If you're an expectant parent you probably have one or more registries for baby gifts. In an effort to help you (and encourage you to spend more of your friends' and family members' money), many stores have a long list of registry suggestions or must-haves. But what do you really need?
Let's take a look at some of the most common items that you'll find on these lists. I'll give you my feedback about what I think you need, what I think you don't need, and what I think that you may want*. I'll also tell you why.
Bold means that you need it
Italic means that you don't need it
(Parentheses) means that you may want it
(Breast Pump) - If you are a breastfeeding mother who works outside the home you will need a double electric breastpump, unless you rent a hospital grade pump. If you are a stay-at-home mom or work-at-home mom, you may prefer a single electric pump or manual pump, depending on how often you plan to pump milk. If you're a stay-at-home mom who doesn't plan to bottle feed ever, then you may opt to skip the pump altogether. Don't forget to check with your insurance about a free pump before you put it on your registry.
Nursing Pads - You will likely need these for leaking at some point while nursing. You may need the leak protection throughout your time nursing. Keep in mind that these also protect your bra and tops from getting stained by your nipple cream. Should you go with disposable or cloth? That's up to you. I personally like the cloth. You may prefer disposable. Register for one pair of cloth and one box of disposable if you aren't sure.
(Breastmilk Storage Bags) - If you plan to keep a freezer stash then consider stocking up on some bags. Not sure if you'll store much milk? You can always buy these later.
(Nursing Cover) - If you plan to nurse in public with a cover or if you plan to pump in the car then register for a cover. If you plan to nurse in public without a cover or don't plan to nurse in public at all then you can skip it. Keep in mind that if you're so inclined it's fairly easy to make your own.
Nursing Pillow - Could you just nurse your baby on a regular pillow? Sure. Is it a lot easier to have a nursing pillow? Yes. Register for one.
Nursing Pillow Covers - You'll want your pillow to be pretty. You'll be looking at it a lot. Most moms find that 2 covers is enough. They are washable (for obvious reasons).
(2oz Bottles) - If you plan to bottle feed pumped milk at any point during the first month or two of your baby's life you'll find use for small bottles. They are also helpful later on for freezing small amounts of extra milk that you pump.
(4-5oz Bottles) - If you plan to bottle feed pumped milk at any point in your baby's life, then stock up on these bottles. If you work outside the home then the more of these that you have, the better. Invest in the bottle type that is compatible with your pump. That allows you to pump into the same container that you feed from.
8-11oz Bottles - Babies don't need these large volume bottles. Many parents use large volume bottles to feed their toddlers water, juice, and cow's milk. By the time that your baby is large enough to handle 8oz bottles he or she will be old enough for a sippy cup.
(Sterilizer Bags) - These things are awesome! They're great for sterilizing pump parts at the end of the day. They can also be used with bottles and bottle parts. If you work outside the home I'd call it a must. Stay-at-home moms may not see much need for them unless they pump often.
(Slow Flow Nipples) - Breastfed babies who take breastmilk from a bottle will use slow flow nipples. They generally don't need to graduate to faster flow nipples. Don't bother registering for anything other than slow flow. There's a good chance that slow flow alone will be enough. Faster flows are generally needed for formula fed babies.
Medium Flow Nipples
Fast Flow Nipples
Formula - If you plan to breastfeed then don't buy formula. You'll probably have formula samples sent to your door, so keep those around if having an emergency formula supply makes you feel better.
Bibs - Babies are messy eaters! They also drool a lot. My kids' daycare uses bibs whenever they feed babies. It cuts down on outfit changes from post-feed spitting up.
Burp Cloths - Babies spit up. Breastfed babies are not an exception to that. In the first 6 months of your baby's life you should keep cloths everywhere: bedroom, living room, diaper bag, in the car, and anywhere else your baby may be during or soon after a feeding. You can get these cheap, so it's a nice thing to put on your registry for people who may want to get you something small. Keep in mind that receiving blankets make awesome burp cloths.
