If websites, stores, and articles are to be believed, the list of items you need when you first have a child is never-ending. Yes, the list is long. But when you get down to it, a lot of the "recommended" items are not really needed at all. Some are completely unnecessary. Some are nice to have but not mandatory. And some are just plain silly. Then there are other items that would really come in handy, but they don't tell you about them! Below you'll find some guidelines on what you really need to register for or buy when you have your first child.
Your child will need a place to sleep. When he or she is in his or her own room, this will likely consist of a crib. If you opt to have the baby sleep in your bedroom for any length of time, you'll probably want to pick up a smaller bed for the child to sleep in. This can be a bassinet, a mini crib, or a pack and play. I recommend getting a pack and play for the versatility factor. Not only does it usually have two levels -- one shallow that rests on top for when the baby is small, one deeper that is the base for when the baby is larger, or to act as a playpen as the baby grows into an infant and toddler -- but you can also get one with a changing table portion and storage. And they're relatively compact, so they don't take up a lot of room if you don't have much space to spare. Plus they can be folded up and transported if you'll be traveling or visiting friends and relatives.
With the bed you'll also want to get a mattress (in addition to the crib mattress, you can also get smaller ones that can fit into a bassinet, mini crib, or pack and play), a mattress pad, and fitted sheets (I recommend getting at least two, in case one gets dirty). Pediatricians don't recommend putting blankets, pillows, or anything else in the crib, so when it comes to a place to sleep, that's all you really need.
Your baby will also need changing. And that means you'll need a place to change him or her. If space is tight, you can simply change the baby on a bed, or even the floor. Just put a blanket or changing pad down. If you have more space or want a devoted location for changing, you can pick up a changing table or a changing dresser. I recommend getting a unit with some kind of storage so you'll have a place to put extra supplies and clothes. You'll want them nearby when you have a squirmy baby on your hands! Place a changing pad on top, and you're good to go.
Storage is a big factor to consider. Little people use a lot of stuff! And you'll need a place to put it. If you have a dedicated changing table rather than dresser, you may want to get a separate dresser or closet organizers to store clothes and other supplies. Keep in mind that as your child grows, he or she will explore a lot, so having closed storage (such as drawers and doors) will likely work out better than having open shelves.
Unless you want a mess everywhere, that cute little tushy will need covering up. That means diapers. A lot of diapers. There are primarily two kinds of diapers you can choose from: cloth or disposable. The choice is yours, and each has its pros and cons. If you're registering, I encourage you to add some of whatever kind you decide on. That way guests and well-wishers will know what you're looking for and plan on using (and hopefully won't get you the opposite). While you're at it, be sure to get wipes. Lots and lots of wipes.
No matter what kind of diaper you opt to use, you'll need a place to put them when they're dirty. You can certainly use a regular trash can (you'll want one anyway for miscellaneous garbage -- if using for diapers, get one with a lid), or you can get a specially-designed diaper disposal system that helps block the smell of dirty diapers. Don't forget bags!
Your child will also need to be fed. Again, it's your choice how you want to satisfy this need. You can nurse, nurse and bottle feed (i.e. if you're going back to work), pump exclusively, formula feed, or do a combination of it all. Nursing requires the least amount of stuff (though you'll want to pick up some lanolin for those sore nipples). If you plan on going back to work and still providing breast milk, you'll need a breast pump and a way to store the milk. Breast pumps can be electric or manual, and if you plan on pumping often or exclusively, I recommend getting both. To store the milk you can get storage bottles or bags. Bottles are more convenient, but bags are less expensive and easier to store if you plan on freezing extra milk. Again, you may want some of both. If you opt to formula feed, you'll need formula -- either powdered, concentrated, or ready-to-use. Ready-to-use is more convenient but much more expensive. It comes in handy when you're on the go, but for regular feeding you may want powdered or concentrated to save money.
If you'll be formula feeding or doing any kind of bottle feeding, you'll need bottles. There are tons of different styles of bottles, and it can be hard to determine which is best. You'll find they fall into a few different categories: glass, plastic, or bag inserts. If you opt for plastic, make sure they're BPA free (most now will be). Nipples will come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and babies will have preferences depending on how they suck. For newborns, you can find wider nipples that mimic more closely the breast (some even say they mimic how the baby has to suck to get milk from the breast). Then there are the smaller nipples with different sized holes for older babies. Some will be angled. Some will be straight. Overall, use your best judgment. Read packaging to see benefits of each style. You may want to get a few different styles to see what your baby prefers. Don't forget a bottle and nipple brush for cleaning.
Your baby will get dirty, so you'll need a way to get him or her clean. You may opt to do this in a sink when he or she is small, or you can get a baby bathtub. While you're at it, you'll want something to wash the baby with. That means washcloths and body wash. Bath products can be very personal, depending on your preferences when it comes or organic and other manufacturing processes. If you're registering, register for the specific items you plan on using so gift-buyers know what to get. In the beginning you'll only need head-and-body wash and diaper rash cream. Pediatricians don't recommend using baby powder for a while, and if you get an all-in-one, you won't need separate shampoo. You'll want the rash cream, though, to protect little bottoms from getting red and painful. To clean ears, pick up some safety swabs. And don't forget towels to dry off after bath time!
Once the baby is clean, you'll also want nail clippers to prevent the baby from scratching him or herself with long nails, and combs to tidy his or her hair.
At the very least you'll need to take your little one home from the hospital and to doctor's appointments, so you're going to need a car seat. Make sure you get one that meets all current safety regulations. If you opt to borrow or purchase a used one, do some research and look into recalls to make sure it's up to date.
