I’m a practical (read: OCD) mum. When I was expecting my first child, I had a Microsoft Excel sheet of things needed for the baby. The list was comprehensive and long; earmarked with my preferred brands, prices and where you could get them.
I thought being smart was being prepared but instead, I was falling victim to a manipulative consumer culture in the pursuit of accumulating baby things that would go on to take up space and collect dust. The number of things we bought preceding baby number two came to a total of zero.
Here are some things we didn’t need the first time:
- Baby shoes: Those tiny little booties are truly irresistible. However, let’s face it: most babies can’t walk in their first year. And between the million things you have to pack when taking bubs out and about, socks are more practical in keeping those tiny toes warm.
- Thick blankets: Forgo the warm sheets and opt for multi-purpose receiving blankets that can double up as towels, swaddles, throws, burping cloths or even changing mats.
- Bassinet: A Moses basket or foldable playpen on wheels is a better choice than a bassinet. And if you plan to co-sleep, even the crib ends up redundant quickly.
- Fancy bedding: A set of cot bedding comes with pillow covers, bumpers, blankets, and sheets. In retrospect, I feel quite silly thinking that babies ever needed pillows. And cot bumpers are said to increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Choosing sheets that fit a single bed will provide much better value.
- Baby bathtub: While seemingly crucial in the beginning, the hassle of setting it up and then packing it up again every time baby needed a bath had us choosing the low-fuss, low-moss built-in toilet sink that did the job just as well as a tub with quarter the amount of energy.
- Changing table: Some of these double up as cabinets or drawers which can fool you to think that it’s a good investment but it’s a large piece of furniture that would unlikely be very functional in a year. The bed or the floor works just as well.
- Baby soap: It’s unlikely that babies get dirty enough to need a heavy-duty scrubbing down so early in life. Harsh soaps can also dry out their delicate and sensitive skin. Using water for their daily baths would be sufficient to get them clean. Nix the soap until it’s really needed.
- Toys: In the first few months, a baby benefits the most from lots of eye contact, being held, talked and sung to. They learn a lot from observing the world around them and navigating within their own environment. The right toys can boost a child’s development according to their age and learning readiness.
- Diaper bag: Baby bags are insulated to keep baby food warm and have pockets to compartmentalise milk bottles, diapers, ointments and all the stuff for baby needs. Their niche also makes them very expensive. Carryalls fitted with bag organisers are a much cheaper and practical alternative that won’t cause too much upset when it stinks up from spills and smears.
- Baby washing detergent: Initially, I worried about baby having sensitive skin and that his clothes needed special care. But my kids seemed fairly hardy and never developed skin problems when we tossed their clothes together with ours.
- Baby food: No matter how “natural” or “organic” or “nutritious” it says on the jar, the dilution and preservatives added for bulk and longevity makes it easily sub-par to the stuff you’re making at home. Once we realised how easy it is to make and pack baby food, those jars remained on the shelf long past its expiry date.
- Baby-sized cutlery: While disguised as a boon in the beginning, they ended up as ornaments when my baby grabs his food with his hands and graduates straight to “big people” cutlery without ever using the fat plastic ones I got him. And if you’re paranoid like me, plastic spoons in hot food are a major no no.
- Bottle warmers: For mothers who express milk, you’re initially sold on how much you need one of these but once it’s purchased, you realise how unnecessary it really is. Frozen or cold milk can be thawed much faster dipped in a mug of hot water – and the mug can still be used after!
Baby things are expensive and will only be used for a few years at the most, if at all. With the rising costs attached to raising kids, sensible spending early on will pay off in the long run.
Khairun is a mum to two kids and owner of Recovr Resources Sdn Bhd, a growing social enterprise in the recycling and equal employment industry. She and her family are currently living in Jakarta.