(Pacifiers) - If possible, avoid pacifiers for the first 4 weeks of your baby's life. Breastfed babies tend to enjoy pacifiers a bit less than their formula fed counterparts. It's your call on if you offer the pacifier or avoid it. It's your baby's call if he or she takes to it. Consider registering for 1 or 2, but don't stock up in case your baby isn't into them.
High Chair - Get one that's easy to clean, easy to move around your kitchen, and looks nice.
(Bottle Warmer) - There are a few ways to warm a bottle of milk safely. One is to use a bottle warmer. Alternatively, you could put the bottle in a bowl of warm water or leave it out at room temperature. It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you don't microwave it.
Toddler Plates/Bowls/Utensils - When you are pregnant and planning for a newborn this may seem like a silly thing to register for. The future you of 12-18 months from today will be super grateful that you registered for this. So be brilliant and put it on your list.
Sippy Cups - Get a few different basic types to start. Introduce it to your baby at 6 months to get him or her used to it. Most breastfed babies tend to like to drink more from cups rather than bottles as they get older. Don't stock up until you know what kind of cup your baby likes.
Swing - Both of our kids loved the swing. Therefore, we loved our swing.
(Bouncer) - It's nice to have a place to put your kid down when you need to get stuff done around the house. Also, these are good for keeping your baby upright after feedings before he or she can sit up.
Playard - These things can function as a bassinet, changing table, travel crib, and older baby containment device. They're great for travel, filling in for all the stuff you have at home that you can't haul with you.
Playard Sheets - I didn't even realize that they made these. I didn't miss them. You can wipe down a playard pretty easily.
Diapers - It's up to you if you go for cloth or disposable. Either way, you'll need a lot of them.
Diaper Pail - I can't imagine not having one. We have two. I know some people opt out, but I'll never really understand that. I need a place to throw away diapers that will hold a lot and contain the odor.
Diaper Pail Refills - You'll need a lot of these during your baby's life in diapers. Stock up.
Diaper Cream - I'm not a big believer in diaper cream. If your baby has a rash then you can pick some up and use it. Not all babies need it.
Wipes - Yup, wiping baby's butt is part of the job.
Wipe Warmer - I think I've met one person in my whole life who found this useful.
Portable Changing Pad - Get one. It's a thing to put in your diaper bag that you unfold to change your baby on. Your diaper bag may come with one. Get the type that you can easily store and easily wipe down.
(Baby Bathtub) - I like our baby bathtub. If you don't want to get one then you'll have to bathe your baby in the sink. It's up to you.
Towels - Your freshly-bathed baby needs to be dried off. A regular bath towel will work, but it's a bit bulky for the job. They're cheap enough to put on the registry, and you'll probably use them.
Washcloths - They're cheap and you'll use them.
Baby Soap - Identify a baby soap that works as a shampoo and body wash. It's just easier that way.
(Grooming Kit) - A baby hairbrush may be helpful. The comb is less so. The nail file and clipper may come in handy. On the other hand, babies look plenty cute without grooming. It's your call.
First Aid Kit - Accidents happen. Make sure that you at least have a bandaid. Buy one if you don't have one. And buy it now. I don't really know why people without kids would somehow not need basic first aid supplies at home.
Furniture Wall Straps - Children can pull furniture down on themselves, sometimes with tragic consequences. This is an easy step to forget. Do it now.
Babyproofing Stuff - You will thank yourself in 6 months for getting this stuff now. Do it little by little. Most of us babyproofed in a panic the first day that the baby crawled over to outlet by the edge of the stairwell.
Toys - Babies are not just eating machines. They're fun too! It's nice to have a few toys around. It's really exciting when they first start to care about them.
Exersaucer - Great toy. Happy baby. 'Nuff said.
(Bassinet) - When your baby is first born you'll want him or her to be in your bedroom with you for easy overnight nursing. The baby sleeping can happen in your room in a crib, playard, or bassinet. Any safe sleeping surface will work. I liked our bassinet. Use whatever you like.
Bassinet Sheets - You can do without them. If your baby spits up in the bassinet you can just wipe it down. You'll have enough laundry to do.
