Baby Gear Save vs. Splurge

Baby Gear Save vs. Splurge

December 6, 2019

Baby Gear Save vs. Splurge

Baby Gear Save vs. Splurge
Photo by @annielinco
Baby Gear Save vs. Splurge

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing baby gear. Whether you’re building a wishlist for family and friends by creating a baby registry or shopping for gear yourself, cost is often a major factor when you’re trying to decide between car seats, high chairs, monitors and other major items.

Figuring out what gear to splurge on versus where you’d rather save is going to come down to personal preference; there’s no “right” answer, and most of the time the decision can be made by taking a look at your overall budget and your particular lifestyle. But it is helpful to have all the facts—and that’s where we come in.

We’re taking items from 11 of our most popular baby gear categories and putting big-ticket items up against their budget-friendly counterparts so you can compare, contrast and figure out where you want to put your hard-earned dollars.

Infant Car Seat

SAVE: If you’re debating whether to save or splurge on a car seat, it’s helpful to remember this: regardless of price, all car seats are safe when installed correctly, and all seats are tested to the same federal safety standards.

Keeping that in mind, the Graco SnugRide 30 is a safe, lightweight and very well-priced seat. It checks all the boxes most parents and caregivers are looking for when it comes to a rear-facing infant seat with features like a machine-washable seat cushion, an ample canopy and an adjustable 5-point front harness. It can also be installed using either your car’s seat belt or the LATCH strap.

Biggest con? You’ll have to adjust the harness straps from the back of the seat. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it does take a bit of getting used to.


SPLURGE: On the other end of the spectrum sits the Nuna Pipa Lite infant seat—a thoughtfully (and beautifully) designed seat packed full of high-end features…but it’s going to cost you.

The standout feature of the Lite is its weight; at only 5.7 pounds, this seat is lighter than most newborn babies and a lot lighter than other infant seats on the market. (And if you think a few pounds doesn’t make much of a difference, talk to us after you’ve carried your car seat + baby around for a few months.) We also love the crash-absorbent foam and side-impact protection, the steel-reinforced base, the ultra-easy install and the Merino wool blend fabric.

Other than the high price point, the other major con is that the Lite must be used with its base—no seatbelt-only install allowed. This is a definite drawback for families who use rideshares or cabs or plan to bring their car seat on a plane, but may not be for most others. (For a splurge-worthy seat that does support a seatbelt install, check out the Nuna Pipa.)

Convertible Car Seat

SAVE: Convertible car seats are a must-have once your little one outgrows their infant seat, but the price can be tough to take. Not the case with the Scenera, a great seat from one of our favorite budget brands, Cosco, available exclusively through Walmart.

The Scenera Next is a fairly basic yet extremely safe seat—all for under $45. It can be used rear- and forward-facing, features side-impact protection and a 5-point harness with three buckle locations, and weighs only 10 pounds, making it easy to switch from one car to another if needed.

It can be tricky to get a tight install in some cars, so be sure to Google installation videos before you give it a go.


SPLURGE: If a safe, modern car seat that many say is “built like a tank” is in your budget, then you need to check out the Clek foonf.

Despite its funny-sounding name, there’s nothing funny about this popular seat. Safety is the name of the game here. The foonf incorporates European and auto industry safety features like Rigid-LATCH, an anti-rebound bar and an aluminum crumple zone. Parents also love the seat’s sleek design and fun color choices.

Keep in mind that this seat is big. Width isn’t the issue (you can fit three across in many vehicles), but height is, and if you’re on the shorter side you may have trouble seeing out the back window when the seat is installed rear-facing.

Bassinet

SAVE: A safe place for your little one to sleep is a priority when you’re thinking about what type of gear you’ll want to buy or add to your registry. The Lullago is a safe, simple solution that boasts a ton of smart features and won’t break the bank. The bassinet is simple in all the right ways: it’s light (so it’s easy to move around), it has basic mesh sides (great for breathability and air flow), features a large mattress (with a zip-off pad) and folds flat, making it perfect for travel.

It doesn’t feature any movement or sound features, but most parents (and babies) are totally okay with that.


SPLURGE: If you can afford to spend a bit more on a bassinet, the Halo is a nice upgrade. What you’re paying for here is options. The Halo swivels 360 degrees and adjusts in height so you can get just the right position for your little one. The base allows it to tuck under your bed, helping to save space, and the bassinet features a retractable wall that makes it easy to pick up your baby even from bed.

