Registry Items: Car Seat

Probably one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make is a car seat.  You want to provide the best protection from a car crash for your precious package.  But with so many choices and a wide price range, it can drive any parent crazy.  Where do you even begin?!

1.  Check your car’s owner’s manual!
Yes, you read correctly.  Step one, check your owner’s manual.  Some owner’s manuals will actually list the car seats they recommend you install in your car.  They actually list a few, with a wide range of  prices to fit your budget.  If your owner’s manual doesn’t list car seats, you can also try Googling your car’s make, model, and year along with the key words “car seat”, and you’ll probably come across your car’s aficionados and parents with their recommendations for car seats.

2.  Infant vs. Convertible vs. Booster?
First, you won’t need a booster seat for a very very long time (like 4 or 5 years old).  They are also pretty inexpensive in the grand scheme of car seats available, so don’t even bother including them in the registry, especially since most of these things carry an expiration date.

This now leaves you with either the infant or convertible car seat.  Some parents skip the infant car seat altogether because they will only use them for a few months to a year (depending on how fast the kid grows).  This is especially a good idea if you are trying to be as frugal as possible.  And if you aren’t going to be riding in a car as much, it is probably best to skip it because most convertible car seats on the market come with an infant insert and can be seated rear facing.  I will caution that some convertible car seats start have high minimum infant weights, so keep an eye out for that when you make your purchase.  Another con to the infant car seat is that it gets really heavy when you lug it around with your infant in it.  Many parents hate this, and if you are just going to take the babe out of the car seat anyways, why not just start with a convertible one.

The pros to an infant car seat is that they are pretty snug in there.  I find an infant is more cozy in an infant car seat and seems more protected.  In a convertible car seat, I feel they are far too upright, and with poor neck muscles I personally worry.  It’s also nice that you can just pull the entire car seat out and plop it into a stroller or just take it right into your house especially when you have a sleeping infant.  You don’t have to wake the baby up just cause you reached your destination.

3.  Installation
Most car seats in the USA easily install with the LATCH system.  It really does simplify car seat installation (although I still recommend you get your installation checked by a professional at your local fire house, police station, or AAA).  Even with LATCH, you still need to make sure that your car seat is leveled.  And this is when a lot of seats vary.  Some just rely on you to look at a line and eye how level it is.  Others actually come with a built in level bubble thing so you can see if your car seat is in fact level.

Other things to keep in mind is if the car seat is FAA approved if you anticipate doing any air travel with your babe.  Also if your car seat is compatible with the stroller you want to buy if you plan on using it as a travel system (you’d be surprised how some car seats aren’t compatible at all with other things).  Also, you want to check how easy it is to pull the infant car seat in and out of its base.

What does our family use?  For our infant car seat we have a Chicco Keyfit 30.  It was pretty simple to install, even the police officer who checked our car seat commented that he loved installing these seats cause it was easy.  It wasn’t the recommended car seat when we bought our new VW when we moved to SF.  But it works, and we are happy with it.

Our convertible car seat is a Britax Roundabout.  This was recommended by our VW owner’s manual.  It has a pretty small foot print, which is great.  It’s really easy to get our toddler in and out.  And the installation wasn’t terrible.  We also love how Britax has a Youtube channel for installation.  So if you are stuck trying to interpret something from the installation manual, you can always visually see what they mean on Youtube!

So many car seat choices, but hopefully you’ll settle on one (or two) that you will love and fits in your budget.  And don’t forget to have your car seat professionally checked!!!


Registry Items: Stroller

So I’ve been asked about what items to register for.  So I’ll try to start a series of registry items that I endorse and tips on how to choose the right item for you.  And we shall start with probably one of the biggest items new parents dwell on–the stroller!

There are so many freaking strollers on the market with varying price ranges and accessories.  You can easily suffer from buyer’s remorse with all the choices out there.  Here are a few tips to help you find the right stroller.

