Suggestions for a baby registry

From my 6 months of experience, with one entire baby, here's what I would put on my baby registry before she was born if I could go back in time and do it again. Your mileage will almost certainly vary; babies and adults all have very specific opinions. You should consider your lifestyle and your house; I make notes when I think it's relevant, but I probably underestimate.

I was totally blown away by how incredibly useful the presents people gave me were. I think this is the most mileage I have ever gotten out of presents. For the first three-four months of her life, the vast majority of all the important things in Opal's life were presents. I think that's totally cool.

Do be warned that many of these things are not useful for several months, during which you will wonder desperately why you own them. It will be OK. Babies grow into things.

We found that was a non-obnoxious way to maintain an on-line registry that included stuff from lots of places. Browsing the web for links is also less stressful than wandering around baby stores, particularly on weekends. The only problem was that we did get two mystery gifts which we still do not know the senders of -- if you were wondering why we didn't thank you for the mobile or the baby sleep sacks, it's because we don't know who you are, not because we didn't enjoy them!

Baby clothes

None, if you have sources of hand-me-downs. Buy an outfit you adore in size Newborn and one in 0-3 months. Nobody else can be trusted to do this. Then dress the baby day-to-day in whatever hand-me-downs and gifts you get without asking until you know what shape the baby is and what clothes actually work for you and the baby. If you do not have a source of hand-me-downs, a 3-pack each of cheap footed sleepers with snaps, cheap footed sleepers with zippers and gowns in size 0-3 months should meet immediate needs. Note that the baby may be too small for 0-3 months at birth or may outgrow them within weeks. Unless the baby is premature, it will probably be able to wear the too-large ones and just look silly, but that's why it's worth getting at least one size Newborn.

Unless you love doing laundry, you will need a vast number of clothes in the first size the baby wears, and in the size it wears when you start solids. We used to go through 4-6 outfits a day, dropped to more like an average of 1.5 by 4 months, and now that we're on solids we average pretty close to 3. This is why hand-me-downs are great; why buy new for something that's going to be on the baby for an hour or two before being covered in horrible substances? If you don't like them, it doesn't really matter.

If people really want to buy clothes, encourage them to buy at least 3-6 month size as the baby may be wearing this size very soon. This will be very depressing if you have an average sized baby and you own 40 baby outfits, none of which the baby can wear for 3 months, but it's better than having them be too small immediately. The baby really will grow into them.

When contemplating clothes, remember that the seasons change. For some reason the first thing I bought was a lovely winter 3-6 month outfit. Why did I not think about the fact that a baby that is supposed to be born in February will be 3-6 months in summer in this hemisphere? I suppose I was listening to all those people who said she'd wear 3-6 months in a week or two, who were WRONG. Good thing we went to Australia when she was 5 months.

Do get a hat. With a brim, and a velcro strap. The hospital will give you a dorky little hat to keep the baby's head warm, but you will want to go out, and that will require sun protection.


One hooded towel. Lots of people say they use baby washcloths all the time, but it turns out we don't. The hooded baby towel works just great for us, though. Some people hate them too.

At least 6 cheap receiving blankets. These are not useful for very long, but when they are, they're indispensable and they get dirty almost as fast as clothes, so like clothes they don't need to be nice except for special occasions. We used them for swaddling and temperature adjustment. Now they've been relegated to backup spit-rag status, when we can't find a diaper.

At least 12 cloth diapers. Regardless of what you use as diapers, these are marvelous for wiping things up with. I believe we have purchased 30 so far, although we've never been able to find that many at the same time. They disappear while you're out and about. If you have a spitty baby you will never want to be more than a foot or so from a spit-rag of some sort, and you will cover your house with these.

Rubber-backed flannel things. Preferably at least one big one; we could never get her to spit up on the little ones, although they gave us extra confidence in putting her down sometimes. These look and feel better than other waterproof objects. They also pack in a smaller space for traveling.

Waterproof pads. The absorbent kind. Otherwise when the baby pees in the middle of a diaper change it just runs all over the place. Yes, ick. We have three small ones and two big ones and a rubber-backed flannel one and an absorbent cover on  our changing pad and this is by no means excessive. A bad day still may mean going through 2 pads. Actually, just a few days ago I went through 2 in one diaper change.

