Registry and Gift Ideas for New Moms and Babies

I remember being quite overwhelmed when I was starting the process of building my registry.  I asked around a lot and I did my own research, exhaustively.  A book called “Baby Bargains” was recommended (Thank you Dolly) and it was a super valuable resource. I also recommend this if you are looking for a “Congratulations! You’re pregnant” gift for a first time Mom or Dad.  You can find it here. I used that book and website as a starting point combined with lots of parents forums and baby stores on the web.  And I researched and researched some more.  I agonized about safety, prices, what did I actually "need" and where we're put everything. 


Recently a number of friends have gotten pregnant (yay, babies!) and asked for advice putting together their registries.  Or friends of pregnant friends have asked what I really used most when they need to buy a gift. I have waxed poetic and passionately on this subject, (like so many new moms) more than a few times and thought it might be handy to write it all out before I forget.  And like all things, there will be newer, better, and handier things all the time, so I expect this will have a short shelf-life.  It also looks like a spam bot page to me, and I assure you it's not, it just took a long time and I got lazy.


If you stumble across this randomly and are putting together your registry, first of all CONGRATULATIONS! The most important part is that baby growing inside you. This is about stuff, and it’s just that. You may have less, you may have more, but it’s about that baby, and he or she won’t care how much stuff they have. These are the things that helped make life easier for me and my partner, and that my baby most seemed to appreciate as much as a baby appreciates “stuff” (hint, not very much). It's also exorbitant. I was lucky to have insanely generous family and friends and I work really dang hard. The baby bargains book offers really nice options for different price points and the pros and cons for each. There are so many factors when buying a gift or making your registry, these are just my personal opinions and trial and error lessons, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be helpful for you. Like all advice you’ll receive, take it with a grain of salt. If you have a recommendation, please add it to the comments.


Also, most of the links are amazon affiliate links.  If you’re buying these for a shower, please buy items off the mom to be’s registry.  They'll thank you even if you don't, but they might be a little more thankful if they don't get duplicates, triplicates or quadruples of the same thing and have to waddle around returning things. If you’re just looking for ideas and this helps, I spent a lot of time (and money often buying what was wrong for us, or the time to return them) the 10% of your purchase I’d get would just be a nice bonus. For Moms, Dads, Grandparents, etc… another awesome option is second-hand baby stores, they seem to be popping up everywhere these days and are great resources.  Another great resource your community might have are free swaps or "Mom Fairs".  My parents are in suburban NJ, and a number of the towns around them alternate times of year hosting these. I've gotten some great stuff at these sales at a fraction of the cost.  Also, check out yahoo and facebook groups for Mom's in your area.  A little baby safe soap and elbow grease, you can make something as good as new at a fraction of the cost.  Just be sure if it's a toy or piece of furniture to do some research to be sure there are no recalls.  These are all my opinions and no brand is paying me to pimp their wares.




Washing machine

When we first had our baby boy, we were living in a tiny apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  I have to say the single most important investment we made was to buy a second-hand top loading mini-washing machine.  It meant we had a constant batch of laundry hanging from our shower rod (and a small fan propped in our tub drying them) which was sometimes annoying, but going to the laundromat right after having him simply wouldn’t have been possible for me.  I had an unexpected c-section, and you’re not supposed to carry anything heavier than your child for the first few weeks.  Heffing a stroller up and down stairs and venturing out in January was daunting and I did a little happy dance every time (sometimes twice a day) as I used mine.  If you’re on leave from work, the new expenses from the newest member of your family add up fast and laundry pick-up and delivery would cost us about $50 a pop.  This washer payed itself off in weeks and was the single most valuable “thing” we bought in advance.  So my first piece of advice –  if you don’t have a washer and drier, consider buying a washer.  I never heard anything good about the washer/drier combos because the drier function often takes hours and uses a ton of energy in the process.  


If you’re in NYC, Brooklyn, or in a similar city-environment and don’t have a washer hook-up, we connected one like this to our sink and it suited us just fine.  



I’d say it was the single most valuable “thing” as a new mom.  




Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad


We didn’t have the room for a changing table at first.  I do wish we figured out a place to put one, because after we moved into a bigger place I wound up getting one, and I personally found having one a lot easier than not. But, for the first four months we used the couch, our bed, or the kitchen table.  The pad was necessary and I even used in on particularly weird nights when the only safe option seemed to be to sleep on the floor with him (once he was rolling around and attempting to dive off the bed from in between us). 



I had 2 covers in rotation and never needed more.  




Swaddling blankets

I’d rate these even higher than a crib in terms of must haves in the early weeks.  We became excellent swaddlers and had a ton of blankets to do it.  Our guy seemed to make a game of getting free within the first couple of weeks and I was always afraid he’d manage to get himself tangled up. We all slept better once I discovered these, and we bought them in every size, and used them every time he slept until he could roll over. They seem like little baby straight jackets, and well, they kind of are.  But our baby slept better in the womb-like comfort and they helped keep him from scratching up his face.


When you get home from the hospital, you'll probably also want a few pairs of those baby gloves too.





Mattress Pads (and a word on Diapers)

We bought A TON of these and probably used ten a day in the beginning.  Looking back, it may have been because newborn diapers leak, or maybe we weren’t putting them on right… these came in handy for everything.  I still keep one under his sheet in his crib, even though his mattress is covered in plastic.  Babies pee, hopefully…a lot, and when it goes everywhere, it’s nice to have an extra barrier.


I personally liked the IKEA ones best and recommend getting at least 6.

Len IKEA mattress pad


After my shower we had every brand of diapers and tons of them (THANK YOU).  I’ve used Huggies, Pampers, Honest Company, Toys R Us and Luvs.  For us, Pampers Swaddlers worked the best, especially in the early months.


On the subject of diaper cream, our baby's butt likes Honest Company Healing Balm best.  We got every possible brand at our shower and went through much trial and error (poor diaper rash guinea pig) in the first months.  





Bassinet/Co-sleeper and Pack 'n Play

To my surprise, I learned most don’t actually use a crib for the first few months. We had ours set up in our cute little nursery and he slept in it sometimes for naps or we’d play with him in it for a change of scenery, but I’m not going to talk about cribs, because I really think your nursery furniture is such a personal choice and there are so many factors (like everything else really) .  But, while I'm sharing what worked for us, our guy slept in our room for the first 6+ months.  


Take a look at the guidelines, do what’s most comfortable for you, and of course, what’s safest for your baby. Well intending family and friends may offer their old cribs, just be sure they’re up to the most recent codes (manufactured after June 28, 2011) and that you’ve researched any possible recalls.


We LOVED the Arm’s Reach mini co-sleeper.  All babies are so different when it comes to sleep.  But, I (probably foolishly) attribute the excellent sleep we all got in those early months to this sleeper.  It is small, it fit very nicely in our small apartment, and he was at eye level with us when we slept.  If you breast feed, you can actually strap it to your bed and make it a sort of extension to your bed, but I liked keeping it mobile.  It was on wheels, so during the day I’d wheel it into the living room for naps and when I needed to put him down to grab a glass or water or go to the bathroom. We used the storage underneath for extra mattress pads, and changes of clothes and diapers which was handy in the middle of the night. We got three covers for it, but really only needed two (probably because we were using the mattress pads).  I think you’d be fine with the one it comes with and one extra.


Because it’s small and our guy is extra big, I think he grew out of it in 6 months and then we just used the Graco Pack ‘n Play as we had been using the co-sleeper.  Again, I LOVED this particular bassinet and I tried others when staying with family.  We personally went for the Arm’s Reach and the no fuss Pack ‘n Play.  I know there are play yards that are like Transformers, with bassinets and changing tables, but those maxed out at smaller weights for the add-ons and we would have been up the creek a lot sooner than we were with this one, and very luckily we didn't have any transition issues for the little guy when it came time for the Pack 'n Play, and luckily again when he went to his room in the crib.  Plus, we still continue to use the play yard as a play pen.





The Pack ‘n Play didn’t come with a cover sheet, but we found the IKEA crib sheets fit it just fine.





Rock ‘n Play

A very close friend raved about the merits of this rocker (Thank you Missy) and I echo all her raves tenfold and then some. I do recommend you research this one as it has proven to be dangerous to allow your child to sleep in it. For us, this was a godsend for naps and “chill time”. We used this when we were able to supervise him at all times and he AND we LOVED it. I never used the music option that came with it, but the rocking motion – our kid loved it and we pushed the outer limits of weight and height limit because we didn’t know what we’d do to keep him happy once we couldn’t use it anymore. He did just fine and we did too once it was time to retire it.  But, for all the months we made good use of this, it was truly priceless.





Boppy Nursing Pillow

Your arms and lap will thank you whether you breast feed or not.  We got an extra cover for ours.





Bath Time

This is probably the area where the list of things we tried and hated far exceeds what we actually used.


Angel Care bath support – We loved this because all you had to do was put it in your tub and put the baby on it.  We felt the most safe using this one and our little guy loved it.  You can use it until your baby is 30lbs.  We had to stop using it a little sooner when our guy got too tall and wiggly, but we got a lot of miles using it.



Primo bath – After using the Angel Care support our little one was still unable to sit up on his own and wasn’t quite ready to freestyle it in the bath.  He was and is a big baby, so we needed one of the old school baby baths, but I had a hard time finding one that he wouldn’t grow out of within a matter of weeks. I did a ton of research and this one suited us the best. One side of the tub gave him the same lounging position he was used to and once he was able to sit up, the other side gave him a safe place to sit up in.



Skip Hop Moby Bath Mat – Now that we’ve graduated to the actual regular tub, we use this mat.  The only thing I don’t love about it is that our tub has a slightly textured bottom, so the suction cups don’t entirely work as intended.  But it is nice and big and once he’s seated on it, it does it’s job




Washcloths – You can’t have enough.  We’ve learned the super tiny thin ones don’t hold up that great.  Go for soft, with a little thickness and you’ll be fine.  


