Guest Blog: What Do You REALLY Need to Register For?

Hi Readers! Here’s a boiled down excerpt from a book I loved, Ada Calhoun’s “Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids.” Ada was the founding editor at and the more she read about parental doubts — is  this the right way to raise kids or is that? — the more she realized: All that really matters is food, shelter and love. Not the “right” equipment, or the “right” phrases, or the “right” sleeping solution, or “stimulation,” or all the rest. She’s so sensible — and funny, too! Here’s her blog and here’s her take on:

The Truth About Registering by Ada Calhoun

We were at Coney Island last summer with our ratty lightweight stroller, and I noticed that no one on the boardwalk or on the beach had one of those high-end vehicles with the great shocks, tailor-made for bumpy boardwalk rides and off-roading.

In fact, I realized that the only time I ever saw those thousand-dollar strollers was when they were being pushed around uptown by nannies. Smooth sidewalks. No need for any advanced swivel features.

So who are those super expensive things for? The list of registry “must-haves” gets longer by the year, and the status symbols get more ludicrous. Those thousand-dollar strollers are common, as are $40 3-month t-shrits.

Pick up a parenting magazine or check a parenting blog and you are hit with a particular set of cultural pressures about where you’re supposed to live, how you’resupposed to behave, what you’re supposed to own. But who has set these standards? The most liberating thing in the world can be the realization that there are almost no “necessities.”

There’s nothing wrong with some cute baby bunting, a nightlight, or an industrial breast pump. But I always wonder how people can talk themselves into spending thousands of dollars on nursery gear that will only be needed for two years max. It’s sure not for the kid. He’d be just as happy in a drawer. Here’s all one actually needs as a new parent:

1. Somewhere for baby to sleep (crib – Ikea has nice ones for under $100, Pack ‘n Play, bassinet, your bed, a cardboard box with a pillow in it).

2. Something for baby to eat (breast milk or formula and a few months later some cereal and mashed-up fruit and vegetables).

3. Something for baby to wear (onesies for the summer, add some layers when it’s cold; almost always available as hand-me-downs from a friend or neighbor, by bulk from eBay or from Old Navy, Target or Children’s Place).

4. Some way to transport baby (sling, Baby Bjorn, stroller or car seat — or, you know, your arms).

5. Diapers and wipes (unless you go the wacky “elimination communication” route, it’s hard to get around this one. You can go for cloth if you’d rather – although recent studies show the environmental impact is the same because of the washing, so you can’t go wrong  — or right — ecologically).

A few months in you may want to add some toys (empty two-liter bottles, paper towel rolls and pots and pans all work well), some books (Goodnight Moon plus a few others) and bigger clothes (see above for sources).

So you can get away with spending next to nothing.

The only major change in your needs is some babysitting help so you can get out of the house when you need to, whether that’s to work or for your own sanity. But again, even if you don’t have family or friends who can help out, you can eventually work out some kind of trade-off with a fellow parent or share a babysitter.

This doesn’t mean you might not want a fancy stroller or a sleek crib or full-time nanny — just that you don’t need any of these things. — A.C.

99 Responses

  1. Be careful “trading with a parent”. You wouldn’t want to get arrested. 😉

    Thanks for the good article!

  2. Nice article! We’re all about used clothing and other baby “necessities” that may or may not be used. They grow out of everything within a few months anyway. We haven’t found our toddler son to add that much to our budget.

  3. Describing elimination communication as whacky? Really? :\

    I know a lot of parents who are proud to be whacky — or, as we describe ourselves, crunchy.

  4. […] author of Free-Range Kids has said some super nice things about my book on her blog, and even posted an excerpt.  She is a saint among mothers and writers! Tagged with: free-range kids, lenore […]

  5. 4. Some way to transport baby (sling, Baby Bjorn, stroller or car seat — or, you know, your arms).

    While I agree with the general sentiment (Small Paul be damned) and I don’t want to be a wet blanket… it’s kinda irresponsible to imply that you don’t need a baby carseat, unless you never plan to drive anywhere with the baby in the car.

    Where I live, they won’t let you walk out of the hospital with your newborn unless you have a car seat. They actually made us bring the seat inside to show the nurse. And if you get caught driving your kid around in the front seat, or you don’t have a proper rear-facing infant seat, it’s a $90 ticket:

    So yeah, I guess you don’t “need” it, in the same sense that you don’t “need” e.g. working brake lights. A Class D violation in Oregon is a $90 ticket, so you could afford to get three or four tickets before you would break even with the cost of one of those BRITAX monster seats. But seriously? “You don’t need a child safety carseat for your infant” is a fairly radical position to take.

  6. This is a great list. But contains one major flaw. The study that cited this negligible environmental impact between cloth and plastic diapers was funded by disposable diaper companies, from what I’ve heard.

    The water used to wash a cloth diaper can in NO WAY be compared to the massive amounts of water used to produce single use disposable diapers. Not to mention the chlorine, plastics and chemicals used in disposable diapers. Then add to that the length of time a “disposable diaper” sits around on this earth, filled with chemicals, plastic and human waste. No comparison to a cotton diaper which uses a few gallons of water each week to be cleaned.

    If a family truly wanted to raise a child with little money and little “stuff” $50 to $100 invested in some cotton prefold diapers and a few waterproof covers would be the only way to go.

  7. @Steve – not everyone has a car. If you get around by foot and bus, you certainly don’t need a carseat.

    You also certainly don’t need baby food, we just give our kids table food when they’re ready for something in addition to breastmilk.

  8. Love this post. I call those baby magazines: how to love your baby better through spending money. I’m about to have number 4, and though money is unbelievably tight, I know all we really need are small diapers and wipes, and everything else can be a hand me down or done without, even nice things to have like swings have a very limited need window. I will say one thing left off the list is baby tylenol. You need some of that.

  9. We’re actually trying the wacky elimination communication route. You still need diapers for when you’re going out. Okay, you don’t technically NEED them but they help. But if you’re a SAH(P) then EC isn’t a bad way to go at all. Plus you don’t have to go all out – we use a diaper when we go out and at night. So one to two diapers a day on average. That’s hard to beat.

  10. Indeed, Katie, my nieces were started on Lazy Feeding… also known as “baby-led solids” where you don’t bother with purees at all but just go straight to soft foods.

  11. Amen to what Katie A said: who needs baby food? I’ve been privileged to watch three grandchildren (thus far) raised on nothing but breast milk supplemented by whatever the rest of the family was eating (cut in small pieces as necessary) when they reached the point of needing more. I wish I’d thought of that when my kids were babies! SO much easier, and less expensive: no fancy baby food to buy or make, no messing spoon feeding (just put the food on the tray and let them help themselves), and — maybe best of all — you bypass the “chicken nugget, grilled cheese, or PB&J only” stage.

    Cardboard boxes work for baby beds, I’m sure, but pillows are generally too soft.

  12. This is so spot on. I agonized as a new mother 8 years ago about having the perfect this, registering for the perfect that, being the perfect…mom. I was so anxious that I barely enjoyed the first few weeks of her life.
    I took a lot of criticism for having my daughter sleep with me. She had a $400 crib…and it was never used? Well, all my kids ended up sleeping with me until they were weaned. We all slept better. I never worried about rolling on her, infants have been sleeping with mothers since time immemorial.
    I used to buy the most expensive diapers and butt cream…but then some older ladies told me to just use vaseline and corn starch. Worked like a charm, even with cheap diapers (my 1st two potty trained at 3, they didn’t communicate much about their elimination).
    I used the same stroller, under $100, for all my kids. They preferred I carry them, though, and often they ended up on dad’s shoulders when they could sit up straight (lots of burps on dad’s head, though). The stroller usually pushed the diaper bag.
    If I had it to do all over again, I would have never read one book. I would have hung out with older ladies.

  13. @Katie A, true true. If you will never allow your child to travel in a private automobile until they are at least 16 years old, you don’t need a car seat to avoid breaking the law.

    In my state, and in many other states, it is unequivocally against the law to put the baby in a car without a car seat- whether it’s your car or anybody else’s.

    And maybe it’s my US-centric viewpoint, but I’m pretty sure that if you picked any high school in this country, you’d have a hard time finding a single kid who had gone 16 years without setting foot inside a car. If that’s how your kids live, more power to you, although I have to wonder if they feel the same way.

