Skip these so-called "must have" baby items to avoid future sleep problems and save over $500.
By the time I got pregnant, I had personally used nearly every baby gear item on the market.
Between nannying for multiple families, running a daycare, and working as a professional sleep consultant, my list of must-have baby items was narrowed down to the very best. I knew exactly what I wanted for my own child. Even so, at 25 weeks pregnant, going to Babies-R-Us with the “gun” was exhausting and overwhelming. Wasn’t creating a registry supposed to be fun?
In the United States alone, spending on baby gear items topped $23 Billion in 2018. As my Mom would say, “they have everything these days!” My Mom is often bewildered by an incredibly handy baby item I bust out with my daughter (my beloved silicone bum brush!). There is so much great stuff out there to solve problems and genuinely make parenting easier, cleaner, faster, and more enjoyable.
They aren’t all amazing though. Keeping your dukes up about “magical” baby items is a good idea for both your wallet and your sanity. Here are 6 items out there that show up on most registries and must-have lists that I’d like to steer you away from.
1. Rock n’ Play ($60)
This thing is the #1 recommendation I see for registries - usually followed by a horror story about a baby who wouldn’t sleep at all and how this thing saved the day. First of all, the RnP is NOT recommended for safe sleep. The manufacturer even puts this on the box. This is true for many sleep positioning items, and virtually anything other than an empty crib with an approved mattress in a fitted sheet.
Truthfully, you don’t need this sleep positioner or any other. This simply tilts baby upright a bit, suppressing some natural movements, which may help some children sleep a little better at first. Unfortunately, it also tilts baby’s head and neck forward and down, which is not ideal for keeping airways open (hence why it is not approved for safe sleep). Give this a try yourself - try breathing with your chin tilted down toward your chest. It’s not great.
In reality, it may be delaying your child’s ability to find and hold comfortable positions for sleep by herself, and it creates a dependency on the positioning of the RnP for sleep. Babies quickly exceed the RnP weight/length limit and learn to sit up, and then they have to transition to a crib for safety anyway. At best the RnP doesn’t do anything special, and at worst it's not entirely safe for sleep. You can totally skip it. Put baby in the crib for sleep.
2. Dock-a-tot ($175 in white WITHOUT a cover. That’s just mean.)
The dock a tot is another sleep positioner/snuggler, but without the incline of the rock and play.
It too is not recommended for sleep - Despite being pictured everywhere inside gorgeous cribs. What is recommended for sleep, you ask? An empty crib, approved mattress, and fitted sheet. That’s it. That’s all you need!
This is the recommendation for the prevention of SIDS. Alas, this thing is a very expensive pillow, and pillows are a suffocation risk. Skip it.
3. The Snoo ($1,300)
The snoo is a rocking bassinet that responds to your baby’s cries automatically with rocking and shushing, all night long. It’s a very expensive bassinet that virtually insures you will create a dependency on rocking to sleep in your child. Every time your baby stirs (which all humans do, all night) she’ll be looking for the crib to start rocking. Holy smokes. Skip.
4. Swing ($200)
This one will raise a few eyebrows, and even I put a swing on my registry, just in case. But truthfully, I used the (4Moms) swing in my home a few times to try it out and for “something to do,” but it mostly collected dust.
None of the babies I have worked with were soothed better by the swing than by a human being, and the swing is not an approved place for sleep (same airway issue as the RnP). I’ve worked with dozens of families who were desperate to transition their children out of swings to get them sleeping in cribs as they grew too big and the swing became unsafe. Did you know your child may be able to crunch up and over the side of a swing as early as 3 months? In my experience, there’s nothing harmful about swing time if you don’t use it for sleep, but you may find it’s not worth the space it takes up and the money spent for such a short period of time.
5. Bumbo ($40)
Fortunately this thing is falling out of favor these days due to increasing awareness about the poor positioning it creates for babies, but I’d urge you to avoid these types of whole body positioners entirely. Why? Because whatever time you’re using these containers, your baby should be having tummy time!
One of the biggest contributors to independent, all-night sleep is the baby’s ability to position her body comfortably and shift around in her sleep to avoid creating painful pressure points. Skip this item, and get that baby on the floor and moving freely as much as possible to develop those motor skills.
6. Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit ($40)
This suit suppresses twitches and startle movements in older babies who can no longer be swaddled, but stifling these movements doesn’t help baby grow out of them and the suit quickly becomes too tight. Once a baby can escape a swaddle, they have the motor control to no longer need one. Desperate families often ask me how to modify the Magic Merlin or get a bigger one for a baby who can’t sleep without it. My advice is to skip this entirely, and allow your baby to move her body! Up the tummy time and prioritize letting baby develop her motor skills and you won’t need this thing at all. We need to move to sleep comfortably, period.
The truth is you just don’t need these items -
And if you use them you may create a dependency problem down the line. I know some of you reading this may be thinking, “What?! I used the ____ and had no problems!” If that’s you, I ask you to look a little closer at your sleep experience. Was it really all rosy? Did you have zero sleep issues, or were you personally ok with the sleep issues you did have? I hope what you take away from this is that these items aren't inherently evil, but they also aren't any miracle sleep cure.
If you’re totally happy, great! Carry on. But if you’re looking for something different this time around, kick these products out and give 100% crib sleep a try. You’ll sleep better and save some cash (+space!) in your home.
If you find yourself drawn to these items to solve your sleep problems, know that they are not going to do the job. You need to teach your child how to sleep independently, and I can help. You don't have to do it alone, and you shouldn't do it without a plan.
Reach out if you are struggling. You and your child deserve quality sleep.
For help with a baby who is dependent on items like these, see On-Demand Sleep Help.
To learn how to avoid needing these items and what to do instead, see Raising a Sleeper.
Ready to create a baby registry? Amazon will send you an awesome welcome box full of free stuff, and you don't have to spend hours in BabiesRUs. Highly recommend.
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