5 would-have-been-useless “must-have” baby items I avoided buying thanks to infertility and poverty

Not having the fertility you expect nor the money you require for little things like buying groceries and avoiding debt that will take decades to dig yourself out of sucks donkey dong, no question. But it’s not all bad. Oh no: some good things can come out of that curiously cruel combination — or rather, some not-so-great things, though much desired at one time, might be avoided. Ah, the virtue of “simplicity” through forced inability to purchase anything!

Without further snark (who am I kidding: with much further snark), here are five “must have” baby things I did not waste money on, not having the funds to do so before figuring out I wouldn’t need it thanks to countless hours spent researching online because computers at least did what I told them as opposed to ovaries which persistently and cruelly ignored my pleas to work properly.


5 Would-Have-Been-Useless Things I Avoided Buying Thanks to Infertility and Poverty

1. A crib. Bed sharing? Not only far safer than many “public safety” organizations (often crib-lobby-backed) would have you believe, but also actually the biological default for humanity. Sure, it doesn’t work for every baby nor every family, but me? I’d slept with my partner every night for half a decade, I’d shared my bed with a long line of cats and dogs, I curled up every night around a baby-sized stuffed bear nearly as old and rather rattier than I, I was used to the obnoxious nighttime noises of my kidney-damaged geriatric poodle: I could cosleep. That quarter-circle-shaped utterly impractical if frankly gorgeous $2000 crib? We could pass.

2. A stroller. Living in the Pacific Northwest meant there was no weather reason to need a stroller even in the worst of summer, as some of my Texan friends did. Being more or less sound of body meant the 8lb/3.6kg (or, as it turned out, nearly 10.5lb/4.7kg) weight of a properly worn newborn would be no strain at all, and if at some point down the line the kid or our bodies decided we needed a conveyance on wheels, well, we’d get something then. And in the meantime, practicing carries with my long-suffering stuffed bear served to sate slightly my inner baby-obsessing-beast.

3. Crotch-dangling carriers and over-padded closed-tail slings. In the way-back olden days of five years ago, the over-engineered be-buckled devices known none-too-affectionately as crotch-danglers were The Must Have strapping-baby-to-body device, and the alternative was a sling available in a wide range of pastel-with-ducks color schemes and an unfortunate name reminiscent of slang for a brassier. (Nowadays the significantly better if still imperfect and overpriced ERGObaby carrier is nudging the crotch-danglers out of the Must Have lists — if not yet the lion’s share of the market outside Hippiedom Central otherwise known as Portland — and there are a number of lovely, sophisticated, dare-I-say-sexy slings in national distribution.)

I, however, when faced with those two options, dug deeper and found the frankly-a-little-frightening world of babywearing, and learned how to safely and securely make a carrier better than anything available on the mass market for less than $10, or in a pinch wear an infant in a large beach towel, a pair of sweatpants, or — I am not making this up — a pillowcase and a length of duck-tape. But that didn’t stop me for asking my mom for a $130 organic wrap.

4. Baby monitors. I know we’re the only parents in a 500 mile radius who don’t use them (even Her Crunchy Highness Hathor the Cowgoddess has a set), but when one’s plan includes cosleeping at night and babywearing the rest of the time, and one doesn’t really have house enough or older children enough for the noise of a gritchy baby to get lost in, what’s the point? Other than to pick up arguments and intrigue and hot sex noises from others’ monitors, and that’s what we have bad TV shows for.

5. Moses basket. There was a time, and no I could not tell you why, that the thought of a hooded basket with handles in which a serenely sleeping baby could be carried around the house and set next to wherever one was, it was understood, sewing or spinning or plucking a died-of-joyful-self-sacrifice goose sent me in to sepia-colored swoons for hours at a time. I am sure there are situations in which they’re a godsend1, but if I’d had the money to indulge at the time of my obsession, I would now be the less-than-proud owner of a sweet and sentimental hooded and handled laundry basket. Or cat carrier.

