Updated on 03.13.07

Eight Baby Items We Bought That Weren’t Worth The Money

Trent Hamm

Yes, the rumors are true: there is another addition to The Simple Dollar family coming in September. On that note, my wife and I were digging through the closets to evaluate what baby stuff we had that was actually worthwhile. Here’s the stuff that’s headed to the yard sale, even with the knowledge of another baby entering the house soon.

Receiving blankets We never found a good use for these after about the two week mark, and even before then we could have swaddled the boy in his regular blankets and been just fine. One small pack will do if you even want them at all; don’t buy or ask for a bunch of them.

Bottles with disposable liners Don’t waste your time with these unless you’re doing exclusively hand-washing of dishes. Not only are they environmentally poor, you can’t reuse them. Instead, ask for some decent bottles for your baby shower. We loved using Playtex VentAire bottles – we used them until our son was weaned.

Cheap cloth diapers If you’re going to go the cloth diaper route, invest in some decent cloth diapers unless you enjoy watching massive leakage all over the place. We tried cheap ones and they didn’t work well, but we’ve seen higher quality ones work like a charm.

Cheap breast pumps All these did was make my wife sore and not produce much milk at all, even after a lot of practice. The time and energy expended on making cheap breast pumps work is simply not worth it. If you’re going to have more than one child and plan on breastfeeding them all, invest in a good mechanical pump. We quite liked our Medela Pump in Style – easy to transport, easy (and not painful) to use, and easy to clean.

A wipe warmer These are wholly unnecessary. All I did with ours is dry out a bunch of wipes a few times.

A bottle warmer Our doctor said on the day our son was born that we should just use the microwave to warm up any milk. I’ve since heard again and again that microwaves are safe and that stories to the contrary are urban legends. Hey, look, suddenly this object is useless!

A Boppy My wife liked this, but used it interchangeably with a pillow. As far as I could tell, it was really only useful when she was just starting out – after the first week, a pillow worked just as well, and it could have worked the first week, too. An exception: I hear these are quite useful if you have a C-section, and I can understand why, but if you haven’t had this procedure, don’t bother.

A Diaper Genie If you actually want to have a small garbage can for disposable diapers near a changing table, just get a small garbage can with an air freshener inside the lid. It’s way cheaper than the Genie. If one is particularly foul, sprinkle it heavily with baking soda before tossing it in there as that will eat most of the odor.

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  1. Tom says:

    Good list, but I disagree with the Boppy and the Diaper Genie. For us, those were well worth the money. I would have bought an incinerator for the diapers. Whew!

  2. Laura says:

    Congratulations on the bun in the oven!! I’d have to disagree with you on the Diaper Genie though – my fiance has a ridiculously strong aversion to, um, that particular stench, and I’m all over anything I can do to ease him into helping with diaper duty!

  3. Bryan says:

    Stay away from the Diaper Genie and the other diaper pails that only work with special bags. However, we bought a cheap diaper pail that uses standard kitched bags and very effectively keeps the odors locked in.

    You can find the one we used at Target.com called Odorless Diaper Pail for about $17. Ours has lasted two kids (five years of constant use) and shows no signs of dying anytime soon. Considering that it really does keep the odors from getting out (we only change the bag once a week) it’s well worth the money.

  4. Ruth says:

    Maybe you got a crappy wipe warmer. Ours never dries out wipes, and our son stopped crying during diaper changes when we started using it. (I also use receiving blankets and the boppy all the time!)

  5. Jack says:

    We found the boppy to be useful when the baby is a little older, to prop them up in. Even our 3 year old likes to sit in the middle and lay back to watch tv. As for the diaper genie, we opted to get a Diaper Champ which uses regular trash bags (makes it more economical) and still keeps most of the scent away.

  6. db says:

    Congrats on the baby!!! What awesome news!


  7. SJ says:

    Congrats on your new baby!

    Have to disagree on the receiving blankets – we used them as burp clothes, blankets, to prop him up in the high chair, and numerous other ways. And I did like the Boppy but that might also depend your body type – a regular pillow was just never as good for me those first few months – later on when we were both “pros” at nursing it was different.

    Microwaves should not be used to heat up breast milk, as they can break down some of the factors that are so good about breast milk. That said we never bought a bottle warmer – we took a cup of hot water and plunked the bottle in to warm…

  8. Tim says:

    Congrats on the addition.

