Needs, Wants and Crap for a New Baby

Today marks day 18 of our son’s young life, but I can already tell some of the awesome purchases we made, and things we could have done without. Many parents will swear they couldn’t do without this or that, so consider this post my two cents on the subject of baby gear.

I’m not going to cover the obvious must-haves, like car seats and diapers/wipes. They’re either legally required, or just necessary to maintain basic baby cleanliness. I would also put cribs in this category, although some people will still argue that you can do without a formal crib for a baby.

What I’ll give you instead are my thoughts on some of the more unique items around the house that we’ve accumulated over the last year, and how useful they’ve proven to be in the large scheme of things under heavy testing. Granted, it’s only been three weeks, but in this high-pressure baby environment, we’re quickly losing patience for anything but the best of the best, and the most practical items. So I think it’s safe to make some initial judgments.

Definite Necessities

Here are some of the purchases we’ve made that have worked out so well, we consider them baby necessities:

  • Diaper Bag. I thought this would just be another fashion accessory. Turns out it makes things easy to organize when you travel out of the house (and there is a lot of stuff to bring everywhere).
  • Baby Detergent. Another product I had no clue about when we started this journey. Turns out regular detergent can irritate baby’s skin, so this is a better alternative.
  • Pacifiers. Doctors are split on the use of pacifiers in newborns, but I would say the majority were for it. I can tell you that it spares us a great deal of crying when baby’s hungry and mama’s still getting ready.
  • Washcloths. These small wonders are extremely versatile for jobs like wiping, cleaning, washing, and almost everything else. We keep a healthy supply around.
  • Receiving Blankets. Like washcloths, these turned out to be more versatile than expected. Other than the obvious uses of covering and/or holding the baby, they can also be rolled up as propping tools, used as temporary sheets, and as privacy covers when breastfeeding.
  • Bottle Set & Breast Pump. Even if you plan to breastfeed 100% of the time, sometimes you just won’t be home every 2-3 hours because of your schedule. A breast pump/bottle set is necessary (not to mention that you can freeze milk for over 3 months!).
  • Good Baby Book. For someone like me, who had no clue how to do almost anything with a baby, an “instruction manual” was priceless. Thankfully, my wife came through with a couple of great daddy books.
  • Good Thermometer. We went through two cheap thermometers before we realized that we were really getting what we paid for. So we spent the money for something decent and accurate, and something that takes less time than 2 minutes to get a reading. 🙂
  • Pack-and-Play. If you’re away from home a lot (especially if you have extended family locally), this is a home away from home for the baby. Ours includes a bassinet and a changing table, and it’s really priceless (as well as portable!).

Very Useful

These are things we found to be extremely helpful in day-to-day life, but may be hard-pressed to classify them as “necessities.” They are:

  • Baby bathtub with infant net. I know you can wash your baby in a sink and all that. But it just seems much easier when a baby bathtub is involved and you don’t have to worry about much except the bathing part.
  • Diaper Champ. I recommend this one over the Genie because you can use your own garbage bags (not those expensive refills), and it seems to work just fine.
  • Baby monitor. This has been a life saver, not only for the baby, but also for Mom! When I’m running around remote parts of the house while Mom is breastfeeding, she can call me over without having to scream and yell.
  • Travel System. This is a stroller/car seat combination, and a lot of them are fairly expensive. But we purchased ours separately (and researched prices carefully, of course) for much less than the typical systems I see out there. It’s awesome when you want to take baby for a walk without waking him up.
  • Boppy. This is a breastfeeding pillow (photos), and another one of those “what the heck will you use that for?” items. But believe me–it’s perfect for breast feeding, and it also helps your baby to develop coordination and muscles as they sit and lay in it when not feeding.
  • Bassinet. It’s perfectly okay to have your baby sleep in the crib from Day 1, but a lot of people (like us) elect to have a bassinet in their bedroom for easier night time monitoring and feeding until the baby is a few months old. Bonus points if it rolls, since you can take it around the house with you!
  • Reading Books. Nothing beats daddy-baby time when you’re reading a good book to the little guy. There’s something about the rhythm of reading that babies just seem to be enamored with.
  • Bottle Warmer. We don’t have one yet, but I can definitely see the appeal. It takes 10-15 minutes and constant stirring and monitoring when trying to warm up a bottle “manually.” When there’s a screaming, hungry baby waiting for you, it makes things extra-difficult.
  • Baby Hamper. Or any separate baby clothes area, really. It makes things super-easy at laundry time, since baby stuff should be washed in baby detergent, and usually has poop/pee/spit up, and all sorts of fun stuff on it.
  • Bouncer. A small, portable bouncer is great for moving around the house and traveling, even when babies can’t quite bounce in it yet (you can bounce it with your foot!). Like a car seat, but more comfortable.

