Congratulations! You’re going to be a parent! It’s such an exciting time but there are so many things you’re going to need and a million things you don’t. As a first time parent, how can you possibly know? We wound up returning hundreds of dollars worth of stuff and that doesn’t include the countless items I wish we could have returned. Here’s a breakdown of what I learned and what my must-have baby registry checklist looks like.
First off, baby registries almost always give you free stuff just for signing up. Take advantage. Sign up for all of them.
In my experience with Amazon, Target, and Babies R Us, people tended to shop 2 of them. Amazon was for the online shoppers, Target for the in-store browsers and last minute shoppers. Babies R Us was fun to create because it was our first stop and we walked through the entire store dreaming of when our little baby would arrive. Almost no one bought off of the Babies R Us registry and now they are out of business in the US so you don’t even need to worry about it.
I’d suggest signing up for the same items at each place and monitoring them. As things are purchased (or as you receive them) mark them as purchased on the other registries. If you don’t want to do a lot of maintenance, you don’t have to give out the location of every registry to friends and family, just the ones you think most people will use.
Second, and if you only take one thing from this must-have baby registry checklist it’s this: keep the packaging for everything and do not wash every soft item before the baby arrives.
You will find what works for you and you’ll want to be able to return what doesn’t. I’ve broken down the must-have baby items that worked for us but every parent and baby is different so be prepared to return. Don’t take the tags off or wash all of the clothes, sheets, etc. you receive. Just wash a handful of items for the first couple days. Don’t throw away the boxes and packaging for the bigger or more expensive items. As long as it’s not a sanitary hazard, you’ll want to be able to return or exchange these as needed. (You might also want the boxes for storage between pregnancies.)
Must-Have Items for your Baby Registry Checklist
- Crib – So number one is pretty obvious, a crib. What isn’t obvious? You might not use this for several months. We chose to have our little one in our room to start. Doctors now recommend having your baby sleep in your room for the first year (yes, you read that right, a whole year). We choose to start with the first 3 months and reevaluate at that time. Once they start sleeping longer you might feel comfortable moving them to their own room and their crib. Babies are loud (more on that later) so sleeping with them is hard on mom and dad. Do what’s comfortable for you and your partner. Regardless, a crib will be needed at some point. Add it to your baby registry. A lot of times Grandma and Grandpa buy this for you before you even have a shower! This is the convertible crib we picked.
- Crib Mattress – Cribs don’t come with them so make sure you register for one. Experts suggest firmer is better to reduce the risk of SIDS. Pick one you feel comfortable having your baby sleep on. We chose this crib mattress even though it has a higher price tag. The reviews and safety were key for us.
- Changing Table or Dresser – We have an actual changing table because it was a family heirloom. It was mine when I was a baby and my mom kept it for me to use (as you’ll see, we’re a sentimental family). If you don’t already have a changing table, I would suggest a dresser with a changing pad added to the top. That way you can use it as a dresser down the road. To make mine more functional and cute I added a variety of baskets to the shelves. Because our nursery is small, the changing table left us without room for a dresser. We used old IKEA side tables we already had in the closet as clothing storage (because who wants to hang tiny baby clothes?!). You could also use inexpensive drawer totes.
- Rocking Chair or Glider (Bonus points if it reclines) – You’ll want something convenient for feeding and calming your baby. Again, I chose to use an antique rocker in the nursery that was passed down to me from my mom. She used it to rock me when I was a baby and because of that, I will NEVER get rid of this rocker. If you don’t have an emotional attachment to an antique rocking chair, get a super comfy, padded rocker or glider. Ideally, one that also reclines. Here’s why, TMI alert. I have a really fast letdown and flow so I basically require a bed, couch, or recliner for breastfeeding so baby doesn’t choke while eating. Down the road, my antique rocker will work just fine for bottle feeding or calming baby since they inevitably love being rocked.
- Footstool – You’ll want this simply for comfort. Gliders usually having matching gliding footstools you can purchase separately.