    If you have a car, the choice between car seat vs. no car seat is fundamentally different from the lifestyle choice between a $20 K-Mart umbrella stroller and a $300 BOB-style deluxe kidmobile. Since the rest of this post seems to be picking on lifestyle choices, it’s worth pointing out that one of these things is not like the others.

  14. But what about all the junk that’s marketed with, “If you don’t buy our product, your baby will DIE???!!?!”

    Assume their marketing is true. Then how did the hundreds of thousands of years of humans survive, before their product was created?

  15. Great list–but I have to agree on the car seat comment. It’s a small minority, probably, who do not have a car. If you don’t–well, no car seat needed, although you might wish you had one when you have an opportunity to go out of town and don’t have a way to transport wee one!

    Lenore, I’m not sure how to reach you by email, but I wanted to see what you thought (scratch that–I KNOW what you think!!!) about the new ad for the adult pertussis vaccine. I saw it for the first time this afternoon. It’s a woman who says that one of the most dangerous places for a child to be is in her mother’s arms, because mom might be carrying pertussis and could kill her child, so go out and get vaccinated for adult pertussis.

    Although I don’t have a problem with an adult getting vaccinated, should they wish to, I do have a problem with the ad. There was something about it that gave me the willies. I’m not a “hold your baby all the time” advocate, but this just seemed another scare tactic, another overprotective measure. I couldn’t find it on youtube as of yet, so keep your eyes open for it. We’re always looking out for new blog fodder for you, Lenore!

  16. The comments about “super-strollers” brought to mind November weekends at the Railway Museum, when Thomas the Tank Engine visits. It’s truly amazing to see the variety of wheeled vehicles used for transporting infants (i.e., younger siblings of kids spending a “Day Out With Thomas) and all the paraphernalia of modern childhood. When my daughters were of that age (in the early 1960’s), we had a stroller I found in a curbside discard pile. When the salvaged unit finally got too decrepit, we finally bought a loss-leader special at a local store. In those days, one could buy a serviceable used car for what some families (or grandparents) now pay for plush prams. And to echo one of the above comments, the child probably doesn’t give a hoot as to whether the stroller came from the Affluent Infant Shop or Goodwill Industries. Then there was the comment about, if you don’t have a car, do you need a car seat? There are some websites I visit that are run by people who espouse the “automobile free” lifestyle, and they would say that owning a car is a luxury, not a necessity. Be that as it may, there still may come a time when a friend offers a ride, or you’re in a hurry to get somewhere and only a taxicab can do the job, that a good car seat is the safest way to go. But it just has to meet safety standards, and does not have to impress onlookers.

  17. Completely off topic, but today a beggar lady who I — for some reason I cannot explain other than that I like her friendly eyes — really like, asked me, if I had a stroller to spare, because her daughter did not have anything to transport her baby in… I mean, she’s happy to get anything at all, and will be thankful even for the battered one we had for our three kids…

    So long,

  18. P.S.: That’s putting things back into perspective.


  19. Well, I agree, up to a point. Indeed, I’m one of those folks who posts a (very) short list of “stuff you really should have” before bringing baby home for nervous soon-to-be-moms-to-newborns-for-the-first-time.

    But … while this post is certainly true (indeed, perhaps excessive) in a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sense, and raises a great point about the limited utility of many items in any one kid’s life …

    … I certainly include a good quality electric breastpump (in addition to a carseat) on my list of “things I was glad to have when I brought baby home.” For me the issue was low supply and for others it’s engorgement, but either way, most women I know have been happy to have one — or found themselves scrambling around to get one if they didn’t. Happily mine was a (second-time) hand-me-down that I felt comfortable (though against the recommendations of the manufacturers) I could adequately sanitize.

    Moreover, for me, good quality childcare has been a tremendous blessing. It’s also expensive, and can be hard to find (thus the argument for lining it up ahead of time).

    Even with that available, the only way I could find time to go out for a run, at times, was by pushing baby in front of me in a stroller, so having a good one was a big plus. It too was a hand-me-down.

  20. I must admit to being one of those people who bought stuff I never ended up using. But for my lifestyle, I did “need” 2 carseats, a double stroller, a play pen, and a few other things.

    On EC, it is not “wacky” at all. It can and should be tailored to each family’s situation, but I’ve not heard of anyone who didn’t end up saving a lot of money and hassle in the long run with EC. Only thing is, beware once again of buying a ton of stuff that you don’t need! There are some really excellent and affordable products (like the $10 Baby Bjorn “little potty”) but you don’t need $200 worth of transitional cloth pee-catchers, LOL. Just be confident, trust your instinct, give your kid some credit, and don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Remember, there is a lot of money, hence bias, in the late-potty-training trend.

  21. $1000 stroller?! $40 onesie? Hah! I doubt I spent $40 on my son’s entire wardrobe for the past 2 years, and he’s got more clothes than I do (by count *and* yardage). I don’t envy wealth and status, but sometimes I do find its baggage baffling.

  22. I agree with the article. But there is one thing that I personally endorse, that’s toys, books, or any item used for education. My nephew will be 4 years old soon, but my family has been stimulating him with educational things since he was a year old. He was 2 when he started repeating words back from books we would read to him. Now, he’s able to read well for his age, has understanding of basic numbers (up to 20), and has an impressive memory for his age. When he was almost 3, I saw him drawing more and more, and making things with Play Doh, we’ve encouraged that creative and imaginative side as well. He’s a very well rounded kid. Very articulate for his age, and has even learned to make jokes (this one was really impressive for me). Mind you the “jokes” weren’t all that funny, but the fact that shows amusement when he converses with us, even mannerisms such as slapping his hand on his lap when he laughs about it.

    Point being, there are CERTAIN things that one should make a necessity or necessities, if only for the development of the child. It’s a given with a bed, shelter, clothing and food. Even a way to transport infants who can’t walk on their own yet. As well as love and attention, and knowing right from wrong. These are no brainers, these are all standard bases. But IMO, none of these help in the development of a child’s cognitive skills. Which will serve them well as they grow older (you can never start too early, children are constantly learning from the time they are born, some studies say even when they are still in the womb). Of course that doesn’t mean you go out and spend money on high end computers, DVDs, or scientifically, doctor approved toys. Here are inexpensive alternatives. Children’s books for used book stores or even libraries (mind you, you may want to reserve this for 4 and up so they don’t tear the books apart), crayons, paper, even the old fashion blocks.

  23. I suspect the lack of carseat is an oversite rather than a suggestion that we all go out and buckle our newborns into the shoulder strap.

    I’ve been following this blog for ages but don’t have kids yet- hoping to start in the next year or so. I have a stroller question: while I realize paying 2k for the trendy bugaboo is a little obscene, I can see sense in spending more for something that works better- is built better and generally is better. I’ve seen no end of parents struggle with poorly thought out strollers that seem to be more trouble than the money they might have saved… So any thoughts on resources to find baby equip that balances function with cheap? I know this isn’t really the place, but it is sort of on topic.

  24. I recently realized after spending a week with another family on vacation that I am more of a Free Range parent than I realized. We were away at the beach. I noticed by day two that the other mom always had her kids in shoes on the deck, walking to and from the beach, on the beach, inside the house. I grew up at the beach. I go barefoot in the snow when I can. So with it being a vacation and with weather of 85+ degrees and walking back and forth on the deck to the beach into the sand I rarely required our 2 year old to wear flip flops. One afternoon we were on the deck and I pointed out that there was a nail pushing up in the boards of the deck. All week my husband and myself had been teaching our daughter to walk between the sections of boardwalk that didn’t have nails. Decks at the beach are typically just 4 x 4’s cut all the same length and nailed on the end and in the middle. Even rows. I wanted our daughter to see the nail coming up. Mind you the nail was coming up just a little and it was the blunt end. Where it would be hit by the hammer. Not the pointy side. I pointed this out to my daughter and the other mother swooped in and had her in shoes. I was faced with either saying something or letting it go. I let it go. As soon as the friends left and we were alone at the house for the next week we were back into being barefoot. I relished it when my daughter said one morning on our walk to the beach “Watch out Mommy. Walk between the nails. Not on the nails.” I was proud.

  25. This reminds me of a snarky quote I read last week, something to the effect of: “We need to send the mommybloggers down to the Gulf to stop the oil spill. They’ll plug anything corporate America spews out.”

