When I went to create my baby registry, I realized that I was clueless. It was much different than our wedding registry, because, with our wedding registry, I simply chose stuff that I liked and thought we would use. With our baby registry, I quickly learned how little I knew about baby products.
Since having our baby, I've decided that it would be much more helpful to register for items after you have your baby. Obviously there are things you need beforehand, but a lot of things we didn't anticipate. Also, Babies R Us becomes immensely more exciting after you have a baby. All of a sudden you feel like you need everything in the store.
In an effort to help others feel slightly less clueless, I thought I would share my experiences five weeks into this whole baby thing (okay, that's when I started writing this post. Now I'm almost 16 weeks into motherhood). Below I'll list what I feel is essential, helpful, and unnecessary, as well as give specific product recommendations. Remember when you read it that I am speaking from someone at the five week point so my opinions and items will be very newborn oriented (once again, this has changed. I will include both my opinions at the time I started writing this as well as my current recommendations).
I used Amazon for our baby registry. I would recommend it because it is easy to find everything you need, you can look at reviews, you can do it on your own time, and you can include products from other websites on your registry. Also, it gives you a printable list for thank you cards, and there is an option for people to mark items as "bought elsewhere" on your registry.
Some of the following items are not really essential, but are things I would highly recommend for making life with baby easier.
- Car seat. Obviously. But spend time thinking about this one. I did research and ended up buying a European versus and American one. I read that they have more safety features and can also be used without a base (we use a base, but I thought it would be a nice feature to have). Ours is called the Cybex Aton 2 and the base we use is the one designed to go with this car seat.
- Stroller. Some people will say you don't need a stroller. You don't, but it makes life so much easier, especially if you have a heavy baby life we do (our 3.5 month old is already 17.5lbs!). After moving to Alabama we were without our stroller for quite a while because of the moving problems and it is so much harder to carry a heavy car seat when your baby is sleeping than to pop the car seat on the stroller. Also, your stroller makes a nice shopping cart to help you carry stuff around. We got a lot of use out of our car seat during our Disneyland days (which I miss so much now!). Our stroller is by Baby Jogger.
- Car seat and stroller adapter. This is a must for those of you who want to use your stroller during the infant period. I actually chose my stroller based on what would be compatible with my car seat. This was a confusing process since I went with the European style car seat so feel free to register for/buy the exact ones I did. I am happy with all of them.
- Place for baby to sleep. We just started trying to transition our son to his crib (and he has ended up sleeping in bed with me more than ever as a result, but that's a story for another day). Prior to this, he slept in his Rock 'N Play. It has been great! I would definitely recommend it. Especially for little ones with reflux, the incline helps, and it fits perfectly right next to the bed for all the middle of the night wake ups (unless you are one of the lucky ones who has a perfect sleeper from day one). Even if you don't use it for sleep, the Rock 'N Play is a wonderful place for baby to sit while you go to the bathroom, cook, clean, etc. It's easy to carry around with one arm too, which is very helpful when I'm holding Henry and trying to transport it from room to room.
- Diapers and wipes. Again, this is obvious, but can be overwhelming. My husband was very fixated on the differences between diaper brands at the beginning. He was also the one who did 99% of the diaper changes early on. There are many different services for this, but we use Amazon Mom and sign up for diapers to be sent every month. It's convenient and saves us money. The only thing you have to remember is to change the size when your baby grows (otherwise you'll be stuck with diapers you can't use). We use Pampers Swaddlers. As much as we wanted to fall in love with Honest Company diapers, Henry leaked through them too easily. Plus, we like the stripe that lets you know when the diaper is wet (even though usually it's pretty obvious).
- Changing station. I LOVE LOVE LOVE our diaper changer. We call it the "peanut" and I couldn't do without it. Before we moved we didn't have an official diaper changing station so we would just carry it with us. From the bed to the floor it was easy to move and easy to clean. If this is your first baby, you have no idea how often your baby will poop and/or pee during a diaper change. Trust me, it happens even if you think you are prepared with a new diaper. I cannot even imagine having a cloth changer. The peanut is rubber (I think) so it is easy to rub down with a wipe for smaller messes and paper towels for bigger ones. It's expensive, but very worth it in my opinion.
