Baby Gear Health & Safety

Deciding What Baby Gear You Really Need – The Complete Guide

Speaking from experience, when you have a baby it’s easy to wonder how someone so small could acquire quite so many things that completely take over your house!

Diapers, changing tables, clothes, toys, bouncers, high chairs…the list goes on.

We can vouch first-hand that unless you are careful and selective, you will end up spending a huge amount of money buying baby gear that you don’t really need.

To help save you money and avoid clutter, it’s helpful to learn from other parents and listen to their experiences with common baby gear, so you can decide what you and your child really need vs those nice-to-haves that won’t get much use and will just collect dust sitting unused in your house.

Here are some essential pieces of wisdom that we have discovered over the years.

Changing Table

There is nothing to say you absolutely must buy a changing table for your baby, but it’s worth saying a lot of parents (ourselves included) find them to be very useful during their baby’s first year or two.

changing table in a baby's room

Changing tables are universally popular with parents because they offer several advantages, including:

  • No need to bend or hunch over when changing your baby, which is not only more comfortable but also better for your back.
  • Easier to contain messy diapers.
  • Provides a place to store changing essentials such as diapers and wipes

The answer as to whether you really need one will come down to several factors, including:

  • How much space you have
  • Your budget
  • Whether you’re prone to back or neck pain
  • If there are any other flat surfaces in your home that you could convert or use as a changing table.

Changing Table Alternatives

If you want to avoid the cost of buying a changing table, lack the necessary space, or are concerned you won’t get enough use out of one, then the good news is there are some viable alternatives such as:

  • Converting a dresser
  • Using another piece of furniture (desk, dresser, bed)
  • Changing your child while they are standing up
  • Changing your child on the floor with a changing pad
  • Using a folding changing table (which will save you space compared to a regular one).

When To Stop Using A Changing Table

Generally, you will stop using a changing table once your baby:

  • Physically outgrows the table.
  • Weighs over 30 pounds (the maximum for most tables).
  • Moves around a lot during changes, making them unsafe.
  • Your baby is strong enough to resist a change by rolling over and kicking out, which again will make changing on a table unsafe.

Safety Tips

As your baby grows and becomes stronger and more active, changing tables have the potential to become unsafe hazards if not used carefully and correctly.

10 ways you can make diaper changes on a changing table safer are:

  1. Use a changing table safety rail.
  2. Use of a safety strap or some other restraint.
  3. Ensure the table’s surface is concave.
  4. Use changing table toppers or trays.
  5. Keep supplies close by and within easy reach.
  6. Never leave your child unattended.
  7. Keep one hand on your baby at all times.
  8. Ensure the height of the table is comfortable for you.
  9. Inspect the table from time to time.
  10. Know when it’s time to stop using the table altogether.

Diaper Pails

A diaper pail (or diaper genie) is essentially a trash can for used or dirty diapers.

They are designed to store dirty diapers and contain odors thanks to their twisting and locking mechanism, which helps prevent unpleasant smells from escaping.

On balance, a diaper pail is not something you absolutely need, although do they provide convenience, last a long time, and are effective at containing or reducing nasty odors.

However, for parents who have the ability to dispose of their baby’s diapers immediately, buying or using a diaper pail or diaper genie may not be worth it.

Baby Wipes

In the first few weeks, it’s possible to clean your baby with soft paper towels or a clean cloth and warm water if you wish, but most parents find baby wipes to be essential for diaper changes.

mom changing baby's diaper

How Many Wipes Do You Need?

The number of wipes you will need for each individual diaper or nappy change will depend on how messy things are down there and how many wipes you like to use.

Typically, you should find the following information and average number of wipes needed per change helpful:

  • You will need 1-3 for a wet diaper (pee), unless the pee has leaked through.
  • Cleaning a poopy diaper will usually need up to 10, depending on how messy it is.
  • For those extreme poop blow-outs – the ones that leak through to your baby’s clothes – you may need closer to 20.

In the first year, many parents get through a staggering 7,000 to 9,000 baby wipes, which equates to 115 to 150 packs, or in monetary terms, somewhere between $200 and $450 per year.

One thing to be aware of is that while baby wipes do not expire in the traditional way, they are prone to drying out easily if the pack isn’t closed properly and becomes exposed to air.

Over time, and especially once opened, the ingredients in wipes may degrade and stop doing the job they were designed to do, so for optimum performance remember to shut the lid of the pack tightly, store them in a zip lock bag if necessary, and store away from sunlight and heat.

Diaper Bags

For every mom or dad who tells you diaper bags are essential, you’ll find another parent who will claim they are simply not worth buying or putting on your baby registry.

Clearly, you will need to take a bag with you in which you can put essentials like diapers, wipes, and spare clothes when you leave home with your baby.

Large Tote Bag

Diaper bags are popular because they are designed for one thing in mind – carrying baby gear – so they typically come with helpful features such as multiple pockets, pouches, space for baby bottles and even waterproof changing mats attached.

See Also: Diaper Bag Checklist: Essentials For Your Baby AND You

However, you shouldn’t feel like you must buy a diaper bag, particularly if you agree with the parents who feel diaper bags are often too bulky, gimmicky, and overpriced for what they are (especially as you may only give a few years of use out of the bag if you’re only planning on having one child).

Fortunately, they aren’t the only game in town, and five practical alternatives to diaper bags include backpacks, tote bags, fanny packs, clutch bags, and messenger bags.

If you do decide to use a diaper bag alternative, remember to buy a separate changing pad ideally what you’re looking for is something that’s lightweight, foldable, machine washable, and has a soft cushion padding to make changes as comfortable as possible for your little one.

Bottle Warmers

Baby bottle warmers are designed to take the guesswork out of warming your child’s bottle of milk.

Most contain an area or chamber in the center in which you place your baby’s bottle, before filling the space around the bottle with a certain amount of water.

multiple bottle warmers

You then turn the device on by turning a dial or pressing a button, and once the cycle is finished you can remove the bottle and you’re good to go.

Typically bottle warmers are not an item that you need to have, so they’re usually best classified under the nice-to-have camp.

Some of the pros of bottle warmers include heating milk to a consistent temperature, saving time and allowing you to multitask.

On the other hand, bottle warmers take up valuable space in your kitchen, can cost up to $100, require cleaning and descaling, and are often not as fast as you may think (they still take a few minutes).

Personally, we found that putting a bottle in a container of boiling water worked just fine, but we acknowledge this isn’t necessarily the best solution for everyone.

Baby Bouncer

A baby bouncer is a soft, comfortable seat that is attached to a plastic or metal frame.

They can range from low-tech manual models that rock due to your baby’s movement, to battery or plug-powered versions that have features such as music and toys that are attached to the frame.

Bouncers provide a number of benefits for babies and parents alike including providing some rest bite for mom and dad while offering stimulation and a sense of calm for your baby.

baby sitting in bouncer

For what it’s worth we loved using a baby bouncer, and from Isabella’s reaction we know she did too!

As long as your baby is strapped in, supervised and their neck is supported (this will happen naturally if the seat extends beyond their head), then baby bouncers and rockers are safe for newborn babies, which means you can start using one from birth.

In terms of when to stop using a bouncer, there are typically two things to consider:

  1. Manufacturers of baby bouncers and rockers set a maximum recommended weight limit for each of their models, which is usually around 15 to 20 pounds (7-9kg).
  2. Once your child can sit up by themselves, they could potentially tip the bouncer over – typically most babies can sit up by the age of 6 months, and for some babies, this can be sooner, at around the 4-month mark.

High Chairs

A high chair is essentially an independent, free-standing chair that has its own, wide-based lags.

They come in various designs and styles and often have features like footrests, safety harnesses, removable cushions, and a tray.

toddler sitting on a high chair while being fed

Pros & Cons Of High Chairs

Some of the pros of high chairs include supporting your child in place without the risk of sliding or falling off as well as their durability and longevity.

Cons include the cost (some models can cost $200 or more, while many options and models are bulky, take up a lot of space, and aren’t particularly attractive.

When To Start Using A High Chair

A baby can start using a high chair when they have the necessary level of strength and stability, which means they should be able to hold their head steady and sit upright.

Most babies are therefore ready to start using a high chair at around 6 months old, although some babies may take a little longer before being ready.

When To Stop Using A High Chair

Typically most children transition from a baby chair between the ages of 18-36 months.

Some key signs your baby is ready to give up their high chair include:

  1. They want to copy you and sit in a grown-up chair.
  2. They are fussy in their high chair.
  3. Your child has become too big for their high chair.
  4. They are able to unbuckle themselves.
  5. They understand that grown-up chairs are not for playing with and standing on.

High Chair Alternatives

If you are struggling for space, are on a tight budget or have an uncooperative toddler, then the good news is there are some alternatives to high chairs out there, which include:

  • Booster seats, which we covered above.
  • Booster pads or cushions.
  • Folding high chairs.
  • Travel harness seats.
  • Hook on seats.
  • Toddler towers.
  • Chair boosters.
  • Sitting on mom or dad.

Booster Seats

Booster seats on the other hand are essentially small, cushioned seats.

They are designed to give your little one some extra height and are a great option if your child needs some extra support to keep them in position and to prevent slipping or falling off while eating.

However, because they don’t offer the same support as a high chair, booster seats are better suited for older babies and toddlers.

Baby Carriers

Babywearing has many benefits, from helping you bond with your baby to freeing up your hands for other activities such as preparing dinner, looking after your other children or even doing some grocery shopping.

You can start using one from the day your baby is born, provided you choose the right one and follow some basic safety advice, such as taking regular breaks, checking your baby regularly, ensuring your baby is in the correct position, and reducing or avoiding usage in hot weather to avoid your baby overheating.

woman carrying her child in a baby carrier

5 popular and different types of baby carriers include:

  • Wraps are the most basic type, as it’s simply a long, wide piece of fabric that you wrap around your body. They are simply, cheap and a great choice for newborns because they provide a safe and warm environment for you and your baby to bond.
  • Slings consist of a long piece of fabric with two rings at one end. As they only go over one shoulder, slings are a good choice in hot weather, but if you suffer from back or shoulder pain then it’s best to avoid slings.
  • Soft structured carriers (SSC) have padded shoulder straps and a thick, padded waistband that you fasten around your waist. They are easy to use and comfortable to wear, and are suitable for newborns, as long as they include a head and neck support.
  • Mei Tai is a cross between a wrap and buckle carrier; they look similar to an SSC but have two shoulder straps and two waist straps.
  • Backpack Carriers are like a mini backpack to carry your child in, and are designed for toddlers and older babies who have developed head and neck control. Although they can be expensive and bulky, they are an excellent choice if you want to take your little one on a big walk.

Car Seats, Bases & Covers

There’s a high chance you’re going to be taking your child on car journeys, in which case a car seat is essential.

mom adjusting the belt in her child's car seat

In terms of location, the middle rear seat is the safest location for your child’s car safety seat, because statistically, this is the safest location in the event of a fatal crash.

For various reasons the middle seat may not be an option, in which case the next safest place statistically is the rear seat behind the passenger, then the rear seat behind the driver, and lastly the front passenger seat.

Keep in mind the AAP recommends that all children under 13 ride in the back of the rear seats of vehicles, but if this is not possible and you need to put your baby in the front seat, you must ensure the airbags are turned off.

Single Cab Trucks & The Law

If you own a truck, then you’ll be pleased to hear that in the USA it is legal to transport your child in a single cab truck, provided you follow the following regulations:

  • Only use the front seat if there is no alternative (which means no rear option).
  • Use the appropriate model for your baby’s height and weight.
  • If using a forward-facing seat, make sure it’s attached using a top tether.
  • At least 85% of your child’s car seat must be supported by the passenger seat / bench of the truck.
  • The passenger airbag(s) must be turned off.

What About Expiration Dates?

Most infant car seats and car seat bases expire within 6-10 years after their manufacturing date (not the date when you purchased the seat).

Most car seat manufacturers list either the date of manufacture or expiration date – this information can either be found on a sticker attached to the car seat or printed directly onto the seat.

Most bases have a small white sticker somewhere on the base, which contains information about the date of manufacture, serial number, model number, and expiration date.

In the US it is not illegal to use an expired infant car seat, but this doesn’t mean it’s something you should ignore.

Car seat and car base expiration dates are in place to protect against using a seat that may have experienced wear and tear, and to take advantage of evolving safety and technological advancements.

Car Seat Covers

Car seat covers offer protection against the elements when transferring your baby to and from the car, and help keep your baby warm when on a long car journey.

For safety reasons, children should not wear thick clothing when in a car, because this poses a serious safety risk.

This is where car seat covers come in, as they are designed to keep your baby warm, comfortable and most importantly safe – but it’s vital you only use the right type.

Some winter car seat covers, such as “sleeping-bag” style covers, are not safe for use when driving, because they contain a layer that goes between your baby and the car seat straps, and this may compromise the safety of your child’s car seat in the event of a car.

So to be on the safe side, it’s best to only use one that is sold by your car seat manufacturer and that they state is safe to use with your model of car seat.


In terms of must-have vs. nice-to-have, it’s fair to say that strollers fall into the first camp, and most parents will tell you they can’t live without their baby’s stroller.

woman pushing stroller in the park

From experience, I can say that apart from those days when the weather was so bad that you couldn’t use a stroller, we used ours every single day for the first few years of our daughter’s life.

Probably their biggest advantage is their ability to enable you to move around freely with your baby, but their highly useful storage capacity is also a big benefit, especially given how much baby gear you need to take with you even on a short trip out of the house!

Unlike car seats, it’s worth noting that baby strollers do not have official expiration dates.

Strollers are made from very durable materials such as metal, rubber, and hard-wearing fabric.

These materials can take a large amount of wear and tear before they become truly unusable, so even if a stroller has some scratches, minor dents, rusting, and the odd rip to the fabric, the overall integrity of the stroller is unlikely to be compromised and it can safely be used regardless of its age.

A Word About Toxins

assortment of crayola markers

Despite our best efforts, most babies and toddlers like to put things in their mouths, and sometimes even the most watchful parents can’t do anything about it.

Fortunately, the manufacturers of children’s toys and accessories know this and therefore ensure that the components and ingredients in their products are safe for infants.

For example, Crayola states that their markers, as well as their crayons, are non-toxic.

The story is the same for commercially-made play-doh, which is also non-toxic.

Play dough also contains coloring agents, so some children may have an allergic reaction to these ingredients too.

If your child shows any signs of an allergic reaction then you should of course seek medical help immediately, but for most children, however, eating small amounts is unlikely to have a serious effect.

Nick is a passionate dad who co-founded Rockinbaby to share his parenting journey with other new parents. He has a BSc and MBA, and works as a senior marketing professional. In his spare time Nick loves watching sports, staying fit and traveling. Learn more about Nick here.

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