Infant Car Seat - Your baby needs a car seat. The infant seats are nice so that you can remove a sleeping baby from the car without waking him or her. It's worth it.
Convertible Car Seat - You can technically put a baby in these seats from birth. If you use an infant car seat expect to make the transition around your baby's first birthday. Look for a seat with a high weight limit. A good seat will rear face up to 40lbs or greater and forward face up to 65lbs or greater. A seat that grows with your child is a good investment.
Stroller - Strollers are useful. Rarely do I meet a parent who doesn't find a stroller useful for at least some aspect of living life with a baby.
(Carrier) - You can survive raising a baby without doing any babywearing. However, babywearing is fun and convenient.
Diaper Bag - You'll need something to help you haul all the stuff you need for your baby. You can splurge on an expensive bag or you can opt to use a simply tote bag or backpack instead.
Crib - I always recommend a safe sleep surface for babies. While there are some crib alternatives, I found a crib necessary for my kids.
Crib Mattress - Simple: if you have a crib you need a matress.
Crib Sheets - See above.
(Changing Table) - You'll need somewhere convenient to change your baby. Go for a changing table with some nice built in storage or place a changing pad on a dresser.
Dresser - Find a high quality dresser for your child and he or she will have it for all of their childhood, perhaps for life. The dresser that sat in my nursery is now the main dresser that my husband and I use in our master bedroom. Bonus: it was a hand-me-down from a relative.
(Crib Bumpers) - Avoid them in babies under a year old. After a year of age they can be helpful to prevent your baby from getting arms or legs stuck in crib slats.
(Quilt) - Blankets and quilts are not recommended for use in cribs of babies under a year of age. However, babies over a year of age use them. If you're buying or making a blanket or quilt think about getting one that is sized for toddler and early childhood years.
Changing Pad - This are of great use as a surface for changing a baby. It can be moved to different locations around your house and can turn a variety of surfaces into a makeshift changing table as needed.
(Changing Pad Covers) - You have 2 options. Either you can use your changing pad without a cover and clean it regularly or you can get a cover (or multiple covers) and wash the covers often. It's up to you. Covers can be soft and pretty but they are optional.
(Monitor) - Some parents couldn't imagine baby care without their fancy video monitor. Some parents don't care. We used a simple audio monitor with our daughter. We occasionally use the audio monitor with our son. Honestly? We could live without it.
Hamper - You need a hamper to collect all the dirty baby clothes. And there will be a lot of dirty baby clothes.
Hangers - Have lots of little baby clothes? You'll need lots of little baby hangers. Then again, if you're ok with stashing all your baby's clothes in the dresser instead that's ok.
(Swaddler) - Both of my kids hated the swaddle. All those parents who say that swaddling helped them survive the newborn weeks and saved their sanity? I can't relate. But then again, it may save your sanity. Try swaddling your baby with a blanket first and if he or she likes it go for the swaddler.
Onsies - You will need a ton. Your friends and family will probably buy you a ton. Babies live in onesies.
Sleepers - My kids lived in nothing but sleepers and onesies for the first year of their lives.
(Gowns) - Can be helpful for nighttime sleep.
(Sleep Sacks) - Can be helpful for nighttime sleep and naps.
Mittens - I'm going to be honest, I never understood the baby mitten thing. Call me a bad mother, but I just let my kids scratch their own faces when they were babies. Neither gouged an eye out and it didn't seem to bother them.
(Socks) - Socks fall off. They are cute. But they fall off. You can live without them.
(Booties) - They are cute, but you can live without them.
(Hats) - They are probably helpful if you live in a cold climate.
Pants - Babies can wear pants. But they don't need to wear pants.
Tiny Shoes - I had a rule where I didn't put my kids in shoes until they were starting to walk. Shoes are cosmetic in tiny babies.
Dresses - Do you have a baby girl whom you want to dress up in a frilly dress? That's cool. But it's not needed.
*Keep in mind that these are all based on my personal opinions as a mother and breastfeeding professional. You may disagree, and there's nothing wrong with that. Follow your own parenting instincts; different strokes for different folks