- Stroller/Car seat – I did a lot of research on different types of strollers and travel systems including testing them out at Babies R Us. Get a travel system. The last thing you want to do is wake a sleeping baby to get them out of the car seat and into the stroller. I choose the Graco Modes Click Connect Travel System Stroller. I went with the 4-wheel option for stability, maneuverability, and because, if I’m being honest, I don’t jog. I seriously love this car seat and stroller. I live in Minnesota and it tackles our winter terrain like a champ. If it works for me, it will work for you.
- Rock N Play – We didn’t add this to our registry and ended up purchasing it after baby. It’s a “can’t live without it” item. A lot of people use these for sleeping at night before baby’s in their crib. This practice is not approved by the American Academy of Pediatricians (or any other powers that be) due to a risk of SIDS, as well as poor head and neck development. We use ours for calm, awake time and short monitored naps during the day. It’s good for getting baby to sleep and them moving him to another, flat, SIDS approved, sleeping surface. Which brings me to the next item on the baby registry checklist.
- Pack N Play (Play Yard) – As I said, we chose to have baby in our room for his early days. Babies eat a lot and convenience is king at 12am… and 2am, 4am, 6am… you get the idea. You’ll want them close just for the feeding aspect if not for peace of mind. If you have the space for a pack n play in your room, I highly recommend it. The bassinet option on a PNP is an approved sleep space for babies and it replaces a typical freestanding bassinet, which has a very short (few month) lifespan. A pack n play can be used in various capacities for well over a year after baby moves to their crib. Our little guy had no problems (for the most part) sleeping in his PNP. I did purchase this Soothe & Vibe to use in the PNP to replicate the rock n plays vibration, which is what he really loves about it.
- Baby Swing – This is a highly debated item among my friends and why I tell you to KEEP THE BOX. Swings only work for some. A key to getting a good swing is to make sure it at least rocks front to back and not just side to side. We also chose one that was also a rocker. This allows us to use it more multiple purposes (justifying a higher cost) and you can also move the baby from room to room without waking them. For us, it’s a keeper.
- Bouncer – Another “keep the box” item. Some mom’s swear by them, we had ours for a week tops. It just did nothing for our little guy. I suggest registering for it, trying it out, and deciding for yourself. Tip – get one that vibrates and has an auto bounce feature.
- Baby Monitor – We didn’t get this off our registry so we wound up buying 2 and testing them out. There are good and bad reviews on all of them so it’s almost worth it to just buy a couple and try them yourself in your environment. We tried 2 Motorola monitors, one with 1 camera and one with 2 cameras. We went with a 2 camera option because it had the clearest picture and I bought it on Black Friday for the same price as the single camera monitor (score!). We currently have one camera in our room over the pack n play and one in the nursery over the crib. We’ll also use the second camera for traveling to Grandparents houses and, eventually, in our second child’s room.
- Sound Machine – We use this every night. As I said, babies are noisy sleepers and we needed something to drown out the little gurgles and snorts but still allow us to hear him waking and crying. Some people swear by the Dohm White Noise Sound Machine. I haven’t tried it so I can’t say if it’s superior to other sound machines. I do know our baby prefers the white noise option on our sound machine so make sure that’s an option on whichever you go with.
- Nightlight – This is a recent purchase and I wish I’d had it sooner. It’s perfect to leave on the lowest setting at night so I can peek the baby when I wake up. I also use it for breastfeeding at night and will eventually use it as a nightlight in the nursery.
- Burp Cloths – We have around 12 burp cloths and sometimes I run out doing laundry every few days. Get more than you think. They’re messy little buggers.
- Bath Tub – There are so many options for baby bath tubs/mats. We chose the AngelCare Bath Support and it works well. I have heard the Blooming Bath for sinks is great as well if you prefer to bath your baby in a sink vs tub. You’ll also need hooded baby towels, washcloths, baby shampoo, wash, and lotion.
- Diaper Genie – Seriously the best invention ever. So convenient, just make sure you get the filters for smell and a lot of refills. Babies poop a lot. Tons.
- Crib Sheets and Waterproof Crib Mattress Pads – Self-explanatory. I recommend 3 fitted sheets and 2 mattress pads so you don’t have to do laundry all the time.
- Changing Pad – I recently discovered this changing pad that you can just wipe off as needed, and trust me you’ll need to. It’s pricey but since it’s a baby registry, why not throw it on there and see if you get it. I got a standard changing pad and 2 covers for it. I also put puppy pads on top for accidents (I already had these laying around). I have a boy, they’re known for their little “surprises” during changes so it saves me from having to wash the cover all the time.
- Diapers – Register for all the diapers. I picked Pampers Swaddlers in all sizes. You’ll likely need some Newborn but more Size 1 and up. You can always test other cheaper brands but again since these are gifts, register for the nice ones.
- Wipes + wipe container – You’ll need wipes, no surprise there. Get 1 pop-up wipe container and then register for a large box (or 2) of wipe refills. Skip the warmer, it’s really not necessary.
- Butt Cream – There are a few different options here. You really only need actual diaper rash cream if your baby has diaper rash, which they might not get. I would suggest registering for some A+D preventative cream, though. We use it at night which changes are farther apart and anytime his bum looks a little red.
- Halo Swaddles – For us, a “can’t live without” item. These are the best swaddles and we’ve tried several kinds. When its 2am, you’re baby is drowsy, and you’re half asleep, the ease of use is worth every penny. You can get the simple cream color for a reasonable price on Amazon. The cute prints are more so you make the call there. The fleece version is great in the winter or if you sleep in a cool house. The cotton version is nice for summer or in a warmer house. Rule of thumb, dress your baby just a bit warmer than you’re dressed (including your blankets).
- Sleep N Play – In cooler weather, these are key for the first several weeks and beyond. They keep all body parts covered and don’t require socks or booties. The zippered are best (who has time for snaps?!), especially when they zip from the bottom (like Cat ‘N’ Jack brand from Target), this makes changes very easy. Register for several, you’ll want at least 6 at each age so you don’t have to do laundry every day.
- Onesies – They’re a staple but skip the white ones. Babies are kinda gross (in the cutest way possible). Gross things and white don’t mix. Register for colored onesies to cover the stains and keep them looking bright and cute! Get long sleeve in cooler months, short sleeve in warmer. I prefer these once the babe is a little bigger. Looking back I’d skip the Newborn size since the sleep n plays are easier in the early days. Register for 0-3 months and up and plan to have them start wearing them around 4 weeks or so.
- Pants – These should coordinate with the cute colored onesies you registered for. Get basics like navy, black, grey, and tan that go with everything. I prefer pants that are a little too big so skip newborn sizing, they’re so hard to get on even the littlest babies.
- Season Appropriate Clothing – If it’s winter, register for a baby pram (snowsuit). For summer, swimwear. You might need multiple sizes to get through the whole season so keep time in mind.
- Pacifiers – Some breastfeeding moms don’t like pacifiers. Our little guy found his thumb on day 2 so I chose the lesser of 2 evils. We haven’t had any issues with nipple confusion while breastfeeding and it’s nice to have a solution when he gets fussy in public. Register for Soothies, the babies love them.
- Wubbanub – Our babe loves these. He can grab them, they’re easier to hold, and they also stay where you want them more than a regular pacifier. I’m partial to the fox.
- Nose Frida – I hated this thing at first, it didn’t work at all and I couldn’t understand why everyone was raving about it. Then I discovered Saline Drops for baby noses. I use them first to loosen everything up and then the Nose Frida is seriously amazing.
- Thermometer – Register for a good one. I went with an ear thermometer but that’s really personal preference. Get what you’re comfortable with.
- Hand sanitizer – You’ll want this at the changing station at the very least. Register for a large bottle with Aloe. You’ll need all the lotion power you can get!
- Batteries!!!! – Probably AA, C, and D, and a lot of them. Even better, register for a battery charger and rechargeable batteries.