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Nine things new parents think they need and the more practical alternatives.

No, you actually don't need a 'pee pee teepee.'

new parents; baby; newborn; baby items
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Things new parents think they need but don't.

There's nothing like preparing for a new baby. The excitement and anticipation take hold and before you know what's happening, your baby registry is five pages long full of things you've probably never heard of. I've been there before, and now, four kids later, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are tons of things you actually don't need. It's easy to get carried away when everything is so tiny and cute, especially 'cause marketing around baby stuff is bananas. The following offers some alternative items to the ones you'll likely only use a limited number of times before practicality takes over.


Many of us have been there, standing in the baby aisle looking like we're smuggling an oddly shaped beach ball under our now-too-small maternity shirt contemplating between the many styles of pacifiers and different types of bottles. You'd be forgiven for spending an insane amount of money on bottles shaped like a deflated spaceship that guarantee your baby will never burp, when two weeks after they're born you find out your baby actually prefers the $0.98 ones from Walmart. Figuring out what you really need is tricky enough, so let me help you out. Hold on to your bellies or shiny new babies folks, this list might blow your mind.

Baby wipes.

Baby wipes from Amazon

1. Put the Pee Pee Teepee down and back away slowly.

Aside from the word "teepee" being highly inappropriate for non-Indigenous people to use, you can go ahead and take this bad boy off your baby registry. If you're not familiar with a "pee pee teepee," it's a cone-shaped item that goes on top of your little guy's business so he doesn't accidentally pee in his eyes or on the unsuspecting diaper changer. Here's the thing, baby wipes or a baby washcloth work just as well. When my boys were little I'd just throw a wipe over their baby business while I changed the diaper, and once the dirty diaper was off, it's easy to toss the used wipe in before trashing the diaper. Easy peasy and it's one less thing to put on your list.

Disposable diaper bags.

Disposable diaper bags from Amazon

2. Diaper Genies are unnecessary and it's easy to forget they exist.

I had such high hopes for my Diaper Genie as a first-time mom. They're so cool, you shove a dirty diaper in there and twist. That's it. It locks in the odor and makes a weird-looking segmented snake of dirty diapers. Alas, when your diaper pail is in one room and you're changing a diaper on a wiggly baby in another, most times the diaper just winds up in the closest trash can. So just buy some small cheap trash cans to put in different rooms and then empty them at the end of the day. There's only so much odor a diaper genie can hold and they only take special expensive trash bags. Save your money. Get some small trash cans and those little smell good bags to toss the smelly diapers.

Receiving blankets.

Receiving blankets from Amazon

3. You can buy a swaddler but you don't actually need it.

I know this might be a controversial statement, but honestly those swaddlers are really expensive and babies quickly outgrow them. You can do the perfect swaddle with a receiving blanket for a fraction of the price and just as much energy. You know how babies come all bundled up when the nurse brings them in from the nursery? Yeah, that's a really good swaddle that will give your snuggle bug the same coziness as an expensive swaddler.

Portable baby formula dispenser.

Portable baby formula dispenser from Amazon

4. You don't have to be fancy and get a Baby Brezza.

Honestly, I had never heard of a Baby Brezza until I had my youngest, so I'm assuming its a newer invention. They're certainly cool and also really expensive and unnecessary. These little doodads are like baby Keurigs but for formula. They hold powdered formula and water, you press a button and it supposedly perfectly mixes up a warm bottle of sustenance. The price tag on these things are about the same as a larger much more needed baby item, like a car seat-stroller combo. There have also been some concerns raised by pediatricians due to some bottles not getting enough formula added.

Take the guesswork out of it and just fill the bottles by hand. You can even put water in the bottles in advance and leave them out at room temperature and use a portable formula container to put premeasured scoops in. I know it's no Baby Brezza, but you'll be $200 richer and know exactly how much formula is going into your baby's bottle.

Bottle drying rack.

Bottle drying rack from Amazon

5. Your baby doesn't need fake grass to dry their bottles on.

Don't laugh, a fake grass bottle dryer is something that actually once sat on my kitchen counter. That's about all it did because I dang sure didn't use it for more than the first week. When you're sleep deprived, you want the easiest thing available and oftentimes that's the top rack of the dishwasher or the dish rack that's already on your countertop. The things we get suckered into buying is laughable sometimes. Besides it being esthetically pleasing, you don't actually need it and a regular bottle rack, in fact, works better because there are no removable trees holding the nipples.

Receiving blankets.

