The highly anticipated event arrived – our first visit to Babies R Us to start a baby registry. I never really knew what was inside the store until I was given my Babies R Us welcome bag with a “must-have” registry checklist and a registry scanner.
Up until that day I guess I hadn’t thought about all the things that a new baby “must have.” When we were faced with a hundred different choices of baby bottles, breast pumps, baby monitors, strollers, and high chairs, we nearly threw in the towel and drove home. Shopping became challenging for the first time in my life! How do you know which products are the best rated and which brands are poorly made? What diaper brand will truly keep his explosive poops from blasting up his back? Will he really scream each time I apply a cold wipe to his tush as opposed to a warm one?
After ensuring we had scanned an item for every category on the baby “must have” check list, we left the store feeling glad that the whole thing was over. But during the night I couldn’t stop thinking about whether we chose the right products. By the next morning I emailed all my mommy friends and asked them to review our baby registry. Updating and revising our baby registry became my obsession up until the day our baby arrived. At that point everything we initially registered for was no longer on that list. Little did I know I would spend so much time on obtaining baby products that I really didn’t need.
That “must have” check list had over 200 items on it!
DID I REALLY NEED EVERYTHING ON THIS ‘MUST HAVE’ CHECKLIST? Of course I did! Why else would they call it a ‘must-have’ checklist? Now that I’ve developed a year of mommy wisdom, I can tell you from experience that you don’t really need all that stuff (at least in your first three months). So here’s my revised “must have” list for those of you who are on a budget, like to be minimalist, or don’t want your home looking like a daycare.
If you’re shopping for the first birthday, here’s a list of the best toys for the toddler.
Place to sleep:
You have many options for deciding where your baby will sleep. Things you want to consider are: how much space you have, how quickly your baby will outgrow the product, budget, portability, and your baby’s personality. No, you won’t know what your baby’s personality will be like until he’s born, but it will help you determine where he is most comfortable which is important because he’ll sleep longer when he’s comfy.
- Crib: This is the most expensive option and it takes the most room. But what’s nice is that it will last him the longest. The pros are that its a nice safe place for him to sleep and there are cribs that convert into full sized beds when he’s older. If you have space and want that complete “baby room look” you may consider a crib. If price is an issue, consider www.craigslist.org. I got mine off craigslist for $60 and it came with a matching changing table. I wiped down the crib and bought a brand new extra firm mattress to go into the crib for about $50. I had a love/hate relationship with our baby crib. You can find more information on my baby crib buying guide.
- Bassinet: The bassinet is nice, especially if it can be rolled around the house or even attached to a stroller. It’s a nice flat surface that doesn’t take up too much space so you can move it from room to room. The problem is that he’ll quickly outgrow the bassinet (probably by 3 months).
- Playard: A playard a great alternative to a crib, especially if you have in-laws that will be watching your baby from time to time. Most come with a removable changing table, so you get two in one and they cost about $100. Playards now include an infant sleeper, bassinet level option and then turns into a toddler play area so it does last some time. They also fold into a compact portable size for traveling.
- Cosleeper: The cosleeper is a popular option for moms that want to have their baby right next to the bed. This is especially nice for moms who had a traumatic delivery and need extra time to recover (c-section, extensive stitches). It’s small and fits nicely in small apartments. These are also more affordable than a crib and attaches to the side of the bed. One downfall is that its harder for mom to get up when it’s attached right next to her side of the bed. This is a great solution for moms who struggle with sleep training too. You can read all about my sleep training battles when the time comes.
There are parents who have a changing table and those who don’t. The most important factor is whether you have space for one. They do take up space but many have storage capacity beneath it. You can skip the table altogether and get a changing pad to use wherever you want (on the bed, floor, or on top of a dresser you also already own. There is no safety advantage of having a changing table versus a dresser you already own. With both units you will always have to have one hand on your baby whenever he’s on the changing pad. The single place that is truly safe (from falling) for your baby is the floor.