Although it’s expensive, it does come with a mattress and coordinating fitted sheet. Just keep in mind that bassinets, this one included, have a pretty short lifespan; you’ll need to stop using it when your little one shows signs of rolling over or pushing up.

Crib

SAVE: Didn’t think you could love IKEA any more than you already do? Meet the (amazing) crib that works in any nursery and is under eighty bucks.

The Sniglar crib is simple and affordable. It’s made from solid beech wood (so nothing to worry about when it comes to unsafe paints or finishes) and meets all safety standards. The crib adjusts to two different heights and, when your little one is ready, you can remove one bed side and turn the crib into a toddler bed.

If we had to find some cons…the crib is on the lower side, which can be frustrating for taller parents (but great for shorter ones!). And as is often the case with IKEA furniture, the assembly instructions leave a bit to be desired.


SPLURGE: If you love fresh, modern design and sustainably sourced materials, then you won’t mind upping your budget for this beautiful crib from Oeuf. Luckily you’re getting more than just looks here, though; the Classic has three mattress heights, a relatively small footprint for a full-size crib and can be assembled by one person. And we love this thoughtful detail: the metal legs adjust independently, making them accommodating to uneven floor surfaces.

There is a toddler bed conversion kit available, but it’s sold separately, which ups the price for this (already pricey) crib even more.

Monitor

SAVE: “Video monitors? What? We didn’t have those! When you were little, we’d just leave the bedroom door open so we could listen for the crying,” says every grandparent ever. And we have to give them credit because…they’re right. A video monitor (or any type of monitor, for that matter) is great, but far from a must-have.

If you’re looking to cut your budget, this audio-only monitor from VTech will run you under $30 and more than gets the job done. We love that this one also has intercom capabilities so you can beg your toddler to nap longer when the time comes. Just be sure the transmission range works with your space.


SPLURGE: Feeling anxious just thinking about not being able to see your little one’s every move? A higher-tech video monitor will be more expensive, but it may be worthwhile for your peace of mind.

The Owlet has everything you can think of—and more—in a monitor. This camera + wearable “smart sock” combo has video, audio and vitals-tracking capabilities and monitors everything from your little one’s movement down to their heart rate and oxygen levels. (And it notifies you if something changes.) Keep in mind that the Owlet hasn’t been tested to prevent SIDS, though, and it’s WiFi-dependent.

Stroller

SAVE: A stroller is often a big-ticket registry item—but it doesn’t have to be. Known for affordability, Walmart’s exclusive Urbini travel system offers a stroller and a car seat for under $200. (And, depending on what color you choose, the price may be as low as $99!)

The stroller is lightweight and has many of the same features found in much higher-priced options like a full recline seat that rear- and forward-faces, a peekaboo window, a large sun canopy and a roomy storage basket. The car seat clicks right into the stroller frame so you won’t need to deal with adapters.

Is this stroller as sturdy and easily maneuverable as its $800+ counterparts? It’s not. But for a fraction of the price, it’s a great option for lots of families.


SPLURGE: Looking for stroller luxury? Look no further than Bugaboo, the first (and one of the best) stroller brands to play in the stroller splurge market.

A few things stand out about Bugaboo strollers: beautiful design, high-end materials and finishes, effortless maneuverability and an amazing suspension system that provides a cushy ride. The Fox checks all of these boxes and more. This stroller also features an ultra-compact fold and includes a bassinet for those first few months of your baby’s life.

The Fox is a definite splurge, but if you’re a city family whose main mode of transportation is going to be your stroller—or any type of family who’s planning a lot of excursions with baby—you’ll want to give this stroller a look.

Bouncer

SAVE: A bouncer seat is a safe, comfortable place for your little one to relax and play. (It’s also the perfect—and portable—spot for baby if you need to get something done like hop in the shower or cook a meal.) This Fisher Price bouncer is simple and straightforward, and that’s what we love about it. It bounces via your little one’s natural movements and features a toy bar and a vibration mode. The seat pad is easy to pop off and toss in the wash when it’s starting to get icky. And for less than $20, it’s tough to find anything bad to say!


SPLURGE: Upping your bouncer game—and your bouncer budget—does come with some perks. Although this BabyBjorn model does basically the same thing as its lower-priced Fisher-Price counterpart, there are some standout features worth mentioning if you’re looking to splurge.

