Web Analytics
The Real Talk Version of Your Baby Registry - Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Real Talk Version of Your Baby Registry


Brand new and expecting parents could not be easier to market to: We’re hungry, tired and desperate for our children to be safe, comfortable and, ideally, asleep. Plus, we’re often trapped under a baby and looking at our phones, a mere press of the forefinger away from purchasing an idiotic cashmere onesie at any moment.

My first time at the baby gear rodeo, I made some rookie mistakes, and ever since then I’ve been eager to make sure my friends don’t replicate my errors. After the birth of my second child in 2018, I even started sending around a document titled “How not to [screw] up your registry,” whether the recipient had asked me to or not.

This is a version of that document that I have adapted for a broader audience. It has recommendations for the gear I ended up using with both my kids, including items that I think are worth their price tag and others you can buy used, skimp on or skip entirely. While I’m a connoisseur and cultivator of product recommendations and hand-me-downs from parent-friends with a range of budgets, my own kids have been born (literally) and raised in a small third-floor walk-up, which means my picks are road-tested for maximum space-saving and portability.

Furniture and strollers

With the exception of the car seat, which you should probably buy new for safety reasons, big-ticket items like strollers, cribs, changing tables, baby swings and rockers are easy to find secondhand. Don’t bother with a pricey bassinet stroller if you live in a walkup apartment or a house with front stairs, because they can weigh a ton. And don’t think about the needs of the baby as it turns into a toddler — toddler stuff is even easier to get secondhand than newborn stuff because people just want it OUT of their house.

That said, if you’re looking for specific products to buy used, or have a rich aunt who wants to buy you something off a registry, here are the bigger items I like:

  • There’s a reason the Baby Jogger city mini stroller is everywhere — for the comparatively low price point, it’s the best. It handles well and kids like riding in it. When they get bigger and you have to deal with them trying to clamber out of it, it’s quite secure. You can attach an infant car seat to a City Mini, but it’s annoying. A better stroller option for car seat attachment: the Yoyo.

  • If someone wants to buy you a Stokke high chair, let them. They’re adorable and useful and easy to clean. If no one wants to buy it for you, and you can’t find one used, I liked the extreme adjustability of this classic Fisher Price model, and the Wirecutter, a New York Times company that does rigorous product reviews, recommends the inexpensive IKEA Antilop.

  • A contoured plastic changing pad is easy to keep clean. The Keekaroo peanut is very nice but expensive one, and the Bumbo changing pad is similar and cheaper.

  • You need to have some kind of moving apparatus that soothes the baby so you can put them down in it and tend to your affairs. This is absolutely essential for the whole fourth trimester. After that you will put it out on the curb or sell it. Some people like the subtle, stylish Mamaroo— my younger son Ilya, however, gave it a review of “WAHHHH.” My editor and the Wirecutter recommend the recommend the Baby Bjorn bouncer, which also gets points for minimalist design. However, both of my children were instantly soothed by this Fisher-Price monstrosity. It’s tacky, but whatever. It worked for me.

  • It’s hard to get excited about buying a car seat; safety and ease of installation are the only real considerations, and the Wirecutter did a great job of assessing those. If you, like me, schlep a car seat into a cab or a rental car often, you’ll want to check out the weight and unwieldiness of your pick IRL before buying online.


I have one sleep-hating child so I’ve test-driven … lots of things. My picks are either worth the money, or inexpensive enough that they’re worth a shot to see if they’ll work for you.

  • Velcro swaddles. You need these from the beginning. Newborns love to be swaddled because it reminds them of their former home in a womb. However, swaddling with a blanket is best done by a trained professional. Register for like 20 of these. Newborns puke up milk and blow out diapers constantly and unavoidably.

  • When your baby shows signs of rolling over, you’ll need to wean them off the swaddle, and during that transition, the Baby Merlin Sleep Suit is great. It seems to be a perfect balance between weighted blanket and semi-swaddle.

  • After your baby is done with the Merlin, you’ll need sleep sacks. Blankets, grandparents are always shocked to learn, are now verboten. Sleep sacks are the new blankets. I like these for warm weather and these for colder nights

  • A white noise machine. I like the classic fan-based Dohm, found outside every therapist’s office, and the Wirecutter likes the LectroFan. I’ve found digital versions to be too loud or, perversely, too grating.

Feeding (and pooping)

Babies’ diets are blessedly simple, at least at first: They drink milk, either from a boob or from a bottle of pumped milk or formula. Both are excellent ways to feed a baby, and I have done both. You do need a few items to make feeding and its aftermath simpler, but this is another area where it’s easy to go overboard. Start with the basics and add more or different accoutrements as necessary.

  • A bunch (more than you think you need) of muslin blankets and thick absorbent burp cloths: for draping over baby, for spills, etc. You will both be leaking fluids constantly.

