Baby Products That Are a Waste of Money

by Katy on June 25, 2016 · 32 comments

Pee-pee teepee

The following blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.

Although my college-age sons are long past the baby stage of their lives, I’m continuously aware of baby trends through my day job as a labor and delivery nurse. I see new parents agonizing over whether they’ve bought the correct baby essentials, and I feel their pain.

I remember my own worry as a first time parent, how I wanted to make sure that I’d accumulated all the stuff that would ensure my role as the perfect mother. By the time I had my second baby, I’d learned that not only is there no such thing as a perfect parent, but also that there are a few actually necessary baby products. However, there are endless unnecessary baby products.

Here, see for yourself:

Diaper wipes warmer

Unless you live in Antarctica, your diaper wipes are probably not that cold. Generations of parents have learned that holding a wipe in their clenched hand for 30 seconds or so quickly brings it to body temperature, but you never know that based on sales of wipes warmers. These single function items are not only an unnecessary baby item, but also a waste of electricity.

Baby towels

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve bathed thousands upon thousands of newborn babies. Do you think that my hospital uses specialty towels for this task? Of course not! These sweet babies are dried off using the same towels as any other hospital patient. There’s no need to buy extra baby only towels, as the towels you already own work perfectly well for your little bundle of joy.

Peepee Teepees

Anyone who’s ever changed the diaper on a baby boy has learned that they’ll often spray up when exposed to air. It’s certainly a surprise to the unprepared parent, but generations have learned to keep a washcloth or extra cloth diaper at the ready. Of course, there’s a product you can buy to address this single specific issue. It’s called a PeePee Teepee and is described as “A must have diapering accessory for newborn boys.” Apparently it’s a popular baby shower gift, but that doesn’t make it a “must have.” Instead, keep an extra washcloth within arm’s reach and have the new diaper ready to go before taking the old one off. Simple and frugal.

Infant shoes

Unless your baby is walking, shoes are more of a fashion statement than a necessity. And since shoes are kind of heavy, they have a tendency to fall off and get lost. Instead choose soft warm booties, simple socks or even, gasp . . . let your baby go barefoot. These teeny-tiny Timberland “crib boots”  will not only set you back up to $50, but last time I checked, a crib environment hardly requires a heavy duty pair of boots!

Changing tables

At the time it may seem like your baby is going to be in diapers until the end of the earth, but I promise you that Junior will eventually learn to use the potty. And that changing table? It becomes a useless piece of furniture when you finally buy that last Costco pack of diapers. A great alternative to changing tables are a regular dresser with a extra removable changing pad. These contoured changing pads not only have a handy safety strap, but can be placed on the floor or any other sturdy surface.

Screen time

Your baby learns about their surrounding world from the people and things in their lives. Interactive silly faces, long eye contact sessions with feedings, plus touch, feel and taste. What your baby does not need is an iPad screen that’s mounted mere inches from their face to distract them from the real sights and sound of their environment. This Fisher-Price Apptivity Seat has been greatly criticized for good reason, as the American Academy of Pediatrics had recommended no screen time under the age of two, and this ill advised product is suggested for “newborn to toddler.” This purchase is not only a waste of money, but also a detriment to your baby’s development.

Crib bumpers

As adorable as it is to decorate your baby’s crib with a soft bumper, they’ve been shown to be a hazard. The American Academy of Pediatrics has gone so far as to call for a ban on crib bumpers, as “There is no evidence that bumper pads prevent injuries, and there is a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment.” Save yourself both the money and the worry by leaving your baby’s crib bare not only of bumpers, but also of any suffocation risks such as pillows or stuffed animals.

Conclusion

The country of Finland has been providing free Maternity Packages to its citizens since 1949, which include a variety of practical baby items including clothing, blankets, snow suits and bibs. These boxes hold not only the supplies, but also serve as a newborn crib. Not a fancy wooden box, but a simple cardboard box complete with a fitted mattress. It’s even been linked to lowering their infant mortality rate!

