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The Ultimate Baby Registry Checklist

(Click Baby Register List for Blog to download a printable version)

Setting up a baby registry can be totally overwhelming. It seems impossible that such a tiny person could require so much gear. And unlike a wedding registry, which mostly boils down to personal taste in kitchenware, the stakes are so much higher because the items you’re choosing affect the baby’s safety. (As far as I know, nobody checks the recall status of flatware before selecting a pattern.)

Definitely register during your second trimester when you’re still mobile and feeling good. (Unlike many wedding registry items, baby products aren’t seasonal and won’t change during your pregnancy.) Start a registry at the store so that you can try the products first, and then you can adjust it online later. If you like to do research, pick up a copy of Baby Bargains, which offers advice and safety ratings on everything from baby furniture to gear to bedding, as well as helpful tips on saving dollar bills.

Remember, you don’t have to have all the most tricked out, deluxe gear. Babies used to sleep in drawers. The lack of a wipe warmer will not result in a maladjusted child.

Hope this helps you on your way!

-Rebecca Little, writer and founder of Pinwheel, a style and shopping blog for Chicago kiddos

The List


Feeding/Eating:

•Boppy—This feeding pillow fits around your waist and props the baby closer to the breast. It is the best thing that ever happened to nursing mothers and is equally handy for bottle-feeding. It’s very versatile and can also be used for tummy time, when the baby is learning to sit, or as a lounging pillow when the baby is older. (Don’t bother with the newborn lounger).

•Boppy covers—Register for at least two covers so you can wash one while the other is in use.

•Bottles and nipples—The brand is up to you. But whether you choose plastic or glass bottles, register for a variety of sizes as well as newborn and slow flow nipples. That will get you through the early months, and you can buy additional nipples after you learn your baby’s temperament and whether s/he is gassy, etc.

•Bottle brush—Makes cleaning the nooks and crannies much easier.

•Bottle drying rack—It’s handy to have a separate place for the bottles and breast pump supplies to go without mingling with the dishes.

•Microwave bottle sterilizer—Optional. You can always use boiling water, of course, but if you want a sterilizer, the microwave steam sterilizers are quick and easy.

•Breast pump—Pumps are expensive, but if you plan on having multiple kids, it makes sense to get the good stuff up front. Electric is a necessity. Don’t even bother with hand pumps—they will drive you crazy, and though it might seem hard to believe now, attaching a pump to your boobs will become so commonplace that you will want your hands free to do other things.  If you’d like to see how breastfeeding goes for you before committing to a pump, most hospitals rent them or you can borrow one from a friend. Just sterilize it first, and buy your own breast shields. (Medela, for instance, sells a “spare parts” kit that will do the trick.)

•Lansinoh storage bags—If you plan on storing breast milk.

•Breast pads—Buy a pack to use in the first two months of nursing so that you can go in public without leaking all over your shirt.

•Lansinoh nipple ointment—You probably never thought your life would include taking an electronic scanner and asking friends to buy you a product called “nipple ointment,” so feel free to foot the bill for this one yourself. But if you plan on nursing, this is essential for those first six weeks.

•Nursing cover—Makes it much easier to let the baby eat al fresco (or just when people are over) while keeping your parts under wraps. The gold standard are the Bébé Au Lait nursing covers because they cover you and baby, but you are still able to peek down and see the kid.

•Nursing bras/tanks—There are plenty of good nursing tanks, but the Gillian O’Malley nursing tanks from Target offer good bang for the buck. They offer easy access and are very comfortable. A nursing bra or two is good, but you can’t really get those until after you have the kid and see what size the ladies have settled on. Just keep in mind that flimsy cotton nursing tanks that have no shelf support, like those at Old Navy, just don’t work for out of the house use. (Too much bounce for the public eye.) Better to get the nursing tanks with a little more structure.

•Bumbo w/tray—A cute little seat for when the baby starts on solid food or for when they first start sitting up. The recent recall was due to user error, i.e. someone propping this up on an elevated surface and walking away from it, which it expressly says on the label not to do. Just use it as directed, and it will be fine.