    I too was surprised to see “receiving blankets” on the not necessary list. We found that we could never have to many of these things with spitty kids, cold weather, swaddling, etc etc.

  9. Elaine says:

    When my kids were toddlers I took the scads of receiving blankets we had around and sew a few together to make a quilted blanket and made one into a small pillow for naptime at daycare. They weren’t works of art but did the job.

  10. Todd says:

    Something that’s totally worth the absurd amount of money it costs: http://www.bumboseat.com/

    $40 for a carefully sculpted piece of dense foam! Doesn’t matter. I choked when we bought it, but we use it so much that I’d still think it
    was worth it if it cost $80.

    We bought a swing, which hasn’t seen a great deal of use other than holding him when we started him on cereal. (I know that some babies really dig them; ours didn’t/doesn’t.)

    The best bottles, hands down, no question (in our opinion):

  11. Amie says:

    Conratulations! You think you have fun with your son now, just wait until he has a sibling to play with.

    Thanks for adding the bit about the cloth diapers. It is such a frugal choice. We made the switch nearly six months ago when my son turned two. As a side benefit, it actually encouraged him to start potty training. Of course that ended when the new baby was born a few months later.

    I do have to agree – better quality cloth diapers do not leak as much. Even better, they are easier to use and you will be more likely to continue using them and not give up. They also have a fantastic resale value on eBay. If you really want to save some cash on cloth diapers, you can sew your own. There are many patterns available for free or to buy, just google it.

  12. Bill says:

    For more tips on savings, I’d recommend a book called Baby Bargains! It’s great to find out what you really need. They do, however, recommend a good number of receiving blankets…

  13. kyle says:

    Congrats on the baby news.

    I don’t plan on having any kids anytime soon, but a lot of my friends seem to be going that route, so it’s good to know what NOT to buy them.

  14. Mitch says:

    My goodness, a lot has changed since ’95. I’ve never even heard of a lot of this stuff, and I was definitely aware of what was going on when the youngest sib was born.

  15. Maya says:

    I breastfed and could not have lived without my Boppy. I used it for more than a year and am saving it for #2.

    The rest of those I totally agree with, though.

  16. My wife was really big on the Boppy as well — it was a lifesaver. I liked our Diaper Genie until it broke after about 17 months; I have it taped together, but it’s still not working quite right. We never used a cheap breast pump — we had heard too many horror stories, and went top-of-the-line right out of the gate. Bottles with disposable liners, wipe warmers, and bottle warmers are completely useless.


  17. Lee says:

    I’ve been working w/ kids and parents for 16 years and want people to know that they can buy a used breast pump or borrow one from friends w/ out worrying about germs.
    The pumps are very expensive(and the cheap ones stink!), so all you have to do is replace certain components and it’s safe and good as new.
    I agree w/ not using the disposable liners. They’re an environmental travesty.
    Cloth diapers are a great idea.
    If you’re worried about how to deal w/ them when out of the house, I know some people who use cloth at home and disposable for outings.

  18. Microwaves are perfectly safe, but microwaving plastic is not necessarily safe. Plastic has chemicals called phthalates (check Wikipedia) which soften the material. Nearly all plastics have them. They are known endocrine disruptors. Scientific studies have correlated increased amounts of DEHP (a plasticizer) with a smaller anogenital index in babies.

  19. Kris Kovach says:

    Microwaving breastmilk destroys up to 30% of the immunological properties of the milk–this still leaves it superior to formula nutritionally (per the Central Tx milk bank), but if you work that hard to pump and save it, why lose any of the benefits?

  20. Ruth says:

    Receiving blankets, is addition to making for very soft wipes for your baby’s face and skin for spit-ups, spills and drools, are so sturdy that my child is 19 and now they are making great kitchen towels! They are very absorbent!

  21. Margaret says:

    I understood that the danger with microwaving milk is that it can create hot spots within the bottle which could burn baby. Make sure you shake it well when you take it out. That said, we never warmed up bottles (mind you, I mostly nursed). When my mom started babysitting for me when DS was 4 months, she would take the bottle straight out of the fridge and give it to him. Good ole grandma.

