Liz Narins month 7 of pregnancy

11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Building My First Baby Registry

Two of the greatest regrets in my life are my wedding and baby registries (which I know is a very lucky position to be in). Before my wedding, my then-fiancé and I were living in a cramped walk-up apartment with a kitchen that was so small we had to put our cutting board over the sink to make room for food prep. I couldn’t imagine a world where we’d have room for more than one mug each or a special set of fancy flatware. So I registered for the bare minimum—a few pans to replace our scratched ones, a few knives to replace our dull ones, and some wine glasses to replace the ones I’d cracked over the years. Five years later, I’m living the life I couldn’t envision with room for some, if not all, of the things I couldn’t imagine needing. Every time I try to entertain like an adult, I’m reminded of all the ways my registry fell short. 

Fast forward three years: When I got pregnant with my first child and set out to create a baby registry, I began with a list of recommendations from a friend who’d recently had a baby and almost had an anxiety attack. There were pages and pages of alleged necessities, thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of items, for a pipsqueak I’d yet to meet. I couldn’t imagine a baby needing more than diapers, wipes, warm jammies, and a safe place to sleep. Did my baby really need a travel stroller? After all, aren’t all strollers made for traveling?

By the time I got to the bottom of the list, the part filled with postpartum necessities for new moms, my eyes had glazed over. Instead of filling my registry with the things women much wiser than me said I would need, I’d stay up late adding picture-perfect clothing and accessories, including a snowsuit in a size my kid would outgrow before the winter and an extremely photogenic, but utterly un-fun, wooden rattle my kid would pick up maybe twice. 

Planning for your first child can definitely be overwhelming—and there’s no way you’ll get it 100% right. While there are a bunch of things you definitely need, preparing for your baby’s arrival doesn’t have to cost more than their first year of college. Take it from a mom whose arsenal includes a single bib, just one bottle, a lone pacifier, and one sleep sack—no extras, no excess. Here’s my best advice.

Planning for your first child can definitely be overwhelming—and there’s no way you’ll get it 100% right.

Plan It Out

Picking out every single thing you need to keep a human you’ve yet to meet clothed, fed, and alive is a full-time job. (And chances are, you already have one of those!) Starting with a plan can make the whole experience much simpler.

Think In Categories

To make things more manageable, break your registry down by category: bath and toiletries, sleep-related items, clothes, and nursing/feeding gear, etc. Pick one category per week and add just those items to your registry. Don’t forget to include your postpartum needs—no matter how you give birth, you’ll need pads and comfy underwear at the very least, plus some over-the-counter pain medication. If you're breastfeeding, make sure to add some super-soft nursing bras!

Know What You Need and Don't

Wipes? Must have. Wipe warmers? Nice to have. Spring for the necessities first and keep the little luxuries in your back pocket. If your kid turns out to be one that screams their face off every time you touch a wipe to their tush, you might consider an upgrade.

On the flip side, you probably don’t need the pretty-but-impractical items, like the nearly $20 pacifiers with the stuffed animals. Although they’re super cute, they’re just as likely to get lost or fall out of your child’s mouth. Instead, you can buy half a dozen cheaper pacifiers that you won't mind your baby tossing every which way. 

I also quickly learned that shoes are not worth splurging on until your kid can walk. I used fleece or knit booties (one grey pair and one navy pair—again, no extras) for warmth until my son was ready for first walkers, which he promptly destroyed by periodically reverting back to crawling, which scratched the toes. But I never used the teeny-tiny soft-soled converse sneakers I bought while I was pregnant since they always seemed uncomfortable and unnecessary. 

Dream Big

The bougie baby bedding you’ve been eyeing? Add it to your registry in case a friend or family member is in the mood to splurge. Then, you can save your affordable backups to a Pinterest board so you can shop those options to fill in the gaps as your due date nears. 

Do Your Research

Once you know what you want, you've got to find it! This can mean endless hours of scrolling through every baby website on the internet. That sounds daunting, but with a few tricks you can suss out which products are actually worthwhile.

