Preparing for Baby: The Registry
This is intended to be part of my sporadic Preparing for a Second Child series, but really it applies just as much, if not more so, to first children, hence the title. We’re entering the home stretch, with our littlest family member welcome to join the fun on this side of my uterus anytime in the next 1-5 weeks. We’ve reached the point where I’m taking an inventory of everything we have on hand and deciding what, if any, last minute things we need to get together this week. For new parents especially, it can be so hard to determine what is truly needed when so much is marketed as an absolute must have, so I thought I’d take a look at what I personally feel is helpful to have around. I would love to hear how this compares with your thoughts, and what worked for your family, too.
I decided to look at a standard checklist to help me organize my own personal inventory, though many of the things on the list aren’t necessary for people who follow our parenting style. I’ll be going through the “Baby Registry Must-Haves” as defined by Babycenter. Their list is pretty darn exhaustive, so I can’t see how I’d miss anything. The main categories they give are clothing, diapering, baby gear, feeding, baby soothers (toys and entertainment), sleeping, bathing, nursery, and safety and health. I’ll look at each of these and what I found to be truly important in each.
Babycenter suggests that parents have the following on hand for each size range: 5-7 one piece outfits, 5-7 shirts, 5-7 sets of leggings or pull on pants, 5 outer layers, 2 hats, socks and booties, 5-7 sleepers or PJ sets, and depending on climate perhaps a snowsuit and mittens.
This seems to me like a reasonable basic list, but I would switch it up a bit, personally. Climate is such an important thing to consider, and can totally change things, however. We were fortunate enough to live in the land of eternal summer, 14 degrees north of the equator throughout Annabelle’s first two years. This meant that it was never, ever chilly and therefore we didn’t need any outer layers, snowsuits, winter hats, socks, or anything of the sort. In my humble opinion, less is more when it comes to dressing an infant, so long as they are sufficiently warm. Babies are in the process of discovering so much about the world, and virtually all of this discovering is done through the senses. The more we bundle them up, the more we interfere with the messages being sent between their bodies and their environment. Of course in cool weather some level of bundling is absolutely necessary, so it’s just a question of what a baby actually needs.
As for one piece outfits, shirts, and pants/leggings, I wouldn’t argue with babycenter’s numbers, but my personal preference differs from the norm. Since we practice Elimination Communication, I prefer not to dress our babies in one piece outfits at all. These seem to be a favorite gift item, and I considered turning all of Annabelle’s into t-shirts because they make some pretty darn cute one piece outfits that I hate to see go to waste, but I never did get around to it. One can certainly practice EC with onesies, it just takes a bit longer to get things unfastened for a pee, and since ECing families tend to visit the potty more often than full time diapering families do a diaper change, there’s a lot of extra snapping and unsnapping that can get tiresome – especially if you have a wiggly child like Annabelle was. If you plan to cloth diaper, just keep in mind that cloth tends to be bulkier than disposable, so you’ll likely find yourself sizing up in onesies earlier than you otherwise would, since they can be difficult to snap over a cloth booty if they’re too snug.
So, for me, the one piece outfits are off the list entirely, to be replaced with more shirts and pull on pants. I definitely think one should have more shirts on hand than pants for the early months, because spit up happens more often than blow outs. Then again, maybe it’s best just to get to know your newborn. Some tend to spit up a lot, while others are masters of the diaper blowout. Perhaps your infant will be adept at both! As with many other baby items, this is one area where you can really wait and see. If your visitors in the early months are like mine were, many will come bearing a gift in the form of a cute outfit or two anyway, so you’re likely to end up with more clothing than you expected. There is absolutely no need to fill your drawers to overflowing before baby is ever born.
Outer layers, snowsuits, and the like depend again on your climate, how warm you keep your house, and your baby. I wouldn’t buy too many of these in advance, because what you need will also depend on how quickly your baby grows. We’ll have a summer baby, so chances are we’ll want some sweaters in the 6 month range, but then just because our baby is 6 months old does not mean he or she will be wearing six month clothing. In the early months, blankets are all that’s truly needed in terms of outer layers during the day anyway, so sweaters and jackets can wait.
As for socks and booties, we never used either with Annabelle. I see no reason to bother little feet with anything shoe-like before they need the protection for walking. Socks are great in winter, or if you keep your house heavily air conditioned, but otherwise there’s nothing wrong with a barefoot baby! Annabelle’s first shoes were thin, soft booties, but didn’t make an appearance until after her first steps, and even then she really only needed one pair.