Receiving blankets from Amazon

6. Side eye anyone that says you need embroidered burp cloths.

Don't fall for it. Yes, purpose-made burp cloths can be super cute but they're literally used to catch baby puke. These things are too small to cover the area needed to prevent your back and shoulder from becoming a casualty of a little guy eating too fast. Remember those receiving blankets we talked about earlier? Yeah, they are much more absorbent and cover more of your body to spare you having to change clothes. Those flannel blankets are versatile. You can use them for swaddling, to cover a car seat or stroller, for burp cloths or even a clean area to change the baby on. There's no such thing as too many receiving blankets. I'll make it easy for you, grab a pack here.

NoseFrida.

NoseFrida from Amazon

7. Skip the bulb syringe and splurge on the NoseFrida.

The hospital will give you a useless bulb syringe that only the nurses know how to work, because I swear no matter how hard you squeeze the bulb you barely get anything out. Bulb syringes even come with many newborn essential sets. I'm sure they work, but they seem to take way too much effort for the little bit of mucus they pull out. Get the NoseFrida—yes, it's a little more expensive but it's worth it, even though it seems gross. I promise the hygiene filter that goes in the tube will spare you from getting baby boogers in your mouth. You can literally use that thing well into the toddler years until your little one learns to blow their nose. Can't speak highly enough of this thing and here's a link to it here.

Pack 'n' Play

Basic Pack 'n' Play from Amazon

8. Do you really need a Pack 'n' Play that turns into a rocket ship?

OK, maybe it doesn't turn into a rocket ship but some of those things are so outrageous that you might need to be a rocket scientist to put it together. Pack 'n' Plays are really convenient and a great investment for new parents, especially if you like to travel or have family out of state. You can use it so your baby can sleep in your bedroom until you're ready for the switch to sleeping away from your little one. Just try not to get distracted by all the bells and whistles and stick to the basics. A Pack 'n' Play with a bassinet is really all you need. It's much cheaper and you'll use the bassinet piece much longer than the ones that come with other parts.

Teething rings.

Teething rings from Amazon

9. Expensive teething jewelry is overrated.

Fancy teething jewelry is cute and has become quite popular lately, but babies don't really need it. They are perfectly happy with the normal water-filled teething rings or rubber ones that can be thrown in any diaper bag. They're tried and true, plus they're designed specifically for teething. While the jewelry is marketed for teething babies, doctors have warned that they're not safe enough to use for that purpose. Besides, having a baby is expensive enough, no need to add to it when you can pick up teething rings at just about any store for a reasonable price.

The idea that everything for babies has to be the most expensive top-of-the-line things is just marketing. When it comes down to it, babies need very basic things: a safe place to sleep, food, diapers and lots of love. Everything else is extra and you can be as extra as you'd like but it should never feel like it's a necessity. Your baby will love you whether you have the Baby Brezza or mix their bottles by hand, promise.


This article originally appeared on 9.16.22

Pop Culture

SNL sketch about George Washington's dream for America hailed an 'instant classic'

"People will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Seriously, what were our forefathers thinking with our measuring system?

Ever stop to think how bizarre it is that the United States is one of the only countries to not use the metric system? Or how it uses the word “football” to describe a sport that, unlike fútbol, barely uses the feet at all?

What must our forefathers have been thinking as they were creating this brave new world?

Wonder no further. All this and more is explored in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that folks are hailing as an “instant classic.”

The hilarious clip takes place during the American Revolution, where George Washington rallies his troops with an impassioned speech about his future hopes for their fledgling country…all the while poking fun at America’s nonsensical measurements and language rules.

Like seriously, liters and milliliters for soda, wine and alcohol but gallons, pints, and quarters for milk and paint? And no “u” after “o” in words like “armor” and “color” but “glamour” is okay?

The inherent humor in the scene is only amplified by comedian and host Nate Bargatze’s understated, deadpan delivery of Washington. Bargatze had quite a few hits during his hosting stint—including an opening monologue that acted as a mini comedy set—but this performance takes the cake.

Watch:

All in all, people have been applauding the sketch, noting that it harkened back to what “SNL” does best, having fun with the simple things.

Here’s what folks are saying:

“This skit is an instant classic. I think people will be referencing it as one of the all time best SNL skits for years.”

“Dear SNL, whoever wrote this sketch, PLEASE let them write many many MANY more!”

“Instantly one of my favorite SNL sketches of all time!!!”

“I’m not lying when I say I have watched this sketch about 10 times and laughed just as hard every time.”

“This may be my favorite sketch ever. This is absolutely brilliant.”


