There are so many valid reasons to freak out when you are going to have a baby (namely that you are going to have a baby), but your baby registry is not one of them.
When I was working on my registry, I felt like I was packing for a year long vacation to a deserted island. I was planning as though we would never be able to leave the house again, and shopping on the internet does not exist, and I had to stock pile everything my baby could possibly need until she turned one.
If my baby registry was the first test of competent parenting, I was not going to let my kid down before she even saw me on the outside. I studied slow-flow BPA-free plastic bottles, organic latex crib mattresses, and orthodontic pacifiers. I spent hours reaching around my belly to Google swaddle reviews and read about wipes that were too wet or not wet enough. It was overwhelming. How was I supposed to know how wet a wet wipe should be?!!!
Here’s an important fact I’ve learned about parenting: The moisture level of a wipe is a personal preference. You can’t know your preference until you know your baby and her bottom. There is so much you can’t know, both emotionally and practically, until your unique baby is in your arms.
You can’t know what diaper brand will fit him best, or whether he’ll prefer a swing that swings side to side or back and forth, or if he’ll take to a swing at all. You can’t know which bottle brand leaks or which type of onesie requires an engineering degree to assemble. (The snaps. Oh, those snaps! They never line up correctly at two in the morning.)
For the first many weeks, your baby can’t do anything but sleep, eliminate waste, eat and require the occasional transport. So please, let me save you stress, space and money. Here are 20 essentials you’re going to want to have by the time your baby arrives. Anything else can be negotiated once you meet her.
The 20 essential baby registry items you need
1. Crib. You probably need one eventually but there are more economical and space saving (if you want baby in your bedroom) options to consider for the first few months, like co-sleepers, bassinets, or baby baskets (which are more humane than they sound).
Left to right: co-sleeper, bassinet, and baby basket
2. Sheets for your sleeping device and maybe a water proof mattress pad (some bedding is already water proof).
3. Swaddles/blankets. You don’t need a lot of blankets and you’ll probably get quite a few gifted to you. For safety reasons the baby can only sleep with a blanket if it’s swaddled tightly around him. I suggest a couple pre-wrapped swaddles in different sizes (they have a little leg pocket and you just velcro the arms around) and a couple blankets you swaddle yourself (like origami).
4. Pacifier. Get both kinds—bubble shaped and elongated. Be sure to research all the pros and cons of when to begin using it. If your baby takes to one, order several of that style because they disappear like socks in a dryer.
Boom. Sleep is covered.
From the Bottom to the Top
5. Diapers. If you’re doing cloth, you are a braver soul than I and I having nothing to teach you. If you go with disposable, I don’t recommend stocking up. This may be contrary to what everyone you love and trust has suggested, but you should believe me because I’m blogging about this. Get a box of diapers size NB and a box of diapers size 1 (in case you have a big baby). Once you find a brand that doesn’t leak and has a scent you can live with (all diapers are scented unless they specifically say unscented), then you can stock up.
6. Wipes. In the beginning, you can use straight up cotton squares and water. But it won’t be long before you will want some major help and wipes will be your savior. Once you find a brand with the appropriate moisture thresh hold, stock up.
7. Diaper disposal. Diaper pails are a racket. It’s not the initial cost that gets you, it’s the price of the bags. For my second child we used a $10 trashcan with a lid.
8. Changing station. This could be a pad on a bureau top or a waterproof cloth on a bed.
9. Baby tub. Don’t need anything fancy, just a little tub that goes in your big tub or you can wash them in the sink.
10. Toiletries. You’ll probably get these without even registering for them. Diaper cream, tear free bath wash/shampoo, and lotion. (Baby washcloths and towels are nice but not a huge necessity).
Just Eat It
11. Breast pump. If you plan on breastfeeding and you have to go back to work, you’ll need one of these eventually anyway. And for all kinds of unexpected reasons (over or under milk supply, bad latch, off schedule) you might need one from the start. Be sure to check with your health insurance company before you buy or rent a pump. Thanks to a provision in the Affordable Health Care Act most insurance will cover your purchase or rental of certain brands but you may have to go through particular vendors or have your doctor write you a prescription. This could save you hundreds of dollars! Pumps are not cheap. Also, insurance will likely cover a lactation consultant – which I cannot recommend highly enough.
12. Formula. I would buy an emergency pack even if you plan on breastfeeding. But it may take you a few brands to find one that you and your baby like.
13. Bottles. You never know at what point you’re going to need them and you never know which ones you’ll hate cleaning the least (so many parts). I would get a couple bottles of different brands and start with the one compatible with your breast pump. If you like it, it’ll make life a little easier.
14. Breast feeding pillow. Ok, it’s not essential but it just made my life so much easier that I’m including it. There are two popular kinds but you’ll only need a My Brest Friend (that’s a brand name but I’m sure there are "generic" types) to start. It straps around your waist, which is less intimidating than it sounds, and puts baby right at chest level. Both my lactation specialists recommended it to me. A Boppy (another popular brand that has knock offs) is a horseshoe-shaped softer pillow good for resting the baby on your lap, bottle feeding or propping baby up on the floor.
15. Burp clothes. A package of cloth diapers work great. You might need three more and an arsenal of blankets (all the ones just sitting in a drawer because your baby can’t sleep with a blanket yet) if you have a spitter-upper like I did.
Get Into My Car
16. Car seat. Unless you live in a city with incredible public transportation, you can’t even get your baby home from the hospital without one of these. You can get a convertible car seat which will grow with your baby or you can get an infant car seat with a bucket that you can snap in and out of the car and in and out of a stroller. Infant car seats are really convenient (especially for keeping baby sleeping from place to place) and you can buy a base for each car, but babies outgrow them after a year or so.
17. Stroller. I don’t know what to say here except that you should probably get one with wheels.
18. Carrier. Bjorn, sling, Moby wrap... I can’t even name them all. I highly recommend borrowing from friends and see which one you prefer because they all put stress on different points of your body.
Ok! We’re done. Everything you need to care for your naked baby is above.
Oh, you don’t want your baby naked all the time?
You Got that Look
19. Clothes. I would not get a lot of clothes until you meet your baby. There’s a lot to figure out here; size, fit, button versus zipper preference, onesie versus two piece preference, and how quickly your child will grow. If your baby has amazingly chunky thighs, elastic bands on onesies become a torture device. My daughter grew so fast, she missed half the adorable outfits we’d been gifted. And, especially if you’re having a baby girl, you will likely be gifted many clothes.
20. Diaper bag. Much like how adding the word "wedding" before the word "cake" suddenly makes a cake cost a whole lot more, adding the word "diaper" before "bag" means doubling the cost. Just get a beach bag or a large purse or backpack. Then, like everything else, you’ll figure out if you need something larger, or smaller, or with a more unisex fabric for when your partner wears it.
Other things are less definitive. Some people will swear you need a swing but we had two (the front to back swing and the side to side swing) for my son and he disliked them equally. My daughter never cared for her mobile but my son uses it for hours of transcendental meditation.
That high chair, those toys and that play mat will just be extra things to dust and trip over the first few months of your new parenthood. And shoes are just decorations that are very hard to get on. So if you haven’t yet gathered everything you need to survive your first year of parenting, just focus on the first few weeks and let the internet do the rest. Everything you could possibly need is just a click away.
Happy baby making!
Photo credit: Samantha