Think Again: Things You Don't Need for Baby
A list from a Mom who loves baby gadgets and their conveniences, but would rather only splurge on the necessities.
Feeling pressured into buying lots of “must haves” for your new baby but wonder what you’ll actually use once you bring the newborn home?
Emily Fazio, 2016
I get it, I’m a gadget-loving mom too, but the truth is, a new baby doesn’t need much. Milk, diapers, and a Finnish Baby Box—one of my essentials. But of course we’re all inclined to go above and beyond for certain conveniences (and that’s OK). Just remember that you can always make do with less (and also make your own conveniences using your DIY prowess).
You don’t need a diaper bag.
Just choose a nice cross-body tote or a backpack. In fact, you’ll find that lots of brands have totes and backpacks mixed in amongst their traditional diaper bag products, but they still call them diaper bags. What I’m saying is… a bag is a bag and it doesn’t have to be marketed as a diaper bag to get the job done well. (This was my justification for using a simple, washable $26 Baggu tote for the entire first year.)
You probably don’t need a fancy monitor.
It’s a big component in achieving peace of mind for new parents, but the layout of your home might help you realize what type of monitor you actually need. And you might even find that you don’t need a monitor at all. Don’t get me wrong, the HD color-screen voice-recognition and white-sound-capable product we researched and purchased was nice, but it was definitely a waste of $250 because we quickly realized that I could hear the baby crying in the next room even without the monitor. There were a few times that was kind of nice to have when we were working in the yard while the baby napped, but we didn’t need all of the video capabilities for that. Furthermore, at night the amplified audio from the baby tossing and turning would wake me, even if the kid wasn’t calling out for attention. Even the light on the monitor was disruptive to my own sleep.
You can make a changing table out of almost anything.
Emily Fazio, 2016
A formal changing table may be a big expense that doesn't get used as much as you would expect, and only for a short few years. Use the top of a dresser, and the drawers beneath for concealed diaper/wipe storage. To prevent the pad from sliding around on my unit, I built a small frame that attached to the backside of the dresser.
No need to buy a formal infant bassinet.
DIY Audio Books
Turn car rides into story time by making your own audio book. Hither and Thither’s Ashley Muir Bruhn uses the Voice Memo function on her iPhone to record her kids’ favorite books. This allows her to incorporate the voices, sound effects and pauses that they’ve come to expect at story time.
Preparing snacks can be a time suck when you’re in a rush to get somewhere, so Ashley Muir Bruhn preps “grab-and-go” snacks the night before. She sometimes bakes mini berry muffins and tosses them in a zip-top plastic bag. Another tip: Freeze yogurt sticks overnight to make for a sweet little treat the next day.
Makeshift Game Pieces
Cheerios make great game pieces when you’re on the go with your kids. Ashley Muir Bruhn likes to thread Cheerios on pipe cleaners, “fish” for Cheerios from a raisin box using tweezers, or play Tic-Tac-Toe with Cheerios (just bite an O in half to differentiate your piece from your kid’s).
Crayons and Paper
There’s a reason family-friendly restaurants hand out paper and crayons for free: They’re invaluable tools for keeping antsiness at bay. “I always carry crayons and paper in my bag,” says Ilana Wiles, creator of Mommy Shorts. “If you want to be the kind of family that goes out to restaurants, you need to have stuff on hand to keep the kids occupied while they wait for their food.”
It’s tempting to ditch the stroller in favor of a baby carrier when flying with your little one, but strollers can be invaluable on trips. “Not only is it easier to take a kid through the airport, it's really useful while on vacation because you can get your kid to take their nap without having to stop what you are doing to go back to the hotel room,” says Ilana Wiles. “While in Cancun, we got our daughter to sleep by wheeling her in laps around the pool.”
Keep kids busy in the car by bringing along the travel version of your favorite board games. Joanna Goddard, creator of Cup of Jo, entertains her two boys with SET, Bananagrams and Apples to Apples.
Mini Magnetic Boards
For kids who like playing with letters and numbers on the fridge, why not take the fun on the road? Buy a mini magnetic board, pack some letters and numbers in a plastic baggie and, voila, you have some educational (and non-digital!) entertainment for the car. You can also use the board as a play surface for magnetic toys like Magna-Tiles.
Gina Kirk of Is She Really organizes her kids’ meals in these attractive Bentgo Kids Lunch Boxes. “Although we use them as lunch boxes during the week, they are perfect for carrying multiple snacks on the weekends,” she says. The attractive design makes parents look super-organized and also allows for a variety of foods.
Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Spice up your kid’s portable library with age-appropriate comic books and graphic novels. Nathalie Laitmon, publisher of Suburban Misfit Mom, recommends the Big Nate books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the go-to classic Batman.
Wine Bottle Tote
If you’re driving somewhere with the kids, Asha Dornfest, author of Parent Hacks, recommends organizing your essentials in a wine bottle tote. Not only are these totes already compartmentalized, but the compartments are deep, offering plenty of space to store items like snacks, toys, napkins and sippy cups.
