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For the first few months of my son’s life, he woke up like clockwork around 3 a.m. Each night, I would pick him up, plop down in the rocking chair, and nurse him for 20-30 minutes before he fell back asleep. More often than not, I spent that time scrolling through Amazon reviews on my phone and pressing Buy Now.
I’m not the only new mom guilty of a heavy thumb – and I suspect I’m not the only one who ended up with regrettable products. We had a steady stream of Amazon boxes arriving at our door, and let’s be honest: They couldn’t all be winners.
Before I run through the losers, a caveat: product recommendations are very personal – every family has different needs and styles. Some of my "losers" might work well for other parents (just read the reviews!).
A pillow to correct flat head
Infant torticollis made my son's neck turn more easily to the left, which caused that side of his head to develop a flat spot. He had physical therapy to stretch out his neck and encourage him to look the other way while awake, but he still primarily turned his head to the left while he slept. After two months of diligently trying to turn his head while he slept (only to have him turn it right back), I bought a very expensive pillow that was supposed to help correct flat head (though these products are not recommended for safe sleep).
However, I ordered it just as he started to roll around in his sleep. We only used it for a few days before we gave up. Thankfully, once he started rolling around, the flat spot disappeared. But the pillow was non-refundable (and not safe).
What to buy instead: Skip the pillows altogether, as they are not recommended for safe sleep. Instead, babies should sleep on a firm, flat mattress with just a fitted sheet (and nothing else!). Ask your doctor about any flat spots you notice on your baby’s head; repositional therapy is most commonly recommended.
Gimmicky sleep sacks
There are lots of products out there that claim to help babies sleep better during the infamous 4-month sleep regression. During this time, many parents stop swaddling their babies because they're starting to roll over, and sometimes babies wake up more often even if they had been sleeping through the night. It’s brutal, and thus, products.
There’s the Swaddle UP, the Zipadee-Zip, the Nested Bean, Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit, and more. Some parents swear by them. I tried the Zipadee-Zip and the Nested Bean, and neither really worked markedly better than a normal sleep sack. They were just more expensive. In the end, it just took some time for my son to adjust, but he eventually got used to being swaddle-free without the gimmicks.
What to buy instead: Carter’s offers affordable sleep sack sets in light cotton for the summer and warm fleece in the winter. A set of two is often less than $20, and it seems like Carter's is always running a great sale.
Light projection toy
One day, I was lamenting to another mom about my failed attempts to put my son down “drowsy but awake.” Getting him to fall asleep on his own seemed key to our sleeping woes, yet I had no idea how to do it.
This mom told me that her daughter fell asleep on her own watching the lights and movements of her mobile. My mobile (while very cute) doesn’t move, and I bought a night light that played sounds, but didn’t project light, so I decided that must be the answer.
I scoured Amazon and settled on a very adorable plush owl that can attach to your crib and project colorful stars. Unfortunately, every way I tried to position the owl made the lights point towards the inside of the crib, and that did a better job of keeping him awake than helping him fall asleep. Eventually we settled into a nighttime routine – but he still falls asleep in my arms.
What to buy instead: Skip the light show altogether. We love the Hatch Baby Rest, which acts as a nightlight and sound machine that you can control from an app on your phone. It’s pricey though – so make sure you register for it!
I told my husband I was writing this story and he replied, “You’re including the Snuzzler, right?” I will never live the Snuzzler down.
The Snuzzler is essentially a full body pillow for infants that you can use as stroller insert. Another mom told me she used it to support her baby front-facing in the stroller when he was still slightly floppy, which intrigued me. At that point, my son was about 6 weeks old and I literally bought anything recommended to me, without thinking about what we actually needed. I didn’t even want to put my son front-facing in the stroller (I wanted to see his face!). So the Snuzzler just sat around for months as a reminder for me to think before buying.
What to buy instead: Nothing! The moral of this story is to take some time to think about what you really need before buying every little thing that someone else recommends. And many strollers are not intended for newborns – check your stroller's manual to make sure your baby is developmentally ready for yours.
When I was able to stop nursing my son in the middle of the night and calm him with a pacifier, it was a beautiful thing. But then came the issue of finding the pacifier in the crib in the middle of the night and popping it back in as quickly as possible. I was so sure that a glow-in-the-dark pacifier would help us find it in a split second. Unfortunately, they don’t really glow in the dark -- at least not consistently in a room with a nightlight. I just paid a dollar more for a pacifier.
What to buy instead: Instead of relying on glow-in-the-dark functionality, buy a couple of extra normal pacifiers and keep them near the crib at night so you can easily find one. We love the MAM sensitive skin pacifiers that keep my drooling baby’s skin rash-free.
Nursing pads in bulk
I accidentally ordered a Costco-sized box of nursing pads shortly after coming home from the hospital – and then I found yet another box of the same pads that I already had received as a gift. It was truly more pads than any new mom could ever need – especially since I didn’t really leak that much, and when I did, I found the pads so itchy I couldn’t stand them. I gave them away to various friends and donated the unopened boxes. My tip is to wait to see if you actually need nursing pads before you buy a gazillion of them.
What to buy instead: One item I found very handy to have in bulk was breast milk storage bags. They are super portable, easy to store, and you can use them for other things once you’re done breastfeeding.
Something I’ve realized: a wipe is a wipe is a wipe. Do you really need separate diaper wipes, hand and face wipes, pacifier wipes, surface wipes – and every other kind of wipe out there? No. Now I buy wipes that are primarily water-based (like Water Wipes or Pampers Pure) and they work for all our needs.
What to buy instead: If you’re worried about your baby’s pacifier dropping on the ground, buy a clip instead! TYRY.HU clips are adorable and double as teethers.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.