Shopping for Baby
Congratulations! Whether this is your first or fifth child, having a baby is exciting. A new baby means love, joy and a whole new world of responsibilities. Babies also require some special gear, though what they need and how much you should spend on it is a seemingly endless debate. Luckily, the Web can help you determine what is best for your family and where to get it.
Baby gear comes with a whole vocabulary of its own: forward facing, umbrella stroller, travel system, bumpers, crib wedge, sleep sack, teething rail and drop side are just a few of the terms out there. It can be confusing, especially if it’s your first child. A number of stores and organizations have created buying guides to introduce you to the gear, and help you determine what works best for your little one.
- You probably won’t find one stroller that can be used for all stages of your baby’s development. Though umbrella strollers will sound like a cheap and convenient option, they can’t be used with newborns, because the seats don’t provide enough support when the babies can’t hold up their own heads. Be prepared to buy a couple of different strollers as your child gets older, and as more children arrive. Luckily, good strollers don’t have to be that expensive.
- You may find it helpful to visit a brick-and-mortar store to help narrow down your choices for items like car seats, strollers and cribs. It’s a good idea to visit a store that carries a large selection of products. When you find something you like, go home and get online. Invariably you’ll find better prices and often free shipping on that perfect crib you saw.
- While shopping for gear, take into consideration how long you’ll use a particular product: for example, you’ll use your infant car seat for about six to 12 months, whereas you may use your toddler car seat for four or five years.
For safety advice …
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association
has a baby safety section with tips for selecting and using all sorts of products, such as cribs, strollers and changing tables. Scroll down to read up on all of them, or choose from the list of products on the right.
For buying guides …
is an independent nonprofit that subjects products to extensive quality testing. In this short video, a stroller tester shows that some of the more expensive models aren’t necessarily the easiest to use. A separate release describes how some of the least expensive strollers
performed the best. The crib buying guide
discusses safety, value and assembly. Another section on car seats
has a video on installation
that suggests some best buys.
is a shopping site with a number of buying guides, including this one for cribs. Besides describing the different types available, this site also provides a list of its favorites, and a list of products recommended by other sites like Parents.com, as well as an explanation of what products are available in different price ranges. Other guides are devoted to strollers
and infant car seats
. In the stroller guide, see what celebrities are using these days.
previews its book, Parenting Magazine’s Baby Must-Haves
. Although essentially a plug for the book, these pages are worth a read, as they cover a variety of products including high chairs, pacifiers and strollers, and offer advice from other parents.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
introduced a new system to rate how difficult it is to install or uninstall a particular car seat; the scale goes from one to five stars, one being the most difficult, and five being the easiest. Every car seat sold in the United States has to meet federal safety regulations, but the NHTSA is trying to alleviate some frustration for parents. A three-minute video explains the ratings
. NHTSA also has a searchable database of inspection stations
throughout the country. At those stations, parents can make sure their car seats are installed correctly.
has a series of short baby gear videos, starting with this video that walks parents through baby-proofing a home, room by room. Other baby gear videos are available from the list on the right, below the baby-proofing clip. One video discusses cribs, bedding, and nursery equipment, and offers tips from experienced parents. Another illustrates how to install a car seat.
After you’ve done your research, looked at your lifestyle and decided what types of baby gear you want to buy, how do you sort through the assorted makes and models? Many parents will tell you that talking to other families can be helpful in choosing, say, one crib over another. But if you don’t know anyone who has had a baby recently, don’t worry. Many parents have posted thousands of reviews online.
- When looking at a product’s overall ratings, keep an eye on how many reviews it is based on. A high rating based on a few reviews may not be as reliable as a high rating based on several reviews.
- Remember to keep your individual needs in mind. What works for someone in a small town may not work so well if you’re in an urban setting, and vice versa. Many neighborhoods have listservs for parents—you may find it helpful to join one so you can find advice from parents in a situation similar to yours.
For product reviews …
has a forum where parents can write reviews of particular products. Because baby gear is a large industry, and there can be dozens of makes and models for strollers, car seats, cribs and other items, this site is probably most helpful if you have already narrowed down your selection to a couple of brands or models and want more information. Not all the products have been reviewed, but for the major brands you’ll find a decent number of reviews.
is a word-of-mouth site where parents post comments on a wide range of topics, such as baby products, local moms’ groups and kid-friendly restaurants. Unfortunately, the site only has reviews in 22 states, and not all cities are represented. The product reviews could be helpful to anyone though, regardless of location.
is a place where parents can write and read reviews of all sorts of gear, such as maternity clothing, baby formula, and parenting books. The site is also planning to develop discussion forums and classified ads, but so far the only other feature is a blog
about new baby products.
has an entire section devoted to baby gear. Find expert ratings, determined through independent laboratory tests, on baby monitors, tubs, high chairs, bouncer seats, car seats and strollers. While advice for all sorts of baby gear is free, the expert rating reports are not. You can subscribe to the site for $26 a year, or get a month’s worth of access for $5.95. Consumer Reports has also published a guide to baby gear—Consumer Reports Best Baby Products
—available on this site or at Amazon
Baby gear is found almost anywhere, from small local boutiques to large national retailers, and many of these stores are online. You could stock your entire nursery without leaving the couch.
