What baby products do you actually need?

Shopping for baby products can be very overwhelming, especially when you consider some of the biggest ticket items like the new crib, the baby’s car seat, and a stroller. It’s a lot of information for someone who may not have ever step foot into the baby section at the local department store.

You may be tempted to load up your shopping cart with all sorts of items that are really just a waste of money, because you don’t want to feel like you’re being a horrible parent even before the kid is even born. At the same time, you want to avoid falling victim to the guilt-laden marketing tactics of the baby products industry. Where do you draw the line?

Now that I’ve experienced fatherhood first hand for the last year and a half, I can look back and objectively recognize some of the invaluable items we picked up that we may not have initially planned on buying at all. Here are a few that come to mind.

A Cool Mist Humidifier

Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier

This might sound like just a “cool” or “cute” luxury item for yuppie parents, but having a humidifier in the baby’s nursery is actually remarkably functional. Babies don’t really know how to clear their nostrils (and they haven’t figured out how to pick their noses yet). A humidifier helps with breathing, plus it comes with the added benefit of working like a white noise sleep machine.

We have the frog-shaped version of the Crane Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, which comes in several other designs. One of these usually goes for about $40 or $45.

A Warm Cover for the Car Seat

Jungle Theme Cozy Cover

This will naturally depend on the time of year and the kind of climate you can expect in your area. For the first while, we simply bundled up our little one in a blanket when we strapped her into her car seat. The problem is that blankets can fall off or get in the way. You also don’t want her to wear a thick coat, since that significantly reduces the effectiveness of the car seat.

A great solution would be something like the Jungle Theme Cozy Cover shown here. Selling for about $20, it wraps over the car seat while still providing easy access to the baby with a pull down flap and dual zippers.

A Contoured Changing Pad

Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad

We thought we could get away with just laying a towel on the dresser. That works in a pinch, but something like the Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad is a far better solution. The contoured shape and the safety strap help baby stay in place while you’re changing his diaper. Wash the covers now and then and you’re good to go.

Seeing how a typical changing pad is about $20, it’s a very small investment in your comfort and peace of mind.

A Multi-Purpose Hand Blender

Breville BSB510XL Immersion Blender

When it comes time to graduate the little one to solid food, you’ll want some way to puree a lot of it. Relying on pre-made, store-bought baby food isn’t exactly ideal. Initially, we thought we could just use our existing food processor and we didn’t want to invest in a dedicated machine for making baby food.

Eventually, we decided on the Breville BSB510XL Immersion Blender. It’s a hand blender that we use not only to blitz the food right in the bowl, but also to make those delicious smoothies she loves so much. This kit, which includes some additional accessories like the chopping bowl, sells for about $100.

An Extra Pack of Burp Cloths

Carter's Burp Cloths

You can never have too many burp cloths. We thought that we already had a lot, but somehow we’d keep running out. We turned to using old t-shirts or even receiving blankets. If you’re not sure you have enough, then you might need to pick up a few more. I like the Carter’s Burp Cloths we have. The cotton is super soft and the rounded edges are neatly stitched up.

Unsurprisingly, they come in a huge range of colors and designs. A four-pack can usually be found for less than $20.

What Did I Miss?

Are you a veteran parent who has been around the playpen more times than you care to count? Are there any baby products you wish you had, but neglected to purchase at the time? A better carrier? A swing or bouncer? A miracle cream or sleep aid?