10 Baby Items You Don't Need to Buy

A veteran parent reveals which products are a waste of time, space, and money.

baby splashing in tub
Baby splashes in a tiny tub.

Getty Images/mrs

This post is for anyone who is thinking about having a baby or expecting one. Do you feel bombarded with lists of products that you're "supposed" to buy in order to prepare for the baby's arrival? Are you daunted by the sheer volume of stuff that's presumably necessary for a little one to survive and thrive?

Well, I'm here to tell you, "Don't listen!" I've had three kids and one thing I've learned is that much of the baby product industry is superfluous and pointless. It's an attempt to get you to buy things you don't need and that actually complicate things by adding more expense, clutter, and maintenance responsibilities to your life at a time when you need it least.

What follows is a list of baby products you don't need. These are the things you can do without, and it won't affect the quality of your parenting in any way. (Note: Inspiration for this list came from "An Almost Zero-Waste Life" by Megean Weldon, but I've added my own points below.)

1. Changing Table

Babies can be changed anywhere. You can do it on a bed, on a bathmat on the floor, on top of a dresser or countertop – always supervised, of course. And unless you can fit a changing table into your bathroom next to a tap for washing and rinsing, you'll be reliant on wipes to clean the baby's bottom, which is an unnecessary source of waste. Warm water, gentle soap, and washcloths are the way to go.

2. Foam Changing Pad

Foam is awful from an environmental standpoint; it cannot be recycled and it off-gasses chemicals. Instead, use a folded towel on a flat surface. This can be easily switched out and laundered whenever it gets dirty.

3. Diaper Wipes

Wipes are terrible for the environment. There are countless stories about "fatbergs" forming in the sewers of London from discarded wipes, cooking grease, and other nasty waste products. They do not biodegrade (you can ignore the flushable claims) and they are considered to be "an underestimated source of microplastic in the marine environment." Use washcloths or cut-up old flannel sheets instead or, when traveling, make your own wipes from paper towels made from 100% recycled content – but those should not be for daily use.

4. Wipe Warmer

The idea behind a wipe warmer is that your baby doesn't have to experience the discomfort of a chilly wipe on his or her bottom. It's a fair goal, but seems like a silly waste of electricity and plastic packaging, not to mention the wipes themselves (see above). Instead, just use warm water out of the tap. You can fill a sink basin for repeated rinsing or do as my husband always did – hold the newborn under the stream of water to soap and rinse directly. 

5. Diaper Bag

All you need is a bag! A generously-sized one is preferable, with a few pockets on the inside and out, but really, you can choose any fabulous-looking bag that you'd like to carry around. In fact, a backpack is even better because you can wear it and keep your hands free to carry the baby. Forget the silly idea that you need a special bag to carry the basic necessities for baby care.

6. Baby Shoes

Babies don't walk until nearly a year. Don't waste money on those little tiny shoes, adorable though they may be. They always fall off, too, and then you'll be stressing about where they went. Instead, buy warm, cozy socks to go over your baby's footie pajamas.

7. Bibs

This is an item from Megean Weldon's list. She writes, "Kitchen towels work perfectly. They hang lower to cover the baby's legs and are great for wiping hands and face after eating." She's right. While I did own a few plastic, waterproof bibs, I much preferred a cotton tea towel, fastened around the baby's neck with a clothespin. It was perfect for wetting and wiping him down afterward and then it went straight into the laundry.

8. Baby Bathtub

I lived in a small apartment when my first child was born and the baby bathtub someone gave me was more an annoyance than a convenience. It took up so much space and there was nowhere good to store it. I ended up bathing my newborn in the sink, or my partner or I would hold him when we were in the shower or bathtub. We all enjoyed it more that way. Before long, he was ready to kick and play in the big tub on his own. Moral of the story? You don't need a specialized baby tub. (If anything, you should bathe your baby less.)

9. Diaper Genie

Instead of swathing smelly diapers in yet another layer of plastic, just take them out to a trash can in your garage or backyard. Sure, it's an added effort, but it spares you having to deal with the Genie eventually, and the quality of air in your house will be improved. This, of course, leads to my final point...

10. Disposable Diapers

Yes, you CAN use cloth! Modern cloth diapers are not nearly as inconvenient as you may think, and once you get into a rhythm of using them, you'll probably start to like them a lot. It's so much better for the environment, less stinky in your house, better for your baby's skin and overall health, far cheaper over the long run, and you never run out. Disposables have their time and place, i.e. when you're traveling, but they don't need to be a part of your everyday, at-home routine.

My advice is to start with minimal items and see what you need as you go along. If you feel the lack of a particular item, then buy it, but otherwise try to make do without. There's a good chance people will give you things, and you'll find second-hand items on local swap sites and in thrift stores.