Shopping for baby

My husband and I are only starting to look for baby products now. So far all we got for baby Alex are 2 plush dragon toys. We haven’t bought any clothes, no pram, no cot, and no car seat etc. Initially we were concerned with getting a running pram/stroller. I did a little research and found out that it’s best to take the baby out running in a stroller when he’s 6 months old, at the stage when he’s able to sit up and supports himself. My husband hinted to his brothers for a running stroller as a baby gift, since it’s cheaper in the USA. In fact product are much cheaper over there by at least 50%. He thinks it’s because the baby market there is huge and so competition lowers the price and offers so many choices, whereas in Singapore, the low birth rate coupled with the much smaller population make this a really small market that can’t pass down the price saving nor wide choices to consumers. For instance I checked Amazon for baby cots, and a Graco playard cum bassinet travel system is only US$100, with free shipping within continental USA, whereas over here it is double that. Unfortunately items like cot, stroller and car seat etc, are not able to be shipped outside of the USA. I guess if we can get them via Amazon, the distributors and retailers here will go belly up.

I was initially thinking of checking out the multifunctional Graco cot, but my husband found out that Ikea offers baby cots. So we went to check them out; rather basic cots most of which are pretty cheap, at less than S$100. We figure since the baby is only going to use it for a few years (the base can be lowered for infant above 1 year old), it doesn’t make sense to get something that costs a few hundred bucks. We have to get a new bed when the kid is 2 or 3 years old anyway. So at this stage, my husband decides we’ll “IKEAed” the kid. Besides the store also offers a rather pretty mosquito net and cheap, functional movable storage system for baby stuff, which all come in handy.

One thing we’re taking a more caution approach in our purchase is the infant car seat. We’re doing research on the safety, ease of use and comfort. My husband is thinking of getting a travel system combo of the car seat carrier with stroller. We saw a lady at Ikea with a Maxi Cosi infant seat attached to a Quinny stroller, and thought the whole setup looks rather cool. So naturally we were eyeing this possibility. I found an online store Baby Meadows which purportedly sells a wide range of baby products including the brands mentioned above, and it also has a retail store not far from where we stay. So after Ikea, we went to check it out to see if it offers some good deals.

The shop doesn’t appear to be a baby store even though it has baby products available. I don’t know why but it gives me the impression of a second-hand store because it sells all sort of stuff including women clothes (not maternity wear), crocs shoes, and the whole place seems rather messy and haphazard. Add to that, there’s a musty smell. Anyway there was no stroller in sight. The owner, Grace, told us that she had sold off all the stocks in store after the recent clearance sale. As luck would have it, there was a couple who arrived before us with their 3-month old baby girl, and they have the Maxi Cosi/Quinny seat and stroller. When Grace asked us what we were looking for, we pointed at it. The couple was very kind to let us try it out. Grace told us many husbands like the Quinny stroller because of its cool design that looks like the fast car of the stroller world. (That was why we fell for it.) She described how one husband, who came into the store with his wife, went straight for the stroller, and couldn’t stop stroking the steel bar. The wife exclaimed aloud, “what are you doing? You look like you’re having sex with it!”

Grace was very honest with us that the Quinny stroller requires “6 hands to operate”. It’s alright when the couple takes the baby out on the stroller together, when the husband can close or open the stroller and the wife carrying the baby. However when wife goes out on her own with it, it can be very frustrating when she has to carry the baby on one hand and closing or opening the stroller with the other. Many mothers end up returning the stroller or get another one. The lady with the baby in the store also recounted that she once went out with the baby alone, and she had difficulty closing the stroller. She ended up asking a passerby to help her, but too bad that person couldn’t close it either. She finally managed to do it on her own after numerous attempts. My husband tried it for himself, and we agree with Grace that the novelty of the stroller will wear off fast because it turns out to be too much hassle. Grace is a very friendly and chatty lady, who’s willing to share information. So for the next couple of hours, she explained the pros and cons of the various brands of car seats from Maxi Cosi, Cybex, Peg Perego to Inglesina, as well as stroller from these brands and others like Maclaren and Combi. She also explained to us the different categories of car seats. Cat 0/0+ is for newborns to about 15 months (depending on weight), cat 1 is for approx. 9 months to 4 yrs old, cat 2 is for roughly 4-6 yrs old and finally cat 3 is for roughly 6-11 yrs old (roughly because it depends on weight of the child.) There’re car seats which overlap across categories, covering a wide age group, but nothing covering all categories. So you can get one that covers cat 0 and 1, but may not cover cat 2 and 3. No matter what, you need to get 2 car seats, one for infant stage and the other for toddler stage.

My friend, Chia Lih, is going to give me one of her twin daughters’ stroller, a Maclaren. Though my husband thinks it’s rather clunky, but it can be considered as a backup. I like the Peg Perego stroller and car seat from Italy, which I think look very stylish. Grace told us the stroller is very ergonomic and hardy, and truly one-click operational. She told of a friend who has one for all her 5 kids over a 14-year period. Its competitor, Inglesina, also has similar product offerings. The Italians are really good at making functional and aesthetically pleasing products, and they’re better than the Quinny. We were told both companies do not offer discounts since their products get snapped up when they leave the factories. Hence their pricing is usually at a premium to other mass market brands. But we realize it doesn’t make sense for us to get an expensive travel system. Our initial thought was a Maxi Cosi infant car seat, though my husband found that the Cybex has pretty good reviews. It’s important to get one which is easily secured using seat belt, and is safe and comfortable for the baby. As for the child seat, we’re interested to get the Inglesina which covers the car seat category of 1 to 3, and it’s less than S$500. The Singapore traffic police issued an announcement late last year that any child/adult at the height of 1.35m or below must be in a car seat. Of course, whether this is enforced or not is another matter altogether. We’ve seen so many instances of babies and young children not in car seats and not even strapped down. Makes you wonder what the hell their parents are thinking of. I told my husband that he has to drill into his parents that when they’re taking care of baby Alex in future, they have to put him in a car seat in the car, no ifs or buts.

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