Affiliate Disclaimer

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases (as well as a few other programs too)

This site has fallen into more-or-less abandoned status but we leave it up since the underlying basic info (we hope) is still useful and interesting. The links to specific products are beginning to die out but you should be aware that they are generally affiliate links. We've always had a disclaimer on the side of the page, but this is a bit more prominent. Enjoy your slightly-out-of-date content.

Registry Essentials

When getting ready for our first baby I had to battle a major internal conflict.  The side of me that is a planning planner who likes to plan a lot was in major conflict with the terrified side of me who kept picturing the worst (coming home from the hospital without a baby into a house fully decked out for her arrival). Also, our family is Jewish and there is an old Jewish tradition against acquiring baby things in advance (obviously when this tradition met the 21st century, it largely dissipated).  So the way we ended up solving the puzzle was to acquire only a few key things in advance. We borrowed other things our friends and co-workers wanted out of their houses, picked up some stuff that was on deep discount, and registered for the rest.  Once the baby was born, my sister hosted a baby shower/welcome baby party where we received all the adorable things we had been lovingly selecting for the previous months.  As a result, this list is broken up into those categories.

So here is our practical advice on what you need and what you can skip, with a focus on saving precious city living space and your sanity while adjusting to life with baby. And with that, happy shopping and don't panic - you can't ruin your baby's life with the wrong brand sheets.


What to have in your apartment before baby comes

This is the absolute barest minimum list of things you should have in your house before you bring home the baby even if you are crazy superstitious or a "fly by the seat of your pants" type.
  1. 1. At least 1 ready, safe place for the baby to sleep.  This can be a bassinet, a co-sleeper, a pack n play, or a crib (full size or mini).
    1. a. An appropriate mattress for the sleeping situation you picked. 
    2. b. At least some basic waterproofing (for example, full mattress cover or waterproof pad, or better yet both).
    3. c. At least 2 sheets (one on the bed and one in the closet for an urgent change).
    4. First night home in bassinet and muslin blanket swaddle.
  2. 2. A baby thermometer.

  3. 3. An infant carseat.

  4. 4. 2 washed, clean outfits in 0-3 months size. (No baby has ever been harmed by being too small for their outfit and this size is likely to fit even the surprise 10lbs at birth babies.)

  5. 5.  If you're having a winter baby, some appropriate weather gear such as warm, versatile blanket.

  6. 6. At least 2 muslin blankets.  These babies are great  because they can be used as swaddles, nursing covers, burp clothes, sunshades, and probably a million other things.
  1. 7.  At least 1 package of diapers and wipes. Frankly, I recommend having a package each of newborn and size 1 diapers.  If your baby is average sized, you'll use the size 1's eventually.  If you have a particularly large baby, you won't be left in the lurch and can donate (or return) the newborn sized diapers. Regardless of your planning situation, you don't need to go overboard on stocking up on newborn sized diapers since you'll be able to bring home some of those, as well as wipes, from the hospital.
  1. 8. A copy of Baby 411.

What you need for your first 3 months with baby (i.e. register, borrow, steal, or pick out in advance & order at the hospital)

This list assumes you already acquired the stuff above in some fashion.  Here are the other things you need for life with baby.
  1. 1. Stroller.

  2. 2. Stroller accessories. (The list below is in order of importance, from most to least.)
    1. a. Rain cover.
    2. b. Car seat adapter (if applicable).
    3. c. Cup holder for parent.
    4. d. Stroller toy.

  3. 3. Carrier.  I would recommend both an unstructured and a structured one, but at least one or the other.

  4. 4. Diaper bag (whether you buy a new one or re-purpose an existing bag), complete with on the go wipes dispenser and changing pad (if it didn't come with your bag or you didn't buy one). 

  5. 5. Bathing equipment. (The list below is in order of importance, from most to least.)
    1. a. Bath tub.
    2. b. Baby soap. (Go for dye free.  To paraphrase our favorite baby book authors "if it smells good, you probably shouldn't put it on your baby.")
    3. c. Hooded towels.  You can get large ones that will fit your child up through the toddler years.  Or a set of baby and toddler ones.
    4. d. Baby washcloths.
    5. e. Something with which to pour water over your baby.
    6. f. Kneeling pad.

