Baby Gear: What Do You Actually Need to Register For?

Baby Gear: What Do You Actually Need?

By Polly Conner


Baby Gear: What Do You Actually Need to Register For?

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I recently found out a friend of mine is 7 weeks pregnant with her first baby. As we excitedly talked (and squealed) about all that is store for her she asked me if we have a resource on Thriving Home that helps new moms figure out what they actually need to register for.

Nope. Not until now anyway!

Before I jump in I want to say I’m a little hesitant to write this post for a few reasons:

1) Every mom has a different experience and therefore different opinions. I fully expect other moms to disagree with some of the items I declare as necessary or unnecessary. Please comment (kindly) at the end of this post if you have anything to add.

2) I don’t want to sound materialistic and say you NEED all of these things. Mamas in third world countries have healthy infants without 90% of this stuff. I use “need” with a grain of salt.

3) My opinions will likely change. When Baby 2.0 arrives in three months I plan to add and remove things from this list as I see necessary. In fact, here is a post on things I plan to do differently with my second child.

Lastly, just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it is the best for your home or baby. I write this simply to serve as a resource for new mamas who feel lost in the seas of registries and baby products. Hope it helps!

Must Haves

Infant Car Seat: I have loved the Graco Snugride 32. It’s easy to carry and easy to snap into the car seat base. The 32 represents how many pounds the carseat can safely hold. Money Saving Tip: There is no need to spend money on the bigger ones. Can you imagine yourself lugging around a 30lb+ child in an infant seat? By the time they are that much you will have moved them to a convertible car seat. 

Pack ‘n Play: If you plan to travel anywhere or have the baby sleep anywhere other than their crib, you’ll want a pack ‘n play. We still use ours all of the time for our toddler. Money Saving Tip: No need to get the upgraded Pack ‘n Play with all the bells and whistles. We did just fine with the basic one. 

Changing Table/Changing Pad: Your little one will be spending a lot of time on this so make sure it’s functional. To save space and money, I repurposed a dresser into a changing table. I like having the drawers of clothes right there and I also like that we can use the furniture in the future. You’ll also need a contoured changing pad to go on top of the table to keep your little one from rolling off.

Diapers: Thinking about cloth diapering? Check out my post, Cloth Diapering 101 for more information. Either way, you’ll need a stash of newborn diapers- but not too many! They grow out of those really fast and my pediatrician said to move to size one when you can because the extra space helps prevent diaper rash.

Breast Pump & Storage Bags:  If you plan to breastfeed you’ll need some sort of pump. I had two. One was a Medela double pump. I was so glad I went with the double instead of single pump. Because of my daughters acid reflux and other breast feeding issues I ran into, I had to pump A LOT. The double pump cut my pumping time in half. I also had a Medela Manual Pump. I probably could have lived without this but it was nice to have during those times I didn’t want to take the big ‘ol breast pump bag with me. The manual pump could easily be thrown into a diaper bag or purse.  You’ll also need a some storage bags. I used the Lansinoh brand and liked them just fine. Update: With my second child, I ended up using the manual pump WAY more than the double. I’ve found that with two kids I need to pump on the go quite a bit more so having a small one has worked much better.  

Bottles: Depending on your situation, you may not need that many bottles. We did fine on 4-6 bottles- especially since we hand washed them. Looking back I wish I would have splurged a little and gone with glass bottles but we didn’t and probably won’t at this point. I would recommend getting one brand and sticking to that. When you get different brands, it can get confusing on which top goes with with bottle. We went with Advent bottles. We had about 3, 4oz and about 3-4 9oz bottles. They worked great for us. I know a lot of people swear by Dr. Browns bottles too. Most likely your baby will do just fine with whatever brand you give him or her.

Burp Cloths: Please don’t spend a lot of money on these. They are made to clean up puke and drool. The BEST kind that I have found are the Gerber cloth diapers that I just use as a burp cloth. I have decorated and/or personalized these and given them as gifts to tons of new moms.

