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What you really need when it comes to babies

There are all kinds of baby products, but a lot of them aren't really necessary. Here are some recommendations on what to get and what to skip.

DENVER — Preparing for a baby can be overwhelming. 

It's a big change, and there's an endless list of products and gadgets that stores and companies try to convince you that you need. You're new to this -- and they know it.

Plenty of those items are absolutely necessary, but many others are quite literally a waste of money. Right out the gate, there's not much that you need.

There are obvious essentials such as car seats (you can't leave the hospital without one) and bottles. The car seat you select is totally up to you, but make sure it fits in your car. 

They're not all the same size, and the space between the front and back seat can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Testing it out can also help you determine where to place the seat (behind the driver or behind the passenger).

Credit: Janet Oravetz

Keep in mind that car seats have expiration dates and should not be purchased or used second hand. There's no way for you to know the car seat's history, whether it's subject to a recall or if it's using outdated safety technology.

Once a car seat has been in an accident, even a minor one, you'll need a new one. In many cases, the cost of a replacement is covered by insurance in the event of an accident. 

Have bottles and formula on-hand even if you plan to breastfeed. I suggest getting a few washed and ready to go before baby is born. I breastfed both my sons, but needed to supplement with formula until my milk came in. The first time around, we hadn't even opened our bottles, so there I was struggling with a baby who was hungry and unable to feed while my husband got the bottles ready. (You're supposed to boil them before the first use so it's a little bit time consuming.)

RELATED: Breastfeeding Awareness Month links and resources

Since we didn't need to supplement that long, most of the formula we bought went to waste. I recommend asking your doctor or pediatrician for formula samples so you have it on-hand just in case you need it (or want to save a little money if you plan to formula feed).

As a mom of two, I've compiled a list of items that I think are lifesavers -- and well worth the money -- and some items that sat around and collected dust.

Things worth buying

Newborn Rock n' Play Sleeper

This product is awesome. It costs around $60, which is relatively inexpensive as baby gear goes. It's small, very light and can fold up for easy travel and storage. 

Both my boys slept in this thing right next to my bed for the first weeks after they were born. If they started crying, I could lean over and rock them back to sleep in the chair. Some of them also come with a setting to allow the chair to vibrate, which seems odd, but is soothing for babies.

Credit: Janet Oravetz

The insert is easy to remove and can be tossed in the wash in case there's an accident, like a blowout diaper or big spit up. (You'd be surprised how much milk can spit up from a tiny baby.)

RELATED: How to pick a pediatrician before your baby is born

The fact that it's light and easy to move around makes this product awesome. We moved it around the house with us all day, you rock it with your foot to calm your baby while you're cooking dinner.  We took it with us when visiting friends or relatives so our boys had somewhere to lay. 

Sure, everyone's going to want to hold the new baby, but eventually, you'll need to put them down. This is a much better option than a blanket on the floor.


The NoseFrida is downright gross, but awesome. If you're not familiar with it, basically it's a device that allows parents to suck on a tube to remove snot from their child's nose. It's collected in a small tube that allows you to see just how much snot was in your child's nose. (Gross, yet oddly satisfying.) 

Credit: Janet Oravetz

It's also easy to clean, which makes it way better than the bulb syringe, which can't be cleaned that easily and are prone to mold (trust me).

Car seat canopy

A carseat canopy was given to us second hand, and we loved it! It's basically a blanket that can be attached to the handle of the car seat. It can easily be flipped down over the seat to block your baby from the wind or the sun while outdoor or in the car.

RELATED: Baby is on the way: Here are the essentials you need to know

It can easily be removed to double as a blanket, nursing cover or diaper changing pad if you happen to forget to bring any of those along 9which you inevitably will).

Quality burp cloths

There are all kinds of burp cloths on the market, but trust me, you'll want to find the biggest and most absorbent ones out there. As noted above, you'll be amazed how much a tiny human can spit up. 

A burp cloth that covers the whole shoulder area and is absorbent is key, unless you want to change your shirt every time your baby eats.

Baby carrier (the wearable kind) 

To be honest, I scoffed at the baby wearing trend before my boys were born. But when they were infants, the baby carrier made life so much easier because it freed up my hands to do other things.

It made grocery shopping so much better, too. You can't exactly push a stroller and a cart through the store. Sure you can bring in your car seat, but it takes up so much room in the cart that's there's not much more room for groceries. There are carts with a special place for the car seat, but I am short, and if I use them, I can't see where I'm going.

Credit: Janet Oravetz

The second time around, it became even more useful, such as during trips to the park or walking around the block while my older son rode his tricycle.

Prices vary greatly -- from about $30 to nearly $200. I found that a $30 one fit my needs. You might want a fancier one or one that offers better support, depending on how often you'll use it.