Lots of proper baby blankets/quilts. When the baby is new you will look at these and think "What do I want with those? They're the size of Nebraska and you aren't supposed to let babies sleep with blankets anyway." The major use for these is to go under the baby on the floor, although you may also want to cover an awake baby with them, wrap the baby in them while going somewhere, or even let the baby sleep with them (safe if you are right there watching or the blanket is firmly tucked in so it cannot go above  the chest). We actually have been known to let our baby sleep with one wrapped around her, but aside from that we need: 2 for daycare, one for the jogging stroller, one for the diaper bag (to take to yoga), one for the living room, and one for my office for work. That's 6, not counting the illegal one in the bedroom, the spare ones, or the beach towel we keep in the car for when none of the others are available. Let your loving relatives go to town on the baby quilts and covers, as long as they're intended for use - machine washable, solid cloth (not open like the crochet one I made my baby which is therefore no good for protecting her from the carpet), not so precious you'll be heartbroken if they get stained. And, by the way, now that she's 6 months and mobile, they no longer look even as big as Rhode Island.

Feeding things

An Avent Isis manual breast pump. I got one in a kit with a carrying case and bottles, and that was all the Avent bottles we needed, because  Opal hates them and I use them only to pump into. If you intend to breastfeed at all, this will be worth it. If you are pumping seriously you will also need another pump, but that can wait until you find out how things go. The Isis is reasonably cheap, and will be useful for pumping to relieve engorgement (you're so full of milk the baby can't latch on; the baby has just slept 5 hours for the first time and is still asleep, but you're so full of milk it woke you up) and pumping enough to figure out what bottles the baby likes. You may also use it as a backup pump if you get a big electric, or your only pump if you end up mostly being around to feed the baby.

Take'n'Toss sippy cups. Take'n'Toss makes a nice big gifty set with bowls and spoons and big cups, and a little package of cups designed for first sippy cups. These are the best sippy cups in the universe. They are useless with a newborn, but the big set makes a satisfactory rainbow-colored present, and the little sippy cups and the spoons are useful from about 4 months. The rest of it is no good until you start solids, which is about 6 months, but they store well.

Baby safe feeder. This is a mesh thing with a handle. We now own two, an original one, which has replaceable mesh and is good to use for messy things like banana, and a cuter one by Munchkin which is not replaceable and which we use basically only for ice. Started being useful at about 3.5 months for ice.

Playtex Ventaire bottles with silicon natural latch nipples. These are the bottles Opal actually takes. Your baby might take Avent bottles, and might not take these, but they're one of the most likely choices. Lots of babies like them. You want bottles even if you're breastfeeding so you can leave the baby with a babysitter with expressed breast milk. If you don't mind disposable things, any of the Playtex bottles with this style of nipple would be fine. We hated the disposable liner ones, and not just because of the waste; they didn't flow right for us somehow. Most people don't have this problem, though. Many many people have babies who will take these nipples and not Avent.

A feeding pillow. Well, I ended up using bed pillows, but the Boppy was handy for propping the baby up when I wasn't feeding her. My Brest Friend has a good reputation, but it's one of these unpredictable things. It's just really hard to tell what you'll like until you have the baby, at which point shopping for pillows is not going to be high on your list of things to do. Might as well have one to hand, just in case. The Boppy did make me feel better for a while, as part of my pillow strategy.

Lansinoh. It helps sore nipples. One tube will probably last you your entire life.

A nursing stool. In point of fact I used telephone books and didn't particular mind doing so, but if you would rather not clutter your living room with randomly placed large books, a nice low footstool will improve your life. (There is a stage of breastfeeding in which everything must be placed just exactly so, possibly involving having your partner help hold things during setup. It passes, but anything which can help is worth it.)

Diapering things

Maybe a changing table, or a Pack-n-Play with changing table (see below) or a contour changing pad. Changing tables are a matter of preference. We used the one built-in to our Pack-n-Play for several months, but it was really too low for Paul, and our backs started to hurt. Now we use a contour changing pad on top of a dresser. If that idea appeals to you, ask for one of them and 2 terry-cloth covers for it (these are one of the few baby things that are widely available in nice, bright colours). You could also change the baby on the floor, which many people do on just a waterproof pad, but I have to say I'd use the contour changing pad for that, too (in fact, I'm tempted to get another one) just to help keep her from rolling over and wandering away. She stays put better in the contour pad than on the floor.

Cloth diapers if you want to use them, but don't ask me what you need. If you are going with disposable diapers, don't bother asking for diapers until the baby is born and you know what size it will be. Cloth diapers are more flexible in sizing and less bulky to store, you could ask for them as shower gifts.

Not a diaper pail, unless you cloth diaper or it is hard to get to your garbage can. If you are breastfeeding and/or you have easy access to your outdoor garbage can, those diaper disposal systems are more of a nuisance than anything else. We've gotten away just find using plastic grocery bags and taking them out when they smelled (which they don't very much with an exclusively breastfed baby).

A travel changing mat. You will want at least one travel changing mat. You may find it useful to have one per car and one for the diaper bag; it's amazing how easy it is to forget crucial objects when you are sleep-deprived and there are 40 diferent things you might need.

A diaper bag. Ours is actually a messsenger bag, but it's big, it's waterproof, and it isn't easily mistaken for anything else we own. It has pockets but not as many as a diaper bag would have. It doesn't have a built-in changing mat, but we carry a travel mat, which you probably want anyway, because a diaper bag is too big to carry all the time if it's big enough to carry everything you need. Really. You need to fit the baby's clothes, some toys, a blanket, spare diapers, a spare shirt for you, a hat for the baby, possibly a baby carrier, probably a tube of diaper cream, and almost certainly a few other random items.

Things for carting the baby around

Strollers are a whole nightmare unto themselves; there are something like a thousand different ones, ranging in price from $20 to $2,000. Buy an infant car seat, and if you need a stroller (for instance, you are going to take the baby to the grocery store on foot often and need to carry the groceries as well as the baby) buy an adapter that lets you use the infant seat. That buys you 3 months to figure out exactly what you use a stroller for and what features you need. Actually, we didn't buy a stroller, or want one, until the baby was 6 months old and Paul wanted to take her jogging (you can't take them jogging until they have good neck control, no earlier than 3 months; she could have gone jogging then but he didn't feel like it). A stroller can be great, but it can also be a nuisance that prevents you from taking the stairs and has to be manhandled into the car while you deal with a struggling baby.  You do not need one just because you have a baby. If you need one, you probably need several for different purposes. I do not know which one(s) you need, and you will be lucky to figure it out without buying the wrong one at least once.

A pouch-style sling. This is the easiest of the cloth things for carrying a baby around in, and comes in any colour you like including camo if you find the whole sling thing too girly. They say you can nurse in one, but it never worked for me. On the other hand, it only took a few tries to master (and would have been faster if I'd had a person to show me) and requires no adjustment. It also allows no adjustment, so if the people who carry the baby are radically different sizes you will need more than one. But hey, you can get them as cheap as $20, so it's not that big a deal. We have a New Native, but whatever pouch sling appeals to you would be fine. I would avoid one of the fleece ones unless you have a winter baby and are willing to eventually get a cotton (or silk) one for summer.

A ring sling. This is the classic hippy sling, famous for being intimidating to adjust. It's also the most flexible kind, and the tail that gives it the hippy look is useful for draping over the baby for warmth, shade, or privacy. I can nurse in one of these, although Opal now rejects the concept of eating with things over her head. We have a Maya. If you want the anti-hippy fashion statement, do one of these in silk. They're machine washable, so practical, just not cheap.

Get at least one sling before the baby is born. When you are desperate and the baby is howling anyway, insert the baby in the sling. You will be convinced the baby hates the sling. Take the baby for a walk in it anyway. It will be OK. Maybe not the first time. Months after she clearly loved the sling, Opal would still howl upon initial insertion, for no apparent reason, but on-lookers would often think we were cruel. 30 seconds later she would be happy as a clam and usually asleep, and the on-lookers would be reassured.

And hey, if you like the look of other baby carriers, go for it. These slings are useful from day 1, but over the course of a baby's life you will have many chances to use baby carriers, and different ones are useful for different things at different times. For instance, Opal used to sleep happily in the pouch, but now is too big, and can barely be induced to sleep in her Maya ring sling, while she sleeps just great carried vertically. Many people think that Baby Bjorn  style carriers where the legs dangle shouldn't be used for 3 months, but that's not a universal belief. I happen to like asian baby carriers (mei tais) which are a vertical style but have more hip support -- some people loathe having to tie them, though. Baby backpacks are a 6-month plus thing, and by then babies have very firm opinions, so it would be better to shop for them with the baby along.

As for a car seat, get a proper infant seat where you can pop out the carrier and cart the baby around. It's safe in the car and it's incredibly handy not to have to wake the baby up. Alas, they're heavy and I always whacked myself in the leg with it, leaving fascinating bruises. Plus, when you're looking at the weight limit on it calculating how long it will last, be sure to check out the length limit as well. Opal is still under the weight limit at 6+ months. But she outgrew the seat in length by 4. Still, it was great while it lasted. Pick one that can be used without the base so you can use it in other cars; it should have a 5-point harness, and upholstery that comes off so you can wash it. Actually, look, just buy this year's Graco like everybody else. Spend your car-seat searching energy deciding which colour you hate the least.


First off, newborn babies do not play. Second, lots of people will get toys no matter what you say, because they're fun to shop for. So there's no point asking for many toys. However, there are a few things that you will want and should ask for specifically.

A baby gym (a mat with arches and toys dangling from it). I would get the Tiny Love Gymini Deluxe because we have a plain Gymini and love it, but the Deluxe comes with a purple elephant. But lots of people make versions of these things. A flat mat is best for small babies.

Extra links. Links are little plastic rings with an opening used to attach toys to other things. Activity mats come with them. You will need more. You will eventually be obsessed with connecting as many things as possible with them, so that they do not disappear and you do not need 14 hands. You will come to hate toy manufacturers who make toys without loops, because they are evil. The fancy alphabet-shaped links are good, not because they are educational (adults often have trouble identifying which letter they are supposed to be) but because they are better for teething than plain ones and the funny shapes often hold better.

Multi-toy gift packages. Things with 14 different rattles in them, and the like. There will come a time when 14 different rattles are a really useful thing to own, because first, you will want to have them in lots of different places to avoid having to remember to move them about, and second, novelty value is important, so rotating small toys is more useful than owning a few large ones.

A mirror. One with a block to make it stand up at an angle, preferably one that gives you different angles (so a 30-60-90 triangle is better than a 45-45-90 triangle). The mirror should come off the block so you can velcro it to other things (like for instance the handle of the baby carrier so it's above the baby). Endless amusement for a really long time.

A mobile. We really like the Tiny Love Symphony Deluxe, but the important things are 1) it is interesting to look at from below 2) it moves by itself 3) it makes noises that you can stand to listen to and 4) you can attach it somewhere useful. The Tiny Love actually does not score well on 4, but is good on all other points.

Big things

A baby hammock. OK, it's odd, and people look at you funny, but if they knew that you could rock the baby to sleep, safely, from the comfort of your own bed, and you could travel with the baby's bed, and they understood the magic, mystical importance of these things, they would not laugh. There are all sorts of other claims about how wonderful they are, but those are the two things that really do it for us. We really love the hammock.

A baby bouncer. We didn't get one of these. We got the next thing instead. I think I would get both, because a low-end bouncer, while it's not as useful (she'd have long since outgrown it by now) is cheap and would have pleased her better as a small baby. Personally, I wouldn't want one of the fancy ones. Small, non-electronic objects are good. In baby-land, only energetic striving towards the small and non-electronic will keep you from drowning in 3-foot tall objects with electronic kangaroos on them. You could get a swing instead, and if you have a big or multi-level house, you might in fact ask for both so that you can stash the baby safely on several levels without having to try to carry the baby and a large baby-holding object. Some babies hate bouncers; some hate swings; some hate both. The only way to find out is to have the baby, and by then it is officially Too Late because you will want a baby-calming device while you are still too insane to shop for anything that requires real thought.

Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker. In our household, this is the object that allows us to shower and go to the bathroom in peace. You strap the baby into it (in the bathroom, there is no dignity at all in having children) and she is content for minutes at a time. When other people were raving about their bouncers, she was lukewarm about this. But she is still lukewarm about it, and all the bouncers have been outgrown.

Pack-n-Play. This is a playpen, with bassinet and changing table. Ours also came with a really lame mobile. We used it as a changing table for a long time. We might have used the bassinet feature if we'd had a multi-level house, but in ours it was easier to just move the hammock around. We now use it as a playpen, although she rapidly notices she is in a cage and objects.  For Opal, it's not a long term solution, but will allow you to get dressed or deal rapidly with the laundry.

SuperYard XT. This allows you to gate off a larger area than a playpen. This has much more staying power for Opal, particularly since she can pull up to standing on it. Think of it as one of those modern zoo enclosures, while a Pack-n-Play is more of a cage.

A baby monitor. If you need one at home for day-to-day use, a Sony BabyCall appears to be the popular option, but I get that from the net, I know nothing. We don't need one at home, and for a while I thought that meant we didn't need one at all. I was wrong. I need one when I take the baby to work; we need one when we take the baby out to parties and want to put her down to nap in a bedroom; and we have been known to need one while traveling (we forgot it on our last trip, to friends who live in a historic adobe, and ended up trapped in the same room with her when she napped, because sound doesn't carry well through 3-foot thick mud walls).  For this purpose we got the First Years attachable, a stunningly unpopular monitor, and love it. Both ends can be battery operated, and the parent end has a lights-only feature.

Useful frivolity

A big stuffed animal. Really big. Way bigger than the baby. Then you take pictures with it regularly and see the baby grow.

A silver rattle. We have one that was mine when I was a baby, rather battered (it got stuck in the stroller wheels while I had it), and it has been through 2 babies since. If you treat it as an actual baby object rather than a sacred heirloom to be stared out, it's really rather practical (ours would be better with a loop to attach it to things). Cold metal is great for teething on, and she loves it.

Brownies. Or whatever other sort of frivolous, high-calorie food items might make you feel better at a hungry, tired, stressful point in your life. A friend sent us a brownie sampler from Zingerman's which was just marvelous.

A massage certificate. Nobody got me one, but I wish they had. Boy, is post-partum a stiff and sore period of your life in which having somebody else take care of you (instead of needing things from you) is important to you.