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October 24, 2014

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Save your money: The six most useless items for babies

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A Henderson mother sits with her newborn son at Sunrise Hospital, Jan. 1, 2010.

You’re pregnant and trying to stock up for baby. Or someone you know is pregnant, and you’re hunting for the right gift.

What do little bundles of joy and their parents actually need?

Grab the handouts — er, books — that Babies R Us and other big-box stores provide, and you‘re in for a week’s reading and a month’s mortgage. Search the Internet and you’ll pull up pages and pages of “necessary” items.

But take it from a parent ­(I’m knee deep in all things baby, as the mom of a 2-year-old and 6-month-old): Many of the items stores and “experts” push are useless.

Of course, we all want little peanuts to have nothing but the best. But keep in mind: Baby goods are big business — to the tune of $23 billion a year — and inventors, manufacturers and retailers are quick to capitalize on people’s fears and excitement.

So do yourself and your friends a favor:

Pick carefully, and save your money for what really matters — diapers, day care and college.

•••

Wipe warmer

It’s hard enough fumbling around at 3 a.m. trying to diaper a screaming baby. It’s dark, you’re tired, and Junior is peeved.

Now plug in a wipe warmer (one handed, of course, because baby won’t like it if you put him down) and wait for it to heat up (while baby screams in your face because his diaper still hasn’t been changed). You can’t leave the warmer plugged in all night because that’s a fire hazard, and it takes a solid couple of minutes to do its job.

By that time, you could have changed the kid, warmed his slightly chilly tush with a couple of cuddles and put him — and you ­­— back to bed.

Instead: Buy and register for wipes, because you can never have enough. Never.

And they come in handy for far more than butts. Think runny noses, spit up, sticky hands, spilled milk, applesauce-covered faces ...

•••

Pee-pee Teepee

Marketed as a “must-have diapering accessory for newborn boys,” these cup-like devices fit over boys’ private parts to keep them from peeing on you during diaper changes.

That’s a noble mission. As a mother to two sons, I have been nailed several times.

But by the time you find the Pee-pee Teepee and get it to stay in place it likely will be too late.

Better advice: Just know that an errant spray can and probably will happen, work fast and keep your face away. Cover the area with a clean diaper or receiving blanket for the same protection.

Instead: Buy disposable plastic liner pads (like many changing stations provide) to place under baby during changings. Diapers can be messy, and liners will save you from having to do a million loads of laundry.

Better yet, buy them from a medical supply store, and you’ll save a ton of money. They won’t have Elmo on them, but they’ll do the job just fine.

•••

Frilly clothes

Who doesn’t love a baby in a snazzy tux or adorable sweater set, skirt and tights?

But fancy outfits just aren’t practical for tiny humans who excel at three main tasks: pooping, drooling and spitting up.

Those five-piece outfits that look just darling on the rack, in reality, include four pieces of extra clothing that mom and dad will have to take on and off a dozen times a day.

Instead: Buy onesies, jumpers and sleep sacks. They’ll keep baby warm and comfortable, are easy to clean, and slip on and off like a breeze. The fewer snaps, the better. Choose zippers instead.

I can’t tell you how many times my husband handed me a baby with his head through an arm hole or a leg through a neck hole because of mismatched snaps.

•••

Bedding sets

Stores and manufacturers push prepackaged bedding sets with prime shelf real estate, featured ads and cute themes. Dora! Monkeys! Lions rowing a boat!

But chances are, at least half the items will sit unused in a closet.

Experts warn against using blankets and bumpers in cribs because of concerns about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Dust ruffles get hidden by the slats of most cribs. Diaper stackers, wall hangings and valences all are nice but unnecessary.

Which means you’ll be paying $175 for a sheet or two.

Instead: Buy items separately. Most stores sell the same sheets, blankets and accessories featured in sets on their own.

Use the money you save to splurge on a matching lamp or toy or a pack of breathable bumpers.

•••

Baby shoes

Sure, tiny Jordans and Mary Janes are precious, but babies can’t walk.

Shoes for infants are just two more pieces of flotsam for parents to lose track of and two more items to slow the already-painfully belabored task of trying to leave the house with a child.

Plus, pediatricians say shoes aren’t great for a baby’s growing feet.

Instead: Buy lots of socks.

Think the dryer eats your adult-sized socks often?

Shrink them by 300 percent, then try to find a matching pair.

•••

Bottle sterilizer

You can buy a bottle sterilizer for as little as $20 or as much as $100. Or, you could grab a pot out of your cabinet and head to the tap for free.

Boiling bottles or pump parts for five minutes is just as effective as using a sterilizer. Even easier, throw the pieces into your dishwasher — top rack only — and let your appliance do the work.

Instead: Think long-term when registering for or buying baby gifts. The munchkin in question won’t be tiny for long, and the gear he or she needs will just get more expensive.

Forgo newborn items and focus instead on older baby stuff — high chairs, bouncers and convertible car seats.

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