Baby Shopping: From “Aww So Cute” To “What On Earth Is That?”

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Baby Clothes on the Bed, Ottawa, September 2012

Mark was born on October 12, 2012. These articles were written shortly before his birth (it was a great catharsis!) and document the nine months of pregnant where I was definitely not glowing. Up-to-date stories coming up as well!

Between us, I don’t know anything about babies. Please don’t report me to social services (yet).

Sure, I’m the first born of the family (my sister is six years younger and my brother nine years younger) but I was still a kid when they were growing up. Plus, it was in France, and it was a different era—same goes for Feng who grew up in China. None of us ever had a car seat, slept in a crib or wore Calvin Klein onesies.

And still between us, I only realized I was actually having a baby a few weeks ago. And that I should really start buying… I don’t know, baby stuff?

My mother had a head start and I strongly suspect she had started shopping when I was just a few weeks pregnant (or maybe even sooner!). When we were in France in August, she gave me a few oh-so-cute outfits and I gratefully brought them back to Canada.

And then I decided I would start shopping when the time comes. I’m a bit superstitious too, I guess.

But one day in August I woke up in the middle of the night and decided it was time for me to buy some baby stuff, because it was actually happening—the baby would be there soonish.

The only problem was, I didn’t know where to start. What should I buy? Where should I buy it?

Many women here sign up for a registry and host a baby shower, but this is a foreign custom to me and I decided to skip that step. After all, when we got married, we eloped and never asked for gifts or anything. Call me silly, I’m just not comfortable with the whole baby shower etiquette.

Online “Lists of things you need for a newborn” were so extensive and included so many optional items that I was even more confused. I mean, we do have limited space and a budget too!

So on a hot summer day, I headed to the shops to get some baby clothes. I figured that would be step one—babies need to be dressed, right? Zellers turned out to be a good place to start, and I bought some bath towels, blankets and a few outfits. It turned out to be harder than expected though, because everything seemed to be either blue, pink or yellow—apparently, everyone here knows the sex of the baby.

My second stop was a goldmine: Winners. While I’m not a huge fan of the store for women’s clothing (pants never seem to fit right, I guess there is a reason why brand names are so discounted!) it was a great place to pick up more clothes and a few basics, like bottles and toys.

I later discovered that Old Navy also had cute baby clothes (although a bit pricier). I drew the line at Baby Gap—I’m not spending $30 on a piece of fabric that will get peed and pooped on.

I also stopped by Babies “R” Us (there is “baby” in the same, they must have some baby stuff, right?) but I was kind of disappointed. The store is very expensive and employees aren’t exactly helpful. A lot of the stuff they sell are gimmicks—sure, everything is super cute but I doubt I need all that they advise you to buy. Plus the pressure to open a baby registry and outfit the perfect nursery was annoying.

When you shop for baby stuff, you step into a completely new world. You learn new vocabulary, from “onesie” to “playpen”. You discover brands you have never heard about, and accessories you don’t even suspect existed.

Shopaholics may like it—I found the experience stressful.

It’s hard to know what you will actually need, and some employees prey on your inexperience to make you shop till you drop.

Case in point: the bed. We looked at cribs (huge wooden beds) and playpens with bassinets. We were leaning on buying a bassinet because it was cheaper, lighter and easier to carry from one room to another. A lot of store employees tried to make us sound like bad parents: apparently, investing in a $1,000 wooden crib with Hello Kitty blankets is giving your kid the best head start in life (bonus points for buying the matching wooden dresser!).

We bought the playpen with bassinet. Again, don’t report me to social services. We will eventually get a crib, I swear!

All in all, we bought the basics and got the room more or less ready. We have clothes, blankets, a bed, toiletry and bath products and a couple of cuddly toys.

I can’t help thinking that stores will still be there once the baby is born, and that we can buy whatever miscellaneous we suddenly realize we need.

Meanwhile… all you need is love, right?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I was amazed seeing how connected we are on practical things like baby stuff concerning on not having baby showers and being practical with baby stuff. Let me tell you that I am waiting my third child and I can tell you that the first bed for my first two babies were playpen with bassinet. This is enough for them, at least for the first 4 to 6 months. Later you can by a Crib that could be also Bed. So when the baby is older, you don’t have to spend again in a bed.

    Most of baby’s stuff aren’t really necessary, just a waste of money, and as you said, while the baby is growing up you will find out what you really need.

    God bless your family

    • Thank you for your (experienced!) input! I agree, a lot of baby stuff are not necessary. And if needed, you can always buy them later, no need to buy everything magazines, websites and stores tell you to! Second-hand stuff also saved my life, I’m lucky to have friends who lent me essential items that are as good as new!

      When is your third child due?

    • Mais c’est génial, merci pour le fou rire du soir! C’est carrément vrai, je me retrouve bien là-dedans. On n’a pas acheté grand chose au final sinon une écharpe de portage et un petit lit. Poussette et siège-auto prêtés par super copine, et des fringues données ou offertes pour le moment, plus quelqus petits trucs de base. Même les biberons, on les a eu gratuits par Nestle!

  2. Yes, lots of shopping to do and sometimes we tend to get some pass-me-down clothings from relatives and friends because baby will outgrow their clothes very fast 😀

  3. The twins slept in their portable playpen during the first year of their lives. Same with the third one. They are all very good sleepers 🙂

    I bought all the baby clothes second-hand when we were living in Ontario; “Once Upon A Child” is a fantastic store where they buy and sell gently used baby and kids stuff… And I promise that it’s all in great condition (babies grow so fast!). Same for the cribs I later bought for the twins. I found them for $20 each through kijiji and they were in a very good used condition. Why spend a fortune on stuff that they won’t even remember?

    I still remember the looks of the couples in the prenatal class we attended when I said I bought everything second-hand… Someone had just complained that she spent $1200 on a double stroller for her twins (WTF?) when I had found mine for TEN TIMES LESS. Let’s invest more on they education rather than burn our money on useless stuff, shall we?

  4. This is so true! My husband and I have a beautiful wooden crib that his father bought for us… our daughter has slept in it once. She gets changed and naps in her playpen/bassinet and sleeps with me in the bed. Baby showers are a lovely sentiment, and I am truly appreciative of the one my aunt threw for me, but I never would have had one otherwise. I received many accessories I feel guilty for not using. Kudos to you for being practical!

    • I totally understand! Don’t feel guilty though, people like to welcome a baby with gifts, and it’s always hard to know what he/she will be using. I think it’s the same for everyone!

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