Becoming a new parent can be stressful and terrifying. Suddenly facing a mountain of questions, many new parents naturally turn to the internet seeking advice and product recommendations. The hugely lucrative baby market has led to an overabundance of parenting forums, mommy blogs and websites selling the latest and greatest baby products, often leaving new parents overwhelmed and confused. To help sort through it all, we turned to Dana Baardsen for guidance.
Dana Baardsen is the Parenting Editor at BestProducts.com. You’ll catch her researching and testing out the latest maternity, baby, and kid products when she’s not busy playing with the latest toys at her desk or chatting with celebrity parents! Dana gets the scoop on the products that make parenting easier so parents can shop and make decisions within minutes. You can follow her on Instagram @DanaBaardsen.
How did you get started in parenting editorials?
The first piece of parenting content I wrote was about two full-time students who pursued finishing their college degrees together with a brand new baby. I interviewed the mom, Nicole, in the Montclair State University cafeteria while her baby was on her lap. It was for a feature in the school’s newspaper, the Montclarion. My first office job in editorial was with American Baby magazine. I then handled social media for American Baby, Parenting.com, and FitPregnancy.com, wrote content for Parents.com, and top-edited Parents Latina digital content before starting my position as the parenting editor at BestProducts.com. After I interviewed the power couple in the college cafeteria, I realized it’s not realistic for busy parents to spend hours researching related topics. That’s why I’m passionate about doing it for them and presenting what I find in an entertaining, easy-to-digest way.
Why might parents prefer online stores to strolling down retail aisles when shopping for their babies?
Simple: Parents can shop without the hassle, compare products, and save money all at the same time. Parents are really taking advantage of this with baby products, since it’s easy to buy baby wash or diapers in bulk online and save money and energy. Plus, with kids in the picture, having items delivered to your doorstep instead of physically bringing purchases home from a hectic day of shopping can be a real lifesaver.
What do you think are some of the top precautions parents should take when online shopping?
Where do I start? Be cautious about third-party sellers on Amazon or Ebay. Be careful about which sites you use your credit card information with — stick with popular retailers with a positive reputation. Look into recalls when you’re thinking of purchasing baby gear, like car seats or strollers. For example, a big retail store will remove recalled products from their store shelves, but there might still be outdated listings online that feature recalled items. Don’t buy second-hand baby gear online. Even if you find a $20 second-hand bouncer or crib online, it’s a safety concern. I urge parents to look into each product before purchasing over the internet, unless they’re shopping through a researched guide from a trusted brand, like BestProducts.com. We describe the best in each category on our site, like “best baby bottles” or “best talc-free baby powder.”
“When it comes to our children, parents as consumers still need to be the strongest advocate for their kids’ safety.”
There’s also misinformation on age recommendations floating around the internet. It’s just crucial to know what you’re purchasing before adding it to your digital shopping cart. True story: This holiday season, a popular and respected resource for toy information (that editors refer to before writing content) recommended a toy in the 3-5 years of age category (Hot Holiday Toys for Preschoolers), but the toy contains several tiny pieces wrapped in plastic and the manufacturer clearly states that this toy is only appropriate for kids ages 6+. This means the toy should have fallen into their Hot Holiday Toys for Grade School category. When it comes to our children, parents as consumers still need to be the strongest advocate for their kids’ safety.
Here’s what to do to be safe: Get all of the legitimate specs and details about the product by checking out the manufacturer’s website, but also review reactions to the product from real parents on Amazon, social media, and forums.
Can you provide a short list of your favorite sites for mommy shopping?
Sure! All of the brands and websites I mention below consistently provide positive experiences for their customers, in terms of shopping and quality of product. Plus, these brands and sites carefully and responsibly post listings that are true to what the actual product is, from specs to imagery.
- General Parenting: BestProducts.com/parenting
- We offer straight-forward roundups, like “71 Must-Have Baby and Parenting Products.” Parents can shop right off of the site as every piece of content features “BUY NOW” buttons with updated links to shop.
- Baby and Kid Essentials: Fawn and Forest, Skip Hop
- There are so many well-curated shops online for baby and kid products. I particularly enjoy the collection offered at Fawn and Forest. This shop offers products with a unique, almost Scandinavian aesthetic. From non-toxic nail polish for kids to wooden baby mobiles, there’s an emphasis on both safety and simplicity for all of their products. Main shopping categories include: Furniture, Bedding and Decor, Essentials, Clothing, Toys, and Gifts. Skip Hop is another super popular retailer. Their products are affordable, trusted, and often, super cute. Main shopping categories include: Diaper Bags, On-the-Go, Toys, Nursery, Mealtime, Bathtime, Zoo Collection, and Gifts.
