Essential Baby Items – What DON’T you need?

After my recent post about what you really need for a new baby, I thought it would be fun to do a post about the flip side – what you really don’t need.

We all buy things for our babies, especially the first one, that we just don’t need. These things inevitably start gathering dust in our cupboards; reminding us of the money we wasted until the day we can palm them off on unsuspecting first-time parents.

So, here’s my list of things that you just don’t need. Baby product companies will do anything to make you believe that you need this stuff – you don’t. Trust me.
essential baby items - what you don't need

1. A top & tail bowl. This is number 1 on the list for a reason. Never have I heard something so ridiculous as when I heard of the existence of a top & tail bowl. The very idea that I would pay £5 or more for a plastic bowl with two separate sections in it when I could, y’know, just get a couple bowls from my kitchen cupboard? Psh.
2. Bottles and a steriliser. Unless you need to pump from birth for some reason, you needn’t worry about this. Having bottles in the house will not help with breastfeeding; it can be hard at first and many a mum has resorted to a bottle in the middle of the night rather than calling La Leche League or the NCT breastfeeding helpline. You don’t need bottles ‘just in case’, your baby will not starve even if for some reason you spontaneously stop lactating at 2am (not gonna happen). Similarly, a steriliser is a waste of money. If you need to sterilise medicine spoons, syringes or pacifiers you can just immerse them in a saucepan of boiling water for five minutes.
3. Formula. For the same reasons as #2, unless you know you have some kind of medical condition that means you won’t be able to breastfeed fully or at all, and you can’t get donor milk, there is no reason to buy formula ‘just in case’. It will just make it harder to keep breastfeeding in the early days when it can be difficult.
4. A breast pump. Now, I know that for some ladies this is a necessity; if they must return to work after a few weeks then it’s imperative to start building a freezer stash as soon as possible. But in my time as a breastfeeding peer supporter, I have met many pregnant women who seem to think that buying a pump is necessary, even if they are not returning to work until their baby is much older. When I ask them why they think they need to pump for their newborn, they often don’t know what to say. They just think it’s something that you have to do, thanks to lists of breastfeeding ‘essentials’ in baby store catalogues. Unless you know you must be away from your young baby for extended periods of time, there is no need to buy a pump straight away. If you encounter issues then by all means get one but there is no need to have one before your baby is born. In an emergency you can hand express effectively using the Marmet technique. Chances are, you won’t crave long periods of time away from your baby until they are much older.
5. A cot bumper. These look pretty in the cot or crib, but they serve no real purpose and have actually been shown to increase the risk of SIDS (thought to be because they reduce the air flow around the baby).
6. A pretty mobile for the cot, if you’ve chosen to use one. You know, the ones in attractive neutral colours that match the rest of the nursery set. Again, they look awfully pretty hanging over the cot but neutral shades do absolutely nothing for your baby. Little babies like contrast – initially black and white, and then bright colours after a little while. Neutral colours do not stimulate them in the slightest.
7. A bath thermometer. Just stick your elbow in it like your granny did.
8. A changing table. You will probably use it twice, no matter how multi-functional it is or how much the company promise that you will somehow still find use for it when your kid is 3. We put our desk in our oldest son’s room to use as a changing table – it was perfect. Just the right height, with four drawers to stash his nappies, wipes and other toiletries. Obviously not everyone has a spare desk lying around, but you’re bound to be able to get something for the purpose that costs a damn sight less than what the companies will have you pay for a changing table.
9. Baby bath products. Even good old Johnson & Johnson baby products are full of nasty chemicals and are absolutely unnecessary for little babies. They don’t get dirty until much later.
10. Babyproofing items. You’d be surprised how many people rush out and buy contraptions to make their kitchen cupboards secure before their baby can even lift their own head. We did… Leave it until you need it, and even then you will probably find you need less than you thought (if any).

