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New-Baby Products: The Good, The Bad, The Waste of $$$

Erin Zammett Ruddy

On Saturday, I helped host my sister’s baby shower. The weekend before that, I was at a friend’s shower in the city and next weekend I’ll be at another shower in Massachusetts (yes, my mimosa intake is at an all-time high). I also have several other friends pregnant with numero uno, so what to buy when you’re expecting has been the topic du jour. All of these ladies are well-read on birth and what to do/say/scream when sh*t gets real in the delivery room but I want to help them get prepared for what comes next, which, let’s be honest, is the really scary part. Walking into a baby mega store is enough to send me into labor and I’m not even pregnant.

At the showers, I’ve been seeing a bunch of new products I didn’t even know existed. A snot sucker that you actually suck with your mouth?! (I just gagged.) A Moby wrap that apparently requires an advanced degree to figure out? (I was given a few wraps in my day and always felt like the baby would fall out so I stuck with the Bjorn, which I loved and found essential, though if I had another I’d probably get one of the other more en vogue ones that apparently rock). It’s amazing how quickly the stuff I used has become outdated. It’s also amazing how passionate people are about the stuff that they love—or hate. I wrote a post about baby perfume and how I found it kind of ridiculous. In it I referred to wipe warmers being a product that I just didn’t find necessary (for me) and there was some heated backlash, no pun intended. People love them some baby products. And I want to share the what and why with my friends. I’m not talking about car seats and strollers and diapers and all the other real essentials, I’m talking about the more specialized stuff that can make life as a new parent easier….

Things I couldn’t live without:

  • Swaddles (I used the SwaddleMe ones and I had a ton)
  • White noise machine (or just a recording of white noise that you can play on your iPod, which is what my friend Molly geniusly gave me as a gift when Alex was three days old)
  • Pacifiers (can you tell sleep was important to me?)
  • Burp cloths
  • Lots of extra bassinet and crib sheets
  • Nail files and baby nail clippers (it’s insane how fast their nails grow but you just have to be careful not to make their little fingers bleed once you feel brave enough to use the clippers; they’ll be fine but you’ll definitely cry and feel like you’ve already failed as a mom—been there)
  • A little chair that played music and vibrated (you can bring it in to the bathroom while you shower)
  • A baby swing
  • Lots of bibs
  • A copy of The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (given to me by my college rooomate, Candy), a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block (given to me at my shower by one of my oldest friends—thanks, Erica!). These books were my bible, especially the sleep stuff in The Baby Whisperer (apart from the dream feed, which I never did).
  • Breastfeeding products: I only breastfed Alex and only for five weeks but I definitely relied heavily on any and every product that helped that process hurt a little less, in addition to a lactation consultant (I encouraged all three moms to take the class and to meet their hospital/birthing centers lactation consultant and get her help while they’re there—priceless!).
  • A sturdy cup holder for your stroller is key. Some of my favorite memories with Alex are of us walking along the Hudson river to the World Financial Center and getting coffee—which, of course, splashed all over his blanket when I hit a bump one day because my coffee holder sucked and then I once again felt like the worst mother in the world. It’s a feeling you need to get used to…

It’s been a while since I had a newborn so this is pretty much what I remember loving. I’m all for the things that make life easier and there are a lot of them out there (way more than what’s on my list), but I also don’t like a lot of clutter and I don’t like to waste money. I had my first baby in a one-bedroom, 700-square-foot New York City apartment so there just wasn’t room for a whole lot. With Nora, we lived in a spacious house but because she was our second, we pretty much cobbled together whatever we had leftover from the first kid. I think after the first, you tend to make do with what you have. So it's important to have good stuff! And it all goes pretty fast and then you can’t believe you’re putting the baby stuff in storage and breaking out the toddler stuff. Sigh….

Ok, so here are the things I did not register for/need/want or ultimately use (I'm sure some of you swore by this stuff and it is in no way a comment on your choice that I didn't find this stuff necessary for me): 

  • I did not get a diaper genie or any other kind of dirty diaper holder
  • I was not a wipe warmer devotee
  • I did not use a baby bath (both of my kids went right into the tub with my arm under them—I actually used the plastic tub thing for Alex for the first few weeks and then chucked it because my kids loved the water and I found it to be more trouble than help)
  • I did not use a bottle drier thingy (probably because I used Playtex drop-ins and so washing bottles was never necessary—if I had a third, I’d likely try something more environmentally friendly and thus potentially need a drier, although the playtex bottles worked wonders for both of my kids)
  • I did not use a special baby-food-making blender (I also did not make much of my own baby food—gasp!)
  • I did not use the little pee pee tee pees (a diaper works fine—and even if you’re beyond prepared, you’re gonna get some pee in your face at some point; it’s a rite of passage)
  • I did not use a grocery cart protector
  • I also never used a pacifier clip—not sure why, it probably would have made for less crawling around on my hands and knees!

There’s more I’m sure but it’s been so damn long I can’t remember. Which is why I need your input!

Full disclosure: I did invest in an Angel Care monitor that I swear by but realize is so not for everyone (if the baby were to stop breathing an alarm goes off, which gave me great peace of mind but if you pick up the baby without turning off the monitor, the alarm will go off and give you a heart attack, even though the baby is in your arms). This was so not necessary but it’s what I had and what I loved and what I am comfortable with. I would definitely use it again if we had a another. Which brings me to, perhaps, the most important point of this post: A lot of this stuff is personal preference. What you feel comfortable with, what works for you, what makes your baby happy—and you happy. You’ve read my list and now I’d love to hear yours. Tell us about the products you couldn’t live without—and the stuff you thought was so not necessary. And on behalf of all my mom-to-be friends, thank you!