ST. PETERSBURG, Fla (Reuters) - New Yorker Melissa Garden learned she was pregnant with her first child last year just as her communication director job at New Meadowlands Stadium hit full throttle.
When exactly, she wondered, would she squeeze car seat and stroller shopping into 70-hour work weeks packed with concerts and prepping for the Jets and Giants season openers?
Garden opted to hire professional baby planners who, much like the better-known niche of wedding planners, came armed with expertise to ready the overwhelmed, soon-to-be mother for her big day -- her son’s arrival.
“I had no time to think about what I needed to do to prepare,” said Garden, 39. “They pulled everything together for me.”
Others have gotten their first glimpse into the burgeoning baby planning industry this month with the premiere of Bravo’s reality series, “Pregnant in Heels.”
The show stars Rosie Pope, a self-described maternity concierge who caters to “million-dollar mamas” living on Manhattan’s upper east side. One couple requests a focus group to help pick the perfect baby name, and another expectant mother gets her hair and makeup done from her hospital bed.
It might make for entertaining TV, but baby planners around the country said the over-the-top demands don’t reflect their reality.
Their typical clients are stressed-out, high-powered executives; new mothers without a local support network; and brainy types who seek safe, eco-friendly products but don’t know where to start.
“It used to be you had a few choices and that was it,” said Sharon Cichy, co-founder of Capital Baby Planners in the Washington, D.C., area. “And now there are so many choices.”
For $50 to $150 an hour, baby planners explain the essentials. Most are mothers themselves, so their research is backed by first-hand experience.
They childproof homes, consult on baby gear and suggest childcare options. They help pick out bedding, set up nursery furniture and demonstrate how to wear a baby carrier.
Some walk through baby stores with couples to help them register for gifts or bring products directly to clients’ homes so they can decide what they like best.
“It’s hard (for pregnant women) to get around to all the stores,” said Melissa Moog, who owns Itsabelly Baby Planners in Portland, Oregon, and is pregnant with twins.
“You’re exhausted, you’re swollen. You just want a little bit of help.”
April Beach’s Sweet Pea Baby Planners in Denver specializes in “complete baby planning.” She guides clients through everything from choosing gear and a birth plan to creating nurseries that nourish sleep and stimulate play.
“It’s very important to make sure the house is set up properly,” said Beach, on call for clients during the two weeks around their due dates.
Beach and Moog, founders of the International Baby Planner Association, aren’t sure how many people have joined their field. Their organization began with seven members in 2007 and has grown to more than 100, and they get calls from new baby planning and maternity concierge businesses each day.
Baby planners aren’t just for the wealthy, they said. As important to telling people what they need to buy is steering them away from what they don’t need.
“My logic was, if it’s the most expensive, it must be the best,” said Karen Whitt, a 42-year-old division president for a public real estate company and first-time mom in Falls Church, Virginia.
But Cichy warned her that the priciest products weren’t always ideal. And the baby planner offered tips such as setting up a mini changing station in the den so Whitt doesn’t have to climb stairs each time her infant son needs a clean diaper.
“She really allowed us to very quickly acclimate to having a baby in our lives in a way that made it easy for us to live day to day,” Whitt said.
Editing by Jerry Norton