Did you know that if you follow the standard, “What I need for my baby” list for the next 21 years, then your child could cost you over $200,000 (that’s $9,500 per year, or $800 per month), even without being privately educated. The marketing clout of the baby industry has got a lot to answer for.
The reality is that most of the items we are told we should buy for our babies are unnecessary. This timeline will expose the common (and not-so-common) culprits. If you’re new to starting a family, it will hopefully give you the advantage that many second-time parents enjoy.
|Pregnancy||1 Week||Month 1||Month 2||Month 3||Month 4|
|Month 5||Month 6||Month 8||Month 11||12 Months||18 Months|
|2 Years||3 Years|
Maternity clothes: There’s no reason why you cannot wear your normal clothes instead of purchasing ‘maternity wear’ often at inflated prices. Items such as wrap-around dresses, smock tops, tunic tops, dresses and long tops made from stretchy material or anything with an elasticated waistband can be staple items throughout your pregnancy. Trousers can be left undone under baggy tops, and clothes with lycra content can be very accommodating. You can alter waistbands by hand or buy a cheap waistband extender to insert in between zips. Additionally try inserting contrasting thin triangular panels into the sides of existing tops for a kitsch bespoke look. Or use a nice piece of material that fits comfortably around your waist to create a bandeau. This will enable you to wear your normal tops right through pregnancy. You can also raid your partner’s wardrobe for T-shirts, shirts and sweaters. Chose clothes that you can layer – your pregnancy will go through three seasons, and it’s very expensive to buy separate clothes for each one. Ponchos are great for the winter.
Anti-stretch mark cream: The vast majority of women will develop stretch marks on their breasts during pregnancy (see, ‘Timeline of Breast Changes in Pregnancy’). These are caused by the collagen beneath the skin tearing as it stretches to accommodate your enlarging body. There are numerous anti-stretch mark creams on the market, but despite what the manufacturers would have us believe, no cream applied to the surface of your skin can have much effect on what is happening to the deeper layers of collagen that lie well below the surface (Regan 2005).
Any of These Books: Not all parenting books are created equal, some actually sabotage the health of mothers and babies.
Car Seatbelt Extender: Pointless. Just put the lap part of your seatbelt below your bump and make sure the other part sits between your breasts.
Home Doppler: In many cases, these cause more stress for expectant mothers than relief. It can be difficult at times to find the fetus’ heart rate since the fetus moves around a lot. Also, the fetal heart rate normally has some variation to it, so I’ve seen mothers get very concerned when the heart rate is higher or lower than they’ve seen before.
Prenatal MP3 Player: Just sing. Your baby is comforted more by the sound of your voice than by any other sound.
Wooden Massage Tool: Human hands are better, particularly when attached to a hunk.
Calming Spritzer Spray: Use a cold flannel instead.
Wallpaper: When the nesting instinct kicks in and you find yourself dangling off the top of a stepladder like a mad woman, stay clear of wallpaper. Instead decorate the nursery walls with paint. Children’s tastes develop and it’s easier to repaint a room rather than repaper it. Also, children can’t resist tearing off unglued wallpaper. Select wipe-clean brands on paint.
Designer Hospital Gown: It’s a lot like your wedding dress: you’ll only wear it once, for a few hours, and by the end of the day it’ll just get covered in bodily fluids.
Infacol, Colief or Gripe Water: There’s no scientific evidence that any of these work (Smith 2009).
Outfits: Expensive flouncy outfits should be left to the relatives and friends to buy: they’re a hassle for babies at this age, who throw up on them anyway. Your baby’s initial couple of months will consist largely of feeding, sleeping, and being held. From a clothing standpoint, this translates to one thing – babygros! Comfort is key. Babygros are also kinder on baby’s round pot belly than trousers and tops, especially in these early days before his tummy button has healed. You can’t use babygros that are too small, because they cramp baby’s toes, but you can use ones that are a little bit big, so go for 0-3 months rather than newborn size. Also don’t stockpile small disposable diapers – you will soon need to go up a size.
T-shirts: Bodysuits are better than tshirts as the latter tend to ride up exposing little tummies to the cold.
Pyjamas: Baby pyjamas comprising of a top and pants are not needed during the first year. Just dress baby in a sleepsuit night and day to save you expense and inconvenience.
Socks: If you buy babygros with feet, you won’t need to worry about socks that are always falling off.
Booties: They may be cute, but booties are generally a nuisance because they tend to fall off and get lost all the time. Also like shoes, they are too firm and restrict movement. A baby needs to wiggle, feel, and even suck her toes.
Scratch Mitts: They fall off (Is there an echo in here?)
Bibs: Two kinds of bibs are to be avoided – those without plastic backs, and those with tie fastenings. The latter are a safety risk.
Burp Cloths: Most are too thin. Use cloth diapers instead.
Snowsuits: These quilted all-in-ones look cosy but are impractical – as soon as you’ve struggled to put them on, sod’s law says that your baby’s diaper will need changing and you’ll have to take the whole thing off again! It’s also easy for babies to overheat in these, especially if you’re going in and out of stores, restaurants, and the car. Since newborns don’t tend to go running around in the snow, blankets are more versatile at keeping them warm, given these can be easily removed when you go indoors.
Bedding: Buy a lightweight sleeping bag instead. They are safe for newborns from 7lbs and they never get kicked off when your baby moves in his sleep. They also allow you to spirit up a bed anywhere.
Change bag: Specially designed change bags are usually very expensive (between £60 and £100 in most baby outlets) and you find that you end up using your handbag for most things anyway, simply because you don’t want to carry such a cumbersome, ugly-looking bag around with you all the time; not to mention the risk of such an expensive item becoming stained with poop. Reasonably spacious pockets (particularly if you are breastfeeding) will suffice for a newborn diaper, a spare sleepsuit, and a few wipes in a plastic bag. Alternatively, use a rucksack or roomy tote.
Change Mat: A lightweight, wipe-clean changing mat is useful but you can get by with nothing more than a towel.
Changing Unit: Another piece of butt-related kit that you don’t need. Instead, buy a chest of drawers. It will cost at least a third less. Simply tack in some wood around the edges so that the mat doesn’t slip. You can remove it when you no longer need the station. You can also use a crib by lowering the wide and spreading a waterproof pad on top of the mattress. If you’re up to it, changing on the floor is ideal – and safer – all you need is a change mat/towel.
Starter Sets: Bundled products typically for bathing or childproofing are poor value because you probably won’t want or need half the stuff.
Diaper Stacker: Diaper stackers are designed to be convenient and stylish holders in which to store your diapers, but in reality they are irritating at worst, and needless at best. The time it takes to load the stacker (which will need to be done regularly) and then retrieve a diaper each time, makes them a big, stylish inconvenience.
Brand Disposable Diapers: If you’re going down the disposables route, try supermarket own-brand diapers which are surprisingly good quality and significantly kinder of your wallet (often 50% cheaper!) Supermarkets are always running special offers, so if you don’t mind switching and changing brands, that’s another way of saving money.
Diaper Disposal System: These glorified garbage cans, sometimes called “Diaper Wrappers”, use so many different plastic bags to try and disguise the smell of dirty diapers that they must be bad for the environment. Just chuck your baby’s dirty disposable diapers in the normal bin.
Baby Wipes: Although disposable wipes can be handy when you’re not at home, they dry out easily and the supposedly stay shut sticky lids don’t tend to. In any event, you don’t need wipes, especially at this young age. “You shouldn’t use wipes until your baby is at least six weeks old as they will remove the natural oils from her skin and leave it dry and uncomfortable” (Stoppard 2008). Despite what Johnson & Johnson tell you, it’s much better to clean the delicate skin of newborn babies with cotton wool and warm water; and it’s environmentally friendly too.
Wipe-Warmers: The reviews on Amazon say it all: “the wipe loses its temperature so quickly and becomes almost cold when it reaches the baby if baby is not just inches away from the wipes warmer.” This is a product devised by a marketing department to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. More worryingly, wipe warmers breed bacteria and can cause infections, particularly for little girls.
Baby Bath: These are bulky and are useful for a couple of months only. Meanwhile, the basin (cover the taps with a towel) or a large washing-up bowl are good alternatives. You can also bath with your baby if you have someone else to help. In the early weeks your baby won’t need a bath at all and you can ‘top and tail’ her.
Bath Stand: Designed to save you from kneeling bath-side but the effort involved in lifting a heavy baby bath full of water on and off is almost as challenging to your back muscles.
Bath Thermometer: Just use your elbow.
Top and Tail Bowl: You don’t need a special bowl for the cotton wool – any clean plastic one will do fine.
Baby Towel: So-called baby towels are made of disappointingly thin terry towelling so lack absorbency and cosiness and tend to be so small that your baby will need a bigger towel within a few months. A soft family towel will do a better job.
Baby Bath Robe: You know those cute little short robes that tie around their waist? You. Will. Never. Use. These.
Baby Nail Scissors: Using baby nail scissors can be a tricky task. Instead, use your fingers or even teeth, after first softening your baby’s nails in the bath.
Baby Toiletries: They may smell nice, but these aren’t necessary for small babies, and certainly aren’t recommended for those with dry or very sensitive skin. Consider that our skin absorbs approximately 60 per cent of everything it comes into contact with and that a baby’s skin is around six times thinner and five times more sensitive than adults (Cattanach 2007). Some baby bath products contain chemicals like Parabens and SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). Plain water is all you need.
Baby Perfume: *sigh* Yes this really exists.
Baby Shampoo: Unless your baby’s hair is particularly abundant, you can wash it using just warm water for the first few months.
Baby Oil: Giving your newborn a massage provides a wealth of tender moments for both of you. There is no need to buy ‘baby oil’ marketed for this purpose. Olive oil works just as well, and is 100% natural. It’s also a great moisturiser.
Baby Talcum Powder: This should be avoided because it has no benefits for your baby’s skin. In fact, the granules in the powder can irritate a baby’s skin, especially when they work their way into the moist folds. It is also a potent irritant if it gets inside the body (Cooper 2011). It is irritating to the lungs and can cause significant problems if inhaled (Spock 2004). It can also increase your baby’s risk of developing cancer, particularly if your baby is a girl (Wade 2012). Talcum can spread from the genital area right up into the peritoneum via the fallopian tubes. It may also create chronic inflammation around the ovaries and long-term pain and other symptoms.
Toys: The fear that our babies will go ‘unstimulated’ has done wonders for sales of ludicrously expensive ‘toy’ and ‘learning’ products. However despite what most toy companies would have you believe, toys are superfluous in the first few weeks. Your baby will be ‘stimulated’ by life.
Mobile: A crib mobile may look nice and promise to lull your baby to sleep, however nearly all of them are more stimulating than soothing, which means that they may have the adverse effect of keeping your baby awake. Also, mobiles have an average-shelf life of just a few months, as they must be removed for safety reasons as soon as your baby can sit up.
Crib-Side Music Box/Light Show: Like the mobile, these tend to be more stimulating than soothing.
Womb Bear: These expensive ‘gadgets’ are bears that are designed to sound like a mother’s womb and are supposed to help baby settle to sleep. However SIDS guidelines recommend that you do not put soft toys into a young baby’s sleeping space due to the risk of suffocation.
Swaddling Blankets: If you want to try swaddling, any thin blanket, large muslin, or even an adult’s jumper will do.
Moses Basket/Bassinet: Your baby will have outgrown a moses basket by three months. Besides, they are expensive, cumbersome, hard to store and difficult to clean. Instead, use the carrycrib attachment from your pram, or a travel crib, or even a drawer (I’m being serious).
Cradle: Although they look pretty, swinging cradles are expensive and have such limited space, like moses baskets, that you will only use one for a couple of months at most. Also, with cradles, when the startle reflex happens, it then rocks the basket and wakes your baby up. Double fail.
Hammocks: They last a little longer than a moses basket or cradle, but this won’t save you money as you’ll need a crib anyway – just a bit later. Also when your baby moves to a proper crib or crib-bed, you could be in for a rough time if they’re used to the hammocks movement to rock them to sleep. Note also there have been rumours of suffocation hazards associated with the use of hammocks.
Crib Duvet: These are not suitable for babies under 12 months, due to the risk of suffocation. Use a sleeping bag instead.
Crib Bumper: These soft, padded panels that tie onto cribs stop the free flow of fresh air, increase the temperature around your baby, which may lead to him becoming overheated; and also, babies can also get their heads wedged underneath.
Crib: Although most parents buy cribs (cots), they aren’t a necessary purchase. Cosleeping is a valid option. It can save money and space as well as enhance parent-child attachment and a host of other stuff, see here. If however you decide you still want to buy a crib, opt for a crib-bed as it will last longer and ease the transition to a ‘proper’ bed.
Crib divider: Marketed as an aid to keeping your baby in the feet-to-foot position, these are really not necessary. Always tuck your baby up at the foot of his crib as per SIDS guidelines – or use a baby sleeping bag.
Warm Mist Humidifiers: These are a fire hazard. Not to mention the fact that they encourage bacteria and mould to grow in the warm, wet environment they create.
Nursery Decoration: Some parents revel in creating a fully-themed and coordinated nursery. However your baby really doesn’t care whether there’s Winnie the Pooh, Humphrey the Elephant or Pope Benedict adorning the wall. Also, baby girls with blue walls in their nursery aren’t likely to be psychologically damaged by the experience.
Nursery Storage: You will need somewhere to store your baby’s things although it need not be specific nursery furniture – any wardrobe and drawers will do.
Infant Sleep Positioner: These sponge positioners are used to ensure a baby sleeps in one position with limited movement. Ironically, Infant sleep positioners are designed to help babies sleep safer, however in reality, the devices have been associated with suffocation deaths
Crib Canopy: Unnecessary and a potential SIDS risk.
Traditional Pram: These are often much more expensive (at least $300) and only suitable for small babies. Once they reach at least six months old and can support themselves upright, they’ll be happier sitting in a stroller. If you think you could manage solely with a sling for the first few months, you could skip the pram phase altogether, and buy only a cheaper, lightweight stroller later on. If slings don’t appeal, you can purchase a stroller, suitable for a newborn, for around $100 and it will last till preschool! The best places to find a bargain stroller are NCT sales, second-hand children’s stores, charity stores, eBay and Gumtree.
Stroller Parasol: Don’t bother with parasols, it’s impossible to keep your baby in the shade using them. You can either buy a cheap sun shade that looks like a giant mosquito net, or clothes-peg a muslin or similar material to the hood of your stroller to keep baby out of the sun.
Car Seat Footmuff: Unless you’ll be using the car seat on a pram chassis a lot, a blanket will do just fine.
Auto Carrycots: These are bassinets with special attachments that fix onto the back seat of your car. They do pass bare minimum safety standards but fared poorly in recent tests compared to upright infant carriers. Best avoided.
Baby Viewing Mirror: Designed to be positioned on the car’s back seat head rest so you can view your baby. Don’t bother. It’s safer to keep your eyes on the road.
Baby on Board Sign: I still can’t fathom the point of these other than to smugly advertise your fertility. A recent study has shown that these signs actually cause ‘one in 20 road accidents’ (The Telegraph 2012).
Disposable Breast Pads: These can be scratchy and uncomfortable. They’re also a false economy because you’ll get through loads. Instead, buy a pack of re-usable, washable pads. They’re softer against your skin and tend to be more absorbent.
Bottle Brushes: If you’re bottle-feeding, buy normal washing-up brushes or a new toothbrush, rather than expensive bottle brushes.
Bottle Warmer: You don’t need a bottle warmer. If your baby won’t accept room temperature milk just use hot water and a large container to warm the milk. Most cafes are happy to supply these.
Insulated Bottle Holder: As above.
Newborn Size Baby Bottles: Too small within weeks.
Disposable Bottles: Single-use bottles take up a lot of luggage space and aren’t eco-friendly. Also, some babies won’t accept a disposable bottle teat.
Hands-Free-Bottles: These curious contraptions are designed so that the baby feeds himself. He sucks on a teat attached to a flexible straw that leads into a bottle. Hands-free-bottles are completely unnecessary, arguably cruel, and can lead to over-feeding. Also, the long thin straw tubing is very hard to sterilise, posing an infection risk.
Formula Powder Dispenser: There is no need to purchase a specially designed powder dispenser. You can just as easily measure out formula into a sterilised, small, plastic, sealed container.
Dishwasher Basket: These are designed to keep bottles and teats from falling off the shelf of your dishwasher but are completely unnecessary.
Bottle Drying Racks: What’s wrong with a normal dish rack?
Formula: It goes without saying, breast milk is nutritionally tailored to your baby’s exacting needs. And it’s free.
Nursing Bras: If you’re breastfeeding you’ll need nursing bras with the exception of one kind – those with zip-up cups. They may sound like a good idea, but if you try to do one up one-handed, and catch your boob in the zip, you’ll feel quite differently about them.
Nursing Chair: Many first-timers buy a ‘rocking-feeding’ glider chair and footstool, but they are completely unnecessary, extremely expensive, and not very practical. These chairs quickly become redundant when mothers discover that there is not enough room on either side to fit their ever-growing baby comfortably into a good breastfeeding position.
Nursing Pillow: Regular pillows are more than sufficient, they are also more versatile.
Forehead Thermometer Strip: You hold these in place on your baby’s forehead until a reading comes up. They are not terribly accurate and hard to use if a baby is wriggling around. Use a plastic digital thermometer instead (never glass).
Sling: You’ll probably been feeling brave enough to venture out of the house now if you haven’t already. A sling is the perfect portable baby item! But you don’t need to purchase one (they can be on the depressing side of expensive). Instead you can make one yourself from a crib sheet or a piece of fabric, measuring about 1 x 2 m (3 x 6 ft). Drape the fabric over one shoulder, ideally your left, and tie the ends together with a strong knot at the opposite hip. Rotate the sling so that the knot is at your back. Then gently ease your baby into the pouch made at the front by the rest of the material. Make sure that she is held securely against your chest and cannot fall out.
Toys: There’s still no need to purchase toys. As your baby develops her world becomes an increasingly interesting place and too many over-complicated toys just become a distraction to learning rather than an aid. In our culture we tend to over-stimulate babies with a plethora of unnecessary toys leading to sensory overload. This consequently lowers concentration skills.
Breast Pump: After breastfeeding is established (when your baby is around 6 weeks), you may wish to occasionally express your milk using a breast pump. You can hire a pump from your local health visitor or NCT group. Alternatively, hand expression can often be more effective at expressing milk, and it’s free! A Unicef video detailing hand expression technique can be found here. If you feel you must buy a breast pump, don’t waste money on a manual one. The electric ones are more expensive for sure – but they work.
Nasal Drops: Babies of this age are notorious for getting stuffy noses. A drop of breast milk up the nose will soothe your baby – it acts as a decongestant.
Movement/Breathing Monitors: At three months your baby’s risk of SIDS reaches its peak (although it’s still a very rare condition). For peace of mind you may be tempted to purchase a movement/breathing monitor. These have a sensor pad that sits under the mattress and detects movement when your baby breathes. An alarm is sounded if movement is not sensed after a certain period, usually 20 seconds. There is no evidence to show that such devices offer reassurance. In fact, they may only serve to increase parents’ worries because of the many inevitable false alarms (Holland 2004). Bear in mind that breathing monitors do not prevent SIDS. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths says that it is far better to know and practice preventative methods for dealing with SIDS than to rely on electronic monitors.
Toys: Commercial toys are still unnecessary. Young babies can be kept entertained by safe, everyday household items. Your young baby will be fascinated by the crinkling sound and texture of something as simple as a sealed packet of potato chips.
Baby Swing: A baby swing can soothe your baby, however a cloth sling does the same thing, and is miles cheaper, not to mention portable; and you can even make your own!
Baby Nest: Your baby may be able to hold their head steady now, although she may not be able to sit unsupported yet. A baby nest (giant ring in which baby can be propped) can be useful, but you can easily make one yourself using strategically placed pillows. A breastfeeding pillow is ideal for this purpose.
Jeans: Your baby is probably getting out and about more now, so you may find yourself longing to dress him in a ‘proper’ outfit. However, there is no point in buying hard-wearing trousers like jeans yet. They are unnecessary before your baby can crawl. In fact, don’t bother buying trousers at all. Chose shorts instead. He’ll grow out of trousers within months, if not weeks.
Bath Toys: Your baby will make their move to the ‘big bath’ around now, and manufacturers are all too happy to market intricate bath toys at you. However, empty shampoo bottles, sponges, plastic bowls, a small plastic watering can, and a kitchen sieve are just as, if not more, effective. You can also use toys that are not designed specifically for the bath, such as a plastic tea set, rattle, stacking cups, balls, etc.
Bath Toy Tidy: These are liable to crash to the floor when the suction cups fail.
Bumbo: This is a plastic seat which helps (read: forces) your baby to sit upright. It has been known to cause skull fractures when babies tip themselves out. Plastic baby seats such as Bumbos are not the best equipment for crying babies: your baby will be happier and more secure in a cloth sling, and you get to have both arms free, with less strain on your shoulders.
Baby Rice: Around now well-meaning relatives and incompetent health professionals will suggest spoon-feeding your baby to some ‘baby rice’, or as I prefer to call it, wallpaper paste. Don’t do it. Your baby is simply not ready. Don’t even think about putting it into your baby’s bottle either.
Door Bouncer: Now that your baby can hold their head up steady, you may be tempted to purchase a baby doorway bouncer. Don’t. The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists do not recommend them as they encourage babies to bounce on their tiptoes and arch their back unnaturally.
Shopping Kart Seat Covers: Just give the seat a wipe and stop being so precious.
Toys: There’s a pattern developing here right? Forget about Whoozits, Lamaze and Baby Einstein, what babies really love is everyday objects. Your keys will always be your baby’s favourite. “In a room full of toys, your baby will gravitate towards anything that isn’t an official plaything – from pot plants to mobile phones, remote controls to hairbrushes. Baby toy manufacturers often market their products as educational, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying them. But don’t” (Lewis 2009). The kitchen is a good source of interesting playthings for your child; wooden spoons, spatulas, small pans and lids, colanders and sieves, funnels, a set of measuring spoons, plastic cups, ice cube trays, or egg carton.
Sterilizer: This is a controversial one. Some paediatricians suggest that if you are bottle-feeding your baby, you can stop and sterilizing at 6 months (Laurent 2009; Cooper 2011; Einon 2004; Atkins 2009). Some even suggest it’s acceptable to skip the sterilizer right from baby’s birth and simply use a dishwasher (Lewis 2009). Whereas others maintain that, “it is a good idea to continue sterilizing until your baby is a year old” (Stoppard 2008; Smith 2012). It’s your call. Personally, I believe the 6 month mark is an acceptable point at which to stop sterilizing. At this age your bab y starts to use his fingers to feed himself so sterilization seems futile. Whether you decide to ditch the sterilizer now or not, it remains very important to continue to thoroughly clean milk-feeding equipment well to reduce the risk of gastroenteritis. There is no need to buy a sterilizer at any point as you can just sterilize your baby’s bottles by boiling them in a pan.
Follow-on Formula: As I explained in my post, ’15 Tricks of Formula Companies’, so-called ‘follow-on milk’ is marketed by formula companies to circumvent legislation banning the advertising of infant formula. European parliamentarians have questioned the scientific basis for follow-on milks, calling them ‘extremely dubious.’ In World Health Assembly Resolution has described them as ‘not necessary.’ Companies push follow-on milks with the claim that it provides the extra iron older infants need. Iron is of course important for infants, but it is risky to add too much to milk. Follow-on milks can also legally contain higher amounts of sucrose, glucose and other non-milk sugars, and when bottle-fed can increase the risk of dental caries and other problems in older babies. Breastfeeding is most suited to babies. However if you are formula feeding, stick to infant formula until your baby is 1 year old.
Baby Monitor: If you’ve been following SIDS guidelines, your baby would have slept in the same room as you for at least 6 months. Now you may wish to move her into her own room. Even still, a baby monitor is not essential because most parents develop finely tuned hearing when it comes to hearing their baby cry – unless you have a very big house. A baby’s cry can measure up to 115 decibels, louder than a truck (Cattanach 2007).
Mobile: When your baby learns to sit up (usually around this age) remove any mobiles from above her crib to prevent her getting entangled with it.
Baby Food Recipe Books: There’s no need to line the pockets of Annabel Karmel and friends. Instead, the internet has a wealth of free recipe ideas for each stage of your baby’s development. A Google search will take seconds. You can also take inspiration from the combination of food used in baby jars.
Baby Food Jars and Packets: Just no. Read here.
Baby Food Processor: These expensive gadgets can steam your baby’s food and puree it all in one machine. But really, if you’re going down the pureed route, a normal food processor or blender is all you need. You’ll only be pureeing for a shortish period. Better still, try baby-led weaning from the start.
Freezer Pots: You don’t need special freezer pots in which to store your homemade food. Instead, purchase a standard $1 ice cube tray and fill it with baby-sized portions, then you can defrost just the amount you need, when required.
Baby Spoons: There’s no reason you can’t use normal tea spoons to feed your baby, rather than plastic. Or even better, let him use his hands.
Baby Porridge: Special baby porridges and breakfast cereals are unnecessary. It’s much more economical to use adult cereals and porridge such as Weetabix. However, do scan the ingredients list for extra sugar and salt.
Baby Rice: Even now, at six months, baby rice continues to be nutritionally void and completely unnecessary. In fact, a third of baby rice on sale in the UK has been found to contain so much inorganic arsenic, a human carcinogen, that it would be illegal in some countries (The Independent, 2006). This is because rice soaks up arsenic from the soil more readily than other grains do.
Bowls That Stick Down: (they don’t).
‘Portable’ Highchair with Tray: These are plastic seats with a harness and small tray that strap onto a standard chair. They tend to be quite garish and I’ve put those little inverted commas around ‘portable’ as they’re bulky and therefore unsuitable for anything other than car travel. They also have quite a few nooks and crannies for food to gather in.
Reclining High Chair: You really don’t need this.
Fabric Dining Chair Harness: These loop around or over the chair back with a fabric T to hold your baby in place. They can get dirty and don’t add any height so don’t help your baby to reach the table.
Clamp on Seat/Table Seat: These are fabric seats suspended from a metal ring that clamps to the table. They are hard to fit securely and are difficult to keep clean.
High Chair with Integral Toy Tidy: Unnecessary and another place for food thrown/dropped off the highchair to gather.
High Chair Toys: Toys that attach to high chairs with suction may seem a great idea, but if your baby pulls hard, they can come off suddenly and whack him in the face (see, ‘Bowls That Stick Down’). Place an ice cube on your baby’s high chair tray. He can push it around and watch it melt while you prepare dinner. Be sure to keep a watchful eye to prevent choking.
‘For Kids’ Sunscreen: Now that your baby has reached the 6 month mark, they can use sunscreen. However, you don’t need to buy a special ‘for kids’ brand of sunscreen (often more expensive), unless your child is sensitive to regular brands and needs a hypoallergenic formula.
Shoes: Your baby still doesn’t need to wear shoes yet. Even when he starts walking, he won’t need them until he has been walking steadily and independently for several weeks (Laurent 2009). Indoors, your baby’s feet stay cool just the way his hands do, so he isn’t uncomfortable barefoot. Going barefoot as much as possible indoors will help strengthen his arches and leg muscles, and makes it easier for him to spread his toes, which will give him optimum support, especially on a slippery floor. Some manufacturers market cruising or pre-walking shoes, which are made of soft, flexible materials. They cost the same as regular shoes and are not necessary. Even after your baby is standing and walking, there’s real value in leaving him barefoot most of the time when conditions are suitable.
Walker: Although okay in small doses, baby walkers actually get in the way of learning to walk since all your baby has to do is thrash her legs without balance. The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists warns against them as they encourage babies to walk in an unnatural tiptoe position and their use reduces the time babies spend on the floor practising body control in the natural developmental way. Also, the use of baby walkers is actively discouraged by safety groups such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Child Protection Trust because they can cause accidents. In fact, baby walkers have been banned in many countries, including Canada, because they are potentially dangerous for babies.
Sit-in Activity Centre: With these, baby sits in a fabric seat surrounded by a ring featuring assorted toys and activities. Like walkers, activity centres are okay in small doses, however they are bulky, unattractive, expensive and only useful for a short window of time. By all means borrow one if you have space.
Baby Einstein DVDs: Instead, try reading, singing, talking and playing with your baby. Oh, go on.
Ball Pool: Your baby is sitting steadily now, so a ball pool might seem like a fun idea. These are usually inflatable, and take up a lot of space. Instead of purchasing one, just fill your regular bath with balls.
Baby Knee Pads: These are really useful, for those of you who insist on tiling your floor with upended glass shards. But for the rest of us, avoid. Apart from looking naff, they hinder the natural movement of your baby’s legs.
Playpen: Now that your baby is probably crawling or creeping, you may be tempted to purchase a playpen. However think about whether the imprisonment of a baby in a pen may affect their development. Such captivity can cramp your child’s spirit and desire to explore. They are also expensive and take up a lot of space and the time when they are useful can be very limited. If you insist on using a playpen, I recommend using a travel crib instead. They work just as well and because they’re multi-functional, offer significantly better value for money.
Hob Guards: These are designed to prevent your inquisitive toddler from reaching up and touching cooker knobs or grabbing pan handles. Ironically hob guards can however, get hot enough to cause burns themselves. I’m not a big fan and favour keeping baby away from the cooker instead.
Corner Cushions: In line with their baby’s emerging mobility, many parents buy a plentiful supply of corner cushions for furniture. These are only really necessary if your baby is particularly clumsy and/or you have furniture with very sharp corners at toddler head level.
Blind Cord Winder: These are designed to prevent risk of strangulation from blind cords. You can manage without by just tying cords out of reach.
Radiator Guards: With most central heating systems you can turn the temperature down so that the radiators remain effective but not so hot that burns could occur (this also helps the environment).
Activity Table: Your baby is pulling himself up to a standing position now, so wouldn’t it be nice to pull himself up to a child-safe, primary-coloured activity table? Well, yes it is – for all of fifteen minutes; until he gets board of the static, limited set of toys available on the table. Then your large, bulky plastic eyesore sits in the corner of the room gathering dust or becoming a dumping place for laundry. Much better to turn a large storage box over to create a table and put interesting items on it. Then you can freely rotate the items.
Blankets and Pillows: Even though children older than 12 months are no longer at risk for SIDS, they’re so active when they sleep that they kick off blankets during the night, and then find them difficult to rearrange. Hang onto that sleeping bag.
Balloons: The Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains that balloons are the leading cause of childhood suffocation deaths.
Electronic Toys: By the time your baby reaches his first birthday, electronic toys will be heavily marketed. However research has shown that these toys don’t actually have any educational value and can’t teach cognitive skills (Cattanach 2007; Beswick 2009). Instead, they just encourage a child to practice them, just the same as the box the toy came in will. They have limited scope, do not encourage imagination or creative thought processes and generally involve your toddler responding to a scenario constructed by someone else. For instance, electronic books which teach your child phonetics in a foreign or ‘electronic’ accent don’t really lend themselves to letting your kiddo smear it with food and then drop it down the toilet! Banging two pan lids together is far better than pushing buttons to create noises produced by hidden electronic parts.
Training Cup: By the age of one year, it’s recommended you stop using baby bottles and move onto training or ‘sippy’ cups. In reality, many babies struggle to adapt to these. More worryingly, they have been linked to injury risk. For instance, sippy cups were involved in more than a quarter of all injuries to two-year-olds in 2010 (American Academy of Pediatrics 2011). Just move straight onto a normal cup.
Toddler Reigns: These will restrict and annoy your budding athlete. They also have a very short lifespan so are not good value for money.
Pacifier: If your baby has had a pacifier up till now, it’s time to say goodbye. Pacifier-use until a baby is one year old has been linked to a decrease in the risk of cot death (Fleming 1999), however pacifiers used into toddlerhood and beyond have been linked to speech delay and tooth misalignment (Hebling 2008).
Toddler Formula: So-called toddler formula does not offer any advantage compared to regular cow’s milk. In fact, the ‘enriched’ vitamins and minerals in these products result in an uncontrolled increase in the supply of some nutrients whereas other vitamins and minerals are included in lower amounts than in cow milk (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment 2011).
Toddler Bikini: Why expose your little girl’s mid-drift to the elements? Is there any particular reason why you want her to look like a mini-woman?
Toddler Swimming Trunks: Boys get cold too! A wetsuit-style all in one gives you more material for your money and is much more comfortable for your little swimmer.
Potty Training Pants: This is the earliest it is recommended that you begin potty training (unless you’re going down the elimination communication route, which is a whole different ball game). Potty training pants (essentially diapers that are easier to pull up and down) are unnecessary and can actually impede your toddler’s learning process. Instead, switch from diapers to regular underwear. Take frequent toilet trips and be prepared for a few accidents. Your toddler will progress much faster as their learning will be facilitated by the sensation of being damp or soiled.
Musical Potty: Just no. Ditto for potties with flashing lights and potties designed to resemble royal thrones. Do you want your toddler to become accustomed to all these bells and whistles every time they have a dump?
Puzzles: Having mastered the necessary manual dexterity, your toddler will now enjoy constructing puzzles. Rather than purchase commercially designed puzzles, it’s better to create your own. This will enable you to personalise the puzzle to appeal to your toddler’s interests. Find an engaging, colourful picture of something your toddler likes – his favourite animal, vehicle, or food, for instance. (Magazines are rich sources for large photographs). Then glue the picture onto a sheet of cardboard (the cover of a cereal box is fine). Cut the picture into four large sections. Now help your toddler rearrange the pieces to put the picture back together again.
Branded Car Shade: Now that your brand-aware toddler has favourite cartoon characters, you may find yourself in Halfords eyeing up a Winnie the Pooh car shade to replace your non-branded one. Whilst this will please your toddler (for all of 2 minutes), these car shades can be quite difficult to see through, leading to unnecessary safety risks for drivers.
Booster Pad: These are either plastic or inflatable and are really just glorified cushions allowing toddlers who no longer need trapping in better access to the table. They’re not suitable for younger babies given the lack of harness so they have a very short lifespan. Just use a regular cushion if you must.
Art Easel: Your aspiring artist may be a dab hand with a crayon by now, but don’t feel you need to go all Art Attack and buy an easel. They are quite bulky and although they often fold up they still need to go away somewhere. That somewhere is already full to the brim with everything else you and your children own. Instead, get some rolls of wallpaper and let your toddler draw/paint on the other side. This is cheaper, more portable, and provides much more room for their masterpieces.
Eating/Painting Suit: These are waterproof plastic clothing (usually a smock) worn over your child’s regular clothes to protect them. They’re great until it comes to taking one off when it’s covered in spilt food. This can lead to more mess than if you hadn’t bothered in the first place. They also tend to irritate and over-heat the poor child wearing it.
Pillows: Toddlers and young children don’t actually need pillows and indeed back care experts would argue it is healthier to delay introducing one for as long as possible.
Junior Bed: Smaller and lower to the ground, but a waste of money considering the short time it will be used. They aren’t great value given the fact that you’ll also have to buy a single bed later on anyway. Also, a junior bed can’t be used by visiting guests (unless your friends are leprechauns). Instead, just invest in a normal single bed. If you’re worried about your toddler falling out of a higher bed, you can fit a bed rail to prevent this.
Colouring Books: These start to make an appearance in many preschooler’s toy boxes around now. However they only serve to stifle creativity by having your child colour in a predetermined picture. Blank sheets of paper are much efficient at nurturing creativity.
Time-Out Pad: These gadgets with flashing lights and sounds inform your naughty preschooler when he has served the time for his crime. They’re uber expensive when an egg-timer, cellphone alarm or heaven forfend – a parent, can do the same job.
Trunki Ride-On Suitcase: By now your preschooler will have developed some gross-motor dexterity, so when vacation time rolls around, you might be tempted to pack his gear into a Trunki. Don’t. You’ll be constantly apologising as your kid crashes into the heels of other people at the crowded airport, then because it’s solid, you’ll be unable to squeeze it into the overhead locker on the plane, that’s if it passes the hand-luggage size limits, which it doesn’t on many airlines.
Branded Dress-Up Outfits: There really is no need to make your child look like a clone of every other preschool cosplayer. Instead, have fun with your child creating your own outfits with different fabrics or if you’re feeling lazy, let her raid your wardrobe.
Gender-Specific Toys: These tend to creep into children’s toyboxes in abundance around now. Yet there is absolutely no reason why boys can’t play with dolls, vacuums, brooms, and kitchen sets, or why girls can’t play with cars, walkie-talkies and balls. Don’t push any particular toys at your child.