The Top Five Things New and Expecting Parents Do Not Need (But Will Probably Buy or Be Gifted With Anyway!)

As a mother of four children, ages 7 weeks through almost 8 years, I’ve seen a lot of baby “must-haves” cycle through popularity. My personal philosophy when learning that a friend or relative is expecting or adopting is to say, “I’m here if you need me, but I’m not going to give you advice unless you ask.” I find this solves a lot of opinionated hot air (from me) and a lot of head-nodding and smile-forcing (from you). However, I’ve been pondering the things I’ve lived without, or owned but found completely unnecessary, and I thought I would put together a list, complete with rationales against the items and cost-saving alternatives. I hope you find this entertaining, if not useful!

1. Diaper Genie                 

Whether in its first or current incarnation, I cringe when hearing parents express a desire for this item and studiously avoid it on the registry. Depending on the brand, you could be spending between $20 and $80 (or more) on this device, plus a guaranteed refill cost of $20 a month, more if you’re “that parent” who changes the diaper every single time the little yellow line turns blue. (If you don’t understand what I just said, pat yourself on the back because you escaped the insanity of diapers that tell you when the baby’s had a wee-wee. As if you can’t just take a peek in there and tell.) And all for a tiny pail that’s going to take up space in the nursery, dispense tiny bags for dirty diapers, and be one more thing to throw in the landfill later on down the line.

Why You Don’t Need It

How often are you changing diapers in the nursery where the Diaper Genie lives? Are you carting it around the house wherever the baby goes? Are you going back up there for a diaper disposal bag every single time you change a diaper? Probably not. (If you are, kudos!) Not to mention the reviews I’ve read of this type of device have been so-so at best, with some people claiming it’s “an absolute livesaver!!!!!!” and others saying “it broke immediately” or “I never used it, although it seemed like a useful item”.

Low-Cost Alternatives

Do you get the newspaper delivered? When there’s rain, or the threat of precipitation, does it still come in a little plastic bag? (Mine does.) Do you shop? Grocery stores, pharmacies, WaWa, toy stores (yeah, you definitely go there now), restaurant take-out, department stores… They all package your wares in plastic bags, unless you’re savvy enough to always remember those reusable plastic/fabric bags and take them with you. Eat bread, bagels, English muffins? They come in plastic bags. What is a Diaper Genie, after all, except a plastic bag dispenser? Fill a plastic bag dispenser sleeve with all those bags and BAM! Instant, low-cost, eco-friendly Diaper Genie. Toss in that little stinkeroo, tie the bag, and flip it inside out. Tie it again if you want. They are designed to be water-resistant, and by folding it over and tying it once or twice you will keep the smell inside. If you’re REALLY conservative, you can use one bag multiple times. Especially the newspaper and bread bags; those puppies are sleeve-shaped and hold an entire day’s worth of diapers in one go. I stash them in the diaper bag for when I have to visit family, go to the doc, or do anything else where it’s not acceptable to toss dirty diapers in the trash can without protection. (I’m looking at you, restroom-changing-table-thrower-awayer.)

2. Baby Monitor

You just died a little inside, didn’t you? “Everyone needs one! Keep an eye on your baby from your phone, your tablet, your computer at work…the next room!” You’ve got your video monitors, your audio monitors, your WiFi and remote view monitors, your movement monitors…and accessories for them all! You could spend hundreds of dollars on a system you really and truly rarely, if ever, need. I would use it sometimes when I was outside gardening, but to be honest, opening the nursery windows worked just as well (if you aren’t gardening in the winter, of course).

Why You Don’t Need It

Dude, seriously, unless you’re deaf (and I mean that in the literal sense of the word) or live in a palace, you DO NOT NEED THIS. You may not be aware of this factoid, but one of the superhero powers parents develop immediately upon bringing that little bundle of joy home is super hearing. Unless you have a soundproof nursery, you are going to hear every single noise that kid makes. It’s one major reason new parents don’t get much sleep. Quick story: when I first used my baby monitor after our first child came home the thing scared the hell out of me. It was so loud! Even on its quietest setting! I’m talking “It goes to 11” loud. (If you didn’t understand what I just said, you really need to watch “This is Spinal Tap”.) And the video part? Even worse! I stayed awake half the damn night just watching to make sure she was still breathing! You can trust me when I say you WILL hear your little one (and the big ones) when they need you, without a monitor.