Trust Online Reviews

Every mom has their own taste and favorites. For functional items—particularly those with a high sticker price—ask a variety of people for recommendations so you don’t end up buying the fold-up bathtub that fits nicely under your one friend’s vanity but annoyingly collapses in your sink.

For functional items—particularly those with a high sticker price—ask a variety of people for recommendations.

Get Advice From Other Parents

Save yourself time and ask other parents what they bought and didn't need. For me, those items were a humidifier, travel stroller, changing pad covers, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizer, bottle brush, bottle soap, bottle dryer, diaper pail, nursing tanks, nursing pads, baby lounger, travel changing station, and a rectal thermometer. 

Be Open to Hand-Me-Downs

The majority of my newborn arsenal was used by my nieces, including a bassinet, carseat, and bouncer that I happily acquired. I bought my son’s entire layette secondhand on Facebook Marketplace, and continue to get his clothes from my local Buy Nothing Facebook Group for free. I also buy lightly-used shoes from Poshmark now that he’s a toddler.

Start Adding Items

Once you've got your plan, and know what you're interested in, it's time to start adding products! As you're doing that, keep these tips in mind. They helped me immensely.

Ignore Aesthetics

That chic minimalist no-name high-chair I registered for on Amazon? The tray was a nightmare to clean and the unpadded seat was cold and unsupportive for a wobbly 6-month-old. When he broke the strap, the brand didn’t respond to our request for a replacement. We swapped it for a clip-on high chair that hooks onto our countertop and we haven’t had issues since.

Comfy Clothes Win, Every Time

Even if your maternal instincts are telling you to dress your baby like a micro-influencer, newborns lay around all day so comfy PJs tend to be the outfit of the day, every day. Take it from someone who’s gone through their entire baby’s wardrobe in one night: You won’t regret getting extra pajamas. It’s why those multipacks make a ton of sense, even if you don’t love every single pattern in the bunch.

Get Multiples

This is your chance to stock up! Get more than one size of diaper–newborn, size one, and size two–to be safe. Blowouts are real and a sign you need to upsize. Larger diapers will never go to waste because your child will eventually grow into them!

The same goes for clothing. Clothes for your baby’s first year come in premie, 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9 or 9-12. Newborns grow so quickly that yours may outgrow the smallest sizes within weeks. It’s worth securing onesies in a variety of sizes from the get-go to avoid scrambling once your baby arrives. (Remember: You’ll be recovering.) 

After the Baby Shower

Once you get your gear home, you may realize you have things you don't need or don't really want. Here's how I navigated that period.

Save your gift receipts.

It’s fun to wash and fold new baby clothes and put them away but it’s best to keep the tags on because your child could grow out outfits before they get a chance to wear them. If you can return items, you won't be stuck with clothes you never use!

Don’t feel like you have to fit every item your child will ever need into your shopping cart before your due date.

Buy It Online

These days, you can get almost everything you need quickly delivered to your house. Don’t feel like you have to fit every item your child will ever need into your shopping cart before your due date. In fact, when you bring your kid home from the hospital their needs will be minimal—you don’t even bathe them until their belly-button scab falls off, which could be a week or so. Additionally, you won’t need real toys for a while since newborns barely open their eyes in the first weeks. And when they do, they’re happy to look at anything—whether it’s a pricey baby mobile or a magazine their mom is reading.

So don't fret if you feel like you're missing toys or tub gear, as long as you have the essentials, you're set!

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  1. Wan Mohamed Radzi CWJB, Salarzadeh Jenatabadi H, Samsudin N. Postpartum depression symptoms in survey-based research: a structural equation analysisBMC Public Health. 2021;21(27). doi:10.1186/s12889-020-09999-2

By Elizabeth Narins
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist whose favorite workout is chasing her toddler. Her work has been published by Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parents, Health, Bustle, and more.