Table of Contents
- The minimalistic approach
- Amazon & Target—convenient and cost effective!
- The best baby products: what you ACTUALLY need
- Before the baby arrives
- For the nursery
- For feeding
- Feeding items you may want to include on your registry but aren't necessary until 6 months
- Diaper change must-haves
- For bathing
- Baby clothes
- Heath products and first aid
- For travel
- Handy extras to keep baby happy
- Some helpful but non-essentials
- Postpartum essentials for mom
- If this is your second child
- Overrated baby gear: what you DON'T need
- Bottom line
There is absolutely NOTHING more overwhelming than being a new mom and trying to create a baby registry with all the "right" things.
With so many options and your newfound nesting emotions on overdrive, it's difficult to decide where to begin. The truth is, babies don't really need all that much aside from your tender love and care. To help you get started, we'll share the must-haves that are practical and actually useful.
The minimalistic approach
When it comes to creating a baby registry, there are no right or wrong answers - what you put on your list is completely up to you. Because our family moves every few years (military spouse life), we do the best we can to avoid buying anything but the essentials. After finding out we were pregnant with our first, I spent countless hours researching, reading reviews and asking fellow mommas what we actually needed for our little one's arrival. Once I weeded through the lengthy list of WHAT we needed, I checked reviews and ratings to cross-reference the cost and quality of different brands so I could make the best choice possible.
My hope is that this list will help you feel more confident and prepared for when your new bundle of joy comes home with you from the hospital.
Amazon & Target—convenient and cost effective!
You'll notice that many of the items below can be found online at Amazon or Target. This was extremely helpful because most of our friends and family live out of state. They were able to easily access my baby registry and pick, purchase and ship gifts directly to my front door.
Because the gifts arrived as they were purchased, over a few weeks, I was able to organize the nursery without feeling overwhelmed. It also minimized stress because I was able to personalize and send "Thank You" cards as each package arrived, rather than having to spend an entire afternoon writing them out.
An added bonus - discounts! When you register with Amazon or Target you're eligible to receive up to 15% off items you personally purchase off of your registry within a certain time frame of your due date.
Between the two, you really won't need to register anywhere else. They have just about every product you could possibly need and accommodate returns hassle-free.
The best baby products: what you ACTUALLY need
I waited to create this checklist until AFTER little Miss Isla arrived, so I had a chance to try each product and add anything I missed. I've updated it with some new must-have items since having our second daughter, Alana.
Before you register or buy anything for baby, take a look at this ultimate list of must-haves. You'll spend less time stressing about what you need and more time focusing on you and baby!
Before the baby arrives
- The book On Becoming Babywise.
- If you plan on sleep training or want to know about a baby’s feed/wake cycles (who knew that was even such a thing?!), this book will set you up for success. It was a game changer for us in setting Isla’s biological clock and getting her into a good routine. If you’ve read the book or just want to try it out, here’s the schedule I followed with Isla. We started working toward this goal as soon as we got home from the hospital, but you can begin at anytime. By 4 months, she was sleeping through the night.
For the nursery
- These are great for swaddling, covering baby's legs to keep them out of the sun while out for a stroll or keeping them warm while strapped in the car seat.
- Baby monitor
- We did a TON of research and have had nothing but good things to say about the VAVA Baby Monitor. The only drawback that some users expressed was the inability to check the monitor feed while you're away from home. This wasn't a deal breaker for us because it was a much more cost-effective option (no annual subscription necessary) and has allowed us to enjoy our evening, distraction free, while we have a sitter and are out on a date.
- Laundry basket
- We opted for a non-traditional, more cost effective and versatile option with a woven plastic basket from Target. Because the basket comes in a variety of sizes, we picked up a few extras to store other odds and ends in as well (books, breast pump and feeding supplies, burp cloths and bibs, etc.).
- Initially, your little one will eat 10-12 times a day. If you're purely bottle feeding, you can either stock up on bottles OR for the sake of saving space, buy two or three and wash them after each use.
