Last summer when I was setting up a baby registry for the first time, I was super overwhelmed with all the lists of absolutely essential items online… especially if you start visiting websites or apps like The Bump or BabyCenter, you are seriously bombarded from all directions. Everyone will give you cute clothes (especially if you’re having a girl), but what do you really need? And do you really need a gadget for every second of the day?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but after surviving the first six months of motherhood, there are definitely a few items I used almost every single day that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to all my friends.
You’ve probably got all the basics covered, but here are a few essentials I couldn’t live without… add them to your registry pronto!
I’ve seen plenty of crinkly little books and rattles, but I’ve never seen a sheet of crinkly paper by itself before, and Amelia absolutely loves it! Many, many meltdowns were avoided by pulling baby paper out of my bag, and it can occupy her when nothing else could, especially on long car rides. Three cheers to my Mama who found it online!
This was the only activity mat we bought, and it occupied Amelia for months; she started out kicking the piano keys to make music, then moved on to reaching and grasping the hanging toys.The keyboard is detachable from the mat, so it can still be used as they age out of the other activities. Even now Amelia still loves sitting by her “best friends,” as I call the hanging animals.
I love this thing! We still use it in the bath tub at 7 months, but it’s come in handy from the very first days of sponge bathing. Before Amelia could sit up unassisted, we also used it as a reclining seat. It’s easy to clean, and we’ve packed it for every overnight trip so far. The only thing that would make it perfect is if it folded up somehow to become more portable or to hide it away when it’s not in use, but it’s not a big deal.
I never really got the hang of swaddling with a blanket, and Amelia always wanted her arms free, so for a while we used a wearable blanket at night, but her startle reflex would always wake her up and then she’d scratch herself. A family friend recommended the Swaddle Up swaddle, which allows babies to sleep with their arms in the “wing” position, and it’s been a lifesaver! I got the Lite version which is a lighter, more breathable material for the summer months.
We still use this swaddle at 7 months but we’ll need to transition out of it some time soon. I’ve heard good things about the Zippadee-Zip to help the transition.
Teething starts earlier than you think and lasts forever, so I promise this will be used sooner than later! It’s small enough for baby to grasp it easily at a few months old, and Amelia loved chowing down on the bristles when her gums were sore. It comes with a plastic case which is great for throwing in the diaper bag.
I used this pillow while nursing for the first couple months, and it was especially helpful while my C-section scar was healing. As Amelia got bigger, we used it in all kinds of positions: to prop her up to sit, for tummy time, for lounging while supported… you’ll come up with a million ways to use it.
I like the size of these burp cloths (not too big, not too small) and the designs are super cute (and gender neutral) too, so I always stock up when I see them on sale.
I’m not brand-loyal on these changing pad liners, and I have about 6 liners from a couple different brands, but I’ve gotten a ton of use out them! During a diaper emergency, it’s so much easier to remove the liner, or fold it in half to catch the messiest part, than to remove an entire cover from the changing pad. They’re machine washable and have held up pretty well for seven months… and if they get too tattered around the edges, it’s not a big deal to buy another three-pack.
I never would have thought to put a lamp on my baby registry, but this touch sensor lamp turned out to be a must-have for late night feedings. It was so easy to reach over and turn on the lamp with one finger, instead of fumbling for a switch, and the lowest setting isn’t too bright to wake everyone up. Eventually I replaced this lamp with two matching touch lamps for both bedside tables, and this lamp moved to the changing table. We still use it almost every day, and I think it will be cute and functional in Amelia’s room when she’s old enough to use it herself, too.
There are a couple more items that get regular use but I don’t necessarily think we chose the best of all the options… so I’d still say they’re essentials, but you could probably find something better.
Amelia didn’t like the swing at first, but after a couple months she changed her tune and began taking most of her naps in this swing. The swing seat is detachable and can also be used as a bouncer, which has come in handy when I need two hands and a place to put Amelia somewhere safe. I like the dual-purpose swing and bouncer, but the headrest is extremely flimsy and never supported the baby’s head well, so we had to add a removable headrest support. That’s an easy enough fix, but I’m sure there are better swings and/or bouncer seats out there (although this is the only one I found that does both).
I don’t know if Amelia didn’t like being carried on my chest as a newborn, or if she just didn’t like this carrier. As she got bigger, it seemed to fit her better, and now she loves facing out and watching everything I do with my hands. It does the job, but the straps and buckles don’t seem very comfortable, and I’ll definitely shop around for a sling or something else when it comes time for baby #2.
When we were setting up our registry, I really liked this Alphamom list as a starting point; we didn’t follow it to the letter but it was reasonable and thorough, with no froufrou stuff; plus, it included a range of inexpensive to big ticket items.
A word of warning from personal experience: we set up a registry at Babies R Us so we could take a look at everything in the store, which I still think is a good idea, but I learned the hard way that they have a terrible return policy. There are no online returns, and unless you want the person who bought the item to know it was returned by refunding their method of payment (!!), you have to physically return the item to the store for store credit, which can be annoying to do with a newborn in tow. It was insane to me that they had no system for handling returns online like all over online retailers. We only had one duplicate item after my baby shower and after going through the return process, I cancelled our registry just so we wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore.
So our main registry was set up at Amazon and no one had a problem that it was online-only; if anyone you know doesn’t like online shopping, I promise they won’t have a problem finding a cute gift anyway. Amazon does a good job of walking you through the necessities, but my one caveat is that just because an item is a bestseller doesn’t mean you actually need it… and just because it’s a bestseller doesn’t mean that it’s the best one, so you still have to dig through the reviews.
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