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Before becoming a parent, walking into a store like Babies “R” Us was overwhelming. How could a baby possibly need so much stuff? When I got pregnant for the first time, I read registry guides, talked to parents, and hunted for articles that would help me figure out what a baby actually needed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your preparations and spend thousands of dollars, but it’s just not necessary. Think about it: did you have all this stuff growing up? Did you parents? I can guarantee you your grandparents didn’t. And you know what? Everyone turned out just fine. So, in the hopes of saving you some money, and to minimize your stress, I present my top ten list of things you can skip when preparing your registry or shopping for baby.
Some of the baby bathtubs out there are ridiculous. Babies don’t need a jacuzzi. When you first bring your baby home, you will have to give sponge baths until the umbilical cord stump falls off. After that, all baby needs is a safe place to recline/sit to get cleaned up for a few minutes By 6–10 months, baby is likely going to be getting too big for the tub, or will be soaking everything with his splashes so you’ll want to move him to a regular bathtub. Do you really want to spend upwards of $40–50 for something that you will use for less than a year, especially when there are so many other cheaper options available? Keep in mind too that babies only need a bath a few times a week, so you really don’t get a lot of mileage out of a baby tub.
Some of these baby spas have several pieces which usually means two things: 1) more parts to break or stop working 2) more parts to clean. Trust me, as a parent of an infant, you’re not going to want to waste time with that.
Finally, plenty of babies don’t like baths and scream their way through it. If you’re the parent of such a baby, you can bet you’re going to want to get the bath done as quickly as possible. You’re not going to bother with all of the gizmos and special features.
I recommend finding the most basic tub you can. We chose The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn to Toddler Tub:
It’s cheap, lightweight, easy to clean, and did the job. That’s all you need. (Note: at time of writing, different colors were different prices. Buy whatever is cheapest. Babies don’t care about traditional colors for their gender.)
Confession: I registered for these too and had fun picking out ones that matched the nursery theme. But, I quickly discovered that they don’t actually work that well. I’ve had two champ spitter-uppers and I can say with authority that function trumps fashion when it comes to burp cloths. Sure, they’re cute but they’re not very absorbent, nor are they big enough. It’s not very cute when your hands are covered in the contents of your babies stomach.
Instead, I recommend cloth diapers. They’re cheaper and super absorbent. They’re also great for general purpose baby cleaning: drooling when they get to the teething phase, nose wiping for when they have a cold, or wiping up the food they always seem to have all over the faces. Once you’re done with the baby phase, they make great cleaning rags.
I have not met a single person who likes their diaper genie. The most common complaints seem to be that they are difficult to unload, and they don’t hold much so you’re constantly emptying it.
We were planning on cloth diapering so I was looking for a diaper pail geared for that (the cloth diapering experiment failed spectacularly, but that’s how I found out cloth diapers make good burp cloths!). We chose the Odorless Cloth Diaper Pail by Busch Systems:
Although it’s meant for cloth diapers, it works incredibly well for disposables. It has deodorizer filters and is quite large so you don’t need to empty it every day. I use a standard thirteen gallon trash bag (no special bags here!) and for extra deodorizing power, I sprinkle in some baking soda or coffee grounds to a new bag. If you wanted to be less wasteful, you can use a pail liner and throw it in the wash when you empty the pail (if you go this route, you probably want to get two liners so you have something to use while the other is being washed). Again, don’t worry about colors (who is going to look inside your diaper pail?!?); just go with what is cheapest.
Baby Food Makers
These almost make me angry because I feel like the companies that make and market these are exploiting parents’ desires to provide their babies with nutritious food. If you want to make baby’s food, you don’t need anything more than a standard blender or food processor, which you likely already have. You don’t need special storage containers, steamers, grinders, mills, or any of the other accessories the baby food makers come with. For storage, any small glass or plastic (BPA free) container will do. We did a mixture of store bought and home made food so we saved the glass jars from the store bought food and used that to store what we made. For steaming your veggies, just get a regular steamer basket and make them on stove like you would for yourself (though you will probably want to make them a bit softer for easier blending.
As an aside, I also think baby “cookbooks” are completely unnecessary. All you have to do is steam or bake your fruits and veggies until they’re nice and soft and run them through the food processor with a bit of water. Tip: use the water leftover from steaming your veggies rather than adding tap or bottled water. The water the veggies cooked in has nutrients from the vegetables so it might as well go in baby’s tummy than down the drain! Mix and match with different fruit and veggie combos (though introduce new foods by themselves first in case baby has a reaction). No cookbook required.
In many cases, a changing table is a giant waste of money. It’s big and bulky and you’re only going to need it for a couple of years. Then what do you do with it? If you have a long dresser in the room where baby will be sleeping, skip the changing table and get a changing pad instead that will secure to the dresser. It saves space, is cheaper, and is easy to get rid of when you’re out of the diaper changing years.