- Colic: Isla had horrible, and I mean HORRIBLE, colic. Purely breastfeeding seemed to amplify her fussiness, so a friend recommended Dr. Brown's glass bottles. I introduced them to her at 4 weeks and these bottles were an absolute GAME CHANGER! Dr. Brown's bottles have a unique vent system that minimizes swallowing air bubbles to help reduce spit-up, burping and gas (ultimately lessening the symptoms of colic). If you're planning on bottle feeding, I would highly recommend trying these first. For the sake of space, we bought two 4-ounce bottles, and at 4 months, transitioned her to the larger 9-ounce bottles.
- This is another one of those "negotiable items." For the first 2 months while I was breastfeeding and my milk supply was regulating, the Haakka was a saving grace. I was able to feed Isla on one breast and suction the Haakka onto the other to collect "let down" milk so it didn't go to waste (or drip everywhere). I absolutely loved having it but only needed it until I started pumping regularly (at 2 months).
- Nursing pillow
- If you're looking for a quality nursing pillow that can be used for so much more than just feedings, the Blessed Nest Nursing Pillow is it! It's a bit more expensive, BUT it's WELL worth the money.
- Throughout my entire pregnancy I used this pillow for back and belly support (especially while sleeping).
- Upon Isla's arrival, I used it while nursing, for tummy time and eventually to help her learn to sit upright. The filling inside of this pillow is what makes it so versatile. To this day, I still use it for back support. I even use it as a lap cushion for my computer to sit on when working on the couch!
- Unlike the Boppy (which I've heard from fellow mommas is rigid and flattens out quickly), this pillow can be used WELL past your baby's infant stage. Did I mention it's made of 100% organic materials and can be tossed in the dryer to kill germs?
- One nice thing about these washable nursing pads is that they come with a carrying bag.
- We actually use our drying rack for our own water bottles and Tupperware as much as we use it for Isla's bottles.
Feeding items you may want to include on your registry but aren't necessary until 6 months
- High chair (our two favorites below)
- Peg Perego Siesta Compact Folding High Chair: Is it worth the investment? Oh, heck yes! This high chair is extremely compact and can be folded and stored out of sight. It's easy to wipe down, simple to maneuver and can be adjusted to different heights.
- Tripp Trap Chair: Because we move so often, and (to be quite honest) the fact that clutter downright stresses me out, we're constantly on the lookout for quality products that can be used beyond a few months. The Tripp Trap Chair is a bit pricey, but as your child grows, it can be adjusted to fit them until they no longer need the assistance of a strap to secure them or a raised seat to lift them to table level - we're talking age 3-4 years old! This chair allows you to dine with your kiddos, read with them and color with them from the time they sit up to well into their toddler years. It's also one of the only high chairs that promotes proper posture through ergonomic positioning, which means your little one won't be stuck slouching. This chair seats them so their hips, knees and ankles are all bent at a 90-degree angle. It's honestly a momma's dream high chair.
Diaper change must-haves
- While you don't want to stock up on a month's worth of newborn diapers just yet (believe it or not, some babies head straight into size 1's), have a box of newborn AND size 1 diapers on hand so you can determine the proper size/fit before loading up (baby poop pun intended). Our favorite brand/style is Pampers Pure Protection Disposable Baby Diapers. They're hypoallergenic and unscented.
- Pro tip: If you're adding diapers to your registry, register for multiple sizes (one box of infant, two boxes of size 1, two boxes of size 2, etc.). We registered for diapers without specifying how many boxes of each size and ended up with all newborn diapers. Unfortunately, Isla grew out of them pretty quickly and we ended up with three boxes of infant diapers that we couldn't use.
- $ saving tip: You can subscribe to Amazon's Mama Bear brand and receive up to 15% off automatic deliveries.
- We tried an array of different baby wipes. We found that most included ingredients we weren't comfortable using on our babe's virgin skin (fragrances, chlorine, petrochemicals, formaldehyde, parabens, phenols, etc.) or the wipe itself was dry and difficult to use without being abrasive. Every child's skin is different, but in our experience, Pampers Aqua Pure Sensitive Water Wipes was a cost-effective option, didn't cause irritation and had the perfect amount of moisture for wiping.
- We LOVE the Ubbi Diaper Pail because you don't have to use expensive bags or inserts. We use the same 13 gallon trash bags from the kitchen waste can for Isla's diaper pail. Your upfront investment is a tad more, but when you add up the surprisingly high cost of custom fit bags to line the pail that other brands use, you save A LOT of money by going with the Ubbi in the long run!
