What I Didn't Really Need for that First Baby


I told you I was going to make this a thing :)

I wrote about the things I wish I had from the beginning so now today I get to regale you with the things I was told I'd need but didn't.  Yay!

 Do you feel sometimes like our culture makes having a baby into a much more commercialized (and therefore expensive) thing than it needs to be?  I think there's some truth to that.  And it scares people.  Yes, you will need some things but you won't need ALL those things, despite what they tell you.  I wonder how many people are put off from having children or are terrified of the idea of parenthood partly because of this idea that they are so expensive and complicated and need all the things.

Now, I know, some of you will look at this list and proclaim how much you needed said listed item and how wonderful it was for your life with a newborn.  That's fine.  There's nothing wrong with anything on the list.  But I thought I'd share a little bit of our experience since the store registry list is going to tell you you need ALL THE THINGS.  And really, you don't.  I would say probably, at most, half those things are actually "needed."  Some of it is trial and error figuring out what works for your family but some of it, maybe you can skip all together when you are able to think clearly and before you walk into the baby supply store and they hypnotize you with all their baby powder magic.

So this is our list of what we didn't even need a little bit for that first baby.


The Diaper Genie
(or any other specialized diaper disposal system)
Otherwise known as the glorified and very expensive garbage can.  We received one of these with our first when we were still using disposables because it was on The Store Recommended Registry List (henceforth referred to as The List) and we we apparently needed it.  It is seriously a garbage can with special (read: expensive) liners you have to buy and it twists up each diaper individually in the can to decrease the possible smell.  Surprising fact:  breastfed newborn diapers don't smell that much anyway.  Plus, there's also another option:  take out your garbage.  We filled it up once and never really used it again, selling it at a garage sale before we moved.

Dozens of Washes/Creams/Lotions/Powders
I registered for a few and then got a whole bunch more as little add-ons to gifts.  I used to think the smell of Johnson's baby lotion was THE baby smell but then I had babies and realized that they make the best newborn smell all on their own without any help.  We barely used any of those items.  Partly because I didn't think they were needed but also as I got crunchier and read the labels on them, I was kinda freaked out about slathering all those unpronounceable things on my baby's skin, even the "natural" ones.  (Part of that was due to using topical progesterone cream during my next healthy pregnancy and learning that all that stuff really is absorbed into your bloodstream.  That previously loved Johnson's is now planning on graciously removing the carcinogens that they've contained.)

Babies don't need to be washed washed a whole lot, especially in the winter when it's already so dry.  We Americans get a little obsessive about our hygiene and it ends up backfiring.  Sometimes we start a cycle of washing too much, using a soap, and then baby's skin gets too dry so then we do have to use lotion and all the time we're the ones perpetuating the need for all those things.  Now, I use a homemade olive oil/beeswax salve on them only as needed which is only a few times during the dry winter months.   For washing I use plain old water…if they're older and genuinely dirty, I use a small bit of organic wash.  I still don't really know what powder is for but my kids have gotten along pretty well without it.

The Baby First Aid/Grooming Kit
Several of the things inside are helpful, definitely.  But most of it is pretty superfluous to make you think you're getting some great deal.  For us, I think we'd have been better off just buying a pair of nail clippers, a bulb syringe (though everyone is swearing by the Nosefrida now), and a thermometer.  Do people use baby nail files?  (Maybe.)  There's usually a few medicine dispensers in there as well but almost every baby medicine comes with its specially designed dispenser and makes sure to specify that you should only use that one anyway.  Hair brush and comb?  No.  If you're one of those lucky parents that has a baby with long hair that does need to be combed, you can pretty much use your own or buy a better one separately.  And no, you also don't need a gum brusher.

Special Towels
Yes, they're cute so get one if you want.  Wash cloths, too.  But you don't need a specially designed/shaped/charactered towels to dry your baby.  Regular people towels and wash cloths work just fine and, in my opinion, are better baby burrito makers.
  
