It’s hard to believe it, but Ollie turned nine months old last week and I’m officially in the last quarter of my final baby year. I once wrote about the firsts and the lasts and the sentiment still holds true: there is so much joy in each stage and it’s also a little sad to say goodbye to the sweet stages as we move on, for good this time.
One of the benefits of knowing this is our last baby is that once he’s done using things, I can purge them from our house. I’m a minimalist at heart and I like clearing out things we’re no longer using and passing them along to others. An interesting thing I noticed this time around was that I actually used the least amount of baby items for him. I sometimes purged something before we even used it with him because I knew from experience we actually didn’t need it.
So I got to thinking…I’ve done this three times now. What did I actually need and use for our babies? I don’t blog much about babies/motherhood anymore but since we’re closing in on the end of the baby chapter it felt like a good time for one more post – knowing what I know now, what would tell myself from six years ago to put on a registry?
First of all, my top recommendation is to get the latest edition of Baby Bargains. This book was so helpful to me for figuring out top products in each category along with where to save and where to splurge. I highly recommend! It’s a great starting point for figuring out your choices for absolute must-haves like a crib, car seat, and stroller. I’m not going to elaborate on items like that because while they are necessary for baby, there’s so much that goes into preference, budget, and lifestyle needs that everyone will need to choose what works best for them.
What I am going to do is elaborate a bit on the top five second-tier things – things you don’t technically need for baby, but the items I reached for again and again with all three of my children. These are my baby year all-stars and if I was creating a minimalist registry right now, these are the things that would be on it!
My Top Five Baby Registry All-Stars
–Pack n Play. While we have always had a crib in the nursery, I highly recommend having a pack n play for use elsewhere in your house! You can get them with a lot of extra accessories like storage consoles and portable bassinets and infant seats, but I preferred a simple model like this one because it’s much less expensive and I didn’t really need the extra bells and whistles. It’s a great option to use as a bassinet in your bedroom or elsewhere in the house, and it’s SO easy to fold up and take with you for when you’re on vacation, going to grandma’s house, etc so you have a safe place for baby to sleep.
In our house, the nursery is on the top floor so I’ve always used our pack n play on our main floor as a place to have diaper changes and set baby down to take a nap or play without worrying they’ll get into anything (particularly important when they’re crawling and you have to do things like make dinner!) Right now it’s in my office and is great for letting Ollie roll around and play while I get a little work done. We use it multiple times a day, every single day, and I plan on keeping it even once we’re past the baby stage for guest use.
–Boppy Pillow. With all three of my babies, I have used (and loved!) my Boppy extensively. Regardless of if you plan to bottle or breastfeed, I think this pillow is worth getting. You will spend a lot of time feeding your baby and it makes holding and feeding your baby so much more comfortable! I also use it when our kids or my grandma, who has weak arm strength, want to hold the baby because it offers extra support and stability underneath. As your baby grows, it also works as a lounger for laying down and a support for sitting up.
It’s also my #1 suggestion to take along if you’re ever flying with a baby. I’ve gotten so much use out of this pillow over the past 5.5 years and it has held up so well! It’s also very easy to swap out the cover (I bought this one for Ollie) so you can have it match your personal tastes. Highly recommend!
–Ergo baby carrier. I love babywearing! When my babies were itty bitty, I used the Solly baby wrap too but if I could only recommend one it would definitely be the Ergo. It’s comfortable, it’s easy to use, it can be used through toddlerhood, and it’s so nice to be hands free while carrying your child. I use it while we’re out and about (great for family outings, grocery shopping, vacations, etc) and also when I’m just at home and want to be hands free to fold laundry, make dinner, or do other tasks.
–Activity Center. I am all for multiuse items that can work for multiple stages of life, and this play center has been great for all three of my kids. My babies have all enjoyed being around the action in our house and this is easy to move around to different spots in the house so baby can be near you and entertained at the same time. I love that the seat swivels to allow them some motion and you can convert it to a table once they outgrow the seat – because of that feature it’s been in constant use in one form or another for the past five years!
–backpack diaper bag. Without question, I think a backpack diaper bag is the way to go. It allows you to be hands free to hold a child’s hand, push a stroller, etc and it just so so much easier to carry around. Mine is a little on the pricey side but I had a less expensive one with LJ and it didn’t even hold up two years – this one has now held up beautifully for almost four years so I think it was worth it!
Just slightly below my top all-stars, here are a few other random things I’ve loved and would also include on a registry:
–baby monitor – we did not want an option with Wi-Fi but we did want a video monitor. This one is relatively inexpensive and works great!
–sleep sacks – we used Halo sleep sacks for all three babies and I really believe this contributed to them being good sleepers. We also always used . . .
–sound machine – I like just a simple fan sound for white noise and this is a good one!