Ehh…Not So Much

We think these items may be useful for some people, or may get more use in the future, but right now there’s just not working out:

  • Rocker/Glider. We have one, but it hasn’t gotten as much use for the baby as we had initially thought it would. It is, however, great when daddy wants to fall asleep or relax!
  • Sling/Carrier. We have both a carrier sling, and one of those funny-looking backpacks. We’ll probably get use of the backpack in the future, but opted to use the travel system for walks, rather than the sling.
  • Traditional Dresser/Furniture. Here’s a free plug for IKEA–if you have a chance to ever use this store for your furniture, do it. There are a lot of alternatives to “traditional” baby furniture that are more functional, safer, and a lot more fun-looking.
  • Quick-prep Food. This was actually a suggestion we got from almost every baby website–‘because of the lack of time and energy, you’ll want to have frozen or quick foods to prepare.” We don’t feel like we’ve lacked either time or energy to the point where we want to sacrifice the nutritional quality of our food.
  • Bathroom Gear. Yeah, our bathroom is decked out in monkeys. Too bad the baby’s using the other bathroom in the house. Oops!
  • Baby Swing. This will probably get more useful later on, but for now, the little one’s just uncomfortable in the swing and the movements seem to be too drastic for him.

Don’t Even Bother

These are things we’ve either stayed away from or recommend avoiding all together:

  • Clothes. Well, yes–you’ll need to clothe your baby. But it’s practically the only thing people will buy for you, and the stream of clothes won’t stop at the baby shower. Rely on gifts first, buy only when necessary.
  • Fancy Mobile. Babies have a pretty hard time focusing on anything for a few months. I’ve also been told that for the first year or so, they see high-contrast shapes the best (black and white). So that huge, colorful, singing mobile you just got may not be worth it.
  • Changing Table. I can see the benefits of having a changing table, but we opted to have a changing “basket” instead that can travel around the house to any flat surface (bed, couch, even the floor).
  • Wiper Warmer. I just don’t see the point, honestly. The baby’s butt might get a little cold, but is that such a big deal?

Your Thoughts

For those of you with kids, let me know what you think!

  • What products were priceless when your kids were babies?
  • What could you have done without?
  • Where did you get your purchasing advice, and how did it work out?

(The little guy is doing great, by the way! Thanks for all your questions and check-ins over the last few weeks.)

Photo by tanakawho

22 thoughts on “Needs, Wants and Crap for a New Baby

  1. We really liked the little baby bouncer chair. It was better than a swing. It sits on the floor and you can set it to vibrate at different levels, or play music. It doesn’t upset the baby, since it isn’t drastic. Our son, and my nieces, all loved theirs. And they are fairly inexpensive. We never used a bottle warmer. And I loved my breast pump. We tried to go with the hand pump, but since I had a job, it was a real pain. The electric pump is definitely worth the money!
    .-= Miranda´s last post: Reader Question: How Much Life Insurance Do I Need? =-.

    1. Sounds like the bouncy chair is a winner with everyone.

      My wife also loves the electric, since she can do other stuff while she’s pumping.

  2. Our bouncy chair is a life saver, we even use it for feeding him now that he starting to eat some baby food.

    You don’t actually need “baby” detergent to wash the clothes. I have sensitive skin and we use All Free&Clear which is scent and dye free. It is a lot better than paying for Dreft(expensive) and we can just use it for all of our laundry.
    .-= Kyle C.´s last post: How Long to Keep Tax Returns =-.

    1. Thanks for that suggestion, Kyle! I think we actually ended up purchasing a generic Target version of Dreft, and it was fairly cheap ($4-5 a bottle?).

      I’m one of those people who likes the smell of my laundry, so I don’t think I’d give up scented detergent that easily. 🙂

  3. See now my advice makes some more sense. +1 for Kyle’s recommendation on the bouncy chair. That’s like 3 baby items in one, also allows you to sit down for a minute and eat. Also for the swing, that one depends on the kid, our first born hated it, my second loved it. Might also explain why he plays the Wii while bouncing on a mini tramp but that’s beside the point.
    .-= Paul @ FiscalGeek´s last post: Save by Dropping Your GAP Automobile Insurance =-.

    1. 100% agree on the bouncers! It even lets the baby “sit” with us at the table (though he’s on the floor), and it’s very comforting for the little guy when we bounce it.

  4. Looooved the boppy with my first child! He sat in it all the time all snug as a bug. After the third I would kind of just plop a baby down anywhere. Ok, within reason.

    I really liked the baby washcloths and had an overabundance of them when my kids were out of the baby stage. We stopped using paper towels in the house and the baby washcloths were a perfect replacement. Our little “green” achievement. We haven’t used paper towels in two years.

    Wipe warmers – um, no way.

    1. Interesting! We used to use old socks instead of paper towels when I was growing up–that also turned out pretty well.

  5. First – congrats!! (Found your blog via The Dollar Stretcher). Babies are fun, the kids are even better.

    What we used:

    -A sling with the our first colicy baby. We walked miles with that thing. Our 2nd never needed it and grew to dislike it.

    -Cloth diapers/wipes. We saved a lot of money between two babies. It’s not that hard or more smelly than disposables. (No harder than dealing with a bag full of disposables or turning on a washing machine).

    -Backpack. Both of my kids loved this once they hit about 12 months plus. I felt we were far more mobile also, not being glued to a stroller.