- Changing Table: I love having a changing table because of the height. You don’t have to bend over to change your baby which keeps you from straining your back. There’s also great storage options beneath the table for baby blankets, toys, clothes, diapers, and more. These range in price, design, and size. My suggestions are the Sorelle Vista Combo Changer, DaVinci Kalani Changer, or the Davinci Jayden Chaging Dresser . Having drawers or a sliding door is better because your child who will quickly become a toddler will learn to pull everything out of open baskets (around his first birthday he started to pull out his clothes and diapers from the storage baskets I had underneath his changing table). The drawers will keep his clothes organized at all times without you having to rearrange them. I also like the idea of having a laundry basket right under the changing table and Badger Basket Changers offer that. The Corner Changing Table seems like such a spacesaver but I’ve learned that changing my baby sideways is so much easier than having his feet face me.
- Changing Pad: These are portable and can be used all over the house (dining table, living room floor, bedroom, bathroom, etc.) as long as you stay right next to baby whenever you’re changing him. They are the much cheaper option for diaper changes and can be stored in a corner closet if space is an issue. The LA Baby Changing Pad is the highest rated by consumers.
Diapers: Of course you need diapers – probably about 200 for the first two weeks. The newborn sizes should fit on your baby and are normally a little big in those first few weeks (unless you have a giant 12lb baby). You need about 10 diapers a day which equals about 70 a week. Starting with a box of 200 will give you an idea of what size should be the next step for you. After about week 4 we stepped up to the size 1 for our boy who was born just under 8lbs. I’ve tried Luvs (cheapest), Huggies, Parent’s Choice, and Kirkland (Costco) diapers and Pampers is my favorite. They just seem more flexible, breathable, and comfortable for my baby. I also love the Overnight Diapers for the long stretches when your little one sleeps more than 4 hours and needs extra long protection. Cloth diapers are becoming quite popular, and they’re incredibly cute. But there are two things I don’t like about them. 1 – if they get soiled, you have to keep the poopy diaper in your purse while you’re out since you’re not going to throw away the diaper. 2 – They’re quite bulky and makes your baby’s bum pretty big when you’re trying to fit them into their clothes.
- Diaper Pail: The diaper pail is nice because it keeps the stinky poo smell from filling the room. If you want to save on this, you can always use a plain garbage can with a cover. The Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper Pail is a popular one but bags can get expensive since you must use their refillable ones. It’s also tough to get the last few diapers in once it gets full. The Baby Trend Diaper Champ is a great option because you don’t have to stuff your hand into the garbage when you dispose of the diaper (which isn’t fun when the bag is full). The Diaper Champ lets you place a diaper (or two) into a slot which then deposits into the bin once you close the lever. Plus you can use any garbage bags.
- Wipes/Wipe Warmer: Yes you need wipes. Costco has some pretty cheap wipes. You can choose from cloth wipes or disposable wipes. They make warmers that work with either option too. It’s entirely up to you on what type you’ll use. The wipe warmer is a luxury for our baby. At the beginning (first 2 weeks) he would cry whenever we applied a cold wipe to clean his bum, but since then, he hasn’t been fussy whenever we used a cold wipe. The wipe warmer does take up some space and if your changing table doesn’t have room for it, you’ll have to figure out a space to place it close enough for you to reach (and it always has to be plugged in). The Prince Lionheart Warmies is a good one if you plan to use cloth wipes instead of disposable ones. My favorite disposable wipes are the Pampers Sensitive Wipes. They’re the softest of the ones I’ve tried.
Places to entertain baby when he’s awake:
Now here’s a slew of products that will quickly fill your home. You don’t need all of these products and it’s probably smarter to bring your baby to the store to test out which he would like before you purchase any of these products. I would suggest getting a baby swing and then a jumper later on as your babe reaches 4 months old.
