I used to be the girl who couldn't walk into a Babies 'R' Us to pick up a baby shower gift without feeling like I was going to have a minor panic attack. All the choices! All the colors! All the noises! It was just too much.
As you can imagine, registering for stuff for my own baby was a little overwhelming to me. Most overwhelming was the thought of baby stuff taking over our 1,000 square foot house ... we just don't have the room for every contraption and gizmo under the sun, so I knew that anything we brought home had to be worth the space and serve more than one purpose if possible. For guidance, I solicited advice from my mama friends, asking them to answer the following:
There are all sorts of baby registry lists out there to help you figure out the basics, but this was such a helpful and insightful exercise to learn about specific items and things I never would have thought of. It also was super helpful in deciding what to leave off the list.
In the end, I'm glad I spent so much time researching and I can't say there's really anything that hasn't been useful. But some of the most helpful things were those I added to the registry after talking to friends, gifts we received that I never would have found myself, or things I realized would be helpful and purchased later. So instead of a comprehensive list, here are the baby essentials I didn't know I needed.
1. Video monitor. Flynn's room is just across the hall from ours, so I wasn't sure we would need any sort of monitor, but I've been so glad to have one since he transitioned out of the Rock 'n Play in our room and into his crib in his own room. This one came recommended by a couple friends because it works well and is pretty affordable compared to other models.
2. Nasal aspirator. You've probably heard of the Nose Frida--we have one of those too and like it. But we also received this hybrid model from my aunt, a former NICU nurse, and it's great too! It combines the functions of both a bulb syringe and an oral aspirator for a 1-2 snot-sucking punch, but it's still super easy to clean.
3. Play mat. We have hardwood floors and a jute rug in our living room, so I really liked having this soft play mat when Flynn was small. It's cushier than some of the play mats out there, so it seemed a little more comfortable when there's no carpet underneath. And, it's easily washable--my in-laws have a similar one that they lay out on the bed at their house for diaper changes.
4. We use this wipes container daily, and it's just one of those things that make my life easier. You just press down on the lid to open it, and a weighted plate makes it easy to pull out only one wipe at a time. I buy wipes in bulk from Costco and keep them in here once I open them so they don't dry out. I also like that it's decent looking enough to leave on the dresser near the changing pad.
5. We have a couple Halo Sleep Sacks and like them a lot, but this thicker/heavier sleep sack was given to us by a friend and has been a godsend for the colder months.
6. My friend recommended these lightweight swaddle blankets for a summer baby because they are super soft, breathable, and large enough to be really versatile, and I reached for them time and time again when Flynn was small. I used them for swaddling but also for covering him up in his infant carrier in an air conditioned car. You'll be doing laundry so much anyway that a set of three is all you need!
7. We received the Wubbanub pacifier as a gift, and it was a lifesaver for road trips when Flynn was about 2-4 months old. Basically, it's a small stuffed animal attached to a Soothie brand pacifier. Flynn has the dino, but there are tons of cute critters to choose from. Even as a newborn, he could wrap his little hands around it and the extra weight helps keep it in place. Plus, it's much easier for us to keep track of! One time we lost it on a walk, and a neighbor brought it back to us. (Don't worry--it's washable!) He's not much of a paci guy anymore (and we never used it in the crib for safety purposes), but we won't go on a road trip without it.
8. This rattle was also a gift, and it's Flynn's favorite toy. I'm not sure if it's the bright colors, the rattle, the plush fabric, the soft plastic ring, or a combination of all those things, but it's another road trip essential. He loves chewing on this thing.
9. We use Dr. Brown's bottles, and if you're familiar with them you know how many parts they have. This dishwasher basket has worked really well for all those parts--the nipples go up top in the red section and everything else goes down below. Plus, it fits well in our top rack.
10. Here's the deal...if a friend offers to lend you a swing, a bouncer, an activity gym, or an activity center, take them up on it. Those items are great to have, but the window for needing them is so short that it's great to be able to borrow. We were lucky to have friends/family offer up their gently used items for the short time we'd need them. So far, the one exception we've made to our borrow-instead-of-buy philosophy is this activity center. We bought this for Flynn for Christmas because it's just so dang versatile. The seat pops out and the foot rest pops in to that opening so the whole thing turns into a kids' table when your baby is too big for an activity center. Bonus: It's fairly neutral!
11. When I went back to work, I hauled my pump parts around in a Ziploc bag. After a few weeks, I invested in one of these wet-dry bags. In addition to sections for wet and dry items, this kind also has a staging mat, which comes in handy when you're pumping in a less-than-ideal place. I tuck my pump parts inside the wet section and stick it in the refrigerator so I don't have to wash the parts between every pumping session and only once at the end of the day. I wipe the inside of the bag and the mat clean every night and wash it in the washing machine about once a week. After the strap of my freebie cooler broke a couple months later, I bought this freezable lunch bag. It has freezer packs built in so you don't have to waste precious storage space.
12. We have several burp cloths, but I reach for these again and again. They fit so well on my shoulder and I love the simplicity of basic white. They also have snaps so you can use them as bibs if you wish.
Our baby has outgrown some of these things now that he's 8 months old, but I'll update this again in a couple months as we discover new faves. I hope it alleviates some of the baby store anxiety you may be feeling!