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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.

Can Portable Baby Cribs Do Double Duty?

San Francisco parent Lauren Cony says her son Dylan, now 1 year old, slept in his Pack 'n' Play -- a combination portable crib/playpen that can include a bassinet attachment -- until he was 6 months old. "We set it up right next to the bed, and it worked great," Cony says. "He sleeps in a crib in the nursery now, but we still use the Pack 'n' Play without the bassinet attachment when we travel."

Wing recommends that parents buy nursery products that last. All the baby cribs that Giggle carries convert to toddler or day beds, for example. She also urges people to focus less on brand names or what their friends have, and more on what will work for their particular family.

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.

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