I've got a lot of friends with babies on the way, and decided to make this list of things to register for since I wished for something similar. If you aren't one of those first-time-baby people, you will probably find this post pretty tedious...(and I won't be offended if you stop reading right now).
When I started looking to make my baby registry, I was completely overwhelmed. I wasn't sure what I actually needed and what was just nice to have, or what to splurge on versus where to save my money. I even took a class on how to register properly, and sat there slack jawed for 3 hours while someone paraded out a million baby items that I didn't even know existed. After that I went home and made my registry, which still felt a little like a stab in the dark... but a slightly more educated stab.
After having my baby, I realized that what you end up actually needing surely varies no matter how much research you do ahead of time. There were things that I had assumed that I'd need that I never used, or that my baby just didn't like, so don't feel bad if you don't nail it the first time. You also can't feel too bad about things your baby only uses for a few months before outgrowing them, since some things you use will be extremely helpful but only for a very short amount of time.
So. I'm going to tell you what I ended up REALLY using. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably just buy the basics to begin with and hold off on some of the other items until the need actually arose. Believe it or not, you may not need every baby item every made (though retailers would have you believe differently) and I'd suggest staying as minimal as possible. This list also may come in handy for those of you trying to find the perfect baby shower gift.
First of all, everyone told me to sign up for Amazon Prime, and I'm glad I did. Between the free two day shipping (which really comes in handy when you feel like you can't even leave the house to go shopping), and their free streaming movies/tv shows to watch while breastfeeding, I feel like that service paid for itself quickly.
I also made a gift registry at Amazon, because even if they don't sell an item on the site that you want, you can add your own outside links to your list and still have a single list (with photos!) to send to people who would like to give you a gift. Returns were easy, and they also make it simple to send out thank you notes when people purchase from your wish list. I use a lot of Amazon links* in my suggestions below, since it's just easy to shop in one spot, but you can obviously find this stuff in lots of different places.
Okay. On to the goods. Again - these are the items that I actually used, loved and would recommend:
I'm not going to spend a ton of time in this section, because how you dress your babe is a matter or taste and season, etc. I will say that babies spit up on and grow out of things infuriatingly quickly, so I wouldn't spend a fortune on clothing, BUT it is still important to dress them in outfits that you like.
Confession - I pretty much didn't take my baby out of a one-piece jammie for the first three months of his life. I mean, he was sleeping all the time anyway, and really too small for clothing of any sort to look that cute on him. The one-piece was so practical and cozy. My faves ended up coming from J.Crew (though I don't see them on the site anymore) and KickKee Pants.
I do like zip-up-front jammies for quick dressing, but owned plenty of snap-fronts too. I steered clear of the ones that go over the head and only snap at the bottom, since Emerson hated having them pulled over his head. Whatever you end up going with, you'll just want easy access to that diaper.
We probably had about six-eight footie onesies that we cycled through for those first few months.
Socks n' Shoes
We did put Em in a variety of other onesie/stretchy pants outfits too, of course, but I didn't bother at all with shoes of any sort for the first three months. Some nice warm socks were all I ended up using. (I personally liked Gap's baby socks since they seemed to stay on E's feet well).
At around 3 months, my favorite footwear was Freshly Picked Moccasins. They are made of soft leather, and are easy to put on but seem to stay on better than socks. We bought E several pairs as he grew, and he wore them until he was actually walking (the soft sole is nice for a baby learning to walk) and once he was good at walking I transitioned him to shoes with soles. He wore them until size 3. (There are plenty of knock-off versions that are cheaper too)
You'll probably end up with more clothing than you actually need for the first few months, because everyone does, but I'd recommend keeping it minimal if possible. 10 onesies and soft stretchy pants, maybe 2 sweaters and a hat or two. Save buying things like "scratch mitts" until you find you need em.
Favorite shops that I frequent: Zara Kids, H&M, American Apparel, Target, Baby Gap, Carter's, Boden
Favorite splurge brands: Misha and Puff, Bobo Chooses, Tiny Cottons, Mini Rodini
I exclusively breastfed Emerson, so my recommendations are going to reflect that.