    Mean, yes, but a ring of truth.

  26. @Nicole M.: how did you daughter feel being “swooped up” by the other mother and had her shoes slapped on her? It’s one thing when a parent instills his/her fears on their own child, but what of someone else’s?

    I’m glad to hear though, that your daughter learns quickly. Actually most kids do. So either they learn quick in being confident and self sufficient, or the learn quick in being fearful and paranoid.

  27. I really really wanted one of those $1000 strollers because it looked so freaking cool (the stokke xplory if anyone is interested). As a rational person I knew it was ridiculous so when I couldn’t find it used anywhere I shopped around and found one that had some of the same features that I liked and got it on sale for under $200 with shipping.

    When I was about 7 months pregnant we were at Ikea and someone else there had the stroller that I had really wanted and I wondered aloud to my husband why someone with such an expensive stroller would be shopping at Ikea. His response, “They can’t afford to shop anywhere else, they spent all their money on a stroller.”

  28. @eric: Sure, toys and books are useful. But they are not 100% essential purchases. Kids gain stimulation from everything you do around them, and they play with table mats, keys, door wedges, cardboard boxes, anything that is to hand. You might need to buy craft stuff like crayons and pads, but you can make your own dough for them to play with.

    Libraries will supply books for free, and in my area there are toy libraries and clubs with toys and even craft materials available.

    I live in London, UK, and since we live 5 mins from a huge train station, we don’t drive and didn’t have a pram until our son was 4 months old (not practical when the train station has no lifts). We only bought the pram then because the grandmothers were so much more comfortable with E in a pram.

    We originally got a friend’s old car seat for emergencies, which we barely used. My mother is almost the only person who drives E, and so when we moved up a size in car seats, we bought one for her to keep instead of getting one to keep at home, since we can’t carry this size with us like the smaller car seat. Several months on, this has been fine. So no, not everyone needs a car seat.

    In other things you don’t need, E was washed in a sink until he outgrew it, when he moved to the main bath. A bath support was useful for a few months, but it only cost pennies at a jumble sale and we could have managed without (we could have used the bigger kitchen sink until he could sit up).


  29. Back when my son was still in womb, my wife and I attended a class offered at Talbot’s Toyland, a fine and extensive baby-gear store in San Mateo, CA. Along with about 30 other expectant parents we sat in a showroom full of those comfy glider-rocker chairs and learned about the world of baby gear. Of course it was the sort of class that would generate sales, but the really refreshing thing about it was that the owners were really down to earth about the need for gear. They said, basically, what’s been said here: that you need a car seat to drive home from the hospital, but beyond that, the list of absolute requirements is pretty short, consisting of breasts, some sort of diaper solution, and something for bundling. Then they went on to discuss the world of <> products available for the purpose of comfort, convenience, style, peace of mind, and so forth. This approach was very sensible and tossed away the notion that one needs to spend a pile of money on a raft of gear in order to be good parents.

    In fact, we felt so good about the entire event that we splurged and bought one of those glider-rockers. 🙂

  30. Carseat? The issue is paying $50 or $350. Seriously! I bought a decent (not-expired–see the ‘do not use beyond’ date somewhere on the back) booster for $5 at a preschool garage sale.

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  31. When I first did my baby registry, I was lambasted for not putting more stuff on there. The theory was that people would be unhappy if I didn’t include at least one thing for each of the invitees to buy. So I went back on and added more stuff until my friends were satisifed. It was still mostly very reasonably priced. With a few exceptions in the developmental-toy department (think jumparoos). I got the cheapest car seats I could find, and my kids are still using them comfortably over 2.5 years later. My stroller – a double umbrella with reclining seats and sunshades – I found during an online search and cost about $70 (new). It was really a good purchase and I could still use it if I didn’t force my kids to walk everywhere. One thing I never used was the double snugli-type carrier. It was too complicated and I just never got around to figuring it out before the kids were big enough to walk. One of those things that seems great in theory . . . .

  32. @Heather: True Heather, not 100% essential, never implied it was. Just saying there are certain things beyond the essential that I endorse for purchase, that isn’t extravagant, or would be beyond the means of an average family. That is what the topic is here, buying things that aren’t really necessary.

    Toy cars, trains, dolls, etc… are nice, but not really necessary, they help in motor skills of infants, but then again card board boxes, cardboard toilet paper rolls, pots and pans can do the same thing. But these things will never help a child develop their cognitive skills. They won’t help them to read, or learn arithmetic, or learn to be creative. Or have that thirst for more knowledge which they are always looking for. You have to give them the right knowledge when they are looking for it. For me, anything bought for the child to help them develop mentally is never superficial. Not saying you have to try to make your children geniuses, but it’s never a bad thing for them to be a little ahead of the curve. Especially if your rearing them as free range kids. And again, it also doesn’t mean you over spend on the latest and greatest. Most things can be found locally, for cheap or even free. Even hand me downs.

  33. I’m pregnant and I plan on buying very little… a crib, a stroller, diapers, some secondhand clothes. The bare minimum. Expensive nursery decorations and $20 designer onesies are nice, but the baby doesn’t care!

  34. EC rocks! we do it in conjunction with cloth dipes, which, btw, are waaaay better for the environment than disposables. And cheaper for parents in the long run. Truly, how can one say that using a ton of resources to produce a new product that doesn’t get reused, and doesn’t decompose, be equal to one that does get reused and does decompose? c’mon. I’d love to find out what this “study” is that you are citing, and who funded it, and who in the scientific community agrees with it. I do agree with most of what you write in your blog, though. Blog on, mama!

  35. @Eric, I agree that the basic toys you mention – crayons, books, blocks – are pretty much all you need when it comes to toys, though I think all toys can be replaced with household items by creative parents, except books. Library books are great and we use the library a lot but kids also really benefit from having the same books read over and over again, so having a small library of hand-me-down and second hand books (or asking for books for birthdays and Christmas) is never a bad idea. I was read to a lot as a littlie and started my children’s library from my own collection of picture books, so you might not have to buy anything, just raid your relatives’ collections. And the great thing about books is that they are portable and they are your friends.

    (Of course, in the interests of full disclosure, I am an author for teenagers and an editor of books for kids. Which is where all that reading got me I suppose.)

  36. I have spent a total of $280 on my 5 month old. well…. that does not include my $104 splurge on an ergo that I use every single day. There are times when price does represent quality and not just a label.

  37. Nowhere does the OP say to not get a car seat. It is right there on the list of baby transport devices.

    But Steve, you’re being crazy. Who puts a 15 year old in a carseat?!?!

    Plenty of people live car-free, whether for environmental, budgetary or other reasons. I know several parents in NYC with no car (& no carseat) who can call a taxi service and request a carseat if they need to.

  38. “If you will never allow your child to travel in a private automobile until they are at least 16 years old, you don’t need a car seat to avoid breaking the law.”

    16 really? I think you need to re-read the laws of your state. I don’t think a single one makes you keep your kid in a car seat until age 16. Since kids in my state DRIVE at 15, it would be a little strange to make them do it while still sitting in a carseat. Kids age out of carseats at 6, not 16.

  39. @Mike you write, “the list of absolute requirements is pretty short, consisting of breasts, …” Actually, no, and while many of us like to blast formula that really is one of the most amazing inventions of the modern era insofar as it makes it possible for someone other than an infant’s gestational mother (or another lactating woman with supply to spare) to nurture it safely and effectively. This truly is remarkable, in comparison to much of human history and much of the world even today.

  40. @Eric Just a note- most “educational” toys are less useful in brain development than traditional toys- such as the boxes, sticks and pots you say will not foster a love of learnIng. One kind overstimulates a child and does the playing for him/her, the other let’s the kid fill in the empty spaces.

    That said, the toys you ARE pushing aren’t the kind of useless toys companies market as educational these days. Tell you what, I won’t argue against the benifits of crayons and picture books, if you take back your hurtful swipes at boxes. 😉

  41. “Library books are great and we use the library a lot but kids also really benefit from having the same books read over and over again, so having a small library of hand-me-down and second hand books (or asking for books for birthdays and Christmas) is never a bad idea.”

    Actually studies have shown that it is the ownership if books that seems to make the difference in education, not the reading of them. Kids who spend hours at the library but have no books at home score lower in school than those who have tons of books at home but never read them. It is unknown why but the thought is that parents who buy tons of books tend to value education and be readers themselves.

