Posts Tagged ‘Baby Gear’

May 5, 2012

Walled Off

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

We’ve been thinking about baby gates lately. Yes, Zippy is still in utero, and likely won’t be mobile until 2013 in all likelihood, but there’s someone else in our household who needs to be corralled.

Both Domingo and I have close family members with cat allergies. I want to keep baby’s things relatively free of dander, just in case. Lily came first, and I’m a firm believer that every reasonable effort should be made to accommodate both baby and pets. My goal is not to forbid the cat from going into certain rooms (after all, nothing is more appealing to a cat than a place she isn’t allowed to go!) but limit her access. She can investigate, but no sleeping on the baby blankets. Luckily, the allergies in our families are mild so if we keep our house clean, and the cat fur down to a minimum, I’m not anticipating a problem. Lily has been showing less signs of stress, which should also help.

We wanted a pressure gate, rather than a hardware installed gate that would have be much more permanent. Pressure gates are held in place by applying pressure to both side walls. With the latch up, the gate is slightly smaller than the doorway opening. When the latch is pushed down and locked into place, the gate expands slightly to be bigger than the opening. Since the doorway is immutable, the gate can’t extend, creating pressure. Pressure gates can be removed and put up as many times as you want.

A few weeks ago I picked up the cheapest baby gate we could find – First Year’s brand gate at target for $10. (Why pay for more when the simple one will do?) The pressure causes the latch bar on this baby gate to bow slightly when in the process of securing or removing the gate. The latch is not the easiest to operate in general, and this added pressure/bowing it makes it even worse. The gate is fine once secured, but putting the gate up and taking it down can be a bit of a pain – which is exactly why we wanted a pressure gate in the first place! The manufactures seem to realize this, making the gate low enough that you can step over it without much hassle, even when you’re short like me.

Since the latch style seemed to be the problem, we needed to look at the next category of gates. The cheapest one in the next category up was the Munchkin Quick Install Gate, currently on sale at Target for $20. It’s another pressure gate and operates mostly the same way, but what makes it stand out is the type of latch. Rather than just a bar with a clamp, the munchkin gate has a guide to help the bar stay in place, sans bowing. It’s so much easier to operate. The gate is also heavier, sturdier, and taller. I suspect it will last to zippy’s toddler days.

For our needs, the munchkin gate is definitely worth the price increase. Since it’s still on sale and we need at least two gates, we’ll pick up another one.

April 30, 2012

List Overload

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

I love lists. Really I do. But my Pre-Baby To Do list is giving me heart palpitations. How is it we still have this much left to do?! Despite my panic, this was actually a pretty good weekend baby wise.

I scheduled the last of our pregnancy classes and our hospital tour of Labor and Delivery unit for next week. I’ve been holding off organizing my hospital bag until the tour, since I don’t know what they provide, and what they recommend I bring for myself and for zippy. In the gold old days hospitals use to get free samples from baby manufactures that they gave out to new moms. I’ve heard stories of free Halo SleepSack and nasal aspirators a couple years ago. Jealous! I’m not sure what we can expect in this economy, but I think they still have things like pacifiers, since the hospital keeps those on hand for the new babies anyway. After the tour we’ll go to a drug store and pick up a bunch of little things like a hair brush, first aid supplies, etc. I’ve found for this category of gear, local drug stores beat baby stores and online retailers. You have less choices, but how many choices do you need for a baby hair brush anyway?

We will have to skip the birthing class, since it doesn’t fit our schedule. The class is being offered only twice more before I’m due. The first is this Friday/Saturday, with Saturday being a full seven hours! It’s so last minute, that even if I put off all the things we need to do next weekend (and we were hoping to cross of quite a bit from our to-do list), I’m not sure we can be squeezed in. The class will be offered again a few days before Zippy’s due. Even if Zippy comes late, I’m not sure I’ll be up to sitting through 9 hours of pregnancy classes at 9 months pregnant! The good news is, of the classes that we were planning to take, I was most inclined to skip this one. At the hospital we’ll be surrounded by Doctors and nurses who know what they are doing and can tell us what to do. I also don’t feel totally unprepared. There’s also a lot of information online about breathing techniques, and what to expect. Our hospital also has a labor video that I’ve already watched. The other classes, breastfeeding and new born care, will help us learn what to do when we’re on our own. The birth is also one day, where we will be carrying for a nursing a newborn a lot longer!