Towels – The little hooded ones are cute and good, but we needed two to actually cover him properly after he was like two months old.  We long ago started using one of our own towels against us when we lift him out and then use one of the hooded ones to keep his head and back covered from the tub to the changing table




Wearable blankets

We love these as much as we once loved the swaddlers.  I believe guidelines don’t recommend using pillows or blankets until a child is over 2 years old (don’t quote me on it, do your research), but it helped us make the decision not to ask for, or splurge on a decadent and expensive crib set, those strollers and car seats are expensive enough.  Our guy also oddly seems to hate the feeling of a blanket against his legs and feet and will kick and kick until he’s free of it.  


We’ve been using wearable blankets since graduating from swaddlers and he let's us know if we missed putting it on before going to bed by not going to sleep.  We’ve gotten these in all all sizes and zippers, on the front are the best (really, clothing makers – why would you put snaps, on the back, have you dressed a child?).  At times I had more than I needed.  Now, I probably could use an extra one.  I’d recommend at least (2) for each size. We started with the IKEA ones and as he’s outgrown their largest size, I get them from Amazon and am starting to get nervous because there isn’t a larger size from the one he’s in now (Yikes).  Once they can stand, I recommend the ones that have separate leg holes so they don’t trip in the sleeping bag style when they stand in the crib, because they will.

IKEA link




Car seat and Stroller

I was determined not to need multiple car seats and strollers. As you begin to wade into this decision, I can only sympathize. There are so many!  We went with an infant seat from Britax, the City Mini jogger, and used these in combination for about the first 8 months. You can actually ditch the car seat sooner and just use the stroller, but we didn't check back with instructions for awhile. The car seat had a base that we snapped it in when we used it in the car and we’d snap it into the stroller on the go.  Our decision was about limited space and wanting to streamline as much as possible. When babies are really new there are not a lot of strollers you can just plop them in “as is”.  The City Mini requires an adapter to use the Britax seat in the stroller.  We also got the tray add-on and rain cover for the stroller, and a cup holder for us.  I like the City Mini because you can collapse it with one hand, but the underneath storage is somewhat lacking.  If there was one thing I could change, it would be this.  It is a great safe and sturdy stroller and we’ve put countless miles on it as city dwellers.





Now that our little one is walking, we’re eyeing a slightly smaller and more minimalist umbrella stroller for the next stage, but we might be able to get away with using this one for the long haul (it maxes out at 50lbs).


When he started outgrowing the car seat, we went with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Infant Convertible car seat.  We may have been able to use it from the start, but it's heavy and didn't have the option to combine with our stroller.  We were long past our shower and the price stung, but after doing my research I felt the most comfortable and safe with this one.  Our little guy gets very sweaty and I liked the construction and thinking put toward his comfort.





Summer Infant Touchscreen Baby Monitor

Another intensely personal, expensive, and mind boggling option-filled decision to make.  This is the one we have loved most.  Even after a year when it conked out because we accidently used the wire for the camera for the monitor and vice versa and I cursed everything about it for that.  We did a ton of research, got recommendations on facebook and tried a different type that worked (or rather din’t work) with only our phones…we hated it and just wound up buying this one again.  It killed me, but it’s been good to us and we can also use a phone as a secondary monitor.





Graco Blossom 4 in 1 High Chair Seating System

I like Transformers because there’s more than meets the eye. I like to call this high chair a Transformer because it has everything for my kid’s eating needs for years.  It comes with a separate booster seat, but for now we most use the second tray top it comes with when he starts throwing food.  It allows us to quickly stop the food fight of one with a clean surface to either start over, or just give him some toys to play with while we finish eating.



You’ll also need bibs, baby plates, bowls, cups with covers, lots of plastic spoons, a nice baby fork for when ready, but you’ve probably got a little while for this.  In fact, we didn’t even get our high chair from our parent’s house for months after our guy was born.




A few other random things we've gotten the most use out of…


Brica Baby Mirror



Lamaze shape cube because children's toys often become projectiles



Stacking cups



Excersaucer Any one will do



Sophie teether



Gates I'd recommend you start looking at gates now, especially if you can find them second-hand.  Gates for your Christmas tree (if you will have one), gates to put at the tops and bottoms of your stairs, or any place you're not going to want them to have free access to when they're crawling or walking




Baby Carrier/Backpack

Yep, we have one, I do recommend one. But, I never really knew if I made the right choice, there were things we liked and things we didn’t about it.  I tried a few (sorry for all the returns Buy Buy Baby), but I felt like Goldilocks on this one.  There is a store in Brooklyn who offers a baby wearing class every once and again.  I’d take a look at their schedule if you want to try a few, and get great advice.  I wish I had gone when he was littler and we were wearing him a lot more often.

Wild Was Mama




Online Support


Support can't be bought (fine, yes it can be), but I found so much value in some online groups that I will be eternally thankful for.

  • Brooklyn Baby Hui is a group for North Brooklyn Moms and you can find it on Yahoo Groups
  • What to Expect Groups are amazing.  I personally joined one for my local area as well as the month and year my son was due.  
  • Everyone knows The Bump, so I'll play Captain Obvious
  • And, of course there's google, which will be your greatest friend and foe




I'm not going all mommy blogger, in fact I really don't even blog anymore.  Just wanted to save all my "mommy advice" in one place and well, I've gone on long enough.