Are mobiles necessary?

Every child is unique. Some love to suck on pacifiers until they are well beyond three years old, while others never use them at all. Which causes me to wonder if anyone’s child got use out of their crib mobile?

Well, I’m not entirely sure about the need for a mobile. My daughter couldn’t have cared less about the mobile we had hanging over her crib. I don’t think we ever wound it up more than a handful of times. We ended up donating it way before we moved her into a bed. Are you depriving your child by foregoing a mobile? Are they going to miss out on early child development, because you failed to supply them with a spinning musical mobile? I doubt it.

Granted, some kids love their mobiles and they help them fall asleep. But, a one-size-fits-all guide to raising a baby is not realistic. I guess what I’m saying is, there is no magic toy that all babies need. Mobiles are a traditional product that parents have come to attach to their cribs with little or no hesitation. Maybe it’s time to pause before buying baby gear simply out of habit.

Is there a “can’t live without it” baby product that your son or daughter ended up not paying attention to? I have a fairly long list of things that my daughter easily lived without.

51 Comments for “Are mobiles necessary?”

  1. posted by Karen on

    All three of my kids loved the mobile. When it broke, I immediately replaced it, kept the old one around for parts, and combined the two when the second one broke (I kept getting tangled in it).

    Do the kids “need” a mobile to grow up normally? Absolutely not. Should you buy baby gear out of habit? No.

    But…people buy these traditional toys because they work. Not for everyone obviously, but for the majority. Seventeen years ago, as a new parent, I remember be bombarded with ads for the latest must-have gadget for my baby. Relying on the old standards is one way of filtering out the noise.

  2. posted by Karyn on

    I bought a mobile for my oldest, but it never helped him sleep, so we took it down fairly soon after we brought him home. And I didn’t bother with one for our two youngest.

    None of my children ever wanted anything to do with a pacifier; my first actually threw one at me when he was four months old and I offered him one!

    The Boppy pillow was pretty much useless for all three of my kids; didn’t help with feeding at all.

    Baby swings were also useless in this household; my oldest “adapted” to the swing no matter what speed it was on, so that it didn’t help him fall asleep or entertain him at all; my second child detested even being put in the swing, so again, we didn’t bother with one for our third.

    It’s funny how you learn, as you have more kids, what works and what doesn’t, at least for your own children.

  3. posted by becoming minimalist on

    genius. i can even remember my wife saying, “that’s just what you do. you buy one of these for your baby.”

    except for a blankie…

  4. posted by Shalin on

    I think babies and infants up to 3 enjoy them – generally. I’d suggest a rotating light-throw version (like a bulb in the middle of a metal piece with cut out shapes of stars, moons, etc.), however, the tactile nature of the mobiles is really something kids seem to enjoy.

    I guess the question is “how much do the kiddos get out of the products anyhow?” If the answer is “not much” – well, the value isn’t really there in the first place.


  5. posted by Jen on

    This is why I think baby consignment stores are such a wonderful invention — you can’t know in advance which things your baby will respond to.

    Baby sling — baby couldn’t stand it after about three weeks. (My niece was in hers past two years, just on the hip.) Bouncy chair — only way my daughter would nap besides on my person. (My niece never used one.)

    Baby consignment stores let you buy the stuff you might need cheap, and then offload the stuff you find useless quickly.

  6. posted by Sue on

    My son was comforted more by the music it played than by the motion. Of course, he also feel asleep the quickest when we played “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” at a low volume—LOL!

  7. posted by Emma on

    My son loved his mobile, I have a beautiful video of him lying on his back watching it and getting excited every time a new bird came round. Now he’s 2 1/2 it’s not got the dangly bits but we have to turn the music and light on for him every night – and he turns it on himself in the morning. 😉

    The trouble is, you don’t know if your child will love something unless you try it – which is why toy libraries are a good idea!