Motherlove Nipple Cream
I guess I had heard that breastfeeding might be terribly painful in the beginning, but it really doesn't sink in until you are sitting there dreading feeding your baby again and cringing as that little mouth opens wide because of the seemly never-ending soreness. I used this cream for the first six weeks and it was a life-saver.
(I also used these Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads for a little chilled relief, though nothing helped as well as the nipple cream did)
I love my Boppy! It is a perfect, versatile pillow to prop your baby on while you breastfeed. Again, this is one of those things that I ended up using every day, multiple times a day. I liked it better than the Breast Friend because its a little more comfy, and I used it later on to help prop him on the floor, etc. I got a boppy pillow and a cover.
Okay. I wasn't sold on this item at first. I figured that rather than add one more thing to my bag of crap to carry around, I could just use an extra swaddle blanket or burp cloth to get the job done. I'm sure that would have worked, but the number of times I ended up breastfeeding on the go made me repeatedly grateful for a cover with a neck strap and a stiff wire opening at the neck. Emerson preferred a little breathing room, and it makes it so much easier to look under the cover while feeding and adjust things as needed. Mine also is very compact, and washes easily.
I bought a organicKidz brand cover, but similar ones come under lots of different (mostly tacky) names: Hooter Hiders, Udder Covers, boppy, etc.
I know a lot of people swear by the stretchy 2-in-1 feeding cover that doubles as a carseat cover. I never had one but lots of people I know do, and it seems like a really smart multi-purpose cover. (lots of different brands at lots of different price points on these)
Breast Pump (I've got the Medela Freestyle)
Em was solely breastfed, and even though I was around most of the time, having a breast pump so that I could leave him and a bottle with other people on occasion was a lifesaver. I haven't used any other breast pumps, but I really love the Medela Freestyle. It is compact (unlike some of those pumps that take up an entire backpack) so it is convenient for moms on the go, and comes in a discreet purse with cold carrying case for easy transport. The pump is still noisy, but at least it's small and lightweight.
I also like the handsfree bustier, for multi-tasking purposes, and personally do best with the rigid breastshields (like the ones that come with the pump) instead of the soft shields that you can also purchase. Make sure your breastshields are the right size, otherwise it may make pumping more difficult.
And, for storage, they make great ziplock bags for the fridge/freezer that are easy to label and measure the amount of milk inside.
Initially I registered for a ton of different types of bottles, because babies all need a million bottles, right? Every cartoon baby I've ever seen is constantly sucking on bottle. And then...I ended up just used a few Medela bottles that fit with my breast pump, and Emerson always liked them just fine. I could pump, throw the bottle in the fridge, and then stick a nipple and cover on it when I needed to grab one to go. I probably had 6 of those and that's all I needed.
If you are planning on doing more bottle feeding than I did, I still would probably advise you to not go overboard on buying bottles initially. Maybe get one or two different kinds to try out, or a starter set, and then buy more once you figure out what baby actually likes and have a better sense of how many bottles you'll really need.
You'll want a bottle brush, even if you don't use that many bottles, because they are the only way to get those bottles really scrubbed out in your sink.
And, I feel like everyone gets one of those plastic grass drying racks for the counter to help your bottles drain and dry properly after being washed out in the sink. I had one, but only used it minimally because we didn't use bottles that often. I'd probably get the smaller version if I were to do it again, for limited counter space and the fact that we didn't have a million bottles to wash at any given time. This would probably be in the category of "nice to have" instead of "necessary" because your dish drying rack would also be just fine.
If you've got a dishwasher and plan to use a lot of bottles, I'd recommend a dishwasher basket to hold all the nipples and other small parts that will fly around in the dishwasher if placed in solo.
You can use pretty much any rag to soak up all the drool and baby spit-up that is sure to escape your baby's mouth. Em has been a non-stop spitter since day one, and I've loved the Cloud B Spill cloths and the slightly larger giggle Baby Better Basics Burp Cloths because they are simple, absorbent and soft. I've got one or the other in every purse I carry and every room of the house.
For the first few weeks after Emerson was born, I lived in a nursing tank and stretch pants. I'd recommend two or three nursing tank tops, and then a few nursing bras.
