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The 10 Baby Registry Items You'll Actually Use

There are so many baby items out there these days. And the more time that passes, the more complicated it seems to get! Even within the six years that it's been since I had my first baby, the baby item landscape has changed completely. My friends who are now having babies will tell me about these contraptions and crazy gadgets, and I feel like I'm 300 years old. It has gotten even fancier you guys, and as the money-making monsters play off that thick mom fear and those nesting urges, there seems to be an item for every possible situation.

Honestly, babies don't need all that much. Most items on the market these days are nice-to-have at best, and the expensive versions of the necessary items often contain features that will hardly get used or make a difference. So here are the baby items you NEED to have on your registry, things you'll actually use and you'll use them early on:

01. A Car Seat

This is one of the first and most important baby items you'll need. You won't be able to drive home from the hospital without it! You can choose to pay anywhere from around $100 to $500+ for a safe infant car seat. Car seats typically expire after six years from the date of manufacture, so if you're thinking that spending an extra $400 on a car seat will mean it will last you through your four children you plan to pop out in the next six years, hold up.

02. Diapers & Wipes

Whether you're going the cloth route or not, you'll want to be stocked up on these. You'll be glad you registered for lots of diapers when you realize just how quickly you'll go through a box of them. Even you plan to go the cloth route, I'd suggest having some disposables on hand for the disastrous blowout or tired day.

03. Somewhere for Baby to Sleep

Your nesting urges will likely refute this, but honestly, you don't have to have a crib right away. Most parents like to have the baby close by for a while and choose to use a bedside bassinet. You can spend anywhere for $50 to $1,600 on a bassinet. The most basic bassinet will get the job done. Some of the fanciest bassinets out there will even rock and soothe your baby back to sleep. Check out this list for some recommended bassinets.

04. Sleepers & Onesies

I hate to break it to you, but most newborns don't wear those super cute clothes all that often, if at all. They're not the most convenient or practical. It's a good idea to have your new baby wear something that offers easy access to that diaper. Register for sleepers with a zipper at the top and bottom and the oversized dress-like sleepers. That way you don't have to completely undress baby to change a diaper. You'll be glad you did when it's 3 a.m. and you want to change that diaper as fast as possible and head back to bed.

05. Swaddles or Sleep Sacks

Register for a couple of sleep sack swaddles. Babies love the comfort that firm swaddle hug provides. These wearable blankets have velcro on them that make swaddling your baby much more simple. Plus, the swaddle doesn't come loose as easily. We were given one of these to use in the hospital and were immediately sold on it.

06. Feeding Necessities

If you're breastfeeding, you'll still need some basic items. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting a breast pump. Or you can head here to read a step-by-step guide about how to get a breast pump for free . Even if you're a stay-at-home mom or you're not heading back to work for a while, you can pump a bottle and have your partner get up for a feeding so you can get some sleep. Check out this list for an explanation of all the different types of pumps and and their benefits. It seems I have aged decades in the four years since I've used this stuff, and I no longer understand all the lingo or how the heck an app can automatically track how much milk you've pumped.

You might also want to consider registering for a hand pump. Yes, you have to use your hand, but you have to use your hand for a lot of things. They're easy to take with in the car or use on the other side while you're nursing.

If you plan to bottle feed, register for a couple different types of bottles because babies can be picky about which ones they like. Even if you plan on breastfeeding, I'd recommend registering for at least one bottle set. You'll need burp clothes (something that can get soiled often) too.

These moms were working with multiple feeding methods, including nursing, pumping, and formula supplementing, so having bottles on hand was super helpful when baby was born.

07. Basic First Aid & Care Supplies

Stating the obvious here, but I'm not a doctor. This is just what I think based on my own experience with having two babies. These items are nice to have on hand ahead of time so if (when) baby gets sick you don't have to make a trip to the store. The two items you'll definitely use are a baby thermometer and a nasal aspirator. You can find baby safety kits all over, but most of these kits also include items that you likely won't use, like a soft baby brush, baby comb, and tooth brush.

Other first aid items, like infant acetaminophen and baby gas drops, are used with babies a bit older and you'll probably just get whatever your doctor tells you to get at the time anyway, so I don't recommend getting these ahead of time.

08. Baby Carrier &/or Stroller

You'll want a way to transport your baby that doesn't involve your arms. Your baby will be the cutest thing you've ever laid eyes on and your heart will be a volcano of emotions, but trust me, your arms will want a break.