–wubbanub – two out of three of my babies loved having a pacifier and these are super cute. The stuffed animal helps position it slightly to stay in place and is easier for baby to grab! If you just want regular pacifiers, these soothie ones were our favorite – and you’ll also want a pacifier clip!
–salt lamp – someone suggested this to me before I had LJ and I’m so thankful because it was the best idea as a lamp for nurseries and I’ve used one for each of my babies! Perfect for just giving a soft, dim glow when you don’t want to wake baby up with a bright light. I recommend a dimmable one so you can especially keep the light low for middle-of-the-night feedings.
-bottles – I’d have a few in advance (even if you’re planning to breastfeed – I didn’t plan to use bottles with Ollie, but here we are!), but since it’s hard to know your baby’s needs ahead of time I wouldn’t stock up on any one brand. Try a couple until you find what works – my first two kids used Avent just fine but then Ollie has done much better with Dr Brown’s. I prefer glass bottles but choose whichever you prefer!
–muslin blankets – so great for tucking around baby in the carseat, using as a burpcloth in a pinch, creating a makeshift cart cover in a store, spreading on the ground while you play outside, etc.
–nursing/carseat cover – I love using this to keep baby out of the sun/wind/cold when we’re outside, and it’s also a nice little shield when you’re inside but don’t want people touching or getting too close to your baby. It’s also great for when you want some privacy when breastfeeding in public!
–high chair – honestly, this is a great place to save some money. Ikea makes a super inexpensive high chair that is simple, easy to clean, and holds up well. We’ve used it for all our babies! If you need one that is a little more multipurpose, we also have this booster seat and it’s worked too.
–foldable high chair – this is definitely the most *extra* item on my list. It isn’t necessary at all, but we have loved having it for all our babies. I would not use it as an everyday high chair, but it’s perfect for keeping in the car. You can use it for picnic at the park or eating at grandma’s house or watching brother’s baseball game or taking on vacation…we have used it so much for our kids over the years!
–silicone bibs with pockets – easy to clean and they catch a lot of the food that your baby will drop!
–cups/plates/bowls/silverware – we love the re-play brand for all eating needs because their products are made in the USA with recycled milk jugs!
–nose sucker – seems gross I know, but this is actually super useful to have! We love this brand for baby thermometers and nail clippers too.
–changing pad – I’ve never had a true changing table. I just use a regular dresser (I’ve actually always used thrifted dressers!) with a changing pad on top and it’s worked perfectly. I just keep a little basket on the dresser too with diapers, wipes, and rash cream (psst I like this one). Speaking of…
-diapers – such a great thing to ask friends and family for! I wouldn’t lock in to a particular diaper brand until your baby is born because diapers fit all baby bodies a little differently so try companies. I personally like Pampers, Honest, and Hello Bello (and I think Honest has the best wipes!)
And what would I skip? There are 238748321 baby products out there and I would skip so many of them, but the biggest things that come to mind are:
-baby bathtub – we never ever used a baby bathtub for LJ or Vi. For Ollie, I saw one for $4 secondhand, decided to try it and . . . eh. It’s a little easier, but I didn’t miss it for the first two. We used sink baths or would take them into a bath with us until they were big enough to sit and then they just sat in the regular tub.
-baby detergent – we have always used a free and clear detergent for our whole family; there’s no need to pay extra for a “baby” product that does the same thing.
-wipe warmer – Never used one, never missed it.
-swings of any kind – This might be a hot take, but I say skip buying. For one thing, it’s impossible to predict whether or not your baby will even like a swing. Many babies don’t. Even if they do, they might be particular on what kind they like. Swings also have a very short lifespan of use. They can be bulky and take up space and your baby might use them for a little while but then they’re suddenly 9 months old (or younger!) and you have to now store this swing for years if you want to keep it for another baby in the future. Because of all that, I highly recommend borrowing this item. Ask your mama friends if anyone has one they’re not using – you’ll honestly probably be doing them a favor by taking it out of their storage space for a while. Try it out, see if it works for your baby, enjoy use of it if your baby likes it, and return when you’re done -maybe with a baked good or a coffee shop gift card as a thank you. I’ve done this for all three of my kids and it worked so well. It saves you money, is way more sustainable, and is low-risk, potentially high-reward! (And of course, feel free to do this with other baby items too! I have only borrowed swings but there are absolutely other items you can swap around with friends. Sharing is caring!)
Whew! What a list!
There are obviously more things that you’re going to want to think about: crib mattress, sheets, towels/washcloths, clothing (I’ll always encourage secondhand for kids!), etc. Like the car seat, crib, and stroller, so much of those choices come down to budget and personal preference, so I didn’t include my specific choices here, but if you’re curious about anything else we used along the way, just ask in the comments and I’m happy to share!
Is there anything else you would add to a must-have list for baby?