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First Purchases for Baby

Are you the kind of expectant mom who buys nothing for her baby until the child has arrived safely and the gender is known? Or are you the kind who has already bought everything the child will need for the next five years? In either case, the baby eventually will need certain things. When you shop, keep these tips in mind:

Hey Mom!

Some hospitals and the Red Cross offer free or low-cost car seats. If all the new baby paraphernalia is hurting your pocketbook, this is one expense a community agency might be able to cover. Call your local hospital and ask.

Car seat: By law, all children under age five must be strapped into a car seat when riding in a car. This is so important that most hospitals will not release a baby until they are assured she will sit in a car seat on the ride home. This is one time that you have to start thinking like a responsible parent even before the baby is born.

You should buy the car seat this month before you deliver the baby. It's an important purchase that will require some comparison shopping. You'll also need time to practice getting it in and out of the car. Always put the car seat in the back seat-that way it's not directly in the path of an exploding air bag.

Car seats are made in two basic styles:

Cribs: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that cribs meet the following standards:

If you are using a rocking cradle, make sure it has stops so the baby won't be thrown out. And keep in mind that you can use it for no more than three months. By that time the baby will be too big to be left alone in a cradle or bassinet.

Daddy Alert!

Don't pretend you're not interested in shopping for the baby. Jump in there and help your partner pick out important baby items. All these things will be a big part of your life very soon, so you might as well grab the chance to have a say in what you purchase.

Hey Mom!

Bundling the new baby up in a blanket for a trip home in cold weather sounds like a good idea, but if you're using a car seat on the drive home, the legs need to be free to straddle the seat belt. Instead of bunting or blankets with a sacklike bottom, use a cozy warm fleece suit with legs so that baby can be easily clicked into the car seat.

Infant seats: These little reclining chairs for babies are very handy. They let the baby sit up and watch you while you work around the house and they hold the baby in a good position for feeding. (They are not to be used as car seats!) Unfortunately, these seats cause many injuries when they fall, especially off high tables. Look for an infant seat with a nonskid, wide bottom that will discourage tipping. Never leave your baby alone in an infant seat, and place the seat only on the floor-never on top of furniture.

Strollers: When shopping for a stroller look for one that won't tip over. As your baby grows and begins to wiggle and turn, the stroller should hold its ground. Also look for a sunshade and front wheels that pivot. It's also nice to have a model that reclines for comfortable napping.

Baby clothes: Who can resist buying a carload of those adorable baby outfits? But as tempting as this is, the fancy little dresses and three-piece suits are rarely used and quickly outgrown. You're better off focusing on a practical day-to-day wardrobe that includes the following:

These are the basics for now. After the baby is home, you'll find there are several hundred other items you'll need to purchase. But this list of essential items will make you feel well-equipped, at least when the baby first arrives.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's website or call 1-800-253-6476.

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