When we’re pregnant and under the influence of a rush of hormones, we all tend to get carried away and buy everything that we see on the shelves of BabiesRUs. However, we really don’t need all of that stuff, and some of the baby gear simply is a waste of our dollars. Here’s a list of baby items to avoid buying for safety reasons, or simply to protect your wallet. We can all understand the distinction between what’s “must have”, “nice to have”, or simply useless baby gear. I’m just trying to give you a headstart, and avoid some of the mistakes other moms and myself have made!
1) A bottle sterilizer
Many parents may use it once or twice, then it will sit on the kitchen counter collecting dust. Just get a sturdy bottle brush (a large one for the containers and a small to clean the bottle nipples) and you’ll be all set. Also, for all of you worried about germs out there, most newer dishwashers offer a “sanitize” cycle that will do the same job as a bottle sterilizer, without all of the extra parts to clean or dry, so it’s a great way to make good use of it! Also many pediatricians agree that hot water and soap achieve the same goal (unless you’re dealing with special circumstances, like thrush).
2) A wipe warmer
Yes, I’m sure your baby’s butt would enjoy a warm wipe when it’s cold in the house, but honestly, the wiping part lasts about 10 seconds and the wipe gets cold as soon as it’s out of the box. It may be wiser to use your dollars to buy some diapers and wipes instead, save electricity, and eliminate the potential fire hazard from the baby’s bedroom.
3) A crib with moving parts
I’m not sure why crib manufacturers keep making crib with moving parts when week after week, I hear of a new recall due to entrapment, strangulation, you name it (see the latest recall of over 2 million drop-side cribs on June 24, 2010). My husband tells me they are made for short moms who can’t reach all of the way down to lift their babies. However most cribs, drop-side of fixed-side) allow you to place the mattress at a higher level as long as your baby doesn’t sit up on his/her own. When your baby reaches that stage, it’s easy to bring the mattress down and the baby can sit up for you to pick him up. So I would recommend getting a crib with fixed sides and no moving parts. They’re cheaper (Ikea offers a few models that are safe and reasonably prices) and there’s no worry about your baby getting trapped while fiddling with the sides. And before spending $500 on a crib, consider buying one for $200 and putting the other $300 you were planning to spend in a college savings account.
4) Bumper pads for the crib
Yes, they’re cute and go with the blanket, lamp, wall border, etc that go with the theme of the baby’s room. They’re also a safety hazard for a baby to suffocate in. You’re right to be worried about your baby getting his hands, arms, feet or legs stuck between the crib bars, because it will happen (babies and young children seem to get stuck in the strangest places all the time!). That’s why I suggest buying something like a breathable crib bumper that will protect the baby’s limbs but will not prevent her from breathing.
5) A playard
Alright, moms, I hear you screaming loud and clear! Yes, we like to use the playard as a safe area to keep your baby but it sometimes, it’s just used as a confinement area (I like to call it “Baby Gitmo”!). Unless the baby needs somewhere to sleep in when you’re outside of the home, you could probably do without one. When a baby is not mobile yet, they can’t go anywhere on their own. A large blanket with toys will often do, and she’ll be able to see you moving around in the room with no obstructed view. Worried about older siblings or pets? Well, it’s time to lay down the rules. My youngest had to deal with a rambuctious brother and two cats that loved to exercise by jumping over his body as he lay down on his back or belly. We had to teach his brother to give him some space, and we let the cats enjoy their jumping stunts until they realized one day that the baby could reach out and pull their hair… I do understand that big dogs could be an issue, so a playard would be a safety device worth having. When the baby can crawl, a better solution could be an exersaucer or a similar device. When a baby is old enough to hold his head and torso together, using an exersaucer or something similar a few minutes a day provides a good workout. Also, it’s a great way to position your baby upright and close to you, again, with an unobstructed view.
6) Fancy brand diapers
Reality will sink in within a couple of days of your baby’s birth. Your newborn will pretty much need a new diaper every hour. Yep, that’s how often babies poop in the beginning! So save your money and go for the store brand until you can keep a diaper on your baby’s butt for several hours. I actually used Pampers diapers overnight as they really kept my baby’s butt dry and avoided diaper rash. Babies’ skins vary and may like one diaper material more than another, so keep your options open.