- Changing table and/or a changing pad
- A table isn't absolutely necessary because the top of a dresser, the kitchen counter or even the couch works fine too. If you forego the table, be sure to look for a waterproof changing pad. We weighed the pros and cons of a changing table and ended up getting one with shelves. For us (and because of the layout of Isla's room), it was the most functional option to be able to store some of her changing supplies.
- A wipeable changing pad cover is a MUST. Most changing pad covers are cloth or cotton and need to be laundered every time they're soiled because they can't be wiped off. Because the cold air can make your baby pee at a moment's notice during a diaper change (and explosive poops happen numerous times a day), a wipeable changing pad is something every mom should have.
- A diaper caddy
- For some, a diaper caddy isn't a must-have. Because I don't operate efficiently when things aren't organized (especially when I'm sleep deprived), this portable caddy has been extremely helpful. You can keep a good supply of diapers and wipes in the caddy and the rest in a closet to reload so you don't have a huge box sitting around. For those who want to forego the changing table and will just use a pad, there's certainly something to be said about the ability to quickly grab all your diaper changing essentials and run to wherever your "changing station" may be. (Blow outs have moved from a laughable possibility to a common reality.)
- Newborn to Toddler Tub
- This tub transitions with your baby as they continue to grow and can accommodate newborns, infants and toddlers. It's a great bang for your buck and space-saving option.
- Babies' skin tends to dry out extremely quickly, so after a bath, body lotion is beneficial.
- Pro tip: When Isla is super fussy after a diaper change, we use a little lotion to massage her legs and feet. (Even babies love a little leg massage!)
- Isla absolutely LOVES this hooded towel.
- 2 soft/ lightweight wash cloths or sponges
- Because baby's skin is extremely delicate
- Pro tip: If you have an infant tub with a removable sling and your baby tends to get chilly while bathing, get a washcloth wet with warm water and lay it on their belly while you wash them. This was something I discovered after having our second daughter, Alana, and really helped keep her warm and happy. Every minute or two, re-wet it and drape it over them.
- A (small) space heater
- Not an absolute necessity, but this was extremely helpful for us. After a few unsuccessful attempts to create a peaceful bathing experience (and Isla shivering and crying), a fellow momma recommended using a space heater. Turning the heater on for 5 minutes before bath time was a GAME CHANGER! Isla went from fussy to laughing and splashing with the push of a button.
Just like diapers, you have no way of knowing what size your baby will be when he or she arrives. Don't go crazy purchasing a ton of infant clothes because babies grow so quickly and don't fit in specific sizes for long. Take how often will you be doing laundry into consideration when determining how many outfits to buy.
- 10-12 onesies (a.k.a. "comfy" clothes)
- Short and long sleeve
- 5+ sleepers, footies or gowns
- Pro tip: I highly recommend sleepers with zippers, rather than buttons. It's much easier to zip your little one's outfit when changing them at 3:00 am than it is to try and line up 16 buttons.
- Pro tip: Dressy clothes may seem like a great idea at the time, but functionality overrides cuteness when you're sleep deprived, home alone and your baby's diaper needs changed every hour. Chances are you won't be leaving the house much during the first few weeks anyway.
Heath products and first aid
- Gas relief drops (safe to use after baby turns 1 month old; while they're learning to pass gas on their own, these are a lifesaver)
- Infants’ Tylenol - liquid drops
- Gentle/ hypoallergenic laundry detergent (babies' skin is extremely sensitive)
- This includes nail clippers, a file, nasal aspirator, gaspasser (who knew?!) and the Momwasher (which is an absolute essential if you deliver vaginally). No baby (or mom) should be without these genius contraptions.
- Baby thermometer
- Rectal thermometers are said to be the most accurate for infants.
- We also purchased a thermometer with ear and forehead function so everyone in the family can use it (plus, it's easy to use even if Isla is sleeping). Once she was a few months old, we were able to switch from the rectal thermometer to the one with forehead function.
- A cool mist humidifier (avoid warm mist humidifiers, they can breed bacteria)
- This hits the "negotiable list" because it's completely dependent on your baby and how often they get sick. Initially, I was skeptical about getting one, but I was extremely grateful to have one on hand the first time Isla got sick.