•Cloth diapers—For cleaning up spit-up. (See diapering section for more info on cloth diapers).

•A mix of cloth bibs and plastic bibs—Cloth bibs are easy to stuff into the diaper bag, and it won’t break your heart to throw them away if they get destroyed. As for plastic bibs, JJ Cole bibs are cute and easy to clean when baby gets older.

•High chair—There are a lot of styles, and this boils down to personal taste. I have and like the Boon Flair because it is so easy to clean. Many of models have a lot of nooks and crannies that will inevitably fill with Cheerios. Keep cleaning in mind when choosing one.

•Splat Mat—Optional. Depending on the floor in your kitchen, you may or may not need a splat mat. (It’s just as easy to clean errant baby food off tile as it is to wipe off a mat.) But if you want a multipurpose mat that you can use elsewhere—like for art projects or a picnic—these splat mats are large, well-made, and very cute. But if you just want to slap some protection on the floor, buy a scrap of colorful vinyl from a fabric store. .

Strollers

•Snap N Go (or some iteration)—A light, easy-fold stroller that the car seat snaps into is essential for the early months. Just make sure that whichever one you register for is compatible with your car seat. Skip the cumbersome travel system strollers—they’re too clunky and not worth it. The Snap n Go system is so simple to do on your own: snap it down, pop in the car seat, and go.

•Jogging stroller for older kids—There are a lot of stroller choices, some of them about as expensive as a Smart Car. Most moms I know have the City Mini and BOB models, but there are so many designer strollers, you really need to decide what you like and are willing to pay for. The really important factors are that it’s light and easy to fold so you can break it down yourself in and out of the car. (Try this in the store when you’re registering. If you can’t do it there, you can’t do it anywhere.) Also check the height of the handlebars and make sure it’s comfortable for you. And most jogging strollers also have an adapter so you can use them with your infant car seat—you can skip the Snap N Go and use this if you prefer.

•Umbrella stroller—You don’t really need to worry about one of these at first, but they are great for toddlers because they’re so easy to maneuver.

•J.J. Cole Bundle Me—Depending on when you deliver, you’ll want either the car seat variety (infant) or stroller variety (for older babies) of this warming wrap, which is like a miniature sleeping bag for the stroller.

Car Seats

•Infant seat—Do your research and check recent recalls. If you will have the baby in numerous cars, you may want to register for an extra base.

•Baby seat—When your baby hits about 20 lbs., you have to move them to another car seat. Again, do your research about safety recalls. I love our Britax Marathon.

•Car mat—You may want one of these  to protect your car from the indentations of a car seat and, later, the various foods that your kid will fling around.

Sleep

•Crib—Crib recommendations change too often for me to suggest one here. Do your homework, check recalls, and don’t buy a crib resale. Most cribs these days are convertible, and I recommend choosing one that becomes the footboard and headboard of a twin bed rather than one that converts to a toddler bed. Having a toddler means that you will inevitably end up in their bed many nights. Rather than folding your body in half to sleep in a toddler bed, go straight to the twin bed and put up bed rails for safety.

•Bassinet—I go back and forth about bassinets because they’re pretty expensive for a bed that you’ll only use for two months or so. The most cost-effective bet is to share one between friends or family members, or to use the bassinet attachment on the Pack n Play. (Note: In recent months, there have been recalls of bassinet attachments on some Pack n Play models, so do a quick Google search of the various brands before registering.)

•Pack n Play—All brands are all pretty similar, but I highly recommend getting one with a bassinet attachment and diaper changing station to have sleeping and changing areas available in your bedroom or living room. These fold down easily for travel. Also register for a few Pack n Play sheets to swap out.

•Pack n Play sheets—These are sold separately from the Pack n Play. Don’t bother with the changing pad cover for the Pack n Play diaper changing attachment, because it’s already vinyl and easy to clean.

•Moses basket—Optional. These work for the early months, can be used in place of a bassinet, and are pretty portable. But do not bother with this if you have pets. They basically look like pet beds, and you won’t be able to keep your animal out of it.

