9 Baby “Essentials” You Can Totally Do Without

How do you decide what baby products you actually need when everyone -- from your mom to your sister to your best friend to the old lady at the grocery store to the multibillion-dollar baby-care industry -- has a completely different list of “must-haves?” How do you wade through the pages of advice and aisles of gear and come out the other side not buried by piles of things you don’t actually need? We can help you narrow down the list so you can save money for stuff that really matters.


1. A changing table. As tempting as it may be to buy the complete set of matching nursery furniture, consider how useful a dedicated changing table will be when your baby is out of diapers in just a few years. (Hint: Not at all.) A regular dresser can do the same job and better. It provides more storage, you have more leeway to find something in your personal style, and it can stay in your child’s room for years and years as s/he grows from wearing onesies to rompers to soccer socks.

2. A diaper bag. Speaking of diapers (get used to it, new parents!), don’t let anyone tell you that you must have a special bag made especially for carrying diaper-changing supplies. It’s simply not true. Any bag will do, really, although for best results get one that’s waterproof (or at least washable) and that has lots of internal pockets to keep your supplies organized. Or get a portable, folded diaper-changing “pod” (typically a mat with some pockets built in) for diapers, wipes, and ointment, and toss that in any bag you like (or in the stroller basket).

3. A travel system. Some people love the idea of these sturdy all-in-one strollers with snap-in infant car seat, but if you don’t love hauling all that bulky equipment in and out of your car, you can get away with much less by starting out with a car seat that clicks into a set of lightweight stroller wheels. The money you save up front can then be put toward your next stroller once your baby outgrows the infant car seat and you decide what kind of stroller suits your family (standard, jogger, umbrella, double, etc.). Pro tip: The stroller wheels are genius for transporting carryon luggage through an airport, and because they’re strollers, you can check them at the gate!

4. Brand-new baby clothes. While buying teeny-tiny clothes is without question one of the most fun parts of having a baby, it’s not exactly necessary to gussy them up like they’re headed down a fashion runway. Hand-me-downs abound if you ask the right people, and consignment shops and thrift stores can be a trove of only-worn-once gems. If you want to be practical but still can’t fight the urge to shop for your little one, remember this: Family and friends are likely to shower you with enough outfits to get your baby through the first few months, so buy clothes your baby can wear when s/he’s bigger.

5. A white noise machine. Some parents swear by their white noise machines for peaceful(ish) nights with a baby, but that doesn’t mean you have to purchase a separate gadget to get the job done. Load a white noise app onto your phone, tablet, or laptop, or even go old-school with a fan that creates a soothing ambient sound.

6. A nursing cover. Sure, they have cute brand names and pretty patterns, but if you’re looking to cut down on the amount of equipment you have to lug around every time you leave the house, skip the single-use nursing cover and use a light muslin blanket instead. Buy the large size and you’ll get the coverage you need, plus you’ll have something to lay over your baby if it gets chilly, to spread under your baby if you need to put him or her down somewhere and to wipe up accidents when your baby (or you!) inevitably starts...leaking.

7. A diaper pail. (Yes, back to diapers.) I’m going to tell it to you straight: Once your baby starts eating solid food, their diaper is going to stink. You can wrap these foul messes in plastic and store them in a special bin in the baby’s room and tell yourself it’s all sunshine and roses, but when you get right down to it, you still have a can of poop inside your house, and that’s not cool. Keep a small container next to the diaper supplies for disposing of late-night changes, but otherwise, it’s better to get in the habit of taking that stinky puppy straight to the outside garbage ASAP. 

8. A sanitizer. Your great-grandmother raised seven kids in a one-bedroom house with nary a dishwasher in sight, yet we’re supposed to “sanitize” everything that comes into contact with our twenty-first-century babies? I don’t think so. Soap and water (or your dishwasher – which might even have a built-in sanitizing cycle, if you really want that) will get your baby’s bottles and pacifiers plenty clean.

9. A crib. That’s right, a crib. Younger babies can snooze safely in co-sleepers, bassinettes, and portable play yards, and toddlers can be moved to floor beds sooner than you think. (A floor bed is just what it sounds like -- a thin mattress on the floor in a completely child-proofed room.) No matter where your baby sleeps, make sure to keep the area free of hazards like fluffy bedding – see, there’s another expense you can avoid!

What items didn’t make your list of baby must-haves?

For more money-saving strategies, check out Allstate’s tips and tools for new parents.


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