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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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…
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.
This Graco Pack ‘n Play with the bassinet feature is a good value.
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+.
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.
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!
Toys and Accessories
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!
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!
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!
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.
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…
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.