Buy This, Not That: A Baby Wipe Warmer

Wipe warmers are stupid, impractical, and actually somewhat unsafe.

by Donna Freydkin
color photo of a mother wiping a newborn's cheek with a cloth -- not from a baby wipe warmer

When it came to buying baby gear for my gestating fetus, I went into full maximalist mode. If a product existed, no matter how dubious its pedigree or how laughable its claims, it somehow wound up in the room we generously called the nursery and that quickly turned into a baby gear warehouse that defied every KonMari principle. My princeling, whom I had waited until age 38 to bring into this world, would want for nothing. The exception: A baby wipe warmer.

For me, obsessively curating bottle warmers and organic crib sheets and artisanal wooden mobiles crafted by fair-trade artisans was a way of feeling in control of my pregnancy, which was marching along with absolutely no interest in how I was feeling. My body was a force unto itself, and while that is awe-inspiring, it’s also daunting when you’re talking about older parents who are used to having every part of their lives under lock. Nature is a wondrous thing, pregnancy is a magnificent manifestation of what it can do, and this baby was going to be born when and how he chose (via emergency C-section, two weeks late, as it turned out).

Somehow, in my manic spree of baby gear acquisition, I had a moment of clarity, thanks to a mom friend who had been through this same thing a few years earlier. Do not buy a bottle warmer, she told me, because if you formula-feed, you can use cold water and it works exactly the same as warmed water. You know how some people (me) demand that their lattes be a specific temp every day? It sucks, it’s annoying, and do you really want that from a baby/toddler?

And above all, do not buy a wipe warmer. For those not in the know (and I applaud you), a wipe warmer is a thing that warms up baby wipes. If you choose to use a wipe warmer, you will be beholden to this wipe warmer until your child is potty trained. Attempt to approach his posterior with a cold wipe, and be prepared to get a powerful kick to the face. Most important, there’s absolutely no medical reason to invest in one.

“These are really not necessary. Additionally they hold risks in terms of potentially propagating bacterial growth and malfunctioning, which can be dangerous. Additionally you cannot use certain wipes in all warmers and some will actually become dry if placed in the warmers, which isn’t great for wiping,” says Dr. Tomomi Hayashi, a pediatrician at Silicon Valley Pediatricians at Stanford Children’s Health and a member of the American Board of Pediatrics. “Wipes are supposed to be a quick easy option, and I say just get it done as fast a possible. If you would like to hold the wipe in your hands to warm it up a little, run it under warm water, or even just use a little spray bottle with some warm water and tissue that is fine too.”

Wipe warmers are the kind of luxury that turns into a trap. Picture this: You’re driving to meet Grandma in the park, and Junior has a blowout. You have only your regular frigid wipes with you, because new parent brain is real and the warmer is somewhere in the basement/other car/stroller/who the hell knows. What do you do? Stop and buy another one? Try to warm a wipe using your hands (annoying and not recommended)? Or deal with the fallout of using a non-warm wipe on an enraged infant?

The answer: Avoid this situation entirely by realizing that while many newfangled baby gadgets are cool and awesome and make parenting easier, this is not one of them.

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