We purchased a rocker for the nursery. We went with a rocker/recliner from JCPenney because it was so amazingly comfortable. I could spend hours a day in that chair (and I’m sure I will once zippy comes!). It seemed superior to the comparably priced ones at BabiesRUs and BuyBuyBaby, and JCPenney included free shipping. I was also able to get 20% off by opening a new charge card, so it was a great deal. I know – opening a new line of credit isn’t completely without cost, as it comes with a credit hit – but the temporary hit is worth it.

We also got the Motorola Video Baby Monitor from BuyBuyBaby using a 20% off coupon. It wasn’t until after I purchased it that I realized this particular unit doesn’t support a second parent device. (My fault – I didn’t do enough consumer research). We could have done a monitor with several parent devices if I was willing to give up video or willing to spend a lot more, both of which I was unwilling to do, so we would have ended up with the same monitor anyway.

Next we got a Dishwasher Basket for under $4 for Target as a spur of the moment decision. We were looking at the pacifiers and it suddenly occurred to me that we needed a way to clean them. If pacifiers end up not being dishwasher safe, I’m sure I can find a use for the tray (like cleaning my Wilton decorating tips or the corn on the cob grips). I went with blue, since I dislike hot pink and neon green. If I ever work up the courage to spend $50 for a bathtub, I will get the Blooming Bath in blue as well for the same reason.

So now we can clean baby’s (non existent) pacifiers, have a spot to clean her bottom (we still need diapers, wipes, etc), a spot for her to sleep and the technology to watch her as she does. It’s progress!

While we haven’t bought it yet, we did make a decision regarding strollers. We settled on the City Mini Stroller, since it’s easier and more comfortable for me than the other brands. Currently the Infant Car Seat Adaptor is actually more costly than the Single Snap N’ Go Stroller, so we’re planning on getting the Snap-N-Go. I’m just waiting for my registry completion coupon to make the purchase. If we get the Snap-N-Go, I might wait on the City Mini until the end of the year, when the city mini 2013 models come out. We won’t have use for the City Mini until then anyway, and if I wait I can get this year’s model at a discount! Double win!

Lastly – and I’m so proud of myself for this – I sent out thank you cards. A couple close friends and family members surprised us with gifts last weekend at my sister’s wedding, including some very nice handmade blankets. I was so bad with thank you cards after our wedding (they went out almost six months after!) so this time I thought I would send them out right away. It’s much easier to write four than forty.

April 8, 2012

Cheap Baby Gear Fail

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

One of the baby items I was interested in was the Gunapod Sleepsack. It seemed super warm and fuzzy for a winter time visit to the east coast. But my mom convinced me that $35 dollars for an item that will be used for at most one week is overkill.

Recently I was wondering around Amazon Warehouse and noticed the same sleep sack for $10 dollars! In the right size and color I wanted too. Score! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Amazon’s warehouse, it’s a place for gently used items. The sleep sack description said it was ‘like new’ (which according to Amazon means it should appear new) and that the box was damaged so it couldn’t be sold as ‘new’. I have no problem with second hand items, especially for things that can be thrown in the washing machine for a few iterations. So even if it was worn by another baby, it’s not a big deal to me.

So I added the sleep sack to my cart, and decided to look around for something else to get the free shipping. I figured with all of the baby gear we need, I’d find something that was also a decent deal. I was also meeting friends this weekend, so I didn’t have time to spend too much time online shopping. Waiting was a mistake. Two days later and the sleep sack is no longer available. Drat! So if you want something off of Amazon Warehouse, don’t wait to purchase it.

Amazon Warehouse is probably not worth it for some items if you have a registry and will get the 10% discount completion code. Most products seem to be discounted around 12-13%. So you’re only saving an additional 2-3% for a product that’s used instead of something new. I’m cheap, but I don’t know if I’m that cheap for an extra 3% savings. The gunapod was an exception. In addition to being significantly marked down, it wasn’t sold through Amazon but through a third party, it wasn’t eligible for the completion discount. That’s probably why it went so fast.

