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Whether you’re about to have your first child or you’re just on the hunt for a gift for a friend’s baby shower, look no further.
Before heading to the shops, online or in store, I’ve written a list of things you should cross off your shopping list. I purchased these items myself or were given them as gifts and, in hindsight, realized how much I actually didn’t need them at all…
Of course, every parent and child is different, so you may still want to go ahead and get some of these items.
But before you do, I’ve also provided some tips and tricks on how to get them for free or cheap to save money.
All things sleep
All things food
All things changing station
All things baby furniture
Other questionable items
All things sleep: Co-sleeping bed, attachments, and bassinets
People often have very strong feelings about where babies should sleep, whether that’s co-sleeping with their parents or in their own designated, contained space such as a crib or bassinet.
What I can tell you is that while you may have strong opinions about where your child should sleep, all your plans could be thrown out the window with each new baby that comes along.
I was staunchly against co-sleeping before I had my first child due to alleged safety issues.
But soon after my son was born, I realized co-sleeping was the only way my husband and I were going to sleep peacefully. It was easy and it just made sense for our family.
I thought I needed one of those in-bed co-sleepers (basically a small mini-bassinet mattress that baby sleeps on in your bed), but the only place my son liked to sleep was resting on my husband’s chest or in the nook of my arm. The latter position helped me nurse easily, too.
All this to say that the co-sleeper products and bassinets that went beside the bed were completely useless to us.
Both of our kids hated these products and transitioned into a full-size crib after a few months of co-sleeping with us. I ended up re-selling my bassinet soon after my kids were born.
All things baby food: Baby food maker, freezing tools, and pre-packaged foods
There are some really cool kitchen gadgets out there dedicated to baby food making, preparing, and heating.
But are they worth investing in?
Baby food maker
I was given a $200+ baby food maker from a friend when I had my first son. It steamed all my baby’s food, then blended it into a puree all within the same device.
While this was handy to make baby-sized portions, I found it limiting. I could never batch cook with it, which if we’re honest, is the smart way for busy moms to cook. It also took up a lot of space in my condo-sized kitchen.
By the time my second son came along, I had decided to start him with solids and try baby-led weaning. He completely took to it and we never used the baby food maker once with him.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to lend it out to other mom friends so they can see if it works for their families’ lifestyle. But for me, it wasn’t a worthwhile investment.
Like I said, batch cooking was much more economical when making baby food, but I didn’t need a fancy tool to do it. I just steamed a bunch of veggies on my stovetop, then used my kitchen blender to puree it.
This usually filled 3 or 4 one-liter food jars, which I could freeze for weeks or store in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you’d rather put them in meal sizes, then store them in smaller heat-safe glassware.
No need to invest in those colorful, freezer-safe containers made specifically for baby food. After your babies are off purees (which is faster than you think), you have no use for those flimsy containers, which take up precious real estate in your cupboards.
I mention pre-packaged foods because I loved the convenience of them. But full disclosure, for the amount of money you spend on 1 to 2 serving food pouches or jars, you could create triple the amount of servings by buying and preparing the food yourself.
But in a jam, I’m a proponent of making life easier for parents, and if it means buying a few packages of baby food once in a while, then it’s worth it.
All things changing area: Cloth diapers, change table, and diaper pail
This might be the most controversial category on my list as opinions will vary across the board.
As other budget-conscious families know, cloth diapers are considered the more economical option and are much more eco-friendly than disposable diapers.
I was a cloth diaper advocate when my first son was born. I didn’t mind doing laundry every 3 days to ensure there was a fresh batch of diapers to envelop my baby’s bottom.
But soon – particularly when he started eating solids – I found myself constantly doing laundry, so I invested in more cloth diapers and liners to give myself more days between laundry.
All in, I ended up spending almost $500 on my cloth diapering system. I justified the price because I knew I could re-use them for my future kids.
Fast-forward to baby number two and, to my surprise, I had even less time to do laundry. The hampers were overflowing and the smell coming from the diaper pail was just too much to handle.
I found myself using disposable diapers more and more until I realized it was time to cut my losses. We had a good run, but I realized my sanity and time weren’t a good trade for continuing with cloth diapers.
I ended up selling my cloth diaper system for a fraction of the price I paid for it, but I don’t regret giving them up.
Even though I had a designated surface on the nursery dresser to change my baby, I never used it.
Both my boys were super wriggly babies, so we just ended up bringing the change pad to the floor to keep them safe from rolling off the table, making a change table obsolete.
As for the diaper pail, I know how bad diaper smells get, but the problem isn’t taken care of when they’re thrown into an enclosed pail. That’s actually when new problems like mold and mildew emerge.
