By the last few months of every woman’s third trimester, she’s inevitably faced with one of life’s most intimidating situations: baby shopping.
No matter whether you had your most recent child years ago or are currently expecting, I'm sure you're familiar with the situation.
You walk into your local baby store brimming with excitement and confidence, ready to stock up for your little one. Ten minutes later, after seeing floor-to-ceiling walls of bottles, swaddling blankets, baby food containers and strollers of every variety, that confidence plummets. Or it morphs into apathy that has you reaching for the chocolate and telling yourself your baby would be fine sleeping in a box.
At least, that's how it was with me.
Thankfully, you don't need everything you see at the baby store—nor do you need to be drowning in debt to provide a happy home for your little one. As it turns out, a lot of the items listed on the "must buy for your baby" checklists given out by big box baby stores aren’t essential at all.
What Baby Purchases Were Pointless?
What baby stuff do you wish you had skipped or bought used because you rarely, if ever, needed it?
As for me, here’s what I’ve found you can skip:
Keeping your baby’s bottles germ-free is the best way to prevent infection and upset tummies. But you don’t need to pay upwards of $80 for an electric sterilizer that will take up a lot of kitchen counter space. Instead, try this Munchkin one for $18. It fits all size bottles, takes up no space and sterilizes your feeding accessories in the microwave in three minutes.
Another pricey investment that takes up space and costs up to $130. But you don’t need it. Just place your bottle into a large cup of hot water from the tap for five minutes, and it will warm your baby’s milk for free.
These look great in staged photos of blissfully happy mothers suckling their babes, but in reality, it’s $30 for an unhelpful piece of furniture that you’ll forget about in your sleep-deprived haze. A stack of books or an ottoman will work just fine.
Baby Wipes Warmer
Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, there’s no need for this $20 electric contraption that will add yet another dangerous cord to your nursery. Baby wipes are just fine right out of the package. You can always warm the wipes between your hands.
Until your child is well into toddlerhood, you won’t have any use for hangers because all of the tiny clothes will fit right into your chest of drawers … where you’ll want them to be easily accessible for frequent changings, anyway.
Bedding Sets and Crib Toys
Pediatricians warn that it’s dangerous to have anything in the crib or bassinet besides a tightly fitted sheet and the baby. Items such as fluffy bumpers, stuffed animals, and blankets can block baby’s air and lead to suffocation. Plus, they cost a fortune. Don’t be pressured by the lovely crib on display at the store. All you need are a few soft, cotton, well-fitting sheets and a basic mobile to engage your baby.
These can range in price from $100 to $1,000 – or more! The reality is that your baby will sleep just as well on a spring-loaded, sturdy $250 mattress as on a foam, dual-sided one (I bought one of these types and cannot for the life of me distinguish the difference between the two sides). Just make sure that whatever you buy is firm and fits precisely into your crib with no gaps for wily little fingers and toes to get stuck in.
You will need this item when your child gets a little older, but there’s no need to buy it separately; lots of highchairs come with a booster attachment. Here’s one that will take your child from four months to four years.
Small infants can aspirate and choke on baby powder. Skip the baby powder, which is just a nostalgic throw-back, and stick with diaper creams instead.
Car Seat Protector
Yes, it’s only around $15, but it’s yet another invention that’s better in theory than in practice. Most car seats are easily cleanable, so there’s no need for this bulky liner. Plus, how would you like to sit on plastic or vinyl the entire car ride?
If you purchase a decent stroller with an adjustable shade and plastic rain cover from the start, a separate umbrella stroller is redundant and a space hog. (The exceptions are if you live in a city so will be lugging the stroller around public transportation, or if you travel a lot with your child—in that case, an extra lightweight stroller can be handy.)
Attempting to herd your child’s eating mess into a 13 x 19 inch plastic mat is like trying to climb Mount Everest barefoot. Futile, comical, and, ultimately, a waste of effort.
Keeping your kid engaged all day long is exhausting, so the idea of plopping him into a walker to let him entertain himself might seem appealing. But it’s not a great idea since they can lead to terrible accidents. Go with a stationary bouncer instead, which will keep baby occupied and safe. Bonus: Circular bouncers can also become effective training areas for your almost-walking toddler because he can cruise around, playing all the activity stations.