Raising a baby is a big job - and there are so many things you'll need, but may not think about until you actually do. I've been there, and let me tell you: you don't want the added stress of running to the store when everything else is going crazy. That's why I've put together this list of the most important items for your baby registry - and some brief explanations of why you'll need each item.
What Is A Baby Registry?
A Baby Registry is a list of products you need for your child. The list is "registered" at one or more stores, and friends or family who want to support you can ask the store what you still need. The registry is not a wish-list of expensive things you want to have - it should focus on the essentials and things that will genuinely make your life easier, even if they're only a few dollars.
When Should I Register For My Baby?
Most people register around the time they find out their child's gender (since that impacts some of the things you'll need to get). This usually happens around 20 weeks into pregnancy. Several months may sound like enough time to get everything in order, but it'll go by faster than you think - if you're planning to have a kid, it's never too early to start getting the things you'll need.
Where Should I Register Things For My Baby?
That's up to you. Most stores that sell baby supplies allow you to register with them, and you can make a choice after considering factors like how close the store is, how complete its inventory is, and how expensive the store is when compared to your other options.
Most people only register one or two lists - and there's no need to register the same list in multiple stores. That makes it harder to keep track of what you've already gotten.
What Should I Register For My Baby?
You should register most or all of the products below - following good judgment, of course. Remember, the registry is what you want to get from a particular store. If you already have a plan to get something, you don't need to register it.
(As a rule of thumb, you can usually find used versions of permanent items like cribs. Disposable and time-sensitive items like diapers and food, on the other hand, should always be registered.)
When Should I Actually Get Things From My Registry?
It's best to have everything before your child is born. The last thing you want to do is get home from the hospital and realize you forgot to set up a crib. The time just after your first child's birth will be busier than you ever imagined, and the more you can set up beforehand, the better off you'll be.
The Baby Registry Checklist
Here are the most important items you should get. For your convenience, I've sorted these into several major categories.
These are the largest (and most fun) items you'll need to get.
Crib Set: A crib set includes the crib itself, a mattress, a mattress cover (expect leaks), and crib sheets. Together, these provide a safe place for your baby to sleep when they're not with you, making them easily one of the most important items on this list. Make sure the sheets can be properly secured and won't come loose no matter how much your child moves.
Infant Car Seat: Your baby will be going on a lot of trips, whether it's to the doctor for checkups or just out with you to the store. Infant car seats ensure they'll be safe on the trip. Remember, they face backward - this provides additional protection.
Stroller: As great as babies are to hold, you won't want to carry them forever. Strollers (and baby carriers) make it much easier to visit the places you want to go to. You don't need this quite as early as the other items on this list, but you should get one at some point.
Changing Table: Babies need to be changed - often. Until they're old enough to be toilet-trained, you're going to have to handle every cleanup. Having a dedicated table for changing their diaper makes things much easier. Note that some of these come as dressers, with drawers to hold supplies.
Changing Pad: This should go right on top of the changing table, soaking up moisture and being changed as necessary.
Rocker or Glider: These items help babies fall asleep - something you're not going to fully appreciate until you realize just how little sleep you'll be getting.
Storage Bins: You should have 2-4 storage bins in your nursery. Personally, I recommend color-coding them so you can quickly find supplies of a given type. Try to keep supplies in their own boxes if you can - this helps keep them clean.
Sleep Sack: A Sleep Sack is a blanket-like enclosure that can keep your baby warm while they're sleeping. In other words, they're blankets that can be tied around your child - and this is important because babies can suffocate on loose blankets and the like. There should be no loose items in the crib.
High Chair: A high chair makes feeding easier at home - especially when your baby is too big to easily hold all the time. Your baby doesn't care how high they are, so make sure the chair you get is set to a comfortable height for you. (This is a detail many people overlook but trust me, you don't want to be bending over for every meal.)
Hamper: Your baby needs clean clothes on a regular basis, even with diapers that catch the worst of the mess. A private hamper lets you keep their clothes separated. If necessary, add more hampers for different types of clothes. It's easier to sort clothes when throwing them into hampers than it is to try and sort them when you're putting them in the wash.
Diaper Pail: Diaper pails provide a safe place to dispose of the many dirty diapers your house is about to have. There will be too many for you to want to walk out to a bigger garbage can every time you're changing them, so a dedicated pail is a must.
Second only to your baby's immediate safety is their need for food.
Bottles: You should have 6-8 baby bottles, and chances are you'll go through several each day. You don't need more than one, but having several bottles allows you to prepare several at the same time and save yourself some trouble. The nipples on top should be replaced as-needed. Bottle warmers will help ensure the milk or formula is at the correct temperature.