We love the beautiful simplicity of this seat. It’s ergonomic, thoughtfully designed and will catch the eye of any minimalist-loving parents. (And won’t stick out like a sore thumb in a neutral living space.) And it’s great for baby, too; it’s supportive in all the right places and made from an ultra-soft fabric that’s also machine washable. It can be used from day one and transforms into a toddler chair when your little one gets a bit older.

Baby Carrier

Keeping your baby close and your hands free are two huge benefits of adding a baby carrier to your registry. The Flip from Infantino offers four different carry positions for your little one—normally a feature of much higher-priced carriers—at a fraction of the price.

We love this carrier’s supportive waist belt, adjustable arm and leg straps and the padded shoulder straps for extra comfort. We don’t love that parents say the carrier doesn’t work as well for bigger babies. Just be sure to keep in mind that different brands of carriers work differently for parents and little ones, so it’s always worth doing a test run if at all possible before making a purchase.


SPLURGE: One of the most-loved of the higher-priced baby carriers is the Omni 360. Like the Infantino version, this carrier can be worn four different ways and has tons of options that maximize comfort and fit for bay and whoever’s doing the carrying. The ergonomic design emphasises hip health, which is a nice reassurance if you’re worried about how your little one is positioned in the carrier. And as for if it’s worth the extra spend or not, lots of parents and caregivers say it is—but you’ll really need to test it out for yourself to see if you agree.

Swing

SAVE: If you’ve ever spent an hour rocking a screaming baby, you know why a swing is so popular among new parents. Graco’s Simple Swing may have ‘simple’ in its name, but we think it’s anything but. This compact swing has everything we’re looking for to soothe and calm a fussing little one like several sway speeds (six, to be exact), two vibration settings and even sound options.

It’s marketed as ‘compact,’ which it is when compared to many baby swings, but take that with a grain of salt—it’s still going to take up a decent amount of space in any room.


SPLURGE: The wonders of tech take on baby soothing in this splurge-worthy swing. What stands out here is the swing’s unique movement. In addition to traditional side-to-side swinging, the mamaRoo offers four other motions that are designed to mimic the natural motions parents do when comforting a newborn. (Think things like a gentle wave or the bounce of a parent’s arms.) There’s also five speeds, an adjustable seat, and built-in sounds—all controlled by the screen or via a phone or any Bluetooth-enabled device.

There is a con to keep in mind, though: some parents report their babies just don’t love the types of motion the mamaRoo makes. If that turns out to be the case with your baby, try coming back to it in a few weeks; babies’ likes and dislikes change so quickly over the first few months that it may just be a matter of timing.

Playard

This no-frills playard is the ideal spot for baby to sleep when you’re on the go or for a safe place to play while you’re busy doing other things. Despite the low price, you’ll get a few features that we think are key to any playard: a durable frame, mesh sides for breathability, wheels for easy moving from room to room and an easy fold.

We don’t love the weight (it’s almost 20 pounds) or the thin mattress, but at this price point we’re happy to overlook those features and focus on the positives instead.


SPLURGE: If you’re going to splurge on a playard, the Nuna Sena Aire is our top choice. Although it’s heavy (it actually weighs more than most Pack ‘n Plays), it has so many other great things going on that we think it’s worth the sacrifice.

At the top of our list? Breathability. The design allows airflow from every angle, right down to the mattress that’s made of a special breathable mesh and pulls away heat and humidity. The entire crib covering can be machine washed, and parents rave about the ease of opening and closing this playard.

Pro tip: looking for a similar playard to use for travel that’s much lighter weight? We love the BabyBjörn Travel Crib Light.

High Chair

SAVE: This budget high chair tops many best-of lists, and it’s easy to see why. This no-frills chair is compact, sturdy and ultra easy to clean. It’s also lightweight and easy to move from room to room…all for under $20.

Cons? It doesn’t fold up. There’s no footrest. And it’s not great for younger kiddos. (But you can buy adorable accessories to help with that.)


SPLURGE: The Stokke Tripp Trapp has a large and loyal following and has for years—and we totally get it. This iconic Scandinavian chair looks like a piece of furniture rather than a big, bulky plastic high chair. It pulls right up to the table so it’s easy to make your little one a part of family meals. And it grows right along with your baby; it’s the only chair you’ll need from the beginning of your solids journey all the way through the big kid years.

Keep in mind that there are lots of accessories that can drive the price up, though. Things like the tray and cushions will set you back even more.

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