The two-headed monster of Capitalism and Advertising would have you believe that you need ALL.THE.THINGS to take care of a baby. This mindset is detrimental to our mental health, our wallet, our planet, and our ability to Marie Kondo our lives. The truth is that so few of these products are really necessary for you or your child, and all of them have extremely short shelf lives. I proudly identify as a penny pincher and a minimalist who is triggered by the sight of clutter, and these tendencies naturally influence my answer to the question, “What should I put on my baby registry?” When I was building my own registry, I found a sample one online and then asked my dear friend (and mother of three) to tell me which ones were truly essential. I’ve realized since becoming a parent myself that my registry, already pretty spare, can be pared down even more.
So, let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. To my fellow frugal mommas, this list is for you.
(Note: For the purposes of this list, I only considered items that are designed to be used during a baby’s first 6 months.)
Non-negotiables. These items are vital for the safety and comfort of you and your baby.
Pack ‘N Play (I prefer a Pack ‘N Play to a traditional bassinet because the Pack ‘N Play can also be used as a playard and is great for travel.)
Crib/crib mattress/crib sheets
Baby bouncer (This chair will allow you to put your baby down so that you can do things that you want to do, like go to the bathroom.)
Baby bath tub
Changing pad (Some parents recommend having multiple changing stations throughout the house, but it really isn’t an inconvenience to have just one.)
Breast pump (Obviously, if you’re planning to exclusively formula feed, you won’t need a pump. Also, most insurance companies cover the cost of a pump.)
Nursing pillow (My husband used the pillow when he bottle fed our son. Later, my son used the nursing pillow as a “regular” pillow in his crib.)
Play gym or play mat
Glider/rocking chair (We splurged on a nice glider for the nursery, and my husband said it was one of his favorite purchases.)
Pacifiers (My son LOVES his pacifier, so it’s a necessary item in our house, but other babies never take to them.)
Clothes (I included clothes on the list of non-negotiables because your baby certainly needs clothes to protect her from the elements. However, the marketing for baby clothes is outrageous, encouraging us to buy outfits and accessories that won’t fit in a few weeks’ time. When there are so many wonderful options for buying clothes on consignment and so many clothes in our landfills already, it’s just not necessary to buy brand new.)
While a necessary item in the first few months, this chair quickly outlived its usefulness as my son became more mobile. All of these baby products have an expiration date, which is why I prefer to buy used or on consignment.
Nice to have, but not necessary. Whether or not you want these items will depend on your lifestyle and your baby’s preferences.
Diaper bag (The infrequency with which we use our diaper bag surprised me. We’ve used it when we’re traveling long distances, but when I’m just taking my son out for a quick trip, I never bring it.)
Blackout curtains (These can help your baby, and thus, you get more sleep.)
Diaper pail (You could certainly use a regular trash can, but the Ubbi diaper pail really does prevent odors from permeating into the rest of the home.)
Baby towels/washcloths (I own these items but only because my friend gave me her old ones for free. If you want that Instagram-able picture of your freshly bathed baby with a towel hood on her head, then you’ll need these special towels. If that’s not important to you, regular bath towels will suffice.)
Dresser for baby’s clothes/diapers (If you get a dresser that is long enough and not too tall, it can easily double as a changing table.)
Baby wraps/carriers (Some babies, like my son, enjoyed being carried in a wrap. Some babies don’t. I would urge against buying anything expensive because you might not use it.)
Bookshelf and books (The writer in me wants to move this to the non-negotiable category.)
Sound machine (The noise from the sound machine allows me to go about my business while my son is sleeping without worrying about waking him up.)
Baskets/bins (These can be helpful for storing toys, books, blankets, or old clothes.)
Teethers such as these safe options
Humidifier (When my son shows symptoms of a cold, the humidifier is a game-changer.)
Not worth it. In my experience, these items are a waste of money and space.
Classic swaddle blankets (The hospital nurses are professional swaddlers, but us lay people have a hard time mastering the technique so that the baby is wrapped tightly enough. Sleep sacks make swaddling so much easier.)
Drying racks for bottles
Baby blankets (No need to buy these. You’ll receive so many blankets, including handmade ones, as gifts.)
Hamper (Our son’s dirty clothes go into the one communal hamper in our home.)
Burp cloths (A dish towel or cloth napkin cleans spit up just fine.)
No, seriously, don’t buy these things. I had to create a separate category for the most frivolous baby items on the market. These are nothing more than an answer to the question that company execs ask themselves: “What else can we get first-time parents to buy?”
Wipes warmer (I was shocked when I learned that this was a real thing.)
Bath toy drying bin
Bath rinser (This is a glorified cup used to rinse soap off of your baby.)
Shampoo rinser (A special kind of cup that is used ONLY for washing shampoo out of your baby’s hair.)
Bath spout cover
Musical toothbrush holder
Soap pump musical timer (I feel ridiculous just typing this.)
Oh Baby Bags (These bags are for storing dirty clothes or dirty disposable diapers…but that’s what old grocery bags are for.)
I offer this list merely as a guide, knowing that parents will and should spend their money in whatever ways they see fit for their families. If you want a soap pump musical timer because it encourages your toddler to wash his hands, buy it! But don’t feel pressured to get any of these baby things that aren’t necessary for your child’s health and well-being. Your baby’s happiness is in the warmth of your arms, not the folds of your wallet.
Oh, and if you have a few dollars to spare, put a book in your shopping cart.