    So based on that, a library is essential but certainly need not expensive. I always buy a couple new books for christmas but the rest of my kid’s books come from yard sales, flea markets, kid’s consignment sales, hand me downs, etc.

  42. “although recent studies show the environmental impact is the same because of the washing”

    really? think about it… It costs our country $350 million per year to deal with the remnants of disposable diapers we have lying around. A baby can use 5,000 disposables before they are potty trained, or about 60 cloth diapers. You can’t compare washing cloth diapers to the plastic packaging, the transportation to the store, to the house, to the dump, etc. If it was truly environmentally equal we would all use disposable bath towels, disposable dishes, wear disposable clothing….

    Americans throw away 49 million disposable diapers a day. Where do they all go? They don’t go anywhere, they are all still here.

  43. We didn’t have much money when our kids were born, so we didn’t buy a lot of stuff. The crib and hand-me-down glider rocker were gifts; any clothes that weren’t gifts or hand-me-downs came from second-hand stores. I don’t think our kids suffered for it.

    One thing I wish we’d been able to do is use cloth diapers (we only had access to a washing machine once a week). Like other people who have commented, I don’t see how diapers you can clean in an extra few loads of laundry a week are as bad for the environment as something that not only uses water in its manufacturing process, but contains nasty chemicals, gets used ONCE and then goes to a landfill. I’m saying this, and I used the disposables!

    Also, cloth diapers would have been a thousand times cheaper, even with the extra wash water and mild detergent. They can be bought used (they have great resale value), you can use the same diapers for every size in many cases, and I could have used the same diapers on my second child. MUCH cheaper than buying a $40 crate of disposables every month.

    Damn you, lack of washing machine!

  44. I’m about 7 months preggo, and have been utterly spoiled by friends and relatives. I spend 65 bucks on a nice used wooden crib/mattress combo, but that is literally it. I have a ROOM filled with stuff- a dresser that is so full of baby clothes that the droors won’t close, a diaper champ, a box full of silly used toys and books (some were mine when I was a baby!), a babybjorn, cloth diapers, a diaper bag, a 300 dollar swing, a carseat/ stroller combo, a rocking chair, a kiddie desk, a nice bedding “set”, an expensive breast pump (all hand-me downs)… it’s all really absurd. I have TWO boppies. what the hell am I supposed to do with TWO boppies? I don’t even know what to do with one of them!
    Anyway, my point is, even if you’re a minimalist, people LOVE to shower you with crap you don’t need. I smile and nod and say “What the hell, if you want to spend your money on my unborn child, be my guest.”
    I swear I am set up for the first six years of this kids life- maybe longer if he’s a midget.
    When I was born, my parents bought a rickety old crib at a yard sale, and that was it. But they didn’t get a bunch of gifts becasue my mom neglected to tell anyone she was pregnant until I was born, up to and including her spouse and parents. I don’t know what her rationale was and since she’s no longer alive, I sadly cannot ask her. However- I will say that as a baby who was raised with the *absolute minimum* (no carseat because no car, boxes as toys, one bottle, etc) I was absolutely perfectly content. I had an awesome childhood, and even though I was teased in school through the consumer-happy 80s and 90s as “garage sale girl”, I never expected or wanted anything more than a really great chemistry set, a microscope, and art supplies. Honestly- I had no plans to buy anything for my kid, but since people have been so generous I felt stupid saying “no” to perfectly servicable hand-me-downs.

    Anyway- to people who make ammendments to this list “yes but you really DO need___” I say- wrong-o! This was great- and so vindicating to read, becaus eit was so familliar. This was ME! And I was the happiest kid in kid-land. I was stimulated and loved by parents who paid attention, not money- to see me well, and I intend to do precicely the same for my young un.

    Thank you for this awesome write up.

  45. When my mom was a baby (1953) she was put in a crate on the floorboard of the car when not being held by her mother. Her parents also used nylon to tie her into her crib when she was 1 and started climbing out. They lived next to a lake and slept with the windows open and no screens, and apparently my mom kept climbing out of the crib and the window. No problem to my grandparents they got some nylon and tied one leg and one arm to the slats of the crib. She is now 57, alive and well, and had a great relationship with both of her parents. Kids don’t need hardly anything, neither do we as adults, but the nice stuff does make life more fun sometimes 🙂

  46. Library books! Our library has an amazing selection of board books, so no need to wait till they are past the book tearing age. Also, Friend of the Library book sales are cheaper than anything I’ve found at our local used book stores or thrift stores. I need to check out some of the other thrift stores in town for clothes. We have been blessed with two older cousins for hand me downs but the three boys are very close in size now, so thats the end of that. Frusturatingly, the two thrift stores in walking distance have next to nothing available in toddler clothes.

    One thing that doesn’t come up in the disposable/cloth debate is that on average babies in cloth diapers potty train earlier than those in disposables. Are they calculating the water usage for two years or three plus years? We don’t have a washer. Our diaper service has been worth every penny. I don’t have to remember to buy diapers. I don’t have to wash them. Once a week I remember to toss the bag out on the porch and magically clean ones take their place. Oh, and yay for EC! Part time, full time, any way it works for you.

    One of the unforseen indispensible items for us was a wagon. I don’t drive. We live in walking distance to just about everything we need (including the store that sold the wagon!) but I discovered that carrying home groceries and baby was more than I could handle. Wagon for the groceries – problem solved! And now the kid loves riding in it too.

  47. Just reading through the comments and I saw a lot being discussed about toys and what kids really need/want. It reminds me of my trip to the park with my kids today. We went berry picking with friends and decided to stop at a park afterwards. The kids (7 total) ran for the playground, played for about 5 minutes and then ran off. The moms sat down and wondered off and on where the kids where and what they were up too, but never enough to go find out. Later they came back with a giant box of goldfish they had found empty in a trash can. They had filled it with water, mulch, flowers, mud and all sorts of things. It was poison soup for the adults, the kids were absolutely delighted with themselves. Us moms wondered why we bothered to take them to the park when all they wanted to do was play with trash 🙂 We did make them go wash their hands!

  48. Toy cars, trains, dolls, etc… are nice, but not really necessary, they help in motor skills of infants, but then again card board boxes, cardboard toilet paper rolls, pots and pans can do the same thing. But these things will never help a child develop their cognitive skills. They won’t help them to read, or learn arithmetic, or learn to be creative. Or have that thirst for more knowledge which they are always looking for.

    Are you kidding me?

    Wooden toy trains – build hand-eye coordination, build spatial awareness, build visual awareness – two of these are VITAL skills for learning to read and write, the other is vital for learning to do math.

    Plus, anything that rolls around helps build an instinctive understanding of physics. (Physics, the most violent thing you learn in school. Always it’s trains crashing into each other, cars dropping off cliffs, and bombs being dropped from airplanes. Two of the three of these can be replicated with the first two toys you mentioned!)

    Cardboard boxes – help develop creativity and imagination (a necessary skill). Help young children learn object permanence. If used with other people, help children build their verbal skills (which, again, is necessary to become successful in school).

    Paper towel rolls do the same thing as boxes AND they can also teach some basic music skills… the physics of sound! They can be used to learn (or spark an interest in) many sound-related scientific principles, in fact.

    Pots and pans do all that AND MORE as you can fill them up with water and help children learn basic ideas like “just because the pot and pan are shaped differently, they still hold the same amount of water”. This is a VERY TRICKY one for children to learn… and until they do, math is hard.

    You can fill pots and pans with sand or rice and use them to help teach writing by having the kid trace letters with his/her fingers.

    You can, of course, use them to COOK, which is a life skill if I ever saw one!

  49. Those things that pass as cribs at IKEA? Splintery, shaky and altogether unsafe.

    But sure, you could put a baby in it….I suppose it’s better than a box.

    Or you could actually research and purchase a crib with a decent safety rating.

  50. Oh man, stuff kids ‘need’.

    @ Eric… We got a stroller for the grandson at a bicycle shop. It’s an Insight. My FIL purchased it for our daughter. When my kids were little, I seriously spent as much as this Insight was replacing strollers as wheels and stuff went kaflooey on the cheap second-hand strollers I bought. The Insight was, I believe, under $200, and it has been amazing. Wouldn’t trade it for a minute.

