Are you so overwhelmed to go to some BIG BOX store and get your little gun? Don't be! There is a scientific approach to registering. Below is everything you'll ever need to know to register painlessly. So sit back and relax.
This list can also serve as a list of almost everything you need before the baby arrives. I say that because I take a somewhat different approach to registering than some. A lot of books say not to register for little things like pacifiers or diaper cloths. I disagree with this for two reasons.
First, if you are registering, that probably means this is your first baby. SO, you really don't know what all you will need to have on hand when the baby comes home. If you register for everything, you can go right before your due date and buy any odds and ends still left on the registry. I didn't know this and so I didn't have a lot of the essentials when we came home. My husband was running out almost every night for 2 weeks!
Secondly, I have found that people like to buy little things maybe to tie on the outside of a package OR they like to buy a "themed" gift - maybe throw in the essentials like diaper cloths, shampoo and nail clippers into a baby bath tub.
One thing I do not think that you should register for is a pump or pump-related items. Almost everyone I have asked agrees that it is weird to see breast-related items on a registry and therefore they would never buy them. SO, make sure you buy a pump, nipple cream and breast pads on your own (see pumping section on this web site for more details.) Another is diapers. Just buy one pack of newborn Swaddlers. If you have a big baby, you'll be switching to size 1 really fast.
Also, everything on this list can be found at Babies R Us unless otherwise noted. If there is an asterisk next to an item, I would suggest only registering for it if you think you have a lot of gift givers or if you have multiple showers. These are items that will be used later and are optional. They are also good items to look for at consignment sales or to borrow from friends.
Pacifiers - NUK size 1 Silicone Pacifier, pack of 2
Pacifier Clip - great to clip onto baby's clothes when you are on the go
Bottle set - the Avent Newborn Starter Set is a nice thing to have. It has the bottle brush, pacifiers and various bottles. Although, at $30, it is an expensive gift with little to show for it. So, if you think friends won't want to buy it, register for everything individually - a bottle brush, 2-3 different brands of bottles (see what baby likes) and the NUK pacis above. Also, my baby would not take to the Avent nipple. He might be the only baby on earth not to take to an Avent, but it is another possible reason to register for everything individually.
Diaper cloths - 6 pack Gerber 6-ply cotton (2 packs)
Baby bath tub - the best without a doubt is The First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe Newborn-to-Toddler Tub by Learning Curve. I love this because it comes with a sling that attaches to the tub and cradles tiny baby. Plus, the tub fits into a double or single sink. Once baby can sit up, you can take the sling out, turn the tub around and either leave it in the kitchen sink, or put it in your bathroom tub.
Wash cloths - two 3-packs should be fine. I do like buying special baby washcloths because they are smaller and they seem softer to me!
Towels - definitely go for the hooded version! I like terry cloth myself have heard good things bout the Pottery Barn hoodies. I received the ones from Babies R Us and they are not holding up well.
Bibs - Get lots of small and medium all-cotton bibs if you plan on bottle feeding at all. You'll hate it if the milk dribble into baby's neck - which is really a black hole for several months! Bbs are also great if you have a spitter or a drooler.
Soap - good old Johnson and Johnson all body wash is the best. It works well on hair and is milder than other brands that I tried. I don't think you even need shampoo initially.
Lotions - I wouldn't use any lotion at first. This came straight from my pediatrician. If you do feel the need to use anything, try something that is all-natural like Arbonne or an equivalent from Whole Foods.
Nail clipper/nose aspirator/brush set - this is a nice kit to have, although check with your hospital because they might give you these items.
Receiving blankets (2 packets) - these are great to keep in your diaper bag and all over the house. I keep one over my changing table pad for extra pee coverage and I will often lay one on my family room carpet when I change diapers.
All-purpose mat - I bought these, made by Gerber and they are perfect for the Pack-n-Play changing table. They come in packs of two and are in the receiving blankets aisle at BRU.
