Not Completely Unnecessary Baby Products

I was recently made aware of Keith Wilcox’s blog, almightydad.com. In poking around, I came across his most-viewed post, Unnecessary Baby Products. Go on and read it, because this is a completely un-asked-for response to Keith’s article! Fun!

Now, Keith has said that he wrote this list on the premise that the money would be better spent elsewhere – that that these are completely useless. I don’t completely disagree; all of these types of products are “comfort” products. They’re designed to make life easier, but they’re hardly required.

Unnecessary baby product #1: changing table

Keith says, “Wherever the kid does his business is where he gets changed.”

I say, ewwww. We actually have a changing table both upstairs and downstairs. I’m not going to say I’ve never changed the kids on the floor, but our house isn’t a mansion. Walking the 20 feet into the next room to put the kid on the table isn’t that much of a hassle.

Baby Changing Pad

Baby Changing Pad

I should also say, we don’t have a table, per se. It’s actually an easily cleaned changing pad. After all, if the kid starts to squirt when he’s on the living room rug, you have to drag out the steam cleaner. If he squirts on the changing pad, you just wipe it up.

Unnecessary baby product #2: strollers

Keith says, “Strollers are actually quite necessary, but not big fancy fluffy ones.”

I say, I agree. We have a stroller that some might call big or fancy, but it’s not very fluffy. Did you know that Jeep makes strollers?

It's a freakin' Jeep Liberty stroller. Srsly.

It's a freakin' Jeep Liberty stroller. Srsly.

Neither did I, until one was bought for Winter. It’s awesome. It has built-in speakers for an MP3 player or iPod! Still, we don’t go overboard with the accouterments. It’s lasted us over four years, and we’re using it with Ian now. Like Keith, I also recommend not using an umbrella stroller except in one situation: going through the airport. Umbrella strollers are awesome for getting through airport security fast.

Unnecessary baby product #3: baby monitor

Keith says, “It might be just me on this one, but my kids were never out of my sight the first year of their lives, and that’s not an exaggeration.”

I say, I think that’s just you, Keith! Maybe not, but I have to strongly disagree with the baby monitor assessment. Here’s how I use mine: we have two kids. Ian still takes naps at age 9 months, Winter, at four years, generally does not. Winter and Ian cannot be in the same room when Ian needs to nap because she’ll keep him awake. We put Ian in the bedroom for his naps and rely on the monitor not to keep an ear on all the little noises, but to tell us when Ian wakes up. Winter might be watching TV or playing music or games, and without the monitor, I might not hear Ian wake up. For me and my wife, it’s not about accident prevention at all, a point on which I agree with Keith.

Unnecessary baby product #4: bottle warmers and special cleaners

Keith says, “They never get used and take up space in the kitchen.”

I say, well, we use ours. Now, we don’t go overboard with this stuff – we don’t actually have a warmer. Putting the bottle under warm running water is just fine. We do have a cleaner though, because no sponge (even wand-style sponges) fit inside the bottle to clean it. We do not run the bottles through the dishwasher. We also clean the bottles after use (um, usually), not when the baby needs it, so he doesn’t have to wait to eat while we’re cleaning up.

Unnecessary baby product #5: baby-proofing devices

Keith says, “This is a novel concept and all, but I’m an advocate of educating children on what is safe to touch and what is not.”

I say, while I agree wholeheartedly with that, I also believe in baby-proofing to a reasonable extent. Like Keith, we have the corners of tables and whatnot covered up, but we also have cabinet latches. These latches were vital for keeping our daughter out of the cabinets once she started getting mobile. As much as we like to think that the kids are always under our watchful eye, it only takes one brief minute for the kid to open the cabinet under the sink and get her hands on some pretty deadly stuff.

Unnecessary baby product #6: diaper genie

Keith says, “Even if they did work parents get so accustomed to the smell of dirty diapers that it wouldn’t matter anyway.”