That’s my list of the big-ticket items we successfully dodged due to utterly-depressing (if thankfully incomplete) infertility and soul-crushing (if thankfully temporary) poverty. If we were to start over now, we’d still avoid each of those (though we might succumb to a few more triple-digit-dollar baby carriers), but if I’d have the budget and the lack of research time pre-permission-to-buy-baby-things-by-virtue-of-gestating-assiduously, each one would have found their way into our home.

I won’t say I’m glad for sub-par fertility or a long period of poverty, but though it sucked donkey dong at the time, at least I’m not stuck with a herd of hay-chewing fertilizer-producers from buying every pony my heart fleetingly desired.

Your turn: what “must-haves” did you do fine without? What money wasters are gathering dust in your spare room? Or, what big-ticket purchase were you surprised to find useful? What unaffordable object would you have given, or would still give, at least a small piece of your soul for?

  1. Geddit? Moses basket? Godsend? Yes, that’s the quality of material you can find around casa RMB 24/7.
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29 Responses to 5 would-have-been-useless “must-have” baby items I avoided buying thanks to infertility and poverty

  1. Oh yay snark! We have/had and used everything on your list, but they were all gifts or loans — first grandchild in a large extended family made it easy for us to not make agonising decisions about what we could/n’t afford. But everything was the basic option and we tried to get things that could be used for as long as possible. So the crib converts to a toddler bed and our carseat is convertible too.

    A sales assistant tried to convince us that we needed two strollers. Like, a priori. We smiled politely and bought an umbrella-ish one that could lie back. Still in use with #2, battered but sturdy. With #1 the “crotch dangler” was all I knew; with both kids my babywearing capacity is limited.

    The things we didn’t buy were a change table and baby bath. We have space on the bathroom counter for a change pad and used the sink and then the regular bath.

    I wouldn’t have bought the bassinette but it was given to us and was nice to have… it’s gathering dust now though. Everything else is in use (except for the Bjorn, which went back to its rightful owner).

    With #1 I wish I’d bought a good electric breast pump instead of a manual one, or at least rented one to see if it worked better for me than the manual one — I pumped a lot at work but not very successfully. #2 won’t take a bottle so there’s a bunch of plastic gathering dust.

    Now I’d love to spend money on beautiful wooden and cloth toys and organic cotton sheets and more lovely cloth diapers, but can’t really justify it.

  2. Love it!

    I gotta be honest; I got pregnant with a very “non-crunchy” mindset. Here in Kansas I was still considered a filthy hippy (though a hundred times moreso now), which is to say that I was down with breastfeeding, thought co-sleeping was the scariest thing you could ever do EVER, found babywearing alarming (how are they not falling out those things!), and was sure we needed the “travel system” car seat/stroller thing.

    I heartily dislike our big stroller now; we’ve always lived on second floors, and the convenience of a million storage spots does not counter-balance that it is heavy and difficult to maneuver while holding/wrangling a child. I bought my first not-crotch-dangler wrap when my son was 11 months old, and I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d known more about it when he was new! (The crotch dangler was occasionally convenient, but mostly just hurt my back/shoulders.)

    I’m with rivqa up there; all of our big ticket items were gifts. My husband is an only child, and the extended family is smallish (as opposed to my 36-some-odd cousins), so they were all, “BABY OMFG!” For which I am eternally grateful, and we were broke beyond belief. I used to freak out about how nine months was not long enough to get all the baby shit together.

  3. Love this!

    I’m with you on everything but the stroller… we got one as a gift when our first was 8 months old and given that we didn’t have a car it was a godsend as a portable grocery cart!

  4. My mom had me when she was 20, living on food stamps and barely getting by. My crib was a laundry basket, which seemed to work fine (the pictures are *adorable*.)

    But, yeah, I think these are great tips to keep in mind. I have v little money so I know, when I have kids, that I will have to cut a few corners when it comes to fancy baby stuff.

