Parenting can be really tough sometimes. The pacing, the lack of sleep, and the seemingly endless loads of laundry that pile up. Add to that the stress of the cost of raising a kid in the 21st century. According to a report of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average middle-income family will spend more than $12,500 per year on child-related expenses. Many of these expenses come from buying products that are supposed to make parenting easier—or your baby happier. Sometimes they’re great; other times they’re not. As a parent, it’s so frustrating to spend money on something (and get excited about what it offers) only to find that it doesn’t live up to its claim. Let us help you save time and money! If you’re in the middle of “baby central,” or if you’re preparing for it, here is a list of must-have products (according to other parents) that will put your hard-earned money to good use—as well as a few hyped-up “solutions” that you can, and should, skip.
Don’t Buy: Pacifier Sanitizing Wipes
We understand why these make sense for a first-time parent. First-time parents tend to religiously scrub the first-born’s pacifier every time it hits the floor (which is often). By the time kid No. 2 or 3 arrives—or maybe just after two or three months—parents usually start to relax. A little floor dust never hurt anyone, after all. We know terrific moms who actually lick their kids’ pacifiers clean. Others give them a once-over with their sleeves. Unless your pediatrician specifically tells you to use sanitizing wipes, you can probably get by without them.
Do Buy: The NoseFrida “Snot Sucker”
This is, on the other hand, an absolute must to have on hand. Since you can’t protect your little one from every single germ, it’s only natural they’ll pick up a bug and feel a little gross for a few days. One bad baby cold and you’ll realize the reason why this product is a necessity. This brilliant invention provides a gentle suction to clear your baby’s nasal passages, painlessly and effectively, so they can breathe—and you can breathe easy. Yes, it might seem a little gross, but it’s hardly the ickiest part of parenting. Pick one up here for $20.
Don’t Buy: Floor Seats
Most infants can’t sit up on their own until they’re a few months old. That is fine. They’ve got their whole lives to sit up and stare at screens. Why rush into it? Floor seats prop up babies who can’t actually sit yet, as if they needed that. There’s even a safety belt so your kid can’t escape. Save your money and let your baby’s musculoskeletal system do the work. (Though if the ease is still attractive to you, consider that these seats were recalled a few years ago because of the risk of injury they posed to children when not used “properly.” Why risk it?)
Do Buy: Boppy Pillow
This product is extremely useful, and its function changes as your baby grows older. Moms use it during the infant stage to elevate their baby during breastfeeding. It can also act as a support for a little one to lie on. Once baby is past 6 months of age, the pillow can prop them up to ensure proper seating (and that the baby doesn’t fall over). Get the original here for $40.
Don’t Buy: Wipe Warmers
Didn’t Freud say something about adult depression being caused by contact with freezing cold baby wipes during infancy? No, he didn’t, because the idea is absurd. Unless you store your baby wipes in the refrigerator, there’s no good reason to heat them up before using them for their disgusting and necessary purpose. If you do store baby wipes in the fridge, though, let us know; we’ve got an idea for a $450 baby wipe cooler we’d love to discuss with you.
Do Buy: Boudreaux’s Butt Paste
If you’ve never taken care of a baby who’s having a bad case of diaper rash, you’re lucky, because it’s just awful—and something that you’ll do anything to avoid ever happening again. This cream has zinc oxide to protect your precious little one’s rear end from diaper rash, which can be incredibly, blisteringly painful. It can also soothe the skin when babies have allergic reactions to wipes or diapers. Get a 16-ounce tub here for $16.
Don’t Buy: Baby Food Makers
We come from a proud tradition of collecting kitchen gadgets that we’ll never use. With dedicated puree machines, you can get your young one started on this tradition early. Baby food makers are basically just blenders with a little fancy packaging. If there’s a blender in your kitchen, you’re already there. A baby food cookbook is probably more worth your while, and will definitely cost a lot less. On the other hand, you can just go the super-easy route with baby-led weaning, where you just give them small bits of the food you’re already cooking for your own meals (provided they’re age-appropriate, of course).
Do Buy: Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder AND/OR The Spuni
Babies can’t eat certain foods because the size or shape of the item might make them choke. Even certain purees have lumps that can get caught in an infant’s throat. Not only does this product allow your baby to eat foods that normally wouldn’t be safe, but it also provides hours of entertainment as your baby sucks and plays with their food. (P.S. the clean up is worth it!) Get two of them here for $7. Spuni has a unique design that promotes the natural latching instinct that a baby develops during breast and bottle feeding. Spuni is the perfect tool to help your baby transition to solid food. Get one here for $11.57.
Don’t Buy: Thermometers Made for the Bath
While we’re on the subject of bathing, you might see some cute thermometers that are designed to warn you when the bath water is too hot. You actually already own a product that can do this. It is your elbow. Stick your elbow in the water. It should feel just slightly warm, but not hot. Too cold? Don’t put the baby in. Too hot? Don’t put the baby in. That should do the trick.
Do Buy: Puj Tub
The sink always seems to be the most comfortable and convenient place to bathe a newborn. The problem is that most baby tubs are huge, bulky, impossible to store between baths, and might not even fit in your sink anyway. The Puj Tub makes washing your baby in the sink (any sink!) a lot easier, and it won’t fill up your entire closet when bath-time is done. Unfold it and hang it flat for easy drying. You’ll never struggle to find a place to store a tub again. Get one here for $45.
Don’t Buy: Walking Helpers
Unless your doctor specifically orders you to use one of these portable harnesses, there’s no real reason to invest in one. They’re supposed to help your kid learn to walk, but learning to walk is a natural process that doesn’t really need fancy new devices to take effect. On the other hand, if you’re going to keep your kid (literally) on a leash until they’re like 12, this product provides some nice training.
Do Buy: Baby K’tan Baby Carrier
This wrap-style carrier is a big hit among parents of newborns, babies, and toddlers up to 35 pounds. It offers the comfort and flexibility that parents love in wrap carriers but avoids the messy, complicated “over” wrapping. It’s also super portable and easy to throw in a diaper bag or backpack. Get the original here for $50. (Multiple sizes and colors are available, but prices may vary.)
Don’t Buy: Super-Fancy Bedding Sets for a Crib
There’s a whole cottage industry based on the human need to make nurseries as cute as possible. You know what’s really cute, though? Your baby. You can spend thousands on a chic, perfectly matched bedding set. Or you could spend a few bucks at the thrift store. Either way, your baby won’t know the difference. We’re not saying you shouldn’t pay out the wazoo for the comfiest, softest infant sheets known to man. We’re just saying that you shouldn’t think it will make a difference to your baby—that stuff is for you, Mom. Another reason you shouldn’t drop a bunch of money on all this stuff? Your baby can’t sleep with it anyway. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on their backs on a tight-fitting sheet in a crib that is free of blankets, crib bumpers, pillows, toys, or stuffed animals. Why even bother buying something you can’t use?
Do Buy: Summer Infant SwaddleMe Original Swaddle
Most babies love to be swaddled! But we challenge you to find an overwhelmed new parent who can do it effectively and without frustration. That’s what makes this product so awesome. Its comfy fabric and foolproof swaddling mechanism will make even the most sleep-deprived caretaker a pro. Get a three-pack here for $24. (Other patterns are available, but prices may vary.) Now that you know what you should and should not need, head over to the Amazon Baby Registry where you’ll find all these essentials and more.