•Ultimate Crib Sheet—This snaps over the crib mattress or bedding so that when the baby wets through or poops on it, you don’t have to take everything off. But if your crib doesn’t have openings on the corners, these won’t work because they need to be able to fit around a post. Opt for a fitted sheet if you can’t use the Ultimate Crib Sheet. It works fine, it’s just harder to remove  for washing.

•Monitor—One brand or another doesn’t matter too much. The standard audio monitors work just fine, but know yourself. Video monitors offer peace of mind and prevent you from peeking in and risking waking the baby when you just want to check on them. Will you be a peeker? Get the video. When they’re older, you can turn it on to see if they’re tearing their room apart.

•Itzbeen Baby Care Timer—A portable, hand-held little timer with buttons so you can keep track of your baby’s schedule for diaper changes, feedings, and sleep. Here’s how it works—you change the baby’s diaper, and push the Itzbeen diaper button to start the timer. Baby fell asleep? Hit the ZZZ’s button. Then when you wake up to cries in the middle of the night, you consult the itzbeen to see what it’s time for. It keeps track of your baby’s schedule so, in your sleep-deprived haze, you don’t have to. There are plenty of apps that serve this same function, so you can always go that route, but I liked having the Itzbeen as a separate device. My phone was already used as a white noise machine, so between that and email and phone calls, it was pretty overloaded already.

Carriers

•Snugglies—People go both ways on carriers. Some babies love them—I wore my Baby Bjorn almost nonstop for the first four months of my baby’s life because it was the only way to have my hands free—but some people (and babies) aren’t into them. Baby Bjorn and ERGO baby are the two big brands, and both are great. Baby Bjorn is better for infants; ERGO, with its more backpack-like straps, makes it a lot easier to carry older babies.

•Maya Wrap or Moby Wrap—There is a passionate cult following surrounding these wraps, which can be adjusted to use for tiny infants or older babies. Adjusting the slings requires some origami skill, and the instruction DVD is only somewhat helpful. If you can figure out how to use it, it can be a lifesaver. The best bet is to find a mom who has one (or an employee at a baby store) and have her set it up it for you.

Activities and entertainment

•Vibrating/bouncy chair—This is a nice place to put the baby when you’d like to have a meal with both hands. Eat with hands, bounce with foot.

•Activity mats—Do you enjoy such activities as eating or using the bathroom? Well, a baby gym will allow you to do so while home with an infant. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, an activity mat or baby gym is basically a piece of fabric covered with arches, from which dangle all manner of mirrors, musical toys, and other nonsense to keep baby happy.) There are a lot of varieties, and any one will do. Why are they so expensive? No idea. But they are worth it. Babies love to stare up at them and supposedly they’re good for sensory development, so you don’t have to feel guilty about setting junior down for a while.

•Exersaucer—Plan on continuing to eat and use the bathroom as the baby gets older? Then you need to graduate to one of these.  The EvenFlo Exersaucer Triple Fun Jungle blew my kid’s mind. He chewed it, talked to it, laughed at it, smacked it. It’s stimulating, keeps the baby entertained, and you can briefly leave the room knowing they’re safe (and stuck) in there.

•Swings—The Fisher Price My Little Lamb Cradle and Swing takes up a lot of floor space, but it was the only way to get my baby to sleep the first eight weeks of his life. Whatever model you choose, get a papasan swing that changes directions. Some kids want to swing side-to-side, some front-to-back. But if you’re going to be on the move a lot (or don’t have a lot of floor space,) a portable swing will make more sense.

•SoftSpot playmat—I registered for this on a whim, and it has been one of our favorites. (Register for the mat and the cover, sold separately.) It’s a perfect soft surface when baby is learning to roll over or crawl, and now my toddler uses it as his home base in our playroom. It also folds up easily and has a handle so you can take it outside or to the park.

•Sophie the Giraffe—Alright, this is hardly a necessity. But somehow, everyone has this teether. It’s cute, your kid will love it, and s/he can keep up with Baby Jones next door.