2-3 soft blankies - a fleece blanket is nice and then maybe a couple cotton ones or a chenille.
Crib sheets (2 for summer, 2 for winter) - I LOVE the Pottery Barn Chamois sheets for winter. A friend recommended this to me and I have since turned on many more. It is super soft and cozy and baby loves to feel it with his hands. And it comes in TONS of colors. I also love the cotton gingham sheets by PB. They are soft and cheery for summer.
Changing Pad - Contour by Simmons is what I bought. It is nice because the sides curve up which keeps baby more contained. Don't ever leave baby unattended though! Changing pad cover - I bought the Pottery Barn Chamois to match my sheets.
Mattress pad - go cheap on this since you can't see it! And it is a good idea to have two in case baby wets the bed.
Graco Snug Ride Car seat with included base - this is always the top rated carrier and it is easy to use and carry. It is really ingenious to come up with a safe car seat that can be transported into your house or the mall when baby is sleeping. Also, our baby had a hard time sleeping in his crib and he spent many a day and night sleeping in his Snug Ride! We even put it inside the crib. His first night home from the hospital, he was up all night until 7am until we thought of the car seat. It is cozy, I think, like the womb. And, if you have the JJ Cole Bundle Me in there (see below), then it is so snugly! Graco created a bigger version of the SnugRide called a Safe Seat. This is nice because it lasts longer, but it is heavier. Since I have incredibly weak arms, I knew I wouldn't want to carry something heavier so I stuck with the SnugRide.
Extra Snugride base - If you drop baby off at day care and daddy picks up, consider buying an extra base. Grandma might want one too!!
Graco SnugRider Stroller - this is GREAT! It is a skeleton stroller so it only works with the Snug Ride car seat. It is super lightweight and easy to use. I loved it. Some recommend the Baby Trend Snap N Go because it works with all infant carriers. This is what I bought originally, but I was not satisfied with the fit of the Snug Ride. It did not 'snap' in place. It was secured onto the stroller base by a strap. The carrier would wobble around if you touched it with your hand. So, I called Baby Trend and they told me I was doing everything right, but that some carriers would not snap in, they would just sit on top and secure with ONE strap. I was not satisfied with this, so I bought the Graco version and was so happy with it.
Stroller - Baby Bargains had suggested a few strollers, but does not recommend a travel system. A travel system is when the infant carrier snaps into the stroller OR the stroller can be used on its own. Most of my friends were satisfied but not thrilled with their travel systems. But, one friend LOVED the lightweight Graco Metro Travel System. Since I went a different route (SnugRide with SnugRider and totally separate stroller,) I can't speak to travel systems.
As for traditional strollers, I have the Peg-Perego Aria, and find it to be very mediocre. It is hard to adjust the seat levels with one hand, the sun shade is just decoration because it is so small and the cup holder is not a 'tray' type, so I can't throw my keys in it. I will say that it is VERY easy to open and close and I do like the fact that there is an area to clip on their sold separately diaper bag attachment. I just clipped on a free messenger bag that my husband got at a conference. One friend loves the Peg-Perego Pliko and another loves the Maclaren Umbrella (but wishes it reclined to 180 for the airport. When looking for a stroller, find one that can open and close with one hand, has good sun coverage, is lightweight and can recline as much as possible.
Graco Pack n Play Portable Playard - I chose the $99 one and it came with a bassinet feature, changing table, teddy bear mobile and a sound machine. And guess what, I have used every single one of those countless times. My son loved the mobile and I would put him there to calm him down - not even when I was changing his diaper! We had the PNP set up in our family room after my c-section. He slept in it during the day too. And the sound machine helped us in his crib even in the middle of the night. And if there is construction in our neighborhood, I still use it at nap time!
Graco Pack N Play Sheets (2) - make sure you buy Graco brand because they fit the Pack N Play mattress perfectly. The other brand I looked at, by Koala, are nice but don't fit it quite as perfectly.
Baby Bjorn Active Carrier - this is a better option that the original Baby Bjorn because it has lumbar support which they say distributes baby's weight more evenly. I love my Bjorn!! It is great for a walk around the block when you don't want to deal with the stroller. I also used my Bjorn at Target and the grocery store because my baby was so big. He was out of the Snugride but couldn't sit up in the cart! So, I put him in the Bjorn and was able to push the cart. He LOVED looking around and chatting with the deli lady.
Boppy - a must-have whether you nurse or not! This pillow is great for nursing, obviously. The reason it is better than a regular pillow is because it comes around your waist instead of just laying horizontally. I brought this to my mom's house, grandma's and work because I could not nurse without it! It is also great if you don't nurse or when you are done. It supports baby when he is still a little wobbly sitting up and it is also helpful for tummy time. I strongly recommend that you buy the boppy base with slip covers. The pillow itself washes, but it loses its stiffness. So, have two slip covers because one will always be in the wash. Baby will secrete everything on that thing!
Monitor - Fisher price Sounds N Lights Dual Monitor Private Connections with Dual Receivers - Baby Bargains recommends the Sony monitor, but I have a friend who got terrible feedback with that one. Baby Bargains second choice is the Fisher Price Sounds N Light. I like the Fisher Price option because they come with two receivers which the Sony does not. To me, this is a no brainer. You want one monitor in your room/bathroom and one in your family room/kitchen/basement.
Bouncy seat - most babies seem to take to this item as soon as they arrive home from the hospital. My son would not sit in it until 8 weeks. BUT, when he did, it was a godsend. I actually received the Fisher Price Infant to Toddler Rocker. I didn't realize that it didn't 'bounce' but it was actually terrific and I highly recommend it. My son LOVED to be rocked and we could rock him to sleep in it when he was fussy. It also comes with a great arc of toys that a baby likes to look at early on and later on, loves to play with.
Activity mat - I love the Gymini Super Deluxe Light and Music by Tiny Love. It has great colorful toys, music (nursery rhymes and classical) and it crackles and squeaks. It even has a mirror! This might be my favorite baby item because it lasts for so long. He can use it as a newborn all the way up to 10 months or even a year. It is also very portable. I take it out on the lawn, to my mom's house and to work when I bring baby. He also loves the toys and we take them in the diaper bag or stroller.
Swing - one of my friends said that you need all of this equipment for 'baby cross-training.' Babies only have teeny tiny attention spans, so you need to switch it up all day long. I think all swings are pretty great, so pick a cute one and you'll be fine. Just make sure that it turns two ways (swings back to front and side to side) and has a music and mobile component. Babies almost always fall asleep in the swing. Don't worry too much about that, although don't make it a habit. Good sleep habits are the most important thing to instill, but don't stress much before 12 weeks.
Symphony in Motion Mobile - I didn't know about this when my baby was born. I got a mobile as a gift - it was that traditional mobile you think of - it had frogs hanging down at the same height and played music for about a minute. My baby cried when he saw it. Then I visited a friend and laid my son under her Symphony mobile. He loved it. It is ingenious because the toys are at a different angle and there are little plastic shapes that slide down and 'click.' It also plays various classical music - and for 15 minutes! I use it when I need to blow dry my hair or switch out the laundry. It is a good 15 minute break for yourself when you know baby is safe and happy. And all the books say that babies need some alone time anyway.
Exersaucer * - this is a great toy to entertain baby, strengthen muscles and helpful for hand-eye coordination. I have an asterisk next to this because it is a great gift but since baby won't use it until 4-5 months, you might want to keep it off your registry. You want to get the essentials before baby is born. And you can also try to buy this at a consignment store or borrow from a friend. I find it very interesting that the price varies so much with an exersaucer. You can spend $49 or $120! I think the Evenflo $60 saucer is all you need. BUT, if you want to spend more, the Baby Einstein saucer is pretty darn cool for about $80! It speaks Spanish!!
Jumperoo * - this is also optional because it is used down the road and it is similar to the exersaucer. BUT, back to the cross-training analogy, it is nice to have both. Babies love the toys and music, but particularly the jumping motion. One thing to note - like the swing or any other piece of equipment, everything in moderation. Don't keep baby in any of things for more than 30-60 minutes. They need to learn motor development the old-fashioned way - rolling, creeping, scooting, etc. on their backs and bellies. If you only want to buy one of the above items, go for the exersaucer because it is portable. You can bring it into your kitchen and keep baby occupied while you do dishes, or take it into the backyard while you grill out.
High Chair - I have the Baby Trend "Trend" high chair. It has so many features and comes with lots of extras, and therefore I was very happy with it initially. It was great when my son first started eating cereal because it reclined slightly. BUT, as soon as he was upright and I put that tray on, he SHRUNK! Let me tell you, my son is off the charts for height, but he is STILL too short for that tray at 22 months! So, we just bought the small portable booster seat by Fisher-Price and have used that since he was about 10 months old. This is also great if you have a smaller eating area.
I debated about whether or not to put an asterisk next to this item because you don't start using it until 4-6 months. BUT, I think it is really nice to have it before baby is born. Because it is mandatory (unlike the exersaucer or jumperoo,) you don't want to have to worry about running out and buying it when you start solids. Register for it, get it at a shower (the price point makes it a nice group gift) and store it in your basement until you need it. That day comes with lighting fast speed!
Just pick a few little toys that are colorful and that make noise or squeak. I do love all toys by Sassy particularly the 8CT Lively Links. This was one of my son's favorite toys. Also, the Lamaze and Whoozits are great. Every baby needs a Whoozit!
Bundle me - JJ Cole makes this amazing item! This fits in your infant carrier and zips up and serves like a winter coat for baby! When you dash out from car to mall, you can flip the top closed to shield baby's head. I highly recommend this product, but only if baby is going to be using in with the first 6 months. Depending on the size of baby, he might be out of the infant carrier by 6 months and not need this. Most babies seem to last closer to 9 months or a year, but my baby grew out of his carrier length wise at 4 months! VERY RARE.
Moses Basket - this could be considered optional or if you can borrow one, do so. But, it was a lifesaver for us. Early on, on some nights, our baby would not sleep in his crib and I was never going to have him in our room, bed, etc. So, a friend suggested trying a Moses basket in the crib. We swaddled him first in the Swaddle Me (below) and then put him in the Moses Basket. It was cozy and claustrophobic, just like the womb! I think he lasted in that until he grew too tall at about 2 months. Also, never carry the baby in the Moses Basket by the handles. They are not considered safe for use. After baby grows out of it, the Moses Basket makes a great stuffed animal house or toy box!
Swaddle Me Adjustable Infant Wrap (fleece for winter, cotton for summer) - by Kiddopotamus, this is a very cool invention. It is a little confusing to a new parent, but only for a bout 3 minutes. And only because you are sleep deprived. This is a swaddle blanket with Velcro fasteners, so baby stays snugly and swaddled throughout sleep. My son was a screaming, squirmer and got out of the regular, receiving blanket swaddle the day we brought him home. So, this was a godsend. He would still scream while we swaddled him, but we would swaddle and pick up and rock him super fast and then he would doze off and we could put him down still swaddled. Get a size small initially and then move up when necessary. Something to Note: company only makes this in small and large.
Halo Sleep Sack - this is another magnificent invention if you don't swaddle or when baby weans from swaddling. My hospital gave me one to take home in XS. These also come in fleece or cotton and is meant to be used instead of a blanket. We still use this at nearly a year!
Lullaby CD * - a nice extra that friends like to buy in addition to a blankie, etc.
Baby Einstein DVD * You'll have a tough day where baby is really fussy and you will throw this in the DVD and your baby will sit quietly for 30 minutes! Like everything, in moderation only. Choose one that says 0-3 or whatever. I bought one that said 1 and it was too advanced when I first tried it with my 7-month old.
Phew, is that all!?