- We searched high and low for something that was cost effective, comfortable, spacious and one that my husband wouldn't mind wearing. We went with a backpack style diaper bag, rather than a shoulder bag, because it's easy to carry and attaches to the stroller using stroller straps.
- This is another personal "mom" preference. A lot of mommas recommended a snug seat, so I opted to try it. I found it especially helpful because it provides extra support and comfort for your baby's neck and back while in their car seat or a swing.
- Portable changing pad
- This Skip Hop Portable Changing Mat was recommended by a friend and I honestly can't say enough about it. It's fashionable, yet functional, AND machine washable. WIN, WIN!
- Baby carrier
- I researched this endlessly and found reviews on everything from the Ergo, Infinito and Tula to the Baby Bjorn. Because every baby is different, there's no one-size-fits-all carrier. Ultimately, we ended up going with the Ergobaby Omni 360 because it doesn't require an infant insert. It's lightweight, easy to put on and the back support and shoulder straps make it extremely comfortable. Oh, and did I mention it's made with mesh so it's great for us Floridians?
- If you're more of a sling-style momma, the Solly Baby wraps or a Nalakai Ring Sling Carrier are where it's at.
- This was the one piece of gear that we decided to splurge on. There are a wide range of strollers out there, but we ultimately went with the UPPAbaby Vista. It's truly a "workhorse" stroller with an incredible turn radius. The ultimate selling points were that it comes with a bassinet (amazing for going on walks with an infant and can be used as a bedside bassinet too). It converts into a double stroller infant/ toddler if you buy a Rumble Seat (for when baby #2 arrives). You can also attach the UPPAbaby VISTA PiggyBack Ride-Along Board to allow your toddler to join in the stroll, even when they are too tired to walk on their own. This has hands down been one of the best baby purchases I've made. It's well worth the investment!
- Pro Tip: These are pricey, but sometimes you can find them used on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace. Just make sure to check the year and model so your car seat is compatible.
- Pack 'n Play
- Vibrating bouncer
Handy extras to keep baby happy
- 1-2 pacifiers (BPA free)
- Pro tip: Don't go crazy buying pacifiers until you know what style nipple your baby prefers. (Yes, there are different shapes and sizes. Isla loves some and will not take others.)
- All-time BEST pacifier purchase: In addition to traditional binkies, Isla has absolutely LOVED her WubbaNub Giraffe Pacifier. The adorable stuffed giraffe that's attached gives her something soft and comforting to hold on to.
- Sophie seems a bit expensive, but she's truly the only teething toy you'll need. She's made of natural 100% hevea rubber and food-grade paint, so your baby isn't chewing on just any old plastic.
- This swing is extremely helpful with a fussy baby, whether trying to feed them or calm colic.
- We decided not to use a sound machine in Isla's nursery (I've heard horror stories of babies becoming dependent on them to sleep). But, we received this musical otter from Isla's aunt and it's been WONDERFUL at bedtime. Rather than playing music, it mimics the sound and motion of your breathing to soothe your baby. It has a night light and is snuggly and portable.
Some helpful but non-essentials
- This makes for a comfortable and convenient place for your baby while you're prepping dinner, sitting on the couch or cleaning.
- We opted for the UPPAbaby stroller which pairs perfectly with the UPPAbaby stroller organizer. Because the undercarriage in this stroller has so much space, we ended up not needing an organizer (we bought the UPPAbaby cup holder instead). But, most strollers don't have quite as much storage space... so this one is as needed.
- Clip on fan for stroller (if you live somewhere hot, like us)
Postpartum essentials for mom
Helpful after vaginal deliveries:
- This is included in the Fridababy Bundle of Joy Kit listed above.
- I HIGHLY recommend having these on hand whether you deliver vaginally or have a C-section. They're the perfect shape to comfortably fit you and, better yet, can be kept in your freezer for future use on any aches and pains.
- Pro tip: If you get the Mama Strut Pelvic Support System listed below, you won't need these.
- Mama Strut Postpartum Pelvic Support System (with ice/ heat packs).
