Ask anyone to tell you the most essential baby items and they are bound to include the following:
2. Car seat
4. Changing table
5. Baby bath
It often seems that having a baby without any of these items is impossible, without realising that for many generations mothers (and fathers) did in fact survive with just a swaddling cloth and knitted booties.
Now, the reason I question these essential items is not because I think everyone should live an ascetic, caveman-like life . I very much enjoy living in the modern world and writing my thoughts on the computer instead of etching them into a stone wall with charcoal!
However, I do think that it can be worth rethinking some of our basic
assumptions about what we need. Having had a fairly nomadic, country-hopping lifestyle for around ten years I had to get used to sometimes doing without things many people take for granted: at times this was liberating, at times it was frustrating and at times it didn't make any difference. The liberating moments mean that I'm very opening to questioning so-called essential items before buying them.
Sidenote: Some of the crazy things I've learnt are that Americans are shocked that people still use open flames to cook and survive without dryers, Europeans can't believe that middle-class Brazilians live without hot running water and Brazilians don't understand how anyone gets their washing done without a scrubbing board and sink in the utility room...
So here's some food for thought about the top 5 baby items:
Cribs: probably the top item next to the stroller, although many families in the world survive without (like in Japan!) and rumour has it baby doesn't care where he sleeps as long as mummy is available around the clock. Alternatives include letting the baby sleep in the pram (if it has a flat bottom) before deciding on a definite solution or co-sleeping. In all of these cases of course safety is paramount, so if you do consider ditching your crib, please read up on these safe co-sleeping guidelines.
Car seat: this one is difficult since car seats are usually a legal requirement and nobody would want to jeopardize a baby's safety on the road. You might not need one if you don't actually own a car yourself, but I imagine if you rely on taxis at all you would have to get one as well. This is the one essential item I really can't find an alternative for and I find it quite depressing how reliant on cars our society has become.
Stroller: the red flag that shouts !parent! to every person on the street. Another questionably essential object as babies can simply be carried, bringing lots of benefits to baby and mummy or put in a special sling or carrier. Could perhaps be seen as an alternative to the car seat if you live in walking distance of absolutely everything (and who does?!)
Changing table: a dedicated place for changing baby's diapers, sometimes including straps and (my favourite) lots of storage space! Can of course be replaced by any flat surface (covered with a water-proof cloth if you like) - in fact the floor is especially safe as baby can't roll off. If you are dead set on doing elimination communication from the start baby's diaper might not even need changing that often but I imagine a nice high table is a must for anyone with back problems.
Baby bath: I'm not too worried about how my baby gets washed but I have heard reports that holding a tiny baby in slippery soapy water is terrifying, so I can definitely understand the obsession with this item. Alternatives include any plastic receptacle that can be placed on a sturdy surface, the shower or even the sink (careful with faucets!). I assume a regular bathtub would also work fine, although it might strain your back. What you definitely don't need is "an upright baby-bath" - come on, just buy a bucket!
Time to 'fess up: so far I've bought two of these essentials for the baby and will gladly admit that I will probably end up with four...but more on that later.