    The car seat thing comment in the article, as I read it, was about being a carrying device, not about it’s necessity in an actual car. Those things drive me nuts! They’re heavy, and the kid’s head is always flat against the back. You know, those ones that unhook from the car, so the parent doesn’t have to actually work buckles, put baby in a front pack or sling to go into a store. Just sling this ridiculously heavy seat over your arm. No thanks. Cosco convertible. Spend 150 once, infant rear-facing to toddler front-facing, to booster. Done and done. Of course in Michigan now, kids have to be in a booster until they are, I think, 4′ 9″/80 pounds. Which means my youngest would have been going to 8th grade in a booster. Hah. He skipped a grade, grew late, and at 18 is still scrawny. But tall. 6′ and about 130. He’ll fill out eventually. His dad did…

    And diapers. Okay, we fell to the disposable with our grandson, for at least some of his diaper life. He’s been done for over a year now. With my own two, we did cloth diapers. With no washing machine. Two kids, 5 years with cloth, laundromat twice a week. I mean, before 1969, whether you had a washer or not, you didn’t have a choice in diapering method anyway, right?

    And many new studies indicate that those ‘educational’ toys are no more educational than any other book or toy. And the vidoes? Baby Einstein had to take ‘educational’ off the label. They add nothing. My sister was one who sat her kid, in her carseat, in front of those videos from the age of 4 months. Kid is no smarter than any other kid. She’s in control of all her basics, but I attribute that to her mom talking to her, and reading to her.

    Kids need almost nothing. The whole economist thing that ‘kids cost over 250,000 by the time they’re 18’ claim assumes purchasing all that crap. Our list was…

    Snugli, good stroller, carseat if you use a car. My mom lived in San Francisco when my youngest sister was born in 1983. Cars are way more trouble than they’re worth in that city. My sister didn’t have a carseat until they moved out of the City when she was 1. Used. That’s it. That’s all you truly need. Formula is that’s the way you go. Crib if that’s the way you go. And we got ours from So yeah. Free.

    Kids are actually pretty cheap. It’s the marketing that creates the ‘need’ for stuff, not the kid.

  51. @Secret Mommy – Thanks for the info on the cloth vs. disposable diaper study. My dad worked for a company that made, among other things, linings for disposable diapers. I saw how much water (lots!) it took to make these paper linings at the plant, so I never understood the study that said washing cloth diapers uses more water than creating disposables.

    @Meagan – Good point about quality. If I had to do it all over again, I would have bought a Maclaren stroller when my oldest was born. At the time (12 years ago), it was the uptown nanny stroller, but now there are so many more expensive models out there that it doesn’t seem particularly snobbish. We broke multiple strollers over the years, especially with my youngest who was quite large for his age. (And, of course, big kids usually learn to walk late.) Sometimes it is actually more frugal to buy quality. I’m New England born and bred, so I should have known better. The old New England adage is buy quality and buy once!

  52. With the last kidlet we didn’t need a crib (he slept with us until he was in his own twin bed), bottles (he breastfed exclusively), or a stroller (used a rign sling.)

    But we bought a Britax car seat which he is still in at the age of 5.5 (He only weighs 35 lbs.) Those cheap ass car seat brands get recalled over and over again.
    Also, it is not safe to buy a used car seat unless you know the source and know with 100% certainty that it’s never been in a car accident.

  53. Another comment about cloth diapers and the environment. What happens to the water after it’s been used to wash the diapers? Hmm… it goes to the wastewater plant to get cleaned, and then goes back into the fresh water supply, to be reused millions of times. How can it then be said that it is wasted? Can we truly compare a few chemicals used in cleaning the urine/soap-tainted water with all the environmental and social impacts of disposable diapers?

    I feel that using cloth and/or EC promote free-range parenting, because usually the kids end up independent with respect to their elimination at a much earlier age. My kids are 3 and I just can’t imagine following them around with diapers at the ready whenever they might decide to squat and poop. Or tucking them into bed knowing that they would wake in the night and feel powerless to avoid soiling themselves. So many kids get upset, holler and fight when they are interrupted for a diaper change. In my mind, that’s a sign that those kids are ready for more control over their bodily functions. Yet the same parents who wouldn’t dream of putting their kids in a play pen at age 1 will force their kids to wear soiled diapers at age 2-3.

    Oh, and I’d like to know, if disposable diapers are better for the environment, why aren’t we all wearing disposable underwear??

  54. *When my mom was a baby (1953) she was put in a crate on the floorboard of the car when not being held by her mother. Her parents also used nylon to tie her into her crib when she was 1 and started climbing out. They lived next to a lake and slept with the windows open and no screens, and apparently my mom kept climbing out of the crib and the window. No problem to my grandparents they got some nylon and tied one leg and one arm to the slats of the crib. She is now 57, alive and well, and had a great relationship with both of her parents. Kids don’t need hardly anything, neither do we as adults, but the nice stuff does make life more fun sometimes .*


    No one else thinks this person is insane?

  55. Ah yes, if only I had known how little of the stuff I would actually use, and how to gracefully say, “do you have the gift receipt for that”? Our home would not have looked like a baby junkyard. People I didn’t really know left trash bags full of baby clothes on the hood of the car. I would second the person who added at least a manual breast pump though I ended up getting a second hand electric, at 3 am on day 5 I was really glad for the manual pump. I would add that it is better to think long and hard about what’s really needed for transport. For us it was a sling and a car seat with a cheap umbrella stroller for longer outings before the age of 2. After that i think they can walk, but then I live in a car heavy city. My Daughters New York cousin used a carrier and light weight stroller for subway navigation. My best advice to new parents and their friends alike is to pool all that gift money you want to give and get a gift card. We didn’t use the crib once for the first nine months, the high chair was a waste of space, I don’t know who hated the swing more me or my daughter. On the other hand the, oh the horror walker was great even before walking cause our daughter only wanted to be upright or lying down. Oh and the attached to the wall baby gate at the top of the stairs 🙂 To my mind Free Range parenting is about your family parenting your kid and you don’t need alot of stuff to do that.

  56. Additional info on the cloth versus disposable study. The famous one, the one everyone quotes as saying that cloth is just as bad as disposable, was actually a UK Environment Agency study (i.e. government-sponsored), published in 2005 (Life Cycle Assessment of Disposable and Reusable Nappies in the UK, ISBN: 1-84-432427-3). It assumed that cloth nappies had a life cycle of only two years (i.e. bought new, used for only one child, and then thrown out rather than being sold second-hand), that they were washed every two days (12 nappies at a time, apparently), that over a third of them were boil-washed, and that many were tumble-dried and 10% were ironed(!). It also assumes that the electricity used to wash and dry the nappies all comes from fossil fuel sources. The assumptions are all based on the results of a survey, but I can’t find the original report of that.

    There is an updated report (An updated lifecycle assessment study
    for disposable and reusable nappies, ISBN: 978-1-84432-927-4) which points out the difference that can be made by reusing nappies on multiple children, washing full loads at 60ºC or lower, and line drying. If these are done, then the impact is a lot lower for cloth nappies.

  57. Buy the disposable diapers and hand sanitizer, please. Those things put food on my plate. If they go away, so does my income. 🙂

  58. I disagree that disposable diapers are equally damaging to the environment. Those things get put in landfills and take thousands of years to deteriorate. They’re full of toxic chemicals that are dangerous for babies. And as someone pointed out above, creating them creates huge amounts of waste water and chemical run-off.

    I have 3 kids and re-used (non-bleached) cloth diapers on all of them. I used non-petroleum-based laundry detergent to wash them in a front-loading washer and when I could hung them out in the sun to dry (I found that was better for bleaching them and killing smells). I did buy disposable diapers for travel and when I separated from my abusive husband and had to put my youngest in child care so I could go sit in a corporate cubicle.

    Anyway, I still firmly believe that cloth diapers are the best way to go — for your baby and for the environment.

  59. @Cavale- I am not insane. I’m not suggesting anyone put their babies in a crate on the floor today, I certainly did not do that with my 2 children. I had proper car seats from Babies R Us and I hung all the little developmental toys from the little bar so they could have their little brains stimulated while I drove places. I even had one of those little boards with black and white pictures that I put up against the back of the car so they could look at it and learn whatever they are supposed to learn from black and white images! I’m just says 60 years ago it was commonplace for moms to just hold babies in cars or set them in boxes on the floor. There were no baby carseats. Cars were built different then than they are today, but still no one thought my grandparents were bad parents. I was just pointing out how times have changed in the sense of what we now feel we need vs. what parents 60 years ago felt they needed.

