Baby Buying – What you DON’T need

organic wooden frog rattle

I must have liked some baby stuff recently because Google and Facebook keep showing me ads for baby & maternity stuff at the moment. This reminded me of just how much crap I accumulated in the run up to my first baby, most of which was completely unnecessary and took me ages to dispose of in a sustainable manner.

Here is my list of all the stuff you DON’T have to buy in preparation for your bundle of joy.

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What you really don’t need to buy for baby

  • Toys. Unless you are completely devoid of family and friends you will be inundated with more than enough toys, which you will struggle to pass on when the time comes. Your baby won’t really be in a position to play with many toys for a good while anyway and when they are the best way to find out what they like is to go to a ‘parent and baby’ morning and let them try out a range of toys. Charity shops, freecycle Facebook groups and are also a great place to find second-hand toys.
  • Muslin cloths. Okay get yourself one nice cloth to use outside of the house but in the house scraps of old clothing works just as well and they’re practically free.
  • Nappy changing stations. I found a towel on the floor much safer, cheaper and easier to clean than those furniture items with foam changing mats, which always ended up ripping and having to be binned.
  • Parenting books. My first few weeks of parenting were ruined by me obsessing over the ‘right’ way to rear a child. Before you give birth for the first time, find a parent that you can trust you to tell it as it is and ask them if you can ring them for advice. Most will be delighted and at least you’ll be getting real advice. I found parent and baby groups great for this but be warned, watch out for the lying ‘Johnny slept through the night since day one and has never had a tantrum’ brigade!
  • Newborn clothes. Babies typically only wear these for a couple of weeks and most parents will be happy to loan you some.  In fact buying clothes for kids is such a waste of money. Find a parent in your area with a child slightly older than yours who wants to pass clothes on. I was always delighted to move clothes on and delighted to receive them from others. It didn’t mean that I never bought clothes but the amount I had to buy was dramatically less than if I hadn’t receive pre-loved clothes.
  • Moses Baskets. Again something you only use for a very short period of time so borrow, borrow, borrow but maybe buy a new mattress. Research carried out in Scotland in 2002 concluded a small but important increase in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and use of an infant mattress previously used by another child, particularly if from another home.
  • Slings / harnesses. These can be a life saver but you have to find the one that suits you and your baby. There are babywearing and sling library groups on Facebook or simply ask parents with them to let you have a go. There are also companies that hire them out to you so you can find the one that works best for you. Check out my article on Sustainable Maternity & Baby wear for more info.
  • Blackout Blinds. If you’re child is a bad sleeper – I had two of them – you’ll try anything to get a good nights sleep. If this is you then give the black out blinds a go; what have you got to lose, but don’t buy them before you need them. Babies that get used to sleeping in total darkness may have trouble settling in other settings so you could be making an unnecessary rod for your own back.
  • Mobiles, especially musical ones. If a baby gets used to listening to a tune when it’s going asleep it may need that tune every time it needs to settle back to sleep and with babies this is VERY often. Like blackout blinds, above don’t make a rod for your own back unnecessarily. Mobiles can make lovely room decorations but they’re not essential.
  • Cot bumpers. These are padded lengths of fabric that are tied around the cot to protect baby’s head from bumping off them. Some children have become tangled in these and died, and there has been a suggested link with SIDS so I’m not even sure why they’re still on sale.
  • Plastic breast milk storage pouches. Easier to just store in a glass jar in the freezer. Just remember to leave enough space at the top of the jar for the liquid to expand when it freezes.
  • Grobags. There are like sacks you put your children into to sleep at night. I found them useless firstly because they’re arm-less and my kids arms got cold, waking them up and secondly, when you’re kids start trying to climb out of the cot – and they will – these grobags are lethal and you’ll inevitably hear a thud in the middle of the night as your little one drops to the floor. Our family much preferred heavy sleepsuits / onesies.
  • Blankets. Every parent I know ended up with way more blankets than they needed. I only really needed one nice blanket for the pram / buggy that I could washed and dried easily. Blankets in cots just end up over your babies head so I found these best to avoid completely.
  • Baby Shoes. These are gorgeous and those without kids just love to buy them but if I had a euro for every baby shoe I lost I’d be rich. All I have to do now is find a one-legged leprechaun to pass them onto to.
  • Playpens. These are huge monstrosities that parents are only too delighted to get rid of when the time comes so don’t buy a new one.
  • Stairgates. As above parents are usually delighted to see the back of these when the time comes so ask around or check
  • Where to buy Sustainable Baby Items
  • For items that you do need, check out my article on Sustainable Maternity & Baby wear to find out the best place to source them.


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

4 thoughts on “Baby Buying – What you DON’T need

  1. Agree with everything on this Elaine. Think especially when you’re a first time parent, the panic can be to have everything ready for the unknown. And there is such a market out there to prey on parents’ nerves and fears. And make money in the process of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d add to that … get a cot bed instead of a cot. You’ll get 5 years out it and they’re super flexible.
    You also don’t need a baby bath though they can be useful (and can double up later as toy storage of a very good beer cooler for the christening/naming ceremony if you fill with enough ice). They’re also really easy to borrow for the few months you might want to use one.
    Don’t buy a changing bag – any bag works (and if you use a buggy/pushchair you just throw the stuff in underneath).
    Think long and hard about carseats and buggies/pushchairs. The idea of carrying your baby in a “rock a tot” style seat is a lovely and totally impractical idea. They are just too heavy. I know buggy styles change but I’d a from birth Maclaren that lasted three children/12 years before I passed it on to someone else. The Phil&Ted style is also excellent because it goes flat for a newborn, is large and robust enough for a toddler, and can be added to to act as a double buggy.


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