With all the itty-bitty furniture and newfangled baby gear there is to buy, it’s tempting to grab a shopping cart (or a registry gun) and go wild. But first, pause to take your baby’s safety — and your wallet — into consideration. The one thing you don’t need when you have a newborn, after all, is a case of baby-related buyer’s remorse. Here’s what to know about each baby-gear essential before you buy.
You might be drawn to a convertible car seat, which can hold a baby as tiny as three pounds and last well into toddlerhood. But a bulky convertible seat will be tricky to maneuver in and out of the car while the baby is sleeping. Plus, most convertible seats don’t have wheeled frames, so you’ll have to move the baby to a stroller if you’re going more than a few feet.
An infant seat, on the other hand, simply pops in and out of a car base with the click of a button. (Infant seats can also be installed quickly and safely with a seat belt, if you often travel by cab.) Look for one with an easy-to-grip handle and a substantial sunshade and test-drive it with a stroller frame if you plan on using one. Steer clear of used car seats, which can be compromised if they’re installed in a car that’s been in an accident.
Strollers see a lot of wear and tear, so unless you’re certain you’re getting a barely used model, spring for a new one. Shop for a stroller in person and have everyone who’ll be spending a lot of time behind it — Mommy and Daddy, at the least — take it for a spin. If the handles don’t adjust, make sure they’re at a comfortable height for whoever will be using it most. Consider the amount of storage space it contains (bigger is better) and whether it will be easy to access once the stroller has a tiny occupant.
If you think you’d like your baby to nap in the stroller, make sure it has a decent incline (at least 45 degrees) and that it’s easy to adjust without disturbing your little one. If you’ll be spending a lot of time on bumpy sidewalks, look for a model with air tires, which offer a smoother ride than plastic wheels. Apartment dwellers should try collapsing and carrying a few strollers; lightweight umbrella strollers with carrying straps, like the Bumble ride Flite, are the easiest to carry up and down stairs. A substantial sunshade is a good perk.
Cribs should have fixed sides with slats that are no farther than two and three-eighths inches apart. Because cribs come in different heights, you’ll want to shop for one in person to make sure Mommy and Daddy can both reach the baby when the mattress is dropped to its lowest point. A money-saving tip: A model that converts to a toddler bed offers a gentle transition from the crib, and it will last through several birthdays.
Mattress and bedding
The most important factor to consider when shopping for a crib mattress is how firm it is, as soft sleeping surfaces can raise the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). To test firmness, press your hand in the center of a mattress, then pull it away and check for a handprint — if you can see the outline of your hand, pick a different model. Once you have your mattress, you’ll need something to cover it with: All-in-one bedding sets are virtually useless, since the only bedding your baby needs is a fitted sheet. Crib bumpers, a staple in many sets which considers them a SIDS risk. And blankets are also a no-no in cribs. Stock up on fitted sheets and buy a crib skirt separately if you’d like one.
You might wait on this purchase until after your baby is born so you can determine which style your papoose prefers — plus your baby’s size might affect your decision. If possible, borrow a few different carriers from friends before you buy to see which one works best for you and your little one. Take each for at least a walk around the block with your sweetie inside, so you’ll know how the carrier feels when you’re on the go.
Swing, seat, or activity center
These are also purchases you can probably save for post pregnancy. Yes, the swing worked like a charm on your best friend’s babe, but for every little one that finds swinging soothing there’s another that starts sobbing. The same is true for bouncers and play saucers. To find out what your wee one prefers, let her give it a whirl first. If you can, bring your baby to visit a friend who has a little one who’s a few months older. You can catch up with a fellow mama — and your tot can test-drive some gear. If you do end up opting for a swing, look for a model that plugs into an outlet