  8. posted by Briony on

    I had a premature baby rather unexpectedly and hadn’t got around to doing much shopping before the sudden arrival. Once we were all home, life was far too crazy to go shopping and I came to realise that really babies don’t need too much. We never had a bouncing chair, or a donut ring or a baby gym, and just laid our fellow on a blanket on the floor at home. We used what we had to amuse him (bright things in net laundry tablet bags, hung off nearby furniture were always a hit, or anything blowing in the wind). We rolled up another blanket to support him for “tummy time” when he was a bit bigger. But I did (and do) get a lot of mileage out of a mobile given to us, I loved the sling (a total lifesaver for me). I try and borrow anything large from our local toy library to try it out before purchasing. So many times our fellow has gone nuts over a toy or gadget for a few days before getting bored with it – the toy library has saved our home from becoming a dumping ground for fads. Our branch has a lot of baby equipment and is always really happy to take donations to keep my attic clear.

    I really think there is a great deal to be said for not going shopping before you have the baby and have a better idea of what works for you. It’s another reason I don’t like the ghastly baby shower phenomenon which is creeping over to the UK from America.

  9. posted by sarah on

    we purchased, did not use, and subsequently sold or donated:

    1. mobile
    2. bouncy seat
    3. a fold up swing
    4. “floor gym”
    5. johnny jumper
    6. activity table
    7. cosleeper bed

    (fortunately, most of this stuff was purchased from yard sales and consignment sales, so it was easy to part with).

    we did use an exersaucer (from about 3 months until 6 months) and a big swing that rocked side to side (vs. front to back) — and they were LIFESAVERS.

    the problem is, you’ll never know will work and won’t work for your kid in advance. and when you’re registering for massive amounts of stuff, you get sucked in. we learned to borrow things, for a test run, and if it was a hit, we either extended our borrowing, or went and bought the item ourself….

    that’s my take.

  10. posted by Cecily T on

    My daughter liked the mobile, and the motor part/music box part continues to get use in her crib, as she likes to push the buttons. She’s over 1yo, so too old to have the dangling toys (she’d pull them down) but loves the music, and that she can do it herself.

    My mom was adamant that we needed a walker, and she only used it for about 6 weeks. She hardly ever used the bouncy seat, as she wouldn’t stay in it awake, and she used the swing for sleeping.

  11. posted by Margo on

    After having five kids I have found that children need a lot less than we think. How many children have grown up just fine through out history with nothing more than a crib and a few toys?

    Yes, some kids enjoy certain toys better than others, but you really don’t have to have any of it. I haven’t even bought a mobile since my first child – who never even looked at the thing. The number one favorite baby/toddler toy in our house is a basket full of poker chips.

    Every child I have had would prefer interacting with another person over a toy any ways.

  12. posted by Erin on

    I can think of TONS of “necessities” that are gathering dust.
    The bouncy seat, the boppy pillow, bottle warmer, wipe warmer, bottles in general, newborn clothes (most only worn once!), baby mitts, socks, carseat toys…
    If only we could get back the money we spent on those….

    What we use all the time – the swing, the Moby wrap, cloth diapers (for wearing and for burp cloths)
    Simplicity truly is key…You don’t need much but if you think you “have” to have something, borrow it until you know whether or not your baby is going to actually use it!

  13. posted by Dariaclone on

    We were trying to hold out on gear, but made an emergency trip to the store to buy a swing in the first week. Our son loves the swing and we couldn’t live without it! But, he does not have a mobile; he just uses the crib for sleeping not playing.

    It really is difficult to figure out what your kid, and you, will like.

  14. posted by Gabriel on

    We use the mobile nightly. He loves his swing, floor gym, and bouncy seat. So far, he pukes every time we put him in his exersaucer, but then he’s happy for about 45 min.

    The Boppy pillow was a waste. He’s too heavy to hold himself upright in a Bumbo, and he’ll probably get to be too big before it’s useful.

    He has no use for pacifiers, which is a huge relief. I didn’t want to have to break him of that habit later.

    We’ve got two Pack-n-plays (one downstairs and one at Grandma’s). The downstairs doubles as a second changing table, but is completely unnecessary. Having one at Grandma’s is definitely worth it to reduce packing needs, but is also a reminder to her of how little we visit.

  15. posted by Chica & Jo on

    The wet wipe warmer is my favorite waste of baby space! It’s not like you can warm his wipes everywhere you go so why bother having this gadget taking up room on your changing table?