Diaper time

•Changing pad and at least two changing pad covers

•Diaper pail—Gross but necessary. In my opinion, Diaper Genies aren’t all they are cracked up to be. I prefer the Arm and Hammer diaper pail. Our baby’s room smells at least 50 percent less like dirty diapers since we purchased it.

•Diaper bag—All baby stores have a selection, if limited. Try Zappos or DiaperBags.com for more choices.

•Diapers—Throw some on the registry for a starter stack, in a combination of newborn and 1 sizes. Don’t go overboard with the newborn diapers until your baby is born. Bigger babies outgrow them in two weeks.

•Diaper sacks—Register for Arm and Hammer diaper sacks, which clip to the diaper bag, or Sassy Diaper sacks for when you are at a friend’s house and don’t want to stink up their trash.

•Changing table organization—Basket, or a hanging organizer, it doesn’t matter, just have something to keep diapers and wipes nearby.

•Cloth diapers—I don’t have a lot of experience here, but if you plan on using them, start out with a specialty boutique that allows you to try a few different types of cloth diapers before committing to purchasing too many of one kind.

Bath time

•Baby tub—These are all pretty similar. A plastic tub and/or an inflatable tub both do the trick.

•Kneeler—A kneeler for the bathroom floor saves your knees.

•Bath towels/washcloths—It’s handy to have at least two towels, and 10 or so washcloths because they’re like socks in the laundry. They disappear.

Furniture

•A lot of baby furniture is a complete rip off. Putting the word “baby” in front of furniture has the same effect as adding the word “wedding” to flowers—the price doubles. I am much more a fan of investing in quality furniture and adapting it for the kid years. For instance, buy a nice bureau and put a removable changing table on top. That said, if you aren’t ready to choose investment pieces, try IKEA. Sure, it won’t last, but at least the price will be commensurate with the quality.

•Rocking chair—Which one you choose depends on your style, but think long-term and choose one you can re-appropriate in a different room once your child is older. One of my favorites is the Best chair, which is super comfortable and comes in a variety of fabric choices. No, it isn’t cheap, but if you have it upholstered in colors that match your décor, you can move it downstairs when you’ve retired from the baby business.

Layette

•Baby clothes—It’s unnecessary to register for baby clothes because everybody loves shopping for tiny clothes, and you’ll likely get plenty to last you through the first few months. But do make sure you have at least a few packs of utilitarian white onesies and sleep sacks for day to day.

•Blankets—See above. Totally unnecessary to register for them (unless there are one or two that match your décor) because people will get them for you.

•Kiddopatomus SwaddleMe—These work great for infants. When you put a baby on their back to sleep, they flail and wake themselves up. This swaddle stops that. Get several of these in different sizes. They will change your life in the first six weeks.

•Hats/socks—Have a handful of infant hats and tiny socks on hand for going outdoors in the first few months.

Sundries

•Humidifier—Any old kind will do.

•Diaper rash cream

•Dreft laundry soap for baby clothes

•Vicks baby rub for colds

•Baby ice packs

•Johnson’s soothing vapor bath

•Infant Tylenol

•Baby nail clippers

•Baby nose bulb

•Baby shampoo

•Baby lotion

Don’t bother with…

•Bottle warmer—Scam. You don’t need it. Just microwave a glass of water for 20 seconds, then float the bottle in the warm water. For free.

•Shopping cart cover—The world is a germ. You can’t really fight it. I don’t think a shopping cart cover protects the baby that much, and it’s another thing to carry around. If you’re worried, keep some hand sanitizer in the diaper bag and swipe baby’s hands before and after shopping.

•Baby wipe warmer—Totally unnecessary, unless you are keeping your wipes in a meat locker.

•Mirror for the car—It seems like a good idea to be able to spy at the backwards-facing baby in the car, but none of these mirrors really work right and can actually become dangerous projectiles in an accident. Skip it.

•White noise machine—Babies love white noise, yes, but just download white noise onto an iPod or smartphone and use that instead. If you really want one, the Cloud B Gentle series (a giraffe, sheep, or dolphin) is cute and attaches to the side of the crib.