Of course, outfitting a baby isn’t just about austere dull accessories, but it is important to be able to separate the necessary from the frivolous. And perhaps if you save a few dollars abstaining from unnecessary or even dangerous purchases, you’ll have enough money leftover to start funding that all important college fund. Which is something your baby actually needs.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Effie June 25, 2016 at 11:57 am

Don’t forget the “Diaper Genie”, so you can turn dirty diapers into sausages!

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Jen@FrugalSteppingStones June 25, 2016 at 5:00 pm

That’s a good one too! We just threw diapers in the regular trash. If it was stinky, we’d put our orange peels into that bin instead of into the compost bucket.

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Trish June 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm

We cloth diapered without a daiper pail– we just used the washing machine as the diaper pail and ran the wash as soon as it was full— any diapers dirtied while the washing machine was busy were stored in a repurposed ice cream tub. It worked and cost $0.

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Mariana June 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

I love the maternity package that Finland provides to all pregnant mothers. Scandinavia in general is a wonderful place to live. The governments really take care of their citizens with healthcare excellent free education low enemployment rate and voilà – the maternity package as well.

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Megg June 25, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Well that money has to come from somewhere…I expect their taxes are really high. But I agree the maternity box is pretty cool.

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Marieann June 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm

What! a peepee teepee, I had never heard of that or the baby wipe warmer.
I did have a change table, someone gave me one and I had the bumper pads, those were the norm 40 years ago. So were cloth diapers and washcloths for bum wiping.
It’s amazing all the things ‘out there” you can waste money on.

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Jane June 25, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Keep in mind that the tax rate in Finland stands at 51% a the government is NOT giving people anything they haven’t paid for.

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Megg June 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm

I actually thought that “apptivity” seat was a joke. That’s completely ridiculous. Although I think the suggestion of no screen time until 2 is only reasonable for first born/only children. Subsequent kids will get enough screen time when siblings watch. However I definitely am not about to put it in front of them like that. Wow.

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Trish June 26, 2016 at 1:28 pm

A good way to get around accidental screen time is to only allow older siblings to watch while the little(s) are napping.

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Jen@FrugalSteppingStones June 25, 2016 at 4:59 pm

A friend got one of those peepee teepees as a shower gift, and said it shot right off when her son peed. I just blocked the stream with an extra cloth wipe.

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Erika June 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

You can pry my changing table from my cold, dead hands. My thing is this. If you’re a young, super fit mama and you don’t have a c-section, you probably don’t need it. But, if you’re older (check), less fit (check), and/or have a c-section (check) you will probably be grateful to have it. Anything that didn’t make my back hurt more when my son was small was worth it. And I still use it just about every day. My son will be two next week. As for screen time, we opted to include but limit. To each his own.

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Seattle Nancy June 26, 2016 at 9:29 pm

I agree. The changing table saved my back! We got ours from my brother’s family, gave it a fresh coat of paint, and then gave it to friends when my two (now 15 and 12) were out of diapers.

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Katherine August 5, 2016 at 6:39 am

Buying a changing table today for unborn baby #1. No space for an extra dresser, which would cost $300 instead of <$100 for the changing table + money for storage bins. The dresser would show more wear in the bathroom humidity than the changing table will, and couldn't be moved/stored as easily. Baby clothes are tiny – all the clothes for the first few months fit in a single bin. Plus, changing baby on a dresser means needing an extra trash can next to it, while changing table in the bathroom means the bathroom trash can be shared (and would make cloth diapering easier).

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Tara June 25, 2016 at 5:25 pm

The only product I would disagree on is baby towels, they are softer, thinner and smaller (dry more quickly). You can always find then next to free at thrift stores.