- This compression band helps your uterus shrink back to normal size, but more importantly, it helps support your back and abdominal muscles so they can heal properly. The best part, most insurance companies cover the cost because it's an FDA registered product.
- Pro tip: I was diagnosed with diastasis recti (abdominal tearing) early on in my pregnancy. This led me to work with a pelvic floor therapist pre- and postpartum. One thing she emphasized to aid in healing was using a quality postpartum wrap, like the Mama Strut (along with doing Kegels). Until 6 weeks postpartum, I wore this thing every day!
If this is your second child
We found it extremely helpful to have a few "shiny new" things to occupy our oldest daughter, Isla, once Alana came home from the hospital. As a second-time mom, there's absolutely no harm in adding a few things to your baby registry that will help ease the transition for your oldest child. Some of our favorites:
- Isla turned two right around the time Alana was born. So that Isla had a special new routine to get excited about each morning, we hung this daily calendar on the wall in the kitchen. Every morning, we started the day with Isla peeking outside and giving a weather forecast, chatting about the temperature (is it hot today or cold?) and determining what day of the week it was. This not only made her feel special amidst the craziness of a new baby, but sparked creative play and learning on a daily basis.
- This one was a solid win. While I was breastfeeding Alana, Isla could sit next to us and "color" on her Aqua Doodle Mat. I could chat with Isla about what she was coloring without bothering her baby sister's meal. Alana got fed, Isla was happy and mommy got peace of mind that both girls were getting what they needed—without anyone feeling left out.
- This was another must-have item that really helped ease the transition. A month or two before I delivered, we got Isla a newborn baby doll. In the following weeks, we encouraged Isla to care for her baby doll by giving her a bath, changing her on her changing table, feeding her with a bottle and caring for her the way we were going to care for the baby in my belly. This was a fun activity for Isla leading up to her sister's arrival. Once Alana made her debut, Isla already had an interest in caring for babies and felt more included in the process. She would change her baby doll while I changed Alana, swaddle her, bath her, feed her and even gently pat her baby's back while I burped Alana. The accessories we got Isla to go with her baby:
Overrated baby gear: what you DON'T need
There are plenty of must-haves on your registry, but what are those items you can skip? This is a quick list of items I found unnecessary and OVERRATED.
- Designer hospital gowns
- LOTS of infant- and newborn-sized clothing
- Baby shoes
- Special hypoallergenic laundry detergent for babies (such as Dreft)
- All you need is a "free and clear" detergent, meaning it's free of perfumes and dyes that might irritate your baby's skin. This saves money and time because you can wash your baby's laundry in with the rest of the family's clothes.
- Hatch Nightlight
- A fancy wipes dispenser
- Wipe warmer
- Bottle warmer
- I initially purchased a bottle warmer and ended up giving it away. I found it much easier to control the temperature of Isla's milk by warming it (in storage bags) under the faucet.
- Whether you choose to buy a bassinet or not is more about personal preference. To save money, space, and because we heard horror stories about the transition, we decided to forego a bassinet and allow Isla to sleep in her crib starting night one.
- I haven't tried it personally, but I've heard great things about the HALO Bassinet if you prefer to have your baby in your room.
- From one of our readers and fellow mommas: "We bought the HALO bassinet. It gave us great peace of mind having the baby so close, but in hindsight, we would not have spent the money for the short time it was used. It was bigger than we anticipated (the base of it) and the swivel didn't go over our high mattress. I had in my head (that with a bassinet) I would be able to pick her up, nurse and lay her down without getting out of bed. No, it didn't happen like that!"
- Bumbo Floor Seat
- Baby food processor or maker
Because every baby responds differently to their new surroundings, each momma's favorite baby products will vary. Doing your research and having the right baby products is important, and this list will certainly help you get started. Don't forget to make time for your own personal self-care (sleep, sitz baths, etc.) too!
If we missed any of your favorite baby must-haves or brands that you love, include them in a comment below!
Let's raise happy, healthy babies — together!
Cheers to a healthy lifestyle and living FULLforLife!
xo, Pam & Kalie
P.S. Pregnant and wondering how you can mentally and physically prepare for labor? Take a deep breath and relax beautiFULL mama, help is on the way with these simple ways to prepare for labor and a smooth vaginal delivery.