    I also love receiving blankets. Not so much for swaddling, but for burping. I think burp pads are ridiculous — when my kid puked up, it was a torrent, and even if you managed to have the burp pad on the exact spot the kid puked, it wouldn’t be big enough. I also liked them for light blankets in the summer, rolled up for support as needed, laying on the couch for baby at the relatives house of a million cats (easier to throw the receiving blanket in the wash than the quilt), and any other reason you might need a cloth. Easy to fit one or two spares in the diaper bag.

  22. Sara says:

    I must disagree with you one some of these. I too had my second baby in September and am in LOVE with my 2 boppy pillows. They’re so esay to plop the baby on for middle of the night nursing. We also use the Playtex bottles with the drop in liners because they’re pre-sterilized and I have an attachment for my Pump in Style which lets me pump directly into them. All you need to do is pop in a nipple ( no actual bottle is necessary) and submerge in a cup of warm-ish water to approximate body temperature. As for the Diaper Genie…..what was life with a baby like before this fantastic invention??? We don;t buy the special liners, just use plain old garbage bags.

  23. NP says:

    I got a used diaper genie and we used it through 2 kids and handed it down to a friend to use with her baby. I had pangs because I didn’t like buying the cartridges, but my husband really wanted to use it and it was a battle not worth fighting to me. We didn’t have diaper odor to worry about.

    There is a lot of stuff marketed to new parents. Buyer beware! Fortunately you’ll receive a lot of this as a gift!

  24. WendyB says:

    The diaper champ ($30 I think) is way better than the diaper genie. It uses regular trash bags (I like to use the Glad Forceflex bags with odor shield because they cut down on the smell and never rip). I found the regular diaper pail w/ the lid VERY FOUL after just a little while. Every time you open the lid to put a dirty diaper in, the smell would waft through the entire room.
    I also LOVE the bumbo chair, which recently was recalled (only so that they could put a warning sticker on it) because older babies can climb out, and get injured when they do so when left on a countertop or other high surface. Skull fractures and stuff like that. But if you don’t leave the baby alone on a counter, then it’s not an issue. You can use the bumbo before they can even sit up by themselves.
    I certainly agree about the bottles with liners, the wipes warmer, and the bottle warmer (also use a cup of hot water–a regular measuring cup works well).
    No comment about cloth diapers. . .I’m frugal but NOT THAT FRUGAL!!

  25. Shauna says:

    I must disagree about the bottles with disposable liners… at first I was disgusted with the thought of having to buy these liners and waste them after each use but my daughter would only take that nipple. So I decided to buy a box of the liners, re-use them and when I ran out, I would make her swith bottles. Well, 14 months later, I AM STILL ON THE SAME LINERS. Granted, I am down to 6, but I swear that I have used them and just washed them the whole time. I have had NO PROBLEMS.

  26. Boppy = very useful but not needed.

    Receiving Blankets = very useful, but only 5 or 6.

    Diaper Genie = Waste of money.
    We just put the diapers in the regular trash, and take the trash out more often.we do seal up the diaper as much as ew can before putting it in the trash.

  27. Jennifer says:

    If you cloth diaper, receiving blankets actually make wonderful diapers! Look up “folding flat diapers” to see how to fold them. I totally agree about avoiding cheap cloth diapers and routinely tell expectant friends to buy diapers that will make you love cloth diapering, not hate it.

  28. You can pry my Boppy out of my cold, dead hands. Pillows don’t cut it for me because the baby just sinks in too far. Maybe our pillows are just too soft? Who knows. As for warming bottles of EBM, we just pop them in a dish of warm water to get them to room temp, which is how they did it in the NICU. Works like a charm, and the baby has never fussed about it.

  29. Sarah says:

    We didn’t get the Diaper Genie but another (less expensive) model that used regular trash bags and it was great. It really helped the smell with all the diapers that our twins put out.

  30. Ellen says:

    I am reading this with a newborn sleeping nearby. =) I agree about everything but the Boppy. It works so much better for me than a pillow, and I used it for months with my firstborn. Now, I have an old school one that’s firmer than the newer ones, so that may be a difference, but I’ll never give it up.

    Also, I think there’s a certain level of cheapness that you can live with with a breast pump… if you’re only using it occasionally. I bought the $60 Medela single pump, and it worked great for me. I only used it for the occasional time that we went out in the evening, though, so it wasn’t getting a ton of use.

    Oh yeah, and I haven’t known anyone who’s diaper pail contraption didn’t smell at least a little bit. Just put the diapers in the kitchen trash can. It gets taken out enough that you’re not going to smell them much.

