Behold, the baby superstore: so many aisles of fabulous things for you and your baby. I remember the first time I walked into one such store, newly pregnant for the first time, excited to take a peek at my future.

It was like being dropped on Mars. I had no nieces or nephews yet; my friends’ babies were admired from afar. This was a confusing new frontier. Bottle brushes and diaper genies? What are boppy pillows for? Were convertible car seats for convertibles?

I backed out of the store slowly. Maybe this trip wasn’t necessary. I had a crib and changing table; we’d buy a mattress and a stroller and be done with it, right? My more experienced friends shook their heads. No. Wrong. Because, you know, baby showers. People wanted to know what to buy for us.

Another visit to the baby superstore was required, and this one called for a mentor. A colleague accompanied me; we walked the aisles checking off items for my registry. Sweet crib sheets to match the yellow walls of the nursery, the stroller/car seat combination, the breast pump and its various accessories (and truly, every woman would benefit from a friend to explain this process). Those things, and a blur of other stuff, were added to the registry.

And then came the baby showers and the opening of assorted gifts. Our small house seemed to shrink under the weight of it all. I had to return some of it, create more space. Of course it was one of the smaller items that caught a good friend’s attention.

“You might want to return that,” she said, shaking her head, smiling and pointing at … the baby wipes warmer.

Baby wipes, basically the infant version of toilet paper, are a must-have during the diapering process. (Bonus: they are also great for wiping up minivan consoles.)

A wipes warmer takes things a step further, ensuring your baby has a warm, moist wipe every time. As one manufacturer claimed, it put an end to startling cold wipes that wake up a drowsy baby.

What could possibly be the downside to the wipe warmer? Okay, maybe sometimes the heating element dries out the wipes and makes them yellow and brownish. So maybe it requires electricity and outlets, but those are everywhere, right? What’s a little more power usage in the name of a baby who sleeps through their diaper change?

“Why would I return it?” I asked my friend, perplexed. After all, who wouldn’t want something that will gently warm the baby’s bottom and make both our lives richer and easier?

“Do you want a baby who doesn’t expect warm wipes, or a baby who’s only used to warm ones?” my friend asked. It was the classic “if you don’t know about it, you won’t miss it” argument.

She was not only one of my wisest friends, she was also the mother of a happy one-year-old. She didn’t sound judgmental or roll her eyes and snort at my inexperience. She just offered her best assessment of a piece of equipment that was brand new to me. I exchanged the baby wipe warmer for its equivalent in diapers.

And over time, I came to realize the wisdom of my friend’s advice. Because here’s the thing. Unless you stick your wipes in the refrigerator or freezer (and if so, do tell!), the wipes are going to be room temperature. Room temperature is good enough for our clothes, towels and sheets; it’s got to be good enough for baby wipes.

My friend was right–my baby didn’t miss what she never had. In contrast, if she were treated to nice warm wipes at home but hit the road and was subject to a cold wipe on the changing station in a public restroom … well, just imagine. It’s like going from quilted double plush toilet paper to the sandpaper they use at highway rest stops. But at least as adults we get that. Try explaining the different in temperature to an infant. Babies are notoriously bad at understanding adult explanations, though they love watching our faces scrunch up to make that forehead frown.

The wipes warmer was one of my first parenting lessons: It’s much harder to back out of the unnecessary stuff once you’re in it. (And believe me, I didn’t always get it right. See: early introduction of  sugar and processed foods. I wish I’d sought more advice on those.)

Making a mental registry of what our kids really need to function and be healthy and get along can prevent a lot of future angst. As for figuring out what goes on that registry? Ask wise friends, and your pediatrician. Attend a parenting class. Because while there’s nothing wrong with the baby superstore, parents and children survived for many years without one. The one thing we’ve always needed is help, and a bit of guidance.

So ask. And, if you’ve got some helpful experience, offer it–kindly. Because some things really are better warm. Especially advice.

Kristin O’Keefe is a writer living in Kensington, Md. An avid reader, she’s nearly done with her first comedic novel about dreadfully busy suburbanites. You can can read more of her work at her blog

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