For someone so tiny, it seems like babies require a lot. Don’t be fooled. Babies only require food, shelter, warmth, and a pair of loving arms. Everything else is optional. So why does the average new parent spend $13,000 in just the first year of their kid’s fledgling life? Because babies are greedy, gluttonous tyrants! Kidding. It’s us, the parents. It’s always us.
When my oldest was born, I spent more money on a car seat/stroller/spaceship combo than I did on my first car. (To be fair, my first car was a 1970s turd brown Toyota Corolla with over 200,000 miles on it.) Turned out the kid preferred the $10 umbrella stroller. By the time my fifth baby came along, I was much smarter and wiser when it came to baby needs versus wants. So to save you the time and frustration I lost, I polled fellow parents about the most overrated baby things. (None of this is to say you can’t or shouldn’t buy these things if they make you happy, just know they’re not necessary.)
1. Crib shoes. So cute! Much love! Ah, who are we kidding? Babies don’t need shoes; they barely even need feet for the first six months.
2. Pajamas. Baby clothes are pajamas. Unless you’re dressing your kid in some Insta-ready combo of a bow tie, suspenders, fairy wings, and a tiara during the day, they probably can (and do) fall asleep in whatever soft cotton thing they’re wearing. It’s fine.
3. Learning toys. Do you know what your baby’s favorite learning toy is? You! Save the expensive artisan puzzles and fancy electronic gadgets for when they’re old enough to get whiny on car trips. Plus, you know they’re just going to want to play with the cardboard box, right?
4. Onesies. I’m of the belief that a onesie is a complete outfit, especially in the summer. But there are parents who use them as layering devices, insisting no outfit is complete without a white cotton underthing. I’d never criticize another parent for how they dress their kid, but, for me, it just added an extra layer to get through during diaper changes — not to mention more laundry.
5. Matching outfits. I have all boys and and finally got a girl as my youngest. So trust me when I say I get the deep-seated desire to buy all the matchy, color-coordinated, cute outfits in the store. (I have and will not apologize.) But let’s be honest about who this is for: It’s the moms that care, not the babies. Do it if it’s fun for you, but don’t make yourself nuts over a little stain or a mismatched set.
6. High-end diapers. You wouldn’t expect it, but the things our kids literally crap in have become status symbols of our morals, values, and lifestyles. People will make assumptions about you and your family based solely on whether you choose organic, cloth, drugstore, patterned, homemade, or high-tech. This is weird. Do your child’s diapers contain their waste and not give them a crazy rash? Mission accomplished.
7. Nursery decorations. There’s nothing that builds excitement for the coming little one like lovingly decorating the nursery. But infants can barely keep their own eyes uncrossed, much less fully appreciate your Little Prince-themed wall art. Save your dollars for when your child is old enough to have an opinion and then let them help you decorate. It’s fun to see how their weirdo little brains work!
8. Lists of childcare instructions. Do babysitters need an outline of how and when your child eats, sleeps, and plays? Sure! Do they need a five-page, single-spaced directive of your baby’s every waking moment (and your every anxiety as a parent)? Probably not, especially if said babysitter raised you just fine.
9. A baby food maker. Baby food is mushed food. There are many, many ways to mush soft food that don’t require a special machine.
10. Wipes warmers. They sound good in theory — who wants something cold and wet on their nethers? Not me! But there is nothing about diaper changes that babies enjoy, and they do a good job of making themselves cold and wet regardless. The wipes are the least of their worries, frankly. A better investment is learning how to do a thorough clean-up job as quickly as possible.
11. Matching socks. Socks are toys for feet. They’re there to pull off, throw, and occasionally suck on. Sure, and they keep tiny toes warm (when they stay on, which is almost never). Match them if it makes you happy but your baby won’t mind having two different colors to play with.
12. A spotless home. Babies thrive in a little dirt. Obviously, you don’t want choking hazards littering your floor or black mold growing in the bathroom — basic hygiene is good and necessary. But if all the toys don’t end up back in the toy box every night? All the better to play with the next day!
13. Diaper genies. I’ll be the first to admit that those diaper cans that individually shrink wrap each poop bomb before hermetically sealing them are marvels of modern engineering. But, in my experience, if you’re worried about a fresh-smelling, not-poop-filled home, the best diaper can is the one in the garage. It’s not that much more effort to walk it outside, I promise.
14. Baby detergent. Babies do often have slightly more sensitive skin than grown-ups, but that doesn’t mean their clothes have to be washed separately in soap that’s been kissed by EPA-approved angels. There are plenty of regular non-allergenic soaps that the whole family can use.
15. First birthday parties. I’m treading on dangerous territory here. I would never suggest that one shouldn’t celebrate making it through that all-important first year of life — both the baby’s as a human and yours as a parent. But they won’t even remember it, so killing yourself over a complicated theme with fancy decorations, gourmet cupcakes, and hand-crafted goody bags just isn’t necessary. All the baby needs for a good time is a cake and their favorite loved ones. And maybe a box to climb in and out of.