I don’t know about everyone else, but during my pregnancy I was completely overwhelmed by the prospect of all the STUFF I had to buy for my little one! My baby book had an entire chapter dedicated to all the items baby would need. I saw registry checklists online, but got lost in the terminology – what the heck were footmuffs and “baby bodies”? (For the record, my son is now 19-months and I still don’t know what those things are). It also seemed like a lot of the suggested items were overkill – did I really need a device to tell me if the bathwater was too hot? I wanted to be prepared, but didn’t want to end up with a house full of baby stuff that would never really get used.
So here is a Moderate Mama’s take on what you really need. It’s not a minimalist approach (I mean you don’t *need* a nursing cover, but it’s a great thing to have), but neither is it an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink checklist (baby will survive without a wipe warmer). The list below includes lots of my commentary about things to keep in mind when shopping/registering, along with some specific brand recommendations (based on both personal experience and the extensive research I did online for issues of baby safety and customer satisfaction). A pared-down printable checklist is also available below. Happy shopping!
Bottles (4-6) – Born Free brand worked well for us. They say babies can be picky and only like certain types, so it might make sense not to register for a huge number of one type of bottle, in case baby doesn’t like it. See what works for your baby, and then buy more later if you need them.
Breast pump – I used the Avent double electric & it’s worked great for me. I got the basic one but there’s a deluxe version that comes with freezer bags & storage bag. If you’ll be working and pumping, double electric is a must! Check to see if your health insurance will cover a pump before adding to your registry – some will send you one absolutely free.
Burp cloths (lots- you really can’t have too many!) – cloth diapers also work great.
Nursing pillow – lots of people are partial to the Boppy; I personally like the support of “My Brest Friend” (and come on, you can’t beat the name). Tip: clip baby’s nails while she’s supported by My Brest Friend— it frees up both your hands and makes this unpleasant task a little easier!
Nursing Cover— some might see this as unnecessary, but I LOVE my “Balboa baby”. It made it so easy to nurse in public or when visitors came to the house without having to worry about exposure. It’s also a great, light piece of material I often used to throw over the stroller or car seat to shade baby from the sun.
Bibs – people will probably buy you cute bibs but we registered for a multi-pack of basic ones.
Bottle brush – Really is worth having if you’ll be washing bottles by hand –the end of the brush without bristles inserts into the nipple and makes it much easier to clean. I got the “Phillips Avent Bottle Brush” and it’s great.
Bottle drying rack or dishwasher insert (optional) – if you don’t have a dishwasher, believe it or not a drying rack is really helpful. If you have a dishwasher, get the little basket thingy that holds all the bottle parts & goes in the dishwasher. There are seriously like a million bottle parts!
High chair – we got a Fisher Price space saver model that goes on top of a dining room chair- nice if your space is limited, just keep in mind that obviously one of your chairs won’t be usable.
Pack of baby spoons – don’t need right away, but you’ll need them eventually
Pack of baby bowls—same as above
You don’t need those fancy, expensive bedding sets- there’s not supposed to be anything other than a fitted sheet in the crib anyway!
Crib mattress – I suggest organic if you can afford it (use the money I saved you by skipping the bedding set). Think about how many hours baby will spend on that mattress! Non-organic mattresses have all kinds of nasty chemicals.
Fitted crib sheet (2-5)
Waterproof cover for crib mattress (1-2) – just trust me
Fuzzy blankets (2-3) – light/gauzy blankets are also great for summer babies, to keep the sun off their skin without overheating.
Velcro swaddle blankets (2-4) – Really help a fussy baby to sleep! They simulate the feeling of being in the womb. I used Summer Infant SwaddleMe. Not a “must” since you can swaddle with a regular receiving blanket, but I never mastered the technique and really appreciated the convenience.
Sleep sack /wearable blanket (2-3) – good to have since baby’s not supposed to have anything in the crib, including blankets. We used Halo SleepSacks and they worked well for us.
Something in your room for the baby to sleep in for the first couple months: bassinet, co-sleeper or Pack n’ Play with bassinet insert (PnP is good to have regardless; if you do get one, register for PnP sheets too). Many parents don’t move baby into his/her own room until they’re at least 3 months old.
You don’t necessarily need a “changing table” – a large cushy changing pad on top of a dresser does the trick! Consider having a changing station on each floor of the house to make life easier in those earlier weeks.
Changing pad cover (2-4) – probably register for more if you’re having a boy – they tend to pee everywhere 🙂
Diapers – if you’re using disposable, register for lots! Get more Size 1 than Newborn, since you don’t know how long baby will fit in Newborn. We used Pampers for the Newborn size (people swear they’re the best-fitting brand for NB), and have since tried many brands. Our personal favorite is Babyganics—no icky chemicals, but more absorbent than some other “green” brands.
Butt/diaper cream – we use coconut oil but you may want a tube of diaper cream (we like Aveeno) for the diaper bag.
Wipes (lots!) – We like Earth’s Best & Babyganics. Some people make their own, but I’m not that ambitious…
Diaper pail (optional) – this is a subject of much debate. Some people swear by Diaper Genie. Others complain that the plastic will eventually absorb the poop smell and emit an awful odor each time it’s opened, and refill bags are pricey. We opted to just get a very small trashcan with a foot pedal & use plastic grocery bags. A small can kind of forces us to take the bag out every couple days, which is probably a good thing! Totally your preference.
