Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Having a Baby in Germany
Part Four: Gear

I like to plan ahead and I like to shop, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy browsing for baby gear online. It was hard to know what I should buy here and what I should try to purchase on my trip to the U.S.A. Here's a breakdown of what I ended up doing, with some notes about why and how it all worked out. Major contributing factors to these purchasing decisions were:
a)Size (It's tough to fit an Exersaucer in the overhead compartment)
b)Cost (Germany is the land of 19% sales tax so almost everything is more expensive here.)
c)Quality, attractiveness and comfort (Most of this is practical stuff, but some of it is just fun.)

I used a couple of books to guide my shopping:
The Girlfriends' Guide to Baby Gear
Baby Bargains

The shopping list at Rookie Moms is helpful too.

Where we shopped in Germany:
We're lucky that Nurnberg has a nice BabyWalz store, which carries just about everything.
There is a ToysRUs in town with a small baby section.
I also bought a couple of items online that I couldn't find elsewhere through 4MyBaby, which I found through German Ebay.
I've found the best deals on durable and attractive baby clothes at H&M and Zara.
We live about a mile from IKEA, and you can't beat their prices.

What I bought in the USA:
Baby Clothes
I bought/received plenty of this stuff during my visit to the States. American selection and prices can't be beat. European stores like H&M and Zara have cute and practical baby clothes, and while you can find basics in a lot of places here, including baby specialty stores and even our grocery store, most of it costs twice as much as it would in the States. I was especially glad I got inexpensive onesies and cotton footed PJs in the U.S.

Maternity Clothes
I got this stuff in the U.S. mostly due to price, but also because I was just at the point of growing out of my regular wardrobe during my visit.

Swaddle Me blanket
We use this every night. The one time we didn't use it, Theo woke up every hour. And we're inept at swaddling him in a regular blanket; he always seems to break free.

Rearview mirror
This attaches to the headreast on the backseat of our car so that I can see what Theo is up to in his rear-facing carseat.

Diaper Bag
We have two - the funky Mom bag and the practical Dad bag. We use the Dad bag more - it has lots of good pockets and straps onto the stroller. We received it as a gift but it's one piece of gear that I would highly recommend; I'd pay the price to buy it myself if I didn't already have one.

Battery-operated Mobile/Crib Entertainer
I haven't seen these here, but I'm glad to have this one. Theo likes to watch it and it buys me 15 or 20 minutes to eat lunch, wash my hands, etc. We also have this aquarium.

Medicine (Baby Tylenol, Mylicon, diaper rash ointment, nipple cream)
I'm sure versions of this stuff are available in Germany, but I wanted to be able to read the labels thoroughly. Over-the-counter medicine also tends to be very expensive here.

Theo likes Soothie pacificiers so I'm glad I bought a couple of them. Other brands (Nuk, for example) are easily available here.

Cloth Diapers
We use a few of the old-fashioned kind to line the changing table

Baby washcloths and towels
Probably not exactly necessities but we got some nice ones as gifts. I have seen the hooded towels at IKEA.

Manicure/Health Care set (nail clippers, medicine dropper, digital thermometer)

The major brands are different in the USA vs Germany, but the cars here have a version of the LATCH system, so American carseats work fine.

Baby Bjorn
Easily available in Germany but cheaper in the States.

Pregnancy and Child Care Books
Obviously, due to language issues

Books for Baby

Baby Scrapbook

What I bought here:

Maternity Clothes
H&M has a nice maternity line. I bought mainly sweats and clothes for the last couple of months, which saw me through til the end.

Crib and mattress
We ordered these at our local BabyWalz and have been happy with them so far. We seriously considered buying an inexpensive crib at IKEA but decided we wanted an adjustable one (IKEA cribs only had one mattress height). Here's a photo of our crib.

Crib and mattress dimensions here are different than their American counterparts (longer and narrower), so American sheets won't fit. This goes for crib bumpers and ruffles too.

A lot of the stuff below is visible in this photo.

Wooden Mobile
We bought one of these, manufactured by Haba, a German toy company. They make all kinds of high-quality, brightly-colored wooden toys that are more difficult to find in the U.S.

Contoured changing pad
This wasn't easy to locate, but I found it at a large department store. We put it on top of the dresser, but you can get a changing table at IKEA or elsewhere.

Rocking Chair
I had a really difficult time finding a rocker, but we ended up with one I love. It was on sale at IKEA. Apparently rocking chairs are not traditional baby furniture around here.

IKEA strikes again. We bought an unfinished one and I painted it to go with Theo's room.

