Where to Register for a Baby Shower

pregnant woman on laptop
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Are you having a baby? Well, you're going to need a few things. Make that a lot of things. And chances are, many of the necessities— as well as the niceties (heirloom blankets and sterling silver feeding spoons and such)—will come from family and friends who are as excited about the impending arrival as you are.

Here's where a baby registry can come in handy for all concerned: Just like registering for a wedding, registering for baby gifts involves picking out the things you really want and need and putting them on a list at a store that people can access. As each gift in your registry is purchased, it will be labeled as such. This way, you won't wind up with three strollers or more onesies than a single baby could wear in a year.

Registering for your baby also is helpful for gift-givers. Whether they're planning to come to a baby shower in your honor or live far away but want to send something for the baby, having a list of your needs and wants to go by can make it much easier for them to gift you with something they know you'll really use.

If you choose to register, you will want to start the process about halfway through the second trimester, but don't wait until the last minute. It will only stress you out, and won't give would-be gift-givers time to choose something they want to give you.

Where to Register

Nowadays there are lots of options when it comes to registering for baby gifts and you don't have to stick to just one place, which is great since it means you can select from a larger variety of items and price points. Some options:

Large chain stores. Although Babies"R"Us met its demise along with its sister store, Toys"R"Us, in 2018, there are plenty of other options: Target, Sears, Wal-Mart, Baby Depot at Burlington Coat Factory, and of course BuyBuyBaby all offer baby registries. Since these stores have locations all over the country, you can go to the one nearest you to pick out your must-haves and really-wants in person before adding them to your list. Likewise, your best friend from college who lives on the opposite coast can go into her local version of the store, consult your list, and see exactly what she's sending you.

Department stores. If it sells baby gear and clothing, chances are a large department store will have a registry.

Local baby boutiques. For unique, non-commercial items—particularly clothing and nursery decor—your favorite nearby children's store may offer a registry. Even if they don't advertise it, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Online universal registries. This is a good option if many people who'll be purchasing gifts for you are spread all over the country. They allow you to pipe in your wish list from several different stores and locations. Examples are myregistry.com and babylist, which also allows you to register for services such as a doula and homecooked meals to get you and your family through those first exhausting days or weeks after your baby arrives.

Making Your List

Here are some tips for putting together a baby registry, whether you're using just one store or a combination:

Think it through. If this is your first baby, you may think you need things you don't (or miss out on items that really can be useful). You can get guidance from baby books, magazines, online parenting sites, and the stores themselves, but don't forget your most valuable source: Other parents who are already in the trenches and can offer first-hand advice about which baby products can help and which are hype.

Browse in person. If possible, go to the stores where you plan to register so that you can check out the things you're interested in. You may find, for example, that even though a stroller you think looks cool online is actually awkward to handle. Or that you don't like the feel of the crib bedding that caught your eye in a magazine article.

Understand return policies. Despite your best efforts, you may receive duplicates of certain items or a damaged or faulty version of something. Make sure the stores where you register allow for easy exchanges and returns.

Manage your registries. Let people know where your lists are, especially if you know someone is throwing you a baby shower because that person will then be able to share the information with the guests. Keep an eye on purchases as they're made—especially as your due date gets closer so that you can buy for yourself necessities that no one else has.

Be prepared to be surprised. A registry can be the perfect way to prepare for your baby-to-be, but there are lots of people who prefer to pick things out themselves. It's absolutely fine for loved ones to veer away from your list—and fun for you to unwrap something delightful that you aren't expecting.

By Jennifer White
Jennifer White has authored parenting books and has worked in childcare and education fields for over 15 years.