I haven't tried all of em, but for super practical no-nonsense nursing tanks and bras, I like Cake Lingerie and Bravado Body Silk Nursing Bras.
And, for something cute and not just down-to-business, Elle Macpherson has some really great stylish nursing bras that I'm a fan of.
If space is more of a commodity, we also own a more portable version by Inglesina that hooks directly onto any table, and stores well. And, my parents have a no-nonsense Fisher-Price Booster Seat that they pull out for us when we visit that is plastic and easy to clean and attaches to any regular chair.
Sleeping (or NOT Sleeping, depending on the baby, amiright?) :
We started off with Emerson sleeping in our room with us for the first month or two before we transitioned him into his own room/crib. It was easier to attend to his needs all night long with him right there next to us, but we always knew we didn't want him there forever. Everyone has their own ideas/preferences and timeframes for that kind of thing, obviously, so this list may not be applicable to everyone.
Assuming you want a temporary bassinet sleeping solution for the first few weeks:
Temporary Foldable Bassinet
We bought a BRICA Fold N' Go Travel Bassinet. Since we knew we were going to have Emerson sleeping in our room for a short time, we got this small, temporary foldable bassinet that was very portable and put-away-able. It was great on the floor by our bed for the first month or two, as well as for traveling with him when he was small, and it stores pretty easily.
This is assuming you want a crib for your babe:
There are so many cute ones out there. We got the Caravan Crib from Kalon Studios, which was a bit of a splurge, but I love it and the fact that it converts into a toddler bed. It is sturdy, made in the USA, and is just really well designed. There are less expensive ones that I also liked the look of, like the Babyletto 3-in-1 series.
We bought the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Classic Lightweight Crib Mattress. This was one thing I felt pretty strongly about splurging on, since my babe was (hopefully) going to spend so much time with his face pressed against it while he slept. Because of strict flammability precautions and other standards, mattresses often are treated with different chemicals that I wasn't comfortable putting my baby around. These mattresses are as non-toxic as you can buy, and are so clean that they even meet food safety standards (like, you could eat off them if you wanted to).
We bought the lightweight version instead of the one with springs, because there isn't a difference in comfort or durability, but it is waaaaay easier to lift up to change the sheets.
You'll also want two fitted crib pads (one as a back-up in case of emergency sheet changing).
Fitted Crib Sheet
My mom made me a few fun crib sheets in colors to match Em's bedroom (thanks mom!), but my faves for the store-bought kind are made by Dwell. The patterns/colors are great, quality is high, and they wash well. You'll want at least two sheets for easy changing if there is an accident in there.
First, if you haven't already, watch The Happiest Baby on the Block.
Then, buy a swaddle.
There are lots of swaddles out there that are basically big pieces of cloth to wrap your baby in to help them feel secure and stop their startle reflex from waking them up. Aden and Anais make a million lightweight muslin versions, which are great, but we actually ended up using a version with velcro arm restraints quite a bit as well since it was easier to wrap him good and tight (like the Halo Sack or the Miracle Blanket.)
Emerson even managed to fight his way out of these around two months, and started sleeping fine without being swaddled, but it was a lifesaver in the beginning. And, once they can start rolling over, you shouldn't be restraining their arms anymore, so the amount of time you'll be able to use these is limited. No need to get a million of em - one or two is probably sufficient, especially since not every baby takes to them.
Once we quit swaddling Emerson, we put him in a sleep sack. I like it better than a blanket since he can't kick it off but it still keeps him cozy at night. And, putting on his sleep sack has become part of his bedtime routine, so that he knows it's time to go to sleep when we pull it out.
I LOVE the Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Sleeping Bag (its nice and thick and cozy, like a little sleeping bag) though the Aden and Anais muslin sack is a good lightweight version for those of you with hot summer nights. We bought one in medium and one in large, and Emerson still sleeps in it at almost 2 years old.
My sister swears by the Zippadee-Zip as a transition between swaddle and sleep sack. Apparently it still helps control the sleep startle reflex, but allows for rolling over.