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marie June 25, 2016 at 7:27 pm

As my daughter delivered a son on the 6th of june, I find this very timely.The lactation nurse also told her that baby wipes are full of chemicals and a soft warm washcloth is best. Yeah, someone else who believes in reusing instead of disposable.
I have to say having a baby in 2016 is full of alot of problems.
9 hours of non-productive labor, then c-section.
Then the next day, nurse tells me, I need to keep in a sitting position so I don’t drop my new grandson. It’s a legal liability for them.Urgh, sorry, needed to vent!
He’s a beautiful baby boy!

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Mand01 June 26, 2016 at 4:15 am

We used damp washcloths as well. My kids had sensitive skin, and baby wipes and disposable nappies (diapers) gave them instant nappy rash.

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Trish June 26, 2016 at 1:30 pm

We used damp washcloths (that I sewed from a worn-out flannel sheet) too. Love it when things work very well and cost nothing!

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Mand01 June 26, 2016 at 4:13 am

I love that the Finland pack also includes 6 condoms!
I think the most useless thing we ever bought was the baby monitor. So pointless – I think we turned it on once.

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K D June 26, 2016 at 5:27 am

We had a hand me down crib and changing table. We always believed a baby does not remember the furniture they had as a baby and that being financially secure (and the calmness that comes with that) was a greater gift than an expensive nursery. The was also a limited wardrobe and for many years clothes came mostly from hand-me-downs, yard sales, and thrift stores.

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Trish June 26, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Financial peace is a fantastic gift for kids! I think it’s also really a huge gift to model what it’s like to be content and happy with what you have, rather than needing to redecorate every few years.

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LisaC June 26, 2016 at 7:38 am

I raised my children in the warm South, and I remember women chastising me for not putting socks and shoes on their feet. I didn’t buy any of either until they were walking on a regular basis.

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Mrs. Picky Pincher June 26, 2016 at 8:22 am

I have four nieces and nephews and I’ve seen how much crap people get for a new baby! My approach has always been that less is more.

It’s great to know where to cut the clutter and what actually matters, especially for first-time moms. I think people mistake having a lot of items for being prepared, and I don’t think that’s true at all.

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Ruby June 26, 2016 at 11:19 am

We received a hooded baby towel as a gift when our son was born 26 years ago. It’s the only one we ever had. It was handy for swaddling a wet, squirming tiny baby, but that’s only a few months.

The Miser and I were beyond broke when he was born, so we got by with very little in the way of baby stuff: a hand-me-down car seat — can’t do that now — and his parents bought us a crib. We already had a rocking chair and a little bookcase for toys and books. I made a diaper stacker — actually quite handy when storing folded cloth diapers in a room with little closet space — out of an old pair of white cotton curtains and a heavy wood hanger. I also made a lot of his clothes and bibs and would mend diapers when they started to wear out.

Our changing table was a heavy folded towel on top of the dresser my husband used as a child. No pee-pee teepees for us: I kept a stack of washcloths nearby and would toss one over the wee fire hose as soon as his cloth diaper was whisked off.

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Ruby June 26, 2016 at 11:48 am

That would be “the Mister,” and not “the Miser.” My husband is anything but miserly. 😀

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Trish June 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm

I got a good laugh out of your mistake! lol! We use an old towel on the bed or the floor as a changing pad. It worked just fine!

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Pam June 26, 2016 at 11:54 am

Please keep little ones away from screens! All modern electronics with screens use blue light because it is energy efficient. Long term exposure to blue light contributes to macular degeneration–for which there is no cure. Some experts predict that 20 years from now there will be a lot of young adults with macular degeneration. Those little eyes are close to those screens and looking directly into the light source as well. Bad, bad, bad. And, yes, adults need to protect their eyes if they spend more than a couple of hours a day looking at a computer, tablet, cell phone, big screen tv, etc. Ask your optician about products that help.

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Mand01 June 26, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I’m not sure that’s true. I checked with our optometrist last visit about any danger to our daughter of screen use. He said there is no damage to the eyes from screens.

