The One Huge Item All Parents Need (That Nobody Ever Tells You About)

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father in tent with children

When my wife and I found out we were going to become parents, we immediately realized, despite all our clutter, that we did not have enough stuff.

Stuff is really, really important when you're starting a family. There’s even a scheduled event — a “baby shower” — that is entirely motivated by the larger community looking at expecting parents and declaring, “These amateurs simply do not have enough stuff. SHOWER THEM WITH MORE STUFF!”

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And so, being new to the parenting game, we embraced those urges and bought a lot of stuff. Car seats, crib liners, outlet covers, bottles, diaper bags, things to put inside the diaper bags, and so on and so forth. Some of that stuff was invaluable, and some … we never took out of the packaging.

But the one thing we actually needed was something no one ever told us about.

We got so much unsolicited advice about anything even vaguely baby-related — “Has anyone talked to you about the most baby-friendly dryer sheets yet?” — that we missed something painfully obvious. It just never occurred to us. We were just too busy testing baby carriers and organic burp cloths to realize it.

The one thing that new parents legitimately, desperately need is a new mattress. really, really good mattress. And sheets. And new pillows. Actually, a whole new bed.


Because, when you become a parent, your bed becomes the center of your entire world.

New parent sleep is, as you’ve heard, challenging. It’s fitful, uncomfortable, and constantly cut short.

Nothing in the world feels better than crashing onto your bed after hours of feeding, bouncing, and swinging your bundle of joy. It’s like finding an oasis filled with champagne and ice cream sandwiches in the desert every time you get more than five minutes of uninterrupted shut-eye.

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You will nap (or possibly co-sleep) with your baby in that bed. You will change diapers on that bed. Your baby might roll over for the first time on that bed (and, if you’re not careful, the baby might roll off the bed, but don’t tell my wife that). You will live on that bed.

So it helps if it's a good one.

I'm telling you this because I wish someone had told us.

When my wife and I became parents, we were still sleeping on the groaning, frayed-at-the edges queen size that I’d had since college. It sagged in weird places. There was an exposed spring head that would scrape your wrist if your arm draped off the right side, and it squeaked as if it was stuffed with live dolphins.

In retrospect, I can’t imagine why we didn’t buy a new bed the second we realized we were going to be parents.

Ultimately, I think we were just so obsessed with getting everything the baby needed that, somehow, buying a new bed felt like an indulgent purchase.

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That was completely wrongheaded. Because, when you’re a parent, your bed is not only a vital resource for trying to rejuvenate yourself for the next exhausting day, but your bed also becomes the center of your household.

Your mattress is your family room, your wrestling ring, your mutual sick bed, your favorite breakfast-in-bed spot, and your home within your home.

Beds don’t get their due as an essential piece of “baby” stuff. But I’m telling you, as a parent, you do NOT need electric wipe warmers or that uber-expensive brain-developing mobile to hang over the crib.

What you need is comfort, rest, and a relaxing place to bond with your baby. (And something that won’t shriek like the Psycho shower scene when you’re trying to roll away from your finally asleep infant to go to the bathroom for the first time in nine hours.)

I can’t guarantee that a new bed can deliver all that, but it will get you a lot closer than a jogging stroller or baby perfume can. (And, yes, that’s a real thing.)

New parents — heed my advice. Get a better bed and invest in your most valuable resource: sleep.

(Just make sure you throw a mattress cover on it. Babies are leaky.)

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Tom Burns has served as a contributing editor for 8BitDad and The Good Men Project, and his writing has been featured on Babble, Brightly,, Time Magazine, and various other sites.