Our apartment is so tiny that we never bothered to use a baby monitor, since I can hear when E is awake from pretty much anywhere in the house. BUT, we've got some friends that love the DropCam, and I'll admit that I like watching their baby sleep from their night vision video feed that they can check from their phone (or any device/computer).
White Noise Machine
We don't use our noise machine every time he sleeps, but it is definitely handy to have some nice rhythmic sounds to really soothe Em when we need it.
Initially we got a Sleep Sheep, which is cute and cuddly to sit in the crib, but has only a few sounds (including one weird whale one), the volume doesn't go very high, and there is no option to keep the sound going forever. It worked with Em when he was pretty little, but we only used it for a few months.
I downloaded a white noise app on my phone so that I'd have permanent shushing material with me wherever I went in a pinch. (I use the Sound Sleeper app and love it for the sleep tracking, the variety of sounds appropriate for kids of different ages, and other functionality). If I had to do it again, I'd probably just go with an app on my phone/iPad rather than an in-crib noise machine if you've got an extra device around the house that can be left in the room. We still use white noise when we have people over to the house and don't want him to be disturbed, or on nights he seems particularly wound up.
My sister says that the mp3 "baby got colic" was the best thing she ever downloaded for her baby. I'd recommend having something like this on your phone for moments of need when you're out and about. Stick the phone playing white noise close to a crying baby, and it is kind of like magic.
Sometimes you just gotta put that baby down. For the first few months, before Emerson was moving around much, he basically lived in his Rock N Play Sleeper. It was perfect and portable so we could take it wherever we were in the house, and he could nap there or just watch me as I was in the kitchen or on the couch. It also gently rocks, which is nice.
They make all sorts of different versions of swings and rockers that vibrate or have mobiles attached, but we just had a basic chair and loved it. It had a small footprint and folded nicely when not in use. Again, this was something we used every day... for about three months.
Baby Play Gym
For the first few months, especially when you're working on tummy time, it is nice to have a mat for your baby to lay on and look up at. We went with the Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Gym because it folds up for storage when we aren't using it. E had outgrown it already by around 6 months, though.
I won't go into too much advice diaper-wise, because we have a diaper service with cloth/compostable options that we've used and loved, and I feel like the discussion on cloth diapers could be an extensive one. If you are in the Bay Area, I'd recommend them - they are only a little bit more expensive than disposable diapers, but keep alllll those dirty diapers out of landfills. We loved the Bummis Velcro covers when we were doing cloth diapering. And we currently use Naty brand diapers for our compostable diaper service.
I'm weird about wipes. I feel like some of them leave a gross soapy film behind, and some of them smell too strong to me and some of them give E a rash, so I swear by the Aleva Naturals Bamboo Baby Wipes. Totally a preference thing.
I will say that I'm glad I have a changing table. I wasn't going to get one at first, thinking I could just use a pad that I could move around the house and change him on the bed or on a couch or wherever I was. You end up changing so many diapers, though, that it is nice to have one place that you have all the stuff you need, with the diaper pail close by. If you have room and don't mind the idea of a giant table in your house dedicated to poop, I'd recommend it. We just got a cheap Ikea table that has been great.
Changing Pad and Covers
We got our changing pad and covers from the same company that makes the mattress pad (Naturepedic) and I'm a big fan. The pad is a little long for our changing table (but we make it fit), so check the measurements to make sure it will sit okay on whatever table you choose. I'd also recommend getting two changing pad covers to rotate between.
My sister doesn't have an official changing table, and instead uses a low dresser and a Keekaroo Peanut Pad that sticks to the dresser top and doesn't need a pad cover. She loves it, and it is squishy and nice for the baby to lay on.
I don't have a ton of experience with all the different diaper pail types out there, but the Diaper Dekor has been good for us so far. I like this system because they have a long continuous bag that you tie off when you need to throw your diapers out, so it is potentially less wasteful than throwing a half empty bag away. The odor control is pretty good when you use their normal scented bags.
The only bummer is how expensive all the refill bags are, but I think you run into the same problem with any of these fancy cans unless you buy one that fits regular trash bags.