Boppy pillow 

The boppy feeding and support pillow made feedings a lot easier, especially as babies got heavier. It's a c-shaped pillow you can sit around your waist while feeding your baby. He or she can rest on the pillow while you feed. As they get older, it can also serve as a support pillow for them as they learn to sit up.

Credit: Boppy

It can also help mom's recovery. In the days following birth, I sat on the pillow because its shape allowed me to avoid putting pressure on areas that were healing and sore.

At about $40, they're a little bit pricey, considering it's a pillow, however, we used ours a ton. You can also get covers for them that are removable and washable, which of course is essential for anything baby. 

The company is also based in Golden, so you can feel good about supporting a Colorado company with your purchase.

Things that aren't-so-essential

Sleepsacks, sleep blankets, and crib bumpers

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendsthat babies sleep on their backs on a firm surface with a tight-fitting sheet. Parents are urged to avoid soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys.

Sleepsacks or blankets were introduced as a way to keep infants warm without the danger of blankets. If you have a warm, fleece sleeper, you don't need an additional wearable blanket on top of it, and it could even lead to overheating, according to the National Institutes of Health. The agency says babies cannot regulate their body temperatures well.

They also make it more difficult for those middle-of-the-night diaper changes or feedings.

You also have the option to swaddle your newborn, up until he or she looks like they're trying to roll over.

Grocery Cart Covers

Sure, grocery carts are full of germs, but your baby will be fine without that adorable cover. I had one that was actually given to me second-hand from a friend, but I think I used it about twice.

Credit: Janet Oravetz

It seemed nice, it folded all into itself so it looked like a purse. However, it really was more of a pain than anything. Unless you're parked next to a cart return (which you should do whenever possible), you're holding a squirmy infant while trying to put the thing over the cart's seat. And yes, it folds up into itself, but it's kind of like a camping tent, getting it back the way it was is impossible!

And of course, if it's your second child, you REALLY aren't worried about those germs. 

Car seat covers

If you don't know, car seats and puffy coats on small children don't mix. When the temperature drops, there's concern that your baby could get cold in the car, enter the car seat cover.

RELATED: Coats could put kids in car seats at risk

It's basically a fitted blanket that covers the car seat. You don't need one of these unless you're going to be sitting outside with your baby in their car seat for hours;(if you are, then it might be worth the investment). If your main usage would be while driving around, you can cover them up with a blanket, they'll be fine. It won't take long for the car to heat up, and you don't want them to get overheated once the car warms up and they're all bundled up. 

Infant shoes

Of course, they're adorable, but it's hard enough to get socks to stay on an infant's foot, let alone a shoe.

I can't tell you how many socks were lost during walks or trips to the grocery store. They just don't stay on, and as soon as babies can reach their feet, it's pretty much a game to pull them off. Unless your child is walking, shoes are a total waste of money. 

Crib Mobiles

They're cute and seem like they could be used to soothe your babies, but we rarely used ours with our first son and never even got it out with the second son.

Credit: Janet Oravetz

It got in the way more than anything, especially when putting him into the crib or taking him out. Our son was rarely in the crib unless he was sleeping, which makes the mobile pretty useless.

Bumbo chair

If you're not familiar with it, the Bumbo chair is a floor seat that kind of props your baby up into a sitting position before they're actually able to sit up on their own. We bought one and had a secondhand one given to us -- we rarely used either.

It just didn't seem necessary to prop them up in there, and neither of them seemed to like it that much and attempted to free themselves after about 30 seconds. If you do use one, never put it on a raised surface (such as a table). 

RELATED: Why moms should fill out living wills before going into labor

Diaper Genie, Diaper Champ and all those other special diaper bins

We ended up with both a Diaper Champ and a Diaper Genie because we bought on and got the other as a gift. We had the idea at the time, that we would use one upstairs and the other downstairs so we kept them both.

We used the Diaper Champ more than the Diaper Genie, because you could use your own trash bags.

Credit: Janet Oravetz

With the Diaper Genie, you'll need to purchase special refills, which start to get expensive at about $6 or $7 per refill. They're also not that easy to change and you'll inevitably run out during one of those middle of the night diaper changes. Trust me, you're not going to change then, but you will be cursing.

We eventually quit using both of them. To be honest, I felt like the Diaper Champ ended up smelling worse than the regular trash can. The plastic seemed to absorb the smell of all those dirty diapers.

Save your money, walk those extra smelly diapers to your outside trash can or wrap them in an old grocery bag and toss in the trash.

Now, remember, every parent and baby is different. I'm sharing my opinion on items I felt were useful and items I didn't think were worth it. You may feel differently and that's OK.

Share your feedback or items you felt were essential or just plain wasteful by sending me an email at janet.oravetz@9news.com

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