Baby Registry Essentials and What You Don’t Need

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Trying to create a baby registry was a lot like having writer’s block for me. I could NOT force myself to sit down at my computer and tackle this daunting task. It was just too much! Sound familiar?

I’m here to save you tons of time and energy by telling you all the new baby must-haves for your registry!

We’ll walk you through where to build your registry; the must-haves for first-time moms; what NOT to put on a baby registry AND provide a FREE PDF version of a baby registry checklist printable. Yesssss!

a horizontal image with pink knit baby booties hanging on a clothes line. On top of the photo is a text overlay that says what baby items do you really need? Printable baby registry checklist. Download now. To the right is an image of the printable list.

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Table of Contents

What Is A Baby Registry?

A baby registry is a centralized place where expecting parents can share their wish list of items for parents & baby. Friends and family can visit their baby registry to guarantee they’re purchasing new baby gifts that the family they’re supporting both wants and needs. 

Baby Registries Typically Include Items Like:

  • Baby gear
  • Clothing
  • Feeding supplies
  • Nursery furniture
  • Recovery products for birthing parents
  • Cash funds
  • Gift cards
  • Anything that will support the new parents

A baby registry is a great way to ensure parents are getting both items and brands they desire for their little ones. 

Some people prefer to choose gifts without a baby registry because they believe those gifts are more personalized, but we recommend buying from the registry if there is one. While people appreciate personalized gifts, this is also a time in life when a lot of new things are coming into their home, and getting them something you know they want and will use really goes a long way in supporting them through what can be an overwhelming process. 

If you do start feeling overwhelmed, take a step back, breathe, and check out our Expecting & Organized Pregnancy Planner, which is the perfect tool for creating your baby registry. It has a full checklist, including an explanation of how to know if you need different items and brand recommendations! 

When to start baby registry?

You can start a baby registry whenever you’re ready. Many people suggest waiting until the second trimester when the risk of pregnancy loss decreases—but we have a slightly different opinion on when to announce a pregnancy and when to create a registry. 

For us, the perfect time to create a registry is when you feel inclined to do it. We don’t suggest sharing it until you feel personally comfortable having baby items in your house, but creating it can be a fun way to connect with your baby, and if there’s a time when you feel excited about it, we say go for it. If you wait until you think you’re “supposed” to do it, it can feel more overwhelming.

When to share baby registry?

Share a link to your baby registry on your baby shower invitations, plus anytime someone asks for the link. 

It’s common when you’re expecting for someone to ask, “Where are you registered?” This is the perfect time to share!

Where to Build a Baby Registry Checklist

There are 2 major things to keep in mind when choosing where to build a baby registry:

  • Where will people buying you gifts actually shop?
  • Where can you easily make returns?

You’ll also want to consider things like perks provided:

  • Gift baskets
  • Registry completion discounts
  • Free baby products
  • Cash fund availability
  • Return policy

It’s because of easy access for gifters and easy returns for receivers that two of the most popular places to register for baby are Amazon and Target. I’m also going to tell you about my personal favorite, Babylist, which I think currently does the best job of meeting your baby registry needs.

As much as I love supporting small, local stores, when you’re having a baby, you have a LOT to deal with. Truth be told, the ability to consolidate your baby registry must haves in one place is a game changer.

Almost everyone has an Amazon account, returns are easy, and you literally never have to leave your house. Ahhhhhmazing.

Amazon Baby Registry: Pros and Cons

The best thing about an Amazon Baby Registry is that people can access it from anywhere, and returns are a breeze.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest pros and cons:

Amazon Baby Registry Pros and Cons
  • Welcome box for Amazon Prime members
  • Free returns for 1 year
  • 15% registry completion discount (opens 8 weeks before your due date; redeemable twice)
  • Diaper fund available (as Amazon gift card)
  • No cash fund options that provide actual cash, so you can’t fund items that can’t be purchased on Amazon (think postpartum doula, birth photographer, lactation consultant, etc.)
  • Online only – no option for shopping or returns in person

Target Baby Registry: Pros and Cons

People love registering at Target for a few reasons; Targets are largely accessible throughout North America, which allows shoppers to go in-person, if that’s their preference. It also allows recipients to make returns in person, which can sometimes feel much easier than dealing with shipping returns back to a company.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest pros and cons:

Target Baby Registry Pros and Cons
  • Welcome kit full of sample products and coupons
  • Free returns for 1 year
  • 15% registry completion discount (opens 8 weeks before your due date; redeemable twice)
  • No cash fund options
  • Many moms say the welcome kit has less value than the ones from Amazon and BabyList
  • More careful planning required to use the completion discount

Best Online Baby Registry: Babylist

For online-only registries, we love Babylist because it’s all-in-one. Amazon used to take the top spot here for ease-of-use, but Babylist has made some changes that, for the time being, simply can’t be beat!