I think plenty of people get by with just a sink when babies are young, but I am glad we had a dedicated tiny tub. We used a rather bulky plastic tub with infant insert until Emerson could sit in the bathtub by himself, though we had an extra bathroom that it could hang out in most of the time so it wasn't a big deal. If you're tight on space, the Boon Collapsible Tub is one my sister loves because she can hang it in the bathroom out of the way when it isn't in use. This is another thing you'll only need for a few months before they grow out of it.
Shampoo, Body Wash, etc
Burts Bees makes great smelling natural baby products. I love their Shampoo/Body Wash (and like the 21 ouncer with the pump since you can get soap out one-handed since you'll need to keep one hand on baby while he's in the tub).
I also love Burt's Bees lotion, or a baby oil gel if E's skin gets really dry.
For diaper rashes my fave is Boudreaux's Butt Paste, and good ol' Desitin if it gets really bad. I don't recommend the Burt's Bees diaper cream.
And, despite what I saw on TV all the time, I've never used baby powder. I still don't really know what I'm supposed to use that for.
Hooded Bath Towel
You can obviously use whatever towel you want on your baby, but we got a hooded one for E and use it every day. We have one from Dwell that we love because it matches the decor in E's room and is really soft and well made, but there are lots of cute options out there.
Baby nails grow faaaaaast. Or at least it seems like they do, since they scratch themselves all the time. We got this fancy electric nail file that is gentle on baby nails that I liked. (It ran out of batteries pretty quickly, though, and was really only good for the first few months so this definitely fits in the splurgie-and-not-totally-necessary category).
Also splurgie but a little more useful are the Rubis Baby Nail Scissors we got for E when he got a little older. These are still what we use now, so they are probably a little more bang for your buck.
To be honest, I'm sure you could get away with just regular ol Baby Nail Clippers , but we drew blood with a pair once and it has scarred me a little.
Pacifier and Clip
Emerson didn't love pacifiers, so I used them minimally, but I was glad to have the ones with a snap on protective cover while they were rolling around in my bag and a clip so they wouldn't fall far when he spit them out.
And, like every baby in the world, he loved chewing on his Sophie giraffe while teething.
There are definitely some first-aid type items that are good to have on hand. A digital thermometer is important. And, we used our Nose Frida quite a bit for stuffy noses in the first year.
I feel like there is no way around buying multiple strollers, multiple car seats, multiple carriers, etc. over the course of your baby's life since they are always growing out of everything. Strollers in particular seem to be designed for every specific need and it feels impossible to find one that does everything. Jogging strollers are different than portable strollers are different than convertible strollers, etc. I swear stroller shopping was the most overwhelming of all my baby shopping. I went to a Babies R' Us and tested a few out in person before committing, and that helped.
Stroller/Carseat Travel System
Okay. So first you should know that it is common to purchase a stroller/carseat "travel system" for newborns. The awesome thing about these is that the car seat can click directly into your stroller, so that you don't have to take your baby out of their seat every time you get them out of the car. This is helpful since they are always napping for those first few months, and .
We bought the Britax B-Agile and B-Safe Travel System. I liked it because the stroller was easy to maneuver, the bassinet was easy to carry and transition from car to stroller, and could be strapped easily into other cars without the heavy duty car seat base. And, the stroller was very easy to collapse for travel and storage (though I warn you that it is kind of wide and folds like a taco, so it seemed to still take up a large amount of space even when folded). Also, the stroller could be used for a toddler once the baby outgrew his infant bassinet, so it seemed like a good bang for the buck. We used both for about a year, though, and despite best intentions to use the stroller for longer we ended up getting a different stroller a few months after discontinuing use of the infant car seat.
We used the Britax convertible stroller for awhile once Emerson grew out of his carseat, but it wasn't as compact as I wanted it to be for walking around san francisco and for traveling. I ended up retiring that one and purchasing a Maclaren Triumph Umbrella Stroller for my every day use because it folds up so easily and fits in the car well, and has a little recline to the seat for when E naps in the stroller.