Full disclosure: I never had one of these, but I never felt the need for one either. When I was in the hospital a nurse told me that all I needed to do was put a bottle in a container of hot water for a few minutes. Note: if you use glass bottles and it’s coming straight from the fridge, be sure to run it under the tap as the water warms up so you don’t crack the glass. Before giving the bottle to baby, always be sure to check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot.
I understand the inclination to get a sterilizer. Pretty much anything that is going to touch a baby’s mouth or milk/formula needs to be sterilized (pacifiers, bottles, breastpump parts, etc.). So, they sell doodads that sterilize bottles and accessories. You know what also works? A pot of boiling water. Put everything that needs to be sterilized in a pot, add water, and let it come to a boil for however long the manufacturer recommends (generally 3–5 minutes). Save yourself upwards of $100 and just use your kitchen pots.
Baby swings are one of those things that can be nice to have if you have the space and money (they can be pretty pricey!), but by no means are they a necessity. Some kids love them and some hate them. My friend could not get her son to sleep anywhere but the spring, so for her, a swing was absolutely worth the money. She was kind enough to give it to me when her son got to big for it. My son was pretty ambivalent to the whole thing so I’m glad I didn’t drop $100 or more for it.
My best advice would be to figure out your kid’s personality before buying a swing. If you child calms down with constant rocking and motion, maybe a swing is a good choice for you. But if your child soothes in other ways you can probably skip it. What I would recommend is a bouncy chair:
My kids often slept better in these than they did in their cribs. They have a gentle vibration to help baby sleep, and eye catching toy bars to help with hand-eye coordination. Plus, they provide a secure space to put baby so you can do something crazy like (gasp!) go the bathroom in peace!
I’m talking about those saucers on wheels that you put baby inside so she can scoot around. Doctors advise skipping these entirely as babies can fall down stairs or otherwise get hurt by not being able to get free. Plus, they don’t encourage babies to walk. In fact, they do the opposite. Rather than a walker, I recommend a push walker. Fisher-Price makes some adorable ones, like the Stride and Ride Elephant that my oldest had and the Learn With Me Zebra Walker that my youngest has:
They provide the same benefits of a walker, but baby is still free to catch herself or get free if she gets stuck (though of course, you still need to watch those little goons like a hawk!).
I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a video monitor, but you should know what you’re getting into. Many video monitors can be easily hacked, allowing people to be able to see in your home. Creepy, right? Security was a big concern for me which is why I opted for an audio-only baby monitor. For audio-only monitors, look for one with Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology (DECT). These encode the signals so others outside of the home can’t pick up on the frequency and listen in. I got a fairly basic unit: the VTech DM221 Safe & Sound Digital Audio Baby Monitor:
It’s simple, fairly cheap (as compared to other monitors), and it did the job. You can adjust the volume and sensitivity controls to your needs. You can also chose whether you want one parent monitor or two. It’s worked fine for me and I’ve been happy with it.
If you want a video baby monitor, technology has progressed in the few years and now many have features to prevent hacking, though they carry a heftier price tag. You can find recommendations for secure video monitors here.
For more information on the various types of baby monitors and their pros and cons, check out Consumer Reports’ Baby Monitor Buying Guide.
Bonus Section: Don’t Even Bother With These Items
But wait! There’s more! You’ll notice that for the options above, I gave you other suggestions on what to buy or do that will work better to save you money and frustration. But there are some things you can just skip. Here’s my list on what you can ditch entirely:
- Wipe Warmer: A wipe is only on a baby for a few seconds and then you throw it away. Babies can live with a cool wipe on their hineys for a few seconds. Maybe I’m just a mean mom. Anyway, I think you can save yourself the money and ditch the wipe warmer.
- Baby Shoes: Babies learn to walk best barefoot. This is how they develop their foot muscles and learn balance. Once baby is walking well and going outside, go ahead and get shoes to protect their tootsies. But until then, resist the urge to put them in shoes (and save yourself the money!).
- Cart Protectors: These are fabric covers you can put in grocery carts supposedly to protect your baby from germs that can be lurking on shopping carts. I dunno, I spent my tender years riding in a grocery cart without covers and turned out fine. I think these are a waste of money, but if they make you more comfortable, do what you think is best.
- Car seat accessories: I’m talking about anything that your car seat manufacturer doesn’t specifically recommend or provide for your car seat (mirrors, decorative buckle covers, etc.). These add-ons could interfere with the proper working of your car seat. Just don’t risk it.
Did I miss anything? If you have kids, was there anything you purchased that you realized after your kids was a waste of money? Anything you disagree with on my list? Drop me a line in the comments section – I’d love to know what you think!