Low-Cost Alternatives

If you simply aren’t comfortable without being able to monitor your baby’s crib activities, I get it. I really do. There are definite advantages to noticing your little one waking up before the angel starts crying. So get a web cam. You can find them on eBay and other sites, really nice ones that do everything a baby monitor does in a smaller, more useful package, for less than $50. And you can set up the cam to “live stream” to your phone, tablet, computer, etc. The one I have (yes, I do have one, although I use it less than 1% of the time) has 360 degree rotation, an infrared function for nighttime use, a “talk back” feature so I can communicate with the baby instead of just hearing him (not that I see a use for that right now), and a remotely-controlled positioning system so I can angle in just right on the sleeping/crying/snuffling/snorting/tooting darling. (Also, we paid about $50 for it, whereas you can get it at Babies R Us for a mere $249.99). I put the viewing page on in the background of my computer and do other things. Like read old “bitches gotta eat” blogs.

3. Car Seat Covers

The cheapest one I saw on BabiesRUs.com was $30, and they went way, way up in cost from there. This invention acts like an insulator from the elements for the baby, allowing you to snugly cover that precious creature from top to bottom, side to side. You can leave a pocket for the head…or not! Surprise, there’s a baby in there!

Why You Don’t Need It

How often are you carrying that car seat through rain, sleet, snow, and hail for the amount of time it would warrant to put the dang cover on and take it back off in the first place? That’s strike one for me. It can trap air inside the car seat, creating a pocket of warmth that can be dangerous to an already-overdressed baby, which you’re guaranteed to have if you a) are a new parent (sorry, but it’s most likely true), b) want to use absolutely ALL of those adorable little accessories you were given, and/or c) don’t follow the “one layer more” rule. (Did you know you aren’t supposed to put a coat on a baby in a car seat? I didn’t, at first.) Car seats tend to come with a little hood if you really need to protect the baby from the elements while you’re dashing through the snow.

Low-Cost Alternatives

Receiving blanket. Adult rain coat. UMBRELLA. ‘Nuff said.

4. Multiple Strollers

It seems smart, a stroller for every purpose. There are SO MANY stroller types out there it’s impossible to give an exact cost, but the least expensive are usually around $20 (those are your limited-use umbrella strollers) and the more expensive ones can run over a couple hundred dollars. You probably do need a stroller at some point, unless you’re comfortable hand-carrying your baby and young child all over the place, but multiple strollers? Not really necessary, though common requests from new parents.

Why You Don’t Need Them

Again, consider where you go. Do you jog, or do you prefer to walk? Do you travel to heavily-congested and crowded places often? Do you have a large vehicle? Investing in a single, multi-use, convertible stroller is probably in your best interest. I can count on literally one hand how often I have used my side-by-side dual stroller, for instance, but the front-to-back dual stroller was useful on countless occasions. And the jogging stroller? HA.

Low-Cost Alternatives

Again, invest in one that is functional for many years. You already bought that crib that converts to a toddler bed, didn’t you? It was smart! So do the same with a stroller. You might also consider getting a few of those shopping bag hooks. They are AWESOME.

5. Baby Shoes

You just died a little inside again, didn’t you? I know! I have dozens of pairs of baby shoes, so I know. But I never EVER use them. I’m serious. NEVER. The other day I tried to put a pair of shoes on my squirming baby and good heavens I gave up immediately. I put those adorable little shoes right back in the baby clothes storage box and went with a cute pair of fuzzy socks instead. Plus you’re looking at spending $13 or more on a pair of shoes for a child who is going through the most rapid growth of his/her life, so this item truly is a waste of money. And it breaks my heart to say that.

Why You Don’t Need Them

Does your child walk? ‘Nuff said.

Low-Cost Alternatives

Baby booties, especially ones shaped like animals or equipped with rattles for baby’s entertainment are much more useful. Fuzzy socks work wonders for keeping footsies warm and looking stylish. If you insist on buying shoes, however, buy them second-hand from a consignment shop (such as Once Upon a Child) or ask a friend. Since babies don’t walk, they don’t wear the shoes out on the soles, break laces, etc., so second-hand shoes are literally just as good as brand-new ones, for a fraction of the cost.

A few other things I would have added if I wanted to make a longer list are wipes warmers, virtually ALL baby first-aid kit items, dishwasher protectors for things like pacifiers, baby toothbrushes, and “wee-wee covers” for boys. And don’t even get me started on buying a minivan the second you have a baby. I carted my daughter around in a manual-transmission Mustang for the first five months, and at this time we have four kids and NO van. Another day, folks, another day.

Well, there you have it. I hope I haven’t destroyed your parental dreams, and I also hope you’ll forgive me for stepping away from my no-advice role and doling out a generous heaping. Furthermore, I hope I was able to give you some ideas for saving money, time, energy, and landfill space. This list is generated entirely from my experience as a parent, going through all the stages of baby-hood several times, although for full disclosure I also ran this past my husband (he’s been taking care of kids way longer than I have) and am “that parent” who Google-searches EVERYTHING. Being a parent is hard. Being a smart parent is not 🙂

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