A good friend of mine is pregnant right now, and so am I. I'm working on my third baby, and, as tradition dictates, am not getting a shower. My friend is working on her first, and she of course is getting a shower. Which is a shame, really, since I know all about what to register for and she has no idea.

Since we live thousands of miles apart these days, I couldn't go with her to register like I'd like to. But these are the tips I gave her on what to ask for. Check out my previous post that lists 10 things to consider when picking items for your baby registy 

What you DON'T NEED:

  • Ear thermometer. They look promising, but they're not effective for infants and not really worth the $60 price tag.
  • Crib bumpers and other bedding besides sheets. You probably already know that those crib sets that are sold complete with quilts and even pillows are a waste of money since any heavy, fluffy bedding can put an infant's life at risk. But a more recent development is that crib bumpers are not recommended, also due to risk.
  • Walker. Believe it or not, they still make these, but judging from the scar in the middle of my husband's eyebrow from going down the stairs in one more than 30 years ago, making crazy little babies that mobile is just NOT A GOOD IDEA.
  • Bath seat. Also considered a safety risk.

What you DO NEED*:

  • Car seat(s). The one piece of gear you absolutely need before the baby is born, because most hospitals won't let you leave without one (even if you are walking home).

    Most people use both a bucket seat with a handle (Graco Snugride is the most popular) and a larger seat for when the baby outgrows the bucket seat at about 12 months. If you have a lot of shower guests and you think some might chip in together for larger gifts, it would be a great idea to register for both seats. If you only want to register for one, and finances are tight, you might consider skipping the bucket seat and registering for a larger seat, which will work from infancy until about age 4.

    Many parents feel that the bucket seat, which snaps in and out of a base for removing a sleeping baby from the car, is indispensible, but personally I found it easier to transfer my second kid to the sling when getting out of the car instead of hauling around the heavy car seat.
  • Crib. Pick a good-quality crib. There have been many crib and bassinet recalls in the past year or so, and many of them have been for lower-end models with plastic hardware to raise and lower the crib rail.

    Get a crib with metal hardware. Maybe this is unfair but personally I would avoid cribs made by the companies whose products have already been recalled. If you don't get a crib as a gift, I have nothing against buying used but with so many recalled items out there it is more important than ever to make sure the crib has a visible sticker showing the make and date of manufacture so you can check for a recall before using it.
  • Crib mattress. This is one area I plan to upgrade for my third baby. I'll be getting an organic crib mattress without vinyl. I don't know for sure if it is worth the extra money, but with a newborn spending half his time there or more, it seems worth the peace of mind. No matter what kind of crib mattress you choose, though, make sure it fits snugly into your chosen crib.
  • Bedding. All you really need is a few snug-fitting sheets and a couple of those zip-up sleep sacks, and some receiving blankets big enough to swaddle with. As a frill this time around, I asked for and received a velcroed swaddling blanket. You will likely receive one or more handmade afghans or quilts, which you'll likely use more for spreading on the floor to set down your baby on during the day, or tucking around them in the swing or stroller.
  • Burp clothes and receiving blankets. Register for a pack of plain cloth diapers; these make the best spit-up cloths. My babies have been mega spitters, and I often find it's useful to cover one's shoulder with a whole receiving blanket for maximum spit-up absorption when burping or even just holding the baby. Receiving blankets are also handy for shielding a baby from sun, covering oneself while nursing, and rolling up to use as head props in the car seat or wherever.
  • Rocker or glider. Most people vouch by Dutailier gliders, but I'm sure there are other good brands as well. Pick a fabric that will hide stains well. I don't have a matching footstool for mine, but I wish I did.
  • Dresser or changing table. You can use pretty much any dresser as a changing table as long as the height is ok for you. You just get a changing pad and cover from Target or Babies R Us and lay that on top. We have the classic changer where one end is raised and that's where you store your changing supplies, and it's been good. But if you have another dresser around already, as long as it can safely fit a changing pad it should also be fine.
  • Baby monitor. These things are always at rummage sales -- very easy to pick up second hand if you don't receive one. I love the idea of the video monitor I saw one mom get at her shower, because sometimes you just can't tell if they're asleep or safe just by listening but you don't want to peek in lest you wake them.
  • Baby carrier. Baby Bjorn is probably the most popular, and it is definitely worth the high price tag -- in fact I recommend the higher-priced ergonomic or "active" version. I also use a sling, but as a frequent babywearer I feel that both a Bjorn and a sling are essential for different uses.

    The sling is great when lulling a small baby to sleep, sitting at the computer, walking and even nursing. I use a Bjorn for more active activities like doing housework, because the arm and leg holes help keep the baby more secured in place. Individual babies often have strong preferences on this as well.
  • High chair or booster. We always had a booster because we didn't have room for a full-on high chair. But I would prefer the high chair if there is enough space, because when you are spoon feeding it gets tiring to stoop down to chair level or always have to sit.
  • Diaper bag. I'm currently just using a regular shoulder bag/large purse that happens to have pockets on the sides. The only really important feature is that it has pockets that can hold a bottle or cup upright. It's also nice if it has at least one separate compartment in case you need to carry some papers or something separate from where cups and food will be kept in case of spillage. 

