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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow's Baby Bargains Require Time, Patience

"It isn't difficult to have a baby here," assured Alexandra Rankin, the Austrian mother of a 5-month-old girl, talking about finding necessary baby products in Moscow. "But it involves a lot of searching around. The habit you acquire in Moscow is to never leave the house without a plastic bag, just in case."


Indeed, shopping for baby products in Moscow takes a certain amount of forethought and a willingness to scour muddy markets for cheap Pampers. Parents have to know where to find things. Rarely are all the necessary products sold in one convenient place, as complained Masha Yeremova, 23 and the mother of 14-month-old Vitya.


"It's harder to go tearing around town with your kids in tow, but you end up having to do it," said Yeremova, a student who explained that many Moscow mothers start at wholesale markets, then go to a Russian store like Detsky Mir, and, finally, if they still haven't found what they need, visit a Western store.


"My friend Lena looked everywhere for a nice pair of boots for her child. I told her, 'Go to Mothercare. They may cost you $50, but the products are of good quality, and you won't have to go around to different markets in the cold.'"


Rankin, who goes to Mothercare when she wants assurance of finding a particular item for her daughter, agreed. "If you really need something, despite the high prices, it is comforting to know that you will find everything there that you need."


Mothercare, located on the ground floor of the British House (15 Novy Arbat, tel. 202-3575), is the most obvious place to visit for children's products or just a chance to see what is perhaps Moscow's only talking tree. Upon entering, customers are greeted by the deciduous tree who, rolling his giant, green eyes, roars at children about safety tips.


Customers who take refuge in the back of the store from the tree will be assaulted by something else: Mothercare's high prices. There's the wooden Cossatto-brand crib for $667; the Britax baby car seat at $210, complete with a soothing mechanism for rocking the child; a Mothercare stroller for $680; a Mothercare Supabath tub which rests on the side of a bathtub for a mere $53; and Mothercare highchairs priced anywhere from $112 to $360.


The $798 Super Italia pram is not made out of gold. It does, however, have brakes and a tray attached which could hold a whole crate of caviar. For the baby bedeviled by mosquitoes, Mothercare offers a non-toxic insect repellent stick ($10). For the child's skin maintenance needs, there is Mothercare baby oil ($5 for a 350-milliliter bottle) and Mothercare powder ($5 for 350 grams).


When it comes to clothing baby, Mothercare also has a wide selection of children's outfits and shoes, as well as maternity wear, all of the highest quality and highest price. Baby pajamas, for example, range from $12 to $28.


If Mothercare exudes benign, brand-name bliss, the polar opposite is Detsky Mir (2 Okhotny Ryad, tel. 927-2007), where the jostling, blaring, labyrinthine first floor exudes aggression and chaos. "It's a little confusing, but well-stocked," said Rankin. "There is a good mix of Russian and Western products."


Wandering the maze of stores and booths on the first floor, the shopper will come across a nameless, soft crib for 520,000 rubles ($95.47) and a Cam Universal car seat at 840,000 rubles.


An Alenka Russian-made stroller is 325,000 rubles, while a nameless Polish one is 500,000. Many items don't have a brand name, or don't have it displayed. Upon being asked the company label of the Polish stroller, the saleslady replied tersely, "Company name? What kind of company can there be? It's Polish. Or German, Italian, Russian ... "


But the quality is easy to gauge. These strollers had, compared to Mothercare's, fewer safety straps; cheaper, harsher-feeling material; no cushioning; fewer gadgets (like bags and built-in toys); and no Pocahontas or Winnie-the-Pooh designs.


For basic baby needs where high-tech design plays a small role, Detsky Mir is by far the better deal than most of its Western counterparts. Bottles cost 16,000 rubles each; latex bottle nipples go for 5,000 rubles; bibs are as low as 1,150 rubles; a simple soother sells for 9,000 rubles; a teether is only 7,000 rubles; a bath thermometer costs 12,000 rubles; baby powder is 7,000 rubles for 113 grams; and, finally, Johnson's baby oil is 13,000 for a 200-milliliter bottle.


Formula is on sale here, too. A 400-gram can of "Similac-Isomil" is priced at just 20,000 rubles -- a steal compared to most other stores. For example, the same can costs $5.45 at the Arbat Irish House (13 Novy Arbat, tel. 291-7641).


Disposable diapers, without which there would be no population explosion, at Detsky Mir cost 50,000 rubles for a 27-pack of Drypers (comparable to prices at a wholesale market) as compared to 66,000 rubles at the Irish House Pharmacy. "Fresh Ones" baby wipes are 12,000 rubles for an 80-pack that includes a reusable container. And clothes are very reasonable at Detsky Mir. A pair of cotton pajamas, for example, can be as little as 18,400 rubles.


One of the most price-painless children's stores is called Tovary Dlya Detei (11 Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa, tel. 281-0290).


"Of course, there is a higher chance that the quality will be lower than at some Western store," said Yeremova. But Tovary Dlya Detei is a great little place. Not only is it quiet and the items easy to find, some of the prices (for bigger items) rival Detsky Mir. A Cam walking chair costs only 292,000 rubles, as compared to hundreds of dollars at other stores; a simple, plastic tub with a place for soap and shampoo, 73,000 rubles; and an Astra pram, 1,265,000 rubles.


The smaller items are not so cheap, but neither are they excessive. A bottle costs 17,430 rubles and a washable plastic bib, 9,920 rubles.


Tovary Dlya Detei also sells clothing and shoes -- again, not brand-name but affordable (pretty, 100-percent cotton pajamas are 39,000 rubles). Parents not fearful of the Freudian consequences can buy a leash for the walking toddler (74,204 rubles), as well as a Dippy Duck bath toy to help it get over the trauma (25,845 rubles).


Booties and bibs aside, pharmacies around town stock such items as Desitin diaper rash ointment, costing 18,400 rubles at the Stary Arbat Apteka, (25 Stary Arbat, tel. 291-7101); and breast pumps, priced at 84,500 rubles in the first-floor Detsky Mir pharmacy.


It may be wise to explore pharmacies away from the city center for better prices, but central ones are more likely to stock Western products.


"When you're buying formula for a younger baby -- they're more particular -- it's important to be able to read the ingredients. I don't want to have to bring a Finnish dictionary with me when I go shopping," said Rankin.


Besides pharmacies and specialty stores, there are many places around Moscow where one can find various baby products within budget.


One of these is the Novoslobodskaya Wholesale Market (directly behind metro Novoslobodskaya). There, a package of medium Pampers is 26,000 rubles for 16 at Kiosk No. 83049 and 108,000 rubles for a medium 40-pack at Kiosk No. 83080.


Another is the Bagrationovsky Market, right outside the metro of the same name. There, multi-purpose plastic tubs ranging in size from something for a Tiny Tim to an abominable baby, cost between 7,000 to 12,000 rubles at Kiosk No. 625.


Yeremova warned, however, that clothes shopping can be tricky because "often you will not find the right sizes."


Finally, Iz Ruk V Ruki, available at all magazine stands for between 1,500 and 5,000 rubles, often has listings in the "Furniture and Appliances" section for tiny sofas, baby beds and playroom furniture.


Shopping for baby products in Moscow is at least possible, if not always convenient but those with the time can find a deal. And it helps that finding these things is a matter of necessity: When asked if she always managed to find what she needed for her baby, Yeremova laughingly replied, "You have to! There's no choice, is there?"