Confession: I am a huge baby gear junkie. There, I said it, but I am not ashamed – it’s an addiction that is way too fun! I have been dragging my husband to Babies ‘R Us for too long, far before we even had children. I’ve always thought it was fun to look at baby stuff (it’s SO tiny and cute!) , but being a full-time nanny in the years between college and having my own children gave me the perfect excuse to peruse the aisles of baby items. And, because I had years to try out so many different items, I felt super prepared to set-up my own registry when the time came. As much as I love the gear, there is SO much of it that you really don’t need and because I personally hate to have extras in my home, I’ll point out things I think you can live without. I have a lot of favorites, and have had the chance to do some trial and error with a TON of baby stuff – so I’m sharing my recommendations for must-haves, luxuries and fun extras, the brands I recommend most, plus my top 14 picks for baby products.
Before you actually head out to register, here are a few tips:
- Register for high and low priced items. Family members may want to help out and get that big carseat, or even a crib for you. Friends or younger family members may want to piece together gifts with smaller items. Make sure you have a range – people love to spoil a baby, but everyone has a different budget.
- Make sure you register for places that are accessible. Room and Board has adorable baby stuff, but not practical for most of your shower attendees – I’d recommend you go for Target, Babies R Us and even Pottery Barn if you want something mid-range.
- Don’t be afraid to register for toddler items or toddler sized clothes. Yes, you have to wait what seems like forever to use them, but you’ll be thrilled down the line when you already have a few things you need as baby grows.
- Other than basics, like onsies, keep clothes and accessories off the registry – these are the items that people LOVE to choose themselves, so let them!
- Don’t feel boxed in by lists of specific items and brands suggested by (this or other) lists you find online. Take each suggestion as it is, a suggestion – choose things that will work well for you and if you’re sure you don’t want something, don’t register for it just because everyone else thinks you “need” it.
- Infant Carseat: TONS of options here, but we have used the Chicco Keyfit 30 and loved it. It’s easy to manage, great buckles, comfortable handle and the designs are simple and not so…well, baby-ish. Overall, I’d suggest using one that has both great reviews AND great recommendations from people you know. Friends who’ve been there are often the best resource. An extra base for whatever seat you choose is a BIG time saver and pretty much a necessity if you’ll be using daycare with both parents dropping off and picking up.
- Stroller: If this is your first, or your only, I highly recommend a frame stroller. If you get a universal one, like this one, you can easily pop any carseat into it, and no waking baby with unbuckling. I’m personally not a fan of travel systems, so this is a great option. If you are going for a travel system, I’d recommend the Chicco set – it’s the best stroller in any travel system you can find. For other stroller recommendations, you can also find Twin Cities Moms Blog writer’s top picks HERE.
- Crib and Mattress: Obvious, right? Even if you won’t use it right away, eventually baby grows and needs a bed of his own. Drop sides are no longer considered safe, so you inherit one, keep that in mind. Most models convert in some way to another type of bed. It costs a bit more upfront, but investing in a crib that can turn into a toddler bed and, down the road, into a full size bed frame will be well worth it in the long run. Mattresses are sold separately.
- Crib Sheets & Mattress Covers: Crib sheets are obvious – I’d recommend at least three. One night we went through all three when our first was sick – you just never know what could happen! We have two mattress covers – they’re pricer than the sheets and if it comes down to it, baby can make it a few hours with just the sheet while you wash the others.
- Double-Electric Breastpump: Serious MUST have. Even if you’re not planning to return to work, it’s perfect for pumping extra milk at the end of the day to build a supply, or get a bottle ready so you can go on a much needed Girls Night. I loved the Medela Pump-in-Style, another good one is the Hygeia EnJoye, and if you’re pumping exclusively the Medela Freestyle is a fantastic option. The double-electric aspect is key – twice as fast to save you time.
- Pack and Play: These great for the obvious reason – overnight stays away from home, but they’re also handy if you want to have baby in your room for a while (many have a bassinet level) and once baby starts moving, you can pop her in one of these to stay safe while you grab something from a different level of the house. If you’re looking for a smaller option for in-room sleeping, check out the Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper.
- Swaddle Me/Sleep Sack: You can swaddle with a blanket, but really, these are safer. SwaddleMe is great for smaller babies and Sleep Sacks are great too, plus you can get them in bigger sizes too.
