Waiting for your first child to arrive is one part irrepressible anticipation and one part sheer dread. There’s excitement, of course, but there’s also an overwhelming amount of things to do, not to mention the nagging sense that you might be ill-suited to be a parent at all.

About that lengthy list of to-dos: One of the earliest things you need to do is create a baby registry. This is so important because registering for the right things can make your life so much easier during those hectic first few days and weeks. But what are baby registry must haves?

I was lucky enough to have lots of great advice when I was preparing for my first. And, now that I’ve had two, I thought I would pay it forward and share my list of 12 baby registry must haves, plus one bonus. Here they are …

You may feel a little guilt as you register for things that are on the expensive side. But let me share two quick things to quell your guilt: 1) Groups of friends love to go in on a gift together, so what costs $300 is only $50 per person when split among six friends, and 2) There are some really generous people in this world who come of out of the woodwork and shock you with how much they spend on gifts. So, be reasonable but don’t be shy. Register for the things you need, and see what happens.


1. Car Seat

This is an obvious place to start. And, of course, you have tons of options. I would recommend getting an infant car seat that clicks in and out of the car as well as in and out of a companion stroller. This is such a lifesaver. The right infant car seat should be light, safe, convenient and easy to clean.

You could choose a convertible car seat right from the beginning, one that grows with your child. But I’ve found it’s better to look at convertible car seats after my first outgrew the infant seat.


2. Stroller

My mom pushed me around in one of those lightweight, umbrella strollers. Luckily, we enjoy a lot more in the way of options in the 21st century. I do have an umbrella stroller, but I only use it for travel and times when I need a super lightweight, super portable stroller.

I would recommend getting something that’s just a tick more substantial than an umbrella stroller. You can find pretty hefty strollers that cruise like luxury vehicles, but they tend to be really heavy and difficult to get in and out of the car, as well as challenging to store. Find a stroller that sits somewhere between a lightweight umbrella stroller and the super substantial options.


3. Furniture

My nurseries have included three main pieces of furniture: a crib, a dresser and a glider. They all match. I would recommend registering for each. The crib is a must, of course. I love having the dresser for storing clothes and keeping things orderly. And the glider has been essential for that just-before-bedtime bottle, as well as for middle-of-the-night feedings.

You can add lots of different kinds of furniture as your kids get older and can use a table and chairs or other items. But I would recommend sticking with these three basics for your registry.


4. Early Sleeping Space

For the first few months, and maybe even up to a year, your baby isn’t going to sleep in a crib — he or she is going to sleep in your room. What will they sleep in? You can choose a bassinet or a co-sleeper, and you can find lots of other options.

That said, I’ve found that what I’ve planned hasn’t always worked out. For example, I got the bassinet for my first, but he ended up sleeping in his swing — I kid you not. It was the only place he felt at peace. So, choose your plan for early sleeping, but also be prepared to see that plan shift when you really do have a little soul sleeping in your room.


5. Swing (or Something Similar)

OK, so I just mentioned the swing, and I would highly recommend one. And, when I say swing, I’m talking about the rockaRoo by 4moms. So get a swing or a similar spot for your baby to hang out. This is so important when you’re trying to leave the house and you need a place for the baby to sit while you get stuff together. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find that your baby ends up sleeping in his or her swing or similar hangout spot.

Other hangout spots that I have and love: the Boppy and the Bumbo. Both can help a baby sit and lie down independently while you do stuff around the house or get ready to leave the house.


6. Bottles

Decide on what kind of bottles you need based on how you plan to feed, and then get as many of them as possible. When you have a newborn, you feel like you’re spending the bulk of your time washing bottles. And what’s funny is: You still feel like you never have a clean bottle available when you need one. So, get as many as you can, and commit to having a monster bottle cleaning session once a day — with the father serving as chief bottle washer.


7. Bathtub

Naturally, a baby is just a little too small to stick in your current bathtub. You’ll need a miniature baby bathtub that sits in the sink during those early days, and then sits within the tub as the baby gets a little too big for the sink.

My baby bathtub is shaped like a whale, and it was perfect. I even got a little sad when my kids outgrew it. But, during those early months, the baby bathtub is essential.


8. Clothes

I’m talking about the basics here. You need socks, hats, pajamas and onesies. Kind of like you can feel like there’s never a clean bottle available when you need one, the same is true for clothes. You can search and search for something for your baby to sleep in or to take a nap in. And it’s infuriating when that search results in nothing. So, get as much as you can in the way of clothing, so you’re not caught doing laundry constantly.

And one last note on baby clothes. Stuff with buttons is often cute. But stuff with zippers is so much easier to get on and off, especially when you’re changing diapers. I opt for zippers whenever they are available.


9. Diaper Bag

Get a diaper bag that is functional and that’s big enough for all your stuff. But also get something that you like and that you’re proud to wear. I use a brown leather bag that I bought at Lands’ End, and it’s become my de facto purse — which I don’t mind. The bag looks great, it’s got plenty of space, and it does everything I need it to do. Life’s too short to lug around a bag that looks like a diaper bag.


10. Pack ‘n Play

A Pack ‘n Play is like a foldable, transportable crib that is so helpful. Your child will use it as a baby, and then often as a toddler for nights at hotels or with family. I’ve even taken my Pack ‘n Play onto the beach so my babies could play without eating handfuls of sand. Get a Pack ‘n Play, and you’ll find that you use it often.


11. Sound Machine

I highly recommend a sound machine. By oldest is almost 3, and he’s never slept without one. But I don’t use sound machines that sound like waves or a rainstorm. I opt for what’s called a white noise machine. They are incredibly generic looking, and all they do is make a whooshing noise. But they are perfect for helping keep my kids asleep when there’s noise around that could potentially wake them.


12. Baby Monitor

I don’t know what parents did before baby monitors. They allow you to spy on your child, to know when they’re sound asleep, to know when they’re writhing, and to know when they’re standing up in their cribs.

And there’s also a lot of paranoia in those early weeks and months. The first time my oldest slept through the night, I found myself wondering that morning: Is he breathing? I didn’t have to wonder. I just had to look at the monitor.


Bonus. NoseFrida

The strangest thing I encountered as a new mother was the NoseFrida. Your baby will get a stuffy nose from time to time, and they don’t know to blow when you hold a tissue up to it. So instead you use a nasal aspirator.

I use the NoseFrida, which is amazing. You stick a small tube into your baby’s nostril. That tube connects to a hose that has a mouthpiece at the end. You, the parent, suck in through that mouthpiece, and your sucking in pulls the baby’s snot into the tube. Your baby will hate it, but it works amazingly well.


Final Thoughts on Baby Registry Must Haves

Take my recommendations to heart, but also be confident in registering for the stuff that matters to you. And never (ever, ever) let anyone scare you about parenthood. You’ll encounter plenty of new moms who will paint a nightmare picture for you before you have your baby. Don’t listen to them. It’s challenging, but that’s to be expected. Everyone goes into parenthood with zero experience, but everyone figures it out. In no time flat, you’ll have a routine in place and you’ll be killing it as a mother.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add to the list above using the comments section below. And, if you have any questions, feel free to send me a direct message through our contact form.