The first time I walked into Babies”R”Us when pregnant with my first child, I felt overwhelmed almost to the point of hyperventilating. There were so many products out there — and it felt like every single purchase I made would determine my child’s fate.
Four years and another baby later, it’s clear to me now that baby gear manufacturers and retailers probably want you to be panicked. It’s much easier to sell unnecessary items to frightened and overwhelmed parents, since you’ll be happy to buy any product that will help you feel more in control.
But just like any other purchases, some baby gear is worth the investment, while some will clutter up the nursery until you have a yard sale a decade later.
Here are four baby products worth spending extra money on:
1. Any furniture that will be on display
Before our first was born, my husband and I drove two hours to Ikea to find various nursery necessities, including a changing table. Over a plate of Swedish meatballs, we agreed on the cheapest changing table at the store, and took it home to assemble it.
Even though that table is still in use and shows no sign of deterioration, I really wish we’d spent more on a nicer piece of furniture. That’s because we set up the changing table in the living room, where it would be used most often. The table doesn’t have drawers, meaning baby clothes are always in piles on the shelves, and the finish is nothing like the rest of our furniture. Four years in the same spot, and it still looks temporary.
Babies certainly grow up quickly, but if you know some piece of baby gear — from a rocking chair to the changing table to the crib itself — will be in a common area of the house, go ahead and splurge on something that will look like it belongs. You’ll be looking at it for several years, so you might as well enjoy it.
2. The safety gear you’ll use most often
One of my pet peeves is how baby safety gear is marketed (more expensive doesn’t always mean safer). A $400 Britax car seat isn’t safer than the $60 Target brand seat; it’s simply easier to use. If you’re on a limited budget, you can rest assured your child is just as safe in a cheaper car seat.
However, if you have the extra money to spend, and you know that you’ll be shuttling Junior or Sis in the car every day, then it makes sense to get the car seat that will be easiest to install, strap the kid into, and clean.
If, on the other hand, you’re a city dweller, it probably makes more sense to spend the big money on an easy-to-use stroller or bike trailer, since it’s what you’ll be using day-to-day.
3. An electric double breast pump
If you’re planning on breastfeeding, a high-quality double breast pump can be a life-saver. You generally can’t buy these items used (although you can sometimes rent them from your local hospital or lactation consultant), so expect to spend around $200 for the best rated electric pumps.
Not only will this make your return to work much easier, it can also be helpful for new moms who are struggling with breastfeeding but are determined to make a go of it.
4. A well-designed diaper bag
Whether you buy a bag that’s specifically designed as a diaper bag (which often increases the price by 50%), or just get a well-made duffel bag or backpack, having something nice to carry your diapers in can make or break your outings with baby.
Basically, you want to find a bag with several compartments so you can easily find the gear you need when you need it. Also, look for a bag that evenly distributes weight, so you’re not crippled by carrying it (plus your munchkin). Finally, something that looks nice enough that you’re happy to carry it — but is also made of durable material that you can easily clean — is worth a little extra money.
The Bottom Line
Getting ready for a new baby is exciting and scary. Don’t let the emotions make you lose your head and buy anything recommended by the salespeople at your local baby superstore. Think about which items you’ll use and see most often, and only plan on splurging on those.
Any other baby items you recommend splurging on?