There’s more where that came from. Catch even more of Bargatze’s “SNL” episode here.


This article originally appeared on 10.30.23

Photo from Pixaba7

Having the courage to report to the police when things appear off.

When you see or hear an Amber Alert, what do you usually do?

Sometimes it's the middle of the night, and the buzz of your cell phone stirs you out of a deep sleep before you can silence it. Other times, the alert interrupts your favorite song on the radio. Maybe you wait patiently for it to end. Maybe you change the station.


After all, who hasn't wondered, "What are the odds?"

Sure, the alerts are heartbreaking, but what are the odds you'll bump into the missing kid? What are the odds you'll see the getaway car? What are the odds you'll be able to do anything about it? Turns out, better than you think.

Here are five stories of people who suddenly found themselves face to face with a kidnapped child ... and rose to the occasion.

High intensity situations require calm nerves and quick thinking. Kudos to these people for noticing the Amber Alerts at the right time and, in some cases, for having the courage to act right then and there.

1) 2-year-old Ronnie Tran was found when his baby sitter, John Tuong, saw an Amber Alert ... for Ronnie.

John Tuong had no idea he was baby-sitting a missing kid.

Ronnie was kidnapped by his 65-year-old maternal grandmother, who, along with an accomplice, had attacked and restrained his mother. She left Ronnie with a family friend, John Tuong, who merely thought he was baby-sitting his sister's boyfriend's son.

Tuong saw an Amber Alert on his phone the next morning and realized the kid in the alert was actually asleep in the next room. John called the police immediately and Ronnie made it home safe.

2) 6-year-old Kloe was taken from her bed on February 21, 2015. Thanks to a gas station employee, she was back home on February 22.

Kloe was abducted in the middle of the night by a family friend. After she was reported missing, an Amber Alert went out, which, luckily, was seen by a clerk at a local gas station. The clerk recognized Kloe from the alert and tipped off police that he had seen the girl, the man who had taken her, and the van he was driving.

The clerk's account helped police narrow their search, and Carlin was eventually stopped on the interstate by a trooper, some 300 miles from Kloe's home, and taken into custody.

Kloe made it home to her family safe and sound the next day.

3) Leah and Jordan's kidnappers' RV broke down. The cops that pulled over to help had just seen the Amber Alert.

Amber Alerts aren't just for bystanders, they're for law enforcement too.

After 3-year-old Leah and 4-year-old Jordan were taken by relatives of their mother, the kidnapper's RV broke down on the side of the highway. Two deputies stopped by the vehicle to try to help them get back on the road. Luckily, the deputies had seen the Amber Alert and recognized the kids inside the vehicle.

Both made it back home safely the next day, but who knows what might have happened had the RV not broken down or if the cops weren't on the lookout for the missing kids.

4) A stranger stole a car with 3-year-old Bella inside. Later, a quick-thinking bystander physically pulled her to safety.

Leslie and Bella pose inside her bakery, Mini Cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Leslie Fiet, used with permission.

A strange woman asked to bum a cigarette from Bella's father as he walked into the 7-Eleven convenience store. He gave it to her. Then, the woman jumped in the car, with Bella still inside, and drove off.

Later on, the owner of a local cupcake bakery, Leslie Fiet, spotted the car after seeing the Amber Alert and she heroically pulled Bella from the backseat.

"My initial thought was to call 911 (when I discovered the car) but then I looked closer and saw Bella was in a tremendous amount of stress, hyperventilating and crying," Fiet told ABC News. "I just dropped my phone and ran out the door."

She locked Bella, and herself, inside the bakery until Bella's parents and police could arrive.

5) A pizza shop employee on her break spotted 7-year-old Nicolas and followed his kidnapper until police could arrive.

Courtney was brave to follow the kidnapper; and it paid off. Photo courtesy of KRIS TV.

Courtney Best, who was working at a small pizza shop in Corpus Christi, Texas, saw an Amber Alert on her phone while on her smoke break. She looked up and just happened to see the vehicle in question, a white Dodge Avenger, sitting in the parking lot in front of her with a child inside.

She followed the car, while on the phone with police, as it drove away.

"Cause, what are the odds? What are the odds of me looking at my phone?" Courtney told KrisTV. "And I usually don't even look at Amber Alerts, as bad as that sounds. I look at them and I don't really pay attention."

Thanks to her quick thinking, the police were able to recover Nicolas and return him safely to his family.

According to Robert Hoever of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, about 95% of Amber Alerts are resolved within 72 hours.