  16. posted by Laureen on

    With my first baby, we had allllllll the stuff. And promptly used almost none of it. We lived in a house at that point in our lives. Now, we live on a boat, and I just had my third baby here nine weeks ago. Here’s what was critical to have:
    * A good baby sling (I like the Beco Baby Carrier)
    * 25 cloth diapers
    * 10 fitted trainer-size dipes
    * blankets
    * clothes
    * hats that aren’t annoying

    Otherwise? The rest of it is just stuff and junk. You can use other stuff… but it’s not really necessary. When you live in a teeny space you really think through what you really *need* versus what you could possibly use.

  17. posted by Tracy J on

    Baby contraptions that were absolute lifesavers with my first child were completely useless on my second (and viceversa) and to this they are very different grown personalities and different things excite or upset them.

    The only things I can really say worked for both were the nubby ball (a soft, inflated rubber ball that had easy to grab nobs on it)they both loved it – one wanted to shake it and through it, the other loved sucking on it,but the affection was still there for it- and playing with the plastic measuring cups and other stacking and nesting tupperware in my plastics cupboard. They both preferred my “real” stuff over the brightly coloured baby toy versions.

  18. posted by Erin on

    This is absolutely true, but what I have found is that the “must-haves” and “never used” are so different from family to family and even from kid to kid. For instance the mobile – we use it all the time, but never to help them fall asleep. It is just great for keeping them amused in their cribs when you need to put them down to do something. In the morning while I am finishing getting ready I put my daughter in her crib, turn on the mobile, and she loves to watch it go round. My older daughter was the same way.

    Other must-haves – boppy pillow, I can’t nurse comfortably without it. Bouncy seat, great for having them “sit” before they can sit.

    Wastes of space for us – wipe warmer, baby gowns, baby mitts

  19. posted by C on

    I don’t like crib bumper pads. They’re complete safety hazards, though the few times my daughter got her leg stuck through a slat I kind of wished I had them. But that’s only 2-3 incidents in almost 2 years!

  20. posted by Jen on

    Not only that, but our mobile keeps our baby UP and cooing all night, so it really isn’t doing what it should!

  21. posted by Mike on

    We went looking everywhere for a mobile arm that would fit our crib b/c it was thicker than most. We finally found one and it turned we used it a handful of times. It turned out it was used more for just looks than anything else. They don’t play music very long and then if you go to turn it on again the turning of the knob would wake the baby up so what we did get was the Fisher price aquarium and that has been great b/c the baby can turn it on and off by herself now that she is old enough.

  22. posted by Nat on

    We use a mobile made of a photo hanging system and little IKEA finger puppets of fish that are oriented so that the faces look downward. However, we don’t use it over the crib. We use it over the changing table. Our baby loves it. Sometimes we’ll just hang out at the changing table and watch the fishes float by.

    Having said that, a lot of mobiles really are more nursery decor than tool. One way you can tell is that a lot of the creatures and animals are hanging so that they can be enjoyed when viewing them from an upright position. If you were the baby underneath, all you’d see are the bottoms.

    I also have to agree that it’s hard to know what you’ll need with a particular baby until he/she is there. A lot of it will depend on what style of parenting you’ll be doing and the baby’s temperament.

    We happen to use our bouncy chair, baby gym, and Boppy frequently. We transitioned to a crib pretty easily whereas other parents might not use a crib at all as I see in many descriptions for cribs on Craigslist.

    Unfortunately, we seem to have a glut of baby chairs or things baby can sit in at our house, because of gifts from various well wishers. At least we can eventually get rid of them and have the excuse that our daughter outgrew them.

  23. posted by Michele on

    Our high chairs. We ended up using the 3 stage reclinable feeding chairs. They took up way less room so we never used the high chairs.

  24. posted by Matt on

    I saw a young girl with a Blackberry the other day. Then I saw that she was doing what looked like some pretty complex maths homework, while out with her parents in a cafe. So she probably earned it!

  25. posted by Matt on

    Of course, if I’d read more than the first few words of the article I would have realised that you mean the hanging mobile, not the UK-word-for-cellphone mobile. Sorry. Won’t happen again.

  26. posted by Holly on

    My first two daughters didn’t really care about the mobile one way or the other, but my third really liked and responded to hers.
    Oh, and someone insisted we needed a wipes warmer for our third daughter. It lasted about a month.