As for me, I will continue to go back and see if the gunapod is available. But my mom’s right, the winters aren’t cold enough here in California, and it’s silly to pay full price on an item I know will be rarely used.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

When I previously mentioned our baby gear strategy, I alluded to the fact that not every type of gear is needed by everyone. What you will need will depend on your life style, what kind of home you have, and even where you live. Babies are also very different, and what works for one baby does not necessarily work for another.

Of course, my opinion is just that. Worse, it’s a bre-baby, inexperienced first time mom opinion. I feel it’s also important to emphasize that I am in no means a baby product expert, and certainty not a safety expert. You should visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission and not take my, or any other blogger’s, word for it when it comes to safety.

So without further ado, here’s my current thoughts. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when Zippy gets here, and I realize all my preconceived notions are completely off.

Popular Items We’re Passing On

Pack N’ Play. I have had several friends recommend this to me as a place for baby to sleep in our room. However, there’s no room in our bedroom. The closest spot for a Pack N Play is about three feet in front of the nursery. If I already have to get out of bed to walk that far, why not just use the crib?

We do want to keep the baby with us for the first couple of weeks at least. I’m considering a Rock N’ Play for this, as it’s advertised as a “safe place for baby to sleep overnight” and small enough to fit easily next to the bed. I’m not completely sold on the Rock N’ Play as a night time sleeping spot for a newborn. According to amazon it’s “the only infant seat that meets industry safety standards for bassinets” but I haven’t been able to back up the claim anywhere, and I’m a nervous first time mom.

Bumbo Seat. This is another one that’s been recommended by many people, but I just can’t get past the safety concerns. In fact, there’s even a push to have these seats recalled. Admittedly the number of safety incidents are small, and mostly in cases were the seat may not be being used correctly, but it seems like an awfully expensive seat when it’s the same price as many bouncers and seats with harnesses. A when you consider a report that the seat offers no developmental benefits, and could potentially be harmful, it really doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Breathable Crib Bumpers/Sheet Savers/etc. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends no bumpers in the crib, even breathable ones. I’ve also seen similar concerns over sheet savors. We’ll have a waterproof mattress cover under the fitted crib sheet to protect the mattress. If baby has a diaper blow out, we are going to need to wash her sleeper and swaddle blanket anyway. Looks like we’ll be running the washing machine frequently anyway. If we’re already doing the wash, it won’t cost us anything extra to throw in the crib sheet as well. Is there a real suffocation danger behind these items? Like the bumbo the number of incidents is also small, but I’d just assume pass on them. Like with pregnancy, I’d rather be over cautious and not risk it.

Bottle Sterilizer. We are planning on breastfeeding. Zippy may have a few bottles early on, but she’ll mostly get them when she goes to day care. By that point she’ll be at the age where she’s putting anything that’s within reach into her mouth, and a bottle cleaned in the dishwasher will be the least of my fears.

Diaper Bag. Well, at least not right away. Why? I have lots of tote bags in all sorts of sizes already that can easily double as a diaper bag. Baby Bargains’s recommendation is to choose a diaper bag based on the changing pad. Personally I really like the Skip Hop Pronto Changing Pad a friend showed me. It’s small and compact, with a pocket to hold diapers and wipes. I imagine if we’re out and about somewhere I can leave the bulky diaper bag with all the extra soothing toys, pacifiers, change of clothes, etc with Domingo and take the SkipHop with zippy and I to the restroom to change her diaper. Baby Bargains also pointed out most first time moms start with giant diaper bags that hold everything and the kitchen sink, and then migrate to ones that are smaller when they learn what they truly need for their baby. I figure by starting with bags I already own I can get a better sense of what size is right for me before I make a purchase.

Where We’re Going Overboard On.

Rock N’ Play. Okay, here’s the stupidest reason ever for wanting to upgrade the Rock N’ Play – I dislike the colors of the standard Rock N’ Plays. I justified the purchase to myself that the extra padding would make for a better sleeping experience for baby. After all, she may inherent my taste for only super soft things. (I opt for comfort rather than style in all my fabrics. If it doesn’t pass the touch test, it doesn’t come home with me, no matter how good it looks or how good the sale is.) Since we got a deal on it, I don’t feel too guilty about buying the deluxe. We ended up with the Snugabunny.