It's likely you'll want a stroller, as well. To make it more convenient, you may want to look into a travel system. Travel systems are units that combine strollers and car seats so they can be used individually or together. Especially when the baby is small, these come in handy. You can unsnap the car seat from its base in your car, then snap it into the stroller. No need to move the baby (especially handy if he or she is sleeping). And with the car seat snapping into a base rather than being secured itself, you can purchase only one car seat and multiple bases if you have multiple cars, or if the child will be cared for and transported by multiple people.
If you do a lot of walking, rather than driving, you may want to look into a carrier for the baby. Designed to strap onto either your front or your back, it's a convenient way to carry your baby. But think about your habits before getting one. You may not use it as much as you think you will.
While you're at it, don't forget to get a diaper bag (gender neutral if Dad will be toting it, as well). You'll need it to lug around diapers, wipes, a change of clothing, bottles, milk or formula, receiving blankets...you get the idea. Get a decent-sized one. They fill up fast.
Babies need more than diapers to cover them up. If you're registering, you probably won't have to register for clothes -- people will get you those anyway. But you may not get everything you need. Or you may get items that are not weather-appropriate for when the child is born. Newborns don't need adorable outfits, though you may be tempted to purchase them (as will other people). Most of the time simple dress will do -- and it will be a lot more convenient. Babies spit up, poop, and just plain make a mess on themselves. You will likely be changing your baby often.
The most basic attire you'll want is a bodysuit (i.e. Onesies). You'll want a bunch, especially in the beginning. How many depends on how often you want to do laundry! This is what your child will wear most often. It covers the body, but still provides easy access to diapers for changing. You can find them in long sleeves or short sleeves. Plan accordingly based on when your baby is due.
You also may want some pajamas, especially if your child is born during the cooler months. Get at least a few.
You'll find some common accessories for babies, usually hats, mittens, and booties. Hats are a good idea if it's cool out, to protect that little noggin. Mittens aren't really necessary unless your baby tends to scratch his or her face often. Booties or socks can be a good idea, however, especially as the baby gets older and is swaddled less frequently.
Though newborns don't need much entertaining, as your child gets older he or she will want items that will stimulate the imagination. In the beginning, this may consist of a swing that incorporates music, lights, or movement. You may want to look into getting one that moves either back and forth or side to side, as babies prefer different styles of movement.
As your child learns to sit up on his or her own, you may also want a bouncer that also incorporates music, lights, and different hands-on activities. And, of course, there are a slew of other toys and activities such as blocks, stackers, and miscellaneous baby-oriented gadgets.
For tummy time, you'll want to get a play mat. Many are convertible, so the baby can lie on either the stomach or the back and still be entertained.
Sometimes simple is best. Don't forget to get some CDs of kids' songs, nursery rhymes, and lullabies as well as books: board books, bath books, and assorted story books.
When your baby doesn't move much, not much is required to keep him or her safe. But that baby will quickly be squirming, crawling, and walking, and you'll want to be prepared.
If you have stairs in your home, or unsafe areas for baby to play in, get a safety gate for each entryway. Make sure you have outlet covers to keep little fingers protected, cabinet and drawer locks to keep them out of trouble, and door knob covers to prevent them from going where they shouldn't.
Don't forget little things, too. You'll want infants' sunblock to protect from the sun and a bulb syringe to fish things out of little noses that shouldn't be there. And of course make sure everything you use meets current safety standards.
Odds and Ends
On a regular basis, you'll also use assorted odds and ends that you'll want on hand.
Bibs are a definite necessity, especially in the beginning and when the baby begins to teethe. Spit-up, drool, and miscellaneous milk and food will get everywhere. Bibs prevent you from having to change outfits quite so much.
Receiving blankets are multi-purpose wonders. You can use them to swaddle a newborn, act as a burp cloth after feeding, protect a bed when changing a diaper, cover little legs if it's chilly -- the list goes on and on. Get several, as they'll get dirty.
Pacifiers are very popular as well -- with both parents and babies! If you opt to use pacifiers, get a few -- and get a pacifier clip so they're not always on the floor.
Just like adults, babies will have times when they just don't feel good. You'll want to have certain things on hand for when it happens: ibuprofen or acetaminophen, herbal baby rub, teething gel or tablets, and teethers (assorted sizes and shapes -- your baby may have a preference). You can even get an amber teething necklace to help against pain. The baby doesn't chew it -- just wears it as a natural pain reliever.
After just a few short months, you'll also want a high chair for feeding. And you'll want baby spoons, and foods, and dishes... Then the fun really begins!
Here's the list in a nutshell:
- Bassinet, mini crib, or pack and play (if baby will be sleeping in your room)
- Mattress pad
- Fitted sheets
- Changing table or changing dresser
- Changing pad
- Storage (i.e. dresser or closet organizers)
- Trash can and/or diaper disposal system
- Lanolin (if nursing or pumping)
- Breast pump (if pumping)
- Breast milk storage bottles or bags (if pumping)
- Formula (if formula feeding)
- Bottles (if pumping or formula feeding)
- Nipples (to go with bottles)
- Bottle and nipple brush
- Baby bathtub
- Body wash
- Diaper rash cream
- Safety swabs
- Nail clippers
- Car seat
- Diaper bag
- Booties or socks
- Play mat
- Music CDs
- Safety gate(s)
- Outlet covers
- Drawer and cabinet locks
- Door knob covers
- Infants' sunblock
- Bulb syringe
- Receiving blankets
- Pacifier clips
- Ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Herbal baby rub
- Teething gel or tablets
- Amber teething necklace
- High chair
- Baby spoons