  27. posted by Carrie on

    Before we had our daughter, I asked been-there-done-that moms which items they couldn’t do without, and which items they thought were a waste of money. This helped a lot, as it prevented unneccesary purchases. My husband didn’t think we needed a swing, until we were at a dinner party at a friends home – we popped the Peanut into their baby’s swing and she promptly fell asleep. There was a swing in our home shortly after.

    We did have a mobile, and it was used until she could pull up and grab at it. We have one of those let’s-take-it-apart-to-see-how-it-works kids, so it had to come down. Other parents have been able to leave mobiles up longer, but not us!

    I think change tables are one of the most overrated baby items. We refurbished an old dresser to match her room, and added a change table pad on top. When she’s out of diapers, it will still be a dresser. A change table always looks like a change table, even if you repurpose it to another room.

    My must have, that I wish I had right from day one, was my Hotsling pouch sling. I didn’t get it until she was 6 months old, and I still wonder why I waited so long.

  28. posted by Raisin on

    Our son loves his mobile.

    The one thing that we got that we can’t live without is the mei tai.

    We got two bouncy seats before he was born (at the baby shower). One stayed in the box, the other was only used a few times.

    The bottom line is that every baby is different. Finding out what each baby likes and dislikes is all part of the fun.

  29. posted by Karyn on

    Oh, I forgot the changing table. My husband didn’t want to buy one, and he thought they were dangerous. We just changed the baby on the bed, or the floor, with a plastic mat underneath. I got so used to changing a baby with the legs facing me (rather than having them sideways, like on a changing table) that when I had to use one of those bathroom changing tables, it was incredibly awkward for me.

  30. posted by infmom on

    Granted, my kids are 31 and 28, so when they were born we all lived on a different planet. 🙂

    I made them a mobile from a pattern I found in a magazine. They both liked it well enough, but if it hadn’t been there I don’t think it would have mattered much. (I still have it, packed away–even though I doubt we’ll ever have grandchildren I still have one bin full of Just In Case.) We had a toy called Rail Runner, that was a little blue wind-up locomotive that fit over the crib rail and moved slowly back and forth playing soft music. That was a big hit with both kids. I don’t know if they make those any more.

    We bought nearly all our kids’ stuff at the thrift store, except the crib and playpen. Got a great vintage high chair for next to nothing, and added on a harness that zipped up the back, to keep the little acrobats from climbing out. When we were done with it, we cleaned it up and gave it to a friend who was expecting. (A high chair kid’s best friend is a plastic drop cloth from the paint department–cut those in quarters, put one quarter under the chair, when it gets too goopy to live, throw it away and put down another one.)

    My son and daughter grew up wearing name brand clothing. Nothing but the best for my kidlets. Purchased for 50¢ an item out of bins at the thrift store. Most of it was in pristine condition. Sometimes I’d have to mend a split seam or sew a decorative patch over a stain. I bought almost all their toys at the thrift store, too. So what if it didn’t have the Fisher Price box? When they outgrew their toys we gave as many as we could to other people with younger children.

    One thing we did not skimp on was diapers. We bought the highest quality cloth diapers on the market. And we still have some of those–they make the best “lint free cloths” ever. People get the idea (promoted by the disposable diaper industry) that washing your own diapers is some kind of hell on earth. It isn’t. It adds two extra loads of laundry a week, and in a household with small children that’s nothing. Buy four dozen cloth diapers and you’re done–no more midnight runs to the 7-11 for another box of Pampers!

  31. posted by Noel on

    The crib mobile was a bust. But my son hated riding in the car (or stroller, or anywhere he wasn’t carried as an infant). Someone gave us a very small mobile to hang on the handle above the backseat window. That helped a lot! We used that until he was nearly two.

  32. posted by Shana on

    We were visiting friends with a 7-month old a couple weeks ago. We were outside, and the baby was having a blast. All the smiles and giggles were over:

    *”chasing” my husband’s foot and trying to eat his big toe
    *trying to drink (or lap up) water from an adult-sized cup
    *pulling up grass
    *chasing and gumming on one of the retractable tapemeasures found in sewing kits

    He had a great time and it was all stuff we had with us anyway.