Crib & Mattress: Ready for my little soap box? I think it’s silly to spend a lot of money on a crib. It’s a crib – it doesn’t do much except sit there. If it’s built correctly (which if it’s sold in a store, they all are since they have to meet certain safety requirements) than it is going to do it’s job: provide a place for the kid to sleep. We went with the Graco Lauren Classic Convertible Crib. It’s worked great for us so far. We also just got a basic mattress from Target. Trust me, your infant won’t care what brand of mattress they are sleeping on.

Crib Sheets and Mattress Pad2-3 crib sheets should be enough. We were also advised to get two mattress pads in case of the event of a midnight blowout. We haven’t had to pull out an emergency mattress pad quite yet but I’m glad we have an extra.

Monitor: Since we live in a one story house we don’t use the monitor very much at all. It only comes in use if I were to go outside or when we travel. But if you can’t hear your little one cry from most places in your house, you’ll need a monitor of some type.

Diaper Bag: You’d be surprised how much junk you have to carry around with a kid. We have a JJ Cole Bag and have been very happy with it. In fact, when one of the clips on it broke, they sent me an entirely new bag!

Stroller:  You’ll want something to push the little one around in. I got so stressed out about what kind of strollers to buy. We ended up with three! We used the Snap and Go stroller like crazy in those first few months. It was so nice to just clip the infant car seat into the stroller and not have to worry about moving a sleeping, warm baby to a stroller. We also have a simple umbrella stroller that is light-weight and easy to throw in the car. Lastly, we have a jogging stroller (an In Step Safari Swivel Wheel) that we have used more than any other stroller. It folds up really easy and has worked great for us. If you get a little head support insert you can take your little one for walks when they are itty bitty.

Health and Hygiene Items: Nail clippers (or scissors), digital thermometer, diaper rash cream (we like Desitin), baby tylenol, shampoo, body wash, and lotion.

Cradle ‘N Swing: This was a MUST HAVE for our first kiddo. She had reflux so she napped so much better when a little propped up. She took most of her naps in this until she was about 3 months old. Some babies aren’t so crazy about the swing though. I’d recommend borrowing one to try out before you drop $100 for one. Or even better, get one second hand! I’ve seen them going for around $40 on Craigs List.

Sorta-Must Haves

Bouncer: A lot depends on the baby but our little one loved her bouncer. It’s nice to have a place to prop up the baby so they can look around. I know a lot of babies really like the vibration option some of the bouncers come with. Here is the deal with this… buy this 2nd hand! They are stupidly expensive brand new and really don’t show much wear and tear even if it has been heavily used. There are TONS on Craigs List if you take a look.

Boppy Pillow: This made nursing a whole lot easier. It also served the purpose of propping the baby up after eating or when they get close to sitting up on their own.

Sheets for Pack ‘n Play: I suppose the mattress is fine to sleep on without sheets but it seems a lot cozier to have one on there. It also helps that you can wash the sheet after a few uses. We have really liked the Eddie Bauer Quilted sheet. It’s a lot more cozy than a simple cotton sheet.

Bath Tub: There are lots of different options for this. We liked having a baby bath but I know others do fine with simply putting a hand towel down in the tub and filling it with an inch or two of warm water. I will say this, our daughter did not like the mesh one tub. I think it was too cold!

Playmat/Activity Gym: This fold up activity gym was great to have for those first few months. It was a great place to have the little one do their tummy time and also a great place to leave them to ooh and ahh at the little toys that dangle in their face. I like that it folded up so easily and was so mobile too. My little gal spent a lot of time on this!

Noise Maker: This could fall under the not necessary category but I am putting it under Sorta-Must Haves because that is what it has been for us. We live in a one story house on a busy street with two dogs. Oh, and hardwood floors that do not absorb sound. Needless to say, a noise maker has helped a lot.

