Shopping for Baby Stuff: The 411 on Picking the Best Gear

What you should look for in cribs, car seats and more.

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Cheyenne Ellis

Car Seats

Check the fit: Not all models conform to every vehicle, says Julie McCaffrey, founder of BabyNav, a baby planning company in Westchester County, N.Y. Many retailers will let you take your pick to your car to test.
Buy a baby seat first: While both infant seats and convertibles are good options, start with the former. "Those are easier because you can pop them out of the base in the car and onto the stroller," McCaffrey says. Convertibles stay put, so if your child falls asleep, you'll have to unbuckle and transfer her out. Do pick out a convertible for later.
Choose one that isn't too heavy: Your little one's throne should weigh between 7.5 and 11.5 pounds. That may sound dainty, but when it's carrying an older babe, you'll definitely feel the extra mass, McCaffrey says.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Car Seats in our Registry Guide

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Cheyenne Ellis

Baby Carriers

Go for options: Initially your baby faces you, so he has the head support newborns need, but by four to six months he'll want to peep out into the world. Back and hip modes are also great.
Ask a pal to do a try-on: You won't get an accurate read while you're pregnant. Have a pal or partner test that the hip and shoulder straps give support and that the carrier adjusts at the shoulders, waist and chest.
Get comfortable: Breathable, mesh material will keep you and baby cool, says McCaffrey. Other cozy features to consider: Padded leg holes and a waist strap to help distribute weight.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Carriers in our Registry Guide

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Breast Pumps

Consider how often you pump: If you intend to only do it occasionally for a few months, you'll be fine with a single-electric model, says Sheela Geraghty, M.D., medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. But if you'll be pumping several times a day at work, or you want your partner to regularly share in the responsibilities, a double electric is a good option.
Buy a manual backup: They're cheap and handy to keep at home if you don't want to lug your electric one to and from work and small enough to keep in a tote or glove compartment for emergencies.
Don't buy a used model: It could contain particles of the first owner's milk and make your baby sick. Good news for your wallet: the Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover the cost of breast pumps, Geraghty says. Contact your provider.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Breast Pumps in our Registry Guide

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Baby Bottles

Try out a few: You won't know for sure which bottle your little nugget prefers, or if he'll need one that helps battle pesky colic and gas issues, until he's arrived. So start with two or three bottle-and-nipple combos.
Look at the nipple: You want a slow-flow one with a wide base and round tip, which encourages Baby to keep her mouth fully open, says Leigh Anne O'Connor, a board certified lactation consultant in New York City.
Go dishwasher safe: If your babe will only take a certain nipple, but the bottle is hard to clean, know that most tops and bottles are interchangeable, even across brands, says Tanya Altmann, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Bottles in our Registry Guide

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Bouncers

Check for a timer: Vibrations and movement are fantastic features. But try to opt for a model that allows you to put all the extras on a timer, so Baby doesn't become reliant on them to fall asleep, McCaffrey says. Limit sessions to one cycle or 15 minutes if your bouncer doesn't switch off automatically.
Come clean: Nab that pretty patterned seat cover you've been coveting, but make sure it's removable and machine washable. Messes will happen. Parent pinky promise!
Look at your lifestyle: Think beyond, Will it go with my living room? It should suit your routine, McCaffrey says. Will you move it around a lot? Stay away from something clunky. Will you be shuttling it to Grandma's house every weekend? Make sure it folds.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Bouncers in our Registry Guide

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Cribs

Choose new: The stuff in stores meets requirements for mattress support, slat strength and testing. An old crib may not be up to snuff safety-wise, or it could be missing essential hardware or instructions, says Eileen Tyrala, M.D., medical director for Cribs for Kids, an organization dedicated to educating parents on infant sleep safety.
Wood is good: A crib made of solid wood is less likely than one made of composites to contain harmful levels of formaldehyde. If the one you want does contain particleboard or plywood, make sure it's labeled "California Phase 2 Compliant" (which refers to a stringent state health regulation). "It's also a good idea to let any crib 'off-gas' [that chemical smell] outside," says Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting people from toxic chemicals.
Keep location in mind: If your fave crib will only fit next to a window (where draperies or blind cords could cause entanglement) or crammed against other furniture (it should be at least a foot away), move on to Option #2, Tyrala advises.

Related: Browse Editor-Approved Cribs in our Registry Guide

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