I'm a HUGE fan of baby wearing when babies are young. I chose it over using the stroller whenever possible. I know a lot of people swear by their Moby wraps or similar products (you know the ones - they look like a million yards of fabric that moms magically tie around themselves to secure their babies). We had one that we used on occasion when Emerson was first born, and I did like how snug he felt against me, but I found that my Ergobaby Carrier was what I ended up using most often (with Infant Insert when the baby is tiny). It was difficult to get the baby back into the wrap for me if it ever loosened on-the-go, and Derek liked the carrier with straps more than the wrap, so that's what we used the most. Plus, you can wear your baby several different ways depending on what is most comfortable, there is a built-in sunshade for a little privacy over their head, and a tiny pocket that I always had a binkie stashed in.
Emerson doesn't like riding in this any more, so we probably got a good year and a half use out of ours, but I used it almost daily. Definitely worth the money.
Confession: I bought two really nice, expensive designer diaper bags that I was super excited to stuff with baby items. The problem - Derek didn't love carrying these things that looked like purses, and when it came down to it, I didn't love carrying them either because they sat on one shoulder but had so much junk in them that it was difficult to balance while also carrying a baby around and hurt my shoulder. But, you really want a bag dedicated to hauling baby stuff. Pretty quickly I transitioned into just using a backpack and have been a million times happier. Choose a stylish backpack option and you won't even feel tooooo much like you're giving up on life.
Pro-tip: carrying a baby bag around everywhere also made me quit carrying a big purse, so instead I switched to a small crossbody bag with removable strap that is easy to throw into a diaper bag to consolidate space, or over my shoulder if I'm handing the diaper bag off to someone else. It was easier than transferring my wallet and keys and phone and everything to and from the diaper bag all the time.
Portable Diaper Pad
You'll want something to put your poopy baby on while you're changing them out and about. I carry one like this Skip Hop Changing Station and I use it pretty much every time I leave the house.
I didn't think I needed one of these, since we already had a big blanket we used for picnics, but my JJ Cole Collections Blanket turned into one of the things I use most. It is a compact, foldable blanket made of a nice thick water resistant material with a handy shoulder strap. Its a great size for two adults and a kid or two. We take it to the park, beach, etc and its super handy and easy to clean. It folds roughly into the size of a medium sized shoulder bag/
My friend has an even more compact version she uses from Alite - it isn't as padded as ours (more like a thin sheet of water-resistant material) but takes up much less room when rolled up.
And, if you're feeling fancy, my friends rave about these leather play mats. No shoulder strap, but portable and chic and supposedly easy to clean.
Most hotels have portable cribs that they will wheel into your room for free if you ask, but we've still found plenty of uses for our portable travel crib. We bought the BABYBJORN Travel Crib Light and it has treated us well. Compact. Lightweight. Easy to set up and take down. Two thumbs up (and maybe more if I had more hands). I've also seen the Lotus Travel crib as well, and have friends that love it since it folds up a little more squarely/compactly.
I already mentioned that we bought a travel system for our infant car seat, which included an infant car seat. The car seat portion was the Britax B Safe, and it served us well for the first year.
When we upgraded to a toddler seat, we went with the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible seat because of the ease of installing and the high safety ratings. We've been happy with it so far. It is, however, the heaviest car seat known to man and a pain to travel on an airplane with (but I think that may be true for all toddler car seats). At about 18 months we started traveling with the IMMIGO instead and it is the best portable carseat ever.
I thought this was a silly accessory for mom's that miss looking at their kids faces while they are driving. Then I became a mom that missed looking at her kid's face while she was driving AND realized it is actually handy to be able to keep an eye on that rascal while he was in the backseat, so ours has become indispensable. We have the Britax Backseat mirror which is nice because it rotates easily to get a good angle.
There you go! That's all I know! And honestly, everyone's babies are different, so you'll probably make an entirely different list after your first, but maybe this will be helpful in some ways.
My last bit of advice, is - don't be afraid of the hand-me-down. I got so many generous things passed along to me. It made it easy to try out a variety of brands and styles without buying them all myself, and was really appreciated when it felt like you needed to buy a million things.
*Amazon affiliate links used in this post. Don't be mad. I really do love all the items I list here.