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Baby Gear: What to Splurge on and What to Skip

The list of stuff to buy for baby can be overwhelming—not to mention costly. Here's what you really need and what you can live without.
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By Ashlee Neuman, Content Director
Updated April 21, 2017
Mom tucking her baby into its crib in the nursery.
Image: Andrea Wagner
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It’s hard not to swoon over itty-bitty baby shoes and newborn hats—but when it comes time to put together a comprehensive baby registry that’ll cover all of baby’s and your new-parent needs, things start feeling a little more daunting. There’s a lot a newborn needs. Then again, there are some common baby registry items you can get along just fine without. So what’s a must and what can you skip? Read on for our best advice.

Baby Gear That’s Worth the Splurge

Expensive, yes, but these bigger-ticket items will be totally worth the investment. Whether they ensure baby’s safety, maximize your comfort or help you get you where you need to go, you’ll be glad you got the best to suit your family’s needs.

Car seat

This one is really non-negotiable. Very few things are more important than baby being safe in the car—in fact, the hospital won’t let you head home after birth without one. And buying or borrowing a secondhand car seat is a huge no-no. Car seats actually have expiration dates, and a used car seat may not perform up to its original crash-safety standards. While they can get expensive, it’s important to buy a new car seat so you know it hasn’t been in an accident. The best car seats will not only have superior performance features, but they’ll also be comfy for baby and easy to clean.

Ready to browse? Check out our top car seat picks.

Stroller

Every stroller has a different personality, so make sure yours fits your traveling needs. Moms often buy more than one stroller for different purposes. If you live in the city, it should be lightweight, easy to maneuver with one hand and easy to fold up and down for hopping on the train. If you’ll be strolling along dirt or gravel roads, consider a jogging stroller with lots of storage for packing up a picnic. At the beginning, you’ll probably want a travel system stroller that your infant car seat can snap into (so you don’t have to wake your little one when you get to where you’re going). Another reason to splurge? If you buy a good one, you can use it for future babies.

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Ready to browse? Check out our top stroller picks.

Baby carrier

The microwave is beeping (we know you’re not making dinner from scratch), your mother-in-law is calling to offer you her best baby advice and your firstborn has just found the fun in dipping toilet paper into the dog’s water bowl (and oh, it sticks to the wall too!). There are countless reasons why you need an awesome baby carrier that’ll keep baby safe and snug while your hands are free to…well, handle everything else. Make sure the carrier is comfortable for your partner too!

Ready to browse? Check out our top baby carrier picks.

Breast pump (if you’re breastfeeding)

These can be pricey, but if you plan to breastfeed and eventually head back to work, occasionally be away from baby during a feeding or simply have your partner offer baby a bottle every once in a while, you’re going need a breast pump. A top-notch double electric breast pump will help you get as much liquid gold out as you can in a session, and keep you as comfortable as possible. And here’s the good news: You might actually be able to score a breast pump for free! Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans cover the cost entirely or with a small co-pay, and many of the leading breast pumps are eligible. But every insurance plan is different, so check in with your provider.

Ready to browse? Check out our top breast pump picks

Crib sheets

For safety purposes, it’s important for baby to sleep in their own bed (instead of yours) every night—so those crib sheets are going to see a lot of use. Go ahead and splurge on sheets that are soft, cute and made to last.

Ready to browse? Check out our top crib sheet picks.

Glider chair

You’ll spend hours upon hours in this nursery chair, feeding, rocking and reading to your little one. Whether you opt for one that rocks, glides, swivels or reclines, make sure it’s comfortable and built to last, since it’ll be a staple piece of furniture for years to come.

Ready to browse? Check out our top glider chair picks.

Baby Gear That’s Safe to Skip

When you’re creating your baby registry, you’ll come across a ton of nice-to-haves. Don’t get us wrong, most of those truly are nice to have—but are they strictly necessary? Nope. If you’re trying to save on space or money, go ahead and skip these items.

Crib bumper and bedding

Not only do you not need crib bumpers, you actually shouldn’t have them. The American Academy of Pediatrics says crib bumpers and other loose bedding can be a suffocation hazard for baby and should never be placed in the crib when baby is sleeping. When nap or nighttime rolls around, the only things that should be in the crib are a fitted sheet and your child.

Bottle sterilizer

It used to be that parents sterilized their baby bottles after every feeding, but with today’s treated municipal water, that’s not necessary. When you first buy bottles, they’ll need to be sterilized before baby drinks from them (since you don’t know what the bottle touched before it was packaged)—but it’s usually a one-and-done type of deal. After that initial round, you can just clean the bottles with soap and water. However, if your child was premature, has ongoing health issues or was recently sick, your drinking water isn’t safe, you’re borrowing a bottle or generally prefer to err on the side of caution, you might find yourself sterilizing multiple bottles. If that’s the case, dropping the bottles and parts into boiling water on the stove for a few minutes works just as well—no special bottle sterilizer needed.

Bottle warmer

Some babies have very strong preferences when it comes to the temperature of their bottles. Bottle warmers can be great, as they can save on time and hassle. But you can totally skip this registry item. It turns out, warm water from the faucet is one of the best ways to warm up a bottle to the perfect temp, and it heats up a bottle faster than you might think.

Wipe warmer

Room-temperature wipes just seem so…cold, don’t they? Keep in mind that if you’re not on top of wetting the pads frequently, the wipe warmer can dry out, causing an overheating hazard. You’re too busy to add this chore to your list. Plus, baby should get used to room-temp wipes for when you’re changing diapers on the go.

Changing table

Yes, you’ll need to have a space to change baby’s diapers, but a specially designed changing table isn’t necessary. Instead, invest in a midsize dresser, a comfy changing mat and some cute shelves. It makes for a perfect area to lay baby down and store your diapering supplies. When baby gets older, you can repurpose the dresser for storing clothes!

Bassinet

To reduce the risk of SIDS, the AAP now recommends that baby sleep in your room (but not in your bed) for at least six months, ideally up to a year. But many parents’ bedrooms aren’t spacious enough to accommodate a full-size crib. Bassinets are one option—they’re cute and often come with white noise machines and other fun features. But they’re expensive and only last a few months before babies outgrow them. If budget is a concern, consider trying a more affordable travel crib or playard instead—you’ll be able to get great use out of those well into your child’s toddler years.

Feeding pillow

There are many infant feeding pillows on the market, and while they can make nursing and bottle-feeding positions easier, they’re not a necessity. Plenty of moms use regular pillows from their bed or couch instead. Heck, we’ve seen moms walking and nursing at the same time (that’s talent!).

Nursing cape

Breastfeeding in public can leave you feeling a little…exposed. But know that it’s legal in all 50 states! For those who prefer (instead of feeling pressured) to cover up while nursing in public, there are many cool-looking nursing capes on the market. If you decide to skip them, a simple lightweight blanket will do the same job—and doubles as a comfy cover to keep baby snug and warm!

Burp cloths

Most infants do a whole lot of spitting up, so it’s smart to have some sort of cloth on your lap or over your shoulder during and after a feeding. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy special burp cloths from big-name brands. In the end, it’s going to be covered with baby barf, so soft towels or dish cloths work fabulously for the same purpose.

Updated April 2019

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