Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Magazines and blogs are awash with lists of the “essential” items you need to stock up on when expecting a baby in order to be a “good” mother. When first time jitters collide with crazy nesting hormones, marketers are able to take advantage of the app
rehensiveness every first-time parent feels by telling you what you MUST buy to be a good parent....So, you dutifully create a list and check it twice and head to the nearest overpriced baby warehouse to stock up, thinking you are doing the right thing and preparing well for your little bundle of joy.
I am writing this list because I wish someone had been honest with me about what I would really need before I gave birth to my daughter Pearl. This way I could have saved myself a lot of money, stress and useless clutter that clogged up our hom
I also write this as a Professional Organiser, cosy minimalist and sustainable living advocate. A person who is fighting both personally and professionally against the crazy consumerist and materialistic society we live in, which fools us into thinking that happiness and good parenting is earned with the tap of a credit card. Meanwhile, creating cognitive dissonance about the world our children REALLY need – one that hasn’t been razed of resources, polluted by plastic waste and warmed by carbon gases.
Baby stuff is a huge contributor to waste. People seem to go crazy trying to prove who is the better friend or grandparent by showering the totally oblivious infant in things they have no need for. Babies grow so fast and their needs change quickly, s
o it is commonplace for them to barely make use of the mountains of gifts and outfits they are bequeathed. Clutter also seriously affects a mother’s mental health and ability to cope when they are already sleepless and struggling to adjust to the every demand of this small, wrinkled (and totally adorable) little squealer.
The ANTI- Baby List is based on my personal experiences and that of the 1800-strong Facebook Intentional Living Community. This list isn’t intended to judge mums and their choices, we all have our preferences about what is useful or desirable.
At the end of the day we are all different and so are our babies; you get the final say and everyone else can shussssh!!!
This list is meant to take a load off your mind and your wallet and create a dissenting voice amongst the saturation of marketing material. In the end love and attention of parents and loved ones, a full belly and a clean behind are basically all a newborn really needs and don’t let anyone tell your otherwise. You don’t need to buy all the latest fads in an expensive baby store to prove you are a good and capable mum!
So, without further ado, let’s kick this list off
A comprehensive list of what a baby does not 'need':
1. A nursery. A baby does not need its own dedicated room. Setting up a nursery is an expensive and unnecessary exercise that I tend to associate with American films. Childhood specialists will tell you time and time again, how important it is for a newborn baby to remain close by, if not touching, their primary parent at all times, even at night. Sids safe sleeping guidelines advise that a baby should sleep in the same room as its parents for the first 6 to 12 months as a minimum.
Nicole says: “To be honest your newborn is in your room at the start so you only use the nursery for the change table. You get that used to feeding in the lounge room you never use the chair in the nursery.”
2. A baby brush. This has to be one of the most useless baby items I have ever come across. My baby was basically bald for the first year of her life and after that I cannot recall brushing her hair often or with anything other than a normal ‘adult’ brush.
3. A room thermometer. A room thermometer is the ultimate indication of a clueless first-time parent who has anxiously read too many baby books. Use. Your. Common. Sense. If the temperature is not comfortable for you, it won’t be for baby either.
4. Toys. Babies are not interested in toys. They’ll choose a real object over a toy every time. A mobile or a bunch of bright hanging stuff like ribbons above where they are laying will be all you need to keep a baby occupied. If you don’t believe me, check this out:
5. A designer pram. Please do not feel pressured to spend thousands of dollars on a small-person mover. The best pram I had was actually left out for hard rubbish. You can pick up so many barely used prams second hand. Though I will say, the larger wheeled all-terrain prams are much less of a headache to use as they won’t get stuck on every crack or bump in the pavement!
6. A designer baby bag. It is a myth that you need a big fancy bag full of everything bar-the-kitchen-sink to take your baby on an outing. No wonder so many mums are isolated at home, when leaving the house with a newborn is such a rigmarole! Just use your handbag or backpack and pack a nappy changing set and bottles as needed.