The Dresser/Changing Table Combo
The List said we needed one.  So we took a whole bunch of store credit we had saved from all the gifts we knew we wouldn't need.  (I worked at a very wealthy parish at the time and received some very generous gifts at the shower.  Expensive stuffed animals, clothes, etc.  Thank goodness for easy return policies!)  We were able to get the special changing dresser without paying a dime.  It looked cute, yes.  But after having the baby, we realized that most of our diaper changes were happening downstairs on the couch or floor and not in the specially designed and positioned Changing Area of the upstairs baby's room (which didn't even hold said baby for a good four or five months).  No one runs upstairs just to change the baby.  I wish we had just gotten a plain old dresser that would grow with the child or saved the credit for diapers or something more useful.  If your changing area/bedroom is downstairs, it may be more useful, but still, the weird shape of those things means that it doesn't really make sense beyond the baby years.

Toys and Stuffed Animals
Having a baby?  Get ready to get ALL the toys and stuffed animals.  Here's a secret that experienced moms know but that The Man doesn't want you to:  newborn babies don't play with toys.  They don't even care about stuffed animals.  But those toys and animals will slowly take over your house if you let them.  When they do start playing with things, they usually prefer the weirdest and/or simplest things anyway…mom's necklace, a plastic bottle, grass, the chewed gum they found underneath the playground picnic table.  All of that is much more appealing than the expert-designed, educationally stimulating toy that will surely help them to read and perform simple mathematic equations by the time they're eighteen months.  I'm so glad we set up a precedent with our first and kept only one or two baby toys and a couple stuffed animals (and those animals were later discarded as well).  Part of it was that we just didn't have the room and part was because people had spent money that at the time we really really needed for more important things so we returned them.  I'm so glad we did, though.  I think it prepared us to be pretty discerning in the amount of stuff we let in our home and avoid the trap many fall into a few years later of drowning in all the kids' stuff.

Bottles (and all! the! accessories!)
Baby equals needing baby bottles, right?  That's like item numero uno on The List and the quintessential baby item.  Not necessarily.  Now, obviously, a lot of people are going to need bottles and those people should buy them.  But what was really surprising for us was that we didn't use them at all for our first three babies.  Much to my own shock I didn't really leave our babies much when they were tiny and I was able to exclusively nurse and that worked really well for us.  By the time I was ready to leave them for more than an hour or two they were able to take a sippy cup.  All those bottles and washers and accessories went unused until I finally donated them.  If you plan on nursing and not leaving baby for the first few months, you might not need all the bottle things.  If I were doing it over, they would be something to hold off on and only bought if I did end up needing them (or, if that makes you nervous, have them but leave them in the package so that you can return them if you don't).

A few honorable mentions:

Pacifiers - I like to have one around just in case someday one of our newborns will take one.  None of them ever really did (despite some moments where I desperately wanted them to!)  But I never ended up needing the six or seven that we got at the beginning.

Boppy - Some people LOVE their Boppy but I didn't find it helpful for breastfeeding at all.  Too small and I still had to hunch over or bring baby up to nurse.  I did use it for sitting on after having stitches, though!  And a couple times to prop up baby.  I ended up getting rid of it.  For nursing in the early days I much prefer the Brest Friend that I got when I had my second.

Diaper Bag - Do you know what a diaper bag is?  It's a big bag with several pockets.  You'll need a bag, of course, but a good size purse of backpack is just as good.  Diaper bags are much cuter nowadays then when I started but still, just a fancy bag so you don't NEED need a special diaper bag. I've had several diaper bags - one new from a shower, others from garage sales or hand me downs.  Every single time I try one I end up going back to something simpler.  After a few months you realize you can get along pretty well on short outings just by throwing a diaper and maybe an extra onesie in there.

 ALL the Onesies and Blankets - The List will tell you that you need thirty seven onesies and seventy two receiving blankets.  You don't.  I would say 10-12 onesies and maybe six blankets is more than enough.