  1. 6.  Really basic first aid stuff
    1. a. Diaper rash cream.
    2. b. Children's Tylenol
    3. c. Saline
    4. d. Cotton pads
    5. e. Q-tips
    6. f. Neosporin

  1. 7. Baby monitor.
  3. 8. Eleven million more muslin blankets (somewhere in the 6-10 range is probably a good start).
  1. 9. Sleep sacks & swaddles.  This one is a bit tricky since it's hard to know in advance what kind of preferences your baby will have. However, your baby will likely eventually move to a sleep sack, so you can error on the side of getting 2 bigger ones.  You can also get some swaddles that give you a lot of options in one (i.e. arms in or out, multiple baby size configurations). The Nested Bean 2-in-1 Zen Swaddle is a really great, high quality example of such an item. And don't forget to consider what you need to do to set up a comfy sleep environment for the baby.

  2. 10. Baby clothes hangers. (You can never have too many hangers.)

  3. 11. Seasonally appropriate weather gear.
    1. a. for summer: a sun hat and sunscreen.
    2. b. for winter: a snowsuit.

  4. 12. Bibs.  Technically you'll likely not need these until later (i.e. when you start solid foods).  However if you have a baby who spits up a lot these may come in handy.  Either way you'll use them eventually so why not get some now.

  5. 13. Baby grooming kit.  Obviously lots of kids are born bald but eventually your kid will have hair and you may want to comb it.  Also many babies are born with talon like nails and those can be a doozy to deal with.  Something like this and this should cover it.

  6. 14. Playmat. Frankly, babies don't need any other toys.  However, like with clothes, people will just get you stuff, so sometimes it's better to get out ahead of things and register for things that don't suck.  Some things that don't suck in order of need/age of use: 
    1. a. Mobile (make sure the things face DOWN WHERE THE BABY IS, not out where you are).
    2. b. Soft books.
    3. c. Rattles.
    4. d. Teethers.
    5. e. Shape sorter.
    6. f. Stacking cups.

  7. 15. Pacifiers and pacifier clips.

  8. 16. A station to change baby's diaper, complete with a diaper pail and refills (handy to keep the smell under control if you live in a small space and/or don't want to run every poopy diaper out to a garage you don't have). Also good to get is a changing pad.  You can keep it permanently on your changing table, or move it around the house as a kind of portable station for the baby.The Keekaroo Peanut Diaper Changer is a really high quality option that just wipes clean.  Otherwise you can get a fairly cheap contoured changing pad and roughly 3 washable change pad covers.

  9. 17. Things to store and clean bottles.  (Even if you are the breastfeeding champion of the world, you'll probably eventually give your child a bottle of expressed milk.  So you may as well get your kitchen ready for that.)

  10. 18. Cleaning supplies.
  12. 19. Stuff to make baby food (if you're into that sort of thing).
  1. 20. A word on baby clothes. If you're setting up a registry and have strong preferences about baby clothes, it's a good idea to pick out ones you like and encourage people to buy from there. (I would recommend registering for 6 month sized clothes and even bigger as well - I promise your baby will grow faster than you can imagine. Also focus on basics like footies and onsies because the gift items that others will pick for you will likely be adorable and impractical in equal measure.)  However, no matter what you do (REALLY) people will shower you with clothes that you didn't ask for, so keep this in mind when doing your own shopping.  Also if you have any friends with kids, I guarantee you they will be thrilled to bestow their used baby clothes on you. Add to the above the fact that it's difficult to predict what size baby you'll have, I would say you can skip worrying about clothes too much (other than asking for hand-me-downs).
  3. 21. Swings, bouncers, and bears, oh my! - This one is kind of hard to predict because it's extremely baby dependent.  Both my children loved swings.  One loved the bouncer (but only the kind with things to kick with the feet, not bat with the hands).  The other baby couldn't care less about the bouncer.  We never actually purchased new any of the 3 (!!!) swings or two bouncers we ended up using between the two children.  We were able to borrow hand-me-downs from friends and I'm so glad we did.  The only exception to this was the swing we bought off Craigslist when our chunker of a son kept wanting to use it past the recommended weight limit of the borrowed swings. So if you're keen to buy, I would recommend getting the Fisher-Price Snugabunny Cradle 'N Swing and pretty much any bouncer.  But honestly, this is the kind of thing you can almost certainly borrow or get of Craiglist after you've determined that your baby loves your friends' version.