  31. Holly says:

    I agree — we didn’t use a diaper pail, just a small wastebasket that we empty frequently — sometimes after each incident. :) It worked fine, and was a lot less cluttery than having a huge diaper pail.

    I do love my Boppy (still – and my kid is 2), but I don’t consider it an essential baby item. Actually, very little was essential: some sort of diaper/wipes, a few clothes, a couple blankets, and a place for the kid to sleep (which was, for us, a very versitile pack and play). And also, for us, about 3 bottles and a breastpump when I went back to work. That was ALL we really needed; the rest was bonus. (The bouncy chair was a pretty good bonus, nearly a necessity. YMMV.)

  32. otterbyte says:

    Another great use for a Boppy: if you have one that’s looking ragged and squashed from use with one baby, it makes a *perfect* postpartum cushion after you give birth to your next baby. Much better than that silly inflatable doughnut. It’s wonderful in that first week or so when your sit-upon is just too tender to sit-upon.

  33. Holly says:

    I totally disagree about receiving blankets. I love the large 30×42 thermal/waffle weave ones. My son is almost two months and he loves being swaddled. I learned the dudu(down up down up) method in our baby basics class. Many swaddle poorly. I also like swaddle mes. We’ve have learned to learned to leave the bottom/legs free so you can used the harness in:car seats,swings,bouncer. Read the book happiest baby on the block! I don’t know what parents do otherwise.

    Bottle liners can be pumped into with certain Medela pump, would be great for traveling and like someone else said they wash them. I got the bottle free and bought cheap generic liners for traveling. I live in the SW and travel with hubby for work. On occasion, like when there is no running water to rinse, easy. If you can pump while driving and feed while buckled into car seat, it saves like 45 minutes every feeding and it adds up if the kids is cluster feeding!

    I like cloth diapers for burp cloths as they are absorbant. I use disposible diapers but I keep diaper pins attached to the diaper bag, so I could use them if in a pinch or the pins to make impromptu bibs in restaurants.

    I TOTALLY agree with you about Medela breast pumps, especially for more than one baby.

    Bottle Warmers-Microwave kills beneficials and can make hot spots but sitting in hot water works.

    My Jury still out about wipe warmers.

    I LOVE My Brest Friend pillow. Great when out and there is not seats with arms as there is more of a shelf and I can rest it on my legs. I admit I didn’t like using it at first but tried it again after a couple of weeks. Where would you stack the pillows when using a single chair when out? I can’t hold my son for 40 minutes, 8+ times a day in a perfect position.

    As for diaper disposal… I have a dog that gets into trash cans and strew the contents all over. I invested in some expensive stainless steel cans from Lowe’s for $90. Yeah, not cheap. But they seal, dog can’t get into them, use regular garbage bags bought at Costco. I can reuse them after we are done with diapers which will be several years as we hope to have at least one more child ie 4.5 years straight of diapers. The cans have a mechanism to step on to open but I just lift with my hand. Others we bought made similarly broke but since I usually just lift I don’t expect it to be a problem. Oh, and there is an inner pail though we haven’t had to wash it out yet.

    By the way, most everything I’ve bought I’ve not paid full price!

  34. Holly says:

    Forgot to say: liners are nice vs smelly used bottle with with dried on milk especially in our 95 degree heat, after 5+ hours in the car

    I pause in the middle of breatfeeding, burp, swaddle, feed, burp. Son falls asleep and I lay him down or place in Fisher price cradle swing(use rechargeable batteries, invest in charger). He sleeps well over 6 hours since just after 2 weeks old.

    Also besides the cloth diapers as burp cloths, I love bibs. I found some medium sized very colorful terry ones at Babies R Us. Between spit up and drool, it saves having to change clothes or unswaddle most of the time.

    Bottle warmers-if it was winter and we were bottle feeding, it’d be nice to be on my second story, take chilled prepared bottle from cooler bag with ice, pop into warmer to take chill off, done in seconds vs going down and then up 10 or 15 stairs in my house to fridge, while exhausted and not awake, to microwave mug of water, wait for bottle to warm, while listening to baby cry, waking whole house, especially the first couple of weeks

    I also the like nursing cover sold at Babies R Us with wire at the top.

    Remember we all done have the same needs/lifestyle

  35. Jen says:

    I love love love my Boppy! I have a very small waist and could never get a regular pillow pulled in tight enough.

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