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Holiday Shopping with Baby

Advice on how to shop smart this season while saving your sanity (and stroller power).

It’s that time of year. You know, the time when you’re forced (okay, maybe willing) to show your love for friends and family by spending some cold-hard-cash on them. But something is different this time. Way different. You have a newborn. So, how do you manage shopping for the holidays with baby? We break it down (so you won’t) by venue with tips to prevent you and baby from turning into a Tiny Tears doll. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly.

Mallrat

The best time to approach the mall during holiday season is early in the week during a workday. Less people means less germs that baby is exposed to and more flexibility for you to weave in and out of shops—oh, and to nab that choice parking spot in front.

Of course shopping early is the ideal, but what if you must contend with the crowds? We asked Dan Jasper from Mall of America, the country’s largest retail and entertainment complex at 4.2 million square feet, for advice. "Look into daycare-type assistance at your mall," says Jasper. "If anything, most malls have play areas where parents can rest while their children play in a safe environment."

Knowing where you can take a break ahead of time will come in handy when you’re about to drop from exhaustion and baby’s getting antsy. Jasper also suggests looking out for parking spaces specifically for new or expectant mothers. Some malls even have special days specifically for parents. Mall of America, for example, offers a special "Toddler Tuesday" every Tuesday morning—a free event that features performances, crafts and entertainment. You can check your mall’s website beforehand to find out what it offers.

City mouse

Comfort is key when shopping in a city, advises Urban Shopping Adventures founder Christine Silvestri. Her company offers shopping packages to customers in the Los Angeles area that include lunch and car service to specific shopping districts. Silvestri suggests wearing walking shoes with support and layered clothing, for you and baby. While baby’s bag should include extra diapers, wipes, bottles, and a blankie, your bag should include a list. "Even if you never use lists, now is the time," says Silvestri. Take down sizes and wish items beforehand to avoid making frustrated text messages and phone calls on location. "It’s a major stress reducer because it saves time for the fun stuff—beating out other moms for the best deals." Silvestri recommends looking into specialized services where a personalized guide who’s knowledgeable about specific labels and merchandise and can lead you to the best discounts. If it’s time you want to save, Silvestri suggests opting for delivery and gift-wrapping services.

Web surfer

Shopping online cuts some financial (and emotional) costs, according to online shopping expert and founder of momfinds.com and shefinds.com, Michelle Madhok. You don’t have to spend money on gas, babysitters, and most of all, shopping online allows more "me" time for moms—no waiting in lines, no fighting for parking space, and no time spent pacifying a fussy baby in public.

But with the endless amounts of web sites out there, how do you find the best deals? Madhok suggests signing up to your favorite retailers’ email lists because they often email customers with special promotions before the rest of the world finds out. Look out for the sites like Zappos.com and piperlime.com that offer free shipping and returns no matter what dollar amount you spend. Sites such as shopstyle.com and savvycircle.com allow you to tag certain items so that you���re alerted when they go on sale. "If you start now, you might be able to save on exactly what you’re looking for when it gets closer to holiday time," says Madhok. She also recommends Googling a web site’s name and "coupon code" to yield information about coupons.

What about trying things on? Silvestri likes Netaporter.com because it shows you views of a particular item by itself, on a manikin, and with accessories so you get the full picture.

> Sanity saver: The biggest mistake new parents make when holiday shopping is cramming it all into one day, says Alexandra Blumencranz, owner of PositiveParentCoaching.com. "Planning is the key word," says Blumencranz, "make a list of where to shop and for whom first." This way you can plan what stores you go to each day. So, if Pottery Barn and Toys R Us are in close proximity to one another, get those gifts on the same day. You’ll be able to push baby around less time and run out to your car to store things if needed. Another thing to try says Blumencranz is calling a store ahead of time and ask if they can hold a specific item in stock that you can pick up later. Whatever you do, says Blumencranz, just don’t wait until the night before to do it.

-- Dara Pettinelli

See More: Baby Basics , Newborn Basics , Mommy Life