A dad’s attempt at a practical baby registry guide

Just a few months after finding out I was going to be a dad, I was laid off from my job and suddenly had a lot of free time on my hands. I could have spent that time job hunting (and I did do a lot of that) but my mind was fixated on the impending birth of my first child so I set to work researching every little possible item we could buy in preparation. What I immediately learned is that there are infinite things you can buy and infinite versions of those infinite things and infinite opinions about which/when/why you should buy anything. It’s stupidly overwhelming and unhelpful and impossible to figure out who to trust. I put this guide together in hopes of simplifying the registry making process and maybe making it a little less daunting.

So below is a slightly organized list of everything we bought (or I had thoughts about buying) in preparation to have a baby and some explanations as to why I would or would not recommend buying it. Throughout the list, I’ve linked to Amazon items to make it easier to add them to your registry, but you’ll be surprised to find how easy it is to find most of this stuff can secondhand¬† via Facebook Marketplace or your local consignment baby store.

The Must-Haves from the beginning

There’s a lot of stuff you need eventually, but not immediately so this is the stuff I recommend you have from day 1.

Beds (Pack’n’Play/Crib/Bassinet/Snoo): The long-story short of it is you don’t need anything more than a pack ‘n play until like 2-3 years old. So why get anything more? A bassinet is nice because it’s raised much higher off the ground and that will save you a lot of back pain from picking the baby up and putting them back down to sleep over and over. Cribs are nice kinda just because they’re fun to have in the baby’s bedroom (we have one, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t ended up using it for years simply because our baby sleeps in a pack’n’play that’s closer to our bedroom). If you haven’t heard of a Snoo, it’s a smart bassinet that rocks your baby to sleep automatically and I’m not exaggerating when I say it will change your (sleep) life (see below).

pack ‘n play: 4moms Breeze Plus – We got this pack ‘n play because it includes a bassinet and changing table, is super light weight, and extremely portable. I love it and still think it’s the best option for an all-in-one solution especially if you don’t plan to buy any of the other bed options. If you buy a pack ‘n play, you’ll also need some fitted sheets (for the sake of safe-sleep, get sheets that fit well so they won’t accidentally come off in the middle of the night).

Crib: DaVinci Autumn 4-in-1 Convertible Crib – We bought this crib because it looks really good and supposedly converts all the way up to a full-size bed. So even if we prefer the pack’n’play while the baby is small, the crib won’t go to waste. If you’re getting a crib, you’ll also need a mattress and sheets (you can get way cheaper ones than these–I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes went a little overboard finding the fanciest options for my registry).

Snoo – We went from sleeping in 2 hour chunks for a max of 6 hours per night to sleeping 8-10 hours without disruption. The Snoo is very expensive ($1270 new as of writing this), but what a lot of people do (including us) is buy it used on Facebook Marketplace (~$600-$800) and then resell it because it holds its value very well. After reselling our Snoo, the net cost was $100 and that was well worth the 4 months of excellent sleep we got from it.

Bassinet: Chicco – This was a hand-me-down and we wouldn’t have bought it ourselves, but we did end up liking it as an extra bed we could move anywhere in the house.

Carseat/Stroller: Also called a “travel system”, these two things are often bought together because most infant car seats snap into certain compatible strollers. This is really just a convenience thing, but being able to pop your baby in a car seat, drive somewhere, and then pop them in a stroller without ever having to take them in and out of the seat is very nice and is my recommendation if it’s in your budget. All that to say, there’s a cheaper option which is to just get a convertible carseat and an infant stroller.

A convertible car seat is one that converts from rear-facing (for younger babies) to front-facing (when the kid gets a little older) and it works for all ages (newborn – 8? years). The downside to the convertible carseat is that it’s a lot harder to get in and out of your car whereas an infant car seat can be snapped in and out of the car without disturbing the baby (which is extremely convenient when your baby falls asleep in the car [and they will]). It’s much larger and harder to move to other cars (think Uber) and can’t snap into a stroller. Lastly, if you do get an infant carseat, you don’t need to buy the convertible carseat for like 1.5 years or until the baby grows out of the infant carseat. So whether you buy both infant and convertible carseats or just get the convertible carseat is up to you and your budget.

