Oh Baby!

July 29, 2019

My wife and I are expecting our first child next month.  Along with the stream of doctors’ appointments and obligatory baby size tracking by week (comparing baby’s size to various fruits, vegetables, and even baked goods) we have enjoyed preparing to welcome a baby into our home.

At one point toward the beginning of the second trimester I was provided a learning opportunity when I realized we already had not one or two, and not three, but four strollers.  To me the pace of assembling our fleet seemed slightly overexuberant, but I was informed that it is normal to have multiple purpose-built versions of these modern baby carriages.  Admittedly, one was a lightly used model that my wife discovered through social media for an irresistibly attractive asking price.  It has since been separated from the rest of our collection of full size, jogging, and umbrella strollers for future use by eagerly-awaiting grandparents.

In what could be considered “nesting”, we concluded that the closet shelving in our future daughter’s nursery was inadequate for newborn supplies necessary in 2019.  With a robust internet search, followed by trips to Ikea and Home Depot and a couple of weekends, we are now fully organized and equipped to store all the clothing, plush toys, books, and of course diapers that come along with raising a young child.

Start-up expenses like these are just part of the economic contribution that having a child can make.  Recently the USDA estimated that middle-income, married parents will spend $284,570 to raise a child to age 18.  USDA’s estimate included food, housing, and essentials.  College education was excluded.

While parenting expectations seem to have followed an upward spiral, the practical number of items to even bring a child home has risen from the era of my own childhood.  Some like car seats are mandated for good reason.  Other items are just for parents to find adorable or convenient, and others are innovative products geared toward the safety and wellbeing of the child.  Some of the products that are currently being marketed to new and expecting parents include the Owlet Smart Sock to monitor your baby’s heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep; and the Snoo Smart Baby sleeper, which is a “responsive baby bassinet that boosts a baby’s sleep by combining gentle rocking with soothing white noise and snug, safe swaddling.”

Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University and mother of two, sets out to discuss and dispel myths of the needs of children in her book Cribsheet, A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool.  As a nonexpert on children and a data-inclined person I find her examination of the evidence to be a helpful pursuit of truth.  Oster examines the conventional wisdom and available studies and then walks through data that helps support or dismantle the consensus beliefs on questions such as: Do we need a wipe warmer? A bottle warmer? What should sleep training involve? And so on.

Only time will tell what our child prefers, and what other costs and lessons reside in our future. We look forward to welcoming our little girl and enjoying long walks using each of our several strollers.

Cam Simonds