1.  Figure out how often you are going to use your stroller.
Evaluate what uses you are going to use the stroller and how often you expect to use it.  Are you going to be a stay at home parent who will be out and about without a car most times?  Perhaps a standard stroller is right for you.  Do you plan to do a lot of running with your baby or go “off-roading” more often than strolls in the park?  Maybe you should consider a jogging stroller.  Are you going to be a weekend warrior stroller type because you’ll be working and the baby will be in daycare most days of the week?  You might be able to get away with a light weight umbrella stroller.  Do you plan on having your baby in their car seat as you stroll around?  Then you might be interested in a travel system or snap-and-go stroller.  The point is, figure out how you will be using a stroller in your baby’s life.  You don’t want to invest $200 on a standard stroller when it is just going to sit in the closet save for your occasional trip to the zoo in the summer.  And you also don’t want to buy a $75 umbrella stroller than you’ll run into the ground after a year.  Once you figure out how you’ll use your stroller, then you can finally focus on a few strollers you’ll get good use out of.

2.  Test, test, test!
Registering is so easy since you can do everything online.  But if there’s one thing you need to physically go to a store for, it’s to test out strollers!!!  Going to Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby are good starts–and yes, you should go to both stores because not all stores carry all the strollers you can try.  The most important thing is to see how easy it is to fold and unfold strollers that interest you; no website can tell you how easy it is for you personally.  If you can borrow a friend’s baby, do it!  Can you fold and unfold a stroller while holding a baby?  Eliminate any stroller you think is heavy, especially ones that are heavy with a baby in the other hand.  Try to stuff things in the stroller basket underneath.  Do you think it’s adequate enough?  Is it easy to get your baby bag in and out?  You can read so many reviews, but you won’t know a thing unless you thoroughly try out every stroller on your short list.  And I’m dead serious about having a kid on hand; it totally makes a world of difference.

3.  The “perks”.
Now that you have narrowed down your stroller list to 2 or 3, figure out the “perks”.  Does it come with an adult cup holder for your water (technically you shouldn’t have coffee there since it could spill on your baby)?  Does it come with a baby tray?  Can the baby lie completely flat for naps?  Can you snap in a car seat or do you need to buy the attachment?  There are so many things to consider, and many of the high end strollers don’t come with these “perks”.  Figure out your budget and what perks you can live and live without.

It sounds like a headache, and honestly it is.  But if you follow these tips, hopefully you can avoid buyer’s remorse and you’ll be happy with your stroller purchase for a long time.

And for those of you who are interested, we are a Baby Jogger family.  We started off with a travel system because it seemed sensible at the time.  But after a month of using it, I hated and really dreaded going out with the stroller.  We have two Baby Jogger strollers (which I know seems a bit excessive).

Our first one is the City Mini.  It lives in our car trunk (which you can see below).  Once a week my son and I would go to the zoo, museum, Golden Gate Park, etc.  It’s compact and great to keep in our car trunk since it folds up flat.  We’ve also taken it with us around the world.  It fits easily through the x-ray machine at airports, and is a snap to fold up when you have baby and a carry on to juggle when you drop off the stroller at the gate.  It serves us well, and we are very happy with it.

city_mini_1 city_mini_2

Our other stroller is the Summit.  It’s definitely heavier and bulkier to the City Mini, but we use this when we are going to walk to our destination from home (at least 2 miles worth of walking each trip).  With the steep hills of SF, it’s nice to have a hand break and the stroller doesn’t go on it’s back wheels because it is heavier.  We’ve also taken it off-roading and I’ve jogged with it a few times.  It’s really nice and smooth.

Baby Jogger is a bit pricey, but we are happy with them.  We also get really good use out of them too.  I also like how the accessories we’ve bought work for both strollers (we have the child’s tray and car seat attachment).  And with baby #2 on its way, I’ll probably end up getting the roller board that also works with both strollers.

Definitely don’t enter your stroller decision lightly.  It’s one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make or register for, so make sure you pick out something you’ll love!!!