When to register
You can start registering as early as week 12 of your pregnancy. But feel free to wait until week 20, when you're able to find out baby's sex, which may influence your choices and color scheme. Make sure to complete your list before baby shower invitations go out.
Who to shop with
This isn’t a solo mission so invite your partner to join you. If they can’t make it, it doesn’t hurt to bring along your mom, sister or a friend who’s done this before— but stick to just one person (so you don’t get overwhelmed with opinions).
Where to register
To make this as easy as possible, pick one or two key retailers that stock all of the items you’d like. Make sure at least one of them has an online registry so you can edit your list from home. Your pre-baby to-do list is long enough; you don’t want to make a million trips to the store.
How to prep
Before you go, talk to friends or relatives who are new moms. Get their feedback on the baby gear they use and find out why they like or dislike certain items. Then, while you’re at the store, take a look and, if you can, test them out for yourself.
What to do
Step 1: Big-ticket items
Start with large stuff, like nursery furniture. You’ll likely want to pick out and buy most of this yourself, because cribs and dressers have to be ordered, and they tend to be pricier than the average shower gift. Instead, register for crib bedding, receiving blankets and nursing pillows. Include transportation-related items: a car seat, stroller and baby sling or carrier. Consider your traveling needs, and whether you’ll want a stroller that baby’s car seat can snap into or if you’d prefer a lightweight one that’s easy to collapse. Head to a store to try carriers and find one that’s comfortable for both you and your partner.
Step 2: The day to day
Next, think about baby’s everyday life. How will you feed him or her? A breastfed baby might not need the nipples and warmers that a bottle-fed baby uses. But if you plan to give baby expressed breast milk (while you’re apart), you’ll want the bottle gear and a breast pump too. Now, how will you keep him calm and happy? Swings, bouncers and toys come in handy for fun—and for soothing and learning. Add first-aid gear and diapering supplies as well, including a stylish diaper bag that you won’t mind using as your handbag too.
What not to do
It’s tempting to register for a cute potty chair or toddler shoes, but don’t go crazy scanning stuff that baby won’t need for months (or years). It’d be nice to get them, but your friends and family might then decide to buy a ton of those and skimp on the stuff you’ll need right away. So focus on more pressing items, like clothing in newborn and 0 to 3 months sizes, socks and outerwear. Add just a few of those irresistible older-kid things that will get you excited for baby to grow.
How to save money
Cost is a huge factor—if money’s tight (for you or for your gift givers), you’ll probably want to shy away from the expensive stroller—but whatever the price, look closely at what you get for your money. Is the stroller easy to steer (and does it work the way you want it to)? Will it grow with baby, or will you have to replace it later? Sometimes purchasing one higher-priced item will end up saving you money, since that’s all you’ll ever need. Also look for double-duty gear: Some playards can be used as bassinets, and some diaper bags can transition from newborn to toddler.
What you really need
Can’t decide which fill-in-the-blank to get? With every decision, consider where you live and how you’ll use your baby gear. If you’re in an apartment, look for a space-saving mini playard and a folding high chair. If you drive a lot, a travel system (car seat/stroller combo) makes it easy to transport baby. But if you’re a walker, maybe a baby carrier or a bassinet-style stroller is a better bet. In the end, these choices all come down to your lifestyle.
Ready to register? Get started now.