Special Baby Laundry Detergent - This stuff doesn't make sense.  It's heavily fragranced, which isn't really good for any skin, let alone baby skin and there's really nothing else about it that makes it special for baby except the packaging.  Stick with a free and clear normal or naturally-derived detergent.

ALL the Baby Holders - There are so many contraptions out there and this one is tricky because you don't really know what you and baby will prefer until you're in the thick of it.  But chances are you won't need the bouncer AND the newborn seat AND the swing AND the bassinet AND the play yard AND the cradle AND the exersaucer AND the jumper, know what I mean?  We barely used our swing and ended up getting rid of it a few years later.  Same with the bassinet.  We do like having a little bouncer type seat and something for when baby wants to be upright (we got rid of our exersaucer because it got gross and those things are huge to store…not sure what we'll use this time but maybe just a baby seat/Bumbo thing.)  All those things are good things to pass around between other friends with children and borrow if needed rather than everyone shelling out the money for all of them.


So, how'd I do?
Was your experience totally different?
Any "we didn't need that at all" items on your list?


Linking up with Kelly and 7 Quick Takes despite the non-quickishness of it all

34 comments

  1. I can still distinctly remember the overwhelmed feeling of shock and dismay the first time I walked into a Babies R Us and marveled at all the STUFF modern society thinks we need for babies, while at the same time our culture thinks babies are disposable. (I'm old - I remember when it was a new store chain.) To me the store was a sad, sad commentary on how confused things have gotten in our times.
    I would add Crib to your list - definitely the biggest and most expensive item I didn't need. :-)

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    1. We do have a crib that we use at 6ish or so months (it's been different for each baby) until age 2 or 3 but I know lots of families who don't have one at all. Definitely more of a preference and not a necessity!

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  2. The only lotion I really like is Boureadeax Butt Paste. It is awesome for diaper rash. Everything else, I skip. However, none of us use lotion or anything at all on a regular basis. We're pretty low-key like that. I do like a diaper bag though. Mostly because I don't want to pack and repack it and have different purses for different outings. So, I just have 1 bag, I keep everything in...spacr clothes, diapers, wipes, spare clothes for toddlers, granola bars, wallet, keys, cell phone, check book, pens., GPS (for the car). Basically just everything I could ever need while out It's big and bulky, but it works and it's easier to just grab and go, rather than think what I might need.

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    1. Our babies have never really had an issue with diaper rash. I don't know why. The tube we got before the first lasted like four years! I definitely need a big bag for all those reasons. It's all in there! I just don't think it NEEDS to be a special diaper bag. I feel like new parents get sucked into thinking they must have that special baby item when really, it's just a glorified purse :)

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  3. Good list. So true about all the blankets and washcloths. I just use them for dust mops now. And stuff animals. I keep wanting to purge ours, but they keep the boys company at night and my oldest likes to build towers with them so they are still being used and played with nicely. I love me a good diaper bag though. I have a nice big one that got me so many compliments and some ladies were shocked to find out it was a diaper bag. I think they are lined with something different so all the stickies come off easier. We love our bassinet too. It is definitely hard for first time moms who don't know yet what will or will not work for them. I'm on number 5 so I've got a good handle on what our family needs. I really like this post idea and now want to write one of mine own for what worked and didn't for our family. =)

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    1. Diaper bags now are definitely way prettier than they used to be! I remember registering and it was either the canvas/backpacky looking one or the ones with winnie the pooh on them, you know? Now they really do look like purses!

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  4. As a first time mom (I'm a week or two behind you in pregnancy!) I can't even tell you the number of hours I've spend poring over what I "need" for the baby.. some things are so ridiculous! Thank you for this concise list. I'm determined not to gather stuff just for the sake of having it. I'm already wanting to throw everything in our house out because we are drowning in stuff.. and I know it's only going to get worse from here. I did get a beautiful bag for Christmas that looks like a purse but has an organizer insert to double as a diaper bag, I'm pretty excited about it! :)

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    1. I'm so excited for you! And yes, keep that attitude…you'll be really grateful!