    What we didn’t use/buy:

    -A crib. Night nursing was much easier when they slept with us. Kids can literally sleep on the bed or the floor until they are ready for their own room. Cribs are interesting things in our safety conscious society, because I think for certain active toddlers, they are very hazardous. Too much like a box that begs to be climbed over in the middle of the night (usually to find ma or pa, ironically).

    -You are so right on the clothing. We hardly ever bought anything until the kids hit 4 or 5. It depressed the heck out of me to have to throw away boxes upon boxes of clothing, all of which I received for free. People love buying baby clothing.

    -Baby food/high chairs. It was easier for me to nurse than bother with “rice” at 4 months and “solid” food at 6 months. My kids ate food when they could sit up and serve themselves at about 12 months. We used the plastic boosters instead so they could sit with the family. No extra space needed, either.

    1. Thanks! Welcome to the party. 🙂

      The backpack looks really cool, so I’m eager to use it once the baby’s able to control his head a little better. As for the baby food, I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet, but we’re definitely going to make our own rather than spend God knows how much per each little bottle.

  6. I’ve just entered the 6th month with my child and I would agree with most of what you say. Tell the hospital you are going to do some formula feeding, they will bring you diaper bags and free formula. Just a note for the men, ask the hospital if they have diaper backpacks, they are much less frilly then the bag they will give your wife and better suited for taking a hike with the baby. We received multiple free thermometers, one from the hospital, one from the insurance company and one from one of the baby stuff companies.
    The baby detergent is as much about your water as it is your child. Most folks put to much detergent in a given load of wash and if you have hard water you will notice your clothes don’t feel right. You may be better off with Dye Free, scent free, detergent and an additive if you have hard water.

    1. Yup, it’s amazing how much stuff you get at the hospital…I’m curious to see if any of that makes its way onto the final bill.

      Agreed on the detergent, as well. The most important thing for us was just finding something “free” of everything, and it just happened that the generic baby stuff was similarly priced.

  7. My wife and I are into books. There were two, no, four books that really helped us a lot. Baby 411 and Baby Bargains. These books “grow up” to become Toddler 411 and Toddler Bargain, respectively. Aside from these books the best purchase (and also one of the more expensive ones) was the BOB Revolution Duallie double stroller which we bought when our 2nd little fellow was born 18 month after his older brother. This stroller doubles as a running stroller and as a regular stroller. We got great use out of it.

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! One of my favorites from the bookshelf right now is The Baby’s Owner’s Manual (which grows up to be the Toddler Owner’s Manual). Definitely written for guys…

  8. My wife and I and our little 5 month old daughter Portia found this really helpful. Particularly the what not to buys! The key is to stay practical I think. All the flowery stuff, like clothes and toys, leave for your friends and family to get for you. And agreed on the bouncy chair, its a life-saver!
    .-= Fred Schebesta´s last post: Teaching kids to save – Tips from Commbank =-.

    1. Glad I could be of assistance! 🙂 Good point on the toys, too (something I missed), since it’s definitely something that we’ve been getting a lot of (although he can’t use most of it yet).

  9. Love the Bobby! Yeah, it’s great for mom when breastfeeding but it’s also great for dad when holding a sleeping baby or for dad if he needs to bottle feed the baby.

    You don’t need it until about 3 months or so but we love our Exersaucer! We’ve used it for our two youngest and it’s a great place to let them play for a bit and to get used to feeling what’s it’s like being upright.

    An optional item is foam floor mats. They make them in big square pieces that fit together like a puzzle. You need some space for them but it makes for a nice safe area for your child to play in. Don’t think you need it until they are crawling yet. When the baby is going all about and is starting to sit up you want a nice safe floor that they won’t hurt themselves on and you can feel a little safer if they roll back from sitting position.

    Clothes – Totally agree on not going crazy. Even if you put items on a registry many will come with the item AND a set of clothes. It’s like people can’t resist buying a cute outfit. We were fortunate enough for our son that we had clothes we would have to race to put on him before he outgrew them. And that’s another thing, you want clothes for the later months not just all newborn or 1-3 months. They grow quick early on!

    1. We actually got an Exersaucer from a friend! (Didn’t even know it was called that–that’s awesome).

      Thanks for all your great suggestions, especially the floor mats.

  10. I could have lived without EVERYTHING but the sling carrier. That thing went everywhere with me for two and a half years! I loved it, the baby loved it–honestly, pretty much everything else was optional.


  11. The Floor Nanny has turned out to be a must-have for us. My daughter is 7 months old and has used this every day since about 3 months – it is a fairly safe place to put her and still have her near me when I have to get something done (make dinner, etc.) – helped her learn to sit up on her own (soft landing while she went through the topple-over phase) – propped up slightly while her back helped her learn to feed herself a bottle as she’s laying back far enough to help her keep the bottle up high – and my brother’s kids (2 and 5) still use theirs to hang out in and watch a movie, etc. Would highly recommend it to every new mom!
    And our baby Bjorn carrier has also been a lifesaver – our daughter loves it -shopping, baseball games, walks, laundromat – even for naps! Let’s me get things done while she’s hanging out enjoying herself.

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