighter than many single strollers.
It isn’t perfect, but it is narrow enough to fit through every door I have gone through. That is even with the larger wheels attached. But many stores like pottery barn and other places with things everywhere are often too narrow for this stroller. I would also say a long tandem would have a similar issue in this type of store.
We have a 1st gen so they have improved on some of the straps and things. This stroller has served us well.
I had to buy a larger wheel option. I don’t see that anymore, but maybe they are standard now.
It is the only stroller I have bought and will probably ever buy as the kids are almost 4 and they are can walk most of the time.
Its gotten some tears and UV fading, but it hasn’t broken even after being sandwiched between my truck and the garage wall.
Definitely looks like a good choice for you. I prefer the shorter length of the Marco Sky L or City Select, but both weight considerably more (looks like 27 lbs for Sky L, 29 lbs for City Select).
My kids have been way too big for strollers for years, but I still use my Sky L at the Farmer’s market; hanging bags off the handles keeps veggies in better shape than stacking up the bags in a cart.
This was very well written. Ive got kids and it’s all true. You should also add baby proof is a myth baby resistant is more acurate.
I was so against the wipe warmer, never got used, turned into a toy until the kids broke it.
Bottle warmers we used.
We have a rarely used double stroller that is just too damn big.
It all depends on the babies personality and things that make them comfortable. What worked for first baby doesn’t necessarily work for the next. First like the pacifier though wouldn’t let him have it till like 4-6 month, second had no need, Santa had to take the 1st’s pacifier just past 2yrs in exchange for gifts. Luckily we had them 14 months apart so never had to rebuy, mostly reuse and hand me downs.
Once you have the second things become much clearer and easier for most, except for my buddy who practically needs a uhaul to visit for a few hours and spends the entire time setting up and packing to leave.
I just started over. Have a 19yo, 17yo and 4 month old. Never had much of the trendy stuff or gear for the older two. Sprang for the bottle warmer at the house but out and about I stick it in a glass of hot water for a few minutes, same thing. He rides in an off road type stroller and I have a back pack for all his diapers, wipes, bottles etc.
Man I’ve forgotten a lot over the years but it came right back pretty quickly. I see friends and other parents that have every toy/gadget/gear/etc. and think……why? I complained about spending $350 on a stroller and car seat combo until I saw the $2000 strollers, again…..why? I’ve given up on pacifiers and crinkle toys, the dogs seem to think they are theirs so I’m just wasting money at this point. Baby is happy, mama is happy, guess something is working at this point.
I also second Madak88’s point, no such thing as babyproof, only baby resistant.
All good stuff! My youngest (of 3) is now 6 years old and we’ve been steadily reducing the load of baby gear. We still have some large car seats but they are on the way out. When you have 3 kids, you accumulate a lot of baby/young kid stuff just because you genuinely end up using it all so it becomes a real storage impact later on to give it away or recycle it.
The two most important tips I would give are the following (not tool related):
One (this was alluded to above) is that depending on your personality, at some point if you are sleep deprived because of a crying baby with tooth coming in or an earache, you might want to punish your child or yell at them in a threatening manner. You’ve got to walk away. Put your kid in the crib, let a family member know, and just leave. Whatever is going on probably won’t permanently damage the child but your anger could. I apologize if this is an inappropriate comment.
Two, if your routine changes due to say a sick baby having to stay home from daycare, this is NOT the time to try and multitask. Make it damn inconvenient to leave the car without the carseat. A baby in a carseat in the car should be respected like you would a welding rig or tablesaw, the cost of failure is too high.
Lastly, I love diaper wipes. I keep small packs of them in different places like my backpack, office desk, and cars. They are great for dealing with the small messes of life.
Never ever buy a cheap crib. We bought a Baby’s Dream crib that served 4 kids over 8 years and the last one used it as a toddler bed for 2 more years. Best $600 ever spent. Now we did go thru 3 mattresses, but they were cheap $40 or $50. The front of the crib folded down. Only had one child escape from it and it was the last one
Inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap.
The cribs we bought were basic (Ikea Gulliver with clear/natural finish), but made from solid wood and well made. It has two levels and converts to a toddler bed. My daughter is in the “toddler bed” phase, and will be getting a twin bed soon.
I spent more on the mattresses because 1) I wanted a brand that was made in the USA, and 2) I wanted a brand that was known to have little to no outgassing odors from the foam. Newborns and infants spend a LOT of time in their cribs, and so I was nervous about what the kids would be breathing in from their mattresses.
A lot of cribs cost more because they’re fancier, or have additional support levels. A basic crib looks basic, but if it’s from a reputable brand, it should be safe.
Drop-side cribs are now banned in the USA. Is that what you meant by “fold down?”
You have just reminded me how glad I am it is all behind me.!
I don’t think there is a worse set of products in existence than baby stuff. I’m glad I’m handy because nearly everything had to be modified, hacked, repaired, reinforced, or simply tossed out and DIY’ed from scratch.
Great advice all.
The biggest change for us between our 4 year old and 5 month old has been stupid stuff that we never could have imagined before our first.
A digital watch was key for my sanity this time around. With our first I was too tired to read my analog watch for those middle of the night feedings.
For keeping track of feedings we found an app called BabyTracker. We both have access to the same account and can update feedings, medications, and milestones. It greatly helps now that we are both back at work full time.
Find a carrier that works for you baby and both parents. Unfortunately our littlest guy only likes this weird carrier that is like a table cloth you tie around your body. I can’t for the life of me figure it out so my arms are often pretty tired.
The Bosch branded toy tools are awesome! Both our boys have their own sets and our 4 year old can swing a hammer better than most adults I know. He also has some Knipex alligators of his own.
Great timing for this post. Just had our second a few weeks ago and we’re realizing how much stuff never got used (wipe warmer) when the 1st kid was a baby. All good advice here but I’m shocked I didn’t see this yet…
My number one piece of unsolicited advice: buy things that will get beat up on Craigslist or FB marketplace.
Play kitchens, work benches and outdoor toys can be found for less than half the new price. Let the kids have at em, don’t worry about leaving the water table or little tikes car outside and when they’re done with them, donate or try to sell if still in good condition. I even found a 3x6ft activity table for $10 that would have cost $100 new. People just want that stuff gone.