7. Designer baby anything. Do you think your baby really cares?! This is all about impressing other parents. You don’t need to impress anyone, just pull out a milk-laden breast and you will have all the babies goo gah-ing all over you ; )
8. Soft toys and teddies. Babies have no interest in these dust collectors. Soft toys are a SIDS hazard and should not be left near babies unattended.
9. Baby jewellery, headbands and tiny shoes. Babies really get annoyed with this stuff and you will spend your entire life trying to keep them on, not to mention they usually look rather ridiculous on a tiny infant. Forget about it.
10. Walkers, Jolly Jumpers and Bumbos. Anything that makes a baby do something that they are not yet able to do developmentally, without an aide (walk, jump, sit upright), is really bad for them and will negatively affect their development, so leave it in the shopping aisles sergeant!
11. Baby shampoo, oils, magic potions etc. Babies have very delicate skin as any Johnson and Johnson advertisement would love to tell you - all the more reason not to put anything on their skin except for warm water. All it does is upset the delicate balance of the skin and cause issues that wouldn’t be otherwise there.
12. Baby-proofing equipment. Baby on the move? Time to declutter! As soon as Pearl started moving, Mummy started seriously decluttering; I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff she got into. Move any dangerous items into high, out of reach places or locked cabinets. Many baby proofing options really don't work because children are ingenious at working around them and they stop a toddler learning important boundaries and healthy risk-taking - like not to touch a hot tap - ouch hot hot is a far more important lesson. I once bought magnet locks and it was such a pain to remember where I had put that damn magnet?! I will clarify some notable EXCEPTIONS; where a child's life could be at risk. In high-risk situations, baby gates and fire guards and other safety aides may be necessary. Sometimes it is necessary to block access to stairs and other dangerous rooms where a child may be at risk of serious harm. Also, tethering heavy furniture to the wall is an essential life-saving measure that all parents should take very seriously.
13. A baby bath. This was one of the items that gathered the most consensus in our group thread. It was unanimous that the baby bath is never used after that obligatory first bath photo. After that parents quickly realise bathing/showering with baby or even popping them in the laundry trough is a much simpler exercise than trying to fill and empty a baby bath.
14. Nappy sanitising bins. Another item that received an unanimous vote for uselessness were specialised nappy bin. Rochelle says: “Waste of money! If you actually calculate how much you will have to spend in refills it's crazy.” Paige also agrees: “I gave mine away! It was recommended to me to get one. So much double handing”
15. Wipe warmers. Mary Ann warns against the wipe warmers fad: “My cousin recommended that I get a wipes warmer. She told me how great it was to use for night-time diaper changes and told me I should definitely get one, so I got one with a gift card from my baby shower. I tried it a couple of times but that was all. It took so long to warm up and you could only do one at a time because otherwise the rest would be dried out and wasted and my son slept right through most diaper changes anyway. Lol. I also changed to cloth wipes anyway.”
16. Cloth bibs. I was given piles of them and I never used them because my daughter wasn’t a drooler. It may be wise to wait and see whether yours is before purchasing. When Pearl started on solids, I realised that food rolls straight off clothed bibs into their lap and stains all the otherwise uncovered parts of her clothes, bib notwithstanding; so I moved on to plastic pelican bibs and long smocks which I found infinitively more useful.
17. Dummies. Doctors and dentists insist dummies are not good for children; causing their palate to develop incorrectly, so it is wise to avoid them. Mind you, I still would have used one as a desperate sleepless mother but my daughter wouldn’t take one dammit! (so no judgement here).
18. Piles of mismatched plastic plates, sippy cups and plastic cutlery of every description. As a professional organiser, I am shocked by the amount of plastic children’s eating-ware that clogs up the average cupboard. A couple of lipped plates, sippy cups and a few plastic spoons is all you will need to get them through the first year (just rinse and reuse). After that, teach your toddler to use normal plates with the rest of the family. You will be surprised how little they actually break (an exemption granted for those with tiled floors!).
19. Baby specialty food.Forget powdered rice puddings, weird rusk things, jars of preserved pumpkin and anything else of the sort. Do yourself a favour and check out Baby-led Weaning. Guess what, a baby can practically eat just what you do.
