I was in the giant baby store last Saturday, and saw a lot of people walking around with the UPC scanners registering for stuff. I really wanted to help some of them out with recommendations, but it seemed socially unacceptable to do so. My kid is seven months old now, so I’ve gone through many stages of baby stuff already. There are still a few stages left, so I might update this in six months or so. Actually, I probably won’t unless someone reminds me. So, if it’s mid 2012 and you want an update, leave a comment. When I registered for baby stuff, I found that people with a 4-year-old don’t remember these things, so I’ll write this now before I start forgetting things. Before the stuff list, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t register for everything you like. A weird thing happens psychologically when you do that, and you’ll start to think of the stuff as yours. Then, most stores send a %off coupon to “complete your registry” and you’ll buy way more of the remaining items than you need.
- Register at a cheap store. Most cheap baby stuff works just fine, and most stores actually have the exact same things at different prices. (Babies R Us is a fun store, but does not fall into the cheap store category. They are pretty good about returns, though.)
- Don’t register for all this stuff. Borrow and buy used a lot of the stuff. Craigslist.org, garage sales, friends with older kids or between kids…save money for important things.
- Mainly, register/tell people “diapers and wipes.” People understandably can’t resist buying other cute baby stuff anyway.
Here are the things I used or wish I had used during the kid’s life so far, with some commentary. I’m a bit of a minimalist, and we have a small home. Some people enjoy having more stuff, and it would be possible to get by with less. The most essential things have “!” beside the bullet.
- ! Infant car seat. Essential if you have a car. These expire after a few years. The general rule of thumb is that if you get these used, only get them from someone you’d trust with your baby’s life. If the seat has been in an accident, it should be replaced, not sold at a garage sale. Anything you buy new at a reputable store meets current safety standards, although more expensive seats might be a little easier to use. Make sure the seat fits in your car!
- A spare infant seat base is optional. Handy, but not essential, and expensive. If you and all your friends get identical car seats, then you can share bases as kids grow out of the seats.
- Big kid car seat. You’ll need this somehow. There are car seats that do infants and big kids, but they’re not as handy for either job. You might not want to get this until your baby’s a little older.
- A stroller. Think about how much you’re actually going to walk with the baby, and choose accordingly. Little umbrella stollers are under $15, small, and light. However, they’re not so good for talking a baby on a powerwalk. If you’re actually going to run with the baby, get a good jogging stroller. Don’t think that you’ll start running just because you have a baby and spend way too much on a stroller that you don’t need.
- A sling/carrier of some sort. I found no better way to get groceries before my kid could sit in the cart than to wear the kid around the store. If we had good public transportation around here, I’d probably use the sling way more. Or, I might use it more with a second kid. We have a cheap one that works perfectly fine for my purpose, but wouldn’t be good to use on a daily basis. I like the Moby Wrap for its versatility, and have no idea about high-end carriers.
- Baby bath tub. I have a Whale of a Tub, and I think it’s great. We just put it in our regular tub during use and stash it between the tub and toilet when not using it. There are other varieties, but I don’t know why you’d use something else. This one’s useful for 6-12 months, so you might want to borrow/buy used.
- ! Somewhere for the baby to sleep. A blanket on the floor only works until the kid can roll over, then you’ll want something with sides. If I were purchasing something, I’d probably go with a pretty basic play yard that I could pack up and take for overnight trips and such. A crib works, too. A bassinet or cradle can only be used for a few weeks or months–if you want to keep the kid handy right by your bed or in a different area of a large house, check into borrowing such a thing.
- Sheets for the above item(s). The baby will spit up or poop on them occasionally. Some people go with a couple lap pads and fewer sheets–lap pads are easier to change in the middle of the night during weeks when the kid is getting the sheets dirty frequently.
- A bouncer seat or swing. Probably not both, since they serve similar purposes. Look into borrowing or buying used, since these are only useful for 3-4 months.
- Bibs. You’ll want some drool bibs and some solid food bibs. You’ll probably get drool bibs without registering, since they’re pretty cheap and stinking cute. Some kids slobber more than others-we would have been fine with 5 of these, but some people enjoy having 10. Food bibs are less likely to be spontaneously gifted.
- ! Diapers. Cloth or disposable, you’ll want quite a few. Babies can easily use 10 diapers a day for the first few weeks. If you’re getting disposable, you wouldn’t necessarily need many newborn diapers. Go ahead and get some size ones, and then pick up a few more newborn or preemies after the kid is born if needed. There are lots of websites on diapering, do a little research before the baby is born, if possible.
- ! Feeding stuff. Don’t buy too much of this stuff before the baby is born, since feeding doesn’t always pan out as expected. For breastfeeding, some breast pads and nursing pillow. (And nursing bras, but probably don’t register for those.) Depending on your life, a pump and some bottles would be useful. For bottle-feeding, get some bottles and nipples. There are tons of different types–buy a few and see what you like. Make sure to get some small bottles for the first few weeks when the baby doesn’t eat much at all. Depending on your kitchen/dishwashing setup, you may want a bottle brush or a dishwasher basket. You will probably receive some bottles as gifts, whether you register for them or not.