I’d love to hear what items you bought or were given that are buried in the back of your under-the-stairs cupboards! Comment and share below :)

Image courtesy of miguelb @ Flickr


  1. Mojoleonie says

    We were given a top & tail bowl… Never used, newborn bath support thing… Used once baby hated it never used again, he came in the bath with us or I used the kitchen sink, neutral mobile… Never used still in bag it was given to me in, too many newborn baby clothes hardly wore any of them….

  2. Mellie says

    I would go so far as to suggest that the *only* essentials a new parent needs are a baby car seat (because you can’t go anywhere safely in a car without one) and a sling, but that’s it. We bought a fancy pushchair for our first baby but it felt so wrong having her at arms length that it was soon abandoned in favour of a sling. She slept by my side at night, I changed her nappy on a towel on the floor (much safer than a changing table) and bathed her in the bath with me. The rest of the contraptions we bought or were given ended up being donated away or binned (notably, the array of nasty over-perfumed baby cosmetics and the ridiculously expensive changing bag with it’s in-built bottle-holder!)

    • says

      I quite agree; you need so little if you wish to parent your baby in a natural, no-frills manner. A sling and a car seat. Some things that make your life easier are handy, but certainly not necessary. A friend of mine once said that the baby companies want us to believe that our homes have to look like a page out of their catalogues in order to be able to parent our babies well.

  3. Tamara says

    Love this post. We learned the hard way with baby number one that we did not need all the baby crap as I call it. We donated almost everything and with number two had only the necessities. And the only babyproofing item we ever used was outlet covers :0)

    • says

      That’s the only babyproofing item we use, too. Although we may start using the catches for the kitchen cupboards just on the cupboard where the ‘nasties’ live (bleach etc) simply because Monkey has taken to playing in the kitchen alone at times.

      Thanks so much for commenting :)

  4. Miranda says

    I disagree strongly with the no bottles/steraliser/formula. If you choose to bottle feed, being prepared with bottles and formula on day 3 (when collostrum finishes) is so much better than having to go out with a brand new baby. And at 3 am putting the used bottle into a microwave steraliser that turns itself off (after you are tucked back into bed trying to get every minute of sleep you can) is far preferable (and safer!) to standing over a boiling pot on the stove. I know from when I was trying to juggle 1 bottle and having to breastfeed + express + give formula top ups! The day I bought a day’s supply of bottles and a steraliser was the day I started coping.

    • says

      I agree; like I said in the point about formula and bottles etc, unless you know that you are going to need them there is no point in buying them. Obviously if you choose to bottle feed you will want to buy bottles and bottle feeding accessories :)

      • Kirsty says

        I also strongly disagree with the bottle/steriliser/formula. Get at least one bottle, some sterilising bags and a carton of pre-made formula. Your baby may not die of starvation but if you get gastro or similar and lose your milk, the last thing you need is to leave the house and get something to stop the screaming.

        Top and tail bowl though – now a bath toy, so it did have a use eventually!!

        For a change table a wide chest of drawers is great – loads of storage and somewhere to put bub on top. As the baby grows more active and heavy you’re not going to want to lift all the time anyway, so you’ll end up using the floor, but for those first few months of frequent poos, not bending is great!

        • says

          I will have to respectfully disagree with you on the formula thing. I know many, many women who have had gastroenteritis and never had it affect their milk supply. The risk of a mother who wishes to breastfeed being tempted to use the just-in-case formula in the cupboard (and suffering the possible downward spiral that could follow) is far higher than the risk of her milk supply tanking with absolutely no prior warning.

          Of course, it is a choice that all mothers must make for themselves – if a mother doesn’t feel overly strongly about breastfeeding, then it would be fine to have the formula there I am sure, but for a mother who very much wants to breastfeed, that formula could be a real stumbling block for her. Milk supply doesn’t generally just disappear overnight.

          Great tip about the chest of drawers! :) Thanks so much for commenting!

          • Stephanie Gaudin says

            I agree with you about not having formula in the house. I remember having done sent home from the hospital. with me despite the fact that I was nursing and on tough nights I would sometimes turn to my husband and ask him to get me the formula. He never did and my daughter nursed until she was 19 months old when she weaned herself due to a huge supply drop while I ess pregnant with my son. I eventually gave it to a friend who’s milk never came in and was formula feeding her son.
            The changing table in the other hand, I LOVE. I got one from my sister, she never used it with her first. I am still using it with my 2.5 year old and my 5 month old!! It’s just whatever is most comfortable for each mommy.