  33. posted by Angie Roberts on

    The number one thing we should not have purchased for our first baby was a Diaper Genie! I’m surprised I didn’t see it any of the currents comments. It smelled awful and the strongest disinfectant couldn’t kill the smell. Plus, as the diaper size increased the Diaper Genie capacity decreased. Big waste of money, but you live and learn. If I could do it again, we would have used cloth diapers.

  34. posted by [email protected] Awareness * Connection on

    Having training in psychology I think mobiles rate pretty well as far as toys go for sensory stimulation; but like any toy, they certainly aren’t necessary for healthy development. Kids will watch shadow from the trees and the curtains on the wall. Unless they are in a sensory deprived environment kids will develop fine provided the have a “good enough” attachment relationship with their caregivers.

    In our society we absolutely err WAY to far toward thinking we need mountains of equipment and toys to adequately care for a baby, which is absolutely not the case.

  35. posted by Tim Visher on

    My wife and I are expecting our first in about a month and we decided that we’re going to co-sleep…

    With that being said I’m *definitely buying a mobile… I’ve wanted one for the longest time and always felt awkward sleeping in a crib.


  36. posted by Dana on

    We’re foster parents so we’ve always kept a mobile on hand. Sometimes we use it, but usually don’t.

    The thing that ALWAYS gets used is the bouncy seat. Couldn’t get by without one now. It’s a lifedsaver.

    As far as totally waste-of-time items, I have two: the diaper genie and a wipe warmer. Seriously, if a baby can’t stand a cool wipe now, he/she is going to grow up to be a wimp. 😉


  37. posted by Holly Tried It on

    My daughter could have easily gone without a baby swing. She grew so fast anyway, that she was grabbing the swing legs when we had her in it. She liked it, but she didn’t love it.

  38. posted by Allison on

    I was very skeptical about most baby gear and didn’t buy a lot of it… no changing table, etc. A lot of what we did have were gifts or hand-me-downs. But my daughter LOVED her mobile (a gift) and it bought me so much time in the morning that I could make coffee, unload the dishwasher, and do a couple other quick chores while she looked at it and I could watch her through the bedroom door (we have a tiny apartment). I probably wouldn’t have bought one, but I was glad we had it. She would get so excited and kick and squeal. She also loved her baby swing, and that was crucial for a while, actually.

  39. posted by Ribs on

    Being a Brit, I read “mobile” in the headline and saw the picture of a baby’s mobile and thought, “Obviously babies do not need mobile phones!”. Heh. That’s what comes of getting up early with my baby I suppose…

  40. posted by Amanda on

    I agree that each baby has their own preferences and would highly recommend trying items out before acquiring them, but based on our baby’s reaction I would seriously question the need for: a wipe warmer, a baby walker, the boopy pillow, and anything that can only be used up to 15-20 lbs as our baby outgrew her newborn clothes, her Baby Bjourn, and bouncy seat very, very quickly (I would make an exception for the car seat though). I should probably note that we did not buy any of these “musts” they were all gifts. What we did like: the car seat which was also used as a rocker, and the “ulitmate swaddle” which is a large flannel sheet that is now used as a blanket. And one tip, we regret buying a stroller that was marketed as going from newborn to toddler as it is now too bulky and wish instead we had bought the snap on wheels that hook onto a car seat when she was a newborn and then bought a nice umbrella stroller when she was older.

  41. posted by cdelphine on

    and if you’re crafty it would be really easy to make your own with cardboard shapes in high contrast colors

  42. posted by jon on

    Everyone is thinking that mobiles are for babies. Okay, you are referring to crib mobiles. But please consider a mobile as a gift for anybody.

    As a boy I had a wonderful silver painted mobile of biplanes. Each one hung on its own slender arm, counter-balanced by a weight on a tiny arm opposite. They hung one every few centimetres on a long thread, so as they turned, they dipped up and down in the air. It was like watching a slow dogfight or aerial display. It was fascinating to watch and I regret not having it today. I might say it encouraged me to think in 4 dimensions, (height, width, depth and time). Or it was just fascinating.

    Mobiles may be your child’s first introduction to sculpture, to art in more than just a plain. And it might help you think more about your wasted ceiling space.

  43. posted by sarah on

    We’ve been gifted with 4 mobiles altogether, 2 of which are on the cot now. Child 1 had no interest, and child 2 is still co-sleeping at 7 months and never goes in the cot. The cats like them a lot though!

