Preparing for 1st baby- when to save vs splurge? buy new vs used?
May 8, 2015 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Preparing for our first baby in October and trying to figure out the smartest approach to equipping ourselves with everything we're going to need. So many choices to make! What things should we pay more for because we'd regret pinching pennies, and when is splurging on the pricier stuff a waste? What should we look for new vs used (and not just for safety issues like carseats, but also what's the key "never waste your money on buying X new, you can get it so much cheaper used" stuff)?

We are pretty frugal and like getting the best deals, but we can also definitely afford to pay for the most expensive stuff if it's really worth our while (especially if it's something that will make things significantly easier/less time-consuming for us as we adjust to new parenthood.) We're not very concerned about appearances at all, and not interested paying more for things because they're more attractive or trendy or stylish-- we're all about function.

We're willing to do a reasonable amount of legwork tracking down used stuff pre-baby (we don't have any friends or relatives we're expecting free hand-me-downs from; I did get on a busy local parenting listserv recently and occasionally people offer things for free but those go quick) but it seems exhausting to do that for every single thing, so we'd appreciate advice on what stuff to focus on where we're likely to save the most getting things used, and we'll be okay with paying a few dollars more for the sake of convenience to get other stuff new.

We'd love general advice ("the more expensive X's are way better than the cheap ones" or "you'll save a ton getting your X used"), advice on specific features ("you'll probably really appreciate getting an X that includes a thingamabob"), and particular recommendations ("the X from BabyCo is your best bang for the buck.") Also feel free to give advice on items to skip entirely, although I know there've been other posts on that.

We're definitely interested in your advice on everything on the giant long list of baby must-haves... one thing in particular that has been blowing my mind lately is cribs, where some are nearly $1000 yet the Ikea Sniglar is $70 and there are plenty of others under $250. What explains the wildly differing prices, and is there real value added in the more expensive ones? (If it matters, we're strongly considering sidecarring the crib alongside the bed at least for awhile, in lieu of buying a separate cosleeper. Also, I'm 5'0".)

We don't expect a baby shower, although some relatives and maybe a couple friends will want to buy us things, so we should probably have a decent amount of stuff on a baby registry (plus! completion discount!) So I guess there's that angle too, but I don't want to register to have someone buy us something new that we could get for half the price used, y'know? At least unless it's pretty cheap to begin with. But yeah, feel free to give registry-specific advice as well.

Some other info if it helps: we live in a major urban area; we are planning on this being the first of two kids; we will be trying to breastfeed and then pump (although I'm pretty sure my insurance pays for the pump); undecided on diapering but I am really intrigued by hybrid diapers like Grovia; we don't drive much and are considering skipping an infant carseat entirely (with the plan of having one researched and ready to order on Amazon if we regret it); planning on keeping the baby in our room for at least the first few months and maybe significantly longer if it's working well for all of us, leaning towards sidecarring a crib to the bed (unless there's a real value-added to buying a standalone cosleeper?)

Thanks so much for helping guide our way along this overwhelming journey! Any and every bit of advice will be deeply appreciated.
posted by EmilyClimbs to Shopping (61 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (And by skipping an infant carseat I mean buying a convertible at the start, not going without a carseat entirely! We certainly do drive sometimes.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2015

Honestly? Go cheap on everything. Then if after a few weeks/months of use you wish you had a better one, invest.
The only exception I can think of is the breast pump. Yes, your insurance will buy one for you but their choice will be cheap and crappy. Buy a decent one, used is fine.
posted by arrmatie at 1:05 PM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

The thing about the infant car seat is you can transition from out of the house to in the house without waking baby up and taking him/her out. Infant car seats also can connect to stroller bases, either through a single-brand "travel system" or through adaptive pieces like the BOB strollers have. In fact, for a stroller like the BOB you must have an infant car seat to make use of it until the kid is ~6 months old. So I'd look at what kind of stroller you are looking at having, for one thing. If you can wheel the stroller right into your living room, sleeping baby and all, then you might have less of a need for the portability of an infant car seat.
posted by handful of rain at 1:07 PM on May 8, 2015 [14 favorites]

I don't know if you listen to the One Bad Mother podcast (it's a pretty great podcast, and I'm not even a mother), but the private Facebook group was just talking about the IKEA cribs and the general opinion was thumbs up. Both SNIJLAR and HENSVIK were popular, though someone said one non-IKEA brand of mattress didn't fit so double-check mattress dimensions.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:08 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

RE: the insurance/pump thing, I would get that completely sorted out before the baby emerges if possible. Or at least we should have; my wife needed a pump immediately for kid #1 because of initial latching issues, but the insurance when called would basically only give you a pump if you jumped through 500 hoops first and bought it at a store under the troll bridge during a full moon. So we just sucked up the $300.

The most general advice is to buy what you absolutely know you will need and deal with everything else as it comes up. We like a lot of couples ended up with a huge amount of stuff we never used or used once. Only buy something new if you KNOW you will use or for safety issues (car seats). If you buy something at a consignment shop for cheap and don't use it, no worries, it was cheap. Every baby is different and you never know what you will and won't need.

We ended up getting most everything on either Craiglist or at a consignment shop except car seats, the crib, the pump/bottles and a sort of baby tent my wife bought because we had very specific travel needs.

In terms of diapering we wanted to do cloth diapers and ended up using a diaper service where they pick up and drop the diapers off and that has been WONDERFUL.

The main issue with sidecarring the crib is just the size and height. Plus a cosleeper you can take with you when you travel so there's that.

In terms of products we did find very useful:
Boba Wrap for transporting the infant on your body (my wife LOVED these for both our kids)
Ergo for when the kid is a bit bigger (you can wait on this one though)
Medela bottles/pump etc, this stuff has lasted through both kids. The lansinoh milk freezing bags seemed to work better, though.

Oh, in terms of what NOT to buy, the bottle cleaners with the bright colors they sell at Target are utter garbage. The bristles come off within a week. Buy a nice quality one on Amazon from Oxo or someone like that.

Other than that? Remember to have the car seats installed and know how the webbing works BEFORE you leave the hospital. You will be bone tired and possibly stressed about going home, you don't want to be on the floor of your room with a manual trying to figure out which strap goes where. (trust me I've been there)
posted by selfnoise at 1:09 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

We loved our SNIGLAR, but it's very deep- might be hard to get baby out at the lower setting.

#1 baby item I love: rock n' play sleeper. Very reasonably priced and you can use it for months, for sitting, napping, or even sleeping at night.

I feel like you can get almost anything used for baby, since so much stuff is used for such a short amount of time. Only big exception is car seats (unless they're from someone you trust and they haven't been in any accidents).

My insurance breast pump was more than adequate (there were many options, surprised to hear someone had a bad experience) and very easy to procure; do not buy one yourself without trying theirs first.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:10 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We went with the cheapo Ikea crib and have no regrets. I'd skip the toddler bed and go straight to a twin with a rail when the wee one is ready.

I think a diaper genie is unnecessary, too. Just a regular garbage can with a lid and foot pedal that you can use anywhere after the diaper era. You'll be changing the bags often enough that (in my experience) the odor difference won't matter much, and the name brand bag rolls are stupidly expensive.