You say what you want, and Babylist shows your people where it’s available. We also love Babylist for a few other reasons:

  • You can register for any item on the internet, no matter what marketplace it’s a part of (meaning, it doesn’t have to be on Amazon to make it onto your registry!)
  • Their Try-It Boxes are an AMAZING way to test out different brands to find out what works for YOUR baby! It’s seriously genius.
  • You can setup a cash fund, which is an amazing way to get extra support for things that will help new parents! Think lactation support, postpartum doulas, ordering dinner delivery, and more!

Babylist Registry Pros & Cons

It’s clear that we love Babylist for expecting mamas right now. Here’s your breakdown of what’s working, and what they could do better.

Babylist Baby Registry Pros and Cons
  • Welcome kit full or sample products and coupons
  • Free returns for 1 year
  • 15% registry completion discount (opens 8 weeks before your due date; redeemable twice)
  • No cash fund options
  • Many moms say the welcome kit has less value than expected
  • More careful planning required to use the completion discount

Babylist Try-It Boxes Are A Baby Registry Must-Have

Here’s the thing that I really couldn’t wrap my brain around until I had a baby in my arms: what worked for someone else’s little one might not work for my own, and vice versa. So when I loaded up on swaddle blankets, I couldn’t imagine that my little one would only ever willingly sleep with his arms up, which required an entirely different swaddle sack.

And they can be picky like this about everything–bottles, pacifiers, and even different diapers will work for one little and not another.

That’s why Babylist‘s Try-It Boxes are GENIUS! You can get a few of every different item, see which one works for your baby, and then commit to only spending money on the ones that work for you.

Here are our favorite Try-It Boxes:

  1. Swaddle Box: While my personal favorite swaddle sack isn’t in here anymore, I LOVE that this includes all different styles of swaddles and sacks, which is really what you need to test.
  2. Diaper Box: This box comes with diapers and wipes from 3 different companies so you can find out which work best for you! These diapers are Size 1, so we still suggest having a pack of newborn-sized diapers on-hand, as well.
  3. Bottle Box: I recommend this box whether you plan to breastfeed or bottle feed because nursing babies often have reasons to need pumped milk, as well. Learning what bottle your baby prefers–and what works best in terms of things like gas, reflux, and–ahem–the amount of dishes you have to do–is key!
  4. Pacifier Box: My babies weren’t pace babies, but people who have little ones who take pacifiers rave about the ability to test multiple!

Can’t-Miss Baby Registry Must Have: Pregnancy & Baby Planner

The biggest must-have for your baby registry will help keep you organized, keep all this information in one place, and make it easy for you to make decisions. You see, even when you have a carefully curated list like the one in this article, new parents are still often left wondering, “Do I really need this? Is this brand really the best for me?”

The Expecting & Organized Pregnancy & Newborn Baby Planner not only walks you through each step; it also tells you specific details about how to use each item based on your specific needs. This way, new parents can decide for themselves if they really need an item–like a baby swing–or if that’s better suited to someone with a different home size/budget/parenting style/etc.

It also provides brand recommendations based on safety reviews and feedback from thousands of moms who’ve been there, as well as suggesting brands for different budgets.

This is the very first item to go on any baby registry if you don’t already have it in-hand, as it’ll serve you not just through creating a registry, but through the first 6 months of baby’s life!

Nursery Must Haves on Baby Registry

Not all nursery items are likely to go on your baby registry, but you still want to make sure you have what you need. You can get away with relative minimalism, but these items are definite necessities.

You’ll also make some decisions based on others. For instance, new parents rave about the Newton Baby mattress because it’s unlike any other mattress on the market in that it is both breathable and washable. Yes, you read that right–if baby’s head gets stuck, they’re supposed to be able to breathe through it! INCREDIBLE.

That said, it comes with a hefty price tag, and it requires lots of other specific choices that most parents don’t know about. For instance, if you splurge to get this top-of-the-line, top-safety-rated mattress, you cannot use a waterproof pad (though they do have a waterproof version), and you have to use muslin crib sheets, or else you’ve just paid for a breathable mattress, but killed their breathability with the crib sheet.

We’ll give tips to help you out below.

Nursery Must Haves

Nursery Nice to Haves

Bath Time Must Haves for Baby Registry

I see a lot of people say that special bathtubs for babies aren’t necessary, and if you have a good sink for bathing baby and you’re a minimalist, this may be true.