When it comes to sleepers and pajamas, my preference is for infant gowns and “sleep sacks.” Middle of the night diaper changes aren’t much fun for anyone, and they’re only complicated by snaps that go from neck to toes. Due to the dangerous flame retardants that children’s pajamas are treated with, I also choose items that are not specifically designed to be sleepwear but are comfortable and well-suited to bedtime, or buy organic cotton that is specifically labeled as not flame resistant.
Babycenter lists diapers, wipes, rash cream, a diaper bag, and a diaper pail and liners as the essential registry items. This seems like a pretty good basic list to me, depending on how you plan to diaper. If you’re planning to cloth diaper, you can refer to my list of everything you need for cloth diapering, and everything you could possibly want, but I’ll look at these basic categories briefly below.
You will go through a lot of diapers in the newborn period – babycenter estimates 10-12 per day. To me, this means it’s important to have at least twenty four cloth diapers that will fit a newborn on hand. With this number, you’ll be able to go a full two days between washings if you need to. More certainly can’t hurt! Depending on the type of diapers you use, you may need to think about covers – if you’re using fitteds and/or prefolds, I’d recommend having at least 4 covers in rotation – and closures as well. I can’t make specific recommendations about disposables, but I’m sure you can do the math if that’s the route you plan to go.
For wipes, if you’re using cloth, cheap baby washcloths are more than sufficient, and I don’t see a need for many more wipes than diapers. Cloth wipes are so much more effective than their disposable counterparts that I found I seldom needed to use more than one per diaper change. For cloth, you’ll also want to think about a wipe solution, or a way of storing your own homemade version. I have a simple guide to using cloth wipes on the go here, but you can apply the same ideas at home, too.
I didn’t find that rash cream was hugely important, but for some babies it’s a must have, so it wouldn’t hurt to have a tube on hand. For minor irritation, virgin coconut oil does the trick beautifully, while a more severe rash may require something more heavy duty. I didn’t try many brands, but I did find Boudreaux’s Butt Paste to be highly effective for the one bout of severe rash we did have. If you’re using cloth diapers, you’ll need some sort of barrier to protect your cloth for diaper creams. I ended up cutting a thin prefold into appropriately sized strips, and this worked out fine, but if you’re the type who likes to be prepared for anything, you could also consider adding a roll of diaper liners to your list just in case.
I don’t think I really need to comment on diaper bags. Yes, you’ll need something you can carry diapers and other supplies in. I’m sure you can figure out whether you’d like to go for a fancy, designer bag or just use a backpack or big purse. During Annabelle’s first six months, I simply used a big tote that I had picked up for $20 and that worked out fine. One thing you will need if you’re cloth diapering is a wet bag that you can toss in whatever you carry with you on the go. I was unprepared when Annabelle was born, and ended up using ziplocks and grocery bags until my first wet bags came in the mail, and I can tell you the ten dollars I invested was more than worth it. Proper wet bags hold in odors and mess far better than the less expensive options, and they’re hardly expensive anyway. I’d suggest having two or three travel sized wet bags, but you can probably get by with just one. These days, my favorite are the Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bags.
Again, I can only comment on cloth since it’s the only thing I know, but a pail is definitely essential. A large hanging wet bag works fine, too, but sometimes zipping and unzipping is more than I can pull off when I’ve got a soiled diaper in one hand and a grumpy child in the other, so I prefer a pail with a top that flips open easily. One pail and one liner was enough for us, and our “pail” is really just the least expensive trash can with a lid I could find at a local store.
The gear categories given include a baby carrier, stroller, car seat, portable crib or play yard, and a stroller sack. I love that a baby carrier is the first thing on the list for a rather mainstream site like babycenter. It just shows you how common “babywearing” has become, and why not? It’s ridiculously practical. I definitely think at least one good carrier is a must have item. Most seem to prefer a slightly stretchy wrap like the Moby Wrap or the Baby K’Tan for the early months, but there are a ton of other options. For Annabelle, I used a ring sling exclusively early on, and that worked beautifully for us and was easy to nurse in, too. If you only plan to buy one carrier for your baby’s entire infancy, I’d recommend a soft structured carrier more like the Ergo or Beco, as it’s incredibly versatile and will likely work well into and through toddlerhood for both long and short durations.