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Carrie June 27, 2016 at 3:41 am

Oh Lort. I love this topic. I quote:

“A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three”. ~Grantly Dick-Read

Things baby doesn’t need:
– Formula and bottles
– I breastfed 6 kids without a breast pump. I only got one when I gave birth to a preemie who was in NICU for 11 weeks. It was a necessity. (Moms who work outside the home probably need one though, especially if they’re not skilled at hand expression.)
– Cribs. All my babies slept with me until moved to a toddler bed.
– A bathroom counter is the same height as a changing table. Put a folded blanket or towel down for softness.
– Wipes warmer – I was given one and used it with one kid, but I am convinced it gave her a UTI. We had to take my 1-month-old to the ER (where she endured a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, big mommy guilt there) when she got sick – turns out it was a UTI, almost unheard of in fully breastfed infants. Upon later research, I found that wipes warmers are perfect petri dishes! Those things are dangerous.
– We used cloth diapers
– Those pee-pee teepees make me laugh. A mom of boys knows to open the diaper then immediately briefly close it. You can tell if the baby pees at that time. Open back up and clean him.
– Yep – baby wipes aren’t necessary. When my son was in NICU, the nurses used dampened cotton balls or gauze to clean him. A warm, wet washcloth works better and is easy if you’re already doing cloth diapers.
– Baby walkers. My pediatrician hates ’em and posts warnings in his exam rooms.
– Baby buckets – aka bouncy seats, car seats outside the car, exersaucers – they are all bad for baby’s spine and encourage a “c” shape development with the pelvis tucked under. We wonder why a generation of kids these days can’t stand up straight? It starts with these baby buckets.
– Using a cloth sling and keep baby close. This eliminates the need for baby toys and many gadgets and burns calories to help mom lose weight and facilitates easy breastfeeding.
– Baby shoes and socks. All hamper proper foot development. Baby toes need to spread, not be confined in shoes.
– I could go on….

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nancy from mass June 27, 2016 at 6:33 am

Although I agree that “breast is best” I simply couldn’t make enough milk to feed my child. (my 3 sisters and mother had the same issue) If i tried pumping, i would get almost an ounce after 20 minutes – yes, ALMOST and ounce. He was losing weight rapidly and fed almost around the clock. at 19 days old, I had seizures from sleep deprivation and switched him to formula. He thrived after that.

and no, my breasts did not hurt when my milk ‘dried up’ because there wasn’t any milk anyway.

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Beth June 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

Respectfully, this list might have been more appropriately titled “Things My Babies Didn’t Need.”

What all babies DO need is love, and for their parents to be healthy and emotionally available to them-and that means parenting in a way that works best for their family.

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Beth June 27, 2016 at 6:39 am

I have four pairs of brand-new baby shoes that friends and family members bought for us because “they were just so cute.” I’ve thought about selling them, but am torn between wanting to make some money and feeling guilty about passing on useless products to other people. Sigh…

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Vickie June 27, 2016 at 8:36 am

Changing Table – When my daughter was a baby, we couldn’t afford special baby furniture. I had taken my bedroom furniture from home, when we got married. It included a desk.
So I took a bassinet mattress (one I found or someone gave me) one of those diaper changing pads (I think the maternity clinic was giving them out for free) and tacked it all down to the top of the desk. I put all my diapering supplies in the desk and hung a diaper holder up on the wall, over the desk.
That was my DIY changing table.
We only had a one bedroom apartment and my Mom was the garage sale queen, so we managed on what we could buy used. I think she may have bought my daughter’s crib and hubby had bought me a rocker for Christmas. My daughter was born on New Year’s day, so some of our baby things were gifts we received at Christmas before she was born.
I used cloth diapers, unless we were going somewhere to visit, or on a trip. Woolworth’s had their own off-brand, Pampers were too expensive. So we bought a bag of the Woolworth brand and made them do for as long as possible.

Like you’ve pointed out – there’s always an alternative to all the “special” marketing stuff they put out there.
BTW – cloth diapers are extremely versatile, IMO. I’ve used them for burp cloths, dust cloths, eye-glass cleaners, etc. LOVE those things!

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