Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baby Registry 101

Baby showers are fun!  Especially if there is alcohol for non-preggo guests.
Last week I received a request for a list of my must-have baby registery items.  On the one hand I am incredibly flattered that a reader* takes my advice seriously, but on the other, I'm concerned that I am the voice of parenting reason in this person's life.  Nevertheless I'm always happy to share what I've learned on my bumbling journey through pregnancy and motherhood.
*close friend

First of all, let me say this: people like buying stuff for babies.  You need not feel guilty for registering for things that you need, and inviting people to a party that involves you receiving presents for your soon-to-arrive offspring.  That being said, I think it's super tacky when people only register for expensive high end items, because those of us on a budget can't always afford to buy Mommy-to-be a crystal baby rattle.  Babies really don't care if something is from Gumps or Goodwill; they are just as happy to take a crap on a $400 blanket as on one that cost forty cents.

So, without further ado I present:

The Top 15 Baby Registry Items
(and a few optional ones as well)

Carseat.  If you only register for one thing (which would be weird, but to each their own) it should be a carseat.  Unless you literally live next door to the hospital where you are planning to give birth, and you have no intention of ever taking your kid anywhere in a vehicle, this is the one item you must have.  You will not be allowed to leave the hospital with your newborn until you have demonstrated that you know how to put him in the seat and that the base is properly installed into your backseat.

Stroller.  The stroller that you choose is really going to depend on where you live and what your lifestyle is like.  If you walk a lot and you live in an urban environment, you need something that's rugged and indestructible.  I would not be able to function without my UppaBaby.  If you think there's a possibility of welcoming another child, then I suggest picking one that has the option to add a second seat, so you don't end up shelling out another $700 for a second stroller two years later.  If you don't walk much at all and your main reason for having a stroller is simply to transport your child from the car to the mall/grocery store/pediatrician's office, then it makes no sense to spend a ton of money on a fancy stroller that's heavy and not really designed to be lifted in and out of a car every day.  Pick up a Snap-n-Go, and use that until your kid grows out of his infant carseat, at which point you can transition to the umbrella stroller.  I keep my umbrella stroller in my car and use that when we're out and about, as it's just easier to leave the Uppa at home where it's the centerpiece of my living room decor, which I've dubbed "Buy Buy Baby Showroom Chic".

Swaddles.  These are everything when it comes to your newborn sleeping for more than an hour at a time.  The nurses at the hospital make swaddling with a regular blanket look easy, but I can tell you that it is not (and I've had two kids) and that your baby will manage to escape from your swaddle no matter how tight you think you've made it.  These are a million times easier than trying to dick around with a blanket in the pitch black of the middle of the night while you're exhausted.  Be sure and register for two packages of these because babies pee through everything and the last thing you need is to be trying to wash the same two swaddles over and over every day.  I confess that in desperation I have put my newborn in a dry, yet peed on, swaddle, but you have the potential to be a better parent than I am simply by asking your friends to buy you these amazing inventions.

Baby bath tub.  Newborns are really, really small.  I'd honestly forgotten how small and floppy they are until I popped out another one.  They also happen to be slippery when wet.  While they don't need to be bathed more than once a week at first, it's just easier if you have a tub that you can set up on your kitchen counter for bath time.  This one folds flat for easier storage, which means there will be plenty of room in your bathroom for the seven million brightly-colored bath toys you will end up needing once your baby becomes a toddler.

Washcloths.  Attempting to wash a teeny-tiny baby with an adult-sized washcloth is akin to a Monty Python skit - hilariously uncomfortable.  Do yourself a favor and get some baby-sized washcloths, because bathing an infant is hard enough without accidentally smothering your kid in a giant soaking-wet piece of terry cloth.

Baby Carrier.  I have both the Ergo and the K'tan and I love the latter for when they are really little, and the Ergo as they get older.  Honestly, some days the only way to get anything done (dishes, laundry, meal prep) is to stick your kid in a carrier and go about your business.  This is also an amazing way to breastfeed in public without anyone noticing.  I don't want to brag, but I've actually worn my newborn to a bar and breastfed while enjoying a margarita.  Mother of the year right here, folks, but when it's girl's night out, you gotta do what you gotta do.  

Bouncy Chair.  Oh my goodness this has been a lifesaver with both the Muffin Man and the Little Lady.  One of the reasons the bouncy chair is so amazing is because it's portable.  If you're expecting your first child you probably don't yet understand the value of this feature, but believe me when I tell you that being able to put your kid down wherever you need to (hello, bathroom!) is invaluable.  The vibrating seat is also incredibly calming for most little ones, and the toy bar across the top usually manages to keep an infant entertained long enough for Mommy to take a shower.  I can't guarantee that it will hold your kid's interest long enough for you to shave your legs, but at least you will no longer smell.

Boppy.  If you plan to breastfeed you will need a breastfeeding pillow.  Your Mother or your Mother-in-Law will tell you that these are ridiculous and that they did just fine without them back in her day, but chances are your Mother smoked cigarettes and drank like a fish while she was pregnant with you, so I'd like to gently suggest that you ignore her advice.  Breastfeeding can be tricky at first and until you get used to it your arms, shoulder and neck muscles will ache.  These pillows help take off some of the pressure and can assist you in finding a comfortable position that works best for you and your ravenous offspring.