The Diaper Genie II: Electric Boogaloo

The Diaper Genie II: Electric Boogaloo

I say, there might be something to that, but the Diaper Genie® and products like it aren’t really that bad. You do need to give it a shot of disinfectant every few weeks between bags to cut down on the smell a bit, but generally speaking, they’re a good thing to have. We might only take out the trash from the kitchen every two to three days, but if we were putting soiled diapers in there, we’d have to do it daily. The Diaper Genie® only gets emptied once a week or so. The major downside? Paying for refills of the bags.

Unnecessary baby product #7: diaper bags

Keith says, “It wasn’t a problem for me to reach into a backpack to get what I needed.”

I say, I totally agree. Diaper bags are generally silly considering a decent backpack will provide just as much storage options and can be used after the kids no longer need a diaper bag.

Unnecessary baby product #8: cribs

Keith says, “ There exist these little folding travel cribs that work just as well and cost a fraction.”

I say, while the folding travel cribs are handy for travel, they’re not great for everyday use. The bottom of a travel crib is only a few inches off the floor, while the bottom of a proper crib is somewhere near waist-height on an average adult. I can’t tell you how much my back loves not having to lay a sleeping baby over the side of a travel crib! A good crib is height-adjustable so the kid will get plenty of use from it, and a great crib will convert to a bed when the kid outgrows the need for sides. The crib we used with Winter is now Ian’s crib, and when he outgrows it, it will convert to be his bed since there are no siblings coming up behind him that will need it.

Finally…

Keith says, “Marketers want us to believe that the products I’ve listed above are necessary and vital to the proper development of our babies. But the reality is that, if money is an issue, these things can be done without.”

I say, I do not disagree with the notion that marketers – and the companies they represent – want us to spend, spend, spend. Heck, I’m a marketer myself, and the three products I mentioned are linked to their destinations via affiliate links. But, I also do not disagree that if money is tight, these might be things that parents can do without. Still, if money is tight, there might be other costs that should be examined first – cable television, perhaps?

This was a fun exercise, and there will be a Part Two from me coming up; Keith wrote a follow-up to his original post that I think is fantastic.

Happy parenting!

~Daniel

About Daniel M. Clark

Daniel M. Clark is a podcaster and proprietor of QAQN, a writer at danielmclark.com, and an all-around cool dude everywhere else.

God, I hate talking about myself in the third-person.

Rude Retro October 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Fun list. I have something similar to the diaper genie and it is great. Of course I do live in a small apartment in Yokohama with very strict rules about garbage collection so the diapers must remain inside a lot.

My wife thinks that you might add diaper to the list of unnecessary products…not true but she wants to try out some diaperless method of raising babies. Apparently you can learn to tell when they are about to go and but them on a potty or something …from a very young age…our girl is just 7 months.

Daniel M. Clark October 4, 2009 at 9:42 pm

I can’t imagine trying to go diaper-less with the baby… that’s just… wow. I honestly can’t imagine. On the other hand, I know someone personally who trained a cat to use the toilet, so I guess anything is possible!

dennisyu October 4, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Daniel,

Good post– I find it interesting how many baby gadgets are potentially useful, but in aggregate create a giant mess of items.  You guys should coordinate on reviewing baby products together in preparation for Christmas, so you guys can make money on affiliate programs.

Daniel M. Clark October 5, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I think that a lot of times, we fall victim to Remote Control Syndrome when it comes to baby and kid stuff – just as every device comes with its own remote (and no universal remote ever works 100% well), every possible problem or activity for kids has its own gadget!

A Geek Dads Holiday Guide is definitely in the works!

Rude Retro October 10, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I think that this diaper free system is not really diaper free. For example, when they are sleeping they wear the diaper. At first anyway. Well our 7 month old has pooped twice in the potty. Yesterday. When we think she is going to go off comes the diaper and on to the potty. It’s quite a bit of work actually as she doesn’t always go.

Ella Caplan November 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

My husband is practically drooling over the Jeep stroller you mentioned. I’m making him wait to see if we win it first (myregistry.com is doing a sweepstakes…keep your fingers crossed for us). Very funny and yet informative article! Keep up the good work!

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