Before you take a stroll down the aisles of Babies 'R Us and get sucked into a new, very cute world of tiny baby shoes and ultra-adorable hooded towels with froggies frolicking on them, do yourself a favor and heed advice from some mamas who have been there and done that.
Many popular baby shower registration destinations have changed their store policies regarding returns and exchanges. Target, to name one, has begun enforcing strict return policies when you try to return or exchange a gift with out or with a receipt. Also, places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx do not accept merchandise returns or exchanges to their stores with out a receipt even if the price tag brandishes the store name and the original ticket price still is listed on the tag. I learned this first-hand after standing in line for 20 minutes at TJ Maxx with Gabe when he was only about 8 weeks old. That being said, use that cool scanner gun wisely as you wade through an array of baby accessories and add items to your registry.
Warning number one: Don't register for tons of baby clothes. You have no idea how fast your baby is going to grow and what size baby will be in during the next season. Plus, you may be surprised at how many people will give you adorable clothes (people seem to really like to buy baby clothes!). We thought Gabe was going to be a small, slow-gaining baby. He was small for about two weeks. He grew quickly out of his newborn clothes, and we packed away brand-new outfits. Buy as baby grows; lesson learned. (Side note: We were extremely blessed because my cousin gave us so many of her boys' outgrown, adorable clothes. We've hardly had a need to buy any clothes, and what we have needed to buy, we've found at garage sales. Babies grow so quickly that often the clothes sold at garage sales are in excellent used condition.)
Warning number two: Buy big items with big price tags in gently used condition. Baby really doesn't need a brand-new crib or high chair so long as the gently used items meet current safety standards. Plus, if your baby is like most of the babies I know, he won't spend a whole lot of time sleeping his crib anyway. Many mamas and babies I know share sleep at night in the same bed. Sleep sharing, although controversial among pediatricians, ends up happening quite naturally in most situations. Many mamas won't fess up to sharing sleep, though, for fear of being lectured. Gabe starts off in his crib every night, but he ends up in our bed half way into the night. Stay tuned for a post about sleep sharing.
Warning number three: Baby's favorite thing to play with is you! Baby doesn't need a ton of toys, and quite frankly, he won't play with a good lot you do buy or receive as gifts. Our most popular store-bought toys include books, stacking cups and blocks, linkable rings, a strange-looking multi-colored horse with jingling feet and crunchy ears, an exersaucer with switchable toys and a colorful caterpillar that sings sings classical music and a few select tunes about colors and numbers. If we had only given these toys to him for the first six months, Gabe would have been plenty happy and occupied. Gabe also likes to play with cloth diapers, the cloth tag on the Boppy, his blanket, the carpet, my water bottle, his fist and toes, my lips, fingers and nose and a slew of other things we did not buy to keep him entertained.
Warning number four: Don't be blinded by cuteness. The old phrase "looks aren't everything" applies to this situation. Functionality and usability must be considered! You really don't need eight hooded towels (guilty as charged) even though they have adorable frogs and turtles dancing with each other on the hood. (Side note: Most hooded towels are pretty thin and do not keep baby warm during the early months when baby cannot regulate his own temperature! Look for thick hooded towels. And you only need two.) The same thing applies for all of the darling hats and soft, thin blankets. Keep a few hats -- two for cold weather, two for cool weather and two for blocking the sun. Keep a few of the precious, soft, thin blankets. By all means, though, do not register for any! People will naturally gravitate to such items, and you will be stocked!
Warning number five: Do no underestimate the amount of bibs and socks you will go through in one day. Baby needs to wear a bib pretty much all of the time he or she is awake. Babies drool and spit up enough to saturate one bib every few hours. Gather many, many cute bibs, and remember the bibs will cover the front of shirts and onesies! Also, buy just regular cotton socks. The fleecy and super-soft material socks slide right off of baby's feet! And that just defeats the purpose of socks.
-A baby bath tub (Gabe prefers to be in the regular tub or in the shower with one of his parents as do a few of my friends' babies. He does like his baby bath tub more now that he is older, though. And I do like the little sprayer that came with it.)
-Bumper pads for the crib and crib bedding sets (Bumper pads actually have been found to be dangerous as infants get trapped between the bumper pad and crib rails.)
- a play mat with dangling toys (Gabe really liked playing with the one we borrowed before he figured out how to move! He still likes it enough to keep out on a daily basis.)
- a pacifier
- baby monitor (if you have a small home or apartment, you won't need a baby monitor; mothers seems to have super hearing when it comes to infant sounds!)
- wipe warmer (if you are using cloth wipes, though, it is nice to have a warmer because it keeps wet cloth wipes moist)
- a swing (Some babies really like motion. If your little one always falls asleep while you are driving, you'll know a swing will be a big hit.)
- an exersaucer (Gabe loves playing in his exersaucer because he is really noisy and wants to be busy all of the time.)
- a teething ring (or you can use a wet wash cloth frozen in the freezer)
- Northern Essence Diaper Solution for cloth wipes
- a crib (It's nice to have, but Gabe would be pleased if he slept with us all night long. We're happy to have used the cradle John's dad made for John and Christy to sleep in when they were babies. And we're also happy to have the crib John slept in as a baby. Both were free and meet the safety standards. The crib will become essential for us as Gabe gets older.)
- a changing table (Many parents are happy to do all diaper changes on the floor. I liked having a changing table until Gabe started rolling.)
Must-have items (bare minimum):
-a nursing pillow to make breastfeeding easier
-a snot-sucking bulb
-Lansinoh Lanolin for the breastfeeding mother (helps protect and heal cracked, dry nipples and is safe for baby)
- Northern Essence Diaper Salve (tea-tree and lavender free) for treating and preventing diaper rash)
- Kiddopotamus brand or home-made swaddling blankets (newborns really love to be swaddled when they sleep)
- 24 cloth diapers, six covers and 24 cloth wipes (plus a box of Country Save detergent for washing the diapers - diapers should be washed and dried four or so times before baby wears them.)
- a breast pump and a few Medela-brand bottles (Medela bottles are made with safe plastic that does not leech into the milk when heated.)
- a car seat
- a comfy baby carrier you can put baby in while you are doing housework, taking walks or shopping (There are many quality baby carriers. My favorites are the Ergo, Freehand Mei Tai and Maya Ring Sling. Visit thebabywearer to find the perfect carrier for you!)
Gabe in the Freehand Mei Tai
- three light-weight blankets and four fleece blankets
- 12 zero to three month onesies, two pairs of shorts and four pairs of pants (all washed and ready for baby to wear)
- 12 bibs and 12 spit-up rags (prefold cloth diapers are cheap and work well for spit rags!)
- Aveeno baby wash or Kiss My Face oil oil soap for bath time
- one or two thick hooded towels - antibacterial topical cream like Neosporin
- a rocking chair or Lazy boy
- calming music (Either CD or your own vocals!)
- nursing tank top (While nursing bras might seem like a good idea, I have found them to be somewhat uncomfortable. The nursing tank tops provide good support and cover the tummy while you are nursing.)
- some (five or six) of the aforementioned toys (I would choose for the first six months the exersaucer, the play mat, the stacking cups/blocks, the singing caterpillar, linking rings and one of the Infantino animals. Gabe really likes things that sing, reflect and crinkle. He also likes to be able to gnaw on hard toys.)
- a high chair (again, we are using my old high chair)
- a memory bursting with fun nursery rhymes and kid songs like The Ants Go Marching and Pop! Goes the Weasel.
Happy registering! Leave any of your favorite, must-have baby items as a comment!