But if you’re like me and basically wanted to sponge bathe your child until an inappropriate age because you’re TERRIFIED of putting them in a bathtub, then believe me, you need a dedicated baby tub.

You ALSO want a tub kneeler so your knees don’t die, or a stool to sit on to save your hips and low back. The stool may feel silly at first, but it’ll save you over time, and you can easily move it between the tub and sink when your little one is a toddler who suddenly needs a stool to wash their hands and brush their teeth.

Bath Time Must Haves

Bath Time Nice to Haves

Health & Safety Must Haves for Baby Registry

Obviously we want our babies to be safe, and we want to have what they need when they wake up sick in the middle of the night. The good news is, that doesn’t require a whole lot! So grab what you need, put it in a box in baby’s bathroom or closet, and rest well knowing you’re prepared.

Health & Safety Must Haves

Health & Safety Nice to Haves

  • Humidifier
  • Owlet dream sock
  • Genate Test (One of my new favorite products for expecting moms! This at-home saliva test tells you how you personally absorb different vitamins and nutrients based on your unique genes, and provides guided nutrition advice to help you make small, personalized changes to optimize your own and your baby’s health!)

Baby Registry Checklist: Baby Gear

This is your biggest expense and something I highly recommend having on your registry.

It can be really hard to choose between brands here, so I’m explaining my favorites a bit, just to make your life easier!

Baby Gear Must Haves

Baby Gear Nice to Haves

Baby Carriers

Oh, how I love a baby carrier! There are 4 main styles, so I’ve listed my favorite of each here:

  1. Best for Newborn: ErgoBaby Embrace
  2. Wrap: Solly
  3. Ring sling: Tula

Read more about everything you need to know about babywearing a newborn!

New Baby Must Haves for Diapering

Whether you choose to cloth diaper, disposable diaper, or a combination of the two, there are some supplies everyone needs.

We’ll list those here. Then, we’ll break supplies down into specifics for cloth and disposable diapering. Let’s do this, mama!

Diapering Must Haves 

You’ll need these items no matter what diapering method you choose.

Diapering Nice to Haves: Other Rash Treatments

Important note about baby registry must haves for first-time moms: Your little love will get so many weird diaper rashes in the early days that you want to be equipped with all the meds.

Refer back here when you need to know how to use them:

Disposable Diapering

If you’re using disposable diapers, you’ll want these items to get you started. If your baby is born bigger than newborn diapers, donate them–I promise there are lots of mamas with tiny babies who will need them!

Disposable Diaper Must Haves

If you have a specific brand of diapers you’ve chosen, the list below will help you get started with the right number to register for in different sizes. If you haven’t selected a brand yet, I suggest the Diaper Box that lets you try different diapers for fit on your baby. Then, you can choose the one that works the best for your baby!

Cloth Diapering

If you choose to cloth diaper, you’ll have some different needs than parents using disposables, so you’ll want to put the following items on your baby registry must haves list!

You’ll need different types of diapers, yes, but also, you don’t want to mix cloth diapers with disposable wipes unless you have TWO diaper pails. Because where do you put the wipes???? (I’m talking from experience here. Learn from my mistakes).

Cloth Diaper Must Haves

Cloth Diaper Nice to Haves

Clothing Baby Registry Essentials

Clothing is one of those things that I really don’t recommend registering for much of, except for some basic onesies. And if you put them on your baby registry, you’re signaling to people looking at it that they should not buy you clothes other than those onesies.

Will everyone pick up on that signal? No! Will some figure it out but ignore it? Yes!

But to avoid being slammed with baby clothes you didn’t choose, I suggest registering for these basics. Extra onesies for up to 3-6 months will be super helpful for managing spit-up and poop-splosions.

Must Haves

New Baby Must Haves for Soothing

There are things you’ll need when baby starts crying for no apparent reason, and especially during the teething days. I don’t recommend getting too much of any one item because you want to see what works for your child. But I do suggest having the following basics on hand.

Must Haves

Nice to Haves

Baby Registry Essentials for Play

People love registering for toys, but to be honest, they are a LOT to store while you wait for your baby to be old enough to use them.

There will be birthdays and holidays–you’ll have plenty of chances to be inundated with toys as your little gets older.

For now, stick to the infant basics, and honestly, there are very few!

Play Time Must Haves

Play Time Nice to Haves

  • Musical, spinning mobile (I use this as a toy where baby rests awake, not over the crib, which can distract from sleep)

Baby Registry Must Haves for Feeding

I recommend not fully stocking up on feeding needs until your baby has arrived.

Infant feeding does not always go as planned, so it’s nice to have some flexibility here.