- ! Burp cloths. Fifteen is not too many. Most babies start out slow with the spit-up and peak around 4 months. Rags, adult washclothes, whatever works, just make sure you have something.
- Some baby spoons for when the baby starts eating solid food. Get some longer spoons for when you feed the baby and some shorter ones for when the baby smears food around.
- A high chair. Don’t be afraid to get the booster-style instead if that fits in your home better. Do some research on this. There’s no need to spend over $150 on this. Booster-style is cheaper, but regular high chairs under $70 were lower-quality than I wanted.
- Baby wash, baby lotion, diaper cream. Don’t be scared to go with generic on these. Great items to register for–people are happy to buy cheap stuff like this, but might not think to do so if you don’t register.
- ! Wipes. You’ll use as many as you get, no fear of over-registering. Again, don’t be afraid to register for these. Many people (including me) are slightly snobbish about wipes and use only Pampers or Huggies brand wipes. Store-brand wipes tend to be thinner, so you use more and don’t end up saving money.
- Washcloths and LARGE bath towels. Somebody will give you a cute little towel, so don’t register for it. You’ll think it’s great for about a month. Then you’ll want something bigger, which will be hard to find. Good luck.
- Baby nail clippers. They work better than adult-sized clippers because the cutting part is smaller and the handle is easier to hold.
Pacifiers.Don’t register for these! Someone will probably give you a couple anyway. You’ll take one or two home from the hospital. Your baby might be picky about them, so if you do get some, try to get a couple different types. My kid couldn’t keep a pacifier in her mouth, so she hasn’t really used one. Receiving blankets and blankets. Don’t register! You’ll get plenty of cute ones anyway. 4-5 receiving blankets and 3 larger blankets is enough. If you learn to swaddle from the OB nurse, you should be able to do a pretty good swaddle without a special swaddle blanket.
- Changing pad and 2-3 changing pad covers. Slap these on top of some type of dresser and you have a changing table.
- A waste basket. Most parents say the specialized diaper pail isn’t worth it, just empty the trash a lot.
- Infant acetaminophen (Tylenol). Babies can’t have ibuprofen until 6 months, but you might want to register for some, anyway. You’ll use this when the baby gets immunizations, and perhaps when teething.
- Outlet covers and a few obvious baby-proofing items. Have some of these handy, but don’t even think that you can prepare for everything your baby will get into when the kid gets mobile. Maybe a gate for stairs that go down, maybe a couple cabinet locks. Many parents just empty non-child-safe stuff out of some bottom cabinets rather than locking them.
Clothes. Obviously, you’ll need something for the baby to wear. You’ll probably get tons of cute clothes for newborns-6 month old babies. If you choose to register for clothes, register for 9 or 12 month bodysuits or other clothing for kids at least one year old. I know that seems like a long time from now, but (a) otherwise you’ll get a bunch of tiny baby clothes and (b) babies outgrow clothes like crazy the first couple months and you don’t even have time to enjoy them much. If you aren’t spontaneously given very little baby clothes, well, they’re the most fun for you to pick out yourself, anyway. Thrift stores, garage sales, borrow…
- Baby monitor. Maybe. If your house is big enough that you’re not going to hear the baby cry during the day, this might be useful. Beware that babies make a lot of noise that is not crying, and you need your sleep. We just leave the door open so we can hear real cries.
- Diaper bag. I wish I could’ve tried some for a couple weeks before choosing one. Get one with lots of pockets, some of which are easily accessible from the outside with only one hand.
- Play gym. Don’t be afraid to go basic here. Make sure it’s easy to swap out the toys, and get one with 2 bars that cross, not one that arches over, but lights and music aren’t necessary. These are only useful until the baby rolls over, 4 or 5 months, so they’re another thing to look into borrowing or buying used.
What you probably don’t need (remember, the list the store gives you when you go to register is suggested by the people who sell stuff):
- More than 2 strollers.
- Any clothes beyond spontaneous gifts before the kid is born.
- Wipe warmer.
- Bottle warmer. Just use warm water.
- Gas drops. There’s not really evidence these works, just that parents feel better for trying.
- Microwave sterilizer. Just boil stuff for a couple minutes initially, then wash like all the rest of your dishes.
- Baby booties. They don’t stay on. Just use socks.
- Everything-free laundry detergent. Just don’t use very much detergent, most babies won’t have a problem with regular.
- Car baby mirror. The kid’s either crying or not crying. Pull over or don’t pull over.
- Baby robe. I don’t know anyone who actually puts the baby’s arms in something between the bathtub and the next real outfit.
- Baby clothes hangers. Many clothes come with hangers, and you’re not going to take the time to hang up the clothes. Also, we have a bunch we’re not using that you can have.
- A dedicated changing table. Get something with lots of useful storage, possibly that can be used as a dresser for years to come.
If I missed something, or you disagree, let me know in the comments.