    I don't put too much stock in built-in changing pads and pockets for diapers, etc. There are really cute little cases out there nowadays to hold your diapers and wipes if you just want to throw those things in your regular bag, and a little portable changing pad is easy to come by. You can even just use a piece of heavy fabric or oilcloth for a changing pad, or get disposable ones.
  • Breast pump. What kind you'll need is hard to predict, but you will probably want at the least a hand pump, and then if you end up pumping a lot (if the baby can't nurse or if you go back to work before weaning), you might rent a high-end one from the hospital or invest in one of the expensive ones.
  • Bottles. Even if you plan to breastfeed you will probably want a few bottles on hand for when you pump or the occasional formula feeding. Bottles should be either BPA-free plastic or glass. Babies R Us went to all BPA-free so if you register there you don't have to worry about that. Avent bottles are nice because they can convert to sippy cups, and they now have some BPA-free bottles.
  • Other small items Pacifiers (don't need too many at first in case the baby doesn't like them, but if the baby likes them, you cannot have too many), diapers, baby nail clippers, digital thermometer (the kind you can put in the armpit or rectum).

    You will probably get a little kit at the hospital with an aspirator bulb and maybe a cheap thermometer.

    Also consider feeding supplies like bowls and spoons, bibs (don't bother registering for those little infant burp bibs because you'll probably get plenty of those anyway), infant sun screen, sun hats and knit caps.

* I say "need," but of course you really need very little to raise a baby by modern safety standards, besides a car seat and a safe place for it to sleep. The above is a list of the things that would come in handy (versus cute novelty items that you'll end up returning or not using), and would provide parents reasonable comfort and convenience.

What might not be necessities, but SURE WOULD BE NICE:

  • Baby's room storage. I like to have a cloth hanging wall pocket thing to keep extra changing supplies in arm's reach. But a dressertop basket or two works as well if you have space.
  • Pack n Play or other portable "playyard." This has been invaluable to me since we traveled so much with or first child, and even around the house.

    First of all, most models have a hanging bassinette which is a good place to keep the newborn with you in your room during those first weeks.

    Second, if you go visit someone, it's a crib you can bring along.

    Third, I liked having the crib in one room and the Pack n Play in another so I could be near the baby in those early weeks when she napped, or even just have a safe place to set baby down while I cooked or whatever.

    Fourth, once your baby is crawling, you can use it for its original purpose, as a playpen. Once I would have thought putting a baby in a pen is terrible, but let me tell you, after two kids' worth of destruction, I am going to be using the playpen a lot more with baby number 3.
  • Somewhere else to stick the infant. Like a swing, bouncy seat, or both. Personally, I feel I need both. Months went by when my second baby napped exclusively in the swing. The bouncy seat was more for entertainment while I cooked or showered and couldn't hold her.

    We have the Fisher Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium swing and bouncer, which are very popular, and the babies liked them both. There is a new state-of-the-art swing from Graco called SweetPeace that I would definitely check out if I didn't already have one; it's something like 50% more expensive but it does all kinds of cool motions.
  • Excersaucer for when they're old enough to sit. I would not have survived without it.
  • Stroller. Now this is a whole other ball of wax. It's pretty tough to decide what stroller you need unless you know for sure what your post-baby lifestyle will be like: will you put it in the car a lot? Ride public transportation? Use it as a shopping cart during grocery runs? 

    Keep in mind that MOST strollers can carry a car seat, not just the ones that are SOLD with car seats. If I had this to do over, I probably would have bought a higher-end stroller to start with because if you think you will have more than one kid, this is one item you'll be using for years and years. Oh, and definitely get a rain cover that fits your stroller if you live in a rainy climate and walk a lot.
    You can get by without a stroller in the early months by getting a Kolcraft Universal or other similar frame that just carries the bucket car seat. These things are actually awesome for grocery shopping because their baskets are way huger than regular strollers. If you don't receive one as a gift, there are plenty on the resale market. We got ours used on Craigslist for under $20.
  • Baby gym. One mom told me she never saw a baby who liked these, but both my girls played in them a lot.
  • Baby bathtub. This is handy for giving baby a sink bath. I used mine much less the second time around because once I had a kid, I would just dip the baby in the kid's bath for a few minutes.


  • Boppy pillow. I didn't use mine that much for breastfeeding but some moms use them a lot, I think those with heavier babies especially.
  • Bottle warmer. I've never had one but someone just gave me one so I'm gonna try it next time.
  • Jumper. This is like an Excersaucer, but it has springs so a non-walking baby can jump and jump. I never had one but when my baby tried one at a friend's place she thought it was super cool.
  • White noise machine. We just used a radio turned to static, but with two noisy kids in the house I might really want one of these this time for when the baby needs to nap or is fussy.
  • Bumbo seat. These had safety warnings because people were putting them on tables, so, duh, if you get one, don't put it on a table. I've never had one but they look neat. Kind of expensive for a non-essential item though.
  • Hiking backpack. Dads especially seem to like carrying babies in those backpacks with frames. We've never had one.
  • Ergo carrier. This is a carrier that can be used on front or back, and you can keep using it till your kid's a toddler. I used mine quite a bit when I lived in San Francisco with a toddler, as it was a lot easier than taking a stroller on bus or subway. Didn't use it much with my second, though, since we moved to a more suburban area where I could usually push the stroller or drive.
  • Food processor or food mill. These are usefull for making regular food into baby food. Can also use your blender.
  • Mommy hook. This is basically just a carabiner like climbers use, but it looks really handy.