8 Tough Baby Registry Decisions — and How to Make Them

Stumped about what to buy for baby? These are your deciding factors.
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profile picture of Elena Donovan Mauer
Updated February 17, 2021
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Image: Porsha

We’ve observed (and, admittedly, experienced) more than one pregnant woman meltdown while shopping for baby gear. It’s understandable — with all the choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. (And your hormones don’t help.) So we wanted to give you the lowdown on how to make some big picks. Now, no more panic attacks, okay?


Travel system or Convertible?

Make this decision in conjunction with your car seat pick. A travel system is a fancy name for a stroller that comes with an infant car seat that fits inside. Once baby outgrows the car seat, he can sit upright in the stroller. Convertible strollers tend to be expensive — but really cool. (Think of them as the Transformers of strollers.) They either recline completely flat, or have a bassinet attachment to accommodate a newborn. For older babies and toddlers, they easily convert to a seated position. Some even have an extra adapter (usually sold separately) for fitting in an infant seat too. If you’re an urban mom-to-be, or plan to walk with baby a lot, one of these might be worth the extra cash.


Sound only or Video?

There’s an array of different features available for baby monitors, and one that comes with a price hike is video display. Babies become good communicators pretty early on — believe us, with just sound, you’ll know if yours wants to be picked up. So if you’re trying to save some moola, video might be a good place to cut back. It can be useful, though. If your baby is the kind who makes lots of noises in his sleep (is he up or just dreaming? See instantly!), or if you can’t resist taking a peek here and there just to make sure everything’s okay. With video, you may not find yourself running back and forth to the nursery nearly as often.

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Breast pump

Electric or Manual?

If you’re planning to breastfeed and to work full time or have older kids to run after, an electric double pump is the way to go. It will save you a ton of time (which will be at a premium once you’re back to your 9-to-5) since the electric pumping mechanism makes the process more efficient. If you’re a first-time stay-at-home mom and don’t think you’ll pump often, you may just want a manual pump, which you operate by squeezing with your hand. They’re smaller, lighter and handy to have them for occasional use. On a tight budget and deciding between a high-quality hand pump and a low-quality electric one? Go for the manual. Because a good breast pump is important to your health and baby’s. Yours shouldn’t be cheaply made.

Car seat

Infant carrier or Convertible?

How much are you in your car — and more important, how many stops do you normally make? These are the big questions when it comes to choosing an infant seat or a convertible one. That’s because an infant seat is made for portability. You can snap it into a base that stays in your car (have two cars? Get two different bases), it also snaps into a compatible stroller. The best part? Baby will probably sleep through the whole thing. The drawback is that most infant seats only fit babies up to 20 or so pounds, so you’ll have to invest in a new seat around age one. A convertible seat on the other hand usually fits babies from about 5 pounds up to 40 pounds, so it’s a longer-lasting purchase. If you do opt for the convertible kind, it will stay in your car, and you may disturb baby whenever you’re transferring him in and out.

Diaper disposal

Special pail or standard can?

Most moms who use disposable diapers are biased one way or the other: They either love diaper disposal systems, made to seal each diaper in plastic, or they hate them. If you purchase one of these special pails, you probably won’t have to worry about that gross poop smell (yay!), but you’ll have to constantly stock up on refills of the plastic (boo!).

And if you already feel guilty about the environmental impact, adding more plastic to the mix won’t help. If you just use a regular can, you’ll probably have to take out the trash more often, or find another way to deal with stinky diapers, like putting them in their own bag (reuse the ones from the grocery store!). This one’s a matter of personal preference.


Standard or convertible?

A crib that converts to a full-size bed is a popular choice, since many moms don’t want to buy a piece of furniture that can’t be used past toddlerhood. But there are a few reasons you might not want to pick the convertible kind. First off, those models tend to be large, and if you have space concerns, a smaller crib might be a better choice for you. You might not love the idea of your child sleeping in a full-size bed (a twin is usually plenty big for a kid) or like the look of a bed that’s been converted from a crib (some of them look a little “off”).

If you plan to one day have more kids, consider this: Since some convertible models shouldn’t get changed back into a crib after they’ve been dismantled to become a bed (for safety reasons), you might prefer to save the crib for the next baby and buy your older kid his own big-boy bed.

Bedside sleeper

Bassinet or playard?

Newborns usually sleep in lots of places besides the nursery for convenience and safety reasons. (Did you know baby is at a lower risk of SIDS if he sleeps in your room — but not in your bed?) Both a bassinet and a playard (with a bassinet attachment) can come with wheels, so they’re easy to move from room to room, and they’re the right size for a newborn. If you’re into looks, a bassinet is the clear winner, since most of them are undeniably adorable. A playard usually isn’t the cutest, but it’s so multipurpose: It folds up for trips to Grandma’s house, and when baby’s older, you can remove the bassinet attachment and use it as a playpen or travel napper. Remember: The bassinet will get outgrown in months.


Cloth or disposable?

Cloth diapers mean fewer chemicals against baby’s sensitive skin —  and less (hard-to-decompose) stuff being dumped in a landfill. They can be costly, but since of the newest styles are made to fit a growing baby, you may end up paying less than what you’d shell out for disposables over the years. Know that cloth ones require more effort and more laundry — if you work long hours or have to pay to use a washer and dryer, they may not be for you — and they’re not 100 percent waste-free, with all that extra energy and detergent used to clean them. Some day cares won’t use cloth, since they more easily spread germs; they’re also not as convenient when you travel.

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