I invested in one of those fancy, steel diaper pails and while it was good at keeping odors in, the mold that grew in the air-locked space was too much to handle. I ended up tossing it because it had gotten so bad.
The better option is to throw your diapers in your outdoor bins as soon as possible. If you’re worried about critters getting into the bins, keep them in a garage or fenced-in space.
I lived in a city where diapers were compostable, but only if they weren’t wrapped in plastic bags. So skipping the diaper pail actually worked in my favor.
All things baby furniture: Nursery furnishings and baby armchairs
Furniture that’s specifically designated for nurseries, while cute, can be overly expensive.
I would also argue that babies and kids need more storage than adults due to the amount of revolving clothes, toys, and baby gear they have.
So when buying baby furniture, make sure you’re picking the right pieces.
Due to how quickly they grow, kids will constantly need new clothing.
Of course, if you’re a savvy shopper, you’ll buy them second hand or just pass them down from child to child. But this means you’ll need even more space to keep clothing in storage until the next child is ready to wear them.
I invested in a large Ikea dresser for a fraction of the price of most pint-sized nursery dressers. It also doubled as my change table, which as I mentioned above, was rarely used most days.
The only nursery furnishing I suggest purchasing is a crib. Look for a crib that converts to a toddler bed – or even a twin bed – which will last your child for years to come.
Cribs are all made to follow a set of safety regulations, so whether it’s a $2,000 model or $200 one, you can count on them being safe. Just be sure to register them so you can be updated on recalls.
Child-sized sofas and armchairs can be tempting to buy, especially because they’re so cute and would match your home decor nicely.
But you really should stick to normal-sized furniture because, in a couple of years, they won’t fit your growing kids any longer and will just become glorified pet chairs. And let’s be honest – your dog or cat probably still prefers the family loveseat.
Let every piece of furniture that comes into your home have a purpose so it can be useful years down the line. The struggle of clutter from kids’ stuff is real, so be very discerning about what you let in your home.
Other questionable baby items
Whether you decide to still include these items in your baby things, remember that a lot of these items are more of a personal choice rather than an absolute necessity.
So if you feel like you can do without, forgo the following:
I liked my breast pump, but did I really need it? I was rarely away from my babies during their feeding times after all.
When my youngest was over a year old, I went away with my husband for one week. My son didn’t have a chance to miss breastmilk since he was eating a variety of solids and dairy. But since I wasn’t ready to wean him, I knew I’d have to keep up my supply while traveling.
I didn’t want to bring my bulky breast pump along, so I decided to try hand expressing a couple of times a day. This method worked to keep up my supply and my baby and I hardly skipped a beat once I returned.
For women who need a large volume of breast milk, a breast pump might be more useful, but consider renting one first to see if it’s worth buying one.
Of course, you need some clothes for your newborn baby, but don’t invest in too many pieces as they’ll grow fast.
Both of my boys were out of 0 – 3 month clothing after their first month.
At birth, your child might even be too big for 0 – 3 month clothing, so consider getting more 3 – 6 month pieces since your baby will grow into them eventually.
Babies have a lot of stuff and, when you go out with them, you’ll likely need to bring a lot of it with you.
A bag is absolutely necessary, but a diaper bag is not.
Diaper bags usually have lots of compartments and extra bells and whistles to make life easier for parents, but I find many of them heavy, cumbersome, and overly colorful.
Plus, you often end up bringing along your purse in addition to the diaper bag, which means you’re carrying 2 bags plus the baby.
Streamline and invest in an oversized purse that you’re happy to carry around whether you’re with your baby or not.
If you’re still not convinced that you can do without the above items, or if you really want to try becoming a cloth diapering parent, I salute you.
And I want to offer you some tips on getting it all for the best price.
When it comes to any of the above items, consider going second hand. Look on social selling websites, apps or Buy & Sell groups on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices, especially if purchasing multiple items from the same buyer.
And be sure to keep an eye out for free items from parents who just want to get rid of their baby gear fast. Like I said, baby clutter is real.
If you’re sure that you want any of the above items, consider adding them to your registry if you have one. That way, you can get it for free and won’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out. At the very least, you can lend these items out to other new parents who might want to try them first.
You could also create a mom-sharing group with your friends. When one friend is done with a baby item, they can swap it for another item with another friend.
My baby swing and jolly jumper have been passed around my friends and have since been returned to me in time for my next baby to enjoy. I’ve benefited from their generosity too, borrowing kids camping gear and being handed down kids’ clothing that’s still in great condition.
What works for you?
What are some baby items you simply can’t live without?
What other non-essential items would you add to this list?
Let us know in the comments below.
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.