  60. @Lynn

    Probably this ad is because fewer people are vaccinating children against pertussis. And although adults probably were vaccinated, this is an imperfect vaccine. It wears off. Pertussis is unpleasant for adults and older children, but generally doesn’t even keep them out of school for the infectious period. It is often deadly for infants, who have small immature airways. And because of the declining vaccination rates, we have started having outbreaks again. (Emergency workers are now having to be trained to recognize the symptoms in infants, having never seen this disease in their careers.) So yeah, as an adult, make sure that your antibodies are in order, because you can easily put infants who cannot yet be vaccinated at risk. It’s not any weirder or less reasonable than just making sure that you are immune to German Measles before you get pregnant. (There have recently been outbreaks of measles because of dropping vaccination rates as well. Can you imagine?)

  61. We bought a crib and changing table while waiting for our oldest to be born.

    I work full-time and breastfed – so, I found very quickly that he could sleep (and eat) with me most of the night way more easily than I could stumble around like a zombie after feeding whilst awake. So, we coslept. For numbers two and three, the crib wasn’t even set up. (They napped either at daycare, in a sling, or in a travelyard).

    When they were old enough to move to their own, they started on a matress on the floor in a gated room. Then, they graduated to matress on box spring and eventually a bed. This way, I could nurse them to sleep and slip away.

    We needed very ittle stuff. I wish that I could have used cloth diapers for the environment, but given daycare and working full time – I just couldn’t swing it.

    Stuff is vastly overrated.

  62. The original report from 2005 and the updated report from 2008 are both available from the Environment Agency’s website – and

  63. When I was expecting my first-born, people would ask me, “Have you chosen a theme for your nursery?” And I would reply “Yes! Our theme is Whatever Anyone Gives Us For Free.” I got a variety of responses to this reply ranging from bemused to appalled.

  64. I totally agree with the article. There’s very, very little you actually need.

    Even so I have bought my share of the unnecessary. My mind knows that it’s silly to spend so much on things that are needed for such a short amount of time. But there are some things I’m really tempted by – I love products that are both well engineered and look good. And some baby stuff is just so darn cute.

    We spent a fortune on our first buggy which I *loved* for the first 6 months, and turned out to be the only double buggy that would fit in our elevator. But once the girls were a bit bigger things changed. So now I carry one on my back and have the other in a single umbrella stroller. Would probably have been better off saving the money for those first 6 months and struggling with something less ideal. But I know plenty of parents who have loved their expensive buggies, and as a tool that you use every day it seems like the sort of thing that might be worth splashing out on *if* you can afford it and it makes each of those days better.

    When ours were getting towards the eating stage I showed my husband two different highchairs I thought would work for us and even look good in our apartment. A $200+ Stokke and a $20 Ikea one. My husband, quite rightly looked, at me like I was mad. We spent the “saved” money on a weekend away.

  65. All these comments amuse me deeply. I find it very interesting to see how you can justify basically anything in this world if you just try hard enough.

    Personally, I think our kids these days are overly spoiled. Be it with free range parents or helicopter ones. The way mothers today go out of there way to raise good kids no matter what approach is getting to a point of being ridiculous. Most mothers a century ago would laugh at this luxury and what has happened to society over the years.

    Noone of us really does the best job possible, as we do not know how many factors outside of our reach really influence the development of our child.

    Do not waste your time trying to find justification for your lifestyle and your choices. Whether it is this or that stroller or if it is cloth diapers vs the disposable ones. Noone is perfect and we sometimes just have to allow ourselves a break from all that stuff that we hear, read, or solicitate.

    I know I am not a perfect Mom. I am full time working mother who just plainly loves working and I would spend 12h a day or more at work if I could. I just like it that much. But that does not mean I am worse than a stay at home or part time working mother.

    I would never consider homeschooling as this would bore me to death. However, other people have other choices, and love it.

    I potty trained my kids quickly, as I hated dealing with diapers at all. And my concern was more my personal laziness than either environment or check book. I let them wipe their own butts, too. Even though, they do not always do it perfectly. Means I need more underwear as they require to be changed more often (twice a day or more)… But kids learn.

    I just learned one thing over the past year. Do not worry that much. Just live your life happily. Do not try to find the justification to be who you are. It is not necessary to constantly post on the boards how great you are and how well you do with kids. We do not matter. And most of us do not care about how you do, but just how we ourselves do.

    Yes, it is hard to be a mother at times. There are good moments, too. But noone will give us grades or a reward for just doing what we do. There is no measurement scale and no standardized rating. We will never know whether we do a good or a bad job. So, why worry?

    Just let’s enjoy kids, life, work, home, whatever we like. And just try not to hurt or even harm others on the way.

  66. Boy, I’m glad she mentioned the cardboard box. For my first three kids, their bassinet (until they were old enough to start rummaging around, about 4 months or so) was a large cardboard box, brought home by my husband from his grocery warehouse job. I cut the sides down a bit, lined the inside with fabric from old sheets, cut a piece of 3-inch foam to size and covered it with fabric. Made a snug, easily moved, and cheap sleeping place for a small baby. I’m thinking of putting one together for my grandson when he sleeps over at Grandma’s.

  67. @Alexicographer: You’re right that formula can be very, very handy, and is of good quality compared to early versions. But I don’t understand why you quibble with my point that, if you have breast milk available, you’ve got the newborn food area covered. Formula can be handy, but it is not -necessary-.

    When we were given a baby shower, there were a couple of gifts that stood out as particularly wonderful (as we learned later):

    One was the gift of cloth diaper service, with a generous allotment of diapers. It turned out to be incredibly handy to have a big stack of super-clean, super-absorbent cloths on hand, for enumerable spills, squirts, burps and whatnot. Had we gone with disposable, it would have been MORE work, because then we’d have had to be laundering a big stack of hand towels or whatnot, instead of having a big, clean stack delivered every week.

    A second was diaper covers. Being from the stone age, I didn’t realize that pins were a thing of the past. Diaper covers allow even a fumble-fingered scientist-dad to put a diaper on a squirming baby in under 3 seconds. Amazing.

    A third was a bouncy seat, one of those cloth-stretched-over-wire-frame deals, which let us put the baby on the dining room or kitchen table, sitting up at a safe and comfortable angle allowing him to nap, look around, feed, play, and interact. Our friend who threw the shower insisted that we have one, and my son must have logged a thousand hours in that thing.

  68. […] post: Guest Blog: What Do You REALLY Need to Register For? « FreeRangeKids Tags: are-some, automobile-free, bare-minimum-, but-the, buying-very, espouse-the, may-come, […]

  69. You don’t need a “baby” carseat that clicks out of the base. You can do just as well buying a carseat that goes from 5-65 lbs. One carseat, instead of two…or three.

    Elimination communication isn’t wacky.

    I’m a big cosleeping/bedsharing advocate and I’m anti-crib, but it’s pretty clear among everyone that pillows and babies do not mix.

    Baby food is dumb. Dumb to buy, and dumb to make. Just let the kid eat food when he or she is ready. A simple mash with a fork does away with the need for any ridiculous pureeing and/or freezing. Plus, kids shouldn’t be eating “solids” until they can sit up by themselves and use their pincer grasp anyway!

    Basically, you need boobs and diapers

  70. @Crystal.

    Actually, one of the Ikea cribs has a great rating according to Consumer Reports. Great for safety, great for the wallet!

    It’s important to look these things up before you steer people away from them!

  71. I did the ‘whatever anyone gives us’ (which, with a cousin who had three boys and worked in the children’s clothing industry, was really more than we could use), but we found a few more things we ended up buying and should have bought to start with. The one that sticks in my mind is at least 6 kimono under shirts. You only use them for 2 weeks, and nobody hands them down, but argh if you only have 3, you go crazy. We had 4, and eventually I had to get my mom to drive me to the baby store for more, because otherwise I would have been doing loads of laundry with 3 baby shirts in them continuously.