Robert, who is Director of Special Programs at the NCEMC, told Upworthy, "You can definitely see a huge change in how fast children are recovered today. The technology out there today helps."

In addition to wireless alerts, his organization also partners to issue alerts via Internet service providers, search engines, Internet ad exchanges, and even digital billboards.

And, Robert adds, if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, with any sort of information about a missing child, call 911 before you do anything. Emergency personnel will be able to help you navigate the situation.

We see a lot of Amber Alerts go viral, which is great, but we don't often get to see the happy endings.

Sadly, not every Amber Alert ends with a reunion. But the more we share these alerts with our networks, the more people they reach and the more likely they are to be seen by the right people.

In the meantime, it's comforting to know that most of these kids eventually make it home safely.


This article originally appeared on 08.10.15

Sustainability

Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.


This article originally appeared on 2.2.24

Science

A study reveals the cheapest time to buy airfare

The average flyer misses the best deal by 15 days.

Taking a trip on the airline.

Everyone seems to have a theory on the best time to purchase airfare to save the most money. Some say it's right before take-off. Others will swear that prices are lowest six months before the flight. Well, now we have the truth. A scientific study was conducted by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Commission that found the best times to buy flight tickets to get the best deal possible.

When we actually buy...


DOMESTIC: 32 DAYS IN ADVANCE

INTERNATIONAL: 59 DAYS IN ADVANCE

When we should buy...

cheap deals, Expedia, ticket prices, domestic flights

Get your boarding pass ready.

Photo from Pixabay.

DOMESTIC: 57 DAYS IN ADVANCE

The ideal advance-purchase time for domestic flight to snag the lowest average airfare is 57 with prices climbing most rapidly in the 20 days leading up to the flight. On a flight that averages $496, it will cost $401 57 days before the flight and around $650 the day of departure.

INTERNATIONAL: 171 DAYS IN ADVANCE
For a ticket that averages $1,368, the lowest average of $1,004 happens around 171 days before take-off. On the day of, the price will be around $1875. Ticket prices begin to dramatically escalate 75 days leading up to departure.

(H/T Conde Nast Traveler)


This article originally appeared on 10.14.15

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin


A childhood game can go very wrong in the blink of an eye.

"You'll never get me!"

“Freeze! Put your hands up."

If you've ever played cops and robbers, you know how the game goes.


John Arthur Greene was 8 and he was playing that game with his older brother Kevin. Only the two brothers played with real guns. Living on a farm, they were both old hands at handling firearms by their ages.

The blast from the gun must have startled them both.

firearms, family, children

John Arthur Greene (left) and his brother Kevin.

Image from "American Idol"/YouTube.

“We were always extremely safe. They were never loaded," John said.

Except this time it was. And John's brother died in his arms while he watched.

It happens more often than you would ever want to imagine.

In federal data from 2007 to 2011, which is likely under-reported, an average of 62 children were accidentally killed by firearms per year.

Here's a chilling example from Everytown for Gun Safety:

"In Asheboro, North Carolina, a 26-year-old mother was cleaning her home when she heard a gunshot. Rushing into the living room, she discovered that her three-year-old son had accidentally shot her boyfriend's three-year-old daughter with a .22-caliber rifle the parents had left in the room, loaded and unlocked."

And the numbers may actually be getting worse.

With an increase in unfettered access to guns and philosophical opposition to gun regulations, the numbers seem to be on the rise. Here's how many accidental shootings happened at the hands of children in 2015 alone, by age:

gun safety, laws, research data on gun deaths

Unintentional Firearm Injuries & Deaths, 2015.

From January 19-26 of 2016 — just one week — at least seven kids were accidentally shot by another kid.

American Idol, guilt and sorrow, accidental shootings

Accidental shootings of kids in one week, January 2016.

If the pace holds up for the rest of the year, America would be looking at over 300 accidental shootings of children, in many cases by children, for the year. That's far too many cases of children either carrying the guilt and pain of having shot a loved one or hurting or killing themselves by accident.

John Arthur Greene has been able to manage his feelings of guilt and sorrow through music and by sharing his story for others to hear.

He told his story during an audition for the final season of "American Idol." He says music has helped him keep his brother's memory alive:

"Right now I lift him up every day and he holds me up. Music is how I coped with everything."

It's a powerful reminder. No matter how we each feel about gun safety laws, guns should always be locked away unloaded and kept separately from ammunition.

Our babies are too precious to leave it to chance.

Watch John Arthur Greene's audition for "American Idol" here:

This article originally appeared on 03.07.16