- Swaddle blankets. When we were given all these muslin swaddle blankets I wasn't so sure we'd get use out of them. Boy, was I wrong. They're great! (Hopefully you just read that like Tony the Tiger because I did.) We haven't swaddled much (partially because we're not very good at it), but these blankets are for so much more than swaddling. They are lightweight enough to not cause overheating, yet there is enough fabric to keep your baby warm. Also, they are perfect burp, drool, and spit up cloths. I know that sounds gross, but you get used to having spit up on everything and the material on these helps clean up messes. I also never use burp cloths while burping because they seem a little tedious to me, so these blankets are good wipe clothes to clean me up once Henry, without fail, spits up on me.
- Breast pump. I haven't used mine in a while because I haven't been away from Henry in a while, but this is an essential for breastfeeding moms who can't or don't want to handle all the feeds. Plus, you can get one free through your insurance. I had no idea what type to get so I started with a list of pumps my insurance covered and did research from there. Overall I'm happy with my Medela one.
- Milk storage system. Again, this is something I haven't used in a while because I haven't been pumping, but when I was pumping more it was absolutely essential. The one we bought I highly recommend because it has a dial on top that lets you record when you pumped the milk. That way you don't have to write it down, but you also don't forget how old your milk is. It also came with a nice storage rack for the refrigerator.
- Drying rack. Likewise, this is something you will want if you are pumping milk and/or using bottles regularly. Before our move we always had it on our counter for our bottles, pacifiers, and nipple shields. Since our move, we haven't unpacked it because we haven't been using those items.
- Nursing bras. I can't say this enough. Get some if you plan on breastfeeding! I love my nursing bras and nursing tanks and already need/want more. I plan on breastfeeding for the long haul and feel like one of my boobs is always out. They may look strange and unnecessary before your baby gets here, but once you are a boob machine, you'll be glad to have the easy access. Mine are from Motherhood Maternity and the bras are the Jessica Simpson brand.
- Breast pads. Some women are lucky and don't need these. Three and a half months in, I still do. I try to go without them and get milk stains all over my shirts. Yes, they are a bit cumbersome and not attractive, but it's better than having milk leaking through your shirt. I just use the disposable kind (I had free samples from Lansinoh and those are my favorite of the ones I've tried, although I usually just get the Target brand ones). I know there are many on the market, but having to do laundry to make sure I have boob protection isn't something I feel like adding to my list at this point in the game. Maybe one day, though, because buying these pads constantly is like buying pads (I guess I got to exchange one for the other).
- Nipple shield. Thankfully this is something I don't need anymore, but I couldn't have gotten through the early days of breastfeeding without it. Like I talk about in my "The Art of Breastfeeding" blog, I struggled early on and heavily relied on nipple shields to create the breastfeeding relationship my son and I have today. I tried both the Ameda and Medela, but preferred the Ameda one personally.
- Diaper bag backpack. This is another product that I love. At first I wasn't so sure about it, but I wouldn't change it. I have always preferred backpacks to purses because of the back and shoulder strain that purses give, and that was my initial motivation for getting a diaper bag backpack. Since having it, there are other reasons I think it is great. When I am "wearing" my son, it balances me out. I have him on the front and the diaper bag on the back. I wouldn't want to have to worry about carrying a traditional diaper bag on one shoulder and I couldn't do the cross body carry. Also, it's perfect for my husband. He throws it on him with no problem, and it doesn't even look like a diaper bag (for men or women who are bothered by that look). It's spacious enough inside and has enough compartments too. I highly recommend it!