Thoughts on getting ready to breastfeed.

This one is hard since it's difficult to predict whether you'll have mega success or mega frustration on the nursing front (remember no one can pick out the breastfed babies in kindergarten, I promise). But here are some things you'll likely need that you may want to think about in advance. (As usual, the list is from most to least important.)
  1. 1. Pick a pump.  You don't need to buy one in advance, but I do implore you to do your research here. Some hospitals allow you to choose one on site and go home with it.  This is great but really overwhelming if you haven't thought about it in advance.  Also, the ACA requires health insurance companies to pay for a breast pump for all new moms.  This is fantastic but it doesn't mean that all insurance companies cover all pumps, far from it. So it's important to research which brands/circumstances etc. are covered by your insurance. But in case you're curious I use a Medela Pump in Style, both at home and work (I have 2), occasionally with Freemie pump adapters. I have also used the Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Breast Pump extensively but majorly prefer the Medela Pump in Style.

  2. 2. Make a list of lactation consultants with contact information in your area that accept your insurance.  This is a fantastic task to hand to your partner before your delivery.  And really, put together the resource list in advance - 3am and screaming baby is not a good place for rational thought.

  3. 3. A Nursing Pillow.  This one can be SUPER helpful in those early days of nursing.  So I would vote to have one ready for you when you get home with baby.  However, this is also something you can often arrange to borrow from a friend or get cheaply on Craigslist.

  4. 4. Some nursing tank tops and other clothes that are both comfy and allow you to expose yourself at a moment's notice.

  5. 5. Nursing pads. Many (though not all) women leak milk either all the time or when they think about their baby (i.e. all the time).  My sister got me a box of disposable ones she loved using, but in the end I found washable ones much more comfy (totally a matter of personal preference).

  6. 6. Nursing cover.  Convenient if you want to leave the house with the baby but don't want to
    flash the world yet (you may get there).  Also, one of the times I fed my baby in the park without one and I got mega sunburn on my boob... just sayin'.

  7. 7. If you're registering, feel free to throw in some odds and ends like supplies for cleaning your pump at work, some way for your partner to heat milk when he's out solo with baby, and a box to organize your freezer stash (you'll likely be able to return them unopened if it doesn't work out).

What you and your baby don't need...

  1. 1, Mamaroo - Seriously I've never heard of someone's baby loving it and given how expensive it is, I say definitely pass.

  2. 2. Bottle sterilizer - healthy full term babies do not need to use sterile bottles.  Soap and water (or your dishwasher) do just fine.

  3. 3. Bottle warmer - Just heat water in a kettle or the microwave, pour in a bowl and place the bottle in the bowl.

  4. 4. Wipes warmer - I think this exists to troll new parents.

  5. 5. Bath temperature checker - I will admit that we totally fell for this.  Learn from us - you don't need it because you own an excellent one already called "your skin".  Does the water temperature feel good on your skin? Great - go ahead and place the baby in the bath!

  6. 6. Baby powder - this is no longer recommended for use with babies.

  7. 7. A baby food maker.

  8. 8. Quilt or blanket - no longer recommended for use with babies. Swaddles and sleepsacks are a safer way to go.

  9. 9. Shoes - babies are little meat loaves, they're not going anywhere on their feet for a good 8-9 months.

Things we haven't covered but hope to soon!

  1. 1. Furniture for baby.

  2. 2. So really, how much clothing does a baby need?

  3. 3. Which toys are good for baby? (Hint: not the electronic ones).

  4. 4. Stuff your slightly older baby (6 month old) might need but you may as well pick out and/or register for now.

  5. 5. Where and why to register (even if you are super very sure that no one will buy things for you).