    Bouncy chair – hated by no. 1, loved by no. 2. Same with the Bumbo. Lucky we kept them.

  44. posted by Catherine on

    My son is 6 months old and not a fan of the mobile, I think it actually scared him. He does enjoy the rainforest aquarium that plays soft nature sounds and has a dim blue light. I’ll still try the mobile with my next baby. There are some “classics” that work for some so they are worth trying. I’m keeping everything from this baby (everything is neutral) so I will not need to go out and purchase new items for my next baby.

    Other items I personally found useless were the swing and the boppy pillow. My son hated the swing and the boppy pillow made nursing difficult.

    The best purchases I made were the baby carrier, the jumper, swaddle me blankets, and the bouncy seat. We also bought an exersaucer but not until I borrowed a friends to make sure it worked. However, the most popular toy in my house right now with our son is the TV remote control! He is fascinated by it and giggles as if it is the funniest thing ever.

    There are many toys and products for babies that work great for one baby and not so much for another. It’s tough to tell. From my own personal experience it is best to borrow or try out a product first before buying it.

  45. posted by beth nc on

    My husband and I recently adopted our baby. As adoptive parents, we did not know when the baby would come, whether it would be a boy or girl, or even the age! We only had a few days notice when he was born.

    So, only then did we buy anything baby stuff. In one afternoon, we bought a car seat, a pack and play with bassinet feature (plus a couple of sheets), a few outfits, diapers (cloth and disposable) and wipes, a diaper pail, a few bibs, bottles.
    You don’t need much to get ready for a baby.

    Since my son’s arrival 3 months ago, we’ve acquired lots of stuff, mostly gifts and hand-me-downs. He likes the boppy pillow and the bjorn carrier. But he also likes spending time in our yard and being read to.

  46. posted by Anna on

    Two things that haven’t been posted that helped us decide which things to purchase and purchase cheaply are
    ” Baby Bargains” by Denise Fields. Goes through EVERYTHING and describes brands, quality, price, etc. It may talk about more things than you need, but in our experience, many of the recommendations were quite useful. Also Craigslist can be a nice way to purchase things cheaply and unload your outgrown things, if there is no toy library in your community. And for the mobile, by the time my son was interested, he could reach it and pull it down into the crib, so we packed it away.=)

  47. posted by Tasla on

    My son had a battery operated mobile that would spin for 15 min, while playing Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven on a loop. He would lie on his back fascinated, listen to the (non-annoying) music and watch the mobile. This was enough time for me to shower or make a phone call, etc, while not having to listen to him scream bloody murder because I wasn’t in the room.
    Later I could detatch the mobile itself from the music box and he had that in his bed for 3 or 4 years, always fell asleep listening to the “classics” and since it was button operated and not wind-up, he could turn it back on if he wanted.

  48. posted by Ann on

    It’s so funny how everyone has different experiences. Don’t you wish those babies would all get on the same page!

    Baby swing was a lifesaver! She slept in it for the first 4 months. Screamed when we tried to lie her down on her back. Turns out it was reflux which she outgrew.

    The bouncy chair– not so much.

    Loved the boppy. Only way I could nurse without killing my back. Then we would sit her up in it when she was learning to sit up.

    Baby mits– she would chew on them to soothe herself to sleep.

    Definitely borrow stuff, take hand-me-downs or buy it cheap until you know what works for your baby. Most of this stuff lasts forever. Our highchair has made the rounds in our family and is currently with its 4th child. Check out Freecycle. Great place to pass along your stuff or ask for stuff you want.

  49. posted by Mon on

    My daughter loved her mobile, but only for about 6 weeks. Yet, it was worth it as she took so much enjoyment from it when she was too young for much else.

    In unclutter mindset, I try to upcycle toys and baby equipment as often as it comes available.

    If at all possible it’s worth trying things out before making a purchase, as well as being aware of your child’s potentials. For example, dangling something above the baby’s head to see if s/he is excited by that. I noticed my daughter was very visual, so knew a mobile would work.

  50. posted by Ms. Superiority on

    All parents of children must read this article on de-stressing from iVillage. Horrifying!

  51. posted by john on

    I hate mobilesssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss

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