I recently learned the difference between registering for your wedding and registering for your baby. A wedding registry is all fun and games, a place where you can compile all the culinary and household dream products about which you have fantasized ever since you were old enough to care about stylish hotel linens, fancy china, cast iron skillets, and specialty kitchen appliances and gadgets. You’ll press on (rather easily, in fact) if your request for a waffle maker goes unfulfilled, and no one’s life will be severely impacted if someone opts to gift you a Nespresso Espresso machine instead of the Breville for which you had registered. Gifts are gifts, in the case of weddings, and though some may be more useful to you than others, they all essentially work to make your current lifestyle with your betrothed a little cushier.
With a baby registry, however, there is a defenseless little life in the balance counting on you to make all the right shopping decisions. It’s up to you to do all the research on every single item, to know for instance that Crib #1 was recalled 30 days ago, Crib #2 has high levels of lead paint, and Crib #3 is prone to defective spindles (it’s also your job to find out what the heck a spindle is). It’s on you to learn what items should be bought new (cribs and car seats, for starters) and what items can come from Craig’s List, garage sales, and Grandma’s attic without compromising safety. When there is a life in the balance, style and price become secondary to safety. Consumer Reports is your new best friend, although the frustrating kind of friend that gives you just enough information to either boost your confidence or scare you half to death without providing the complete picture. And, if you’re an anal-retentive research junkie who can’t stop obsessing about the fact that there is a life in the balance, then there will be spreadsheets. Lots and lots of spreadsheets.
Is your head ready to explode yet? I felt the same way when I launched into my first major research project: the crib. I knew what I wanted in terms of aesthetics: a wood crib with an espresso finish, possibly the sleigh style that always looks so good in the mock nurseries at Pottery Barn Kids. Four hours later, however, I was pretty convinced that everything was a death trap and wondered how babies have survived all these years. At that point it became apparent – vital, actually – that I narrow my resources to a few key wells of information and discard the rest, or else I would never get to the point of registering. Then, in my final obsessive act to get this project going, I began to research resources. As my goal is always to trim the fat for others so they don’t have to go through the same manic process, here were the finalists that got me to the finish line with quality information and reviews:
Baby Bargains by Denise & Alan Fields
Never was there a more useful starting point to navigating the vast market of baby products. By far the single most informative resource in my repertoire, Baby Bargains is essentially the Zagat Guide of baby products. It has comprehensive reviews on brands of everything you need to raise a baby (and tells you rather frankly why you don’t need to waste money on certain products). It takes safety, ease of use, style and functionality, and consumer opinions into consideration. If nothing else, it will help you refine a list of fifty stroller brands to a more conquerable list of five or ten to research further.
Consumer Reports: Best Baby Products
You know, some people view Consumer Reports as their shopping bible whenever buying something out of the ordinary. Never would my in-laws, for instance, buy a car, a television, or any other big ticket item without first consulting the all-knowing Consumer Reports oracle. For baby goods, however, I found this guide useful for evaluating safety ratings and consistently returned to it for more information, but at the same time, it was a frustrating resource because it rates so few brands in each category, maybe ten in all if you’re lucky. So it works if it happened to review the item you’re interested in, but if you’re generally a Consumer Reports enthusiast, get ready to feel a little left in the cold when it comes to baby items.
Amazon.com and BabiesRUs.com Reviews
Once you have your list of finalists, take it to the people. Go on these web sites and evaluate the real experiences that real consumers had with the products in question. You’ll start to see patterns in the reviews and you’ll be able to make informed decisions about how the product may (or may not) fit into your life. If thirty real moms had to send that stylish swing you’re considering back to the company for repair, then maybe that’s not the right swing for you, even if it is the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch.
So Phase I of all this nesting business is figuring out how to shape your registry. Phase II is tactfully encouraging your loved ones to shop off of it when shower time comes, or else you might end up with drawers full of more cutesy onesies, blankets, and burp cloths than you could ever use while still having to open your own wallet for the less adorable but more essential necessities (breast pump, nursing supplies, diaper pail, etc.) But we’ll get to that soon enough. For now, I’ll leave you to your research!