Know before you buy
- Cpsc.gov and safekids.org are reliable sources for product safety information and announcements about product recalls. You can even sign up to receive email notifications about product recalls.
- Consumer Reports provides reviews of dozens of baby products, from baby food to strollers. By purchasing a temporary membership, you can access reviews online at
Before their first child arrived, Lindsay Vise and her husband — like many new parents — encountered more than they expected when they walked into a store to register for baby gifts.
“It was just completely overwhelming,” Vise said. “We just had no idea. We didn’t know what we needed and what we didn’t.”
Ella Cate Vise is now four months old, and her mother said the family ended up with a few products they’ve never used and a few others it feels like they couldn’t live without.
With new baby supplies coming on the market seemingly every day, it’s no wonder parents have a hard time keeping up. Some products are actually must-haves for infants, many are nice but not necessary, and a few that seem beneficial could actually be dangerous.
While every family’s situation is different, a certain amount of product research can help anyone make good selections, said registered nurse Melissa Hoffman, Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s community education specialist for prenatal and parenting programs.
Everyone needs basics such as bottles and blankets, Hoffman said. When it comes to choosing bigger-ticket items, safety-approved car seats and a crib or bassinet are essential. Cpsc.gov, safekids.org and consumerreports.com provide reliable information about safety and quality.
When it comes to add-on products for car seats and cribs, Hoffman said, use caution.
In many cases, car-seat additions such as padded inserts or head supports have not been approved and could actually compromise the effectiveness of the seat, she said.
The same goes for cribs — which are safer if they’re product-free.
Avoid baby monitors and other products that claim to reduce the risk of SIDS, the National Institute of Child Health and Development warns.
To lessen risk of suffocation, infants should be placed on their backs — preferably in a sleep-sack — in a crib or bassinet with no bumpers, no toys and no extra blankets or devices.
Nice to have
When it comes to baby products, the category of “not essential but nice if you want to spend the money” is vast.
A few examples:
- A bowl of warm water can do the same thing as a bottle warmer, Hoffman said.
- An infant tub can make bath time more convenient for parents, but a sink or a regular tub with a few inches of water does the job just as well.
- If you don’t have a specialized diaper-disposing trash can, a covered trash can that locks to prevent toddlers from opening it does the trick.
- If you want your baby close to you as you go about your day, parents have carried children on their hips for hundreds of years. However, Hoffman said, slings and other carriers — used according to directions — can make “baby-wearing” a lot easier.
“It’s just a nice way to have the baby with you, but without having to physically hold the baby the whole time,” she said.
As for Vise, Lawrence, her favorite products include a Diaper Genie disposal system, as well as a U-shaped Boppy pillow she uses for propping up her baby for both breast-feeding and playtime.
Ella Cate isn’t ready for it yet, Vise said, but she also has a baby-food maker that cooks and purees, in hopes of making feedings cheaper and more convenient.
Cassandra Elwell — wife of Channel 6 chief meteorologist Matt Elwell — had her fourth child, Brooks, six and a half months ago.
When it comes to products, she said, “I think most of it’s not needed, but I have my regular standbys for sure.”
Among those are a mesh feeding bag she’s filled with ice for teething instead of food, and snack cups with covers that little ones can reach in but snacks don’t fall out.
Mary Donnally, Lawrence, had five children between 1976 and 1984.
She used cloth diapers for all but the last, she said, and between the plastic pants covering the diapers and detergents that weren’t as gentle as they are now, her babies’ bottoms weren’t always happy.
“Oh, we had rashes all the time,” she said. “We didn’t have the right products.”
Then, Donnally said, even Johnson’s Baby Shampoo irritated tiny eyes. Later, the no-tears formula improved that. Now, there are even special detergents for washing cloth diapers — which have come back into vogue but with modern conveniences such as plastic snap-style closures instead of long, sharp pins and breathable diaper covers instead of the old plastic pants.
Donnally now has six grandchildren and also volunteers helping new moms in the hospital’s weekly breast-feeding support group.
She marvels at how much safer products have become, and how much more convenient, particularly for mothers on the go.
“Everything is just so much better for the comfort of the babies and the moms,” Donnally said. “Do you need them to raise a baby? No. Does it make it easier, especially here in our culture? Yes.”