  5. Great post! While it was a gift, our crib was a big fat waste of money. I certainly never thought I would co-sleep (because of course that just spoils a baby) and now E has spent a grand total of 40 minutes sleeping in his crib. And the fancy sound and motion monitor? Also a gift and a waste. Used once on a trip to someone’s cottage. The cheap fabric wrap we got has done the trick up to now (but he’s getting a bit heavy so I’m hoping I get the Beco I asked for for Christmas!) That said I love the stroller – it has doubled as a grocery cart many times and a luggage cart when visiting family by train/plane. I’m surprised it hasn’t yet succumbed to the pressure. Finally, thank goodness we never paid full price for any big toys (a play gym, exersaucer). E quite likes the ones we got off craigslist.

  6. Is a crib what we would call a cot, or is it a bassinette? We have a cot but not a bassinette – we’ve had three kids who always co-slept as babies but didn’t invariably co-sleep at night after about 18 months, and rarely co-slept for naps – but it was secondhand on ebay, cost us the princely sum of $100 from memory. It has been very handy mostly for daytime naps, as all three of my kids were wriggly sleepers as babies / toddlers and also preferred after about 6 months to nap prone rather than in the sling. For safety I felt better either napping with them in my bed (bliss when I could, but not always feasible when there are three kids to be caring for) or having them sleep in a bed with sides. Baby-jail jokes aside, all of them have really liked their cot for naps and the 21 month old will trot to it now when ready for a daysleep and bounce to be put in. She still co-sleeps at night maybe half the time but she is so not interested in co-sleeping in the day.

    We also have a stroller – not an expensive one, but we do have one. My back just wouldn’t take the carrying after a while. We don’t use it much these days – the youngest, who’s almost 2, prefers her feet. It’s handy if we’re late for school pick-up though & I have to run (it’s a 15-minute jog for me but a 35-40 minute walk with toddler, which is actually awesome and relaxing WHEN I have allowed enough time, which, being not a superhero, I don’t always).

    In terms of other stuff, my parents gave us a baby bath, which we used happily enough for all three then gave away. Not something I would’ve bought myself but hey. We actually possess no less than three sets of baby monitors, all gifted to us – we do use them, but sporadically, and not really for their intended purpose (I keep the mic end next to my bed and the speaker is next to hubs’ computer, so I can issue instructions for water, chocolate et al to be brought to me while I am feeding toddler or lying in bed with her ;-) It’s also been a good thing on the occasions that one of the kids is sick – my eldest in particular has this amazing facility of vomiting in her sleep and NOT waking, so we’ve learnt from bitter experience that a monitor in their room when someone’s unwell falls under the heading of “an ounce of prevention”.

    I think probably the biggest / most expensive item I bought for any baby was the carseats I bought for the two eldest (and then passed on to the toddler). I bought top of the line ones and I do not regret a cent of that money. Car safety is something I’m prepared to pay for and having been in an accident where those restraints saved my two eldest from probable serious injury, I believe they did their jobs.

  7. My child was born after I lost my job – we could barely afford food, let alone baby items. I was lucky in that my parents had extra money for purchases. I’m sure plenty of families don’t have extended resources.

  8. Yup – the only item on that list we got was the stroller (and that was a gift – a requested one, but still a gift). We also avoided a changing table – the floor and a pad worked just fine. Hell, he didn’t even have his own room until he was one and a half…

  9. I was surprised at the lack of mention of a Diaper Genie–considered so necessary by conventional moms these days: gotta contain the smell of those used diapers between trips to the garbage (on the way to the land fill). I used a diaper service and I know you have eschewed diapers almost completely with Elimination Communication. I did have and really appreciated a (quite cheap) changing table. I don’t do floors very well, being fat and having arthritis. I took a lot of advantage of the storage under the changing table.

  10. I did get the crib –since we co-slept I side-car it so that there was more room. Once she tried to push me into the crib, we both went down to a mattress in her room, where we are still co-sleeping.

