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Budgeting for Baby: Where to Splurge, Where to Skimp

photo: gabi_menashe

Market researchers Global Industry estimate that the baby durables market will reach $6.19 billion by 2015. No wonder. Baby registry provider Babies R’Us “must-haves” list includes 191 items!

Pediatric specialists regularly opine on what a new baby needs. However, the real experts are often parents who learned through experience. This list, compiled using input from real moms, is the ultimate insiders guide to determining what to buy, borrow, and skip altogether, when budgeting and buying for your new baby.

Buy

Nipples and Bottles (BUT) don’t go overboard: All nipples are not created equal and it may take several rounds of trial and error to discover what works for your baby. Resist the nesting urge to wash all bottles and nipples. Save the receipts and open them one at a time. Find what works, and return the rest. (Pricier brands like Avent cost about $7 for a bottle and $5 for a pack of nipples).

Crib Mattress: Safety and sleep are paramount to your new baby’s health; a quality crib mattress is essential. Consumer Reports advises parents to buy the firmest and heaviest mattress they can find. Skip unnecessary features like warranties and antimicrobial covers.

Convenience-Feature Sheets: Characterized by zippers versus the standard elasticized corners, convenience sheets will cost you at least two times more than what you’d pay for a basic sheet. Nevertheless, moms polled for this story swore by them for their ease of use and durability. “Clouds and Stars” zippered sheets (available online or in boutique baby stores) and “The Ultimate Crib Sheet” both came highly recommended.

Infant Car Seat/Bases: Conduct your own research to find what seats are most recognized for safety (the highest price is not always the best). While convertible seats can go the distance with their ability to fit both infants and toddlers, keep in mind that they do not fit newborns as snug as an infant-only seat. If mom and dad will share childcare drop-off and pick-up duty, buy car seat bases for each vehicle.

Jogging Stroller: Jogging strollers are pricey (you’ll pay anywhere from $100 to more than $500), but they’re essential in getting out and about, and will last for several years. (Many models support limits up to 70 pounds). Some models made by B.O.B include adapters to accommodate common infant car seat manufacturers for use starting when baby is a newborn.

Digital Ear Thermometer: Realizing your infant is sick is stressful. The clarity a digital ear thermometer can provide in your moment of “now what?” is priceless.

Baby Monitor: Like the thermometer, the piece of mind is worth every penny.

Stacy Conder, mom of two, offers this rule of thumb: “Buy anything that helps the baby sleep, or makes moms life easier.” (This includes soothing devices, and blankets that make swaddling at 3am less daunting!)

Borrow

Breast Pump. (Initially) Until you give birth, it’s impossible to know what feeding method will work for you and your baby. For that reason, borrow a breast pump until you know you’ll be breastfeeding for the long haul. (You buy the pumps and attachments new so there are no sanitation concerns).  Many hospital maternity wards also rent breast pumps for prices equivalent to $1 to $3 a day.

*Note to multiples moms: Tara Schulte, mother of three (two of which are twins) advises anyone expecting multiples to get a hands-free feeding device like the Bebe Bottle Sling (whether your buy or borrow is your call!)

Boppy. It can be used to help support infants before they are able to sit independently, or as a breast-feeding pillow. They are also designed to be used with washable zippered covers; save $25 and borrow the Boppy.

Bumbo: Another device designed to help baby sit, this chair also has an attachable tray to double as a space-saving high chair. (Retail price for both is about $40). However, it’s designed for babies who have head control, but cannot sit without support, which equates to a small window of time. It is easily wiped down and sanitized.

Pack & Play: Unless you travel frequently, you will likely only use this on occasion.

Exersaucer/Jumperoo/Swings/Bouncy Chairs: While moms also swear that baby exercisers are vital to keeping your little one entertained (and your mind sane), they take a lot of valuable space. You’ll use it frequently, but the window of time before your baby moves onto the next form of exerciser is quite narrow. Brand-new, they cost anywhere from $50 to $180, depending on the model. Save your money (and the assembly-induced headache) and borrow one from a friend. If that fails, baby resellers usually have mountains of these for a fraction of the retail price.

Skip

Bottle Warmer. Warmers cost anywhere from $20 to $60. Breastfeeding moms are the warmer! Formula-feeding parents can easily warm a filled bottle by placing it into hot water for a couple of minutes. (Shake afterwards to eliminate hot spots).

Diaper Genie: Moms disagreed on this one (as Richelle Krzak, mother of two toddlers put it, her house “would smell like a farm without one.”) But, most agreed that this high-tech trashcan (which costs about $40 and requires special refill sacks) is unnecessary. Standard plastic grocery sacks or odor-reducing trash bags used in conjunction with a flip-top style trashcan will do the job.

Wipes Warmer: They waste electricity, and cost up to $20. A room temperature wipe will clean your baby just fine.

Grocery Cart Cover: Swab the handle with an antibacterial wipe, and use an old-fashioned blanket.

Glider Rocker: In the beginning, your infant may respond just as favorably to being bounced in a seat, or snuggled and walked around in your arms. Gliders of the wooden variety can also be difficult for new moms to find a comfortable position to breastfeed. Until you know what your baby’s soothing style is, pass on this purchase, which can cost upwards of $300.