Note 1: Everyone will tell you not to buy a used car seat and the reason is 2 fold: 1) it could have been in an accident which would make it ineffective (like a bike helmet that was in a crash) and 2) carseats have an expiration date. 1 seems pretty legit, but I have a hard time believing 2 is legit and not just a marketing ploy. All this said, used carseats are hella cheap so if you’re confident it wasn’t in an accident previously, it could be a very good money saving option.

Note 2: If you want to have a stroller for the first 6 months of your baby’s life, you need to make sure it’s designed for newborns. Jogging strollers, for example, often don’t provide neck support and don’t recline far enough (especially for running). However, infant carseats are always safe for your newborn so if you go with a travel system then you don’t have to worry about it.

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat – Haven’t used it yet, but it has great safety reviews and is specially designed to allow the kid to be rear-facing for longer than usual which is considered much safer. Also, middle of the road in terms of price.

Chicco KeyFit 30 – Had some of the highest safety ratings and fits stroller linked below. There’s also a Chicco KeyFit 35 that’s a bit more expensive and features an anit-rebound bar, but I’m not convinced that that’s very important.

Chicco Viaro – If you’re going to get the KeyFit 30, this is the stroller that matches it. It folds down very easily and has plenty of space underneath for carrying stuff like groceries. We use ours all the time and don’t have any complaints.

Diapers: We went cloth so if you’re going disposable I can’t help you here. There are a lot of cloth diaper options out there, but we went with Esembly because they seemed to be the most blow-out/leak resistant and their prints are so cute. We got 24 inner diapers and 8 outer diapers in each size (they have 2 sizes) which was enough to last about 2.5 days between each laundry load. The upfront cost isn’t cheap (I think we paid ~$1,000 total for all of the diapering stuff), but supposedly you save money in the long run by never having to buy disposable diapers (plus sustainability and waste reduction and stuff). There’s a lot to say about cloth diapers so if you’re on the fence and want to know more, let me know.

Wipes: Nothing special here, but you need a lot of them. We like our Pampers Sensitive Wipes.

Diaper Rash Cream: Apply at the first sign of redness because you don’t want a full-on rash to deal with! We loved our Esembly Rash Cream but it’s probably more expensive than it needs to be. I’ve also heard great things about Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. I’d recommend just buying one and then getting more if you like it.

Clothes: For the first 2 months, keep it super simple: 6-8 zippered, footed onesies and 20 cloth bibs. That’s it. You’re going to be super tired all the time and zippers are easy even at 4AM when it’s dark. Just trust me when I say that trying to line the right snaps up at 4AM when you’re sleep deprived is a certain type of hell. The bibs are great because your baby is probably going to be spitting up everywhere and they’re much easier and quicker to change than a whole outfit. (For later clothes, see below)

Breast Pump: Most insurances will help with or even cover a free breast pump, pump parts, and milk storage bags so make sure you call and talk to your insurance about what they may cover (there’s even a website that will help figure out what your insurance will cover: 1naturalway.com). I can’t speak from personal experience here, but I will say that my wife has been very happy with her Spectra S2 Plus. Make sure to also pick up a Haakaa manual pump and lots of milk storage bags.

Baby Monitor:¬†I recommend a video monitor because it’s very helpful to be able to see your baby when they’re starting to fuss at night. Being able to see them helps you know whether you’re going to need to go pick them up or if they’ll be able to soothe themselves back to sleep. We went with a Eufy Baby Monitor because of the large screen, excellent night vision, and VOX (it only turns on when it detects the baby is getting loud) and we’ve been very happy with it.

