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Three nursery perks for `newborn' parents

ONCE you've taken care of the necessities in the nursery - the crib, changing area, rocking chair, and the like - you may want to shop around for a few of the extras. You know, those perks that make your job as a parent a little easier and your baby's surroundings more fun. One small item that isn't absolutely essential, but is a big help for those middle-of-the-night wake-up calls, is a night light. Check out the photo-sensitive variety. They come on automatically as a room darkens and turn off in the morning or when you switch on a light. Make sure whatever brand you buy is Underwriters Laboratories-approved.

Something else you may want to consider investing in is a nursery monitor. These aren't cheap - most run between $35 and $40 - but they're great for keeping tabs on a sleeping baby, especially if the nursery is in a distant part of the house.

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Babies love mobiles, and there are literally dozens on the market to choose from. Check for two things before purchasing one: First, make sure that the manufacturer had the baby and not the parent in mind when he designed the mobile. Unfortunately, too many mobiles ignore their main audience - the baby - and instead are geared to appeal to the one carrying the checkbook. The little stuffed animals or figures look great at eye level, but if you're on your back underneath the thing, all you'd see are their feet. Manufacturers are catching on, however, and there are a number on the market now that face downward, toward the crib.

The second thing to consider is the playing time of the mobile's wind-up music box, if there is one. Most peter out after two or three minutes - which means constant trips to the baby's room to wind it up again. Try to find one that has a 10-minute windup.

Tip: Here's an idea for extending the interest life of a mobile. When a baby gets bored with just watching and wants to participate, try tying a soft ribbon from the arm of the mobile to his or her wrist or ankle.

Then, as baby kicks or wiggles his or her arms, the mobile figures will dance and jiggle right back. It's probably a good idea for this to be a supervised activity - you can always use the time to tidy the room or fold those endless piles laundry!

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