Bottle Storage and Drying Rack: Each bottle needs to be cleaned after use - having a dedicated rack for storage and drying makes it much easier to keep track of where they are. Similarly, you'll need a bottle brush and some sterilizer for the actual cleaning. Some people like chemicals, while others use electric sterilization equipment.
Pacifiers: You should have 2-4 pacifiers for your baby. They'll want to be sucking on something most of the time, and pacifiers have the added benefit of keeping them a little quieter.
Breast Pumps: If you want to feed your child milk instead of formula, a full breast pump set makes it easier to feed them at the best times. This includes the pump itself, breast pump accessories for the model you choose, a breast pump bottle set, and breast pump storage bags to keep everything together and ensure you can feed on the go.
Burp Cloths: Five or six burp cloths will help clean up messes coming from the mouth. The best burp cloths are made of absorbent materials like flannel and will quickly suck up liquid when your baby spews it out. (Not if. When.)
Bibs: Bibs are there to keep your baby clean when you start feeding them. They're not as important when your baby is drinking from a bottle, but by the time you get to spoon-feeding them solid stuff, they're a must.
Food Processor: If you don't already have a food processor, get one. These quickly puree solid foods into soft meals that are easy for your baby to eat. I also recommend getting a book of recipes - this will ensure your child continues to get the right balance of nutrition.
Eating Supplies: Plates, spoons, storage trays, containers... everything is important when it's time to feed your kid.
Health and Safety
Each of these is critical to your baby's overall health, so make sure you have all of them well before delivery. Make sure to practice with them, too, so you aren't scrambling to learn them when you're already harried and distracted.
Sensitive Laundry Detergent: Babies have special needs for clothing, and sensitive laundry detergent helps ensure their clothes won't start to become itchy.
Healthcare Kit: Available at most places selling baby supplies, healthcare kits offer a wide variety of checkup and treatment items in case your baby gets hurt.
Baby Thermometer: Babies get sick easily, and a thermometer will help you determine what's an illness and what's just normal baby behavior.
Humidifier: Newborns should be kept in a room with between 30% and 60% humidity. Make sure the humidity does not exceed 60% since that can trigger mold growth, allergic reactions, and other problems.
Outlet Caps: These should be placed over every outlet in every room the baby will be in - except for those actually being used, at least. For most houses, this means 18 or more caps.
Baby Gate: Most babies start crawling between 7 and 10 months, so you don't really need this earlier than 6 months (for the early birds). Once babies can walk or crawl, they will zoom everywhere they can. Installing a gate helps keep them where you want them to be.
White Noise Machine: White noise is one of the best ways of calming babies down and drowning out exterior noises that might wake them and cause them to start crying. I recommend an independent machine - white noise apps exist for smartphones and tablets, but do you really want to leave that in the baby's room, running at full power, all the time? I didn't think so.
Nightlight: A mild light for the baby's room is critical for checking up on them. They also ensure that monitoring systems work. Speaking of...
Baby Monitor: A remote video monitor can help you see if your baby actually needs attention... and it'll work from anywhere in the house.
Nasal Aspirator: Nasal Aspirators help you suck snot out of your baby's nose. Trust me: you're going to need one of these.
There are many other items you'll need to get. Here are the most important:
Diapers:Lots. You may need to change them 10 or more times per day for the first month, and some estimates figure you'll go through 2500-3000 in a year. We recommend starting with at least 500.
Layette: Your newborn's first set of clothes. They'll also need other clothes (including seasonally-appropriate onesies, pants, sleepers, socks, and so forth), so be sure to have those ready as well.
Cleaning Supplies: Wipes (about as many as the diapers), a diaper pail, refills for the diaper pail, shampoo and body wash, baby lotion, washcloths, towels, tub toys, a hairbrush, a bath kneeler, nail clippers, and a hooded towel are all must-haves.
Toys And Learning Items: Absolute must-haves. It's really never too early to start reading to your child. Aside from education, this will also help them develop language skills and better understand what you want them to do.
What To Skip
Believe it or not, there are a few items to skip registering for. These include:
Wipe Warmers: Wipes rarely need to be warmed up. If it really does seem too cold, use your hands to warm it.
Baby Shoes: Babies shouldn't have shoes (no matter how cute they are!) until they're ready to walk around.
Friends and family may recommend items not on this list - but only listen to people who have actually cared for a child of their own. Other people might mean well, but they don't have the personal experience necessary for good advice. Don't be afraid to go over your registry with the store, either - they can help you pick specific items.
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