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Your Baby Registry: When to Skimp or Splurge

This story is part of a bigger MoneyWatch package on when to skimp and when to splurge. Click here to see other stories in the package.

What's the biggest mistake expectant parents make? They spend a small fortune on baby gear. In the first year of parenthood, families spend a whopping $6,000 on child-related stuff. The reality is that you only need a handful of well chosen items. And except for a few exceptions, most of those things shouldn't cost you much.

So what baby items should you skimp or splurge on? For some advice, I spoke with Alan Fields, the co-author of Baby Bargains, a shopping bible for expectant parents.

When to Skimp
1. Strollers
Some parents get so caught up shopping for a stroller that they drop $1,000 on a trendy set of wheels. Instead, Fields believes you're better off skipping the fancy urban carriages and convertible travel systems and buying a high quality, but light weight umbrella stroller. (Think Maclaren Volo.) This way you have a durable model that folds easily and fits in the back seat or trunk of any car. At less than 10 pounds, these strollers are also a dream on public transportation.

2. High Chairs
Babies spend a lot of time in a high chair. But that doesn't mean you need to spend upwards of $150 on a large plastic eyesore. For around $20 you can pick up a Fisher Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat that straps onto one of your kitchen chairs. Not only will it take up less space, but it will also allow your little one to sit at the table during family meals.

When to Splurge
1. Breast Pumps
If you're planning on breast feeding, you'll want to invest in the best home-style breast pump you can afford. Why? The simple reason is that pricier models (such as the Medela Pump In Style ($240) or Medela Freestyle Breast Pump ($340)), are more efficient and comfortable than cheaper ones, says Fields. In other words, you'll fill bottles in less time and won't complain quite as much about sore nipples.

Also, an efficient pump is critical for mothers who plan to go back to work. While your boss may understand that you need to pump, he may not like seeing your office door closed for extended periods of time throughout the day.

2. Car Seats
Fields has a general rule: the safest car seat is the one that's installed correctly. That's why he recommends parents invest in a more expensive model -- like the ones from Britax -- since they tend to be easier to use and adjust. Save some money on a cheaper seat and you risk using it improperly.

Do you agree with Fields' advice? Where would you skimp or splurge?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal, Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
Baby image by Gabi Menashe, image courtesy of CC 2.0.
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Baby Gear: The Only Five Items You Need
Toddler Gear: When to Skimp or Splurge
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