- Receiving Blankets: You’ll use them for so many different things – swaddling, covering the carseat when baby is sleeping, cushioning the stroller…the list goes on and on!
- Baby Bathtub: Maybe not a can’t-do-without necessity, but really, so much safer than trying to wash a wiggly baby in the big tub. These are also so great when baby is tiny and you can do the bath right next to the sink (just never walk away with baby in the tub!).
- Diapers & Wipes: Stock up on bigger sizes – babies grow faster than you think so don’t buy too many newborn diapers or you’ll end up with extra. Use scent-free or sensitive wipes for newborns – it’s easier on their delicate skin.
- Diaper Bag: Yes, I think this is a must have. There are endless options – if you want a classic diaper bag, JJCole has fantastic options with plenty of pockets and compartments, plus stroller straps. You can also find higher end bags that look more like a regular bag than a diaper bag, like this one, which is nice when you start to transition away from all the “stuff” that come with babies.
- Changing Pad: Even if you’re not going with a traditional changing table, some sort of changing pad is something you should have on hand. Some messes just need something waterproof underneath and that’s all I’ll say about that! If you have a changing table with the pad on top, a back-up cover is handy, but you can make do with just one. You can also keep an extra pad without a cover in a different level of your house for extra changes – you could easily slide it under a couch to keep it out of site, but ready to use.
- Carseat Cover: In some places, this is an extra, but in Minnesota if your baby will be a newborn anytime between September and April, you need one of these. Our weather is crazy and this allows you to pop baby in the carseat without a bulky coat and still keeps him warm. I personally think JJCole’s Bundle Me’s are the best, but there are other options as well.
- Baby Books: That is, those you read to baby. Great bonding, even before they truly understand what you’re reading, encourages language skills and more. Find a few great suggestions in this post.
- Extras: Nail clippers, baby Tylenol, diaper creme, wash cloths, pacifiers and baby clothes hangers.
- Wet Bag: This is actually a must-have if you’re going to cloth diaper, but even if you plan to use disposables, these come in SO handy! Each of my girls held the title of Blow-Out Queen for at least six months, so I used it to stash dirty clothes on the go and now we use it to pack up wet swim suits after a morning at the pool.
- Hooded Bath Towel: Feels like a must, but really, a baby can use any towel, right? I love Pottery Barn Kids’ cute towels, but you can pick up adorable towels pretty much anywhere they sell baby gear.
- Dishwasher Cage & Drying Rack: The dishwasher cage for all of the small pieces of the bottle, plus it’s so useful that you’ll end up using it for all kinds of odds and ends. A bottle rack is an extra, but it’s nice to have a dedicated, clean space for those bottles to dry out without anything else getting on them.
- Nursing Pillow: A lot of people swear by the My Breast Friend pillow, but I’d recommend the Boppy simply because it carries a longer use as it’s great for tummy time and keeping baby cushioned as she’s mastering sitting up.
- Pack and Play Sheets: If you’re a first-time mom, you may not know that these are sized differently than regular crib sheets, so make sure to get the right ones.
- Swing, Bouncy Seat (or both): I hesitated on this one – for me, this belongs on the Must Haves list, but you could live without them. I find it important to have a place to put baby that is soothing in order for Mommy to get a break, if even for five minutes. A bouncy seat can (and should) be really simple, as can a swing, but it’s nice to have sleep sounds on a swing. I recommend this seat and this swing, but it’s not perfect for small spaces. If you’re looking for a smaller swing, this one is great.
- Baby Carrier: The list of option has grown so much in the last few years – check out this post on Babywearing for more information and a few great suggestions.
- Baby Monitor: Whether this is a need or not depends on the set-up of your house and how far you might go from your baby’s room while they rest. There are way too many options here – video is popular right now, but audio only works just as well and gives you all the information you need – is baby awake or not?
- Formula Dispenser: Even if you plan to breastfeed, things don’t always go as planned. Even if it does work, this container works SO well as a snack container once baby is bit older and munching on puffs. I like this one, because it also comes with the single serve container – perfect if you’re only toting enough for one bottle with you.
- Extra Laundry Baskets: Babies are small, but their laundry piles are mighty! Babies make SO much laundry, so be prepared!
- OxyClean/Stain Remover: Stains, blow-outs and more. I bought a few extra buckets and a huge tub of Oxyclean and was happy I did! Dreft stain remover seems to have the ability to get out almost any stain – highly recommend.
- Temporal Thermometer: These work very quickly and since you just hold it to your child’s forehead, they are so helpful when you want to check baby’s temp in the middle of the night without waking them.
- Humidifier: You may already have one, but if not, I love the design of Crane’s humidifiers. They have a cute aspect to them, but this one would fit in any room of your home.
- Diaper Garbage: I do think this is a necessity, but not everyone does and garbage bags do work just fine. I love the Diaper Dekor – I’ve used a few different types and this one is the best for keeping out smells and ease of use. It does require special bags, but, in my opinion, well worth it.
- Jumper/Exersaucer: Once they’re 4 months old, these are safe and tons of fun for baby! I do think their use is somewhat short-lived, so you might consider borrowing one.
- Floor Mat: Babies love to look around and explore a bit, even when they’re really tiny. Anything with a lot to look at and bright colors is great, but a floor mat with a motion activated music box, like this one, is fantastic.
- Crib mobile: Plenty of people would move this to the “Really Handy” list, but we’ve never had one and I’ve never seen a need for it. There are plenty that are all kinds of cute and they’re a fun decor item, but baby can definitely live without it.
- Bottle Warmer: I have used these before, but honestly, I’d say skip it. If you help baby adjust to bottles at room temperature, you’ll be happy you did for those moments that you can’t have access to a warmer.
- Bath Spout Cover: Definitely cute, and could help in bath safety, but we’ve never seen the need.
- Baby Food Makers: If you want to make your own baby food (not too hard and kind of fun!), you can find a wealth of products to help you. I’d love to try out the Beaba Babycook, but truthfully, our blender worked perfectly fine.
These are (just a few!) of my personal favorites – tried and tested:
- Avent Bottles – My favorite by far and I like the design of their classic bottle (they’re all BPA free now). Simple, not a lot of pieces and they vent well, so baby won’t be drinking air.
- Aden + Anais swaddling blankets – These blankets are great for swaddling, covering up while nursing or for baby to lay on while on the floor. This brand also has really cute burp cloths. Tip: Get these blankets at Target to save 30% off the boutique price.
- Sophie the Giraffe – Baby should get spoiled a little, right?! She’s super cute, great for teething and long-lasting.
- Baby Trend Snap ‘N Go Stroller – I said it above, but this stroller is incredibly convenient with a new born. It fits every carseat model, great storage and cup-holders for Mama’s coffee.
- Gap Favorite Sleepers – My all-time favorite outfit for newborns and I love this giraffe pattern. They’re super soft, easy to put on baby, last forever and look close enough to real baby clothes that you don’t actually have to dress your babe.
- Wet Bag – This one is from Target – well priced, durable and stylish – done deal.
- Gerber Cloth Diapers (for burp cloths) – Babies make messes, these are super cheap and never seem to wear out.
- Carter’s Bodysuits – My favorite brand for onsies – way better than the Gerber option, these are incredibly soft, stretch a bit, so they last longer, and don’t hold stains as easily as others.
- Mustela baby wash – One smell of your baby’s head and you’ll know why. It’s perfect for baby’s delicate skin (and so is their lotion, so stock up!).
- NUK Pacifiers – In my opinion, best out there if you’re going to use a pacifier. Be sure to pay attention to the size when you buy, though, so you don’t give a newborn an 18-month sized paci.
- OXO Bottle Rack – This is not the one I have, but I’ll upgrade if I ever need to. Functional, simple design and could possible fit every bottle you own.
- Chicco KeyFit 30 – Love, love, LOVE this carseat. I’ve used a few others and this one takes the cake. Easy to clean, easy to install, simple design and durable.
- Tommee Tippee Bibs – These are amazing. They come in a two pack and that’s plenty – don’t buy any other bibs. The trough stays open to catch food, they’re wipeable and dishwasher safe, so no more laundry loads full of bibs.
- Boppy – We used ours for a full year with each baby. I loved this pillow for nursing and it was such a nice soft cushion for my babes while they were learning to sit. I love the Pottery Barn Kids covers – they wash really well and are super soft.
Again, these are my favorite – they won’t be perfect for everyone, but I’ve had a chance to try handfuls of brands with seven different babies and these are all fantastic options. Now, grab that registry gun and get started!