One thing a friend of mine did - he didn't own a tool chest, so he bought a really nice one and put it in the baby room and just bought a changing pad to put on top of it. When the baby outgrew the need for a changing table he moved the tool chest out to the garage and it will last him the rest of his life.

Not related to products, but it worked well for us to leave our twins in their own room. That way at least one of us could actually get some sleep in our room with the other one tended to the kid(s). We had an extra mattress in their room for awhile in case we were able to nap a bit during one of the nearly nonexistent moments both kids managed to sleep at the same time.
posted by look busy at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seriously, babies use things for such a short period of time that pretty much EVERYTHING is available for free or next-to-free. Get busier on that local listserv and start grabbing big items like a crib, stroller, swing, bouncy seat, Ergo or whatever carrier. If you can get a cosleeper on the listserv, get one, but sidecarring works too.
If you do need a car seat, I'd suggest not doing a used car seat unless it is from your sister or best friend that you completely trust and is not expired. I bought a Britax brand one and it was really expensive and heavy. If I were to do it again, I'd go with a Graco. They aren't in those infant seats for very long and it sounds like you won't really need one.

As far as the relatives, let them get you diapers (even though that isn't "fun); blankets; clothes that make Auntie Sally happy to buy even though they're available cheaper or free; books (although don't go crazy on books if you have a walkable library); and some toys. You can't stop them.
posted by k8t at 1:12 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Get on your local Facebook parenting groups, and perhaps a local FB garage sale group. That's where the best kid-related deals are these days. Watch them for a month or so before you jump in to make any purchases. There are some people who expect to get almost new prices, and there are lots of people who will ask for just-get-it-out-of-my-garage prices.

I agree to get a new breastpump, and also a crib mattress unless it is coming from someone you know extremely well - don't forget that used furniture can sometimes be a source of bedbugs. You can probably mitigate this by leaving wooden furniture out in full sun for several days, but don't get cushy things used.

Start looking for local consignment sales and consignment shops in your area. Sales are cheaper than shops imo. Again, go in having done your homework on new prices, so you will know what is a good deal and what is unreasonable.

For example, when I look for clothes at consignment sales, I will only pay what is less than what I could have gotten the item for on clearance. If I could have bought the item new on clearance for $10, why would I pay you $20 for your used version (which people will ask for, since they paid $30 for it new)?

Get a monitor - no, get a video monitor. I started out trying the lowest end ones on Amazon (because of their great return policy) and ended up going through 5 different monitors until I ended up with a $300 Motorola. Of course I would have preferred to find one used, but I didn't have the time to mess around with not having a monitor for a while. But whatever you do, get one that has a video option, it is so much easier to decide whether or not you need to go in their room if you have video.
posted by vignettist at 1:16 PM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

On the crib thing, if Finland's babies sleep in cardboard boxes, you probably don't need to splurge on a crib. Getting a firm baby-proof mattress should be good enough.

We got one of those travel systems (stroller + car seat base + infant carrier) for the 1st child, and it has been quite useful, but now that we have a 2nd child, I would really love one of those double or tandem strollers. Some of these strollers can transition from 1 child to 2 children. Maybe after Baby #2 outgrows the infant carrier.

Breastpump: 1st child, I had to buy my own pump. 2nd child, insurance gave me one. Not sure why I got one for the 2nd child, did not change insurance, but yeah, check with insurance first about them giving you one.

The Lansinoh breastmilk bags have leaked for me a few times in the past, might be because after they're frozen, and if they knock around in the freezer, the plastic ripped a little. I switched to the Nuk bags, they haven't leaked yet to my knowledge.

Breastpumping bra: I bought one, but ended up not using it at all. I usually ended up just pressing the bottles to myself while I fiddled with my smartphone with my other hand to pass the time.

Got a glider chair + footstool that both glide, but if I had to do it again, I'd get a chair that also reclined, and a footstool that is also able to lock position. If this is your kinda thing, I'd get a quality chair that you intend to keep for yearsss

posted by Seboshin at 1:17 PM on May 8, 2015

In my area, there is a group for parents of multiples (twins, etc) and they hold big garage sales. Great way to pick some stuff up. Maybe there's something like that in your area?
posted by stowaway at 1:18 PM on May 8, 2015

Oh, using the changing pad on top of the dresser is a way better and cheaper option that getting a dresser and a separate changing table. For baby #2, until we can move him into his own room and get him a dresser, we will be using our office table which is in our room (office gear / bill-paying station has been moved to the dining room).
posted by vignettist at 1:19 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

We used a pack n play instead of a crib for the first year. Actually, we INTENDED on using the Pack n Play but the baby ended up sleeping in our bed until his first birthday at which point we moved him to the pack n play until we bought a crib. We got the cheapest Ikea crib and it was great, converted to a toddler bed so we used it for quite a while... and the pack n play got used a bunch when we traveled, so it's not like it was a waste of money to buy it. Especially if you want the baby in your room, get the pack n play, it has a much smaller footprint, then get a crib later. You can probably find a pack n play in good shape for under $50 on Craigslist.

The bucket carseat that you can move the baby around in while sleeping was a GODSEND for the first few months, we rocked him to sleep in that thing every blessed day for the first 6 months. And you can move them around without waking them up. SO GREAT. Worth the money.

And yeah, the pump. I had and liked the Medela Pump In Style, if you're planning on doing a bunch of pumping get the best pump you can, NOT the one insurance wants to give you. A friend got the insurance pump and it only pumps one side at a time and takes FOREVER. Believe me, you want to pump as quick as you can.

Everything else... clothes, diapers... cheap out as much as you can.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:20 PM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I try to buy used the things that people often buy with good intentions and then never take out of the box. Barely used baby carriers, in my experience, are easy to find because sometimes people buy one that just doesn't work for them or the baby and have to sell it. We just bought a pristine hiking backpack for my toddler that way, for half its original price. Swings, as well. and monitors (see other comment above). Things that get a lot more traction, like clothes and cribs, I buy new.

Don't get a special co-sleeper. They only work for a short while, and then the baby ends up sleeping between you in the bed half the time anyway. If you do want to sidecar a full-sized crib to the bed, make sure that it actually adjusts to your bed's height. We bought a Gulliver model from Ikea for less than 100€, and although it was a great crib it only had two heights, high and low, neither of which matched the height of our bed, so then we bought a fancy German cosleeper which never got used (see above). The Gulliver was a total workhorse, though, so I recommend it apart from the adjustment issue.

Try to get multitasking items, if you can. Buy a changing pad (new, those things get peed on all the time) and stick it on top of a dresser, you don't need a special piece of furniture just to change diapers. We did buy the Gulliver changing table from Ikea, but it has actually worked really well. The two spacious bottom shelves were where we kept all his clothes for the first year (in collapsible cloth bins), and then when he started messing with the clothes, we put all his toys there instead. It's the perfect height for a toddler to stand and play at, and he still gets his diaper changed on top.

