Splurge vs. Save

Many mothers face the same dilemma about their wallets. Not that it doesn't match their diaper bag, but it simply does not hold enough cash to buy everything baby needs. While some women are born bargain-hunters, others scoff at the idea of buying -"dun dun duuuuuun"- used items.

The thought of sifting through bins filled with previously-owned products does not appeal to all, but the benefits of saving a buck can't be denied. Those with the up-turned noses are not completely off base when it comes to certain items, however. Some baby gear is safest when bought new.

The product still in the packaging is a must for certain items, but you shouldn't break the bank on others, especially if you are already struggling to finish your shopping list. So if you have champagne taste but only beer money, here is a breakdown of when to spend and when to go garage sale hunting.

Buy Used:

  • Clothes- Be realistic. Your child is going to outgrow those Baby Gap jeans faster than you can snap button them. Not to mention the food stains, vomit and urine guaranteed to saturate the fabric at some point. Why pay full price when your baby's clothes are barely more than a dirt-to-skin shield? Lexington has many consignment stores exploding with children's clothing, so just wash everything before you wear and your little one can stay inexpensively stylish.
  • Toys- The thought of your child putting a toy handled by other children in his mouth can be disturbing, but face it- your kid is probably going to willingly ingest dirt the minute you look away on the playground. A little Clorox and warm water, and baby toys are good as new. Just make sure if you are buying an electronic toy that the instructions are included and you can test it before you buy. Tell yourself these toys aren't used, they are just pre-loved.                                                    
  • Crib accessories- Wal-mart had my crib set brand new for $50. And the yard sale on my block had the exact same thing for $10. Luckily, I heard the voice of the late infomercial guru Billy Mays screaming in my head, and a few rinses with OxiClean later I had a darn cute nursery. Sheets, bumper pads and curtains can all be cleaned easily, and you often find matching sets paired together at consignment stores. Trust me, your baby is not going to know or care that someone else enjoyed that Mickey Mouse wall hanging before they did.

Buy New:

  • Highchairs, swings, bouncy chairs- Any item expected to hold your child's weight should be chosen with extreme caution. You know that moment when your partner is assembling the baby swing and yelling “Part A doesn't fit with Part C and I'm missing the doo-dad that screws into the thing-a-majig!” When you buy used, you can get this scenario without the option of returning the swing. And whatever you do, don't try to substitute tools or assembly pieces. You are not MacGyver.
  • Cribs- Do you really want to be slathering your child's head in Crisco when they get it stuck between crib slats that were buil too far apart? I didn't think so. Cribs have gone through several much-needed updates over time, so before you buy check out to look for product recalls and avoid disaster by springing for a new crib. Most newer models convert to a toddler bed and even a full bed, so it's a worthy investment.
  • Car seats- Arguably the single most important safety item for your baby, so don't risk getting a faulty one secondhand. While mothers everywhere should share a collective conscience to keep all babies safe, some may sell a car seat that went through a car accident or was recalled. Let your baby roll around town securely in the backseat with a new carrier.


Rubber Ducky, You're the One ...

Now that we are past the phase where bath time brings on hysterical screaming fits, my daughter now sees the tub merely as an opportunity to be naked long enough to pee on someone. But soon it will hopefully be a time to splash and play around.

Bath time inspired my pick for my favorite baby product this week. It's my Munchkin Safety Bath Ducky. 

Beyond just being absolutely adorable, there is a disc on the bottom of the rubber duck that will read "HOT" if the water is still too warm for your baby's delicate little tush. 

I know I'm guilty of enjoying scalding hot showers, so it can be hard for adults to tell when the water is too hot for a baby's bath. I don't want CeCe to take a cold bath but I don't want the water hot enough that I could add some vegetables and make a baby-soup either. That is where my little rubber birdie friend comes to the rescue. 

So if you have a warped internal thermometer (like I do), grab one of these. It's only $3.00 and removes the risk of accidently boiling your babe. 

Just like Ernie sings: "Rubber ducky, you're the one. You make bath time incredibly safe. Rubber ducky I'm glad I have you to prevent burns."


Only the Thrifty Survive

Twenty dollars. One bag. No time limit.

This is the slogan I am going to use when I pitch my newest reality show to the major t.v. networks. The concept: Baby Store Sales: Does your mom have what it takes?

Moms know that scoping out good bargains is an essential skill for a growing family. So when you know of a day of mega-deals is coming your way, you start prepping yourself mentally for the upcoming chaos.

