5 things a parent does NOT need to buy: the first of a series

I see them in the Big Box Baby stores.  They are everywhere.  Scanning, looking, smiling, and scanning some more.  They are expecting parents completing their first baby registry. I watch them debating, deciding.  I know what they are thinking.  I held the scanner in my hand only a few years ago. It is so much fun to think of all the beautiful, new, babyish things that could be added to your new nursery.  Just like those parents, I made lists and checked them twice, full of anticipation.

As I join the expecting parents walking down the seemingly endless aisles of the Big Box Baby store, I notice many items they are scanning are “recommended by pediatricians.”  Really?  Some of these items I have never even heard of!  They certainly did not ask me.  And as I look at the list of newborn “must-haves” provided by Big Box Baby store, I get upset to see some of the recommended items.  Some of the items are certainly NOT recommended, and potentially harmful to your kids.  Some things are falsely promoted and marketed.  Other things are just dumb.

My perspective is different than most of first-time parents.  I know the traps that can be created by some items they are scanning.  I can anticipate the problems they will be asking their pediatrician because of the items in their cart.  As a pediatrician and a mom of 2 young children, my perspective is practical, safe, and cost-conscious.  I love things that make life for over-worked parents easier, but I do not like things that prey on parent’s fears.  Of most concern are the items on the shelves and on the “must-have” list that have been recalled or are specifically discouraged by the AAP.

For the more seasoned parents, I know that you are exhausted, stressed, and just looking for solutions to common problems.  But just because you can buy something for a problem does not mean it is recommended or appropriate.  If you have some of these items, this list is not meant to upset or worry you. I know some of you would swear by the help provided by some of these things.  But, with more product information coming in all the time, we are all just trying to make sound decisions.  I simply am offering a few opinionated suggestions to those of you who may be thinking of purchasing for your baby.  For full disclosure, I have no vested interest in any retail products.  I am just a pediatrician, a mom, and a consumer who wants families to spend hard-earned money wisely.

Walkers. Despite education on the risks of these devices, they are still available in most baby stores.  Walkers are particularly dangerous.  In addition to the harm of injury, walkers don’t actually help your child walk.  In fact, walking as a developmental milestone can actually be delayed by prolonged use of any container device.  These devices (walkers, exersaucers, Bumbo seats) force your baby’s hips into a flexed position.  The devices do the work of the hips for the baby, that’s how they help baby “sit”!  These muscles, however, need to be worked to get stronger.  Babies need tummy time!

I know that with a busy home there will be times you need to place a baby in a safe place.  Limited use of stationary devices can serve this purpose.  Make sure that they are set to the appropriate position, allowing your baby to fully put his feet on the ground.  But, don’t bother with the walkers.

Teething tablets. Keeping your baby comfortable is important during the teething process.  Some kids certainly have a harder time than others.  There are many items marketed to relieve this pain.  When teeth are erupting, it is painful.  Pain needs to be addressed with a pain medicine. For teething, most pediatricians recommend acetaminophen.  Some parents desire a more “natural” option than a pain medicine.  Homeopathic “teething tablets” are marketed for this niche.  Recently, a certain brand of these tablets were recalled due to a variable amount of the active ingredient, belladonna.  Although the amount of this active ingredient is low, belledonna is an opiate.  Many of these tablets have other inactive ingredients such as sugar and lactose.  For recommendations on what to do for a teething infant, check our website.

Baby safe Q-tips. Really?  Don’t stick anything into your infant’s ear.

Sleep positioners. I understand why the thought of these devices may make sense.  If your baby is not sleeping well, it could be due to his position in the bed, right?  I was astounded to find that some of these positioners were as much at $200!! The CPSC recently recommended that all positioners NOT be used due to the risk of suffocation, however these things are still on the shelves.  My problem is that sleep is a discipline. It is a learned behavior.  Buying a device to position your baby is not only potentially dangerous, but defeating the purpose.  I think of those positioners as a “band-aid.”  They temporarily may get baby a few extra hours of sleep, but are not worth the risk and not helping you in the long run.  For more information about sleep positioners and decreasing the risk of SIDS, check out this great blog post by Seattle Mama Doc here.

“Baby” DVDs. These DVDs became popular with the Baby Einstein craze of a few years ago.  A debate centered around these these deceitful discs right before Disney (the parent company) began issuing refunds for their product.  I was very surprised that DVDs were listed as a “must have” on a popular baby store’s registry list. In my opinion, the discs are marketed to a parent who may be feeling guilty because they are unable to play with their baby all waking moments.  The packaging implies that playing a DVD could allow baby to “learn” from another source.  However, we know that putting babies in front of a screen, regardless the content, is not replacement for play. We know these items do not help kids learn. Babies are just as happy on the floor, manipulating some toys and chewing on books. And, being able to entertain one’s self without constant interaction is an important skill for baby to learn. Time alone to safely play can be a great thing.  Please remember the Academy does not recommend any TV viewing until 2 years of age.

So, before you grab your registry scanner, think about your purchases.  Have fun during this time of anticipated joy.  I know that this post is just a blip in the constant stream of advice.  Buying unneccessary and sometimes potentially harmful items, however, is not a good use of resources.  Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns or questions, and ask what products they would recommend for your family.  Good luck!