Before our son was born, I remember falling in love with a Bloom Fresco high chair I saw in the window of a baby store. I imagined it in a picture-perfect mid-century modern kitchen and informed my husband that if we ever had a kid, we had to buy that chair. Fast-forward almost four years and we did have a child, we did get the high chair, and it did look impossibly sleek. But it didn’t take long before food found its way into every nook and cranny and I felt like I needed a chisel to clean it out every night. And despite being designed to use through school age, our son refused to sit in it just after turning two. After recently selling it for less than a quarter of its original price, I had to ask myself if the chair was worth the $750 we shelled out for it. Like some of the other big-ticket baby items we purchased, I wish we had saved instead of splurged.
Of course, when you’re a new parent, you aren’t sure where to invest your money. That’s why I spoke with seasoned parents and experts about where they wished they’d saved or splurged on baby gear, to help new parents save themselves some money and disappointment.
Like me, most parents agreed that it’s not worth dropping a lot of cash on something that gets covered in food and ultimately doesn’t get used for very long. “I bought a $300 Italian-made high chair, and even though it's being enjoyed by a third child, a $25 Ikea one would have done the trick, both stylistically and functionally,” says Christine Vanderkooy, a mom of two from Windsor, Ont. In fact, many moms advocate buying high chairs secondhand.
Most parents agree a less expensive model of a crib or a used one works just fine. As long as the crib conforms to Health Canada’s current safety standards, you can choose whatever style best suits your budget and your nursery. A convertible crib that transforms into a toddler bed may tempt you into thinking you will save in the end, but in many cases, you can buy both a crib and a toddler bed for less than an expensive model that converts. If you want to splurge on something, opt for a good-quality mattress. Several moms mentioned they were happy they had done so. “I don't regret spending money on a great-quality mattress, which transfers later to the toddler bed, and lovely bedding, but the crib itself was not as important,” says Vanderkooy.
Given that you will use them for such a short time, bassinets are items that most parents recommend not spending much money on, or buying secondhand. Jacinta Pecora, a mom expecting her second child in Calgary, says space was a concern in their small apartment, so she and her husband skipped the bassinet altogether and instead chose a smaller crib with wheels that could easily move from one room to another.
Parents were unanimous that strollers were worth splurging on. Whether it’s seeking out sturdy wheels to withstand Canada’s snowy winters, or choosing a double stroller to carry two children, it’s a good idea to research the best model that suits your particular needs. We splashed out on an exceptionally sturdy model that converted from a bassinet to a seat and have never regretted it, especially since the only time our son seemed at peace during his colic-filled first eight months was while he was being walked in his stroller. My husband and I wished we had put an odometer on that thing.
Lactation experts and most parents say breast pumps are wait-and-see items—how much you need to spend on one will depend on how breastfeeding goes and how often you need to pump. “If a mom is planning to return to work early and wishes to maintain breastfeeding, she would want to purchase a good-quality electric pump,” says Helen Marshall, a certified lactation consultant. “If, however, she only plans to use it infrequently… she could probably either learn to hand express, which lots of mums find very effective, or purchase a cheaper electric or manual pump.” Renting a pump is another option if you need a heavy-duty breast pump. Maria Robertson, a lactation educator and owner of The New Mummy Company, says it is “considerably cheaper to rent a hospital-grade pump for two months than it would be to buy a top-of-the-line double pump for $400 to $600.” Many hospitals rent pumps, and the price can start around $80 per month. As for buying pumps secondhand, while manual pumps can be purchased used because all of the parts can be taken apart and sterilized, lactation experts advise against buying used electric breast pumps because of the danger of milk being sucked up into the electric motors and causing mould to grow. The only electric breast pumps that are safe to be shared are hospital-grade pumps, which have closed motors.
While most parents splurged on their car seat and didn’t regret spending a bit more on something that was so important for their child’s safety, car techs say that it’s not necessary to purchase an expensive model. Leslie Mumford, a child passenger safety technician, says all car seats sold in Canada pass the same safety testing, and because it’s a pass/fail system, all new seats are considered equally safe as long as they are installed and used properly. She does, however, caution against buying car seats secondhand because they could be expired or have other safety issues. “The problem with many used seats is that you don't know how they've been handled. Were they stored properly, cleaned properly, ever in an accident? Are they missing parts? Is there a recall on the seat? Is the manual still available? All of these things could affect the integrity of the seat and how it would behave in a collision,” says Mumford.
If you live in a small house, you might not need a monitor at all. “We didn't purchase one because our place is so small that I could hear everything and anything from all corners of our apartment. If we lived in a house, I probably would have bought a video monitor…to see that everything was OK with my newborn,” says Pecora. While most parents say they appreciate features like video screens and microphones so you can speak to your baby, the general consensus was to save over splurge on a monitor. Rachel Swendseid, a mom of two in Okotoks, Alta., advocates buying one used. “Ours was $5 secondhand and it lasted through two kids,” she says.
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