Do you tend to hang jackets or shopping bags from the handle of your lightweight stroller? Does your stroller then tip over when you take baby out of the seat? Asha Dornfest offers a neat way to prevent stroller tippage: Strap a pair of ankle weights to the front wheels and you have instant stabilization.
Fully Charged Tablets
“I don't care what the naysayers have to offer, if I didn’t have fully charged iPads for a road trip or even sometimes while going out to eat, we'd never make it out alive,” says Adrian Kulp, creator of Dad or Alive. “Kids watching iPads while out to dinner not only offers us the ability to get through the meal, but everyone else around us as well.”
A Bin to Call Their Own
When Adrian Kulp and his wife take road trips, they pack three small storage bins, one for each kid, and label each bin with the kid’s name. “We fill it with individual snacks, surprises and often a new movie that they can take turns watching on the DVD player in the truck. It gets them excited and keeps them occupied on a 10-hour haul,” Kulp says.
If you want to bring kids anywhere, especially lunch or dinner, pack snacks to tide them over in case things takes longer than expected. “At a restaurant, we order and it might be five minutes, or it might be 25 minutes,” says John Kinnear of Ask Your Dad. “The kids do great with five minutes, but at about 15 we’re always glad we have some crackers to hand them.”
Two of Everything
Keep the sibling peace by bringing two of everything when possible, whether it’s coloring books, drinks or snacks. “No matter what we bring, we do our best to have two of everything. Whatever one kid has, the other kid wants,” says John Kinnear, father of two. “For now, the duplicating of toys and activities is what keeps us sane on long drives.”
Airplane Safety Harness
If you’re flying with a kid who’s between 22 and 44 pounds, you can leave the car seat at home (or at least check it) and use this FAA-approved CARES harness instead. “Once our boys were big enough, the CARES airplane harness was a huge help in traveling, as it meant we didn’t need to carry on car seats any more but could feel confident that they were safe,” says Chris Routly of The Full Routly.
I was close to buying one when a friend much wiser than me suggested against it. Her kids liked a simple “Rock ’n Play” product. Fisher-Price and many other brands make similar products. She let me borrow hers while my daughter was an infant, and it certainly fell into the “nice to have” category under convenience – light-weight enough to carry through the house, and compact enough to fold up for a day trip to grandma and grandpa’s. For another easy alternative, use a Pack ’n Play as a secondary napping location (it’s just a little more cumbersome if you want to move it around the house or through doorways while assembled).
You definitely don’t need a Genie.
This is the stereotypical “you don’t need that” product, isn’t it? Yet, people keep buying them and I still see a lot of them at yard sales and secondhand shops. If the diaper is a real stinker, just wrap it up in an extra plastic bag. If you use cloth diapers, just change your laundry routine to keep the smell at bay.
Don’t bother with the special baby laundry detergent.
Emily Fazio, 2016
Any brand’s “Free and Clear” product will be gentle enough for baby clothing (and easy enough for the whole family to use too… which means no need for special loads of only baby items). Free and Clear products are also great for cloth diapers, but the best detergent I found (for baby, cloth diapers, and the whole family) is one that I make using washing soda, borax and ivory soap.
You won’t need to buy a special sound machine.
Not all kids need white noise to sleep, but if you want to try it, chances are that you have an extra radio or old smartphone laying around the house that you can program to play music quietly in the nursery. Better yet, you can find free apps for the smartphones that play a loop of white noise and let your baby veg out to the sounds of the mall, a busy restaurant or the car, all places that he’s already known to be lulled to sleep.
You don’t need baby shoes.
They’re cute, but they’re hard to put on, hard to keep on, and if the kid isn’t walking, they don’t do anything. Buy cute socks instead.
You don’t need special portion-sized containers for baby food.
Emily Fazio, 2016
When the time comes to sample foods, you might consider making your own baby food. Instead of spending $15 on the portion-sized trays that are freezer safe, just use ordinary ice trays (whether hard plastic or silicone, they all work well).
You don’t need a special bottle sterilizer.
Save $50-$100+ on another small appliance and dip the bottles and parts in boiling water for 10 minutes to sanitize. Most bottles will clearly state whether or not this is a safe cleansing solution. If your bottles are dishwasher-safe, it’s easy to rely on that appliance too.
You might not need a special rocking chair.
In hindsight, I didn’t really know what I would like best until after the baby was born. I love the feeling of swaying in the rocker and the glider, so I bought a rocking chair, but when it came to nursing, I preferred sitting still, so the rocker was used much less than I expected. Keep that in mind as you shop for what could possibly be a very expensive chair.
A special nursing cape isn’t necessary.
If you're going to make public nursing work, it’s pretty easy to achieve subtlety by just relying on a good scarf, my friends. A neutral infinity scarf went a long ways in covering myself and the baby without drawing extra attention.
Looking for more tips for new parents? Get creative with these ideas: