With four (now five!) babies, we have been through a LOT of baby items!  Having a baby is going to require some gear for sure, but it doesn’t have to break the bank.  Some baby items just aren’t worth it!  For the ones that are, here are some ways to save.

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links, which means that if you shop through the links, I will earn a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.)

Buying for Baby:  What Gear is Worth it and What's Not

Easy Ways to Save:

  • Skip extras like a diaper stacker or wipes warmer.  Diaper stackers look cute, but after a week or two of reality with a baby, you’ll be using the diapers straight out of the package. 🙂
  • Don’t invest a lot in nursery bedding.  Bedding is something that you can find used in good condition as babies don’t even use the quilts or comforters that come with nursery sets.  We bought a quilt this time around because we wanted it for nursery decor (hanging it on the wall), but that was not a necessity.  Basic crib sheets and a few blankets are all you really need!
  • Keep toys simple.
  • Keep clothing simple.  You’re going to be doing a lot of laundry anyway – baby doesn’t need a large wardrobe.  For a newborn, I would recommend 4-5 sleepers and 8 or so onesie shirts, depending on the season.
  • Beware of unnecessary bells and whistles.  Swings and bouncer seats are an area where this is especially an issue.  A basic bouncer seat cost about $25 when we had Aidan (almost 11 years ago).  Now, Babies R Us doesn’t carry a basic one in the store (you have to order online), and the ones in the store are mostly around $50.

Infant Car Seat

An infant car seat is a necessity, and you won’t be able to leave the hospital without one properly installed.  There are two choices – a carrier type infant car seat or a convertible car seat.  Convertible seats can typically be used rear-facing from 5 lb. to 30 lb. or 40 lb. (depending on the seat) and then forward-facing up to 40 or 65 lb. (depending on the seat).

  • Benefits of an infant carrier style seat:  These seats are lightweight and portable.  You can move your sleeping baby without waking him up.  Baby can sleep or play in the seat while you’re in a restaurant or the grocery store, etc.  You can purchase an extra base for the seat, making it easy to switch between cars.
  • Benefits of a convertible car seat:  A convertible seat seems to be more comfortable for baby.  One of our babies screamed every time he was in his infant seat, so we switched him to a convertible seat and he was fine after that!  Our third son also had to be moved out of his infant carrier seat because of his reflux.  The infant carseat is actually a terrible position for reflux!  You can alleviate the problem some by putting a rolled up blanket behind baby’s lower back for support.

Bottom line:  You’re going to need a convertible seat at some point, so the issue boils down to whether or not the convenience of the infant carrier seat is worth the price.  For us, the answer has been yes.  It’s difficult to transfer a brand new baby to a stroller or wrap every time you get in and out of the car.  And even if you like to wear your baby in a wrap, where are you going to put your baby down in say, a public bathroom?  Borrowing an infant car seat is always a way to cut down on cost – just be aware of expiration dates and whether or not the seat has ever been in a crash.  Expired seats or seats that have been in any crash should be thrown away!

What to Buy for Baby

The Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base is our favorite infant car seat.  The base is easy to install, and the seat is very well made.

The Safety 1st Onboard Air is another infant seat that is very easy to install and use, and the price is a little lower than the Chicco seat.

What to Buy for Baby

The Britax Marathon is our favorite convertible seat.  We have found that Britax seats are worth every penny!  We have owned a couple of cheaper seats over the years, and both of those seats had straps that were constantly getting tangled.  Tangled straps are a frustration every time you get in and out of the car!  Britax seats have thicker straps that stay turned the way they are supposed to go, and they are always at the top of the safety ratings as well.  Our Britax seats have also been easy to clean.  I have taken the cover off our Marathon multiple times and washed it in the bathtub with mild detergent.  To help it dry faster, I have put ours in the washing machine for just the spin cycle.  Then air dry.

Strollers

Being a small person myself, I always look at the weight of a stroller when making a buying decision.

We currently own:

A Maclaren Quest stroller, which has been going strong for 7 years!  It’s getting pretty grubby at this point, but it has done well to last this long.  I would highly recommend this stroller, IF you can find a sale.  We got ours as an internet return at Target.

A Chicco Cortina Stroller – This is a great full-sized stroller.  It’s not lightweight, but it has a huge basket and a drink holder for mom (very important!).  Great for day trips.

Baby Gear

Another option that is out now is the Chicco umbrella stroller.  They run cheaper than the Maclaren strollers.  The Chicco Liteway Plus even accepts the Chicco carseat as a travel system!  We just bought the Chicco Liteway Plus and paid for part of it with a coupon and gift card – sweet deal!  I haven’t used it yet, but I think we’re going to love it.  It rolls easily and folds up small, leaving room in our van for an umbrella stroller for Jonathan (age 2) and groceries for a family of 7!

**Update:  I love the Chicco Liteway Plus stroller!  It has been awesome through 8 months of use, and it’s nimble enough that the boys can easily push it.  Still looks brand new.

*Note – I’m not doing a double stroller because I hate the size and weight of them no matter the brand!  I can get away with using two separate strollers because Jonathan can walk some and Aidan or Gresham can push him the rest of the time.  Yay for older siblings!

Personally, I dislike the Sit-and-Stand type stroller.  We bought a used one for Jonathan and Owen that had the infant seat in the front.  Jonathan plus his infant seat weighed more than Owen, making the stroller awkward to turn.  We took it to the zoo one day, and I was ready to put it out on the curb by the time we got home!  I never used it again.  The one we owned was a Joovy.  They are usually highly rated.  Maybe someone who is taller than me (5′ 1.5″) would like it?

Bouncer Seat/Swing

A bouncer seat is pretty much a necessity!  You have to have somewhere to put baby down when he is awake!

Our bouncer seat gave out after our third child (the fabric in the seat actually ripped after all that use!), and then our fourth child had a special reflux wedge to sit in.  For this baby, I wanted to have something on hand right away for her to sit in.  I bought a Fisher-Price Infant to Toddler Rocker, and so far we love it!  We found ours at Kroger for 50% off!

I really like the position of the Fisher-Price Rocker.  Janie sits up nice and straight in it (not slouched forward) which keeps pressure off her tummy.  Very important for babies with reflux, which unfortunately we’re pretty sure she has…

What to Buy for Baby

Diaper Pail System

In my opinion, this is an item that is not worth it.  A regular trash can is simpler and much cheaper than a diaper pail system, such as Diaper Genie.  The diaper pail may hold down the smell, but as you’re deciding, be sure to take into account the fact that you will have to purchase refills for the diaper pail and that unloading the diaper pail is not a stink-free job!  We have found it easier to just take stinky diapers straight to the outside trash.  Newborn diapers (up until they start solid food) aren’t very stinky and can be tied inside a grocery bag and put in the kitchen trash.  The kitchen trash gets taken out often enough at our house that we don’t have a stink build-up problem.

Pack ‘n Play

We have really enjoyed having a Pack ‘n Play for baby to sleep in for the first few weeks.  They are easy to move around the house, and the bassinet attachment on most play yards makes it easy to put a newborn down for a nap.  I would totally recommend a Pack ‘n Play with a bassinet over buying just a bassinet.  You’re going to need the play yard anyway, so it’s a better purchase.

Many play yards come with a lot of extra features that drive up the price, such as a changing table attachment.  I really prefer the simple ones, but then again, if you live in a small space you might want to get the changing table attachment and put off getting a dresser or full-sized changing table for baby.

What to Buy for Baby

This Graco Pack ‘n Play with the bassinet feature is a good value.

Ergo Carrier:

When Aidan was born, the Baby Bjorn carrier was the item to own!  Unfortunately, the shoulder straps dug into my shoulders.  I have found the Ergo carrier to be SO much better.  You carry baby’s weight on your hips instead of your shoulders or back.  It’s not great for newborns because the infant insert is pretty hot, but I love it for 6 months+ through the toddler years.  I did a lot of hiking with ours with Jonathan on my back, and his 25 lb. weight did not bother me at all.

For newborns, I would recommend a wrap type carrier instead.

Update:  A friend shared with me that you can roll up a receiving blanket to create a support under a newborn’s bottom in the Ergo carrier.  This boosts them up to the proper position in the carrier.  No slouching baby, no dangling legs, and no sweaty insert!  You can watch how to do it here.  I used this method for Janie from 6 weeks+.

Baby Gear

Feeding:

Burp cloths – Cute burp cloths are often a waste of money because they are too small to do any good!  I really like using the Gerber Prefold Cloth Diapers as burp cloths.  I had turned our into dusting cloths after Jonathan and had to buy more – I found them at Target.

Breast Pump – Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump

Even if you’re planning on nursing, it’s not a bad idea to own a pump.  I have had trouble getting started nursing with ALL of my babies, and for two of them, I ended up pumping for 9-10 months (long story…).  When Gresham was born, he would not latch and they gave me a hospital grade pump to use during my hospital stay.  I couldn’t get a drop out with that expensive pump!  I have had the best success with the Avent manual pump.  I had to buy a new Avent pump for Janie, and I LOVE the re-design!  I was diappointed that it had been re-designed because it worked so well for me in the past, but the new model allows you to pump without sitting up perfectly straight (very important for a c-section recovery), and the valve is not a little tiny piece that is easily lost anymore.  Love this pump.

Baby Gear

Dr. Brown’s bottles If you bottle feed either pumped milk or formula, I would highly recommend Dr. Brown’s bottles.  They have extra parts to wash, but they helped Jonathan’s reflux tremendously.  It was obvious that he was swallowing less air with these bottles as his choking and spit-up were greatly improved.  With a standard bottle, I could actually hear the air in his belly as he was drinking!

Janie had to use the wide neck version because of her tongue tie (another story for another day…).  What to Buy for Baby

Toys and Accessories

Sock-Ons!

Janie was born in April, and it’s warm in Texas, so she didn’t have to wear anything on her feet at all until it got cold in November. Socks were a new concept for her, and she takes them off the minute they’re on!  One night, I posted my frustrations on Facebook, and a friend introduced me to Sock-Ons!  These clever little things slip on over socks and keep them on.  They work really well.  Janie can get them off if she works at it, but they must be comfortable because she just leaves them alone.  They are a little pricey, but we just bought 3 pairs and use them over and over. They don’t need to be washed every time they’re worn.  We’ve had them a month and so far we have not lost any socks or any Sock-Ons.  And my baby is no longer barefoot in the 30 degree winter weather, so that’s great!

What to Buy for Baby

WubbaNub Pacifier Animal

WubbaNub pacifiers are adorable, but are they worth it?  Janie was our first child to own one.  She’s not really a pacifier girl, but she really liked to play with the animal!  We had three kids who really loved their pacifier, and I wish I had bought these animals all along.  It is SO much easier to find when dropped.  Also, the weight of the animal helps keep the pacifier from falling out.  And babies love to hold the animal and chew on the tag!

What to Buy for Baby

Babies don’t generally learn to grasp until 3-4 months, so toys are not necessary before then!  Babies like to watch what you’re doing, listen to you talk to them, and observe the world around them.  After 4 months, stick to simple chewing toys, soft books, and things like that.  Older babies tend to love lots of things that aren’t even toys – like sitting in the laundry basket!

What to Buy for Baby

After hearing good things about Sophie the Giraffe, I bought one for Jonathan.  The price is high on this chewing toy ($20), but boy was she worth it!  (And now we can use it for this baby too!)  Sophie is all natural rubber and her feet and head are so satisfying for babies to chew on.  This has been a well-loved toy.

What to buy for baby

The O Ball toys are fun too – they are lightweight and easy to hold and satisfying to chew on.  I cannot believe how heavy some baby toys are!  Babies can’t hang onto them!

Avoid toys with batteries, buttons, and flashing lights.

Toys that have flashing lights, batteries, and sound are generally a waste of money.  Not always, but most of the time.  Babies don’t learn their colors from pushing a button on a toy – they learn from interacting with their family members.  Okay, off that soap box now…

We gave Janie Pocket Piggies Numbers and Pocket Piggies Colors for Christmas.  These books are ADORABLE!  The boys love to read them to her.

What to Buy for Baby

Our babies have loved Sandra Boynton’s board books.  Other favorite titles for babies are Dear Zoo, Big Red Barn, and anything by Eric Carle.  We have also found that babies love books with real pictures, especially pictures of real babies.

15 Comments

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  1. Mum On The Move Apr 26, 2014

    Great article! We have just had our second baby and I find so many of these things apply to us as well. First time round we had no clue what we needed, second time round we are much more discerning!

    The silliest thing we spent money on first time was a storage unit for cotton buds. Ridiculous! And I definitely agree with you on bouncers. Our babies seem to find the odd vibrating and tinny music many of the 'bells and whistles' varieities come with a real distraction (and not in a good way). As with so many other things definitely agree that simple is best!

    Reply
    1. sarahelisabeth Apr 26, 2014

      Not quite sure that I'm not too out of date to write this-my youngest is five.

      Anyway, we used a Pack n' Play as a cot for our younger two. By the time the youngest was ready for a bed, the Pack n' Play was ready for the tip but it was convenient, smaller than a cot and cheaper.

      Babies don't need loads of clothes but I did find that my two babies who were rather sicky could get through a rather large number of sleepers. I was grateful for a plentiful supply of "hand me downs".

      Reply
      1. Sarah Apr 27, 2014

        That is definitely true - if baby spits up a lot more clothes are definitely needed!

        Reply
      2. Kaye Herbert Apr 26, 2014

        great tips from a pro mom! ;) i have 2 boys under 4yrsold & hope to have more. i agree with everything you said above!! for us, i would add cloth diapers wipes, wet bags, as well as a free standing baby potty seat with a back like baby bjorn. (we have found success in potty training early around 5months old) since i dont have older kids to help push, getting a bob duallie double stroller was great for me for walking/jogging, but i also just use it for going some places. get used though to avoid big sticker price! monitors since we have large 2 story house, & a fisher price booster seat/high chair thats travel friendly as well as the best mealtime bib & only one you'll need: the baby bjorn trough like bib!! its been one of the best baby products ive bought!

        Reply
        1. Sarah Apr 27, 2014

          Great recommendations! I will have to look for that Baby Bjorn bib. I think I've seen those in the store, and they look like they can just be rinsed off, which would be very practical. I'm usually terrible about using bibs because they're such a problem in the laundry - velcro sticking to everything, etc.

          Reply
        2. MEC1972 Apr 27, 2014

          I totally agree. This feels like I wrote this myself. I have been advising the young moms around me and I have told them that you will get seduced to buy so many unnecessary items. You should include things that are absolutely not necessary and not even cute to have like those half circle pillows that you are supposed to negotiate around your post pregnant body to nurse. Eureka moment? A pillow works so much BETTER, especially on a c-section belly. And yes the Maclaren is the best, it is lightweight, tough/durable, easy to clean, and worth every cent, even though I agree, try to find it on sale. I had expensive and inexpensive strollers and it was my favorite. And it was so easy to maneuver, (which makes a difference when shopping with a sleepy toddler)

          I wish someone gave me this great advice, because it would have made my registry so much simpler. I had a pretty streamlined registry, but I still would have omitted so many things. Most of my friends were seduced and had the most ridiculous items on their registries. At some point I just ignored them and bought onsies, creepers and blankets. One friend called me after having her baby early to thank me. She said that everyone else stuck to the registry and her baby wore the onsies and creepers that I purchased because I was the only one to ignore her registry. She forgot to register for clothes!!

          Great advice.

          Reply
          1. Sarah Apr 27, 2014

            Yes! That is a fantastic point about the nursing pillows. I had a Boppy for my first son, and used it once or twice. My brand-new daughter is having trouble nursing, and guess what we're using... regular pillows! They are so much easier to position how you want them. If the Boppy or other similar pillow works for some moms, then it might be worth the expense. But it hasn't been worth it for me!

            Reply
          2. Bux May 23, 2014

            Thanks for this list! Just one thing ... you should never ever place anything under or behind baby in the car seat. It can compress in an accident, causing the car seat straps straps (which you thought were tight) to become loose, which you obviously don't want. We just had an hour+ car-seat use/installation lesson (which I would tell every parent to-be is a must-have, since something like 75% of car seats are not installed or used correctly) and that particular warning is fresh in my mind.

            Reply
            1. Holla Nov 25, 2014

              Was just scrolling to the comment section to say the same thing! I'm all about car seat safety!

              Reply
            2. jenn May 28, 2014

              This was super helpful. I just found out I'm pregnant with my first and we live in a tiny apartment so the less we need the better.

              Reply
              1. Kristina Jun 3, 2014

                Definitely get a pack n play used it as a bed for my son when he was first born so he could sleep next to me and we use it traveling. And have plenty of sleepers and comedies you will go through a lot of them and they cheap. I used the Playtex Vent bottles worked prevented spit up and a little cheaper than Dr.Brown's bottles.

                Reply
                1. Kimberly Jun 9, 2014

                  I just had my first baby a month ago. Regarding the breast pump - check with your insurance. The hospital told us that the affordable care act requires insurance companies to cover pumps. You'll just need to find out the procedure from the insurance company (my Ob just had to write a prescription for one).

                  Also, I like the swaddle me wraps. They keep her wrapped up nice and secure.

                  Reply
                  1. Julie Jul 1, 2014

                    Check with your car insurance carrier to see if they offer discounts (or free) baby seats. We didn't do this until our son was booster age and it would have saved us so much money if we had thought of it in the beginning!
                    My son hated the carrier/bjorn/snuggly. I gifted it to a friend and her baby loved it.
                    I'm 5-9 and if I had a 2nd child I would definitely go for the Sit N Stand - but would certainly buy used! I've seen them at consignment shops for WAAAAY less than retail.

                    Reply
                    1. Henry's Mama Jul 8, 2014

                      Nice article, but telling people to put a rolled up blanket behind the baby in a car seat is probably a bad idea. My husband is a certified car seat tech, and cringes every time he sees anything IN the seat that wasn't manufactured from the same brand, for THAT exact seat. It could be life & death for the baby, in an accident. The infant seats are designed to cocoon the baby against the back of the bench, in an accident. Anything in the seat, including the really cute car seat covers, could smother the baby or keep it from properly cocooning. I recommend that EVERYONE, with an infant or child in a carseat, take a car seat installation course from a certified tech. Usually found at your local hospital or police station.

                      Reply
                      1. Sarah Jul 9, 2014

                        Great information - thanks! In that case, I would recommend switching to a convertible carseat for a baby with significant reflux.

                        Reply
                      2. Katie Apr 23, 2015

                        Thank you so much! I'm going to be a new mommy and it's over welming

                        Reply
                        1. K. Allen Aug 17, 2015

                          Chicco Cortina Stroller is the best lightweight stroller.

                          Reply
                          1. Jenifer Sep 8, 2016

                            Great post. Before we had our first child we thought we needed everthing anyone ever told us or we read. Interestingly we have have sold some items that we bought for our first child that we were advised as an absolute must such as a changing unit and it was a waste of good space. With our second child we just used an existing chext of drawers or the floor!

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                              1. Best travel system Oct 28, 2018

                                Thanks, Sarah for sharing an awesomely informative post. I use Evenflo pivot modular travel system for my baby and it is a 3-in-1 travel system with six modes of travel. In my opinion, the stroller should be on the first shopping list of new moms.

                                Reply

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