Strollers depend so much on lifestyle and personal preference. I did not get one for Annabelle, and I never regretted it. I finally got a used one just in time for our trip to Europe a few months back, and it was great for travel, but I didn’t need it at all when she was a baby. A good carrier was more than enough. Judging by her aversion to the car seat, I don’t think she would have taken well to a stroller early on anyhow, and since she was an only child growing up in an area that is not at all pedestrian friendly, I didn’t see a reason to try. A stroller would simply have been one more thing to lug around. Of course now that I’m quite pregnant and we live in an area where we walk to outings at least once a week, it’s nice to have a stroller on hand and I’m hoping to upgrade the one we have before the new baby arrives. More than anything, it saves me from having to lug a bag with water bottles, snacks, spare clothes, and all the rest around on my person in the summer heat. I had no idea what a stroller sack was before I started going through this list, so I’ll let you be the judge of whether or not that’s a useful item. Portable cribs really seem unnecessary to me, but that’s another thing that may be a must-have for certain families. All I can say is that we never used one, and I can’t think of a time I would have.
Of course a car seat is a must if you ever travel by car. One thing I have learned since I was preparing for Annabelle’s birth is that you don’t need to buy an infant seat. Many love them because you can take your baby out of the car in their seat, but to me this seems awkward and heavy, and even when we had an infant seat I never took it out. There are a number of great convertible seats on the market that are perfectly safe and adequate from the newborn period into the preschool years. For our new baby, we chose a Britax Marathon 70 and added an infant positioning insert for a mere $12.
Babycenter suggests a nursing pillow and breastfeeding accessories as well as a pump and pumping accessories, burp cloths, bottles, bottle brushes, formula if you’re planning to use it, a bottle drying rack, a dishwasher basket for bottle parts, and a bottle warmer. That’s a whole lot of stuff! I can see the second portion of the list being useful for families who plan to rely on bottles for multiple feedings a day, but certainly not for everyone.
For nursing, our boppy pillow came in very handy and I’d highly recommend something similar for any nursing mom. I also found lanolin and breast pads to be absolute must haves, but that was about all I needed for nursing gear. Depending on comfort level, you can consider getting a few nursing tops and/or a nursing cover, but it’s easy to nurse as modestly as you’d like without any of these specialized items. I have passed my nursing covers on to others and will surely wear the few nursing tops I already own, but I’m not planning to buy any new nursing gear this time around. I’m with babycenter on burp cloths – it’s a good idea to have at least their recommended 6-12. I found thin, inexpensive prefold diapers to be my absolute favorite thing for this purpose.
I can’t comment on pumps, since we never used one. I can see how they’d be an absolute must have for moms who plan to return to work, but if you only plan to store milk for the occasional afternoon or evening away, you can always give hand expression a try first. Some women respond beautifully to a pump and are able to store huge amounts of milk, while others struggle to get an ounce or two and the same is true with hand expression. For some women, it’s the easiest way to store milk, and for others it’s futile. I’m not sure how my body would respond to a pump since I haven’t tried, but I was able to store at least a few ounces, and as many as ten at a session by hand expressing. That said, for those who plan to mostly feed at the breast, a pump is probably not needed. You can always pick one up later if you find you’d like one.
As for bottles and the laundry list of items babycenter recommends to go along with them, most of them were unnecessary for us. Since I was solo parenting for Annabelle’s first eight months, there was no one around to give her a bottle anyhow, so she has never had one. For those moms returning to work, I’m sure they’re needed, along with a number of the accessories listed. If you only plan to use them for a feeding a day or less, it seems to me that one or two bottles and one bottle brush would suffice, but I’ll let those with experience there chime in. Of course I also recommend looking into donor milk before worrying about formula, but that’s a very personal decision that every family faced with the decision of how to feed their infant must make for themselves.
Babycenter also talks about high chairs, bowls, and all of the things you’ll want to think about when you get ready to introduce solids. You have plenty of time to think about that, so if you’re preparing for a newborn and are already overwhelmed, just relax and wait! For those thinking about this now, I talk about what I put together in preparation for starting solids in a post entitled Food: Setting the Stage.
Baby Soothers, Toys, and Entertainment
If you’ve been around here long, you know already that I don’t feel babies need to be entertained. The world is so very stimulating all on its own, so there’s little more we need to do than put our infants in touch with it. The only two items on babycenter’s list that we used were toys and books. A few simple wooden toys were more than enough, as ordinary household items interested Annabelle far more than most of the things specifically designed as playthings. Board books were a huge part of her infancy, and are great for any baby to have.