- Baby carrier. Even if you don't plan on "wearing" your baby, I suggest registering for one. While everyone is different, here's my two cents on why I prefer certain types over others. I was so excited for my Baby K'tan, but I never could figure it out. I don't know if I got it too small (I registered for an XS based on their sizing chart) or if I was too concerned about hurting Henry or if it just didn't work for us, but I never used it, and now he is too heavy for it. I still love the color and the way the fabric feels, but I can't recommend it because it was not as user friendly as I had hoped. The one I use most often and LOVE is my lillebaby. I use it all the time. It is a little cumbersome for every day around the house wear (for example, I'm wearing it with Henry asleep right now and it feels a little restrictive), but it's by far my favorite. I feel like he is very secure in it and it grows with him. When he was a newborn, I used the newborn carry and rolled up a blanket for him to sit on inside of the carrier. Now, he is in the narrow seat carry position, and eventually he'll transition to the wide seat carry. They have easy to follow YouTube videos about how to adjust the seat, and I had no problem using the carrier from day one. I can also get it on by myself. The only downsides are, like I mentioned, it is a lot of carrier, and you have to set the baby down to strap it around your waist (at least that's how I get it on when Derek isn't around). You'll see my use it in any of my babywearing YouTube videos and I love using it to go on walks to get Henry asleep. One I didn't register for, but got later is my Maya Wrap. I like this one because I can get it one while Henry is asleep without setting him down, but I don't feel as comfortable using it outside of the house or handsfree. Many people swear by these ring slings (there are many different types, including homemade ones), but I still like to keep a hand on him while I'm wearing it. It is very beautiful, though, and worth it as a gift (or if you're more trusting of your wrap than me). I wish I had it earlier on when I could carry him in the pocket carry rather than legs out as I think I would have felt more security in that hold. This is also supposedly a good breastfeeding wrap, however I haven't yet mastered that. Because all these carriers are expensive, if you're going with one, I would stick with the lillebaby.
- Nail scissors. This is something that I didn't include on my list of essentials when I wrote it at five weeks, but am including now at 15 weeks. I know, trimming your baby's nails is not fun. I hate it. But, those little scratches on his face are worse and the first time he got a bad one I felt like a horrible mother. Initially I never trimmed his nails because I just kept his hands covered, but now I have to trim them all the time. It's amazing how fast they grow (and I don't get them cut great because he is such a squirmer)! These trimmers make me feel as comfortable as possible because their dull edges make it easy to cut nails, but hard to cut baby. (Sidenote, as I was looking for the link to share here, I noticed that there are newborn ones and 3 month+ ones. I only have the newborn scissors. I'm assuming the difference is the size, however I haven't had any problem using the newborn ones on him at 3.5 months.)
- Car mirror. In my five week draft this was listed under "helpful, but not essential." I decided to move it to essential because I think it is necessary for driving in the car with your baby. Every time the three of us are in the car together, my husband drives and I sit in the back seat with Henry. However, when one of us is with him without the other, it is so reassuring to have the mirror. Because your baby will be in a rear facing car seat, it is the only way you can see them and make sure everything is okay without stopping the car.
- Nursing cover. This is another item I didn't include on my initial list, but I use it ALL the time! Henry LOVES to eat (which is probably why has so many rolls. He takes after his mommy--with the eating, not the rolls). My nursing cover allows me to nurse discreetly anytime and anywhere.
- Baby monitor. Now that Henry occasionally spends part of the night in his own room, we couldn't do without a baby monitor. Even when you are awake and your baby is sleeping in a different room, it saves you a trip down the hall. We've had two different baby monitors in a short time and I'll tell you why so you can avoid our same "mistake" (so to speak). Our first monitor only lasted a few days of use before we realized there was a problem with it. Unfortunately some places of the country fall under cable company bandwidth caps. Alabama is one of those places. As such, we went over our bandwidth cap for the month because this monitor uses data to upload and download the video. I loved it because you can watch the video from your computer, phone, or tablet and you don't have to be at home to see the video (don't worry, we weren't leaving Henry at home, but Derek could peek in on Henry while he was at work if he wanted). After realizing that we'd be unable to use the camera during our time in Alabama, we bought a second monitor. It works great as well, and I would highly suggest it. I can carry it from room to room, it has a video image, and a sound detector (lights that go from green to red like the old audio only baby monitors I remember from my childhood).