  72. See, I don’t even know what a kimono undershirt IS. I dressed my babies in pajamas until they could walk.

  73. THANK YOU!!! I’ve been telling people for years that having a baby is not as expensive as they think. Hell, I am using the same $19.99 umbrella stroller for my two-year-old that I did for my now 12-year-old when he was a baby. It’s great because I can fold it up under my arm when she can walk, and when I need to put her in it because she’s tired/fooling around/etc. I can whip it out. Some of these newer “umbrella” strollers that go for $100 or so just aren’t that portable. And I bet they wouldn’t hold up for 12 years, either!

    Plus, I’m a big time baby “free-cycler”. My kids live in all the hand-me-downs they can get, and every single one of those heavy-duty plastic playhouses/slides/toys came from the curb. In turn, I give all my stuff away to friends, co-workers and neighbors who might need a carseat, highchair, or furniture.

  74. I’ll agree that there are very few things you actually *need* to have for a kid. However, there are several “very very nice to haves” (and these probably change depending on where you live and what you tend to do). The tone I see in comments here (and many other places) is “anyone who has anything more than this is wasting their money!” That’s not necessarily true… we don’t have tons of gadgets and gizmos, but we buy high-quality things (preferably at discount) if we know we’re going to use them a lot.

    Here’s mine:
    For us, the BOB stroller (nice jogging stroller) has been a key item – we use it (for both running and walking, and frequently on rougher terrain) a ton, and it’s shown almost no signs of wear, so it’ll definitely be around for any additional kids. Similarly, the Ergo carrier has been great (though we unfortunately balked at the high price for several months… and then got it and wished we’d had it all along). Both of these are relatively expensive… but they’re expensive because they’re well designed and virtually bombproof, not because they’re fashionable.

    On the carseat types… sure you don’t NEED one that clicks in and out, but when your kid who dislikes sleep finally falls asleep in the car, it’s fantastic to be able to not wake them up getting them out again. We mourned the loss of that capability when ours outgrew the infant seat…

    So yeah… you certainly can get by without those things. However, if you’ve got the money (or the generous friends/relatives), why not have a few things that are genuinely useful and make life easier? I’m not advocating blatant consumerism… just saying there’s a sensible middle ground between only getting what is absolutely essential for survival and getting tons of stuff you don’t need.

  75. @Katie, @Donna: I don’t know what state you live in or what the laws are. I’m just telling you what the laws are where I live. I even provided a link, here it is again:

    At that link is the current child seatbelt law in Oregon, which says in relevant part [I’ve omitted all the stuff about off-road vehicles]:

    A person commits the offense of failure to properly use safety belts if the person:

    … operates a motor vehicle on the highways of this state or on premises open to the public with a passenger who is under 16 years of age and the passenger is not properly secured with a child safety system, safety belt or safety harness as required by subsection (2) of this section;

    and subsection (2) says (translated) infants must be in approved rear-facing infant carseats in the back seat until they are both 1 year old and +20 pounds, and kids less than 40 pounds must ride in approved car seats, AND:

    … a person who weighs more than 40 pounds and who is four feet nine inches or shorter must be properly secured with a child safety system that elevates the person so that a safety belt or safety harness properly fits the person. As used in this paragraph, “properly fits” means the lap belt of the safety belt or safety harness is positioned low across the thighs and the shoulder belt is positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck. The child safety system shall meet the minimum standards and specifications established by the Department of Transportation under ORS 815.055 (Rules establishing standards for safety belts, harnesses and child safety systems) for child safety systems designed for children who are four feet nine inches or shorter.

    So there you go. It’s a $90 ticket in Oregon for anyone who gets caught operating a vehicle with an under-16 passenger who is shorter than 4’9″ if that passenger is not in properly adjusted child seat or booster seat. Babies have to be rear-facing until they are 1 and over 20 pounds.

    I’m willing to agree that not everyone chooses to FOLLOW this law, and that the cops here probably spend more time busting meth users than they do enforcing carseat regs.

    But it’s still the law.

    // Since Katie mentioned NYC, just for a lark I looked up the child seatbelt law summary at New York’s DMV. The NY laws appear to be substantially the same as Oregon’s: babies in rear-facing, toddlers in child seat until they are at least 8 years old, under-16 required to use booster until they are at least 4’9″ tall and over 100 pounds. The NY ticket is $100 and three points on your driver’s license! So one violation is probably enough to jack your car insurance premiums so high that you would have saved money by just buying the seat.

  76. Sure, @steve, a seat is cheaper than three points on your license, but how do those compare to the therapy bills for the diminutive 15-year-old made to ride in a booster seat? 🙂

  77. I keep praying that my 3yo grows fast enough to not need a booster seat when she’s in high school. I think that law is terrible. What they should do is force car manufacturers to provide seatbelts that are safe for people over age 4 or so. Which used to be standard, by the way. Uh-oh, here I go again on my “SCAM” rant!!

  78. Oregon’s booster seat laws do not require under 16 year old to be in a booster seat if under 4’9 and 100 pounds. That sounded nuts so I looked it up. The law is: Booster Seats

    * Children over 40 pounds must use a booster seat until they are age 8 or 4’9” in height.

    That’s 8, not 16. Most states the law is 8 or 4’9, in fact, I’d be willing to bet it’s all states. My son knew the law and on his 8th birthday announced he would no longer ryse a booster seat and he has not. Here is the info for Oregon:

    NY also only requires a booster seat until the age of 8 or 4’9. Info here:

  79. Barely into the second trimester, we’ve already got a free IKEA crib and bassinet lined up from coworkers. Once we know the gender, I’m sure people will be jumping to unload baby clothes on us.

    So clothing and bed stuff aren’t even appearing on the registry. It’s currently more than 50% books because I got so nostalgic looking at listings. ^_^;

  80. Car-seats?
    Not to be compromised on.
    Survivability in an accident is important to me (so much so I make 11 year olds sit in the back seat if possible. And made my brother sit in a full booster seat for as long as I could get away with it).

    Strollers? Well, it depends on the use. We used to walk 7kms minimum a day. So a good one, that most importantly DIDNT BEND MY BACK or cause me to stoop etc was also important to me. I find the normal strollers seem to cause me to stoop. Thus why I picked up one of the mega ones at a garage sale.
    Just can’t beat it!

    However, ever noticed kids are just as happy playing with the pots and pans or some rice in a milk container as plasticy crap (sorry, I mean toys) from KMart?
    And really, if your 12month old has fashion issues, you potentially have big issues 😉

  81. Wait, WHAT.

    I just read that rule.

    Im from a short family. As in, I’m the tallest at just over 5″

    I would have been 13 when I could’ve gotten out of a booster seat!!!

    Some basic facts:
    New cars usually have adjustable seat belt sizes (so, can be a better fit). Our 1995 car had these.
    The major issue with accidents and small children is not so much the seat belt placement, although this does have a big effect, but that the bones and internal organs cannot withstand the impact as well against a three-anchor-point-seatbelt, as opposed to a 5-anchor-point seatbelt (disperses the force better).
    Therefore, from my limited understanding this law comes from two concerns.
    1) Incorrect seatbelt placement (solution, choose car wisely. I have to do this to ensure I can reach the pedals! My bestfriend has to do it to ensure they can fit their tall frame into it. It’s not that hard to find a car to suit your needs if you have the money and time)
    2) The development.
    Human development *should* finish at 16 (well, not the brain, lol, it is catching up), so in that regard the law MAY be able to be explained). Oh, except that most studies show between 7 and 11 seems to be the age at which enough development has occurred.

  82. We got almost all our essentials second hand – stroller from my brother (then borrowed the next one from our synagogue’s ‘baby pool’), cot from freecycle, bedroom furniture for about £100 second hand, clothes from my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law. Almost never bought her toys, as she has too many already as gifts from other people!

    It’s crazy that people spend 1000s on newborns before they arrive, though I can understand a few hundred if you don’t have a source for second hand furniture or clothes.

  83. Should just add, I suppose it’s OK to spend that money if you have it, but it’s nuts when people do it who can hardly afford it.

  84. Except for a car seat (public transport in the UK is a joke), babies need very little that can’t be obtained second hand, a best friend with year old twins was rather handy I admit 🙂

    Save as much money as possible for one luxury, be it practical or totally frivolous.

    Ours was one of the very first three wheel all terrain pushchairs so we could still enjoy walks along the canals at home and the Cornish cliffs at Granny’s. (it was also a joy to push in town and a real art in shops because it didn’t have the modern swivel front wheel).

