Baby on the way or thoughts of one soon? Congrats! You’ve got a lot on your mind between medical appointments, developmental milestones and planning for your baby’s debut. Advice from friends and the pile of books you’re ploughing through are probably starting to make you realize that for such a small human, babies sure do need a lot of things, right? If thoughts of baby registries and product reviews are percolating in your mind, read on to learn how, when and what to register for. We’ve done the research for you! Consider it one less item on your to-do list.
If you registered for wedding gifts, you already know the drill: A baby registry is a giant wish list of all the swag parents-to-be want in preparation of their newest addition. These items are typically gifted at showers (or at a smaller celebration if it’s a second or third baby) and help set new parents up because—let’s face it—having a baby isn’t cheap. And since people will want to spoil you and the bebe anyway, you might as well point them in the right direction by cataloging exactly what you want.
Registries generally pack a roster of asks, from large-ticket items like a stroller, monitors or a high-tech bassinet, to little-but-necessary—albeit unsexy—items, like washcloths, wipes, pacifiers and that nipple cream you’ll be very grateful for later.
You can register for gifts online, in person or both. Every store is different, but most have a checklist to guide you, loaded with suggested items, along with a quantity for each. The registry keeps track of what you’ve asked for and what’s been purchased already, to avoid dupes from your gift givers.
Among your very first steps is deciding where you want to register. Stores offer different services, products and perks. Ease for you and your guests is an important consideration.
Think about whether you want to register online or in-store. Both have their own draws, and since pregnancy is already stressful, you should pick what will be the most seamless for you.
Just like buying a car, going into a store to register is a great way to test drive products you’re interested in and to be introduced to things you didn’t even know you needed. Hashing out your concerns and questions with people who live and breathe baby products will help you suss what items will fit your life. “You’re getting sound advice from people you trust and they get to know you, too,” says Barbara Ann Solomon, who, before heading up marketing at West Coast Kids, was a customer who registered with the company ahead of her son’s birth. “The connection will last the entire time you’re a customer there.”
Solomon, for one, believes the in-person experience is essential. “If you walk into a store, you can see things first-hand, like, ‘Is this stroller heavy or light?’ You can experience the product before the baby is there.”
To pick a store, Dallas Duncan, manager of Buybuy Baby in Calgary, suggests looking at its return and price-matching policies, completion discounts (which is a percentage off, when you close out, on registry items that didn’t get purchased), staff knowledge and the shopping experience. Keep in mind that some of your friends and family will prefer to go in-store and pick your item, while others are happy to snag it online.
Think about your lifestyle
The number of things babies need can be… intimidating. Checklists can point you in the right direction, but Duncan suggests using your lifestyle as a gauge. For example, if you travel a lot, you’ll want a stroller that’s compact and easy to fold. Or if you know you’re a very modest person, a nursing cover might be worth registering for.
Researching products and slogging through reviews is important but can feel overwhelming, depending on your personality type. “It’s all very subjective,” says Duncan. “One person might love it; another person hates it.” Consider consulting friends with babies or a Facebook parenting group.
Consider your values and priorities
Your list doesn’t need to be set in stone immediately, but have an idea of what boxes you want to tick. When Solomon was creating her own baby registry, aesthetic and price point were key in her decision making. “I prefer to go with Canadian brands, so that was an important part of what I was including.” You might favour a certain brand or sustainability factors when making your picks, but ultimately, your baby’s preference will some- times outweigh what you find aesthetically plea- sing. Translation: Sometimes practicality is best.
While newborn baby goods are often the focus, Solomon recommends registering for things that can grow with your little one. “Look for hidden gems. Buying something once and being able to use it until they are toddlers saves you money and becomes a better investment,” she says, adding that future asks can be a key strategic move, too. “You don’t need a high chair now, but you will in six months.” The same goes for baby spoons, plates, sippy cups and clothes that range in size.
It’s OK if the list is long
Don’t overthink what you add to your registry. You won’t receive everything, and if you do, you can decide later what’s a keeper. “Never be afraid to scan the things that you want or need. No one is going to judge you,” Duncan says. “There are only two times when people legit want to buy you the right things: when you’re getting married and when you’re having a baby.”
Knowing your registry of choice’s return policy comes in handy here. Some friends and family may go rogue and choose something that isn’t on your registry, so you may end up with duplicates, or things you’d never use.
Don’t shy away from adding a few pricey items to your list, because it’s not uncommon for a group to go in on a high-ticket item for you.
Keep accessibility and ease in mind
Feel free to create a registry at more than one store, if you want. This is a nice way to support smaller boutique stores for your niche items and smaller-brand gifts. But if a one-stop shop is all you have bandwidth for, opt for a bigger retailer.
No matter if you choose one or two registry lists, Solomon recommends making sure that they’re accessible to all guests. “You may have two or three different showers,” she says. “Ensure you have a price point for everyone, meaning don’t have only cheap items on one list and expensive items on another. Spread it out.”
A question of timing
When’s the best time to register? Earlier is easier for everyone. People will be excited for you and will want to spoil you, so establishing your registry soon after you share the good news will help. One thing’s for sure: It has to be done by the time the shower invitations are sent out!
Every baby registry will look different depending on your parenting choices. Will you breastfeed or use formula? Go cloth diapers or opt for disposable? Are you interested in baby-wearing or not so much? There are no right or wrong answers, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Plus: Fitted sheets, blackout curtains, white-noise machine and swaddles.
Plus: Bibs, milk storage containers, nursing bras, nursing pillow, breast pads, nipple salve, formula, bottle and nipple brush, high chair, bottle warmer, sippy cups, plates and bowls, and baby utensils.
Plus: Undershirts or onesies, pants, newborn hats, socks or booties, cardigans or jackets, and infant laundry detergent.
Plus: Diapers, diaper pail and changing pad.
Plus: Hooded towels, snot syringe and thermometer.
Plus: Infant car seat, bouncy chair, playpen, travel crib, baby carrier, pacifiers, teethers, books and nursery humidifier.
Ask for whatever you want—we won’t judge!— but there are a handful of items that seasoned parents say are usually a waste of money.
- Baby shoes: They’re hard to put on, they never stay on, and babies don’t need them.
- Wipe warmer: Most babies have no problem with a room- temperature wipe.
- Upscale newborn clothing: It gets stained with poop and outgrown so quickly.
- Crib bumpers: They aren’t considered safe for baby sleep.
- Newborn toys: A teether is fine, but generally, ask for books instead.