Now that your baby’s birth is around the corner (hurray!), it’s time to take that list of baby items off the fridge and head to the store (or computer). But before you splurge on nice-to-haves, make sure you snag what you need.
You’ve probably been itching to belly up to the store counter (or to the computer) and start buying baby gear for months now (it’s hard to resist those too-cute clothes and toys), but mounting pregnancy costs (not to mention saving up for your baby-to-be) might be putting your shopping spree on hold. Before you buy or receive gear that you won’t need or can’t use, make sure you get the scoop on some baby must-haves and how to make the most of them. These shopping tips can save you some cash (and a few trips to the dreaded return counter with your new little bundle in tow).
Do your research.
When it comes to buying gear that comes with a wide range of bells and whistles and price tags to match (think baby monitors), read up on products before you buy to find the model that’s right for you. Wondering if you should hold out for the high-tech model or can live with the low-tech one? Besides comparison shopping, tap into your new mom (and dad) network — ask them to give you their pros and cons on their favorite products (no info is more valuable than one from a parent who’s been there).
Do a safety check on used baby gear.
Sure, hand-me-downs are hands down a great way for new moms to save, but do a quick check before you accept any donated items (like that stationary activity center your neighbor swears kept her little one amused for hours). Yes, the gear is probably safe, but your peace of mind is key when shopping for your baby. Search for items on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure they’re up to today’s safety standards. This government-run Web site posts all recalls for more than 15,000 products, including most baby goods.
Resist the lure of newborn-size clothes.
Can’t curb your desire to buy those cool khakis for your little guy? You’ll get more mileage out of them if you buy the six-month size instead of the three-month one. (Just make sure it’ll still be right for the season.) Many babies grow into six-month outfits long before hitting their half-year birthday. And while too-big clothing can be rolled up to fit your little fashionista (and then rolled back down a few months later), a too-tight outfit equals a fussy baby (and an unhappy mom!).
Opt for easy-on, easy-off outfits.
Your little one isn’t clamoring for designer duds just yet — which is for the best, since simpler is better when it comes to those cute clothes (especially during those first few fumble-fingered months of parenthood). Instead, look for one-piece outfits that snap or zip up. You’ll probably find those zippers will save you (or your partner) the frustration of lining up all those little snaps when you’re sleep-deprived or in a rush. And don’t overstock on onesies — chances are you’ll get plenty at your baby shower.
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Double your diaper stations.
Even if you’re trying to scale back on big-ticket items, you don’t have to spend big to set up a second diaper station. All you need is an extra diaper caddy filled with diaper supplies (diapers, wipes, and cream) tucked into a corner of the living room and an extra changing pad that can be stashed behind the sofa. Instead of running back to the baby’s nursery, you can save yourself some time (and stress) — after all, Mommy’s Law says diaper blowouts happen most when you’re just about to leave the house.
Start off with one stroller.
When it comes to those first outings with baby, you may find that a lightweight universal stroller frame that lets you snap in your own infant car seat is the best (and cheapest) bet for now (and the next few months). This buys you time to check out the other stroller options as you stroll through the ’hood (or the mall). Maybe you’ll opt for a jogging stroller for runs in the park and an easy-to-stash umbrella stroller for errand runs. Or if you’re a city mom (or dad), you’ll go for a lightweight stroller with lots of storage space underneath (the better for toting toys to the playground later on).
Don’t pass up a baby carrier.
Maybe you don’t think you’ll be doing much walking with your baby unless he’s in a stroller. But even if power walking on a nature trail (or city street) is not your thing, a baby carrier is worth the cost. Ask around first to find the best model and price for you, but keep in mind that many parents love front carriers for the hands-free freedom — even if you’re just going on a soothing stroll around the house to calm your fussy baby. And a front carrier is easier when you’re out shopping: it beats perching the baby’s car seat in the shopping cart and gives you a chance for some hands-on interaction.
Put the bouncy seat at the top of your list.
There are gadgets and gizmos aplenty for new parents, but a baby bouncer is a definite must-have for on-the-move moms. What’s the draw of these cushiony flexible seats? If you live in a house with more than one floor, consider borrowing a second seat (or, if you’ve stashed away enough cash, buying an extra). That way, you can leave one in the family room and another in your bedroom, saving yourself (and your back!) from lugging the baby and the bouncy seat up and down the stairs. Don’t have the funds? That’s what baby shower registries are for!
Put off buying some items until later.
When you’re making up your shopping list, register for everything you think you’ll need during your baby’s first year. But if you don’t get a high chair, activity center, or baby-proofing gear as baby-shower gifts, don’t run out and buy them just before your due date. Your baby won’t really need them (or use them) for several more months and you can buy these items (and other older-baby gear) as you go along. And who knows — maybe by then there will be a self-cleaning high chair on the market and you’ll be glad you held out!