Helpful, but not Essential
- Breastfeeding friendly clothing. The longer I have been breastfeeding, the more I think this should move up to the essential category. One frustration I have had is that I can't just get dressed in the morning. Everything I wear I have to think about whether or not my boobs are easily accessible. I have ended up wearing the same tops I wore during my pregnancy almost every day since I started dressing regularly (I was topless or just in a robe during those early days). They are the long and lean (I think that's what they're called) tanks from Target, and while they aren't super breastfeeding friendly, they are easy enough to pull one strap off so that I can gain access to my nursing bra.
- Lanolin. I haven't used this much, but I used it more early on (I actually got some use of it on my hands as they were really dry during my early postpartum days). I didn't find it to be super soothing on my aching and damaged nipples, but then again nothing was, so I'd say try lanolin, breast milk, and coconut oil to see what works best for you.
- Small heating/cooling pack. Helpful for those tired and sore shoulders and for helping with clogged ducts.
- Diaper trashcan. You will need some sort of trash can near your diaper changing station, and the more stink it can keep in, the better!
- Hand mittens. We did use these sometimes, but we used socks on his hands more often. We were given TONS of socks (because little things are cute). I rarely have put socks on his feet because they leave marks on his ankles and I worry that they are too tight on him, but the socks served as wonderful scratch protection early on.
- Burp clothes and washcloths. Like I wrote about above, I don't really use burp clothes for burping. I do however use them to clean up his spit up. Same with the wash clothes. I don't use them for washing, but I use them to clean spit up. There's lots of spit up in this household...lots! Make sure that the ones you get have a good texture for maximum absorbency.
- Breastfeeding pillow. I haven't used this in a while, but it really helped at first. Again, I struggled early on and holding Henry was just one more obstacle to successful feeding. Now we have a good rhythm (most days), and because I feed him so often I am usually not near my pillow. There is a difference when choosing pillows however. The one I registered for is not the one I ended up using. I registered for one that claimed it could be used to prop baby up and also as a breastfeeding pillow. It didn't work for me. It works fine for helping Henry try and sit these days, but it only got in the way for breastfeeding. I ended up buying and using one called My Brest Friend. It was firmer and provided much more structure and support for both Henry and me.
- Pacifier cord. We almost never use a pacifier now, but when we were using it more frequently earlier on, it was nice to have a pacifier cord so we didn't worry about losing it to the germy floor. They're cheap enough that I recommend getting at least one if you think you may use a pacifier.
- Yoga ball. I already had one of these and I use it with Henry more than our rocking chair (granted we didn't have a rocking chair prior to our move, but I even use it to rest my feet on when I am in the rocking chair). When Henry is tired and having trouble calming himself, he likes the up and down motion. He will often fall asleep with me bouncing on the ball or walking with him in the carrier. Plus, in addition to calming him, I get some exercise bouncing on the ball. Win-win.
- Baby nightgown. We didn't use this as often early on, but we use it every night now. We affectionately call it his "trash bag." I love it because I know Henry is warm, but I don't worry about him suffocating on a blanket. Similarly, baby gowns with open bottoms were great during the early days when we didn't get out much and he needed frequent diaper changes. They were cool enough, warm enough, and provided easy diaper changing access. The ones with the attached gloves were my favorite.
- Ready to swaddle blanket. When we did swaddle him, this blanket was helpful because it made us slightly better swaddlers. I would register for it, but wait to buy it to see how your baby reacts to swaddling as well as how impressive your swaddling skills are. You may be a swaddle rockstar and not need it.
- White noise maker. I started using my white noise maker while I was pregnant with Henry and I don't know who likes it most, Henry, Derek, or me.