Video Baby Monitor. We have a rather compact, small house, so we could get away with a small audio monitor with limited range. We may even be able to get away without a monitor at all, since the nursery shares a wall with the master bedroom, and we’re planning on keeping both doors open with a baby gate to keep the cat out. But I want the video capability. A video monitor can show whether a baby is fussing and self soothing, or truly awake. It can also be useful to see if a toddler is in bed asleep, or playing quietly. Besides, I’m an obsessive worry wart and the ability to see my baby should calm my nervous. Domingo is also into gadgets, so the high end video monitors really appeal to him, double win. We’re considering the Motorola.

Nursing Chair. At first I thought I’d want a nice glider, but after much consideration we’re leaning towards an upholstered armchair that rocks and reclines. We can get one with free shipping and 20% off if we open a store credit card, which actually makes the recliner cheaper, and the recliner will be useful post baby in the office, living room or den (if we’re fortunate to have a house with a den some day). It’ll also recline which gives me a comfortable place to sleep close to baby, should I feel the need.

So the things we’re going overboard are typically the most expensive baby items, and we’re passing on some of the popular cheaper items. Does this mean I can no longer consider myself frugal?

March 15, 2012

High Price of Baby Extras

I thought I had a good handle on baby gear, but apparently there was a whole category of gear I wasn’t considering. I thought I picked out the car seat I wanted and the stroller. But lately I’ve been looking into a lot of the add-ons and I just have to say – wow. For one car seat I was looking at, the extra base is $70! For just $10 more I could get a super cheap additional infant carry for D’s car and skip the second base all together. Want an insect or rain cover to go with the stroller? They can easily run $50 on up. Each! What was once a good value car seat may now be way more expensive than comparable ones once you factor in all these extras. It’s like if the word ‘baby’ or ‘mommy’ is used, be prepared for a price hike. ‘Baby humidifiers’ are 20% more than small room humidifiers. Ever hear of the mommy hook that lets you attach a diaper bag to a stroller? It’s basically a Carabiner snap hook for 33% more.

Everyone wants the ‘the best’ for their baby, and, some equate ‘the best’ as ‘most expensive’. Most moms-to-be also have baby showers. In my neck of the woods, $30-50 per gift is standard, so a $50 insect/shade cover is a fine gift. Registering for 50 $30-50 gifts doesn’t seem unreasonable. But for a mom footing most of the bill herself, it adds up quickly and feels insane. The high price of baby extras also makes it harder to determine what’s a good deal, and what isn’t.

I recently was considering a 3 wheel stroller like the Britax B-Agile. The universal car seat adapter (allows you to attach an any infant car seat to turn the stroller into an infant stroller) for the B-Agile is around $40. If I go with the Britax B-Safe care seat, I can forgo the converter, however the B-Safe will cost me roughly $140 more, even when bought together in a ‘travel system’. An infant car seat under $100 would be cheaper, even considering I would need a converter. Of course, the choice of car seat also comes with a fixed additional cost of the second base for the second car. We haven’t even factored in trays or toys yet, which differ per brand.

When it comes to stroller adapters and extra car seat bases, I’m not willing to go second hand. You never know how the previous owner treated it. Was the base in a car crash? Was the adapter used with an overweight seat, or in a way it wasn’t designed for? These things not only void the warranty, but can create a safety issue. Used teethers also gross me out. But I’m 100% on board with second hand for many things like stroller covers and clothes that can easily be washed. I’d also consider going brand agnostic for some of the extras. A generic insect or whether cover may only cost $10. It won’t fit as nicely, but for 1/4th the price, would you care?

We also plan on holding off on some of these extras. This has been a very mild winter, with almost no rain. I’d hate to buy a rain cover and then never take it out of the packaging. The other day I almost bought a JJ Cole Infant Car Seat Cover. It was on sale ($15, down from $30) but since baby is due in June, she will be six months old by December/January. Even if we have a colder winter, she may be out of the infant seat by then. Saving $15 is good, but saving $30 by not buying an item we won’t use is even better.

It all makes me happy I started looking at gear early. Hopefully I’ll have it figured out by the time the baby comes!

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Long before we decided to start our family, I started researching baby products. Our house has a surprising lack of storage space, and I didn’t want to add to the clutter with a bunch of rarely used baby gear! We’re also not planning on a shower, so it was extra important for us to save whenever we could. I want the best for our baby and my philosophy is to spend as little as possible on the things I want.

I started by picking up a copy of Baby Bargains. I have mixed feelings on the book. On the one hand, it has a great philosophy of focusing on your life style and getting the gear that matches it. Have a small house or an apartment? Then you don’t need a baby monitor with a large range. What I didn’t realize was the copy I picked up was already a couple of years out dated. The prices the book mentioned did not match up with current MSRP, (in some cases they were as much as 30% off in either direction!), and the book didn’t have any reviews of current trendy products. Overall I thought the book was useful, but make sure you get the latest edition. (BTW, the one I linked to is the 2011 edition, which is the most current as the time of this post.)

Next, I created a registry – yes, before even trying for a baby. As I’ve mentioned before, I love lists. Our baby registry, just like our wedding registry, is constantly evolving. I’ll start by adding the basics – a car seat, a stroller, etc. But some products are more compatible with each other than others. Once I identify a stroller I like, I may switch the infant car seat for one that is compatible with the stroller without the need to purchase a conversion kit. Or, maybe I’ll opt for a swing that can double as a bouncer so I don’t need two. I read a few blogs of women who had already started a family, and whenever something struck me as a good idea for our baby, I’d add it to the registry. Similarly, if I start reading bad reviews for a product, off the registry it goes. Working on the registry a little bit at a time also helped keep me from getting overwhelmed. At this point I’ve replaced most items on the registry, and I’m a lot happier with the new list.

Next I set up an account with camelcamelcamle.com. Camel Camel Camel is a website that tracks price fluctuations on Amazon, as well as a few other sites. Most products on amazon have some price fluctuations, even books. I imported our registry and could see a price history of each product. If a product is usually 30% off, and only 20% off on a given day, it’s not a good sale! Camel Camel Camel will also alert you if the price drops below a threshold you can specify. For products that I can wait for, such as specific Dr. Seuss books or winter sleep sacks for a June baby, I set the threshold to be the lowest price I’ve seen. That way I’m sure I get a great deal. If I know I’ll need something right away, I’ll be a little less stingy and look for a good deal, not the best deal. I also keep in mind that other retailers have stable prices and reliable coupons (like babiesrus.com and buybuybaby.com). If the amazon price doesn’t beat buybuybaby’s price with a 20% off coupon, it’s not worth purchasing! My Camel Camel Camel price watch list has more than just my registry items. In some cases where I am indifferent between two brands, I add both products to my price watch list. I figure which ever one gives me the best price first is the one I’ll go with.

Camel Camel Camel does have some limitations. It currently doesn’t factor in the cost of shipping for third party products. There’s one item on my registry that’s $22 some days, and $16.50 others. Seems like a great deal, right? Except that shipping is free when it’s $22, and $4.95 when it’s $16.50, making the actual savings a whopping 55 cents. When a product is available in multiple colors from multiple sellers, Camel Camel Camel seems to get confused as to which version is being offered for which price. Despite the limitations, camel camel camel is great, and has already helped me score some great deals!

I also added a free price check app on my iphone. The app scans the bar code and lets me know what the price is at Amazon. When I’m out at a store, and a baby swing is listed as “on sale” I can find out what whether or not it’s a good sale. I’m always wary of ‘sale’ signs, as there is some evidence of companies markup up the price before a sale to make a sale price seem like a better deal.

Lastly, there are a few items that I am interested in, but that do not normally go on sale via big box stores, so I can’t watch for them on camel camel camel or normal coupon sites. For these products I set up google alerts for the product name and the words ‘sale’ and ‘discount’. That way, if there’s a possibility of a deal, I’ll hopefully see it before the deal period expires.

After re-reading my post it sounds like I’ve buying most of my baby gear through Amazon. I’m not. In fact, of all the things I’ve purchased so far, only one item came from Amazon, and that ended up not being a very good deal afterall. The rest I got as great sales from Target. Amazon’s every day prices tend to bet Target’s, but so far Target has had better sales. We stocked up on Dr. Seuss books for $5 a book, and got a deluxe rock n’ play for the standard rock n’ play price.

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