    While she was still small enough to fit in the wrap I used the stroller to carry bags. She still fits the Becco so I use that (takes up less room), but the stroller is nice when she falls asleep and I need to run errands. I do the back carry which is not the most comfy sleeping position.

    As for the other stuff in the list I didn’t get it.

    We did have a diaper champ to store the diapers until the service took them away. It was a handy place to keep them

  11. My mom got a moses basket for my youngest sister. Her rationale was that with two kids in the house and a steady stream of other kids tramping through, if the baby was already on the ground she could only fall so far. And the basket was just big enough that if we tripped on it we catapulted over the baby, rather than onto her.

    That’s about the only practical purpose I see for one of those, though…

  12. I always tell new mothers to be that a newborn’s needs are astoundingly few and that they do not need a fully decked out nursery from the get-go. Since we co-slept, we didn’t even start decorating the “nursery” until our first child was 9 months old. And only then because Baby #2 was arriving and I wasn’t comfortable co-sleeping with a newborn and a toddler. Just get the bare minimum and buy things later IF you actually need them. Not that most of them listen, but such is life!

    As for my own folly? Now that my children are toddlers I will be purchasing a wagon in the Spring so I can wheel them about that way. Much easier than a stroller to get in and out when they want to walk for a bit (or rest). I am salivating over one that is commonly seen int eh German-speaking parts of Europe. (www.ulfbo.de) It’s beautiful, it’s light-weight, it turns on a dime and it collapses to be easily stored in the trunk of your car for trips to the zoo or beyond. It is also ridiculously expensive. Sigh.

  13. My grandparents gave us money for a crib specifically, so we bought one, never put it together, and it is still sitting in the garage in the original packaging. My daughter is 7 years old. We also received a baby bjorn. I tried it once and she screamed the whole time. My girl was a sling baby from the get-go.

  14. Well, let’s see, two lovely slings (one for mum and one for dad) that both babies hated and have barely been used. Instead the second hand basic front pack carrier (probably a bit too crotchdangling to be honest) was a hit with everyone. Fancy duck shaped potty from Italy? Straight to the toilet with a toddler seat instead.

    A bunch of other stuff we got but almost all second hand. Why buy brand new for babies? Except for buggies and strollers, which are getting thrashed. I am a weakling of just under 50kgs so have needed to limit my baby carrying.

    Oh, and re the baby bath, ours used a second hand Tummy Tub, which is great for babies who don’t like being bathed on their backs.

  15. The crib was the big money-waster for us. Our daughter slept in it for about 10 weeks. We didn’t bother putting it together for our son – our son doesn’t even have a room. He gets a couple of drawers in my dresser for his clothes.

    The travel system stroller got some use – it was nice for shopping. But I don’t do much shopping this time around, so it has been used about 5 times in 10 months.

    The exersaucer got very little use with my son – about a month. And frankly, I think the old garage sale ones are better – there’s less crap on them to confuse the baby.

    I believe we have a borrowed baby monitor somewhere in the house, but yeah, it’s a very small house. I can practically hear my son breathe down the hall.

  16. OMG. You’re taking me back. I remember pining for a moses basket with exactly the same scenarios you describe flitting through my head. Even now though what I think I intuited was the preciousness of the baby, the care I’d want to take in providing him/her what he/she needed. My babies were born and I did in fact bond with them and feel that way about them. The moses basket was kind of a silly thought (my babies liked being carried and worn mostly, and when they WERE all the way out, you could put them on the street curb and they’d sleep fine) but thank you for the nostalgic trip down baby-avenue.

  17. Being broke and reasonably well-informed about crunchier choices, we didn’t really *buy* any wasted items. We were given a third- or fourth-hand monitor (which didn’t work outside our teeny house, so what was the point?), a pack’n'play (L doesn’t sleep deeply enough to be moved, generally), and a cosleeper (whose edges are too high in relation to our mattress to be very useful. The monitor, as I mentioned, didn’t really work, and I think we may have thrown it out as broken and pointless. The pack’n'play is on loan/exchange with a friend; we have hers, she has ours, both basically for baby jail use. The cosleeper is the biggest dust-gatherer; it’s made the rounds of several friends, but I don’t think anyone’s particularly used it.

    We did get a stroller, and are now on our second (spiffier) one because the first one done got borked, but we didn’t buy it til August in the Willamette and my own inexperience with my ring sling made using the carriers we had intolerable. Also, I want to start some running in the spring, and they don’t suggest mixing that and babywearing, so the new stroller is joggable. We eventually bought a crib, because L got big enough that she didn’t fit our sleeping patterns anymore (and J’s only ok with cosleeping to a certain point), but first we sidecarred it, and then it converts to a toddler bed, which she only recently graduated to a twin bed from. She still fits the toddler bed fine, but we want the sidecar back for Elessar.

    If I had to crave a spendier item, I’d look at a babywearing thingie that someone else made (maybe a wrap?), but frankly my self-made carriers work just fine, and were basically made out of stash (except for the hardware).

    Enough run-on sentences for ya?

  18. I had all of those things. However, I didn’t use many of them, and especially not for our second child. But the one purchase I really, seriously regret is the baby swing. $160, and both of my children DETESTED it.

    • The swing is actually the only thing that I wouldn’t have bought (we were given a really nice one, actually) that I’m glad we had — my son loved that thing, but we passed it on at about 6 months, when he got to be too big for it and too wiggly.

    • I didn’t get a swing until about a month after my son was born. Hands down the best investment and most worthwhile purchase of his babyhood!

  19. items i have lusted after and been prevented by poverty from attaining: bumbo seat, more than a few non-workhorse snazzy dipes, more than a few store bought nursing clothes.

    this time around i have been suprised to use the crib my mom insited on getting 10 years ago. I used a crib with my 1st baby and did the family bed with the second. LOVED it but this one sleeps better in her own place. And so do we. Still co-sleeping as she is less than two feet away.

    I was also suprised to have a baby who did not like the beautiful sling my best friend gave me. She took slightly better to my mei-tei but generally doesn’t want to be worn much.

    I’ve never found much use for strollers though I have had several. Never used the lime green baby bjorn little potty i had to have enough to justify buying it. Never found much use for the boppy as a nursing pillow but used it a fair amount with the dangle toy extension thingie as a baby toy. Never used a change table. Never really used a baby bath. always found the sink or the big tub with me to be easier.

  20. Thing I thought I would use all the time and hardly ever did: Maya Wrap. Babywearing turned out to be not physically feasible for me. However, I have loved four strollers to death over the course of raising three kids. I live in a classic small town where I can walk almost everywhere. If the wind chill is no colder than minus 5 F, the wind is blowing less than 30, it isn’t raining hard, and the sidewalks are safe, we are out. I throw a double-layered fleece blanket over the stroller and secure it with the heavyweight clips from our It’s a Baby! balloons. The baby stays toasty. Meanwhile, I load the cargo basket with library books, groceries, etc.

    Things I never imagined wanting and love love LOVE: The aforementioned fleece blanket. Cut 2 pieces of polyfleece the same size. Cut a fringe all around each piece. Lay one piece on top of the other piece and tie the two fringes together. My SIL made it for me. Before our drafty old house was retrofitted, we taped the thing down on the tile floor on the coldest winter days to give our oldest baby a safe place to crawl. On less cold days it covered the stroller. It was a picnic blanket in summertime and a dry place to sit outdoors in our dampish spring and fall weather. The polyester resists water, the two layers trap warm air, and the feltlike cloth blocks the wind. Also, I love the mesh feeder. We still have tile floors in our fully weatherized house, so I just put something messy in the feeder, hand it to the baby, turn him or her loose, and mop a little afterward. No high chair stress!

    Things not having a ton of money saved me from: High chairs. My husband got a piece of oaktag and four cheap legs and made our babies their own tiny table. The “chair” was an activity cube at first. As soon as they could sit upright without supervision, they ate at their own little table next to ours. No falling, no launching spaghetti around the room, no fussing, no drama!

  21. I wanted to be a baby wearer but my daughter wouldn’t have it. I had 2 slings and 2 “crotch danglers” and she hated them all. I only really used one of the crotch dangler ones a couple of times because that was the one she fought the least. She didn’t even like to be held in my arms unless I was holding her up to see something. Co-sleeping just didn’t work for us, either (partly due to the fact that she always wanted her space). The crib was probably one of the best investments we made, especially since she slept in it until she was almost 3 1/2 years old.

    We got the transportation system with the stroller and the car seat that could attach to it…that was kind of a waste of money. The stroller was so big and cumbersome and hard to steer that I didn’t use it much. My mom bought a much cheaper stroller that I used when I was visiting her in the summers (that huge stroller simply didn’t fit in my trunk!) and I found the smaller/cheaper one was easily much more useful BUT I hated that I couldn’t really interact with Rachel when she was in it. I tried walking beside the stroller so I could talk to her, but that didn’t work very well. She started walking really, really early so I didn’t use it for long.

    We still use the baby monitors (she’s 4) so we know what she’s up to when she’s upstairs and we’re downstairs. Jim has one receiver in the basement and I have the other next to my computer. They’ve been really helpful and I’m glad to have had them.

    Finally, we never had a Moses basket. We would just put a blanket on the floor and let her lay there to play and look around, which she really loved. She really hated being cuddled or held, so that seemed to work best for us.

    We avoided a lot of other big purchases…she never had a change table because we just changed her on the floor or the bed. No diaper genies for us, either, nor any bottle warmers. I think we saved a fortune early on by keeping her in sleepers until she could actually sit up and get around; I didn’t see the point in dressing a child who was only up for 4 hours at a time and who was just going to spit up all over her clothes before outgrowing them in 2 months anyway. We got a used exersaucer for $5 at a yard sale and she probably played with it enough to get our money’s worth, but I’m really glad we didn’t spend more on it. The swing was a godsend…sometimes it was the only thing that would calm her down when she was a wee little thing and very colicky. I found the baby bathtub and bouncy seat pretty useless, though.

    Looking back, we really had a lot of stuff. I think that’s probably because she was a first grandchild on both sides of the family…she’s still “spoiled.”

  22. My family are Welsh and I think they would take the piss
    out of anyone using a baby carrier when a shawl will do just as

  23. We avoided all of those except the stroller, and by the time I became pregnant there were lots of options for homemade slings so I got one for $40.

    We also did not buy a changing table, diaper genie, bouncy seat or infant car seat (went straight to the convertable).

  24. Haha! What a great blog topic – first time mums are so
    vulnerable to getting sucked into baby industry marketing. But you
    know it really depends what parenting style you’re going to adopt;
    a friend of mine adopted a parenting style that was the antithesis
    of attachment parenting – cry-it-out, strict scheduled feedings,
    sat in baby capsule all day, barely ever held etc. Not surprisingly
    she had every conceivable baby product and gadget, everything
    possible to try to replace her own motherly love, touch and
    attention. I’m proud to be an AP parent. We usually never need
    strollers, rockers, bottles and monitors – we’ve got all we need at
    our finger tips!

  25. We were saved from buying assorted hand-wash-only white/lacy/delicate clothing because we needed the things we did buy to last. However, as the babies of our respective families, we got tons of baby clothes as gifts for our two girls and our boy. I’m here to tell any parent-to-be reading this blog that those cute satin dress-and-diaper-cover sets are SLIPPERY. They make the baby very hard to hold safely. Save them for picture day, then put them away for the next baby, pass them on, or put them on a Teddy bear.

  26. In addition to the five things we avoided, we also did without a baby bathtub and baby seats. For a month or two we had a really pretty antique wooden bassinet that held clean diapers!

    Moses basket? I totally put him in the laundry basket full of clean laundry.

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