Oh baby, baby: Getting mobile – strollers and child car seats

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The stroller

New strollers are like new cars in so many ways. The second you drive a brand-new ride off the dealer’s compound, the value drops by about 30 percent. Moreover, strollers have become a bit like a lifestyle statement, like an SUV or big truck, when it is not only about how practical your car or stroller is, but also about what image it portrays about its owner – which usually comes with a fitting (high) price tag. Plus, everyone knows the distinct “new car smell”. While that might be enticing for your horse-powered mode of transportation, it ain’t ideal when it comes to the stroller that your baby will lay in as the fabric of a new stroller tends to have that “new” smell as well. And it is certainly not something that you want your newborn to inhale. You can of course bypass this by getting the stroller so far in advance that the fabric loses that chemical smell. Or, you can simply get a second-hand one. We opted for the latter and haven’t regretted it one bit. One to two-year old strollers are available second hand for as little as 10-25 percent of their original store price. A good quality one will still feel like it is almost new after that short a lifespan, so we concluded that there isn’t really much justification in spending all this money on a new one that, to top it off, also comes with this straight-out-of-manufacturing smell.

Car seat adapters for strollers

Whatever stroller solution you end up opting for, ensure it’s one that can be modified in accordance with your baby’s development. Sooner or later your baby will want to upgrade from laying in a baby bassinet/carrycot to sitting upright. Ideally, you want to choose a stroller system that allows you to exchange the bassinet for a stroller seat option. That being said, we were very glad that we got a detachable solution with a car seat adapter that allows the car seat to be placed on the stroller and thus makes it a more flexible solution for a quick trip to the grocery store or in a crowded city environment. Hence, if your stroller doesn’t already come with an adapter, I strongly recommend this investment. Good news is that they are usually a one-fits-all kinda product, so you don’t have to worry whether the seat and/or the stroller fits to the adapter, though companies will however give you precisely this impression.

Baby car seats

Unlike the stroller where it is perfectly valid – and recommendable in my view – to get it second-hand, a baby car seat is a completely different beat. Many countries demand by law that an infant needs to be restrained in a designated baby car seat to protect him when driving, and rightly so. In the United States and Canada, they are also pretty rigid with regards to second-hand car seats in terms of safety requirements. The US ones for instance always have an expiration date stamped on them. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Even though the likeliness of a car seat having been involved in an accident or otherwise damaged might be low, it isn’t worth the risk as you can simply never know for certain whether the seller is telling you the truth about the history of the product. And can you really have faith that the car seat might not have some invisible structural damage inside, because it fell down once? That is unless, of course, you can get a hand-me-down from a friend or relative. Also note that the best aka safest and most hassle free car seat is not always the most expensive one or the one that’s most frequently purchased. In Germany, for instance, the most popular brand actually scored lower in safety tests than a cheaper and lesser-known brand. So we were glad we checked those test results before getting ours. So consult the most recent baby car seat crash test ratings to check what’s best. For Germany this would be the published by the ADAC, for the US it is NHTSA by the United States Department of Transportation, for the UK it is ROSPA and for Australia it is Child Car Seats, an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP), to name a few. Any option you choose should meet the United Nations standard Regulation 44.04. Simply look for the ‘E’ mark or if the product indicates that it meets the i-size standard (R129).

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

One worthwhile investment when it comes to car seats and driving is a small baby car mirror (like this one) that can be attached to the back seats neck area. Since babies are rear facing in the car, this allows you to check on him or her by looking in your back mirror. A small expense that repays you with peace of mind as you can focus on driving and do not have to sit there guessing whether your mini-me is sleeping safe and sound or silently in distress.

Oh baby, baby: Setting up a baby’s nursery

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As we very recently had the priviledge of becoming mom and dad of the cutest little girl on earth, I thought i deviate a little from the food theme of my blog and share our lessons learned about how to best prepare the arrival of your mini-me in a little mini-series on this blog. So while going through the prep motions for the nursery of our daughter Grace and now while having her with us in our home, I took stock of a couple of smart baby prep hacks we came across in the hope it might help others keep their cool in one of the most exciting times of their lives. So here are our recommendations (split into several blog posts) on the nursery/furniture (post 1); getting mobile – strollers and car seats (post 2); a few takeaways regarding baby care products (post 3); baby clothing (post 4) and helpful apps for moms (post 5).

A very common myth – that you encounter no matter where you’re from – is that having a newborn comes with approximately one million things you supposedly need to buy right away to make sure your baby is healthy and happy. Couple that with a billion (rough personal estimate) websites and checklists on the internet on all the supposed must-have items for the arrival of your brand new family member. All of this creates more confusion than clarity and leaves a couple in nesting mode with the uneasy feeling of having missed something essential. And I am certainly not excluding ourselves from that, as I guess every new parent kinda falls into this trap. One list will promote a certain item as an absolute essential for your newborn’s survival, while others do not even mention the aforementioned device/clothing piece/nursery accessory, etc.

In essence

Spend your money on things that last a long time in your child’s life (like a bed). Look for saving potential with products that you will need in abundance (like diapers) or items that your baby will only need within a limited timeframe (like a stroller). And always remember: we live in a world of online shopping and overnight delivery. Anything that you didn’t get before your newborn arrives can be ordered and on your doorstep in no time, so do not feel pressured to already have absolutely everything before the big day. In fact, with a lot of products, it makes sense to wait till your baby is actually there to determine if you even need it. Like a swing or a rocking chair for example – while some kids love sitting in them, others are completely indifferent or even become anxious. Since a rocking chair is NOT essential for your child’s survival, it makes sense to hold out till your little one is there and then to try your mini-me out in one to see if it is a worthwhile purchase for your family.

Let’s get real on furniture. In the beginning all you truly need is a place to sleep and a diaper-changing station on top of a chest of drawers for your baby’s clothing. Anything else is truly optional and more for the parents to enjoy looking at than for your infant to actually use.

Our baby, for instance, does not like sleeping in a crib by the bedside – she only slumbers into sweet dreams when she is placed in a little nest – this one – in her parents’ bed. So while those cute baby cribs might melt your heart when you see them in store, keep in mind that they would most likely only be in use for maybe six months, before your little one moves into his or her own bed. So that being said, before you sink serious money into a new crib, I highly recommend getting it second hand, as you will only need it for a limited amount of time and a remarkably high number of babies do not really like laying in a crib, plus it’s not like it will have to endure a lot of wear and tear, as a newborn baby isn’t exactly mobile or strong enough to accomplish that. Same goes for a baby bay option, a.k.a. a tiny bed that can be directly attached to the parents’ bed. Again: you will only use this for a very limited amount of time, so why not get it second hand and save yourself a few bucks. That being said, a lot of families – like mine – have a family crib that is passed down through the generations. Why not start such a family tradition yourself, if you do not have one yet. It is quite powerful to know to know that the crib your newborn lays in was your own when you were born and your mom or dad’s before you.

Sooner or later, however, your little one will need her own bed. A smart money-saving hack we discovered is baby beds that can be modified according to your child’s changing needs (this one is a great example). We got one that basically grows with the kid until the age of 11/12. It can be assembled as a baby bed, then reassembled to fit a toddler and then later be set up as a standard school kid bed. Thus, you basically get a 3-for-1 deal and so spare yourself the need to constantly buy new sleeping solutions for your mini-me. That being said, since this furniture piece can stay in your child’s life for a substantial time (i.e., a decade or so) of its upbringing, it is worth investing in one that is made from good, long-lasting materials.

Something that your kid will always need in her room is a chest of drawers for clothing, etc. Hence, it makes sense to invest in good quality, as the furniture piece may stay in your little one’s life for the majority of his upbringing. Therefore, it makes sense to get it new and make it fit the bed, as you will get many years of usage out of it. That being said, it is absolutely essential to get a strong, stable and sturdy furniture piece that can ideally even be fixed to the wall, as kids are adventurous and will climb on everything within reach and the last thing you want is a chest of drawers falling on your child while it tries to climb up.

By getting a diaper-changing tabletop (like this one) that you can secure on top of a chest of drawers, you save space and make sure you do not end up with an extra piece of furniture that is “only” a diaper-changing table and goes out of style as soon as your toddler moves on to using the bathroom like a grown-up. A great tip we got from friends of ours was to set up the diaper changing station in the bathroom. It might be less needed with a newborn, but sooner or later there might be accidents that make you glad that you are very close to a source of running water and also enables you to wash your hands right there and then. Plus our assumption is that it makes the transition from diapers to potty training a little easier as your munchkin is already accustomed to handling bathroom related issues in bathroom – though this is our working theory and not a scientificly proven fact.