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Baby Furniture: What's Essential?

Decking out a nursery can get pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide tells you what baby furniture is indispensable, and how -- and when -- to shop for discounts.

Baby Cribs: Shopping for Bargains

Before you make a crib purchase, check out Baby Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. The Fields' book and web site are full of useful advice for buying baby cribs, bedding, and other nursery items, including quality ratings and detailed safety information.

Among the Fields' useful tips: When it comes to cribs, more expensive doesn't mean safer because all cribs sold in the U.S and Canada are required to meet the same safety standards, whether they cost $100 or a $1,000. 

One word of caution when looking for bargains: Both Baby Bargains and Consumer Reports recommend not borrowing or buying a used crib because an old crib may have been recalled or may not include safety features required in newer models. Also, a secondhand crib could have missing parts or other structural issues that pose a hazard. 

Baby Nursery Decor: The Dresser and Changing Table

You'll need a place to store clothes and other baby items, but there's no reason to go out shopping for something new if you have a perfectly good chest of drawers around the house. Any sturdy, well-built bureau will do the trick -- just make sure that the drawers slide easily in and out, and that the structure is solid. With a new coat of finish, a splash of paint, or a few stencils, you can give any bureau a baby-friendly makeover so it will look great in your nursery.

If you need to buy a dresser, Denise and Alan Fields recommend buying one that doubles as a changing table; when your baby is out of diapers, you simply remove the changing attachment. "For most families, a separate changing table is a waste of space," says Alan Fields. "And what are you going to do with it once your baby is out of diapers?"

Whether you buy a stand-alone changing table or a combo, Consumer Reports recommends that you test its stability before you buy by checking the floor model. Make sure it includes safety straps, which should be used every time you change your baby's diapers.

The Floor: An Alternative to Changing Tables

Some parents skip the changing table all together. Florida mother Carissa Lively never got around to buying one because her twin boys arrived more than a month early, so she got in the habit of changing them on the couch using a changing pad or on the bedroom floor.

"They're a year now and so wiggly when I change them -- they're all over the place -- that it seems safest to do it on couch or the floor," she says. In fact, many parents find the floor a safer place for diaper changing.

Buying Baby Furniture: Rocking Chairs and Gliders

Every parent needs a comfortable, convenient spot for late-night feedings and pre-nap snuggles.  Many people swear by the glider, a modernized version of the rocking chair that gently glides back and forth. Gliders come in many shapes, sizes, and price points -- you can pay from $200 for a no-frills model to more than $1,500 for a leather ottoman version.

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