For a first time mom, it can be extremely overwhelming to look at the never-ending list of “must-haves” for your new baby. These lists are everywhere–in books, in parenting magazines, and in the stores where you register. Unfortunately, these lists often include items that are not necessary and some that are down right frivolous.
To be sure, there are many items that you will need for your baby’s arrival–clothes, diapers, car seat, etc. There are also some items that, while they may not be necessities, are so helpful that you wouldn’t want to be without them–baby monitor, a sling or wrap (learn how to make your own for just a few dollars), baby wipes (make your own reusable wipes for less than a penny a piece), etc.
Before I get down to the list of things you don’t need, let me say this: most of the items on this list are helpful to some degree. Many of them would be nice to have. But if you’d like to save a little money on baby gear, you can safely cross these items off your list and you’ll likely never even miss them.
A Boppy is simply a nursing pillow. It is in a horseshoe shape which is designed to sit around your waist while you’re nursing. By resting your baby on it, you bring him up to breast level. People also use their Boppies to prop up the baby while she sits on the floor during play time. It’s a nice idea in theory and many moms love their Boppies. Personally, I have found that the Boppy really doesn’t do anything more than what a small pillow would do. The difference is, a Boppy costs about $35.
A baby wipe warmer is exactly what it sounds like. It is an electrical device that keeps baby wipes warm. While I can’t deny that there are some mornings when those wipes come out of the box pretty cold, just holding the wipe in your hand for a moment will warm it to a tolerable temperature for your baby. It is also worth noting that wipe warmers have a tendency to dry out your wipes, leaving them unusable. Most wipe warmers cost about $20.
The Diaper Genie is the brand name of one of several diaper disposal systems on the market. Essentially, this is a diaper pail that seals each diaper in an odor-trapping film to eliminate diaper smells from your baby’s room and to keep messy diapers from touching the inside of the pail. While these are nice to have, they are expensive to use. The pail, itself, costs around $30 but the film refills cost as much as $10 and you’ll need almost two refills per month. A traditional diaper pail with baking soda sprinkled at the bottom can be a more cost-effective alternative.
Diaper Disposal Bags
Diaper disposal bags are handy to take along when you go out, so that you have a way to dispose of your baby’s dirty diapers. These small plastic bags are usually scented to eliminate diaper odors and as a result, some people use them at home to dispose of poopy diapers. The problem with these is that they can cost as much as several cents a piece and they create a lot of unnecessary waste. Instead, save your plastic grocery bags and toss a few of them into your diaper bag for easy diaper disposal on the go. If you use reusable bags at the grocery store, ask around. You may have friends and family who would be happy to save the plastic ones for you.
If you thought a changing table was a necessity, think again. These pieces of furniture can be handy as they are at an ideal height to change a baby and most come with storage area perfect for storing diapers and wipes. Unfortunately, changing tables take up additional space in your baby’s nursery and will easily run you $100 or more. Ironically, many parents who have changing tables end up changing their babies on the floor or on a bed, at least occasionally.
I have nursed two babies and have never used an actual nursing cover. I do, however, see how they might be handy to have. Unfortunately, they can cost you $10, $20, or even more. The frugal alternative is to simply use a lightweight baby blanket and drape it over your shoulder and your baby as she nurses. If you prefer the idea of a nursing cover, I found a free pattern you can use to make your own nursing cover for about $5.
Baby Bath Tub
Sure, these tiny tubs are adorable but they are a huge pain. After each bath you have to empty or drain the water, dry out the bath tub, and find somewhere to store it. In addition, very little of your baby’s body will be immersed in the water, leaving him exposed and cold. I have found it much more practical to bathe my babies in the kitchen sink. It’s the perfect size and you don’t have to worry about storage. Not only that, but use your sink and you can save yourself the $20 or so you would spend on a baby bath tub.
This is perhaps the most frivolous item on the list. Bottle warmers are appliances that simply warm up a bottle of formula or breastmilk for you. It usually takes about five minutes for the bottles to warm. While it is not safe to warm bottles in the microwave, there are other, cheaper ways to get them warm. If you have a crock pot, fill it with a couple of inches of water and turn it on to low. Then, when you’re ready to warm a bottle, just drop it in the crock pot for a few minutes. You can also warm a bottle by immersing it in hot tap water. That’s a lot cheaper than buying a $40 bottle warmer.
Back before dishwashers were found in most homes, moms had to sterilize their baby’s bottles after every use. This entailed boiling the bottles and all their parts in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Then, some enterprising inventor came up with the idea for an electric sterilizer. Quicker and easier than boiling on the stove, this became standard baby gear for many parents. Today, it is recommended that you sterilize bottles and pacifiers before their first use. After that, the dishwasher will do the job for you. Don’t have a dishwasher? A good washing in hot municipal tap water will also keep your bottles sanitary and safe. And if you don’t have a dishwasher and your tap water comes from a well? The good old fashioned method of boiling bottles on the stove is a lot cheaper than shelling out $70 or more on a sterilizer.
Playmats (also known as gyms) are brightly colored mats that usually have a variety of toys dangling above them. The idea is that your baby can lie on the mat and reach up to grab or kick the toys (baby exercise, hence the term “gym”). The problem is, most babies don’t want to lie on their backs on the floor for very long, even if there are toys hanging above them. You could use the mat for tummy time but then the toys are pretty much useless. A soft, brightly colored blanket on the floor plus a little playtime with mom or dad is a good, frugal alternative. Playmats generally run from about $30-$60.