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Expert Q&A: Choosing Baby Gear

Consumer activist and co-author of Baby Bargains Alan Fields gives the lowdown on where to skimp, save, and splurge for baby.
By Constance Matthiessen
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD

All parents want the best for their baby, but that doesn't mean you need to blow your budget on the most expensive baby gear.

Consumer advocate Alan Fields and wife Denise Fields,  co-authors of Baby Bargains, Baby 411, and Toddler Bargains, have been helping new parents find deals and steals on baby and toddler gear for years. Their books include quality ratings and detailed safety information for each product.

Do you recommend that couples make and maintain a budget for buying baby furniture and other baby gear?

Yes, we believe it's a good idea for parents to create a budget and stick to it as much as possible.

The key is to focus on the basics. For the nursery, you're creating a safe place for baby to sleep. It doesn't have to be a sterile hospital room. You want it to be nice, but you can create a wonderful environment without going overboard.

You're going to need a bassinet, a crib, a place to store baby clothes and other items, and a place to change diapers. These are the basics. On top of that, you may want a lamp, curtains, and maybe a new coat of paint, but keep it simple. In other words, don't spend $500 on a set of designer sheets -- that's a waste of money. 

I'd also say that it's important to have an eye on the future. One reader recently asked us what we thought of a combination crib and dresser. The problem is, when your child grows out of the crib in just a few years, you have to sell the whole thing.

When you're buying baby furniture, it also makes a difference if you're planning to have more children. So think ahead when you make your nursery purchases.

There are so many types of baby carriers and strollers on the market. Do you think it's a matter of individual taste or are there some that you recommend across the board?

It's a very individual thing. There is a big difference between all the different types of baby carriers, and it's worth it to spend time figuring out what suits you and your circumstances.

Do some research and think about why you want to use the carrier. Your baby gear needs to accommodate your parenting style. For example, attachment-style parenting puts a big emphasis on the sling.

Baby strollers are also very individual. What kind of lifestyle do you have, and where do you live? If you live in San Francisco or New York, you're probably going to be using public transportation, so you want a very light stroller that's easy to fold. If you live in Dallas, you're more likely to be in the car a lot. If you live out in the country where you're pushing the stroller on gravel roads, you may want an all-terrain stroller. There are many choices available, so it's a good idea to step back and think it over before you register for a particular baby carrier or stroller.

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