As I plan for the arrival of my third baby, I need to buy some crib sheets, and a pacifier (to stuff in her mouth while asleep, on airplanes, or during screaming fits in the car). This short list is because I own everything that I need (including mama milk and cloth diapers).
My heart breaks when I see first time moms (or subsequent moms) engulfed in the consumerism of useless baby items. I know firsthand what is useful because my first two babies were born into a small one bedrooms NYC apartment with no storage. We simply did not have the space for "things" that we could only use for a short time so we took the opinion of "let's live without it and see if need it". After having the second child, we moved into a house and had endless storage so our baby supplies have increased greatly (thanks mostly to donations and yard sales) but we still only have what we really need.
The most important thing is not to be afraid to return things that you don't like, want or need. Stores like BabiesRUs took back all sorts of gifts that I received in exchange for store credit. I think that I returned around 15 extra cloth bibs and 10 extra receiving blankets. It is not that I was ungrateful or unappreciative of the generosity, but I really had to be practical. I exchanged gifts that I didn't need for items that I needed. I knew that the gift giver would be happy to know that I had something that I really needed.
- Gender specific "stuff". If you plan to have only one child and then get your tubes tied: do whatever you want. If you don't then think about what you want to buy or make again if your next child is the opposite sex. Is it really worth buying a new car seat, stroller, or activity mat: NO! I am also a fan of neutral crib bedding because they use things like bumpers for a short period.
- Bottle warmer. Breastmilk is fine at room temperature for several hours. My husband had a good routine of just leaving a container of milk at room temperature and the babies adapted to it instantly. This makes bottle feeding on the go easier. He spent afternoons with the baby all around the city thanks to not needing to warm the milk!
- Bottle drying rack. Do you really need something else on your kitchen counter? Most likely you already own a drying rack.
- Bottle sterilizer. Another counter top item that does the same thing as a $1 bottle brush. Most bottle cleaning directions say that they should be sterilized once before first use then just washed with soap and water. They take 1 minute to clean by hand with one of those bottle brushes.
- Baby wipes warmer. Why get your baby used to having warm wipes? Then what would you do when you are out and about?
- Bumbo seat. This seat allows a baby to sit upright before they are old enough to sit. Why do they need to sit before they are ready?
- Crib toys. These things clip on to the crib and make music and give the baby something to look at. When they are newborn these are a suffocation risk. When they are older it is just a distraction that can create a "sleep crutch" of noise or a distraction to going to sleep.
- Stuffed animals. These collect dust, absorb spit-up and clutter a room. Return or give away most of the ones that you get. Keep 1-2 that you love as a special "lovey" for your child.
- Burp cloths. You will have enough cloths to use. I use yesterday's swaddle blanket as a burp cloth for today before it goes to the laundry basket.
- Baby food makers. Been there, tried these, and didn't like them. My cuisinart mini-chopper and blender were able to do more than these things. I just chopped or blended what we were eating for dinner and had instant baby food. Best of all I used what I had and was not stuck with "stuff" when the baby moved on to larger chunks of food.
- Diaper bag. Yes, you need a bag to put stuff in but 99% of diaper bags sold are just ugly and oversized. They encourage moms to bring too much stuff with them. Most kids are good to go with a few basics in their cute purse. My husband prefers a backpack when he has the kids solo. Breastfeeders are at a huge advantage that they don't have to bring much.
- Hanging diaper holders. People buy these as part of themed decorations for a room. I find them unattractive and rather useless. I rather like to repurpose a cute basket or a drawer filled with diapers. The drawer is my preference so it doesn't look messy.
- Special laundry basket for the baby. We have always kept our babies in our room for up to their first 2.5 years so it never made sense to need a laundry basket in a separate room. The clothes are so small that I like keeping a basket in my room so I can easily see when it is full of family clothes. Having multiple places to check and transfer clothes from one pile to another seems like extra work to me! We wash all cloths in a dye/perfume/chemical free and ecological laundry soap (please don't use Dreft or another mainstream baby laundry detergent that is filled with chemicals and skin irritants!) so there is no need to wash the baby's cloths separately.
Posts will follow that include things to buy used and things that must be on a first time mom's baby registry.