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  5. I agree about the diaper bag. We had many babies. By the time we got to the last one I just carried ONE diaper and a slim case of wipes in my regular smallish sized purse. I also kept a few extra diapers stowed in the pouches of our van and a regular box of wipes. We have left our diaper days behind now, but we still keep the wipes in the van....so many uses! I love your list! Rah! rah!

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    1. Yes, an emergency diaper in the glove box is essential! We use cloth wipes at home but I try to keep a pack of disposable ones in the car, too, because yes, so useful!

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  6. We got a whole ton of baby towels and washcloths and hooded things, and I think I used one of them one time, if that. They're just not thick enough to dry well or big enough to really wrap a baby up in - so big-people-towels have been our go-to as well. I admit that all the little baby specific ones are cute on the shelf but totally unnecessary!

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    1. Our kids are small and they still seem to only really fit them for a few months anyway. I should've added those super cute but totally impractical baby bathrobes, too…we never had one but I imagine they're one of those things you use once for the photo op and then never again ;)

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  7. Agreed! The other item that makes me chuckle is a wipes warmer. We never got a changing table, just a $10 pad to plop on our twins' dresser, and I'm very glad now that I see the magnetic pull open shelving has on toddlers. Must. Pull. All. The. Things. Onto. The. Floor! I'm guessing changing table storage stops being much use as soon as a kid is mobile? Kid #3 mostly gets changed downstairs so I don't have to pen the toddlers in safely before carrying her upstairs. We just keep diapers, burp cloths, and a pack of wipes in the pantry. For some reason half the people who gave us baby gifts all had the same bright idea: "Oh, I bet nobody thought to give them baby towels!" We received...a lot. Thanks to twins, we did need a couple of bouncy seats/swings so I had places to soothe one baby while feeding or changing the other, but we received three as handmedowns so they weren't an expense. How do you make your beeswax/olive oil salve? My kids' skin gets extremely dry (very typical for black children and adults) and needs to be moisturized constantly. We use jojoba and coconut oil, with Aquaphor when it gets super dry in winter and nothing else is enough. I did try olive oil once, but I couldn't hold them without sniffing and getting hungry for an Italian dinner...

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    1. Ha! the beeswax smell changes that a bit…but it's still yummy. Okay, I have a baby item confession. I actually really like the wipes warmer! (That might have to go on another list ;) We didn't have one until our fourth baby and with cloth wipes I find it really helpful to keep them wet so you don't have to run back and forth to the sink. We only used it for the first year or so and I used to make fun of them, too…but now I love it! And yes, open shelf changing tables with a toddler around are just asking for a mess! For the salve I do a 1 oz. to 8 oz. combo of melted beeswax to olive oil. I steep the olive oil for a few days in some herbs and after its melted I sometimes add a few drops of essential oils. For some reason the last time I made it came out a bit softer so I may up the beeswax a little bit next time. I have a bit more on that here: http://www.betterthaneden.com/2011/11/homemade-mama-and-baby-gift.html

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    2. Just FYI, avocado oil is great for sensitive and really dry, irritated skin, and it has a neutral smell.

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  8. Totally agree. Just thinking about the nappy bag (diaper bag) when my first was born, I used to take EVERYTHING with me, now I have a slightly larger handbag and dash out the door with bare minimum.
    Enjoying your posts:) was thinking I should write my list, but then again I'm in the midst of pecking away at a post on the changes in parenting I've experienced in 20 years. Got thinking about this in hospital last year when our baby was born. Advice is so different.

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    1. I'd love for you to write something like that! A lot of hospitals and doctors (very very very slowly) around here are going back to more evidence-based medicine and *trying* to make some good changes. They still have a long way to go but there are seeds there which is hopeful. I find it SO interesting that in an age when we can so easily communicate and share information around the world that medical and health information and social practices still seems to be pretty isolated to each country. I'm always very intrigued to hear what is normal pregnancy, baby, and child raising info in other parts of the world. Not sure how different Australia would be but I'd love for you to share on that as well!

