Monday, November 15, 2010

The Expecting Expat Mom's Buying Guide: For Baby

I never realized how many things a baby needed until I got pregnant. When it came time to shop in Egypt for our little one on the way, I soon realized that I basically knew nothing about what our baby needed.

And somehow my husband seemed to think that I was the expert. It was as if by becoming pregnant that apparently I also knew everything else there was to know about babies too.

Yeah, not so much.

The first time I went baby shopping, I was with my sister in the States. We were walking into Target and I looked at her and said "I'm not really sure what I'm doing here." So much for that vote of confidence, right?

So it wasn't just the living in Egypt that made buying for baby a challenge. I would haved face this problem anywhere.

And so would you.

So what did I do? Well I DID have access to the Internet. So essentially even if I didn't know everything there was to know about babies... I knew someone who did (or who could at least point me in the right direction.)

Not sure how to search the Internet? Here's what you do. Go to Google and type in the words "what a newborn needs."

You might get a list of sites like this:
Baby Checklist
Basic Baby Needs
Products You Don't Need to Buy for Newborns

But the biggest problem when you live overseas isn't knowing what you need for baby, it's knowing how to get it. If you do a bit of legwork in and around town wherever you live, you might find more than you think. Talk to locals. See where they buy baby stuff. Check it out and see if the quality is up to par for you. There actually might be a lot more stuff off your list available where you live than you think, it's just a matter of finding it.

And being willing to pay that much for it.

Because if living where you live is anything like how it is in Egypt - you might find that while a lot of stuff is available that it gets pretty expensive. So once you determine whether the things you *need* for baby are available where you are, if you find it you'll have to decide if you're willing to spend that much money for it or not.

If not you've somehow got to figure out how to get it elsewhere. You can either buy it online and have it shipped to you - that is if you've got a reliable postal service where you live. Or you can have someone buy it for you and bring it in for you in their suitcase (this works if you have family coming to visit or know someone who's coming from there soon).

Or you can go get it yourself.

I'll admit that most of my baby stuff was bought in the States.

Over the years, I have worked out a very effective system for buying stuff in the U.S. when I go home. I usually pack enough clothes for about 3 days. Then I fill the rest of my suitcase mostly with gifts for family and friends. And my pillow.

So while I'm in the States, I simply wear what I buy there and this fills my suitcase coming home.

The only downside I've found to buying baby stuff in America and bringing it back to Egypt is that it's very difficult to know exactly how much to bring back with me. So it is easy to overbuy.

Here are a few tips for buying baby stuff to bring back overseas with you.  

1. Consider what you have available overseas. And whether you want to buy it there. Just because it's available in Egypt doesn't necessarily mean that I want to buy it here. I find that even things that ARE available in Egypt tend to be quite a bit more expensive than the equivalent in the States.

This is why we've bought so much from the States.

But it's nice too to at least know what you have when you're in a pinch and you need that next size in something unexpected. Plus I like to be able to mix things up a bit now that my son is older. So since in Egypt we have lots of cute outfits (shirts and pants) that go on sale at random times, I'll stock up more on basic tees and jeans when we're back in the States because these are harder to find in Egypt (and more expensive.)

2. Consider what you don't have available overseas. If you can print off a baby checklist you find online and look around for things you need, you might find a lot more available where you're at than you realized. However, at the same time it's possible that some *key* items you need are hard to find where you live (or worse, not available at all.)

In Egypt, for example, hooded towels and cotton blankets were almost impossible to find. You might look one day and find them and then return the next day to find that they're sold out. And often they won't get any more in for weeks or months or never.

3. Make yourself a list. I'll admit as a new mom that a credit card in one hand and an empty shopping cart in the other do not make a good combination. Without a list, you might get home and find that you bought 20 onesies all in one size and never even remembered to buy those cloth bibs you needed.

I'm not saying you can't allow yourself to deviate from the list, just realize that pregnancy makes you a bit forgetful. Trust me, your husband will thank you for it later. And you'll probably thank yourself too.

4. Buy different brands. Different brands are different sizes. It doesn't matter that it says "newborn" or "0-3 months" on the label. You might find that the "newborn" in one size is bigger than the "0-3 months" in another brand.

This is a good thing. You'll thank yourself later when you have the next *size* available in your baby's clothes drawer. Babies grow fast. I usually buy 3-4 of one brand and then 3-4 in another.

I'm not saying don't buy something cute because you've already bought 4 other outfits in that brand. But I AM saying that you shouldn't buy out the entire line of Carter's in your baby's size. Buy some Carter's, some Gerber, some Okie-Dokie, and some Old Navy (for example).

5. Take advantage of end-of-the-season and clearance sales. Whenever I go into a new store, I always go straight to the clearance rack. I might find a really cute pair of jeans at the front of the store for $15 dollars. Or I might find an equally cute pair of jeans on the clearance rack for $3.99.

Trust me, cute is cute no matter what the price tag.

Buying ahead for baby can be tricky, but it's also pretty important when you live overseas. However, estimating exactly which size to buy that heavy winter coat in for next year may be next to impossible. So tread carefully when buying summer clothes for next year or stocking up on warm winter necessities for the future.

6. Evaluate and adjust as needed. The worst thing you can do when buying stuff for baby to bring back overseas is to leave everything in bags until the day before you leave. Take the stuff out, fold it and arrange according to sizes. I even start to pack stuff immediately to make sure I didn't overbuy according to our baggage limits.

I realize that not everyone is able to go home to buy baby stuff before they have their baby. But many people have family come to visit when babies are born. And there is also the option of buying things online and having them shipped to you.

Larger baby items presented the biggest problem for me. You can buy clothes and other smaller baby items till the cows come home, but you can't lug a crib on the plane with you.

I knew from my reading that experts recommended that cribs and car seats be bought new. Anything else could be either borrow or bought used.

We bought our crib new in Egypt. My husband and I shopped around for Egyptian cribs but after looking in a couple of stores, we very happily shelled out a larger than usual amount of money for a crib from the Mothercare store.

You can't put a price tag on your baby's safety.

One thing to know is that a lot of expats get rid of baby stuff when they leave a country. So if you're in an expat community, keep your eyes open for people who have younger kids who are leaving to go home or to another assignment. This is a great way to get used baby stuff.

I bought my glider this way from an American lady who moved back to the States.

My advice is to enjoy this process. Don't let yourself get stressed out about the do's and don'ts. When it gets to be too much for you, take a break. Take some of those little outfits out, take off the tags, and fold them slowly. Imagine your baby in them. You'll get through this. And before you know it your little one will be right beside you.

You might even long for these days again.

If you've been pregnant or had a baby overseas, how did you get the stuff you needed for baby? What is your advice for what to buy (and how to buy it) for baby?

Don't forget to check out The Expecting Expat Mom's Buying Guide: For Mama.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails