If you're a soon-to-be parent or a new parent, you've probably noticed that the amount of baby gear you supposedly need can be daunting, not to mention expensive. Many baby stores list more than a hundred items on their "must-have" baby registry checklists, and according to the book "Baby Bargains," the cost of all this first-year baby gear can quickly add up to at least $7,000.
However, the good news is that you don't actually need all that stuff. You can make it just fine to your little one's first birthday without some of those so-called necessities. In fact, if you know which baby products to skip, you can significantly cut down the expense of baby's first year and perhaps even stash away a little extra for the big costs you'll be facing soon enough, such as child care and college.
If you're looking to save a bit more, here's a look at 12 baby gear items that you can potentially cross off your "must-have" list:
A diaper bag. If you're on a budget, there's no reason you have to buy a special bag to cart around your baby's diapers, wipes and other on-the-go necessities. A regular old backpack works just fine, especially if you have a portable wipe case that you can just throw into the bag.
A hands-free pumping bra. Instead of spending $40 or so on a special bra for pumping, just cut two holes in an old sports bra and voila, you have a free DIY bra that frees up your hands just as well.
Freezer storage bags for breast milk. The cost of special bags designed for storing frozen breast milk can quickly add up. So, instead of buying such bags, freeze the milk in ice cube trays and store the cubes in a regular freezer bag.
Sterilizing products (such as a bottle sterilizer and microwave sterilizer bags). If you have a full-term, healthy baby, the experts say it's okay to skip sterilizing bottles, bottle parts, breast pump accessories, pacifiers and other similar items. In fact, they say, good old-fashioned soap and hot water work just fine.
Small 4-ounce and 5-ounce bottles. Instead of going for a starter-set of small bottles for when your baby is little, just go for larger bottles (think 8-ounce, 9-ounce or 10-ounce ones) from the get go. The bigger bottles work just as well with slow flow nipples as their smaller counterparts, and your little one is eventually going to need them anyway so you'll avoid having to buy two sets of bottles.
Special baby & toddler plates. Rather than spending money on plates with multiple compartments specially designed for babies and toddlers, consider using old muffin or cupcake tins instead as makeshift plates. They're just as durable as specially designed baby plates and also have multiple compartments, and they'll still be useful long after your kid graduates to regular plates.
A high chair and a booster chair. If you're considering buying both a regular high chair and a booster chair for your little one to dine in at home, just go for the booster chair or booster-chair-like model. Assuming you have a sturdy dining room or kitchen chair with a back, these smaller (and generally less expensive) chairs will work for mealtime too.
Baby shoes. Experts actually recommend that babies learn to stand and walk barefoot or in socks, meaning those cute little hard-to-resist baby shoes aren't likely to be used that much, so resist buying them if you can.
Special baby thermometers. There's no need to buy a special baby thermometer. Pediatricians say regular old digital thermometers (think under-the-arm or on-the-forehead models) work just fine on babies and adults alike.
Special baby body wash, lotion and shampoo. Save money by opting for adult body wash, lotion and shampoo brands that are safe to use for babies, and that both you and your baby can both use.
A wipe warmer. Heed this advice from Denise and Alan Fields, the authors of the "Baby Bargains" book: Skip buying a wipe warmer. Your little one's bottom will do just fine with regular, old non-heated wipes (trust me on this one).
A stand-alone changing table. Instead of buying a stand-alone changing table, go for a product that can do double duty such as a dresser with a changing table on top or a pack 'n play that comes with a changing table. Or, if you don't need a new dresser or a pack 'n play, consider setting up a changing area on a dresser (just be sure you set up a safe one) you already have or on a spare bed or sofa or even the floor.
So, there you have it, my list of a dozen baby gear products to skip buying. What waste-of-money baby products did I miss? What would you add to -- or take off -- this list?
Jennifer Saranow Schultz, formerly the "Bucks" blogger for The New York Times and a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, shares daily hints to help make parenting easier and cheaper at HintMama.com, on Twitter at @HintMama and on Facebook at Facebook.com/HintMama.