For every must-have baby item, there are seven more you absolutely, without a doubt, DO NOT NEED. I’m talking about products that prey upon parents who want the best for their child or scare them into thinking that without it, their child is in grave physical danger. I’d list all these bogus money suckers, but it’s almost dinner time. Here are the 15 worst offenders, culled from interviews with experts, moms, and my own old fashioned common sense.
Infrared baby monitors – These monitors not only let you spy on your kid while they’re sleeping (or refusing to sleep), they scan the room for intruders. Relevant for families living in…Baghdad? Come on. You can figure out from a standard baby monitor – or even your own ears - if your infant is asleep, safe and sound.
Bed in a bag – Also known as, junk your baby doesn’t need. Chains push these sets, which typically contain a bumper pad, dust ruffle, and quilt. “These are things that you are not supposed to put in the crib or they are superfluous,” said Alan Fields, co-author of “Baby Bargains.” “The bottom line is all your baby needs is a [fitted] sheet.” Zip your infant into a wearable blanket, like a Halo Sleepsack, and the kid is good to go.
Convertible cribs – Sounds like a money saver, right? But many convertibles transform into a full or queen bed that may not fit in your child’s bedroom. Instead, buy a new or used crib and swap it for a twin bed when the time comes.
Diaper wipe warmer - Fields makes two concessions where this product might have a true need: parents who live in Maine or North Dakota. Otherwise, your kid can deal with cool wipes on their bum.
Bottle sterilizers - “A lot of these sterilization products prey upon a parent’s germ fears,” Fields said. But bottles don’t have to be sterilized because you know what? Your baby isn’t sterile. Your home isn’t sterile. And you aren’t sterile. Germs can be good, people!
Baby videos - “There is a whole range of DVD series that imply they will make your child smarter, when in fact, there is absolutely noevidence that children under 30 months learn from video or TV,” raves Josh Golin, associate director at Campaign for a Commercial-FreeChildhood. The problem is that there is no standard for what makes a toy educational, Golin said. What kids learn from is interacting with their parents, exploring the world around them, even playing with household objects. Who hasn’t seen a child squeal with delight when handed a wooden spoon? Mesmerizing does not equal educational.
Vinci tablet – Beyond smartphone apps for babies is an entire tablet designed for tots. Dubbed a “learning system” that will “inspire the genius,” and which guilt-trips parents into doing “the best today, to be in the best place for tomorrow,” the Vinci device is particularly heinous. The basic model retails for, excuse me? What? Some idiot is going to pay $389 so their mini-me can slobber on a glorified iPod?
Baby knee pads – “I think children can crawl without being in grave danger of serious injury,” quips Lenore Skenazy, author of “Free Range Kids.” But what if my precious scrapes her knee? She could BLEED!
Color changing spoons – These plastic spoons change color to alert you, the helpless naif, that the baby food you are about to force downyour child’s throat is hot. Hot! Save your cash and make a guinea pig out of your pinky.
Thudguard – This helmet is designed for an extremely dangerous activity: walking. That’s right. For $42.95, teach your toddler that what they instinctively want to do is an activity best left to Hollywood stuntmen. Because traumatic brain injury from learning to walk is on the rise. Oh, and pigs can fly.
Walking wings - A marionette-type contraction that let’s you hold up your tot so they can learn to walk more easily. Babies R Us sells a version called the Walking Assistant for $25. With your constant aid, baby will take longer to walk on their own and you’ll have a constant backache.
Baby TV – The BabyFirst TV network promises round-the-clock shows geared for your baby, including Early Bloomers, Breakfast Club, and Baby First Bedtime, for $4.99 a month. That adds up to $59.88 a year. ”It’s totally unnecessary,” said Fields of Baby Bargains. “Babies should not even be watching TV until age 2. It doens’t help their development.”
Baby perfume – Spritz Burberry Baby Touch eau de toilette on your infant and she won’t scare friends and family away with her dirty diapers. Amazon sells a 3.3 ounce bottle for $31.90.
Baby food processors – These miniature food processors appeal to parents with crack pot dreams of making their own baby food, like me. ”The problem is that babies only eat baby food for a very short period of time, roughly six months to a year,” Fields said. Then they can basically eat what you eat, as long as it’s cut into baby sized bites. If you already have a food processor, no need to spend money on a pint-sized one. If you don’t own a food processor, buy a real one that you can use for years.
Baby gates – Plastic barriers are marketed to two groups: baby parents and pet parents. Guess what? It’s the same darn gate, but the pets ones are cheaper.
Julia Scott blogs about saving money on everyday expenses like groceries, gasoline, and gifts at BargainBabe.com.