You want a tray that’s easy to lift off with one hand. And before you shell out for wheels and lots of adjustable heights, talk to friends with older kids. Did they really wheel their high chair around and adjust its height? Most important: A center post attached to the seat rather than the tray is safer, since your baby will still be protected when the tray is taken off.
* Small size is key.
* If you really will bother to get the high chair out of the way after every meal, look for one that folds, with a lock to prevent accidental folding.
good choices: Graco Harmony Highchair
* Toy trays can be sanity savers.
* A reclining seat will let a young baby hang out at your level while you eat your sandwich, instead of being down in a bouncer. He’s happier being able to see you (just don’t feed solids in a reclining position).
good choice: Evenflo SmartSteps Discovery Highchair
* A snap-off tray that covers the larger tray and fits in the dishwasher eases cleanup.
* Beware of crevices that will catch food.
* A vinyl, washable seat pad in a pattern or dark color is the way to go.
good choices: Chicco Polly Highchair
Take note of what other moms in your neighborhood are pushing. If you see one type of stroller a lot, it will probably work well for you, too. Remember that babies younger than 6 months need to recline fully (and all of our picks allow for that).
* It will have to fold fast if you want to catch a bus.
* It must be light for hauling down subway stairs or up to that fourth-floor walk-up.
* Choose one that’s tough enough to withstand constantly going over curbs and potholes.
* For your child’s primary mode of transportation, you’ll want one that’s outfitted for harsh weather (a rain cover and a “boot” to keep little legs warm).
good choices: Inglesina Zippy
* You don’t need a “travel system” (the car seat may not be right for your car, and the strollers are often crummy). What you do need: a durable stroller that lets you attach a car seat.
* You’ll want it to be easy to haul in and out of your trunk over and over again.
* Store aisles call for a narrow model.
good choices: Zooper Waltz
* Big knobby wheels will handle unpaved roads and grass.
* Shock absorbers keep your baby snoozing over bumpy hiking paths.
good choices: Phil & Teds e3
Are you tall?
* Even if only one of you is leggy, the handle height should be easily adjustable so you (or your partner) won’t have to hunch over.
* Try the stroller before you buy. Check out the overall design to make sure your long stride won’t leave you with bruised shins.
good choices: Combi Savona
Do not buy a used crib. Period. But the good news is that every new crib meets the exact same safety standards, regardless of price. Go ahead and shake it in the store. It should feel sturdy, not flimsy. Don’t pay extra for more than two mattress heights. It’s a pain to change the heights. Plus, you’d only need the highest for newborns and the lowest for when he starts to pull up. Don’t splurge on an under-crib drawer unless you’re really hurting for storage space. The drawer has no top, so whatever is in there gets dusty fast. Need to break a tie between two cribs at your price? Look at the casters (wheels): Metal is better than plastic; wide better than narrow.
Tall with a tight budget?
* You can manage without any drop sides at all, so a basic crib will work just fine.
good choice: Ikea Hensvik
If you’re breastfeeding exclusively, you’ll probably need a pump whether or not you return to work. If you’re ambivalent about nursing, rent one through your hospital to see how it goes before investing in your own pump. Breast pumps can’t be returned, even if the box has never been opened.
* A top-flight, double electric pump in its own tote bag is your best choice.
* A car adapter lets you run out to your car if you drive to work and aren’t lucky enough to have a private place there to pump.
* A battery pack option will save the day if you’ll need to pump in a bathroom stall or anywhere else without an electrical outlet.
* A removable motor is a favorite feature of commuters. Just leave the motor in your desk, and your bag will be lighter for your train or bus ride.
good choices: Medela Pump in Style Advanced
Working part-time/staying home?
* A comfortable, efficient manual pump is perfect for occasional use.
* The fewer parts it has, the easier it will be to disassemble, clean, and reassemble.
* Keep in mind that unless you feel like pumping one breast at a time, you’ll have to buy two.
good choices: Avent Isis, $28.
Carrier: A must-buy for a metro mom, but for a mall crawler who drives everywhere, they seem more useful than they are. Yeah, your hands are free, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) cook, clean, or bend over to pick up toys while wearing one. Still, if you love to walk around the block sans stroller, then go ahead and get one.
Monitor: If you live in a multilevel house, you will probably make use of a monitor. Otherwise, save your money. You will hear your child crying. Trust us.
Swing: Lots of babies love these; some hate them. And you won’t know which camp your baby is in until you try one. Let your baby test-drive a swing at a friend’s house before you plunk down your credit card.