Baby Carrier: I personally like the Moby Wrap and Ergo (which I bought 2nd hand). I found that the Moby Wrap worked great for 0-4 months and then the Ergo took over after that. I used a Bjorn carrier (also bought 2nd hand) for a while as well and liked it but I found that the Ergo offers more back support for when the baby gets heavier.

Nice to Have but Not Necessary at All

An extra car seat base: We did fine with just one base but some like to have a base in each car they own.

Itzbeen Timer: I’ve had friends who swear by this little gadget. It keeps track of how long it’s been between feedings, naps, and diapers. You can use it for all of those or just one. If you’re a mama who plans to aim for a schedule, this might be a good thing for you. If you want to go the cheaper route, I’m sure there are iPhone apps that would do the same thing.

Woombie/Swaddle Blankets: Our little one wasn’t the most “chill” baby. She was pretty particular about things so when we found that she was soothed by being zipped up in the woombie, we were jumping for joy. It keeps their limbs snug and close to their body but also gives them a little wiggle room (kind of like the womb). We also regularly used velcro swaddle blankets that kept her snug as well. I put this under the not necessary category simply because if you are a skilled swaddler, you can probably achieve the same things with a quality blanket. Update: My second child didn’t like the woombie. He did much better in a velcro swaddle blanket. It just depends on the kid, I guess!

Jumparoo: My gal spent so much time in her jumparoo. Even as a 4 month old who could hardly stay upright, she loved looking at all the bright colors and toys. We loved the Fisher Price Rainforest one.

Drying Rack for Bottles: Pretty handy to have but not all that necessary- especially if you don’t plan to bottle feed a ton. We did a lot of bottles so it was nice to have a place for them to dry rather than all over our counter.

Nursing cover: It’s nice to have a cover that you know won’t slip down at an inconvenient time. Nursing covers have a strap that go around your neck and some structure in the front that allows you to easily see your baby. If you don’t get one of these, you’ll be fine. A blanket or burp cloth will do the job.

Video monitor: I have LOVED having a video monitor but I also realize it is totally not necessary. We love to peek in on her and see her wiggle in her sleep. It also helps you to determine the reasons for crying. Once our gal wouldn’t go to sleep for a while. I checked the monitor to see that her leg had gotten stuck between the crib spindles. Glad I didn’t try to make her tough it out! It’s also just pretty fun to watch them when they think no one is looking (when they are a little older).

Shopping Cart Cover: I used to giggle to myself when I saw moms with these. I thought they were a bit excessive. However, as my gal got old enough to sit in the cart but not old enough to understand to not gnaw on the handle, I was glad I had one. We only used it for a few months so this is something you can for sure get 2nd hand and just wash.

Tiny Diner Placemat: This guy has come in pretty handy when eating out. It suctions to the table and serves as a plate for your little one. However, unlike real plates, your grabby goose can’t fling it across the room. It rolls up and fits in your diaper bag easily.

Don’t Waste Your Money

Diaper Genie: First of all the diapers don’t even get stinky until you start solids. Secondly, specialty trash cans require specialty trash bags which of course cost more money. We just have a trash can with a step-lid in the nursery. We take poopy diapers to the kitchen trash since that gets emptied more frequently.

Wipe Warmer: Your baby will be just fine with a room temperature wipe, I promise. If you get one for free, sure, use it. But I wouldn’t spend much money on something that wipes poop.

Bottle Warmer: You’ve got a free bottle warmer in your kitchen already! Got a glass? Fill it with warm water and put the bottle in it. Boomtown- a free bottle warmer.

Baby Towels: We found that the baby towels that we got were thin, cheap, and not warm. We now just use our own bath towels for our little lady and will do the same for any future kids. I do like the little hoodies that come with baby towels but not enough to spend extra money for one.

Clothes: Yes, you’ll need clothes but don’t go crazy at garage sales (like I did) or Target before your little one arrives. People LOVE to give you clothes rather than the necessary items you actually need. I find this particularly true if you’re having a girl. Also, you hardly need any newborn/3 month old clothes because they grow out of them so fast! For Baby 2.0 I am getting less than half the clothing I had for my first and I am fully confident we will be just fine.

Toys: As much as you’ll be eager to play with your little one, they are just as entertained by lights and fans than an expensive toy. Don’t worry about toys for a while. When toy time does come, take the time to go to garage sales. You can get so much for so little!

Mama’s Wellness and Happiness

For tips on healing up after the birth of your baby, check out our post on Understanding the Fourth Trimester.

Pads: Big pads for the first few weeks and then you can size down after that. After the baby you are blessed with a 3-5 week long period. Have fun.

Disposable Breast Pads:  I didn’t realize how many of these I would go through. They are expensive too! I’ve heard good things about Bamboobies (I know, hilarious name right?!) which are a reusable breast pad that aren’t nearly as bulky as disposables. They are on my wish list. Update: Bamboobies are great. In the beginning I needed something with a little more absorbency but now I use them exclusively. Highly recommend!

Big Comfy Bras: You think your girls are big now, pregnant mama? Just wait. You’ll look down and laugh at yourself about a week after birth. I was thankful to have a good stock of stretchy, bras that could flex and flow with the changes of my body. My favorite nursing bra came from Target. It was the Bravado! Design Seamless Nursing Bra.

Nipple Cream: I just wrote the word nipple on our blog… hehe. Anyway, hate to be the one to break it to you but your milk machines are going to need a little TLC in the beginning. I know a lot of people use Lansinoh Lanolin but I’ve also heard good things about the Earth Mama Brand. I’ll be honest, none of them really helped me but other mamas swear by this stuff so I’d get some if I were you.

An Extra Water Bottle: You’ll want to keep a full water bottle right next to where you plan on nursing the most. I can’t explain it but as soon as that baby latches on, you’ll be desperate for water.

A Good Book: I was amazed at how much time was spent nursing in the beginning. You can’t do much when a baby is latched on to you so you either watch a lot of TV or do a lot of nothing. For Baby 2.0, I plan to stock up on a few good books to read while nursing. Maybe reading a thriller of some type will make those middle of the night feedings a bit more enjoyable. Need some ideas? We have a lot of book recommendations!

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff- but nearly as much as the Babies ‘R Us registry will tell you that you need.

Alright, mamas. Now it’s your turn. What did I miss??

(Like this post? Check out other posts specifically written for pregnant women and new moms!)


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29 replies
  1. Lucy says:

    Hi Polly,

    Indeed a very helpful list of must-haves for first-time Moms as well as those things that we can do without. Most of the time, first-time Moms grab all the things they think they need for their baby and most of it ends up in storage. 🙂

    Though it may not be true for all, but it is always good to have something to guide us on where to start our baby shopping!

    Thanks Polly.


  2. Malissa says:

    Graco Snugride 32 am using for my baby. It can be bought at a lower cost. It is very easy to replace the car seat. You can feel very comfortable with it to travel
    . This is because a lot of light.

  3. Jessica says:

    I must say, I used 4 crib sheets and 4 mattress protectors our crib for our son and am planning to do the same thing with our daughter next month. I layer 4 layers of the sheet/mattress protector combo onto the crib mattress, so when spit ups, blowouts, or pee get on the sheet, I can just rip off a laying in the middle of the night and have more layers underneath without struggling.
    My son had a TON of blowouts, so it was super handy for me to be able to wad it up in the laundry room and deal with it in the morning.
    By the way- I LOVE your blog! Thank you for all the thought you put in to it!

  4. Evelyn Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing this Polly! What an exhaustive list of baby gear! I still remember the time before my first child arrived… wasn’t fun coming with such a list. I wish I had found your blog a few years back!


  5. Kari says:

    THANK YOU, POLLY! I literally created my entire Amazon baby registry from this list. YOU ROCK. Thank you for helping new moms like me, who only know that babies need a bed and cute clothes.

  6. Eunice says:

    It is amazing how many things a tiny little human being needs as soon as they come out into the world. The Itzbeen timer looks like a very interesting gadget. Gotta look out for that for my next one

  7. sonja says:

    Tried and true… the list that you posted is almost identical to what I used three kids strong, brand names and everything. I could have written the list myself (my oldest is 19). Proves that tried and true classics are always a great investment.

  8. Steve says:

    Some Moms don’t know Graco’s history. Graco is more than 70 years old and began in 1942 when Russell Gray (“Gra”) and Robert Cone (“Co”) formed Graco Metal Products in Philadelphia to fabricate machine parts. In 1955, the partners split and Graco introduced the Swingomatic®, the world’s first windup infant swing. They followed it up with Pac N’ Play® portable playards, and the “Digital Baby Monitor.” All three of these Graco products are now among the best known baby products ever, and are coveted and trusted by Mothers the world over. Stroller Reviews

  9. holli says:

    This is a great list. We loved our monitor, which we didn’t get until our second baby because we didn’t need it the first time around. But it was nice to go out and play in the back yard while baby was sleeping. Make sure you get a digital one not analog.

    Also I loved all my slings and carriers. Don’t invest in a Bijorn when you can only wear them on the front for a very short period. Not to mention they were not designed for the baby or mother/fathers spine. The Ergo or one that does front and back wearing is much better and same price and you use it much longer. I love wearing babies.

    If you are using cloth diapers, which is a great choice, you can use the cloth wipes or I recommend using the toddler flushable wipes. This way you can just flush everything together. The normal wipes are not flushable so you have to separate out the wipes and the diaper in all that mess.

    Also if moms take seriously 5 days of bed rest postpartum they won’t bleed for weeks and weeks, but usually just about 10 days or less. Also taking seriously bed rest prevents, yeast infections, mastitis and fatigue (which in the long run can prevent postpartum depression). It greatly benefits milk production as mom’s body is no longer trying to recover each day from blood loss and can now produce milk.

    In my classes I always tell new parents that babies only need two things: boobs and arms to hold him or her.

  10. Heidi says:

    Jillian had colic and terrible reflux and the only way she would nap for an extended period was in a carrier. The Ergo was my BFF and I recommend spending the extra $30 for the Infant Heart to Heart insert so it can be used from birth (as long as your kiddo is 7+ lbs). I also <3 my Bob Stroller. As long as you make sure your infant carseat is compatable with the infant seat adapter it can be used from birth til your sweetie will no longer tollerate being confined in a stroller. They are a little pricey, but well worth it in my opinion!

  11. Susan @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds says:

    Another thing you need (or at least I did for my 4 ;0): A soft carrier for “wearing” your baby, style will depend on you and the age of your baby. My personal faves are a stretchy double-sling for a newborn, and a mei-tei carrier for a child with head control. My 1st wouldn’t sleep at all unless he was being held—the sling saved my life. ;0)

    Another thing you don’t need: A changing table. A towel or waterproof pad on the floor or bed works just as well.

    Great list!

  12. Valerie Jensen says:

    The Snuza Baby Monitor is an absolute must-have for me. I would never have slept again without it. So much peace of mind! The BEST baby monitor out there!

  13. Justin Garrett says:

    My wife would agree with your assessment that a video monitor isn’t a necessity but I think you are both wrong. How could I possibly start my role as Helicopter Dad without watching my two little boys every second of every day? I’m hoping that by the time they are old enough to drive, I will be able to secretly install a video camera inside their cars. I can’t stand to think of not being able to see them every second of every day.

  14. Carla says:

    We got a pack-n-play with bassinet and the diaper changing ‘table’ that swings up and down. Best thing ever. We used the bassinet portion until each child could get on their hands & knees. So much easier to lift in and out of and it wasn’t an extra piece of furniture to store or whatever because the pack-n-play itself was used after we were done with the bassinet. I loved having the changing ‘table’ right there and it was used at least until the kids were two. We got our pack-n-play 8 years ago now, so I don’t know about all the bells and whistles now, but if you can find a used one with a bassinet and changing table, it is worth it!

    Books! Sometimes it’s hard to know what to ask for and people want to get something. I loved getting books from people that were their favorites from childhood. Or board books – big, small, extra sensory things in and on them or not… all of them have lasted years in our house and babies and toddlers love to mimic, so mine would pull out a board book to look at while others in the house were reading.

    I agree with Ashley on the swing. A must have in our house. My kids liked the one that swung two different directions. I think I used it more than the bouncy, though I loved that as well… and I had an old school one with no bells and whistles, just vibrating. It was perfect.

    Depending on the time of year the baby is born, a humidifier is helpful. I eventually needed one for my kids that were born in May and August, but my December baby needed it from the start. The house is so dry in the winter and they are coming from such a ‘moist’ environment. It was an absolute must-have for her from the beginning!

    • Polly says:

      I’m pretty sure every Pack ‘n Play comes with a bassinet feature now. I agree though, it was great to have until they got mobile.
      I just added the swing to the MUST HAVE list. I can’t believe I forgot it!

      We never got a humidifier but I can’t see how it wouldn’t help in the winter months. Thanks for the tips, Carla!

  15. Ann says:

    If you are having a fall/winter baby the JJ Cole BundleMe is very useful. Since it zips up you don’t have to worry about it blowing away in the wind. It can also be used in your strollers. You can find them 2nd hand as well.
    For breastfeeding I found that a nipple shield was very helpful the first couple of weeks or if you have issues with cracked nipples. Medela sells one or you can ask the hospital for one while you are there.
    Also if you are going to have a C-Section invest in some “granny panties”. The full brief underwear, you don’t want your elastic anywhere close to your scar area.

    • Polly says:

      I had (and am due with) a Spring baby so I didn’t even think about adding a BundleMe. Good tip!
      My lactation consultant discouraged the use of a nipple shield but I have close, trusted friends who could hardly feed without one. I fall under the camp of “Do what it takes” in those first few months so if a shield worked well for you and got that baby eating better, by all means use it!

  16. Ashley says:

    OH! And I’d also encourage new mom’s to get good breastfeeding help fast! I just wrote a long post about breastfeeding. Being a new mom is kind of tough, but it DOES get better! A lot of the time, I had to just pray, “Help us figure this out! Help me not to worry!”

  17. Ashley says:

    Good list! I’d add Halo Sleepsacks! Swaddling didn’t help us much, but the Sleepsack is awesome. I’ve heard great things about the My Brest Friend nursing pillow and I fully intend to get one next time. I’ve tried them in lactation consultants’ offices and like them. Less hunching over, a bit firmer, and it clips on. I couldn’t even use the Boppy at first because Miles kept slipping down in the crack. We’ve also found a swing to be helpful for napping (we like the Snugabunny because it plugs in). I know it’s bad and all to let your kid sleep in anything for a few reasons (the oxygen issue, head stuff, etc), but man, the swing has been the naptime hero at our house. We can even get him to fall asleep in it and then transfer him elsewhere. For some reason, nighttime doesn’t require a swing. Once we started using a sound machine, sleep improved a lot. Our son is going to be sleeping in our room until six months, so a pack and play with a bassinet has been helpful, but I agree, the bells and whistles on those things seem silly. Next time, we’ll just move a crib in our room. We love the video monitor and if a person can splurge a bit on it, I’d definitely recommend it! We also only have a one story, but it’s nice to be able to check on him when he makes weird noises. We recently began using a Snuza Go! (monitors movement) because our baby is sleeping a lot at once for now. It put my mind more at ease. It doesn’t exactly prevent SIDS, but it can catch little apnea incidences.

    It’s all so overwhelming at first, but once your baby is here, things just start to click. I nearly cried in the bottle aisle while registering because it was just too much (p.s. we like Dr. Brown’s glass, but we also have some plastic and some glass Evenflo for storage).


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