While I'm being a total product shill, I might as well ask: are you going to get a stroller? We bought a Chicco Liteway, which is an umbrella stroller, none of that fancy crap, and just laid the seat all the way down, buckled the baby in, and rolled him around from the first week of his life on up. It really goes against social norms becuase people expect you to have the baby coddled in a special newborn bassinet-type thing (at least where I live), but we saved so much money and it was worth the stares. And the Liteway has been fantastic- around my son's first birthday, my husband and I did the math and realized that we had done AT LEAST 1,500 kilometers of city walking (lots of that over cobblestones and broken sidewalks!) in that one year, and the stroller was still in fantastic shape. A+++ would buy again.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:24 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

what's the key "never waste your money on buying X new, you can get it so much cheaper used" stuff)?

Clothingclothingclothingclothingclothing. They grow so damn fast, and honestly most of the time they are just going to be crawling around and throwing up on it. Buy a couple nice outfits new for outings, and buy the rest used.
posted by corb at 1:25 PM on May 8, 2015 [16 favorites]

I wasted so much money on baby clothes. Don't be like me. Old Navy stuff is totally cute and cheap.
posted by k8t at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

We went on a buy everything new shopping spree when we had our first. I honestly can't think of a single thing that, in retrospect, I don't wish we had gotten second hand. I'm not sure my wife would have been okay with a second hand breast pump though.

On the carseat issue though: We went with a convertible infant-to-toddler carseat for our first. Then we had our second while number one was still in the convertible. We scored a hand-me-down basinette-style carseat for the second child and OMG it is so much better for the first year.
posted by 256 at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

(I have been lurking for ages, but this is the question that finally made me sign up. Clearly I have OPINIONS about this.)

You want the most recent edition of Baby Bargains, which will answer a lot of your questions about where to invest and where you can skimp. They offer product recommendations in three price categories for all the major baby goods. It was a tremendous resource to us. I cross-referenced the suggestions there with Amazon reviews and personal recommendations, and I don't think I've regretted any of our decisions. It's pretty much the perfect answer for the question you're asking.

Also check out the registry basics at Lucie's List.

One thing you can almost always skimp on is clothes. They change sizes so fast, and between consignment sales, thrift stores, local swaps, Craigslist, hand-me-downs, and gifts, it's easy to get quality clothes on the cheap. I think I bought maybe five outfits in the first six months, almost all for special occasions.

Nthing the Rock 'n' Play. That thing saved our sanity. Also loved both the Moby wrap and the Ergo for toting the baby around.

I am a fellow 5'0" shortie. We ended up with a crib whose front-railing dips in the middle. Just that extra inch or so is super helpful when leaning over. I would also strongly, strongly encourage you to get to a Babies R Us where you can play with the strollers. The travel system ones are heavy and awkward to maneuver when you lack height. We ended up with a Graco LiteRiter (bonus: inexpensive!) and it has been fine. The SnugRide 30 infant seat snaps right on it. I know you're considering going straight to the convertible seat, but we loved the convenience of being able to carry the baby in and out of the car without disturbing her.

I would actually suggest holding off on the pump. I used my insurance benefits to get mine, and it would have been fine if I was actually able to breastfeed normally. But for reasons I ended up exclusively pumping, and the consumer-grade pump just wouldn't cut it. I had to rent a hospital-grade one not once, but twice—and that ended up being an out-of-pocket (well, HSA) cost since I had already used my pump benefits. If breastfeeding goes well, you can get the pump shipped fairly quickly to you, so I think it's okay to wait until baby is here on that one. YMMV with your insurance company, though. Once I knew I was going to be pumping all the freakin' time, a hands-free pumping bra was a must. I like the Simple Wishes one from Amazon.

Here's where you can save money: Don't get a full crib bedding package. The bumpers are dangerous, and the baby can't sleep under the quilt anyway. All you need are sheets, and you can find them in plenty of cute colors or patterns. You can carry out a nursery theme through other ways than the bedding.

If you're not an Amazon Prime member, consider it. Two-day shipping on baby items is awesome when you're too sleep-deprived to go to the store. And you can make it so that wipes just show up at your door once a month. Amazing. We also had a registry at Amazon in addition to BRU.

We are cloth diapering and love it. It has progressed way beyond plastic pants and pins, and it can save quite a bit of money—especially if you save everything for kid #2. And it can be done even if both parents work; many daycare providers are finally getting on board once they see it's not really different from disposables. If you are interested in cloth diapering, MeMail me and I will hook you up with some great resources to start your research with.

(Source: First-time mom to a thirteen-month-old.)
posted by timestep at 1:38 PM on May 8, 2015 [11 favorites]

I see you're in DC - we have found quite a few good infant and toddler clothes dirt cheap at Georgia Avenue Thrift Store.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:45 PM on May 8, 2015

Buy as little as possible. Avoid the shops. Newborns need so very little. I still remember standing in the stores and sales staff descending on me in droves because of the obvious baby bulge and all the stuff they say I would need. I am glad I was so short of money then that I was unable to buy everythign suggested. At the time it had me in tears because I felt a failure. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Once baby is a few months old you will know much better what will suit your family life style best. As baby gets older you will see what you need and how you prefer to have your sleeping arrangements / what works for you. For the first few months we had a wicker basket on wheels ready for use that I bought second hand, and only bought a new mattress/bedding for. As it were, we ended up cosleeping because night nursing was so much easier that way, and we did not buy a crib until he was 1 1/2. And then we bougth one for about 70 Euros, and my husband took off one side so we could fix it to our bed frame, and it worked just as fine as the expensive kind.
Same for expensive nursing pillows etc - what might suit one woman might not suit the next.

There is no need to buy a complete matching furniture set now (or ever), for a baby room, or even all those fancy gadgets, high chairs and what not. Don't make any major purchase like that now, but get it as you need it, once you know more how you want to live with the baby.

re diapers - I had all those plans and had purchased a truly expensive organic cotton and wool cloth diapering set - and then found quickly that I simply was not suited to the lifestyle of cloth diapering (event though I had honestly thought I was! I had read all the books and blogs and was convinced).
I would advise against deciding this now - see how it goes once the baby is here. Get some disposables just for the initial weeks and then revisit this issue.

I spent the money others spent on furniture and gadgets on a mid wife. Best investment ever. She had some very practical suggestions (eg don't waste money on baby wipes for use at home, use water and kitchen towels, or cooking oil on plain tissues). Dont need to buy a fancy changing table just get the plastic covered foam pad and place it on existing bed room furniture.

The only other thing I did invest without any regret was in baby carrying. I took classes where we learned how to do it propery with using baby weight dolls, and one could try various slings, wraps, carriers.
There is really no need to buy an expensive pram for a 1000 Euro or some fancy system right now. When I could not carry him anymore I bought a series of cheap strollers and buggies, second hand. As we live in a large city, theft of brand name prams etc is a real issue if you buy the 1000 Euro kind you will mneed to buy a chain to go with it, no joke and secure it like you would a bike.

car seat - we bought a new one, as this is a safety issue. But again I would say resist the urge to get some complete fancy system. You will have a much better idea once baby is older what will suit your family life style best in years to come.
posted by 15L06 at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Confession: I used the changing table exactly once when I brought my daughter home from the hospital. It sucked. I've changed her in her crib since and she's one now. Put a travel changing pad down if you're worried about messs but I honestly only did that the first couple of weeks as I was getting the hang of changing diapers. Changing table was the worst waste of money and space ever.