Medicine Cabinet: At this age, all you need is a thermometer, vitamin D drops, and a snot sucker. We got a Kinsa Smart Thermometer and honestly the “smart”-ness is more annoying than it’s worth so I’d go with any normal quick-read rectal thermometer (like this one). Vitamin D drops will be recommended by your pediatrician in one of the first visits so go ahead and throw that on your registry now. And lastly, for the snot sucker, most hospitals will give you one, but the NoseFrida SnotSucker is a lot easier to use.

Note: Doing rectal temperature readings with a fussy baby in the middle of the night is pretty hard so if you feel like dropping a few extra $$’s, you might also get a Braun Ear Thermometer.

Burp cloths: You need approximately 1 million burp rags so just find some with a cute print and get a lot (we like Burt’s Bees) or just use rags you have around the house.

Nice to haves from the beginning

Carriers: There are lots of different contraptions to help you carry your baby from the classic wrap to the Ergobaby. We somehow ended up with one of each so here are my thoughts. The wrap is great because it works well with newborns, providing plenty of neck support and holding them in a good position, but I didn’t find it worked well once the baby was older than 4 months. The Ergobaby is stupidly expensive but it’s great for all ages and I think it’s the most comfortable option so it’s well worth it if you can afford it. The sling ended up being my favorite option for carrying baby around the house and on short walks because it’s the easiest to get on and off, but the weight is unevenly distributed and it doesn’t work great for babies under 3 months (though they claim it does ,I just didn’t find it comfortable until my baby could hold its head up pretty well).

Bath time: You can always just do baths in just the sink/tub, but a plastic tub is pretty cheap and makes it a lot easier. For shampoo/soap just go with a simple, all-in-one soap like Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo and Wash. Everyone will also try to sell you special baby wash clothes and towels and sure they’re cute and soft, but a regular towel and wash cloth also work totally fine.

Diaper Pail: Diapers smell bad and accumulate fast so it is really nice to have a pail that reduces the smell and makes it easy to swap out new bags. Definitely not a “must have”, but we like our Diaper Dekor Plus Diaper Pail.

Car Mirror: It’s a little thing, but a baby car mirror allows you to see your baby through your rear-view mirror while your driving and that’s essential if you’re the only adult in the car.

Blankets: Having a couple muslin blankets are nice especially if you have a summer baby. Following safe-sleep guidelines, your baby won’t be able to sleep with a blanket/sheet/etc in the crib for a long time so any blankets you get are just for covering them in the car seat or when they’re sleeping on you.

Boppy Pillow: My wife loved this nursing pillow as it helps hold the baby in a much more comfortable position. It can also be used during tummy time or, once the baby is sitting, it works great to keep the baby from toppling over.

Easy Swaddles: I never learned how to do any of the fancy swaddle techniques, but we got a couple Happiest Baby Sleepea Swaddles and they worked wonders. Not all babies like being swaddled, but if yours does then you’ll love these swaddles because they’re fast and easy to put on and your baby won’t be able to wriggle out in the middle of the night.

Nightlight / Sound Machine: You can always play white noise via your phone or a speaker, but it is really nice to have a dedicated white noise + nightlight like the Hatch Rest+ because you’ll be playing white noise the entire time your baby is sleeping.

Baby Headphones: Baby ears are super sensitive. While adults aren’t supposed to be exposed to sounds over 90db for long periods of time (think lawnmower volume), babies shouldn’t be exposed to volumes over 65db for long periods of time (think vacuum)! That’s why a good set of headphones are a must have if you want to take your baby out.

Stroller Fan: This is a must have if you have a summer baby anywhere hot. Newborns are way better at handling the cold than the heat so a stroller fan can really come in handy on walks and in the car.

Changing Pad: This is more dependent on where you plan on changing your baby, but if you think you’ll want a dedicated changing station, get a changing pad and a couple changing pad covers.

Diaper Bag: If you have an extra backpack laying around, just use that. But if you don’t, there are some great diaper bags to choose from. Regardless of what you get, make sure you have a portable changing pad to keep in it (most diaper bags come with one).