- If you come upon a site and aren’t sure whether it’s trustworthy, visit the Better Business Bureau, which allows you to search for a company by its name or Web address. Not every company has a record with the bureau, but many do.
- If after reading the buying guides and product reviews you don’t know which brand or model of stroller to select, visit Peppy Parents. It’s an online baby gear shop started by a couple with two children who were dissatisfied with large stores and small boutiques alike. This site has a Stroller 411 custom help tool that asks 10 questions, such as your child’s age, and how it would be used (public transportation, at the beach, running errands, jogging). Someone from the store e-mails you with recommendations based on your responses. Unlike other stroller custom help tools, Peppy Parents actually sent suggestions.
- If you find a product you like, type the full product name into a Google search engine, and make sure you’re getting it for the lowest price. Many sites will offer free shipping on larger-ticket items.
- And if you’re getting tired of shopping for gear, take a fun side trip to some online toy stores. Our findingDulcinea Toys Web Guide is chock full of information on buying age-appropriate toys, toy safety and more.
For online baby stores …
Baby Super Mall
has a large selection of crib bedding, and allows you to search by gender, price and themes, and then compare the results side-by-side. There are similar filters when searching for clothes and safety gates. The other categories aren’t as extensive, though.
has a wide range of baby gear, including nursery furniture, monitors, strollers, swings and bedding. Overall, the site is organized and easy to navigate. However, the selection and prices can be uneven. Nursery furniture is more expensive than most other sites, and some categories have pages of products, while others have a single item.
Baby Shopping Sites
was started a few years ago by a couple who had twins. This directory has links to sites organized by category, such as clothes, gear and toys. There’s even a category “Funky Sites” where you can find unique items for your baby.
has a section devoted to everything baby—here you’ll find strollers, car seats, bedding, furniture for the nursery and more.
For larger, national stores …
is part of the Toys“R”Us family, and there are more than 250 stores across the United States. The stores sell everything baby related you could possibly imagine: car seats, clothes, diapers, bottles, tubs, cribs, bedding and more.
is part of Burlington Coat Factory, which has locations throughout the United States. Find all sorts of baby gear, such as bedding, furniture, books, music, baby toys and nursery decorations.
has stores throughout the United States, and features an extensive collection of baby gear.
has an extensive baby section, and like its competitors, offers the option of creating a baby gift registry for expectant parents.
For comparison shopping …
is a comparison shopping site with a section for baby gear. Once you’ve found the brand and model of the item you want, use this site to find the lowest price. BizRate also rates the sites they pull from so people have an idea of what their shopping experience could be.
When a new baby arrives, so too do the gifts. Baby gifts run the gamut from practical to sentimental, and may be as inexpensive as a stuffed animal or as expensive as a crib. If you find yourself wondering what to buy for new or expecting parents, or where to find it, visit some of the sites we’ve selected and let them do the legwork for you.
- Be sure to see if the expectant parents have a gift registry with a specific retailer. This can help you take the mystery out of what to get them, especially if you haven’t had much experience with babies. Registries from the larger retail stores are usually available on the Web.
- If you’re a parent but are unsure what to get for someone’s new baby, consider buying a few things that made your experience as a first-time parent easier, such as that bottle brush that worked wonders or the toy your child couldn’t live without.
- If you’re buying clothing, it’s okay and sometimes preferred to buy clothing a size or two bigger than newborn, but don’t forget to keep the season in mind. A cozy winter bunting won’t see much wear if the baby grows into it during the summer.
For baby clothing …
The Tunes Company
has a small selection of classic rock concert onesies and T-shirts for babies. Buy a onesie reprinted with the original design used to advertise Bob Marley and the Wailers at San Francisco’s Paramount Theater in 1976, or the Grateful Dead’s 1973 concert poster for the Providence Civic Center.
Polka Dot Patch
has a large selection of unusual baby clothes printed with animals, sayings and other designs. Want a baby T-shirt that says “President not Princess,” or personalized blankets? This is the place. This site also has several gift baskets, or scroll down the page a bit for an extensive baby gifts section that includes categories like “Sibling Gifts” and “Organic Clothes.”
Tiny Treasures Baby
has unusual baby clothing, such as an infant-sized Harley Davidson coverall and doo rag. The selection ranges from the standard Disney-printed sets to infant hats with pink skulls on them and other, racier T-shirts.
is a site that prints infant T-shirts and onesies embroidered with a variety of sayings, such as “Do I look like I was born yesterday?” or “Nope, still can’t talk.” Shoppers can also create their own expression for an extra $2.
For baby toys …
has a slideshow of the top toys of 2007 for babies up to 12 months, as tested by a 4-month-old infant. All but one of these half dozen toys are under $25.
should be one of your first stops if your instinct is to run screaming from noise-making plastic toys. They have an excellent selection of high-quality wooden toys, organic rattles, knitted dolls and much more. Search by age, brand or toy type.
focuses on developmental gifts. Find cloth books, flash cards, rattles, music and other toys that help stimulate babies intellectually. Prices start at $5.95.
Rock A Bye Baby!
is a company that has turned rock songs into lullabies. There are nearly two dozen albums with lullaby renditions of songs from the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Björk, U2, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead and Coldplay. Click on the album covers to see what tracks are available and hear a clip. The album artwork is worth seeing, too.
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