7) Brand name formula
If you decide not to breastfeed (and you should really try it before you decide to go with formula), please don’t waste your money on fancy brand names unless medically necessary. Walmart, Target and BabiesRUs formulas contain exactly the same ingredients and cost half as much. I personally don’t see a need to support the baby formula manufacturing market – it’s powerful enough already!
8) A baby sling
Yes, many moms like to use slings, but be aware that not all babies actually like them. Slings have also come under suspicion recently as being unsafe by causing breathing issues, leading to death by suffocation (just search how many recalls exist for slings on the US Consumer Product Safety Report Commission website, and you’ll see what I mean). I can suggest a “harness” instead and make sure you read the instructions to properly use it. Babies like to gently bounce and the harness will do the job, without interfering with the baby’s breathing. A harness or baby carrier is also more convenient when you want to walk at a sustained pace and center the baby’s weight directly in front of you.
9) A walker
I have to say, I don’t understand why manufacturers continue to produce walkers, as they have proved to be unsafe and unnecessary. If you want your little one to be confined in an upright position for a few minutes, use an exersaucer or a similar device. They offer 360 degree activities just like a walker and are a great way for your baby to develop core muscles necessary for learning to walk. A jumperoo is also a great workout piece and will provide sustained entertainment. At our house, we actually renamed it the “pooperoo” as it made our babies poop every time they started bouncing around in there! No matter the baby gear used, it should only be for a few minutes at a time, since floor time is the best exercise.
10) A bumbo seat
This piece of foam may become useless within a couple of months after you start using it. Your baby will so quickly try to crawl out of it as she becomes more mobile, you’ll wonder why you ever bought it! It can also be a safety hazard, as many parents have placed a baby in a bimbo seat on a table or counter (I guess to see better, rather than be on the floor), allowing the possibility of the baby tilting the bimbo seat and falling all the way down. Check out the Bumbo Seat recall due to many head injuries. If you need your baby to be sitting, just use a high chair, no need to be fancy.
11) A $300 “designer” stroller
I really don’t think spending $100 or $300 on a stroller will really matter, except to your bank account. As long as the stroller is light, easy to maneuver and easy to fold, it will do the job. You can get a basic stroller, or a travel system, which includes the infant car seat for convenience. Just be aware that you’ll have to buy a larger car seat by the time your baby is 9 to 12 months old, depending on how tall and heavy he gets. For heavy stroller users (tough terrain, long hikes and jogging) slurge on a high-quality stroller that will last you a few years. I recommend Bob and Baby Jogger for those purposes. Always register your stroller with the manufacturer so that you get a notice in case it is recalled.
12) Baby videos
Study after study have proven that sitting your baby in front of the TV playing hours of videos specially “made for babies” won’t make your baby smarter. It may actually dumb her down! Humans are meant to learn by interaction, and TV is the #1 passive element in your house. Babies learn to talk by looking at your lips and hearing you say words. Playing flashcards on the screen without babies seeing lips will nullify that effect. Interaction between a parent and a baby is best. Talking to your baby, telling her what you’re doing, showing her objects and naming them is what will quickly develop that little brain. You’ll be amazed how interested she becomes in your day-to-day activities. Avoid TV before the age of two, or even three. If babies don’t know it’s there, they won’t miss it a bit!
Now, there is plenty of essential baby gear you should buy, but my top recommendation is bibs and/or burp cloths! Babies love to spit, and drool, and barf, and if you don’t want to change onesies at every feeding, bibs and burp cloths will be your best friends.
Finally, I recommend you don’t ever go cheap on safety! Use safety gates at the top AND the bottom of the stairs when baby becomes mobile. I also avoid buying safety equipment (car seats, safety gates, high chairs, etc) second hand, as they may have been recalled and you may not know about it at the time of purchase. For peace of mind (and because you WILL use it), sign up for email recall notificiation on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission website (https://www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx). I signed up for it a few years ago and actually found out about recalls on several pieces of my baby gear, so it’s worth staying informed.
Is there any other baby equipment you can think of is a waste of money and/or a waste of space? I’ll be glad to see your contributions.
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