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Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shopping for baby: Strategies for acquiring increasingly pricey items

September 12, 2010


Congratulations on that new bundle of joy arriving in a few months. Now, get out your wallet.

First-time moms and dads can expect to spend slightly more than $7,000 on supplies for their new child, according to Alan Fields, co-author of the Baby Bargains shopping guide.

Pricey items like cribs and car seats are a necessity. Diapers and formula will appear on shopping lists for at least the first year of the baby’s life. Then there’s simply the act of walking into a Babies R Us store and seeing hundreds of extremely cute and quite clever things you could buy.

Don’t let this daunting shopping load overwhelm you. Attack it with some clear strategies in mind.

Don’t rush to buy it all at once

You won’t need everything before the baby arrives.

A highchair will stay in its box for a few months until the baby is old enough to use it. Likewise, most people don’t use a crib right away, opting instead for a smaller bassinet that sits conveniently near the parent’s bed.

Think basics. You’ll need a car seat before the baby arrives. You’ll also want to buy a stroller and something safe for the baby to sleep in.

Once you have those core items, you can save up for some other purchases and adjust your shopping list based on your baby’s specific needs. For instance, you may blow through burp cloths faster than you thought if the infant spits up a lot. Maya Elmer of Oakland, Calif., and her husband learned quickly that they needed more than three receiving blankets after their son, Parker Eastlake, was born Aug. 12.

“He’s just ... constantly wetting them,” she said.

Enlist a shopping guide

Another parent — a friend, family member or co-worker — can be helpful when you register for supplies.

“An experienced mom or dad can kind of help you cut through the clutter,” Fields said.

They can tell you what you really do need. For instance, a mom who’s already nursed a baby may know that the more expensive breast pumps can also be more comfortable and easier to use.

Consider what you really need

Parents can change a baby’s diapers on the floor, on a bed, any place they can safely spread a changing mat. Changing tables are not essential.

Fancy crib bedding with matching comforters and bumpers can cost a few hundred dollars. But, for safety’s sake, cribs really should have nothing except a mattress, mattress protector and fitted sheet, said Dr. Ari Brown, an author and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fields also takes a dim view of many gadgets. He said an audio monitor in the baby’s room may be helpful. But a video camera isn’t necessary, especially with newborns, who tend to not move much.

Baby bottle sterilizers? Not necessary if you have a working dishwasher.

“They don’t have to be sterilized because your baby isn’t sterile,” Fields said.

Baby clothes are also one of the most popular shower gifts. Don’t spend a lot of money on clothes that you might otherwise get for free.

Infants spend most of their first month sleeping, and they can outgrow newborn sizes quickly depending on their birth weight. What they need most are good baby pajamas, plenty of those one-piece undershirts known as “onesies,” and maybe an outfit for pictures.

“Baby clothes are kind of the classic money pit,” Fields said.

Be open to gifts

Veteran parents love to clear space in their homes by unloading used baby equipment on first-timers. Accommodate them, because that can lead to big savings. New mom Elmer said they’ve received a bassinet, swing and nursing pillow, among other things, from friends.

“That was nice to not have to go out and buy everything, we could borrow a lot of stuff,” she said.

Three things to splurge on

Breast pumps that are comfortable and easy to use can be worth the investment.

“That’s an important body part that we’re talking about, and you want to make sure moms are comfortable when they’re pumping,” Brown said.

But before you drop more than $300 on the slickest model you can find, consider a test drive. Hospitals and lactation consultants can tell you how to rent one. Doing this gives you a better sense for what’s comfortable while you figure out whether you want to continue breastfeeding.

Renting, however, also can cost $25 a week or $70 a month.

Other splurge-worthy items include a good, lightweight stroller, which can cost between $200 and $300, and a car seat. More expensive models may be easier to use and adjust, and they might offer additional safety elements, such as side-impact protection.


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