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No Baby Products Needed
By Natalia Prokopenko

no baby products needed
Photo Natalia Prokopenko

Taking the New York subway is always an interesting experience, especially if you have a four-and-a-half-month old baby wrapped in a sling. By this point in parenthood, I was used to catching everyone’s attention: My son was quietly sitting in a sling, curiously studying his surroundings, leaning his head on my chest every now and then. It was September, still extremely hot and humid in New York. Najib had his shoulders open, without a top on and, to be honest, without any bottoms on either. Here in the U.S., it is called Elimination Communication and, back in Ukraine, where I’m from, there is no name for it. This is simply what we all do, or at least what our mothers used to do.

A woman sat down next to me when I began to nurse my son without getting him out of the sling. She said, “Is this how it goes now? You just have everything you need on you. Except for diapers… But, wait, I don’t see any bags with you.” Her eyes got wider when I told her that there was not even a diaper, because as soon as we would leave the subway, I’d take him to the nearest restroom and he knew that. Ultimately, she summed everything up by saying, “So you don’t really need much to have a baby, huh?” Here I was, somebody who used to work at today’s leading diaper-bag company that also specializes in everything that a parent or a baby will ever need, convincing this woman that all any baby needs is love from his parents and his mother’s breasts!

As a pregnant woman spending every day at the office where words like pacifier, diaper bag, bottle, baby wipes, stroller and so forth were being pronounced almost every minute, the least I can say is that I got overwhelmed. The information was coming at me in every direction, from work, family, friends, media and the street even, because there was a huge baby department store on my way from work. I couldn’t help wanting to go into this heaven of things that I and my baby should have.

The key word is wanting. All these companies are convincing us future parents that we should want these things for our children, by implanting it into our minds that our children need them. Nowadays nobody can even imagine a baby without a diaper on – disposable or cloth – therefore the baby will need wipes, some lotions, then, of course, a diaper bag. For the bath time, your baby will need bath seat, cloths, body wash, shampoo, toys, water thermometer, tub-side kneeler and so forth. Thinking how much we would have to buy for the nursery put me to tears.

When we brought Najib home, I only had cloth diapers in the house, a couple of t-shirts and swaddling sheets. Breastfeeding exclusively was just natural for me. Somebody got me a breast pump as a present and I had no idea what to do with it. Needless to say, it is still unopened in my closet. By holding my child, I began to understand that he only needs my arms, my breathing next to him day and night, and my breasts. I realized that babies don’t care about what they wear, what lotions we put on them or how fashionable their strollers are; as long as they are next to their moms and drinking the milk from their breasts, they are happy.

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I’ve never used a lotion on my son. I discovered that olive oil can do the job in the majority of all skin issues. We’ve never used soap or shampoo on him either, and his hair is always shiny. The temperature in his bathtub has been measured by my elbow and that happened after two thermometers – really cute ones – broke in a week or so. Instead of a bath seat, we used a folded sheet. Then as Najib grew, either I or my husband would get into the tub with him, which was always a joy for all of us.

Being with my child twenty-four hours a day and listening to him gave me an opportunity to learn how to communicate with him. The industry teaches us to deal with our own children through something – a baby monitor, a play yard or a crib while he or she is staring at the mobile with sounds of electronic-like music, or sitting in a walker or a bouncer. A healthy, true relationship should begin and grow steadily from when the child is conceived, not when they are sixteen and we have no clue how to deal with them. I understand that these companies are trying to make our life as parents easier, but instead of separating a parent and their child, creating a long-term relationship between them through attachment parenting should be the ultimate a goal.

Natalia Prokopenko was born and raised in Ukraine before immigrating to New York, USA in 1995. She received her degree in International Business from Barnard College, CUNY and worked as a model and marketing associate in the baby products industry before discovering her passion for mothering in 2007, when she gave birth to her son Najib. Natalia currently lives with her family in Princeton, NJ.

 

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