In an episode of the Netflix series Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s character decides he’s hungry for tacos and dives into a Google morass of Yelp rankings and Eater write-ups to decide where to go. Once he finally arrives at the truck of choice, they’re sold out. “What am I supposed to do?” he laments. “Go eat the second-best taco?” It’s an apt jab at the world in which we find ourselves, both blessed and besieged by too many choices and too much information.
And as I discovered when welcoming my first child last July, the so-called “tyranny of choice” is magnified tenfold when a kid enters the picture.
First, there’s the gear. From bottles to car seats, cribs to carriers, each new item must be evaluated not only for its quality, cost and usefulness but also whether it’ll keep your vulnerable new charge safe from…where to start? BPA, SIDS, and accidents you’d never considered until staring at an oversized warning label 12 times a day. (I recall reading about sleeping options for newborns and finally deciding on the Fisher-Price Rock 'n Play, only to stumble across one parent’s Amazon review that accused it of making her baby’s head flat; just like that, I was back at square one.) Practical and philosophical choices seem to get bigger as time goes on: where will that baby sleep? Formula or pump? Go to urgent care or wait it out 'til morning? Suddenly the stakes are much higher than tacos.
In making these many decisions over the past eight months, what I’ve found most helpful might seem a bit radical: purchase items from stores, not online, and solicit advice from books and people, not Google. What a relief it was to abandon the virtual forums and walk into our small, local store where they stock exactly two types of strollers.
“Is there any real reason to spend so much more on the Uppababy than the City Mini?” I asked the sales clerk.
“No,” she replied with a shrug. Decision made. Is it the exact right stroller for our situation? I’ll never know because it’s the only one we have, and it’s good enough.
Especially in the early days of parenthood, free time (and free hands) to browse the internet are scarce, and Googling every question about a newborn can be a time suck. I've tried to make a concerted effort to consult either humans (my mom, sister, a few select friends, my parents’ group, or the pediatrician) or certain books (Heading Home With Your Newborn and The Nursing Mother’s Companion). True, these resources don’t have the breadth of the internet, but sticking to a few sources felt, and still feels, far less overwhelming. (That said, I’ve found a few online resources consistently helpful, such as Lucie’s List for candid gear advice.)
This idea of paring down is in line with how many of us are striving to live: with fewer things and less screen time. But not surprisingly, the power of the baby-stuff industry combined with the uncertainty we all feel as new parents can lay waste to a less-is-more approach.
Yet sometimes nothing can beat the internet in all its vast and motley glory. Recently a friend with a new baby texted me, “Is it normal for milk to come out of a baby’s nose??” I replied that I had no idea and asked if she had told her daughter a funny joke. A few minutes later, she wrote back, “Googled it and it seems normal. Phew.”
Born and raised in Seattle, Becca Bergman Bull is a writer, editor and new mom in Brooklyn.