- Baby Gear: Babies “R” Us (reviews)
- From Fisher Price bouncers to Britax car seats and Graco strollers, Babies “R” Us offers a collection of trusted baby gear parents know and love. I appreciate their Health and Safety section on the website, which offers a wide range of products from sleep safety and humidifiers to childproofing and products for travel safety.
- Nursery Design and Cribs: Project Nursery
- With shop categories like Furniture, Bedding, and Decor, parents will have an easy time shopping this site to make their baby’s nursery look like an interior designer put it all together. The website itself has tons of resources, blogs, and design ideas to make pulling the look of your baby’s nursery together easy and fun.
- Baby Skincare: Burt’s Bees Baby
- Burt’s Bees offers an affordable skincare line that you’ll feel good about using your baby’s delicate skin. From multipurpose ointment to baby bubble wash and no-tears shampoo, the ingredient lists are simple and perfect for babies with sensitive skin. Another adorable (natural) baby skincare and bath line I’m obsessed with right now is Tubby Todd.
- Family Essentials: Honest Company (reviews)
- Whether you need diapers, formula, vitamins, laundry detergent, or multi-purpose cleaner, the Honest Company offers a line of products formulated with responsible ingredients.Toys: Toys “R” Us (reviews), Melissa and Doug
- For holiday shopping, Toys “R” Us is a must-shop site! Toys “R” Us works directly with manufacturers, so they might have hot holiday toys in stock online while the toy is impossible to find elsewhere online. Melissa and Doug is also a great place to shop for toys. Their cooking line is so well done, and their comprehensive shopping experience is well organized and user-friendly.
Are there any sites you recommend moms and parents to stay away from?
I can’t pinpoint specific sites like this, but here are my thoughts: If you’re purchasing products through well-known, trusted retailers online, you should have a positive shopping experience from the moment you add it to your digital shopping cart to the moment you receive it at home. The quality of the product itself is up to the parent as the consumer to look into — that’s what will determine the role the product plays in your child’s life.
Be cautious of Kickstarter campaigns asking for hefty donations in exchange for product, especially when that kind of product is not cleared by the FDA, like breast pumps. When it comes to remedies for children, be aware that while brands try to make their product seem like the answer for all of your child’s problems, they could be dealing with public warnings from the FDA. An example of this is parents starting to explore the CBD oil market online for their babies and children.
“You should have a positive shopping experience from the moment you add it to your digital shopping cart to the moment you receive it at home.”
As for brands, I recommend parents do their research. For example, it was shocking to consumers just a few years ago when formaldehyde was removed from Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tears formula. It’s an example of a trusted retailer that you’ll have a positive shopping experience with, but the truth is that their product contained a major toxin to cheapen the product and increase the profit margin. Circling back to why I feel passionate about parenting, this is why extensively researching products is exhaustive for new parents, and why my parenting section on BestProducts.com can be a big time-saver!
Given the recent proliferation of parenting websites, blogs, and forums, how should a new parent best utilize the online advice available?
Take everything with a grain of salt! Even if your favorite mommy blogger won’t stop writing about the baby bottle brand she uses with her baby, know that she might be getting paid big bucks to promote the brand on her blog and social media handles. She might not have used the product once with her own child. Don’t let social media trick you, either! If your mom friends are posting pictures of their beautiful, fluffy crib bumpers, a clip of their at-home baby doppler monitor, or a picture of the CBD-infused hot chocolate that was served to their kiddo before bedtime, please consider opinions from true experts before hopping on a trend train. Consult your doctor first.
What about top sites or brands for maternity wear, nursing covers, and other products for expecting mothers?
There is so much out there right now, and it’s really a time for pregnant women to embrace their changing bodies and show off their style! I adore the curated maternity section at Nordstrom (free shipping and returns), and there’s a nice range when it comes to prices. Some maternity brands I love are Rosie Pope, Ingrid and Isabel, and Kimi and Kai. I’m absolutely obsessed with a new pregnancy planner that came out by a favorite brand, Erin Condren. Pregnant women will also want to stock up on hot baby fashion items, like Freshly Picked Moccasins, or Solly Baby Wraps which often have a waiting list for their new releases. I’d also recommend Rosie Pope’s chic nursing cover-ups.