Diaper pail refills (3+, optional)
Infant car seat – We got Chicco Keyfit 30—GREAT safety ratings on Consumer Reports. I love that the whole seat snaps in and out of a base, so when baby falls asleep in the car you can bring them inside more or less undisturbed.
Convertible/toddler car seat – won’t need until baby is older, but doesn’t hurt to register. We went with Britax and have loved it!
Infant body support – check if your car seat includes this – if so you don’t need to register separately.
Stroller – if you go with Chicco, you’ll need the corresponding stroller base – just a frame that the seat snaps into. You could register for another stroller for when baby outgrows Chicco, and/or a jogging stroller if you want one. There are also stroller systems where the infant seat connects to the stroller, and the same stroller can be used as a stand-alone when baby is older . We didn’t go with this option because they tend to be quite bulky (we didn’t want something we’d have to dismantle to fit into the trunk).
Carrier/Baby wrap – we got the Ergo and Moby. The Moby has great online reviews, but I felt like I needed a PhD in baby wrapping to figure out how to use it! Add a screaming baby to the equation – forget about it. But we love the Ergo—baby didn’t like it for the first few months, but since then it’s been great.
Travel changing pad (if your diaper bag doesn’t come with one)
Deciding on quantities for clothes is tricky. If you go overboard you’ll end up with clothes baby outgrows before she ever wears them, but if you underestimate you could be doing laundry every other day. It’s also hard to know the right amount to register for in each size. If baby is born 8 lbs he’ll grow out of newborn size very very soon… if he’s smaller, that size could work for quite a while. Good to have some newborn size (keeping in mind baby could go through several outfits a day between spit-up, blowout poops, etc.), and more 0-3 month size. I don’t think it makes sense to get too much clothing in larger sizes. Babies vary greatly in how fast they grow, so it’s hard to make sure you’ll have the right size clothes for each season; your baby might be 9-months old in the winter, but still wearing size 6m, so the 9m winter clothes would go to waste. One more note about clothes– they’re not paying me to say this, but I can’t say enough good things about Carters! I have dabbled in other brands but always go back. Carter’s has CONSISTENT sizing, so when I order clothes online I feel confident that they’ll fit. Well made, reliable, cute clothes.
Onesies (long-sleeve & short-sleeve; approx. 10 NB size, 15 0-3 month size) – get multipacks for the best value
One-piece PJs (“sleep & plays”) – handful in NB size (5?), more in 0-3 month (5-10?)
Special “Coming home” outfit (optional)
Mitts (2-3 pairs) – so baby won’t scratch herself in those first few weeks!
Skull hats (2-3)
Bottoms/pants (2-5 in “0-3 mos.”) – I’ll be honest, my LO was a summer newborn and basically didn’t wear pants for the first couple months!
Baby gowns (optional) – we got a couple but they weren’t my favorite… make diaper changes easier but they’re harder to get over baby’s head so my LO wasn’t a huge fan. We only used them when none of the PJs were clean!
Baby bunting/snowsuit (for winter babies)
Baby hair/body wash – we use Aveeno. A big bottle goes a loooong way. Aveeno has a nice gift pack that includes bath gel, lotion, and travel sizes.
Infant tub – we got PRI EuroBath – it’s BIG, be warned, but has great safety ratings & we really love it. I’ve used other types and greatly prefer ours.
Wash cloths (10?)
Hooded towel (2) – keep baby warm after bath, and come on, they’re cute!
I wouldn’t bother registering for many toys. In my experience, lots of people ended up giving toys as gifts after baby was born. Same goes for books— we received many as gifts, and I like the idea of books being chosen rather than purchased off the registry.
Exersaucer – a must have IMO! You won’t use right away, but it’s a life-saver when baby is older. Baby stays entertained while you do all those luxurious niceties… like making a sandwich or brushing your teeth.
Activity mat – good for tummy time, and keeping baby entertained before he’s mobile.
Teether(s) (optional) – nice to have on hand for when baby needs them, but in my experience baby chews on anything and everything except teethers.
Pacifier (2-3) – We didn’t think we wanted to use pacifiers but they ended up being really helpful – sucking is such a natural comfort for babies. My son hated the first kind we tried but liked Nuk much better!
Health care & grooming set – they make sets, but you really only need the baby nail clippers (Safety 1st brand with flashlight is the best!) & baby thermometer. We snagged a brush & comb set from the hospital.
Baby monitor – we have Infant Optic brand – it was the best reviewed video monitor I could find that wasn’t crazy expensive (granted, not cheap, but under $200). Video probably isn’t a must have but we really loved being able to see the little guy in bed.
Cool mist humidifier (optional) – maybe not critical but they’re recommended, especially if baby gets a cold.
Outlet caps & baby gates – you don’t need this stuff for quite a while—optional for registry.
DON’T FORGET MAMA!
Nursing bras (2-4)
Nursing tanks (2-4)
Nursing pads (disposable or washable)
Lanolin cream for nipples—I used Lasinoh brand
One additional tip – even if you know your baby’s gender, consider choosing somewhat gender neutral options for the bigger items (like the car seat and stroller) so you can use them again if end up having a child of the opposite sex in the future.
Sound off! What items did you never end up using? What unexpected items can you not live without?