- Baby Seat: I loved the Bumbo baby seat for about 1-2 months. It helped my baby sit up comfortably so that I could have my hands free without attaching him to me with a baby sling. It was a great place for him to watch me cook, clean, or read and play games with him. The seat can be used as soon as he can support his own neck but he will outgrow it quickly as his legs will no longer fit in the leg holes on the seat. One aspect that I don’t like is that it doesn’t securely keep a baby in place. You can attach the seat to a chair and you can’t strap your baby in (although they have a repair kit you can order with straps. You’ll have to install it yourself). The Bumbo didn’t get much use after the first 4 months of life…but I know some toddlers that will use it to sit in once in a while to watch TV or just hang out. It comes with a tray that I think is useless. It’s too small to put food on and expect that baby will keep the food there (he just knocks all his puffs off). The tray can help keep a squirmy baby in the seat, but a high chair does a much better job and lasts longer than this bumbo.
- Jumper: We got a jumper when he was 3 months old and it’s a great place for him to hang out while being able to see what’s going on in the room. They are recommended to be used only when baby is 4 months old and his toes can touch the floor. We just put a large hardcover book under the jumper so he could use it earlier. Jumpers also have all sorts of fun attachments that light up, play music, and help with his motor and visual development. We got the Baby Einstein Jumper but Spencer also likes the Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo (his buddy has one).
Swings and Bouncers: These are nice to help baby fall asleep in. Our baby liked the Mamaroo in his first two months but now really hates the reclined position (he prefers to sit up, stand in his jumper, or lay flat on his back. Although swings and rockers are designed to mimic mom’s swaying, it didn’t really seem to be a place my son liked to stay in for long as he got older (3-5 months). He would sleep longer on his back in his crib or cuddled up in a baby sling close to my body. Other popular swings are the Fisher-Price Baby Cradle Swing, Graco SweetPeace Soother, and the Graco Glider. They even make a swing for tummy time: the Wingbo – Tummy Time Swing.
- Bath tub: Having a baby tub helps you place the baby down in a safe place while you clean him. I started with the Puj tub which I thought was cool because you can store it flat just about anywhere but the tub didn’t fit in our bathroom sink. We ended up getting a Summer Infant Right Height Center Tub which works great, but takes up so much space. I like that you could raise the bath tub when the baby is young and it reduces backache for you. Then the extra stand can be used by you to sit by the tub and when he’s older, as a step stool. I’d recommend getting a foldable one if you have limited space. There’s also the Blooming Bath Baby Bath for your sink that’s cute and soft. This won’t last beyond 4 months of age though. I tried the Puj Tub which is a great idea for storage reasons but is so big it didn’t fit in our bathroom sink.
- Toiletries: You just need Baby Wash & Shampoo. The Aveeno is a two in one so we use it for his whole body including his hair. It’s safe and easier than using a separate shampoo for his hair and then baby wash for his body. Our doctor also recommended a simple dove soap bar.
- Towel/Washcloth: You need one baby towel and I highly recommend the Aacua 4 in 1 Multi-Use Bath Towel which you can wrap around yourself like an apron and then wrap him up all in one motion. If you want to spend less on a towel apron, you can get the Clevamama Splash and Wrap Hooded Towel which is quite larger than the Aacua one but not as soft. Lightweight washcloths are great for spit-up and baby washing because they dry very quickly.
- Organic Onesies: For infants, button up and magnetic onesies are the best. Although most of your clothes will come from your baby shower (so you don’t have much of a choice), I would recommend you let your family and friends know you prefer button up or magnetic clothing. The ones that you have to pull over your baby’s head are troublesome, especially when you find you have to change your baby’s clothing several times a day. You don’t want to be pulling poop soaked onesies over his head (which is soft and delicate too). The zippered onesies are ok, but they require you to unzip the baby’s clothing from the top to the bottom, requiring his upper body to be bare while you change his bum. I didn’t like this, especially if it was cold. Even though I lived in sunny San Diego, it got cold in our home during the winters and I would find my baby’s hands and feet were cold if they’re not covered (socks and mitts fall off all the time). So if you find any onesies with socks or mitts attached to the clothing, I’d go for it. As they get older (6+ months), the zippered ones are fantastic because you can get it on and off so much more quickly (which is important when your little one starts fighting you the moment you set them down on the changing table).
- Car seats: If you own a car or you are not walking distance from the hospital you deliver at, you’ll need an infant car seat. These are quite heavy, especially as your baby gains weight. I would opt for the lightest one, but that’s just my preference. Car seats generally cost around $100 and many are convertible so they can be used for infants up to toddlers. If you have a preemie, the hospital may want to do a car seat test to ensure your car seat will safely protect your baby. This means you might end up having to purchase one that accommodates smaller babies right after you deliver! Just keep that in mind. If you would like your car seat to attach to your stroller, you’ll have to check the specifications of your stroller to ensure the car seat brand/type fits with the stroller of your choice. My favorites are the Maxi-Cosi Mico Infant Car Seat (because it takes up the least amount of space), the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air (because it has the ‘air’ cushions on the side for baby’s head protection) and the Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seat (because it’s got an anti-rebound bar and Britax is known as a super safe brand). I had a Graco SnugRide which is great for premmies since it’s a tighter fit, but it won’t last as long (my 1 year old barely fits into his and we had to get a new one). During my research I really wanted the lightest one, but with a baby in it, it really doesn’t matter. It will be heavy no matter what.
- Strollers: Strollers are a must have. Shopping for a stroller is like car shopping. You want to consider price, function, style, weight, and your lifestyle. They can cost as little as $30 and all the way up to $1300. I spent more than 80 hours researching strollers that fit my preferences and ended up with the Mutsy 4rider. It comes with many accessories such as a bassinet, rocker, tray, and bike for your toddler to ride along as you do some shopping. The Mutsy is really heavy, so it is not ideal for traveling. I got the Peg-Perego Si when Spencer turned 5 months. We love it. It folds down really small which takes up very little space in our trunk, and it is light. The stroller has an amazing sunshade that covers most of your baby even in the sitting up position. (FYI: we ran this stroller over with our car and broke the front two wheels. I found out that Peg Perego has service centers and they ordered new tires, re-bent the frame and it was working again for under $50). It also enables you to attach a carseat to it and reclines fully. Read my full stroller shopping guide for more tips on picking out the perfect stroller.
- Slings: It’s definitely a good idea to have some type of sling whether you go with the Baby Bjorn, Moby Wrap, Peanut Shell, or Ergobaby. The Baby Bjorn is easy to put on and take off and is adjustable for both mom and dad to wear (and it’s not too girly). But after 30 minutes my shoulders and neck gets sore. The Moby Wrap is VERY comfortable to have on for a long time but takes longer to put on, take off, and is difficult to insert the baby into. The Peanut Shell is very fashionable and baby sleeps comfortably while it has small pockets to keep stuff in. The Ergobaby is a favorite because it supports your back and is probably the most comfortable as your baby grows and gains more and more weight. I love that you can cover your baby’s head when he’s asleep and it has a small compartment for keys and pacifiers. It is the most expensive option, but will last the longest.
- Breast Pump: The breast pump is an expensive investment, especially for those that end up not having enough milk supply to last more than a few months. If you do plan on breast feeding, the breast pump makes a significant difference in your life because it enables others (husband, parents/in-laws, babysitter) to help with feedings. This gives you much needed rest, especially when you have 3+ feedings a night! I have an electric breast pump that is in a backpack so its easy to take around with me on trips. If price is an issue, you may consider getting a manual breast pump or renting a hospital grade pump for about $30 a month. Check with your hospital. A manual pump is really nice for stretches of 4+ hours away from your home or baby. You’ll want to relieve those full breasts!
- Hands-free Pumping bra: This is a must-have for anyone who will be pumping breast milk. Your hands, arms, shoulders, and neck will thank you when you’re able to pump without holding those bottles in front of your breasts 8 times a day! The Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra is the best one.
- Breast Feeding Pillow: Here’s another must have if you’re planning on breast feeding. It will save your back, arms, neck, and ultimately help you breastfeed longer with comfort. The Brestfriend pillow is nice because it has a small pocket and back support while the Boppy is nice because you can lay your baby in it to feed from a bottle or just for him to hang out. Make sure you bring this to the hospital with you when you’re about to deliver your baby.
