A boob. A bed. Maybe a bottle? In the early days of my wifes pregnancy, I naively thought that was all a newborn baby would really need. After all, all they do is eat, poop, sleep, repeat. You dont need an arsenal of complicated equipment to deal with that, right?

Wrong. Our first child is due imminently and, despite my best efforts to escape the evil clutches of the baby-industrial complex, our tiny New York apartment is stuffed with weird stuff. Reader, I have a snot-sucker. Thats not a euphemism thats a real thing you use to suck mucus out of a childs nose. I asked a friend with kids: Seriously? Do I actually need this? She gave me a look a lot of parents have been giving me recently. Its a look that says: Damn, you really dont know what youre in for.

I havent just become a person who owns a snot-sucker. Im dismayed to say that I have become a person who knows far too much about the Snoo. The Snoo being a $1,495 (1,145) artificial-intelligence-powered bassinet that uses algorithms to respond to a baby fussing and rock it back to sleep. You absolutely need a Snoo, some people have told me. Its a huge waste of money, others have said. Its like the Marmite of baby gear. Just a hell of a lot more expensive.

While you may need slightly more than a boob and a bed to raise a kid, you dont need an AI-powered crib to be a good parent. In Finland, supposedly the worlds happiest country, new parents are sent home from hospital with a government-issue cardboard box for their babies to sleep in. (In the US, which has the most miserable parents in the western world, according to a 2016 study, youre sent home from hospital with a massive bill.) Nevertheless, being an expectant parent means being bombarded with ads that guilt-trip you into spending money unnecessarily. For example, we recently got a pamphlet through the post urging us to store our newborns cord blood in a private bank in case she develops a condition that can be treated with her own stem cells. The chances of that happening are negligible, but what if it does? If you dont cough up, you dont care about your kids life. The whole thing feels predatory and disgusting. Particularly as its far better to donate that cord blood to a public bank where theres more of a chance it may help someone.

Its not just the expensive cribs and the weird blood banks that get your head spinning, its the endless conflicting baby advice. Stick to a strict routine, or theyll turn into a monster! Dont stick to a schedule, or theyll become neurotic! If you let your kid cry it out, theyll turn into a sociopath who is incapable of forming secure attachments! If you dont let them cry it out, theyll never learn how to be independent!

For a hot second, I thought I ought to get into the baby advice business myself; it seemed like a lucrative career move. At one point, I decided to trial in-utero sleep training and then patent my amazing technique. Anyway, I got tired of that after about five days of playing the same song next to my partners belly at bedtime. Then I thought I would teach the kid the times tables while she was still in the womb. That plan was foiled when I realised, with horror, that I wasnt sure I could remember all my times tables. Now I have decided that the best thing I can possibly do to prepare for parenthood is just try not to worry too much and perhaps brush up on my times tables.

Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist.

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Our first child is due, and Im already in the clutches of the baby-industrial complex - The Guardian

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