What I thought was going to be the worst waste of money and space was the baby swing my in-laws gifted us. LIFE SAVER. She napped in that thing for months.
posted by lydhre at 1:48 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We got a nice looking crib from Target for $125 after a coupon (regular was $300+) so get their Cartwheel app and keep a look out for baby furniture coupons.

We also recently got a video monitor to replace the audio only one. We didn't think we'd need it but we both work and for my own sanity, we simply needed to do one of the many variations of cry it out. It's so nice hearing him cry and being able to look to see if he's crying because he crawled himself into a corner he couldn't get out of or stood up and couldn't get down again or if he's babbling and talking to his toys. I totally get it now when before I thought they weren't really necessary.

Try to get a vibrating chair or swing from someone - my kid never liked either and I'm a bit peeved I spent the money. I saw a new mom in the waiting area of my office building and literally ran and got her the one I had in my office.

Wait on a play pen and find a used one. I didn't think we'd need it but once kid became mobile it's been awesome to be able to put him in baby prison so I can pee. You can also wait on a high chair and find a used deal. Go easy to clean - less fabric the better. Wooden ones are good but I have one from Mama's and Papa's that seems supportive and I think is easy to wipe down. Don't get fancy food makers, just get a book on baby led weaning. That's been great.

If you're going to use bottles at all, don't get a big set. Get one of several different types (put out feelers on FB to see if anyone can send you one from their set). We had to try a few to find one the kid would like. If you're going to pump, get a nice electric one. I got a Medela double pump one and loved it, though I rarely double-pumped.

And do get the Wonder Weeks book and make sure your library card works and you can check out all 500 baby sleep books. You'll want to read all of them when the kid is 4 months old and you're getting a little tired of his shit. Not that I'm speaking from experience....

Re: Clothing. My kid spend his first 6 months in footed sleepers or just in his diaper. After that, he wanted to stand up or crawl and needed more traction so we started actually dressing him. Old Navy has good sales. Thrift stores and garage sales are awesome.

Skip a fancy diaper bag and just get a bag you'd be happy to carry around any large amount of junk in. Backpack, beach-style bag.. whatever.

We use the Graco Click-Connect car seat, seat base, and jogging stroller. No complaints.
posted by adorap0621 at 1:51 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had a lot of secondhand stuff thanks to friends and family with slightly older babies and some creative use of Craigslist, and I'd say my only regret was the stroller. Some friends gave us theirs for free; it was a several year old model of some fancy brand that retailed for like $700 new. We were impressed and hadn't done any research so we took it. We hated it. HATED IT. It had a narrow wheel base and short, unadjustable handle so we were constantly kicking it. It had small hard rubber wheels that got stuck on the tiniest unevenness in a sidewalk. It had approximately enough of a storage basket for a few diapers, and that was all. But we stuck with it for longer than we should have because hey, free, and we're not those people who spend money on babies!

Then gave up and bought a super nice one on Stroller Depot and life is so, so much better. It is a joy to push her stroller now. Had we been able to find it used locally, we would have, but we watched for a couple of months and they just weren't coming up so we bought new and I have zero regrets about that. It was worth it. I only regret that we didn't research more ahead of time and focus on getting something we liked rather than "hey, free is good!"

But everything else? Not really any complaints so far.

Good luck!
posted by olinerd at 2:03 PM on May 8, 2015

The $35 Ikea Vyssa Slummer crib mattress is perfectly fine. You don't need to spend lots of money on an expensive one. This has plenty of support for a baby or toddler.
posted by belladonna at 2:08 PM on May 8, 2015

Looks like everything's being covered here, but I'll add that if someone's offering receiving blankets, just take them, even if you already have ten. It is so nice to be able to grab a clean one any time you want to swaddle. People gifted us every other kind of baby blanket under the sun, and most went unused, but the receiving blankets were a godsend.
posted by whoiam at 2:08 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Good advice above! Lucie's List was an awesome resource when trying to sort out what we actually needed.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would add that strollers and car seats/car seat systems are very location specific. If you are planning to use public transportation, to use the subway, or live in a 3rd-story walk-up, you are going to have specific needs and weight, size and turning-radius will be way more important than saving money if you have that luxury.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:20 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

I absolutely agree that you can go cheap on EVERYTHING. And you can pretty much buy used EVERYTHING. I personally think there's about a one in a million chance that there are actual parents out there trying to sell car seats that have been in an accident and thus might harm a baby and then lying about it. But I got a new infant car seat as a gift (Chicco Keyfit) and have been very happy with it. Love the snap-in stroller frame too. I got these on the recommendation of Lucie's List (see link provided above). I have found her recommendations to be very good. I would get the infant "bucket seat" and not one of the ones that can be converted for toddlers and bigger kids - the bucket seats are just so much more portable and having to wake a sleeping baby so you can move it from place to place is the worst ever.

Other tips:
- Don't just join the parenting group, most local areas with higher population density have a Facebook "B/S/T" group ("buy/sell/trade"). That is where you will find the baby items. Just ask about it in the group you're already on and I'm sure someone will link you. There are tons of amazing deals on Craigslist as well.
- I pretty much agree with everything rainydayfilms said - for the baby monitor, you can just use a webcam, you do not need a special branded baby monitor. In lieu of bouncer you can also use a papasan chair or for a slightly older baby, a Bumbo seat, but the Bjorn bouncer is indeed one of the best. Regarding swaddling blankets, I love the muslin ones (Hudson is a cheaper brand than aden+anais) but not for swaddling, they're great for wrapping and draping and general blanket use - for actual swaddling, use a velcro swaddle wrap like Halo. These are definitely worth having. Anything that can facilitate sleep is worth having.
- You don't need a changing table, maybe unless you have a bad back. I pretty much always change my baby on the floor anyway. Lying on a raised surface isn't really safe for babies anyhow.
- No need for fancy crib - the explanation for the price difference is that IKEA stuff is made from pressboard, and the other ones are solid wood and have brand names and look fancier, but babies don't care about that. I got mine on Craigslist for about $50. It's the convertible type but we skipped straight to a twin bed as noted above.
- Carriers are super expensive if you buy new, and highly baby-specific. Ideally, borrow from a friend so you can see if you/baby like it first, then buy used (I got my Bjorn for $15 at a consignment store - Once Upon A Child if you have them in your area). Like, neither of my babies have liked Ergo at all, but most other moms love it. We also preferred K'tan to Moby for an infant wrap.
- If you're trying to save money and you are planning to have more than one child, cloth diapering is a no brainer. I'm not a big fan of hybrid diapers personally but some people like them. I like all in one diapers or pocket diapers like Fuzzibunz or BumGenius a lot, and they're pretty generally popular. That said, I would try to find a local program where you can 'rent' the cloth diapers or try out a selection. There are some programs like this online too. Jillian's Drawers is one of them. You can buy and swap cloth diapers in Facebook groups too. Buying used diapers sounds weird, but they actually retain quite a bit of their original value for resale.
- You can buy pumps used and refurbished on eBay. That's where I got my Medela PISA, and I've used it through two babies now and it still seems to be fine. If you are going to need to pump because you work (or just want to spend more than 2-3 hours away from your baby at any time) I'd strongly recommend a double electric pump - like others above my insurance would only cover a single manual which would have been useless for my needs. You can make a handsfree bra by cutting holes in an old sports bra.

The only thing that I really wouldn't skimp on for safety is the bed situation - a cosleeper is indeed used for a short period of time, but you can get them used. If you plan to breastfeed, I strongly advocate for a cosleeper or at least a crib you can sidecar, because almost all breastfeeding moms end up cosleeping at some point so that they can rest more. Do not bed share with an infant, as there is a risk of death that's definitely not worth taking. I nth the point about crib bedding too. I don't really understand how they still sell it as it's not recommended by health authorities.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:21 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding darling bri about the pram. We had three sets of friends with babies visit at different times and 2 couldn't fit their pram on our elevator, one could barely fit in the apartment entry hall. The third had a pram that fit in the elevator, so we ordered that one. It was in the middle when it came to price.
posted by pairofshades at 2:27 PM on May 8, 2015

I also just was re-reading your post and noticed you said you were willing to spend more to save time. If your top priority is time and not money, then don't do cloth diapers.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:29 PM on May 8, 2015 [9 favorites]

We don't have an Ikea nearby and shipping would have been horrendous, so I just installed the "Union 4-in-1 Convertible Crib" as a sidecar. No baby to put in it just yet, but it certainly seems like a sound concept and I mention it as an option because it's really short. I'm 5'11" and when it's on the floor (I had to raise it a bit to match our mattress), its top rail hits my thighs. How that interfaces with your main bed is another question but I'd be happy to measure things if it would help.
posted by teremala at 2:38 PM on May 8, 2015

If you have friends who have had their babies, and are now done with that process, you may be able to hit the mother lode without spending very much at all. We received furniture, clothing, a swing, and various supplies from a family who's last child had just turned six. They had their baby items in the garage, taking up room. For a token payment we were able to haul it all away for them.

Beware that for some people there is an element of bad luck involved with getting rid of the baby items. The notion is that once they have done so they will unexpectedly find themselves expecting again.

Baby clothes for newborn to two years or so should be many an simple. You will find yourselves changing the baby several times a day on some days.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:09 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Save your money on everything else but splurge on a quality DSLR camera, then learn to use it before the baby comes. Amazing photos remain for life.
posted by Dragonness at 3:31 PM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I wish I had bought nothing -- and I bought very little, and skipped a crib and stroller and a number of other "musts" -- but just stuck to shopping. I thought I did not need a monitor and that one bouncy chair was enough; this did not work out at all with three floors and I was wobbling around the mall a few days postpartum. But at least I had done enough looking to have an idea of where to find those and a few other "oops, I do want one" things.

There's loads out there that you won't miss at all if you don't have, and loads that will be uniquely useful to your particular baby. Try to hold off on as much as possible -- the stores are never going to close -- while doing a little comparison-shopping so if you do need it in a rush, it's not a hassle.

Every IKEA kiddie everything we've had has been terrific. If it is plain and cheap it has been the good kind of plain and cheap.

If you need to pump I would not cheap out (though used "closed system" ones are fine), but otherwise, hold off -- they were real rarities only a generation or two ago.
posted by kmennie at 3:32 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

As far as the pump thing goes, every insurance is different. Our insurance gives us a pump every pregnancy, but the way it works for us is we buy whatever we want (not the $1000 medical grade ones), send them the receipt, and they reimburse us. We got the $350 Medela I desperately wanted, no questions asked. So definitely look into that and see what they offer.

We got a huge amount of use out of a baby swing when baby wouldn't sleep well elsewhere. We got ours as a hand me down, and it was great. Word of advice, try to find one that plugs into the wall. Our first one ran on batteries, and even with rechargables, it was super annoyng to change them out all the time. Swings are pretty easy to find used, in my experience. I love baby resell places for just this purpose.
posted by I_love_the_rain at 3:38 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I wish we'd spent some money on was a good, really comfy rocker. Not necessarily a new vs used thing but we made do with one of those bent wood ikea chairs that had a bit of a bounce. Totally should have gotten a comfy rocker/glider.
posted by pennypiper at 3:45 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Skip the grovia. Everyone I know who used hybrids said they were the worst of both worlds. I'd start out with disposables, and have the number on hand for a diaper service if you think you might want to give it a try. If you do, and end up liking cloth, you can put together a stash pretty easily, either new, or buying someone else's stash used. But definitely start with disposables--you'll need them for meconium poops in the early weeks. When I quit cloth, I tried to use expensive crunchy brands, but end up buying supermarket brands most of the time now and it's fine and they cost less than half as much.

If you're planning on co-sleeping at all, I'd honestly consider whether you need a crib or co-sleeper or whatever. I wish I hadn't bothered with one. It was just an expensive playpen/laundry receptical for my daughter's first year. Then, when I got tired of 100% bedsharing, we just took the crib mattress out, babyproofed the room, and let her sleep on the floor. Google "montessori bed" for more info. Selling the crib was a major pain. Next time, won't be doing a crib at all.

What I did like was the rock'n'play for naps during the day early on. You can totally buy those used though. We also had a fisher price vibrating bouncer someone gave us and it was the only way my daughter let me shower for the first four months or so.

I wanted to be one of those moms who babywore all the time but my daughter went on a boba strike at 6 weeks until we were able to do a back carry at 6+ months. The Boba carrier is a pretty good newborn through toddler carrier, but I've lusted after tulas from time to time. I wear her more now than I did in her newborn days. Because I wanted to wear her, I cheaped out on a stroller (some graco something or other which came with the car seat), which I hated. Then I spotted the city versa on zulily and got one of those. It's pretty fantastic, would recommend.
I get strangers complimenting it all the time.

I'm one of those weirdos who likes changing tables. An ikea one would be fine. Ikea's great for pretty much everything--I love their plastic, easy to clean high chair.

Don't spend money on a baby bath. Get a bath pillow to use when your kiddo is a newborn, then bathe them in the sink. Once they outgrow that, you can put a plastic laundry basket in the tub.

Also, if you can nail side lying for breastfeeding, and if you co-sleep, you'll probably never need a rocker or a glider.

There's really so much you can not get with babies. The hard thing is that it's difficult to tell what you'll absolutely need until your specific baby comes along.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:07 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

get a good infant swing- we went with a graco glider and it's been a lifesaver the first few months... i'm pretty sure we're making my mother drive herself 300 miles to a wedding in two weeks because we need room for our 14 week old son's swing.

and definitely sort out the breast pump in advance- insurance required us to order it (the exact same pump they had at the hospital) from one of 2 mailorder vendors and it was a hassle. my mother-in-law just bought the damn thing at the hospital for us so that we could work with the lactation consultant there...

and then my wife decided pumping/breastfeeding was driving her crazy the following day. (memail me if you're looking for a cheap medela pump in style that was barely used...)
posted by noloveforned at 4:17 PM on May 8, 2015

We had an IKEA crib but got the orbit stroller system and omg worth every penny. It made my life easier because it was so easy to convert and adjust. On the other hand we had an expensive change table and although it was nice I think the suggestions other people are giving are better.
posted by biggreenplant at 4:17 PM on May 8, 2015

I wish we'd had our TrippTrapp cheapo version from the beginning - ours is an Aldi version, secondhand, by far the most useful thing we bought. She still uses it, will be six in a few weeks. Ours isn't rated for adults or anything, but they're still a great way to do highchairs. Easy clean, adjustable to your table (our table is a proper vintage thing we got from family and so modern chairs don't fit properly).

Our cot doubled as a cosleeper alongside the bed for a year, then as a cot, then as a bed until she was 5 I think.

We went with umbrella strollers (ones that lay flat), baby carriers (mei tai and ergo), and a convertible car seat. We just would get her out of the car/stroller while she was asleep and carry her into the house, or if she was in the carrier, lean down and undo it. But, and this is a big exception, we never ever drove around to get her to sleep, or walked her in the pram. If we ever did anything like that, it was with the carrier (when she was sick once I can remember every night bouncing on my exercise ball with her in the ergo, talking to my mum on the phone, until she got better). That seems to be a big difference between my family and the people who swear by capsules and capsule prams and bassinette prams.

Foodwise we just fed her food, sometimes plastic plates and utensils but often our normal ceramic plates and she used her cutlery herself.

We had a rocker for her and a rocker for me, both got used. It was a cheap rocker on both counts, and both still go strong.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:18 PM on May 8, 2015

Oh, the antilop is the high chair I mean. It's great. It was out of stock at ikea so we got the wood chair instead, which is okay but not as easy to clean. Get the antilop.

For changing tables, I had a babymod changer/dresser but the drawers stuck constantly. We moved, got rid of it, and a friend gave us the gulliver from ikea and it's perfect. Get a curved changing pad, too. Much better than the flat ones.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you want to buy used, but don't want to spend a lot of time searching for specific baby items, I'd recommend some garage-saling. What I did when I was anticipating my baby (some 9 years ago) was mark every garage sale in a reasonable radius from me for the next Saturday that mentioned "baby" or "kid". I made a map with a route along them, double-checked the time of day each was happening, and just bought all the baby stuff they had that I wanted. I got most of my daughter's baby clothes that way (some toddler clothes), a pack&play, nursing rocker, some bottles and bottle cleaning stuff, an umbrella stroller, board books, an Ergo, and plastic toddler chairs. You never quite know what you'll end up with, but you can be pretty sure you'll make a good start on it. And after you've done a day or two of this kind of shopping, you'll have a better sense of what's left that you do want to specifically track down. (It's really nice to not spend too much money on these because you never know if your baby will live in the Ergo or hate it within ten minutes of ensconcement every time and you'll have to give it away.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2015

Don't know if it was mention before, if so, nthing buy the very best child car seat money can buy. DO NOT USE A USED ONE! I worked in crash research and saw too many "I borrowed it from...." after the baby was injured. Stress on the car seat after even a minor bump is not worth taking a chance on babies well being. AND learn how to install it properly, another reason why baby got hurt.
posted by donaken at 4:40 PM on May 8, 2015

Definitely get on the local new-parents/garage-sale Facebook groups. The first year is a revolving door of baby products, and many parents are all too happy to get rid of things they no longer use. A lot of it is nearly new, too, especially things in the "our baby just wasn't into this" category. Damn picky babies.

Amazon Prime was a godsend in the early months, especially if you'd rather get stuff as you need it. A lot of the stuff we ended up needing was stuff we didn't anticipate.

And you won't need all this stuff right away. Our little guy's about nine months, and here's the approximate timeline of when we've needed things (other than the obvious stuff like cribs and clothes and diapers):

Birth: Swaddles, extra crib sheets, yoga ball and bouncer (he hated the swing but liked this), pacifiers, white noise machine, mobile, baby gym, stretchy-wrap-style carrier (e.g. Moby), Nosefrida, nail scissors and file (I wish I had gotten this thing way sooner)
2-3 months: various pumping and bottlefeeding supplies (mostly lots of extra bottles and nipples), a couple cloth books and simple toys
4-5 months: Ergo carrier, more toys and board books, Jumperoo
6 months: high chair and solids-related stuff (blender, masher, food storage, spoons, bibs), those padded floor tile things

We've had our stroller since he was born, but only recently started using it now that the weather's nice. If you walk a lot the carriers are easier in the early months.

Things that have gotten much less use than I expected: the swing, milk storage bags and nursing pads (low supply, womp womp), Bumbo chair, sleep sacks, diaper bag, pack 'n' play. A lot of these are on many parents' must-have lists, which just goes to show how variable babies are. On the other hand, I love our infant tub, even though practically everyone in the world said we didn't need one.

Also, disposables are awesome and you don't lose any mom cred by using them!
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:32 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Most of my advice had been hit already, except these:

Don't buy burp cloths. Cut old t-shirts (men's undershirts are best) in half and use those for spitups. Or use old hand and dish towels for baby and treat yourself to new ones. Do not buy the baby specialized barf rags.

Don't buy a specialized babyfood maker. Buy yourself a Vitamix or a Cuisinart and enjoy the hell out of it for the rest of your life.

Don't buy baby forks and spoons. Buy appetizer forks and tiny dessert spoons, which are the same size and come in sets of 12 for $12, which is cheaper than most baby utensils, anyway. The forks actually work unlike specialized baby forks, the spoons are exactly the right size, they look nice, and you will be all set for throwing a cool tapas and dessert party one day when the kids outgrow them.
posted by gatorae at 5:59 PM on May 8, 2015

I would spend money finding a rocker/glider that is comfortable for you for sitting in for a loooooong time, just in case your baby likes to nurse for a loooooooong time. Be sure to get a table or something for next to it to put all your stuff for you (water, maybe a light snack? etc) while you're nursing for a looooooong time. I definitely wished I had gotten a (gliding) footstool the first time, so I bought one separate from the glider (that I reused) the second time.

Basically do whatever you can to make sure that if (if!) you spend up to 8 hours a day nursing, you are just so so so so comfortable, because that is a good portion of your day, yo.

What someone said about Amazon Prime is also a really good point. If you don't have it yet, consider it. It is so nice in those early days to think "man, it would be nice if we had ..." and order it and it appears.
posted by freezer cake at 6:01 PM on May 8, 2015

The only things I am glad to have spent big money on are

--fancy swiss Rubis nail scissors, cost $40, sharp!, and much cheaper than getting baby fingertips sewn back on (additional hint: when trying to cut infant fingernails, grab the finger you're working on rather than the whole hand)
--Beco Gemini baby carrier, comfortable and ergonomic for both parents, helped baby get to sleep on dad when mom was tired out (see if you can go somewhere and try on different kinds of carriers if you think you want one, we loved this one and hated the Moby and Bjorn, and it's also fine to get them used)
--new Chicco Keyfit carseat, and we also loved the optional stroller click-in frame that you can buy for it, it's a lithe stroller setup and you can take the baby out of the car asleep and then wheel him where you need him to go
--I also think it's really worth it to get a manual breast pump ($30) in addition to the big one your insurance will give you. Some days the nursing parent, if someone is nursing, will be on the go and will need the pump so as to not leak/explode and it's great to have something small you can just stick in a purse.

Have a good time! And don't let the baby industrial complex freak you out with all the fantasized plastic needs. Babies are an amazing experience :)
posted by sockanalia at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2015

N-thing that the infant bucket car seat is a worthwhile expenditure. Especially in winter, so you can bundle the baby indoors when it's warm.

My insurance paid for a perfectly good double electric pump that's seen me through 11 months so far just fine.

We did get a video monitor, but a relatively inexpensive one, the Levana Sophia. It works well for us.

We've gotten a lot of use from our baby carrier (Beco Gemini), but I got it from Craigslist. Ditto the Boppy, baby gym, mobile, and diaper bag.

Don't buy a lot of bottles. Wait to see what your baby likes. You may have to experiment with different types. So even though buying a set seems like a better deal, it's not unless you get lucky and the baby likes it.
posted by Kriesa at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2015

Keep in mind that the benefits of breastfeeding are probably significantly overstated, so if breastfeeding doesn't work out as well as you'd hoped, you might find that the expense of formula is worth the worry and loss of sleep it saves you.
posted by clawsoon at 6:27 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing I only realized recently that made me really annoyed at the whole baby industry is burp cloths. They don't need to be yellow and pink and blue with little duckies on them - you can cut up old towels and use those. Obviously if you find some at the dollar store it might be cheaper than ruining nice towels, but the ones at Babies R Us are just a rip-off.
posted by at 6:30 PM on May 8, 2015

I had a baby in December and have purchased almost everything second hand. My son is now 5 months old and I probably won't have to buy any clothing until he's closer to a year. It can be done!

On cribs: there are relatively strict safety standards cribs and crib mattresses must meet. All cribs must meet these minimum standards. Pricey cribs may last longer or look nicer but won't be any safer. They may be less functional; it's nice to have a crib that lets you lower the mattress as baby grows so you're not killing your back in the early months, but you'll pay more for it. You can also buy a crib that converts into a full-size bed (literally, full size - vs. queen or twin) but again, you'll pay more. Cheap out if you want - you won't sacrifice safety - but you may lose out on functionality. You'll have to decide how much that matters to you.

As someone mentioned above, join your local Facebook mommy pages/swap sites. Troll them for a month or so to get an idea of how things work on that particular page. This is where I've gotten almost everything for my son. If you buy used, you can afford to buy things like burp cloths that aren't necessary, but nice to have.

If you have time, check out your local children's consignment stores. There are a couple in my area that I frequent because they price well and have good turnover. Keep in mind that you will generally pay more here than you would on Craigslist or a swap page.

In my city, there are numerous children's consignment sales held at churches around town. Keep an eye out for these - they can be a goldmine. I've found baby gear super cheap, especially at some of the smaller, beneath-the-radar sales.

Oh also: we don't drive much and are considering skipping an infant carseat entirely (with the plan of having one researched and ready to order on Amazon if we regret it)

You will regret it. My recommendation is not only to purchase the bucket seat, but also to buy a base for each car the child will spend a lot of time in. We use the Chicco KeyFit30 bucket seat and my parents, my husband and I each have a base. It's been such a time and effort saver. I also have peace of mind knowing my child's base is installed safely and correctly in each car, and all I have to do is pop in the seat. Without the base, the seat would have to be re-installed, so to speak, with every car trip.

Mazel tov!
posted by pecanpies at 6:40 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also: for every person who SWEARS by a particular baby item, you'll find another who didn't use it at all (or used it once and found it totally useless). For example, the infant swing was a lifesaver for us for about a month, but many people never purchase one. Some people love their wipe warmers; I thought they were ridiculous. Etc. You basically need a method of diapering, a method of feeding, a way to clothe baby, a place for baby to sleep, and a way to transport baby. Everything else is more or less optional, and you just have to figure out what works for you.

(Finally, the one thing that's held true for me is that the fewer number of children a person has, the more of an expert they consider themselves on baby gear. I get more free advice from people with just one child than from anyone else. If someone tries to convince you that you just HAVE to buy Dr. Brown's bottles, everything else is crap, etc. - chances are they have one child. People with three, four, five children? They understand that each child is totally different and what works for one may not work at all for the next. Take all baby gear advice with a giant grain of salt...including my own! No one in human history has ever birthed YOUR child. You will figure out and decide together what's best for baby.)
posted by pecanpies at 6:45 PM on May 8, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you need to pump I would not cheap out (though used "closed system" ones are fine), but otherwise, hold off -- they were real rarities only a generation or two ago.

Because women didn't work outside the home then.

I'm actually going to take back my statement that you can go cheap on everything, because I totally agree with penny piper that getting a nice glider is worth it. I actually got a rocker for $5 for my first kid and I re-covered the cushions on it, and it was awful and I had so many regrets. I have heard many recommendations for Dutalier and if I had it to do again I would get one of those, used. For my 2nd child I bought a very nice comfy chair from Crate & Barrel and got an Ikea Poang footstool instead of an expensive ottoman (it really helps to have something to put your feet up on).

Absolutely agree that the IKEA plastic high chair is fab. I don't know how people use high chairs with fabric covers. They get gross food all over them at every meal!

I'm repeating myself a bit but side lying breastfeeding is no substitute for a cosleeper, crib, or glider. I'm not speaking from some high and mighty position here because god knows I LOVE side lying nursing when I'm so exhausted I can't even sit up and yes, I confess I have fallen asleep like that, but as a doctor I'd be remiss not to say that sleeping with your baby while side lying nursing/bed sharing is dangerous, as is falling asleep while nursing in a rocker or glider. So buy whatever you need to buy to help not let that happen.

If you want to spring for a new carrier, one I was going to mention is a new one called an Ergo 360. It's pretty expensive but you can use it in a bunch of different configurations so baby is pretty much guaranteed to like at least one of them.

A few other things I love: Amazon Prime, pacifier clips (if your baby likes a pacifier), I actually like having a baby tub (I get nervous bathing in the sink - I like using the spray fixture on the shower head). White noise (apps for all mobile phones/tablets). Rock N Play. A Skip Hop travel changing kit (got mine used on eBay). I think I've just named almost everything I've used for my second baby except clothing and cloth diaper stuff.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:46 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

We did lots of hand-me-downs, thrift stores, and garage sales, and just about everything was fine.

We did really like new: swaddling blankets, elastic and soft to help them sleep in the crib.

And quick-change mattress covers, you can zipper it off to wash, quickly replace.

What I wished we spent more on: A better stroller with rubber wheels or suspension, the sidewalks in our neighborhood were not great but going on walks was a great way to break up home time with our daughters. Bumping and hassling with a low-end stroller isn't great.

Also, when trying things out, see how well they work one handed. If you're like me you will spend plenty of time with your child in one hand and have to do everything else with the other.
posted by nickggully at 8:37 PM on May 8, 2015

To address what treehorn+bunny says, follow the safe sleep seven and co-sleeping risks are significantly reduced. Make sure the baby sleeps next to mom and at breast level too. Formula feeders tend to position their babies higher up, at pillow level, which increases suffocation hazards. James McKenna is a good resource on safe co-sleeping.

Avoid late night feedings in a recliner, rocker, or on a sofa. A large number of co-sleeping deaths happen due to unplanned co-sleeping on sleep surfaces other than in bed, in part because parents are told to avoid bedsharing. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which makes moms very very sleepy.

Honestly, I never really had a choice as to whether I nursed lying down: my daughter would only eat in that position from months four to nine, which meant that if i tried to feed her in a rocker or glider, she wouldn't eat. Your individual baby will dictate which purchases are useless in so many ways. I really wished at times that showers were planned after the arrival of babies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:15 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just to go a little against the grain: I didn't find there to be a huge benefit, for my babies, to the bucket seats. My first kid never slept in the car, and the second still transfers fine from the car seat to carrier or bed at 22 months. If we have another, I'll probably just get a convertible seat to start.

A money saving thing that's pretty family-specific: we cloth diaper, and I'm home with my kids (no daycare). We've found cloth wipes to be FAR superior to the disposable ones. I bought a ton of baby wash cloths, and I just wet them under the bathroom faucet, add a squirt of soap, and add them to the diaper laundry when they've served their purpose. (We also moved all the diaper stuff into the bathroom with the second kid. Best idea ever. All the poop gets dealt with in one easily washable place.)
posted by linettasky at 11:06 PM on May 8, 2015

The cheap IKEA Sniglar crib is actually the only affordable solid wood crib I could find. Even cribs three times as pricey were made of pressboard, and since I can't stand the offgassing I was thrilled. The top mattress from Amazon fits in there snugly and one side is removable for co sleeping.

My jerky, difficult insurance provides a completely paid for breast pump, a choice between two actually. I was told I could call anytime after 25 weeks and the pump they offered was the one many of my friends had just bought (and liked) prior to the Obamacare pump coverage, the Medela In Style. Having it ahead of time means you can sterilize all the parts, and you won't have to think about it later. And the call was all I needed to do, it arrived in the mail less than a week later, even though as I said my health insurance sucks.

Oh, and seconding/thirding the Lucie's List rec, it really helps building a registry. Even if you don't expect tons of gifts it's a huge help to keep track of the things you need and their relevant accessories. Amazon has a universal registry feature and I put the IKEA stuff on there.
posted by Locative at 2:06 AM on May 9, 2015

Things I'm glad we splurged on:

• glider (we got the most comfortable one in the world, from crate and barrel, after much testing) and an ottoman (the glider is a total workhorse 3.5 years later)
• stroller (we went middle of the road with the city mini select). It is used a lot every single day because we walk to everything
- video monitor from Motorola (we have 3 floors so we needed a monitor to hear, and then it became very useful later to see her) - this has been our MVP
- hospital grade pump (rented) - in order to work, and occasionally leave my house, I needed to pump and pumping was very inefficient for me so even with the hospital grade it took hours to get any milk (even though I had high supply). I needed it week 1 because of some nursing issues at first. As much as I loathed pumping, this pump made the difference between me staying with breastfeeding for a year, and going to formula earlier than I hoped.

No question I'm glad we got the chicco keyfit30, though it is not expensive and I wouldn't consider it a splurge.

We were given a moby which my daughter and I adored, an ergo which my husband hated but used all the time, and a rockin baby sling which was too cute but my daughter rejected after two weeks.

I regret my fancy diaper bag which was a gift but was style waaaay over function. I switched to a Lululemon gym bag which was a splurge but I loved. This time I'll just be using a backpack.

I bought or borrowed every kind of bottle in a series of nursing strikes. Borrowing was good.

The swings and bumbo were all loaned to me because they were gold for one glorious week (the rocking swing) and then my daughter decided she'd much prefer to be held (don't even think about putting me down) 100% of the time for the first five months except nighttime sleeping in which case she loved her crib. The moby gave me bathroom breaks.

Glad we didn't buy a white noise machine when white noise on our iPod worked perfectly.

We got the Lauren Graco convertible crib from Walmart and it worked great. We got the sealy organic soy mattress and it was good too. I guess there are concerns with material quality with the lower end products like these - off gassing? Fair labor? I don't know exactly what they are but I think they're part of why people buy more expensive cribs and mattresses.

Very glad we had a changing place (a pad on her dresser) and a diaper dekor plus (actually we had one on the first floor and one on the third). We hated changing anywhere but a diaper station at a good height. Diaper changes were unbelievably messy for the first few months. And we found regular trash cans stunk terribly even with regular emptying. People get used to the smell but do you really want to? These products just made our lives more pleasant. New of course!

I wanted to be someone who cloth diapered. But then I realized that extra chores meant less time for me to relax or enjoy my family when my free time had already been drastically reduced and became very grateful for disposables. My kiddo has super sensitive skin so we tried the options and settled on whole foods 360 diapers and loved them ever since.

Baby Bargains was a key resource.

Good luck. It's quite an adventure! I guess my biggest piece of advice is not to get too invested in your vision for yourself whatever that may be (frugal, natural, stylish, sensible) and be open to problem solvers and new ideas. So much of this is trial and error. So many of these products are gimics. But then there are the items that really materially improve your particular situation. In our case it was the glider, extended range video monitor (we tried cheaper first with no luck), great carrier, solid stroller, good changing setup, but every family is different and babies love to be unique and change your very best plans.
posted by semacd at 2:30 AM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

We got the stroller/car seat combo new and were fortunate enough to get quite a bunch of hand me down stuff from friends of ours, but the one item I ended up absolutely HATING was the high chair. In theory, it should have been awesome: height adjustable, reclinable seat, collapsible for storage and could even convert to a a rocker with music. What a score, right?


In our dinky kitchen at the time, it more or less had to be collapsed every time unless you wanted to climb around it like an obstacle course. And it was a struggle to un/collapse it every time and most definitely not a one handed operation. I never used the rocker option and maaaybe used the reclining feature for a week or two before Peanut #1 was proficient at sitting on her own. But most of all? It was a massive hideous pain in the ass to clean all the nooks and crannies after every meal.

I cloth diaper without a dryer and still want to double bold, blink, and marquee that last sentence because it was just that much of a pain in the ass. When Peanut #2 will be old enough in a couple of months to start solids, we are getting that cheapo Ikea chair for 20 bucks because it is so awesomely easy to clean.
posted by romakimmy at 5:23 AM on May 9, 2015

Response by poster: Sorry not to respond sooner, but thank you all so much, this is awesome! Super helpful in more ways than I can name. (Especially excited to learn about consignment sales, which I had no idea existed, but seem like an awesome way to get lots of used stuff at once without having to track down and figure out pickup for items one by one on Craigslist or parenting listservs.)

Maybe this ought to be a separate question but for folks who've been happy with your video monitors, do you know what specific model you have?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2015

Don't know about their video monitor, but I love love LOVE my AngelCare [audio only] monitor. It's rechargeable with a cradle so you can dock it / undock it just by putting it down and picking it up, and it has NO STATIC and very clear audio. Also it wasn't very expensive. If their video monitor is even half as good I would highly recommend. Our AngelCare monitor was the third one we tried and the first two can't touch its design and performance.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:33 AM on May 12, 2015

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