Be prepared with supplies to help you breastfeed if that’s your preference, but also have some bottles on hand in case you need them. I even recommend a variety of bottle types because not all babies drink all bottles well. That’s why one of your best registry items is the Bottle Box, which comes with 5 different bottles you can test for your baby.

Also, a quick note. We’re separating breast and formula feeding for the sake of supplies, the two are NOT mutually exclusive! In fact, most babies are combo fed (meaning a combination of breastmilk and formula) by the end of their first year, and many moms (like myself) end up bottle feeding our babies pumped milk because of latch issues. In my case, we were dealing with a newborn recessed chin, and a bottle was our only option. I can’t tell you how much I wish I’d been prepared for that.

Must Haves

Whether breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or both, I recommend having all these supplies on hand. You can buy your bottles individually, or you can grab the Bottle Box to get it all-in-one!

Nice to Haves

New Baby Must Haves for Nursing Moms

Planning to nurse? Cool! I still recommend having the above supplies. You can even keep the bottles in boxes in case your baby breastfeeds like a champ, but if they can’t latch, you’ll need bottles!

Must Haves for Breastfeeding (Trust my brands here. I know this too well.)

Nursing Nice to Haves


If you’re pumping, whether for work or because your baby can’t latch, you’ll need these items. I exclusively pumped for a while, so I have very strong opinions here.

Pumping Nice to Haves

Nursing Covers and Clothing

If you’re nursing, you’ll need nursing clothing. Whether you choose to use a cover or wrap in public is totally up to you!

What Not to put on Baby Registry Checklist

While there are so many things we want to include on our registries, there are also some things that just aren’t needed! Here are my top tips!

  • Wipe warmer: They’re fine with room temp wipes, I promise.
  • Toys: Aside from the VERY few listed above, they’re too young for them. By the time your baby needs toys, you’ll have forgotten what you have.
  • Clothes: Other than the basic onesies listed above to make sure your kid can be dressed, you want to be able to pick out your own, and I promise you’ll be gifted clothes.
  • Peepee Teepees: They’re SO cute. But also so unnecessary.
  • Baby food kits: You may or may not choose to make your own baby food, but it’s a long way off. Establish your rhythm first and see if you really need it. (Hint, if you do, ice trays work wonders.)
  • Baby blankets: You’ll get SO MANY. You don’t need to ask for any.
  • Babyproofing supplies: This is a LONG way away, and knowing your kid will help you know what you really need.
  • Night light: Baby will learn to sleep better in the dark. Though having one in the hallway to their room isn’t a bad idea if you want it. I just used my phone.

Baby Registry Must Haves for Mom

Most people don’t put a lot of items for mom on their registries, but since this is a complete list of baby must haves, we cannot forget about mama!

Having a baby is hard work, and no matter how your baby gets into your arms, you are a badass for going through all you have.

Please take care of yourself with these postpartum must haves, whether you put them on your registry, or buy them for yourself.

Baby Registry Essentials FAQs

What stores give you free gifts when you do a baby registry?

Amazon, Target, BabyList, Pottery Barn Kids, Motherhood Maternity Stores, and Walmart Baby Registry all have freebies and coupons for you when you sign up for a baby registry.

When should you make a baby registry?

This is a personal choice, as some women like to wait until a pregnancy is “viable” at 24 weeks. We suggest the second trimester.

Do you put registry on baby shower invitations?

YES! Your family and friends will either get you something THEY want for baby, or have no clue what to buy you. Putting your registry on the invitation helps them know what you actually want & helps avoid duplicates.

What are essential baby items?

Essential baby items fall into the following categories: 1. Diapering (diapers, wipes, butt pastes); 2. Clothing (basics such as onesies and socks); 3. Feeding (bottles, breast milk pumps); 4. Transporting (car seats, strollers, carriers); 5. Sleeping (crib or bassinet, monitor)

What should I skip on my baby registry?

Anything with the word “warmer” in it (bottles or wipes). And avoid things you won’t need for a while, like lots of toys, food kits, & baby proofing items.

How many items should be on a baby registry?

The number of items on a baby registry will vary depending on your desires, needs, and the size of your social circle. Because many websites and stores offer registry completion discounts, we suggest putting everything you want on your registry so you can save money when you buy what’s left at the end.

What should I splurge on my baby registry?

Splurging on your baby registry is a personal preference. After all, people can choose to buy more expensive items, or not. This is why many people choose a few nice items to include “just in case” someone wants to buy an expensive gift. Splurge options often include smart products, like baby monitors, high-end bassinets, and fancy strollers. 

What’s one item you tell people NOT to put on a baby registry?

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