  • A Boppy breastfeeding pillow (good for bottle feeding too)

  • Infinity diapers and wipes and an ample amount of butt cream for diaper rash (Desitin or similar)

  • For little babies who are primarily breastfed, I had luck introducing a boob-shaped bottle first: specifically, this silicone Comotomo one. It comes in 5 and 8 ounces. For older babies and formula feeding, you’ll want to get the faster-flow nipples and the larger bottles, which you’ll start using around 4 or 5 months.

  • If you’re going back to work in an office and you want to keep breastfeeding, you will unfortunately have to use a breast pump. Buy the most expensive pump you can afford and get one for home and one for office so you don’t have to lug it back and forth. Make sure to find out whether you can get your insurance to cover some or all of your pump purchase(s). The Wirecutter’s pick is here.

  • You know what I love though? This cheap, perfect, manual pump. You can just throw it in your purse (in a plastic baggie so it doesn’t get purse crumbs in it). Once you get the hang of it, you can pump whenever, wherever without needing to plug in or anything. It’s great for “taking the edge off” if you’re about to burst. Get two.

Baby carriers

With my first child, I felt inadequate because the origami involved in baby-wearing with a woven wrap mostly eluded me. With my second child, I thought, “Why did I ever care about woven wraps?” You should use what feels physically and emotionally comfortable for you — that may even mean not wearing your baby at all. Also, it’s important to have a carrier that fits both parents, even if that means buying or registering for two. Go ahead and take some of the literal burden off the gestational parent’s shoulders.

  • For newborns, get two baby K’tans if you have a partner, one in your size and one in partner’s size. These are foolproof. If you do not initially find it foolproof there are lots of soothing YouTube videos that show you how to put it on. Important: do not practice with your cat. The cat won’t like it.

  • For older babies, the Ergo 360 turned out to be my favorite structured carrier — I used it from about 4 months to 2 years. The Baby Bjorn also has its fans; some men prefer its sporty look (eyeroll emoji). You can also get the infant insert and use it instead of/ in addition to the K’tan— sometimes the K’tan feels a little casual, and an Ergo or Bjorn can feel more like the baby is wearing armor, which is nice on public transportation.

Bathing and grooming

Little babies don’t get very dirty, it’s true, but it’s nice to have the equipment ready to dunk them in whenever they start smelling funky.

  • A tiny nail clipper is a must to keep your baby from decorating his face with scratches from his rapidly-growing, razor-sharp claws. It takes some guts to attempt this delicate act of manicuring, but in my experience, expensive clippers don’t make it any easier – all that matters is that the clipper is small.

  • Since you can start using the regular bathtub as soon as your child’s sitting and you’re comfortable with it, bathtubs are easy to find very gently used. Look for something along these lines.

  • These hooded towels are just extremely cute – this list’s one item of frippery. Treat yourself (to a photo op!)

For bio moms

Moms are human beings with needs also!

  • If nursing:Belabumbum nursing nightgowns — get a few, they get befouled. Oh and pull the cups down, don’t unsnap. Never unsnap. I don’t know who’s doing all this unsnapping. These are a pricier version of Target’s Gilligan & O’Malley ones, which are maybe even a better option for the laundry-avoidant (me) because you can buy several.

  • Kindred Bravely nursing bras. I learned the hard way that you actually do probably need to buy different bras for pregnancy and postpartum, because your size fluctuates so much. This brand strikes a good balance between support and room to grow (or shrink), but I’d wait to invest in them until you’ve been nursing for a month and have a sense of your postpartum size.

  • Postpartum clothes in general. The need for these takes many people by surprise, because if you’re anything like me, you fantasize that you will immediately just go back to wearing your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. The reality is that your body may adjust gradually, and in the meantime you can’t just go around wearing stained, stretched maternity leggings for a year. (I have tried. But it’s not considered best practice.) A few long tank tops can make clothes that used to be oversized wearable at a new size. And a couple of strategic smocky things are a great idea. If you feel hesitant about spending money on something temporary, now’s a great time to subscribe to LeTote or Rent the Runway, and to take advantage of hand-me-downs.

Things you don’t truly need

There are plenty of things that are positioned as baby necessities that really just … aren’t. These are the ones I’m absolutely certain are scams.

  • If you live in a small apartment or home, you don’t need a baby monitor. You will hear the baby crying. You will hear the baby crying no matter how hard you try not to. (Still, I bought theWirecutter’s top pick with my firstborn, and it works extremely well, if you’re into watching the REM eye movements of someone who’s less than 10 feet away from you separated by a thin wall).

  • NoseFrida/ the butt version of NoseFrida: I watch zit popping videos, so I understand the appeal of getting a gadget that gives you tacit permission to suck the snot out of someone else’s nose. But while I’m sorry to yuck your yum, I am obligated to inform you that it really is not necessary. The snot will come out on its own, eventually. As will the farts.

  • Wipe warmer: Come on.

Emily Gould is an author, publisher, veteran blogger, and mother of two.


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *