If you’re like most first-time parents, the thought of creating a baby registry is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Suddenly, you’re thrust into a new market, which you may not know anything about. Of course, there are the basics – diapers, bottles, baby monitors – but baby registries seem to have expanded to involve so much…stuff. It’s hard to know what you’ll actually need and what products will work best for your family. If your friends and relatives have already been asking where you’re registered, don’t panic. We’re here to help demystify the baby registry process so you know what you need, what to register for and when. Because having a baby can be a lot of work, but it’s also fun (and super cute)!
When should you create your baby registry?
Starting that baby registry isn’t just a practical matter. It also has some warm-and-fuzzy psychological benefits. It gives you the chance to imagine life with your baby (hello, nesting), think about what kind of parent you want to be (there are many “types” of course, but try to stay true to what feels natural to you), and channel all that nervous energy you’re feeling into something productive (for your soon-to-be little one).
It’s never too early to build a registry, if it’s something you find enjoyable. If you’ve got baby brain (trust us, it’s a thing), starting your list – quietly – can be a good way to keep track of things you want to remember to get. Many online retailers let you start a list privately before you make it public, so you can always edit your final wish list before sending it to family and friends.
So the question becomes less: when to make it, but when to share it. Once you’ve clued in your nearest and dearest that you’re expecting (typically after the 12-week mark), you can go ahead and surface that list.
Baby gear expert Rebekah Kimminau started a “secret registry” before she even got pregnant! “Once we got the positive pregnancy test, I started looking through the secret registry and evaluating the items on there one by one. I had 500+ items on it, so although there were a lot of fun things that I loved, when I started thinking about it practically, I realized there were a lot I didn’t need.”
Another thing you’ll want to consider is the baby’s sex. Are you and your partner comfortable knowing the gender, which is usually revealed around the 16 to 20-week mark? Will you be shopping along gender-normative lines? Or maybe you prefer gender-neutral designs? Whatever your taste, there’s plenty of must-have baby items to register for – baby monitor, bathtub, bottles, and diapers come to mind – sans gender reveal.
What do you really need for a baby?
There’s so much you can register for, but if you add eleventy-billion different things to your baby registry, you run the risk of getting tons of diaper rash cream and hand sanitizer, leaving the important things on your list unpurchased.
Our baby registry strategy is simple: Do what feels right for your family. Try not to stress too much about who will buy what; a solid mix of big-ticket must-haves, plus the essentials you’ll use day in and day out, will ensure you – and baby – are covered. Start here: If you focus on the big-ticket items or essential baby gear that will actually get used day in and day out. Then, add a few smaller items to your registry for those with a smaller budget, like burp cloths and bibs.
Here are some ideas for what you might want to include on your baby registry:
- Smart Baby Monitor: Nanit comes complete with a crystal-clear video feed and an innovative app that you can use on your smartphone or tablet, so you can keep an eye on your little one at all times. (More on this below!)
- Nursery furniture: A crib, glider, and dresser. Do you have a lot of space, or need compact pieces? You can find dressers that double as changing tables, and cribs that transform into toddler beds.
- Bassinet or bedside sleeper for baby’s first few months. In the beginning, they’ll be lodging with you. Add in some sleep sacks and a solid sound machine, to ensure everyone gets some shut-eye (eventually).
- Stroller and car seat: You’ll start with an infant car seat, and progress to options that grow with your little one. City parents might want to prioritize registering for a solid set of wheels since the stroller will be your baby’s main form of transportation.
- Feeding supplies: Bottles, breast pump, nursing pillow, and high chair. Check with your insurance provider – many cover breast pumps. A high chair will not be immediately necessary, but it’s good to have when you need it. There are also plenty of baby seats that snap to a chair or connect to a table to save space.
- Diapers and wipes: Be sure to register for diapers in a bunch of different sizes!
- Bath items: A baby bathtub, hooded towels, and washcloths.
- Baby health and safety supplies like a thermometer and nail clippers.
Why Nanit is a baby registry must-have
We might be a little bit biased, but we certainly agree with the Strategist’s naming Nanit as Best Overall Baby Monitor. The Nanit baby monitor is certainly a must-have for any baby registry, with sleep training expert Natalie Navares citing it as the favorite camera she’s used. Jennifer LaBracio, the gear editor for Babylist, reports that it’s among the most popular monitors on the site: “You can pick up on patterns and sort of take a step back and see how your baby is sleeping the whole night.”
When it comes to baby monitors, Nanit is a smart choice for smart parents, boasting:
- Electronics-free breathing motion monitoring for that peace of mind all new parents need
- 1080p overhead video for a crystal-clear bird’s eye view
- 2-way audio
- White noise and soothing sounds
- Nightlight control
- Real-time sleep tracking and alerts
- Access for multiple users
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Temperature and humidity monitoring
- The ability to grow with your family; add a second monitor and Nanit is the only baby monitor on the market that allows for split-screen viewing in its app
Nanit goes way beyond sleep, tracking the health, wellness, and development of your baby. With Nanit, you’ll get:
- Personalized insights and advice from baby sleep experts
- Daily sleep stats and trends
- Access to science-backed support on sleep and parenting
- Growth and milestone tracking to share with family
- A digital baby book and memories
- A better night’s sleep for you, too—Nanit babies sleep 10% longer and fall asleep earlier!
Baby things you’ll get even if you don’t register for them
Okay, so we’ve discussed the essentials. Now, it’s time to tackle those items you will receive whether or not you register for them. (We’d still suggest you register to guide your loved ones towards prints and patterns you actually like):
- Swaddle blankets and onesies – When you have a new baby, swaddle blankets and onesies seem to appear out of the ether. You’ll have more swaddles and onesies than you know what to do with!
- Clothes – Related to the last point, everyone will want to buy your baby clothes. Baby clothes are fun to shop for! There’s no need to register for them because you’re sure to get plenty.
- Baby shoes – They’re cute and all, but babies don’t walk. Register for socks or warm booties instead.
- A changing table – Why buy a separate piece of furniture just for changing your baby? You can get a changing attachment for their dresser or just use the floor instead.
- A wipe warmer – Does it actually work? Are babies fussy about wipe temperature or just, you know, fussy about being wiped. It’s an age-old debate that you probably can just avoid.
- Lotions, washes, and shampoo – You’ll get lots of samples to use from the hospital and your baby registry welcome bag. Then, you can decide which ones you (and your baby) like best.
Should you register for baby toys?
Baby toys also fall into the category of “things you’ll get whether you register for them or not,” so we recommend leaving the stuffies and rattles off your registry. Instead, register for the bigger ticket toys, like an activity center or baby gym.
Our favorite baby registries
Wondering where you should create your baby registry? We’re linking to our top faves below. Remember, you don’t have to choose just one.
As long as your lists don’t overlap products, you can totally register at two different stores so you can get the adorable floral bedding you want from one place and the crib you have your eye on from another.
If you’re looking for convenience, Amazon is your best bet. Its registry is user-friendly for you and gift-givers. Your loved onescan purchase items from your registry even if they don’t live near you. Plus, Amazon offers free returns on most items, so if something doesn’t work out or the baby has already grown out of it by the time it arrives, you can easily return it. If you’re a Prime member, you’ll get a 15% completion discount, while non-Prime members get 10%.
Babylist has become increasingly popular over the past few years. (Even Halsey registered on Babylist!) One of the best things about Babylist is that you can add items to your registry from any store, eliminating the need to set up multiple registries. Another great thing about Babylist is that you can add non-traditional items to your registry like experiences, classes, and even cash funds. Babylist provides a 15% completion discount, but it only applies to items offered by the Babylist store.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the Nanit x Babylist Ultimate Bundle. It’s one of their bestsellers!
Target is another great registry option because it’s so convenient. You can create your registry online or in-store, which is nice if you want that in-person scanner experience. (The scanners are so fun, right?) Plus, Target offers a 15% completion discount on any remaining items on your registry after your baby is born, which is a nice perk!
buybuyBaby is a one-stop shop for baby gear, which makes it a popular choice for baby registries. Even if you or your family and friends don’t live near a buybuyBaby store, it’s easy to set up and purchase from a registry on their website. When you register with buybuyBaby, you’ll get a generous goody bag and a 15% completion discount.
Just about everyone lives near a Walmart, and there are a lot of benefits to setting up a registry there. They offer free returns for up to a year on all registry items, along with a free welcome box. Walmart doesn’t offer a completion discount, though, so we recommend setting up a second registry somewhere that does.
The bottom line
Like so many things in parenthood, how and when you set up your baby registry comes down to what feels right to you. While you can set up a registry too late (you’ll want to start well before your baby shower!), there’s really no such thing as starting a registry too early.