Aside from the items I already mentioned in the clothing section, we didn’t end up needing anything more for sleep than a waterproof mattress pad. If you plan to sleep with your baby, I’d recommend investing in your ideal mattress pad right away. I tried to keep things inexpensive and ended up buying several different things that weren’t quite good enough, all of which equaled far more than the cost of a quality wool pad to cover our entire mattress – something we still don’t have after spending more than I’d care to admit. It’s pricey, but it pays to do this one right the first time. Smaller puddle pads are lovely before your baby is mobile, but as they grow, they’ll wiggle right off of them, and they become bunched up and obnoxious in the night. If you plan to sleep together for the long term, you will want something that protects your entire bed.
White noise machines, nightlights, and the like can be purchased down the line when you get to know your individual baby. Some will need more support to sleep peacefully than others. We never needed any of these things.
Babycenter’s list includes a baby bathtub, two hooded bath towels, 5-7 washcloths, and some baby wash or baby shampoo. I can count the number of times we used our baby bathtub on one hand. Annabelle was absolutely not a fan of the bath, and co-bathing turned out to be the only peaceful way to get her clean until she had outgrown the baby tub. The sink will do just fine before your baby can sit up, and from there you can gauge their relationship with water and decide whether you want something else. Hooded towels are nice to have, but you probably have something in your linen closet that will do the job already. The same goes for baby washcloths. My preferred soap is Dr. Bronner’s, which makes a “baby mild,” or unscented version of their liquid soap, so I switched to this for the whole household when Annabelle was born and have not looked back. It cleans hair and body equally well, so it’s all we need.
It was great fun setting up Annabelle’s nursery before she was born, but I have yet to make any similar preparations for our second baby. Why? Not only have we just barely unpacked our everyday necessities, but we so rarely used Annabelle’s nursery. She slept with us, diaper changes happened on the bed, and leisure/play time took place in the living room, where I could get things done around the house while watching her play. There is nothing on this list I can say I think is a must have. I will be preparing several mobiles for the new baby, which I’ll write about in the future, but these fit more into the category of toys than nursery for us, since we won’t have them attached to a crib in a nursery. I just don’t see a need for a separate room dedicated to him or her, since we spend the vast majority of our days together.
In this category, babycenter lists gates, outlet covers, cupboard and drawer latches, toilet seat locks, and a baby monitor. We lived in a single story house during Annabelle’s first two years, so never needed a gate. This time around, I am planning to install one at the top of the stairs before the new baby becomes mobile. Outlet covers were an easy and inexpensive item, and I’d add some way of securing the cord for your blinds if you have them to the list of safety items. Outside of that, I’m not a fan of latches and locks, but the need for these does depend on your setup. When Annabelle learned to open cabinets, I simply moved everything potentially dangerous out of her reach. Being able to play with pots and pans, mixing bowls, and storage containers gave her something to do in the kitchen when I was busy with other tasks, and I liked giving Annabelle as much freedom to explore as possible in our home. It is her home, too, after all.
A baby monitor is something I only purchased and used when we were traveling, since our floor plan made it easy to hear Annabelle from another room during sleep times.
Under health, babycenter recommends that you have a first aid kit, bulb syringe, teething toys, digital thermometer, baby nail scissors or clippers, baby friendly laundry detergent, and a soft bristled hairbrush. I’d call all of this reasonable. Of course most families have a first aid kit on hand already, and choosing a hairbrush can probably wait until you meet your baby and see what his or her hair type is, but the rest is useful to have on hand. I never had any success with the hospital style bulb syringe, but I have heard many parents suggest the nosefrida, so that’s on our registry this time around. Teethers were definitely a must, and I have written before about what worked for us to soothe sore gums. I always preferred ear thermometers with children other than my own, so that’s what I picked up to prepare for Annabelle’s arrival, only to find out that they don’t work for infants. A basic digital thermometer that can be used under the arm is what we have relied on until recently.
While my tendency to use exhaustive detail might make shopping for a newborn look like the most daunting thing you have ever done, it’s actually pretty simple. There is very little you need for a newborn, and as you get to know your baby and your life with him or her, you’ll get a much better sense of what you may want to make life easier than any list can give you right now.
Is there anything on this list that you think is totally unnecessary? Anything you felt you had to have that you don’t see listed here? I’d love to hear your suggestions for preparing for a new baby, too.
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