  5. Jude says

    We had loads of crap we never used, thank god most of it was given or I dread to thunk how much money we’d have wasted. Have got every type of baby bath or bath support going- in the end we used to put baby in rhe bath with one of us. Blankets- could carpet the bloody house with them! Didn’t use the baby walker or door bouncer, prefered baby to figure out stuff for herself and use her own strength to move about. Also sick of all the soft toys given to us- what the fuck am I meant to do with the dust attracting things????

  6. Mellie says

    Ahh yes … soft toys. I used to feel that way about them when mine were babies, but now that they’re older (7 and 5) they LOVE their soft toys. Always playing with them and making up lovely little make-believe games with them. Stuff them in a bin bag and bring them out in a few years!

  7. says

    Muslin shoulder things for pukes! Use a teatowel or baby’s bib or something! I got given some and think I used one… for something totally unrelated. My top and tail bowl came with the bath set I was given, never used. I did use my change table a LOT and the sides on it were great when the weeing after nappy’s been removed occurred! We also used our steriliser daily for dummys as Saraya was a major comfort sucker!! As for the bath thermometer… some GUYS need them!! I bought a duck one for OH and the first day he ran a bath he asked me to check it, cue the elbow, I was nearly scalded!! He likes hot baths and when I showed him the right temperature he thought it was cold water because HE wouldn’t bath in water that cold LOL

    • says

      see, i found muslins to be really useful with jack, but he had (undiagnosed) reflux so he was literally sick constantly; we had hundreds of those muslins to mop up with. we even used to lay one in the cot under his head because he would even spit up in his sleep, despite being held upright for ages after feeding. How the hell he was never diagnosed is beyond me, lol. However with C they are hardly used. He likes chewing on them on occasion though, lol.

  8. says

    Why didn’t I spot this post before lol. I’ve bought so many things that sat unused, but I’ll list the ones that were the most pointless for me;

    Pee-pee tee-pee: a little terrycloth tent for going over little boys bits when you need the nappy off for whatever reason. Very cute, but crap at absorbing even the tiniest squirt of pee and doesn’t stay where it’s put anyway.

    Various activity chairs/rockers/swings: Zachary hated being in them. They entertained him with their vibrating seats and musical hanging toys for about three milliseconds until he started wailing to be taken out.

    Amby Nest: gorgeous hammock, but Zachary hated it. It was fine if you didn’t mind bouncing him in it constantly, but as soon as it stopped moving he was not happy.

    Various cot projectors, light shows etc: bought several of these to help get Zachary to sleep. Usually accompanied by tinny-sounding lullabies that you can’t switch off. None of them worked.

    Doughnut cushion: for me, bought on the advice of a friend who assured me I wouldn’t be able to sit down without one after giving birth. Needless to say, it’s still in the cupboard, unused.

    There’s loads more I can’t remember right now, but those are the ones that stick out lol.

  9. Emily says

    Loved this!! As a mother to three, I quickly learned with the first that there were sooo many things you don’t need. I tried to tell my sister who had children after me, to return a lot of her baby shower gifts to return it for the items she really needed. She didn’t want to listen to me. She wanted to have everything for her first baby. Now 7 months later, she has a lot of unused items and wish she had listened to me.

  10. says

    Couldn’t agree more! I wrote a similar post last week about crap new parents don’t need. It’s so amazing how you can quickly waste your money on cute baby stuff that you never use!

  11. Cornelia says

    I really liked your post about useless stuff, Imogen. Here in France though, you can rent a breast pump at the pharmacy and return it when you don’t need it any more. i got offered a top and tail bowl as well, which I used a lot. Problem is, they’re usually plastic, and when you want to heat the food, you want to do it fast, so use the microwave, which is not a good idea for plastic containers.
    Thanks for all your articles, they feel good to read!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.