    But yours might be a dishwasher, a state of the art sling, bike trailer, beautiful wooden high chair or a totally frilly Mosses basket just like your dolls had. It doesn’t matter it will generate far more happy memories if you wanted it than anything the latest magazine says you want.

  85. Hm, so if the car seat thing is about internal organs, then it shouldn’t be based on height or weight. My 3yo is little, but in most physical respects, very advanced. She likes to lie down and let her bigger sister stand on her belly. Surely she will be ready for a regular seat belt before her more physically-typical, younger, bigger sister is.

    Ugh, why don’t they just educate parents and let us decide what’s best for our kids?

  86. That car seat law is ridiculous. They just raised the booster seat age to 8 years old here and I thought that was strict. Wow.

  87. I see a few of the comments are coming from expectant parents…I have two words for you: Gift Receipt! If your friend/neighbor/family member gives you something that “YOU! REALLY! NEED!”, but you don’t! really! want!…, say thank you, and return it asap. In most cases, they’ll never even know. And if they DO find out about it, you could say that the item was broken or that you had more than one or that the baby outgrew it too quickly.

  88. Kids should be in boosters until they fit the adult seat belt (rough rule of thumb- 4’11” or 12 years old, whichever comes first, preferably you should use the “5 step test”). Car seats, if you ever ride in a car, are essential but thankfully you can keep a child safe from birth to the tween years for a fraction of what you’d spend on disposable diapers from birth to 2. The best place to save money is the infant car seat (unnecessary for all but some preemies, you can skip to a convertible with low slots at birth). Cheapest legal combination would be a cosco scenera from birth to 3 followed by a harmony literider from 3 to 9- we’re talking maybe $55-60. Cheapest safe way would be a decent convertible (like, um, Evenflo Triumph Advance) from birth to 5ish followed by a graco turbobooster from 5 till 11- we’re talking $165 on sale.

    Personally, we have a cheap as hell stroller. Only positive thing I can say about it is that it encouraged me to evict both children out of it around 2. When I have kids (these are my brothers), I hope to use slings, because I find strollers more of a struggle than they’re worth, however a high end stroller may sway me.

  89. oh and sister standing on other sisters belly does not BEGIN to approach crash forces. We’re talking about internal injuries and spinal cord injuries here. And adults bellies aren’t strong- our BONES are, and our seatbelts typically go over our hip bones rather than our bellies (if it’s on your belly, move it down). Boosters move the seatbelt to the hips.

    It’s about size and fitting into a safety device designed to protect you from death. Leading cause of death and serious injury in kids over 1 is automobile accidents. It’s about size and fit, not over protectiveness.

  90. […] post calling out the ridiculously excessive “crap you must buy for babies” […]

  91. […] Range Kids has a great guest blog about what you really need to register for. Good advice for anyone watching pennies in the […]

  92. I have to laugh at esmereldasquietlife, because we had the same problem with our first child, a boy. In fact, my sister is STILL giving us clothes that are a couple of years off; it’s hard to keep on top of what we have. We did not have room for all the stuff we were given, and his first year was living in an increasingly cramped apartment until we finally got a house.

    The best thing we ever got was a room of his own. We were able to train him to sleep through the night in about a week once that happened.

    My second, a girl, is all of two months old. I did not bother to get any little girls clothes* for two reasons: 1. She wouldn’t care that she was wearing little boy clothes, and 2. With all of the relatives, I was pretty sure there would be plenty of little girl clothes coming our way. And boy, I was right.

    Yes, we’ve bought some things for our kids. Larger carseats; my boy outgrew the (handed-down) infant seat in three months. Overalls, because they were so necessary for my little stripper and none got handed down (probably worn out!) My husband has been surprisingly susceptible to stuffed animals. But if we’d been cash-strapped, none of these things were necessary.

    On the cloth-diaper front, I think it’s a marvelous shower gift even if they plan to go with disposables. I use them while nursing (great when you’ve got a bout of reverse peristalsis) and my boy has bonded to them as a “lovey.” That means we can swap it out the moment they get dirty and there’s no clinging; he accepts that they’re interchangeable.

    *Okay, I admit that I went to a baby clothes sale that a church group had. Suggested donation per piece: 25 cents. I stormed through the girls’ side and got about thirty outfits. Secondhand is softer!

  93. NB on carseats: They have a restricted lifespan because the plastics deteriorate over time with exposure to heat and sun, unavoidable in a car. It’s either five or seven years, I forget which. All you have to do is remember the purchase date (in the case of my hand-down seat, a nephew’s birthday.)

  94. @B. Durbin

    Yeah- I have at least the first years worth of clothes covered- but my situation is in reverse. I’m having a boy, but getting all girl stuff. I just really don’t care, and I don’t think a 3 month old is capable of being emasculated by a purple aviator cap, though I did pass the “daddy’s little girl” onsies on to a friend who just had a baby girl…. I figured it would be better than paying for his therapy when he went back through baby pix and saw himself wearing a neon pink sleepsack with flowers that says “princess”. Unless he’s into being a princess, which would be fine, but I don’t feel comfortable making that decision for him. Honestly, I would have given the pinkest of the pink hand me downs away if he’d been a girl too. I just can’t abide rhinestones on babies. But the coworker I gave them to was thrilled, so there we go. To each their own.

    Fortunatelly, my main source of hand-me-downs is a lady who’s dressing her daughter in mainly non gender specific clothes anyway, so lots of nice subdued earth tones, and not too much PIIIIIIINNNNNKKKK!!! (screaming pink)

    On a different note:

    I’m a lucky gal, cause though I live in a poor neighborhood (actually really great- lots of kids on bikes and hardworking, ethnically diverse families who don’t have enough disposable income to become helicopter ‘rents) I was able to buy (start buying) a house at a very young age (24) and I already have a nice room set aside for my lucky kiddo-to-be.
    I say that the BEST gift, and really the only important thing I can “buy” for my child is the gift of autonomy. I’m sure cosleeping is great (and I’m not putting it down at all, this actually doesn’t even overlap with the concept at all despite how it might sound)…I’ve always had my own space- and it’s become such an important thing to me, that I regard it as a top priority for my offspring.
    A room of his own- he may not be capable of appreciating it yet, but someday he’ll want to paint his room black and nail goat skulls to the walls or something, and I want to give him the space to be as weird and delightful (or as totally banal) as he chooses.
    So I suppose that is my concession- the one thing I have spent money on. A home. A home that is not just someplace we’re staying till we get something better- but an honest to goodness home. Somewhere I’m not throwing rent at a crabby landlord who can tell my kid he’s not allowed to paint a big-ass pentagram on his ceiling or do a graffiti mural on his floor or whatever. I will pay every penny of my disposable income for the ability to not be beholden to someone who comes over to look at the leaky roof and tell me they’ll get around to it but that I need to mow the lawn.
    *off-topic rant*

  95. Oh, heck, I don’t know why but I have to correct myself. I was 24 when I started buying the house, but I’m 29 now- not that it makes any difference at all.

  96. good,i like it

  97. Excellent Blog. I’ve been reading along and just wanted to say hi. I will be reading more of your posts in the future.

  98. Smug, smug and more smugness abounds.

    There will always be differences in preference and taste. Some people love slings and use them constantly. Others love the swing. I hate co-sleeping. Others love it. I have no need to justify what I purchase or why.

    The key is don’t buy what you don’t want.

  99. My son was the first child for my husband and me and also the first grandchild on both sides. He therefore got totally and completely spoiled as a baby, with relatives everywhere sending a never-ending stream of toys and whatnots his way. Out of the (literally) thousands of dollars that have been spent on his entertainment (he’s almost four and I have a huge family, with ten aunts and uncles and 21 cousins, and my husband has a big family as well), his favorite toys he’s ever played with were a Tupperware container with stirring spoon, a giant Rubbermaid storage bin, and a 1-liter bottle half-filled with colored water and superglued shut. He routinely ignores the expensive Leapfrog toys his grandparents send in favor of a Happy Meal toy (yes, I feed him fast food from time to time). I used my sling all the time when he was a newborn because he would screech his tiny little head off if I wasn’t holding him, and I needed to get some housework done. Simple solution: put him in the sling where he’d nap, and I had both hands free to empty the dishwaher and fold laundry. Very little else of the “must-have baby gear” got used.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: