Tips for Avoiding Desperation Purchases?

In those early days with a newborn, did you by any chance find yourself staggering through a Target in search of a swing/bouncy seat/miracle blanket/breast pump? Something—anything—to deal with the demands of caring for a squalling babe? We have a few tricks for avoiding “desperation purchases” in our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. (And now I’m picturing bleary-eyed parents tearing through a book store, desperate for a copy for our book!)

Will your baby feel deprived and sad without this plastic contraption?

Here are a couple questions for our veteran parents:

  1. Did you make any desperation purchases? What did you buy on impulse—and was it worth it?
  2. What tips do you have for new parents who may fall victim to a similar fate?

Let’s help out those expecting parents!


  1. Yep. I did make a desperation purchase.
    But, I am proud to say that I’ve only made one thus far.
    I bought an exersaucer for my girl, and I still feel guilty for buying such a honkin’ piece of plastic. But it has been super helpful when I need to fit in a shower for myself and the baby needs to be safely occupied. However, she is already starting to get sick of sitting in it (the crawling phase has started). So we only used it for a few months. Worth it? Maybe.
    But! My hope is to use it like crazy with our next 2 to 3 children, and then donate it to our church nursery because the exersaucers in there are looking mighty ragged.

  2. I bought an Ergo carrier the night before our first airplane trip with baby. I already had the Maya wrap, but wanted the Ergo because it would free up both hands. Needless to say, the airport was not the place to test out the Ergo but I’m happy to say that we use it a lot now and I love it!

  3. When I felt the need to get an excersaucer, I went to the nearest used baby stuff store and bought the cheapest, simplest one I could find knowing that DD was only going to enjoy it for a few months. I refused to spend a hundred bucks on a huge hunk of plastic that she would outgrow so quickly. Plus, buying used reduces the demand for plastic and the store bought it back from me a few months later!

  4. I made two desperation purchases: one of those huge bed pillow backrest thingies everyone takes to college, but no one keeps in their grown-up house and those microwavable/freezable breast pads.

    The first was a lifesaver, as our headboard is incredibly uncomfortable and I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to lean up against it hour after hour. The second helped a little bit, but mostly was a panic buy.

    I also overbought Lansinoh with both kids, but really, if you’re going to overbuy something, that’s not so bad.

    What we quickly found out with our firstborn was that other parents really, really, really do want you to take their swing/exersaucer/other large baby gear. We bought lots of new for our firstborn, but our second? It’s hand-me-downs all the way.

  5. In the dark hours of the morning when my then 9 month old would flat NOT sleep, I went online and bought one of those sheepskins for babies to sleep on. I’d been considering it for a while, but in hazy desperation at 3 AM I went for it ($70) and luckily it’s been great to have! We took it with us on a LONG road trip so that everywhere our baby slept he’d have a bit of home. He used it in his crib until he got so squirmy he’d get half under it and it just seemed to make him mad.

    Now I’ve lent it to a friend with a 6 month old and she is also in love. It is on my top 10 list for sure!

  6. another Josh says

    My son is still less than 4 months old so I’m far from a veteran parent, but thus far I’ve only made one desperation purchase, which was a swing. I did about 5 minutes of research before rushing out to the local Target, and did a tiny bit of other online research while in the store once I saw what was in stock. I can’t remember what prompted the immediate need for the swing, but I’m sure it had something to do with lack of sleep on everyone’s part.

    We’re very happy with the swing we got. The only downside was the store only had battery operated swings, and I had hoped to get one that could use AC power as well (to save on batteries). Ah, well.

    Most everything else that’s a big baby purchase we took a lot of time deciding on, either to buy ourselves or put on a registry.

  7. I have only a few desperation purchases — mainly sleep related. The ones that didn’t help I returned or sold on Craig’s List.

    My advice: buy stuff used before you are desperate. If you don’t end up using it (or use it only briefly and can’t justify the space it takes up), you can just resell it. Or, when you are desperate, borrow from a friend who is at a slightly different baby-stage than you are (most baby contraptions are only good for a very short stage of babyhood).

    Finally, if you do find yourself making a desperation purchase, save the receipt and packaging and ask about the return policy.

  8. Yes I have made at least one that I remember. When my first daughter was about to be released from the NICU we were only given 24 hours notice. I had a crib but suddenly realized she would need to sleep right beside me so I rushed to the consignment store and bought a $25 used bassinet and sheets without giving it any thought or doing any research on safety, etc. Needless to say, it was totally worthless because she hated it and we ended up co-sleeping in the bed after a week anyway. So I donated it.

  9. I haven’t made many that I can think of when they were really little, but with #3 I desperately bought several baby carriers of all types in the futile hopes she would like one of them. I was wrong.

  10. I’m surprised to learn most of you have done just a couple of those unwanted purchases. I’ve done several, thanks to “BabysRUs kinds”. But the worst has to be the knee pad I bought for my crawling son, which he NEVER wore. What a waste! I could have bought a cute cloth diaper with that money instead…:)

  11. We bought an Infantino sling (yup, the recalled one) when the sling I had made for my post-pregnancy body didn’t fit yet and the little one hated our front carrier. He was maybe a week old. and HATED being put down for any reason. Of course, I took one look at him in the Infantino and realized that he was all scrunched up and uncomfortable (not to mention in danger), and we stopped using it. Luckily, the recall meant that we get some teething toys instead–just in time, since he’s 4 months and starting to teeth!

  12. Despiration purchases are totally normal. I did it! But I learned quickly that it’s so much easier to have less. That, and if I absolutely HAD to have something, I could usually get it at our childrens’ consignment store! For about half the price, I could really splurge on my children! It made them (and me) happy. Also, garage sales and craigslist rock! :o)

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