Tips for Navigating the Booming Baby Business

According to a recent piece in New York Magazine, the baby-product industry is projected to earn $49 billion in sales in 2013 – WOW that is both impressive and extremely terrifying as a new mom. With SO many products available, how in the world are we supposed to navigate our way through? I know, I know as new parents we do the best we can (blah, blah, blah), but seriously – it’s tricky.  I think my biggest pitfall is that I’m TOO trusting and tend to think every product has some great qualities; hey, I’m an equal opportunity shopper! But, in order to avoid getting completely overwhelmed, I think it’s crucial to do your homework and expect to have some (hopefully minor) misses along the way.  Below are a few tips that have helped me weed through the immense baby-gear industry and find products that really work for me.

What does a baby really need anyways? A lot.  To provide one example, because there are millionsTheBump has a super comprehensive ‘Registry 101’ list that I would suggest taking a peak at, especially if you are unfamiliar and a first time parent. Once you determine the basics, then you can delve deeper into the specific brands, prices, etc.  

Consider your specific needs. Do you live in a five-bedroom house or a one-bedroom apartment? If it’s the later, like myself, you need to be a tad bit more strategic with your registry and purchases. While you certainly want to optimize this lovely gift-receiving period, don’t register or buy three baby swings if you only have room for one. On the flip side, if you do live in a house (or anything bigger than a one bedroom apartment) maybe you want to invest in a nice monitor so you can keep track of baby or you want multiple Pack’N’Plays for each floor. Essentially, by surveying your specific environment, you can prioritize and efficiently weed out products that just won’t work.
Make a budget.Babies are expensive, so unless you have a money tree growing in your back yard, it probably makes sense to crunch some numbers and create a list of priority items. For example, living in Manhattan and not owning a car, I knew I needed a heavy-duty stroller, so a large portion of our budget went towards that purchase. Even if you don’t necessarily need to budget, it’s still wise to be strategic with your purchases or you will find yourself overwhelmed and up to your ears in baby gear.
Enlist the help of family and friends. Send out an email to your favorite mammas asking for a list of their top 5/10 can’t-live-without items and you might be surprised with their creativity! One product that was recommended to us again and again was a fitness bouncy ball for soothing baby (you bounce with baby in your arms) and wow – it really works!
*Just a note, I would suggest pooling advice from several friends/family/co-workers and taking pieces from everyone – no two people have the EXACT same needs, budget and baby.
Do your homework and shop smart. Once you’ve determined what you need for baby before his/her arrival, do a little extra homework and read the fine print before making any large purchases. I registered for a car seat that I THOUGHT was adaptable with my stroller (right brand, wrong model) and because we did not realize our mistake until after we used it to bring baby home, we now have two and no car. I know. Also, use coupons and watch for sales; you can use the 20 percent off ‘Bed Bath and Beyond’ coupons interchangeably at ‘Buy Buy Baby’ and Amazon Mom is another great saver, especially on diapers and wipes (just beware – after your free three month trial you are automatically signed up for an entire year unless you opt out). 
Wait for baby.  With all that said, at the end of the day, sometimes it just makes sense to wait for baby. I know it’s really tempting to buy all of your baby gear upfront, but aside from the essentials (just think EAT, SLEEP, POOP), wait to meet your little one and get a sense for his or her temperament before buying everything from birth to six months or a year. You have no idea what new products will be available, what your baby will enjoy or if your sweet neighbor is getting rid of her gently used bouncer, score
As a final note, I will leave with you with this mantra – in the baby world, less is truly more. 

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