Consider registering for a baby carrier, even if you don't think you'll be baby wearing all the time. One benefit is you'll get to use all these fancy terms that are nowadays associated with baby carriers, cool words like, "ergo," "convertible," and "Björn." You'll feel like you're on an overseas vacation...well, almost. You can spend anywhere from $30 to $200ish on a carrier. Wraps are less expensive. When choosing a carrier, make sure you consider which positions it allows baby to be in. Some carriers will "grow" with your baby (in that eventually you can wear your baby facing out or on your back).

Some questions to ask yourself when looking at strollers: How much do I want to spend? Do I want a jogging stroller? How easy is it to fold? When it's folded, will it fit in my vehicle? You can spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000+ on a stroller. Some are larger folded up and may not fit in the trunk of a standard sized car.

Also, don't let the term "jogging stroller" fool you. This does not mean you have to take up running at one week postpartum. Jogging strollers have one wheel in the front and are designed for maneuverability. The tires are rubber and air filled for a smooth ride. Having a winter baby in Minnesota is enough to want a good jogging stroller. It will help you brave those less clear sidewalks and mounds near street crossings.

This family had a stroller that could grow with their baby. You can see the bassinet attachment in the background. These strollers also have other seat selections that allow for forward-facing of parent-facing.

09. A Simple Baby Whisperer Tool Kit

You'll likely want to register for a few pacifiers and possibly a sound machine. (Don't be alarmed if your baby doesn't take a pacifier. Some babies are wise beyond their years and will not be fooled into sucking on a giant fake nipple.)

It's okay to lean upon anything and everything when you're desperate for sleep. But I personally don't believe in creating that perfect sleeping environment forever. Remember that anything you introduce now you'll have to wean your baby off later. (I once made a paper boat for a binkie and sent it soaring down Minnehaha Falls in a Bye Bye Binkie ceremony.)

10. Newborn Photography

You knew it was coming, right? But for real, most people don't think about registering for gift cards that can be used towards newborn photos. Newborn photos are (rightfully) expensive. If a friend or family member asks what to get you, instead of pointing them to a Target gift card ask for any amount towards newborn photos! No family member will scoff at this. Everyone will want to see those precious captures, and Grandma will be over the moon.

Now onto the bonus content!

Demystifying the Diaper Bag

A diaper bag is a backpack or shoulder bag with a designated pouch for wipes and a lined inside that's easier to clean. No, they don't have special powers or compartments that tiny fairy helpers reside in. Yes, they look cool. And against popular belief, you don't have to have a diaper bag. A backpack or large purse will do.

Unnecessary Baby Items

This, of course, is my personal opinion. But there are items that I hardly, if ever, used. Including: Bath bath seats, bottle warmers (fill a bowl with hot water and set the bottle in it), diaper trash bins. Sometimes we as humans like to overcomplicate things.

Nice-to-Have Baby Items on Your Registry, but Not Necessary

A fancy glider chair for rocking in the wee hours of the night. A play mat where your baby can eventually roll around and spread her spit up. And it seems that you don't need to register for baby clothes. They just seem to find their way to you either way. ;)

Baby Items You'll Want Down the Road

You might want to register for some items that you won't need right away, just to pacify that nesting urge and set yourself up for thinking about less down the road. These items include, a pack-n-play (if you're the traveling type), toys, diaper ointment, baby monitor, high chair.

The 3 Baby Items I Couldn't Live Without:

01. My Stroller Caddy

For the first couple months I'd go to the store or a doctor appointment and the car seat would dangle from my elbow like a purse. Baby + car seat = heavy. During one of our many physical therapy appointments a kind staff member offered me a stroller caddy. Exhausted and desperate, I accepted. A stroller caddy is basically the bottom half of a stroller that you can plop your car seat into. It was a life saver. It folded easily, and I could pop it open when heading into a doctor appointment or Target.

02. Inexpensive Baby Carriers

I loved this carrier for long hikes on trips and simple walks to the coffee shop down the road. And I was obsessed with this wrap when my babes were super tiny. I wanted my babies close to me, so I'd use while doing simple things around the house.

03. A Medela Pump Battery Pack

I was working at the time, so I was pumping. A lot. I blew a lot of fuses before buying thing this thing (both in my car and myself). This battery pack helped keep me (somewhat) sane while I was working full-time with a baby. It allowed me to pump in the car to and from work.



Located in Minneapolis, Kara Joy Photography is a lifestyle & documentary photographer who specializes in newborn & family photography. She's known for capturing raw emotion & authentic expressions through a laid-back approach. Her unforced images have a glaze that is natural yet polished. The cherry on top? A quick turnaround time.

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fresh 48 minneapolis


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