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Dara Pettinelli

How To Shop For The Holidays With Baby In Tow

Checking off that Christmas list doesn't have to be stressful. Shop smart this season with these sanity-saving tips for new moms.

It’s that time of year again, when stores start festooning their window displays and playing Christmas carols, reminding us that time is short and our holiday shopping lists are long. But something is different this time—you have a newborn in your arms! How’s a mom to manage all that gift-buying with a baby in tow? We break down (so you won’t) the best shopping tactics, whether you’re headed to the mall, meandering down Main Street or browsing the season’s best online deals.

Holiday Shopping Tips for the Mall

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

Of course, shopping early is the ideal, but what happens if you’re forced to contend with the crowds? "Look into daycare-type assistance at your mall," says Dan Jasper from Mall of America, the country’s largest retail and entertainment complex. "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.

Holiday Shopping Tips for City Stores

Comfort is king when shopping in a city, says 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 both you and baby, so you’re prepared for changing temperatures as you pop in and out of stores.

The biggest mistake new parents make when holiday shopping is trying to cram it all into one day, says Alexandra Blumencranz, owner of PositiveParentCoaching.com. "Planning is the key word," Blumencranz says. That means creating a shopping list, complete with your loved ones’ clothing sizes and wishlist items beforehand to avoid frustrated text messages and phone calls mid-shopping spree. You’ll also want to jot down which stores you intend to hit up and where they are. So if Pottery Barn and Toys R Us are in close proximity to one another, get those gifts on the same day. Another thing to try: Call a store ahead of time and ask if they can hold a specific item for you to pick up later. Whatever you do, Blumencranz says, just don’t wait until the night before to do it.

Strategizing "is a major stress reducer, because it saves time for the fun stuff—beating out other moms for the best deals," Silvestri says. She recommends looking into specialized services where a personalized guide who’s knowledgeable about specific labels and merchandise can lead you to the best discounts. If it’s time you want to save, Silvestri suggests opting for delivery and gift-wrapping services.

Holiday Shopping Tips for Online

Shopping online cuts down on financial (and emotional) costs, says Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of momfinds.com and shefinds.com. You don’t have to spend money on gas and babysitters, and best 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 websites out there, how do you find the best deals? Madhok suggests signing up for your favorite retailers’ email blasts, since they often email customers with special promotions before the rest of the world finds out. Also look for sites that offer free shipping and returns no matter how much you spend, like Zappos.com and piperlime.com. Sites such as shopstyle.com and savvycircle.com allow you to tag certain items so 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," Madhok says. She also recommends Googling a website’s name and the term "coupon code" to unearth discounts.

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

Updated October 2017

PHOTO: Getty Images