If you’re expecting a baby, consider yourself warned: You may have to do some Lamaze breathing when shopping for your little one. That’s because baby products are an $8.9 billion industry in the U.S., with hundreds of products added to the lineup each year.
Whether you shop online or at a local boutique, gearing up for a new baby can be overwhelming. The good news is that you can buy the best for your little one without spending a bundle. The key is to do your homework before setting foot in the baby products superstore. Here are guidelines to buying three of the biggest-ticket and most important items.
Bide your time with a stroller frame. In the stroller department, you’ll find everything from lightweight umbrella strollers to midsized traditional, travel, and combo strollers as well as jogging and all-terrain styles, not to mention side-by-side and tandem multiseaters. To simplify the process and save money, start with a frame carrier such as the Baby Trend Snap-N-Go carrier ($60). • This 12-pound frame does the job until your baby outgrows his infant car seat. To use the Snap-N-Go, you create a stroller by snapping the seat in or resting it on the frame; always use the safety belt to secure the car seat to the stroller and the infant seat safety harness. It’s compatible with most infant car seats so you don’t have to worry about selecting a coordinating stroller. And by the time you’re ready for a traditional stroller (when your baby outgrows his infant car seat), you’ll know more about what best fits your lifestyle. • Give the strollers you’re considering a test drive in the store. Compare how the stroller handles, especially on corners, and how easy it is to maneuver and fold up. Also, look for one-touch brakes, (they work quickly for added safety); parent and child trays for holding toys or food items, freeing your hands to push; and extra storage such as saddlebags or pockets in addition to the usual under-seat basket to safely stow items.
Start with an infant car seat. It’s used in the backseat, (always facing the rear) for babies weighing up to 22 pounds. Follow manufacturer’s weight and height recommendations to gauge when it’s time to trade up to a convertible car seat (possible when baby is 6 months old). Many new models of infant car seats, can be used for infants weighing up to 32 pounds, with a height range of 30 to 32 inches. That allows you to use the seat longer — more like 9 to 12 months.
Buy new and keep it simple. The safest cribs have straight lines and little decorative detail. Infants can strangle on fancy features such as scrollwork or finials if clothing gets caught. Heeding this advice — “basic is best”— will save you money, too, since design elements can add to a crib’s cost. Also, buy the firmest mattress you can find (sold separately) and double-check your work to make sure you assemble the crib correctly. • Stationary-sided cribs, which dominate the market, have been recalled because they’ve been assembled upside down, though they look like they’re installed correctly, leaving a hazardous five-inch gap at the top of the crib. Infants or toddlers can become entrapped in gaps like this, which can lead to entrapment, strangulation, or other injuries. • To save money, consider a crib that converts to a toddler bed and later to a full-size bed.
If you’re having a baby shower, a targeted baby registry can alleviate guesswork for friends, help you get just what you want, and avoid duplication.
- Check for recalled models at blankrecalls.gov before registering for baby items.
- Request practical items such as diapers, diaper wipes, and diaper rash ointment, breast pads, pacifiers, a nursing bra or two, breast milk storage bags, baby bottle liners, formula, diaper rash ointment, and baby body wash.
- Ask for bigger-ticket gear too, like a stroller, glider, crib, changing table, infant car seat, play yard, and designer diaper bag. With expensive items, friends and family may chip in as a group.
- Do just as much homework as if you were paying the tab yourself. If you’re registering online, don’t just read other parents’ product reviews and double click. Visit a baby products retail outlet first to get familiar with the products you’re considering. Selecting baby products is a process, so expect to make several trips to fine-tune your wish list.
- Register at more than one store so gift givers have options. Websites such as myregistry.com and depositagift.com let you register for cash, which always comes in handy with a new baby.