- Car seat cover. This is wonderful for keeping the sun off Henry when he is in his stroller. I also used it a lot early on to keep strangers from touching him without permission.
- Infant bath. At first I had this in the "save your money" category until my husband reminded me that we did get our use out of it early on. After Henry's circumcision we were told to give him a 5-10 minute soak after each diaper change (I know, right!?). We used this bathtub every time. We also used it for some of his early baths before we established our current nightly bath time ritual in which Henry and I get in the regular bath tub together each night before bedtime.
- Dresser. I use our dresser for our changing station and for Henry's clothes. Our peanut changer fits perfectly on top of it along with some wipes and diapers and a paper towel roll for messes. I have his clothes organized by size in the drawers. Overall it's a nice dresser, though it was a pain for my husband to assemble.
- Activity Gym. Henry is not a big fan of not being held (especially not being away from mommy), but when he does let me set him down he seems to enjoy this playmat. It has fun lights, colors, and sounds and is any easy already put together play space.
- Pack 'N Play. When we were getting ready to move and didn't have Henry's space set up, we used this pack 'n play to house his clothes, blankets, burp cloths, etc. We also used the newborn sleeper and changer when we were just setting him down for a little bit. We have yet to use the bottom section and he is now too big for the top area, but I think it will come in handy again once he is able to sit unassisted.
Save Your Money
- Momaroo. We bought this when we were desperate to find a way that my son could be soothed without me. It didn't work for us. If we had room in our apartment I would have tried a swing. See what works for you. We ended up returning the momaroo because it was too expensive to only work okay. One thing I would like now is something that helps him sit so he can be near me but not necessarily on me. I feel like we are in the stage where he is too big for most bouncers, but he can't sit on his own yet. Find what works best for your family early on so you get the most use out of it.
- Bathtub accessories. I registered for and received the Skip Hop Moby elbow rest and bath kneeler, neither of which I have yet to open. Like I mentioned above, Henry and I bathe together each night so I haven't had a reason to use these. Maybe down the road I will find them beneficial, but I'd say only buy them if and when you need them. Also, people will give you bath toys whether or not you register for them so don't waste your registry space with them. And if you don't get any, you can always use good old plastic containers. They work just as well :)
- WubbaNub. Okay, these are adorable, but not practical. My husband had a good idea about creating a WubbaNub with replaceable pacifiers, but as they are, the pacifier can't be removed, and therefore it can't be easily cleaned. They are very cute and help keep pacifiers in little one's mouths, however I think they need to be removable.
- Skip Hop Pronto Changing Station. I got this because I thought it would come in handy when on the go. I've never used it. Because I bring our diaper bag everywhere I have no purpose for this item. If, however, you already have a bag that you want to use or your diaper bag doesn't come with a changing pad liner like ours does, then you may get your money's worth with it.
- Snot sucker. This thing looks gross and you don't need it. The hospital will more than likely give you a blue bulb nose clearer, but I also learned that you don't need to clear baby noses. I haven't had luck when I've tried with Henry. If anything saline drops seemed to help his congestion better, and the snot suckers can inflame their nose canals if used too vigorously.
- Baby bath towel. These are adorable of course, but normal sized towels work just as well if not better.
- Baby clothes. Of course you need clothes for your baby, but let other people buy them for you. People love to buy baby clothes. We bought a few outfits from Disneyland and for our sports teams (the ones we used to announce our pregnancy), but other than that all of Henry's clothes were gifted to us. Just remember, the month sizing on clothing varies just as much (maybe even more) than adult clothes. At 3 months, Henry already fit into some of his 12 month old clothes. My suggestion is to stock up on larger sized clothes if you do buy your own cute outfits because people will most likely give you more newborn and 0-3 month clothes than any other age range.
I hope some of these recommendations help. I know I was clueless when getting started, and now I feel like I have a much better grasp on what works for at least our family. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below, and I will happily get back to you. Happy shopping!