With a new show on Bravo (Pregnant in Heels) and growing numbers setting up shop in cities and towns across the country, baby planners are getting a lot of attention these days. But do they end up saving expectant moms and dads money, as many of them say they do, or are they just one more unnecessary indulgence, along with all-organic layettes?
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The answer depends on whom you ask, but many new parents who opted for planning help insist that in today’s world of multiple product recalls and changing safety regulations, the money was well spent. “No longer are there just a handful of manufacturers of cribs and strollers. There are literally hundreds, and it’s more important to be aware of certifications and safety,” says Marilyn Rowland, 29, a stay-at-home mom in Woodbridge, Conn., who worked with a baby planner.
Rowland was a busy working mom-to-be and frequently on the road, so she didn’t have time time to research the best bottles, travel system, and crib. As a result, she was overwhelmed and stressed. That’s when she turned to her longtime friend-turned-baby planner, Ingrid Prueher. For a flat fee, Prueher helped her pick out the right baby products for her—and skip the ones she didn’t need. “That advice alone probably saved me a ton,” says Rowland.
Prueher offers services starting at $15 for email consultations, as well as a la carte services that include baby shower planning, registry guidance, and post-natal support. “I try to help people on a budget… This shouldn’t be something that only some people can afford to use,” she says. (Prueher also offers free advice videos on her website, SavvyMomOnCallBabyPlanner.com.)
Meredith Wade, co-founder of Capital Baby Planners in the Washington, D.C. area, says that her clients aren’t at all like the wealthy ones featured on Pregnant in Heels. “They’re just like you and me, average people in Washington… The working mom who doesn’t have the time or energy to spend time doing everything she needs to do,” she says. She says she recently helped a client living in one-bedroom apartment figure out how to fit the baby into the closet space. (They removed the door.)
Wade and her partner typically charge $100 an hour, but because Capital Baby Planners negotiates discounts at various retailers throughout the region, Wade says that clients often come out ahead. “We pay for ourselves. You pay us on the front end, but at the back end, you get a discount, like working with an interior decorator,” says Wade. Wade and her partner do everything from arranging pedicures for women on bedrest and walking through nurseries to see what might be missing to helping clients select the best crib and car seat.
In response to the growth in the number of baby planners, training programs have sprung up to offer certifications: The International Maternity Institute, for example, offers instruction in the business and marketing side of being a baby planner along with planning skills themselves. (Tuition ranges from $1,700 to $2,700.) Founder Mary Oscategui says that she’s seeing an uptick in enrollment as a result of the increased visibility of her profession (largely from shows such as Pregnant in Heels).
Rosie Pope, star of that show, attributes the growth in the industry to what she calls her “grandma theory.” Explains Pope, “My mom was a working mom, so when I had my first baby and expected her to come and look after me, she had no idea, because she was doing business … We're missing that 'old nana' generation," she says. In other words, no one's around to teach us how to be parents because our own parents are living full lives of their own. So we turn to professionals instead.”
Of course, not everyone needs the services of a baby planner. But as with house cleaning services and personal chefs, people who can afford the extra help are usually happy to have it.
Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.