Recently I hit up a local children's consignment shop that held a pretty awesome sale. In an effort to clear out their fall and winter clothing inventory, you could pay $20 for a shopping bag and walk out with whatever you could fit inside. And since you could fit an entire week's worth of outfits for a 3-month-old in a clutch purse when rolled properly, I knew I could do some serious damage to those clothing racks.

I showed up 15 minutes before the doors opened. Rookie mistake. I made my way to the back of the line.

In front of me where many women with their children either hanging from a Moby or sitting in their strollers. At first I wondered why on earth someone would bring their children along on that morning. The crowd was overwhelming for an adult, I can't imagine the panic it would cause a toddler. Once inside, I understood just how brilliant these women were. They used their strollers to plow their way through crowded aisles. Older children were instructed to stand Red-Rover style and act as barricades to block off a section their mom was ransacking. No one would dare to nudge an elbow into a women strapped with a Baby Bjorn.

If you ever want to see a group of grown women pounce like hungry lions on a wounded gazelle, just look for a bin labeled "$5 or less." Moms can get pretty vicious when it comes to shopping for their children. Shopping in these conditions requires a certain combination of finesse and aggressiveness.

Some moms used the strategy of just grabbing everything in sight and then plopping down in a corner to pick through and decide what items they actually wanted. I find this to be terribly obnoxious and would rather keep moving. So here are my tips for surviving on season one of "So You Think You're a Frugal Mom?"

- Know what your priorities are. Keep in mind that the best deals are usually on limited quantity items, so go get your favorites first and save the browsing for last.

- Make a mental map. You don't have to go all Mission-Impossible and create a 3-D blueprint to memorize the lay-out of the entire store, but at least know where your child's sizes are located and any other items you will want to beeline toward.

- Don't get pushy. We all have seen the news stories about parents who get into a fist-fight over the last remaining Awesome Amanda doll. If there is only one 3T left in that jacket you wanted for your kid, and some other lady already has a grip on it, just let it go. It's not worth the drama of a mom-on-mom shoving match just to save a couple bucks.

- Don't convince yourself you need something because it's cheap. Just because things are on sale doesn't mean you can't overspend. You should have the same budget you would if the store was priced as usual.

- Beware of why things are on sale. Sometimes, the lower the price indicates the more damaged the item. If you are handy with a needle and thread, then that rip in the pocket isn't a big deal. But if there is something wrong with your desired purchase that cannot be easily fixed, don't waste your money (even if it is only $1.50.)

CeCe's wardrobe substantially increased when I left that sale, and so did my understanding of how to get the most for my money (and time) at these events. So shop smart and shop strategically Mama's. See you at the next sale.


Mothers, man your lactation stations

No one said it was going to be easy.

That saying applies to pretty much every moment of motherhood, but especially to the obstacles that come with breastfeeding. So I decided to approach it with the mentality of a war general. My mission: feed a resistant baby.

Lactation nurses at the hospital are the first contact many moms have with feeding their babies and their intensity can be overwhelming. It's no wonder so many babies can't latch right away. Would you like if someone was forcefully shoving your head toward your dinner plate?

If you feel your attempts at breastfeeding at the hospital were unsuccessful, fear not. Your milk will survive to fight another day. And next time, you can tackle the challenge with a game plan.

Preparing your battle station is a key part of any war strategy. Once you get the hang of it you can nurse your baby anywhere you please, but I enjoy having a central location in the house that has anything I would want within arm's reach.

The nursery is my battlefield. And I think I have finally perfected my armory:

  • A glider, or a rocking chair. Get one with arms rests you can lay your elbows on, because you will exhaust your arm muscles if you have to hold the weight of your baby the entire time.
  • Pillows. You can never have too many pillows around. For your back, your feet, under baby, under your arm, behind your head - stock up on pillows. The more comfortable you are, the easier you can get your flow going.
  • Entertainment. My iPhone is my weapon of choice to keep myself occupied when CeCe wants to enjoy a leisurely meal. Grab some magazines, your smart phone, you can even set up your laptop on an end table nearby. If you can do it with one hand, go for it because you will spend hours waiting in the trenches and some distractions are necessary for mental relief.
  • Clock. You will want to keep track of when the strike began so you know when to expect the next boob attack.
  • Nourishment. Hydration is key, so bring a glass of water with you. And breastfeeding burns plenty of calories so keep a snack handy, and you and baby can eat together.
Even if you lose the first few battles, don't lose hope. You might have some battle wounds but don't count your breasts out just yet. Bring the fight to your own turf, use your resources to exploit the home field advantage and you will be victorious.