20. A change table. This is not an absolutely essential item as you can change a baby on a towel or mat placed on the floor, bed, dresser or table. I found the curved insert that you usually put on a change table very handy and used it in many different locations around the house but the table itself became a kind of ugly storage shelf, especially when she became busy enough to be able to roll off ( too high, too risky!).
Georgia says: “The best purchase I ever made was a little $9 fold up nappy change mat with storage pockets. I just put nappies, wipes and spare clothing into it, folded it up and popped it in my handbag.”
21. Breathing sensors and monitors.You can’t confidently rely on them, so they are a big waste of time. You will still find yourself checking your baby is breathing as a matter of habit - it is parental instinct. My daughter is now four and I still can’t go to bed without kissing her on the face to check she is still alive.
Kristi says: “I bought 2 owlet sock heart rate monitors for $800 (😱) coz I was worried with my girls being prem but they kept slipping off and stressing us so I returned them and got a refund.”
22. Bulk anything before they are born. Mum Carly warns against buying anything in bulk: “you never know if baby will like it or will react poorly to it.” Not to mention how quickly they can grow out of clothes or nappies when they go through a growth spurt. Many outfits linger with their price tags for precisely this reason.
23. Portable potties, highchairs, cots or anything travel related.Buy as per needed and choose second hand or borrow from a friend before buying as new! Do not clog up precious space with things you may never need or will only need on the odd occasion.
Bronwyn says: “We had 4 kids in less than 4 years so we’ve got it pretty nailed. The entire idea that you have to be fully prepared is a myth. The shops will still be there after baby is born. Get the absolute basics beforehand and then get other items only as you need them. You, your family and your baby will be different every time you add a new baby to the family so there’s no way to know in advance what you need”.
24. Fancy cot beddings and rail bumpers.“Sheets and pillows are not SIDS safe when the baby is of cot age (pretty much). Just a fitted sheet is fine” Says Carly. Rail bumpers are also not SIDS approved either so best to stick to basics and read the SIDS guidelines for setting up a safe infant sleep space.
So, what will you need? I get it; the urge to nest and prepare for a baby is overwhelming and instinctual so here are the basics you can have prepped before bubs arrives (and these are the things you should ask for as gifts). These are the things I personally used A LOT, but it may vary slightly from mum to mum:
A small pile of wraps, a couple warm blankets, singlets, onesies, hand knitted cardigans from the op-shop/hospital store, a pram with decent sized wheels (second hand will do), a second-hand wrap carrier, your boobs and a good nipple cream if breast feeding, and bottles and associated paraphernalia if bottle feeding, a few special heirloom-quality outfits (handmade and hand-me downs will have extra special memories attached).
Baby Panadol and bum cream, face-washers, cut up flannel rags for wiping bottoms and a waterproof container/wet-bag for transporting clean/dirty cloth wipes (ditch the chemical throwaway wipes), a portable nappy changing set (the type you can roll up) that can be stuffed in any bag with a spare onesie inside.
A bouncer or automatic rocker for some handsfree baby time ( you can borrow one from a friend), some nappies (but not bulk amounts because boy do they grow fast!) and something for your baby to sleep in (this is totally personal choice); whether it be a cot, bassinet or even a cardboard box! Which by the way, is a totally safe and acceptable place for a baby to sleep.
If in doubt about whether you will need something non-essential, wait until your baby is born, as the shops will not disappear once the baby arrives and you will be able to purchase it then.
In lieu of presents, ask your friends to pick a chore to do when they visit or bring a meal for the freezer – a generic Facebook post with this preference could be a polite way to nudge visitors in the right direction. The one thing I really wish I had during those sleepless and terrifying early days was help and support. If friends really want to buy the baby something, it is ok to mention what you actually need and ask them to make it gender neutral so you can pass on to subsequent children or loved ones, or maybe, they can give you a voucher for a massage (after all you will be the one most in need of a bit of pampering). You should never feel ashamed to suggest what you really need rather than add waste to the planet.
Good luck Mama!
P.S. You got this!