The Must-Haves after ~2 months

Clothes: At this point you can get a little more creative with your clothes shopping (though I still would never recommend snaps on pajamas). We did most of our clothes shopping on Facebook Marketplace and a local consignment shop and didn’t put any clothes on our registry. Wherever you’re getting your clothes from, at the 2-3 month mark, you’ll want 6-8 onesies (long-sleeve if you’ve got a winter baby), 4 pairs of pants, 3 sweaters, 6-pack of socks, and 2-3 pajamas (warmer if you have a winter baby and lighter for a summer baby).

Tip: If you’re worried about your baby being warm enough, just remember that babies only need 1 more layer than you need so don’t overdo it with blankets and sweaters.

Pacifiers/Bottles: If you’re breastfeeding (which we did), you have to be a little careful about pacifiers (and bottles) because they can cause nipple confusion so we talked to a lactation consultant (highly recommend everyone doing that!) to get tips on which bottles and pacifiers to buy. They recommended Dr. Brown bottles and Philips Avent or Wubanub pacifiers. How many bottles you get is up to you but I’d recommend 4-6 pacifiers.

Note: A lot of people will tell you that you shouldn’t buy too many pacifiers of the same kind until you know your baby will like it so maybe just buy 1 or 2 to start with and buy more once you know your baby likes them.

Tylenol:¬†You can’t give babies Tylenol until 12 weeks, but you definitely want some on hand for managing fevers once they can get it.

The Must-Haves after ~6 months

Clothes: Just more of the same, but the next size up. I’d recommend waiting to buy anything for this size until you need them though because you’ll have a better sense of what you like.

Outlet Covers: Not the most exciting registry item, but once your baby is crawling you’ll need them.

High Chair: Once your baby is sitting up fairly well on their own, you can start putting them in a high chair during meal time. We got a Joovy Nook chair but honestly it’s overkill. The swinging tray is very convenient and it folds down better than any other chair, but it’s a little annoying to clean. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good option, but a cheaper option would also do the trick.

Teething Toys: You’ll want a few of these to have on hand once your baby starts teething. A couple classics: Munchkin Twisty Figure 8 and Sophie La Giraffe.

Tip: Keep them in the freezer for even stronger tooth pain relief.

Ibuprofen: At 6 months, your baby can now take ibuprofen which can really help if you need to control a high fever because you can switch between ibuprofen and Tylenol every 3 hours (instead of 6 if you were only able to give Tylenol).

Nice to haves after ~6 months

Full-Body Bibs: Babies are so messy when they eat which is why full-body bibs are the way to go. Get yourself 3-4 of these so you always have a clean one available.

Baby Gate: Similar to the outlet covers but more dependent on your space; Once your baby is crawling you might want a baby gate to prevent them from going in certain rooms or climbing the stairs.

Baby bowls/plates/spoons: Mostly unnecessary, but having a few bowls with suction cups on the bottom makes messy meals like yogurt or rice a lot more manageable. You can add some spoons or plates to your registry if you want some more fun things for people to buy, but they aren’t necessary until much later.

Steamer Basket: At ~6 months, if you’re doing baby-led weaning, your baby will start eating soft foods including a lot of steamed veggies and fruit. You can get a fancy baby food steamer (and we did), but it’s a waste of money and your best bet is just a good steamer basket.

A few fun books

People love giving expecting parents 2 things: stuffed animals and their favorite childhood books. So you don’t really need to add either to your registry because you’ll get them regardless, but here are a few of our favorites just in case.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (Dolly Parton will literally send you free baby books)

ABC-Deconstructing Gender by Ashley Molesso

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

My First Book of Baby Signs by Lane Rebelo

Can I Give You a Squish? by Emily Neilson

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer

Cribsheet by Emily Oster (not a baby book but a great guide to raising babies!)

Further Reading

If you don’t trust my reviews, that’s fine. Here are some much more legit and well researched sources (who may or may not be sponsored by the brands they’re recommending):

https://www.lucieslist.com/

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/baby-kid/baby/

https://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/baby-registry-guides/baby-registry-checklist/

 

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