- Nursing Cover: I always carry one around in my diaper bag. It allows you to nurse wherever you’re at, especially when you’re can’t find a quiet corner to hide out when baby gets hungry. The Jolly Jumper Pashmama Nursing Cover is super fashionable and the Hooter Hiders Nursing Cover offers very cute prints.
- Baby Bottles: For the first three months my newborn only took 5 ounces of milk max, which is the size of the bottles that come with a breast pump. You can hold off getting the larger bottles until they drink more, unless you are formula feeding. There are so many options out there. Read the reviews, ask your girlfriends, and then purchase a few for your baby to try out. Dr. Brown’s bottles supposedly help with colic, but they’re a pain to clean out. Glass bottles are heavier and heat up way too hot when you use a bottle warmer, but they are BPA free. The Comotomo bottles look really cute, but the silicone becomes really sticky after a few weeks of use. I use the Philips AVENT Bottles. They are plastic but are easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and are fairly priced.
- Bottle Warmer: I highly recommend getting a bottle warmer. We used running water each time we warmed the milk from the fridge but that was just a big waste of water and time. The bottle warmer requires very little water and uses steam to heat the bottle which preserves more of the natural ingredients in your breast milk. The First Years Babypro Bottle Warmer is the one we used. It’s nice because you can use it to heat baby food jars and it automatically shuts off whenever the water it uses to steam the food is gone, so you don’t have to stand around waiting to turn it off.
- Pacifiers: When my baby was in the NICU I found a pacifier in my baby’s mouth which I would take out whenever I was with him. I didn’t want him to get attached to it so early on, especially since books say it may interfere with his ability to latch on during breastfeeding. BUT my baby didn’t have an issue with “nipple confusion” and the pacifier helped him self soothe whenever he got fussy. It also seems to keep him asleep longer (yes, he does suck on it WHILE he is sleeping). Another plus is research shows pacifiers reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). So get a few for your baby, they’re inexpensive and can really reduce the frequency and length of crying. You might consider the Wubbanub Plush Pacifier Toy which enables your baby to ‘hold on’ to his pacifier and reduces the chance of losing one. My son’s favorite pacifiers are the MAM AIR Pacifiers which comes in two sizes, 0-6 months and 6-12 months.
- Burp Cloths: These are a must have. ALL babies spit-up and it seems to increase in frequency and size between 3-6 months. I have at least 10 cloths throughout the house and still end up washing them almost every other day. I love the aden and anais burpy bib because of the size and material, but they are a bit more costly. You can get basic cloth diapers which work great. I also place them down wherever baby’s head is about to lay (on the breast feeding pillow, in the crib, in the playard) so that I don’t have to change the entire crib sheet whenever he spits up. After the first 4 months, you won’t need them as much so don’t go overboard with buying these. Soft kitchen clothes work just fine (just dedicate them to the baby).
- Bottle Drying Rack: You don’t NEED one, but it’s nice to have one to organize all the various baby bottle accessories. Here’s the one we loved using: First Years Spinning Drying Rack. They also make cool looking ones like the Boon Grass Countertop Drying Rack and the Skip Hop Designer Translucent Splash Drying Rack which includes a bottle brush!
- Swaddle Blankets: In our experience (and according to experts), a swaddled baby sleeps longer than an unswaddled baby. Even if it’s a struggle to get your baby in, you’ll find it’s worth the effort. If you have a colicky baby, you’ll also find that swaddling helps soothe him because it mimics his environment in your womb. (To learn more, check out the book, The Happiest Baby on the Block). I recommend the Swaddleme blanket or the Miracle blanket because they’re easy to use. Get at least two of the newborn sizes and then decide if you want the larger ones as your baby grows. Just make sure you attach the velcro when you wash them, otherwise they’ll stick to all the other clothes you’re washing.
- Baby nail clipper: You need a baby sized clipper to keep those little fingers from scratching your breasts (if you breastfeed) and his precious face. It was a challenge to begin using them because he likes to swat his arms around but you get used to it. Yes, you are stronger than your baby. A good time to cut his nails is when he’s breast feeding on his side (on a breastfeeding pillow). I get his one free arm to relax when he’s feeding which makes it a breeze to clip his nails. This didn’t work as he grew beyond 4 months of age when he would wiggle around alot, even when breastfeeding. I preferred to cut his nails when he was asleep (usually after a ride in the car). He would be in the perfect position in his carseat for me to trim his nails (take the carseat out and place in living room to trim his nails and then put him to bed). I couldn’t believe how fast his nails grew (had to trim him once every 4-6 days)!
- Diaper bags: Do you really need a separate diaper bag? No. You can use a plain old backpack, purse, shoulder bag, or tote whenever you go out with your baby. But I love my bags, and getting a diaper bag is just another excuse for me to add to my bag collection. I love all the pockets that come with diaper bags to help you organize all your baby necessities. If you do decide to get one, make sure it has an insulated bottle compartment which helps keep your milk cool until you’re ready to feed. Diaper bags range from $20-$600 depending on brand, size, and style. My favorite is the Babymel Amanda Quilted bag. It is very comfortable on my shoulder, looks great, and has tons of pockets (it even has a hidden side insulated pocket for bottles). It’s made by the same people who make
- Baby Mobile: We didn’t get one until he was 2 months old and when we got one as a gift I realized they are truly magical. They not only help with developing his eye-hand coordination, they help keep him occupied for 15+ minutes and its a great way for your baby to drift off to sleep in his crib.
- Nursing Tops/Bras: Since you nurse up to 12 times a day, you’ll want easy access clothing to make it less time consuming and more comfortable for you to feed your baby or pump milk. Tank tops work great if you want to save money on the expensive mommy nursing tops.
- Baby Einstein Videos: We love these videos and watch them for free on Youtube (our TV is connected to the internet). You can get them for under $5 from thrift stores or on Amazon (used). They keep our little on entertained so that I can cook, clean, or use the restroom! The screenshots change every 3-5 seconds so it keeps our baby’s attention since he was 4 months old until now (11 months old). We love all of the videos, but some are better for little ones while others are good for older babies (1-2yrs old) as they introduce colors, baby signs, etc.
- Baby Monitor : Do you really need one? No. My parents didn’t have one and yours didn’t either. We survived and are thriving. It’s a nice convenience to have one, but if you’re strapped for cash, there are other options, like using an app on your smartphone to monitor your baby’s sounds or getting an audio one for $20. It’s really nice to have one if you are trying to sleep train your baby. If you’re willing to spend money to help you sleep better, I’d recommend the Motorola Wireless Baby Monitor. This monitor is packed with awesome features like 5 lullabies, lights, night vision, room temperature reading, and it’s wireless!
- Humidifier: Get ONE! These are awesome for babies because they often have a hard time breathing when they’re congested. And they will be congested several times in their first year. It also helps with dry air that happens due to cold weather or using the heating. My son had some dried blood in his nasal passage when he turned one due to our heating of the home! I have used three different humidifiers, one in the baby’s room and one in ours (one broke and had to be replaced). The Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier one carries a ton of water and lasts close to 16 hours on high, but it’s a bit bulky and doesn’t fit easily in tight spaces. The Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier is what we use in our son’s room and offers a little pod to place oils that are then steamed (we use eucalyptus to clear up congestion), and then we got the Safety 1st Ultrasonic Humidifier which has a smaller tank so it lasts maybe 8 hours most on high, but works well and is light and doesn’t take up too much space. It’s also the most affordable. I highly recommend cleaning these humidifiers weekly according to the instructions (I didn’t and after a year had so much mineral buildup it stopped working until we cleaned it out again).
Alright, there you have it, here’s my condensed list (28 items instead of 200) of baby registry must-haves up until the 3 month mark. If you’re a mom, tell me what else you might add to this list in the comments below!
If you’re shopping for the first birthday, here’s a list of the best toys for the toddler.