As tiny as babies are when they come into this world, the amount of stuff new parents feel like they need to get to take care of them can quickly fill up an entire home. How can a newborn who does little more than eat, sleep, and poop require so many... things?
The truth is, they don't really. "People wanna have everything ready to go," says Abby Ludwig, the VP of parent experience with Gugu Guru, which offers parents personalized product recommendations. "And the reality is you just don't need it. There are really just a handful of products you need for those first three months with a newborn."
Recently, Ludwig says she's seen many first-time parents scaling back from the massive registry lists of the past. "I'm finding that Gen Z is just being overall much more conscious about the products that they're introducing," adds Molly Pross, founder of Bump Bestie, a baby planning business that offers registry consulting. She says the minimalist trend has gained steam in the last few years, both in an attempt to reduce waste and to be more strategic about budgeting (especially considering inflation today).
So if you're looking to create a baby registry with just the essentials, what do you actually need to put on there?
Probably less than you'd expect. For instance, as fun as it might be to shop for them, experts recommend not adding a ton of toys or clothes—most people simply get you whatever they think is cute anyway. "And you really don't need that many books to start," says Pross.
Plus, as counterintuitive as it may be, you actually don't want to stock up on too much first aid gear: "The reality is you're not giving baby medicine early on unless instructed by a doctor," says Ludwig. Filling up that medicine cabinet proactively just means most ointments and creams will expire before it's ever time to use them.
To create a more pared-down baby registry, keep it focused on those first few months, and find items that will tick multiple boxes or grow right along with your little one. Here's a rundown of what experts say you actually need.
1. A way to put baby to sleep safely
There can be an overwhelming number of options when it comes to where to put your baby down to sleep, including bassinets, cribs, and play yards. "In Europe, there are many families who use cardboard boxes or drawers," says Ludwig. "As long as it's a firm, flat surface with nothing else in it, it's a safe place to put baby."
Pross suggests a mini crib, which can serve as both a bassinet and a crib, and be all you need for the first couple of years.
Swaddles help mimic that snug feeling your baby got used to in the womb. Although your hospital or birthing center will likely give you one for safe, sound sleeping, it’s worth having a few more on hand (since you know there will be mid-night blowouts). Ludwig recommends the kind that convert into a sleep sack. “Your baby can be swaddled for the first few months, then once he or she starts rolling, you can actually unzip a flap and their arms can be out,” she says.
2. Something to bring baby home in
Most hospitals will require you to have a car seat before you're allowed to head home after giving birth. Of course, if you live in a city like New York, all you might need is an infant-safe stroller. Either way, you can invest in something that covers both of those categories. There are many travel systems these days that integrate the car seat into the stroller—letting you click it right into the frame—which offer the bonus of seamlessly transitioning from the car to the sidewalk without waking Baby up.
If at all possible, Laurenlee Tritle, senior customer experience expert and virtual registry consultant at buybuy Baby, strongly recommends heading to your local store to test out a few. "This will get a lot of use, so you'll want to feel the material, see how easy it is to buckle, how heavy it feels to lift," she says. "All car seats will be safe, so the wide range of prices really reflects the extra comforts or features that go into them."
But don't let a high price keep you from adding the one you want to your registry: Simply click on the group gifting option so people can chip in with however much they want to. Tritle points out that if an item doesn't get fully funded, buybuy Baby lets you use that money elsewhere.
This car-seat-and-stroller-in-one pops into your car, then with the click of a button, drops down wheels to transform into a stroller. Fitting children from four to 35 pounds, it lets you bypass the need for a big, bulky stroller that takes up a lot of space.
3. The diapering essentials
Although many parents stress over finding the perfect changing table for the nursery, Pross points out that for the first six months, your baby will likely be sleeping in the room with you, so you're more likely to be changing them on your bed, or wherever you're typically hanging out, like in the living room. Instead of focusing on getting the right dresser, just add a changing pad to your registry.
And don't go gangbusters on diapers just yet: Wait till baby arrives so you know what their skin can handle before buying any multi-packs. Instead, most registries, like buybuy Baby's, offer an option to register for a diaper fund that friends and family can give to, and you can use as you see fit later on (even on items other than diapers).
The only ointment you’ll definitely need in those early days is diaper cream. Start off with a small bottle until you know what your baby can tolerate.
4. A plan for feeding your baby
One common mistake is putting a ton of feeding equipment on your registry. The truth is, you don't know how much milk you'll produce, or what kind of bottle your baby will like until they're here. Whether you're planning to breast feed or use formula, start with the bare minimum. "The feeding process, especially when it's your first, is a lot of figuring stuff out, and there's no playbook," says Ludwig. "You're trying things out to see what works for you and your baby."
If you’re planning to breast feed, having some nipple cream on hand from the start will make things more comfortable, says Ludwig.
A nursing tank top or bra can also make the feeding process easier in the early days if you’re breast feeding. But remember that your body is about to change again, just like it did during pregnancy, so you might want to wait awhile before buying multiples.
5. A few ways to mimic the womb
After so many months of being carried around in your belly, being out in the world can feel jarring. Things we take for granted—like quiet and stillness—are unfamiliar to newborns. This is why experts believe they love movement like bouncing and jiggling so much, as well as consistent sounds as loud as a vacuum cleaner(!), and more moisture in the air.
Gliders and rocking chairs are staples in many nurseries. But you don’t necessarily need to splurge on something high-end. Anything that lets you move as you nurse or read to your baby will do the trick. The Ready Rocker converts just about anything—your bed, a chair, that extra space on the floor next to the wall—into a rocker.
Although many first-time parents might assume they only need a humidifier for when the baby is sick, these actually help all the time by creating a more moisture-filled environment that better mimics the womb. “And, honestly, it’s good for everybody, unless you live in an already super humid area,” says Tritle. Her go-to pick is from Fridababy—she says parents can’t go wrong with just about any product from this brand.
6. An activity mat for tummy time
Placing your baby on their stomach builds motor skills and strengthens essential muscles that will eventually allow them to roll over, sit up, and crawl. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommends starting tummy time from the very day you take them home. A soft play mat for this will engage their senses and keep them safe.
This versatile mat allows you to switch out toys—designed to build a variety of skills like hiding and exploring colors—throughout the first year to keep your baby from getting bored. Bonus: It’s easy to fold up and put away when you’re done playing.
7. A rectal thermometer
This is the one first-aid essential you definitely need. "It's the only accurate way to take a baby's temperature until they're six months old," says Ludwig.
8. Some postpartum recovery tools
Whether you give birth in a hospital or birthing center, via C-section or a vaginal delivery, you will be given most of the things you need to recover. But they won't necessarily be the most comfortable. "The maxi pads they give you at the hospital are these huge, ginormous, really thick pads," says Ludwig. Stocking up on a few postpartum items—including some painkillers like Tylenol—can make those first few days after labor much more bearable.
These will not only fit far better than what the hospital provides, the crack-and-cool cold therapy will provide welcome relief.
You’re going to have enough baby clothes to clean. No matter how you end up delivering, you’re in for a messy recovery. Being able to toss out your underwear in those first days will give you one less thing to stress over.
Still feeling overwhelmed by all the options? Head to your local buybuy BABY to connect with a registry consultant and get personalized recommendations designed specifically for your family's lifestyle. "We don't work on commission," says Tritle. "So you can feel confident we're there to do what's best for you."
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