Avent, Nuk and Dr. Brown's (under a different name) are available here.

Breast pump (manual and electric)
I started with a manual Avent pump and ended up buying a small electric Medela pump through my midwife. Working moms can get a prescription to pay for an electric pump through an OB/GYN.

Travel bed with bassinet
Collapsible travel cribs are widely available here. I wanted one with a bassinet insert, which was hard to find. I ended up locating an online retailer, 4MyBaby, that sold some American brands, including Graco Pack-n-Play. I paid a premium, but I got what I wanted.

Diaper Pail
I've seen Diaper Genie-type contraptions here. For now, we're just using a garbage can with a lid but I imagine we may need a different solution as things get more aromatic.

Nursing Pillow
I love my German nursing pillow. I bought it to use as a body pillow while I was pregnant and used it during nursing. Theo loved to sleep on it for the first couple of months and now we use it to prop him up. It's bigger than Boppy and stuffed loosely, like a beanbag, so it's more flexible. Here's a photo.

Baby Bathtub
No fancy inserts or contraptions, but it works fine.

I also bought a Fisher Price swing through 4MyBaby. Other versions were available at ToysRUs.

Baby Monitor
I bought this used, from a fellow expat family moving back to the States. Moving sales are a great way to pick up some nice stuff, since most expats move after only a couple of years so their belongings are in good shape. And since electronics don't tend to be portable due to voltage/plug differences, there are deals to be had.

If you're into strollers, Germany is a good place to live. We bought a PegPerego, which is a higher-end brand in the U.S. It was actually one of the cheaper options here. My theory is that families here do so much walking that they place a high priority on getting a stroller with special shock absorbers, big wheels, and sturdy tires. Most use a Bugaboo-type cradle stroller.

Infant Seat
We never found a "bouncy" seat, but we have a version that rocks, reclines, etc.

Other baby care items
Brand that I recognize are available here (Pampers, for example) along with Penaten which is the German brand name used by Johnson & Johnson (so the shampoo, lotion, etc that I recognize, just with a different name). Weleda, an all-natural German brand, is popular and very high quality.

What I wish I could find:
For some reason, these have not caught on around here. I saw one for an exorbitant price at ToysRUs, but most place sell walkers instead, which have been practically banned from sale in the USA because they cause so many injuries. We haven't decided whether to try a walker, pay for the exersaucer, or just keep Theo propped up on the couch while he watches his daily six hours of American Chopper reruns.

Part Three: Labor and Delivery
Part Two: Care Providers and Hospitals
Part One: The Nuts and Bolts of the First Half of Pregnancy
Introduction and Disclaimer


Maria said...

I love your diaper bags. I have one from Pottery Barn that I get complimented on a lot because it doesn't really look like a diaper bag. Other than that, I use a large Fendi, medium sized Coach and a "diaper wallet" (I'm not sure what else to call it).

My midwife gave me nipple cream. She just showed up with it when I told her my nipples were hurting!

I showed up in Germany six months pregnant, so I bought a Medela pump in style in the U.S. (it was about $150 cheaper before the exchange rate went to $1.36/Euro!) and brought it over. I love it.

The team furnished our apartment, including an Ikea Crib that has two mattress heights. Maybe we were lucky?

Definitely go for a special diaper pail in the near future! Well, unless you are more motivated than I am and take the trash out daily.

And strollers... I had a Römer at first, because I wanted one I could snap my carseat in to, and the Peg Perego at the Baby Walz was only a 3 point harness, which I refused to have. Almost all infant carseats were 3 point, for that matter, in every store I went to! Now that The Boy likes to sit and look around, I "upgraded" to the Bugaboo, and I LOVE the thing. Definitely worth the money.

Sorry-- I got off track. Thanks for the post. I like reading about what other Americans have found re: having a baby in Germany and all of the "stuff" that goes with it!

Best wishes to you and the family!

Maria said...

oh yeah-- the exersaucer. The Boy loved his while we were in Minnesota. I'm having a hard time parting with the money for him to have one for a couple of months. However, you might want to try the Stars and STripes classifieds. Often times there are military folks looking to get rid of baby stuff. If you need the link, email me. mariawj at gmail dot com.

Blythe said...

Thanks for the Stars and Strips tip, that's a great idea!

Jean Saleeby McCrossan said...

thanks for this post. I am getting ready to move to Germany and my husband and I want to get a new stroller. We currently have a graco and its just not going to hold up over there. I was wondering if you could share some of the stroller lines that are popular out in Germany? We might wait until we get there to buy one and I would like something that can handle rougher terrain than the graco can handle