Activity Gym.  You need one of these.  Also portable, like the bouncy chair, these are fantastic for tummy time.  When your kiddo starts to become more aware of her surroundings she'll enjoy all the stuff hanging from the crossbars.  My daughter is currently obsessed with staring at herself in the little mirror, so here's hoping that passes before she's in high school and one of us has to share a bathroom with her.

Baby Monitor.  Trust me, you want a video monitor, especially if you're a first time parent.  You know why?  Because you will be constantly paranoid that your child is suffocating in his sleep even if he's lying in an empty room.  Yes, they are pricey, but I'm sure you have at least one parent who feels guilty for abandoning you at a young age and now likes to try to buy your love with expensive presents.  If that's the case then I suggest you drop a few hints about which monitor you're eying. 

White noise machine.  Don't screw around with the Sleep Sheep because it only stays on for 45 minutes.  Ask yourself this: "do I want to be awakened every 45 minutes to turn a soft plushy sheep back on?"  I'm guessing the answer is a resounding "no".  Get yourself an industrial-strength basic white noise machine that runs indefinitely and that's loud enough to drown out even the noisiest of your friendly neighborhood tweakers.  If you live in a city this is a must.

Nightlight.  Whether your newborn will be sleeping in your room or in his nursery, you'll need some sort of soft, not-too-bright light to keep you from walking into walls and breaking toes during those middle of the night feedings.  We love the salt lamps because the light is bright enough to make feeding and changing easy, but not so bright that Mommy and baby wake up too much.  I personally prefer to do my makeup by nightlight so that I can't see how tired I look in bright light. 

Humidifier.  Especially if you're having a winter baby, these help to combat the dry, over-heated air that's particular to cold and desert climates.  The air is so dry in Los Angeles that I have ours running all year long.  One thing to be aware of with humidifiers is that you MUST clean them thoroughly every week.  If that's not going to be realistic for you, then please refrain from using one, because the last thing you want to do is send mold spores into the nursery disguised as a soothing mist.

Muslin Blankets.  These are the triple-threat of the baby product world.  They can be used for swaddling, as burp cloths, and as nursing covers; heck, I've even used one as a scarf in a pinch. Perhaps the best thing about these is that they just get better (softer) the more you wash them, and there's a very good chance your kid will end up using one as his lovey when he's older.  My son, of course, prefers a small fuzzy blanket that is smelly, discolored, and practically in tatters. They say that blankies represent Mommy, so I guess when you look at it that way, Noah's choice is spot on. 

Diaper pail.  Diapers smell.  This will mitigate enough of the scent to ensure that your entire house doesn't smell like you lit an "esssence of poop" scented candle.

Changing pad and covers.  A changing pad is the magical way you can transform your dorm room dresser into a cute changing table (okay, that and a coat of paint and some new drawer pulls).  Be sure and register for more than one cover for your changing pad, because babies have incredible comedic timing in that they like to pee and/or poop right when their diaper is being changed!  Avoid having to send your exhausted spouse/baby daddy out in the middle of the night** to Target to get a spare changing pad cover.
**8PM becomes your new "middle of the night" once you have kids
Crib mattress pads and sheets.  I suggest you register for at least three.  That way, when your kid eventually gets the stomach flu and liquid is shooting out of both ends you don't find yourself stumbling around in the actual middle of the night trying to figure out what to put down on the crib mattress because you ran out of pads and sheets. 

Optional Items:
People are going to buy you lots of really cute clothes.  Many of them will be impractical, so I like to suggest that you find the closest children's resale store and stock-up on zip-front onesies and newborn gowns.  If you want to add a few clothing items to your registry, pick out several special pieces that you would really like to have but wouldn't necessarily purchase yourself.

Highchair.  It's going to be at least six months before you'll need one of these.  If you have your heart set on something super chic to match your midcentury modern decor then by all means register for it, but Craigslist and the resale store are excellent sources when your little one is old enough to start solids.

Swing or MamaRoo.  My kids have never been big fans of either of these items, but others won't sleep anywhere else.  Every kid is different, so you kind of have to just pick whichever one you like best and hope that your kiddo responds positively.  Worst case scenario you can sell it on Craigslist and use the funds to buy yourself a cute jacket that fits your postpartum figure. 

Breastpump.  Most health insurance covers the cost of a pump, so I suggest calling your insurance carrier and finding out before you register for one.  If you only plan to breastfeed for a short amount of time, you can always rent a pump through the hospital.  I'm going to be honest with you here: I don't know anyone who has received a pump as a gift.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't register for one, but just be warned that nothing creeps people out more than the thought of their friend or loved one being milked like a dairy cow.

Diapers.  If you're planning to do cloth diapers then you should probably register for whatever you need with that.  I also think that you should also hope someone gives you a year's worth of daily laundry service, but if you're cool with poop then go for it.  Just be warned that once they start eating solids (or drinking formula) that sh*t stinks.  Literally.

What are your must-haves for a baby registry?  If I've forgotten anything, be sure and let me know by leaving a comment below!

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