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  9. I agree with all. Love it thanks!

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  10. I laughed at this post, Mary. Just recently I was telling my future daughter-in-law that babies need onesies, diapers and an actively-involved parent. So much of what people buy today is just used to park baby and do something else -- something self-involved. Other than cooking and cleaning (and taking care of brothers and sisters) there is nothing you can't do while holding baby (a wrap or snugli is helpful for exhausted arms). I used to get so annoyed at people (sorry if these are your readers) who bring baby into Mass and let him sleep through Mass in his car seat -- that's prime snuggling time! Babies need to be held -- even if they are sleeping. Now that I am almost at the age of most grandmas, I can see how ridiculous all those things are, though I have to say your dependence on some things would depend on how much of a "prepper" you are. I always liked having a packed diaper bag (or in the case of my last child -- an attractive backpack style purse-- but that was just because I liked knowing everything I might need was ready. Some people are better at flying by the seats of their pants.

    PS I liked your comment about the wipe warmer. I had one with my last child and there is nothing like a nice warm wipe in the middle of a cold winter night (or should I say nothing stirs a drowsy baby like a cold wipe in the middle of a cold winter night). Now that I am more conscious of chemicals we use, I would probably use wet washcloths in a container with a wipe warmer wrapped around it.

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    1. I love snuggling babies at Mass but I admit, there definitely have been times when I know if I try to transfer the baby when already asleep, the whole congregation will have to pay! But even during those times I'm always checking (and secretly hoping!) that baby will wake up so I can take them out! It's good to have a grandma's perspective on this!

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  11. Yes! Exactly. Amen. I don't have much here ... I change my baby's diapers on our bed, over a travel changing pad. And you're so right about the Diaper Genie thing. I have a small step-lid trashcan in our room and it never smells!

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  12. Amen to all of dat! You totally beat me to the punch for this kind of post but I'm still wanting to write one too! Maybe you should call all mother bloggers to link up with all their unnecessary crap lists?

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    1. You should totally write one! I'd read it! Hmmm…an unnecessary crap link-up may be in order :)

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  13. As an infertile woman (the kind who conceives and loses a lot), I find that these kinds of lists are *so* helpful. Let the moms tell me from their trial and error what worked and what didn't! I love the idea of finally being able to have a baby and not having to wade through baby clutter to figure out what works best. I see allllll of our friends drowning in bassinets and lotions and plush toys, like you mentioned, so I knew those were traps before I read this. Taking notes and reading while we wait on God to make us parents in the meantime... :)

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    1. I'm so glad you find it helpful. I'm adding you to the list of those I pray for who struggle with that heavy cross.

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    2. So awesomely kind of you to do that. Thank you. <3

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  14. We totally still use the Boppy all the time! Although not for nursing... After John Paul I kind of didn't see the point because I had gotten good at nursing without a pillow (well, except for tandem-nursing the twins) - we mostly use it for propping the baby up so he's not just lying on the floor, and it's great when they're beginning sitters!

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    1. I remember using it a few times that way before I got rid of it but found the bouncy seat did the same thing. But if you prefer it, then I'm glad you have it!

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  15. So true. We got rid of so much stuff, it seemed like we had less stuff after each baby instead of getting more. I did buy a lot of onesies though. My fourth was a reflux-pukey baby, and he would go through 6-8 in a day. I would also add to consider shopping at church consignment sales if they have them in your area. Not only do babies not need so much stuff, they don't really need *new* stuff, and I've found great deals at our church sales :)

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    1. Definitely! Most of our items added for subsequent babies were bought either consignment or through Craigslist!

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  16. I never understood the use of baby towel bathrobes. When you take a baby out, if you don't get a diaper on it fast enough it will pee and have to take another bath.

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    1. Just to look cute and maybe a photo op? But we never had one because it seemed silly to have one so they could be in it for less than a minute in between towel and pjs!

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