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Jessica Shortall
Contributing Writer

A Working Mom’s Best Bets For Baby Registry

Breastfeeding pro and working mom extraordinaire Jessica Shortall is sharing her tips for navigating the ins and outs of baby registry. And lucky for you, you can win several of her baby gear picks (mentioned in the breastfeeding & working mom section of this post) by participating in our Work.Pump.Repeat Twitter sweepstakes TODAY. Check out Shortall's book,  Work. Pump. Repeat.: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.

Figuring out what to register for with your first baby is crazy. Everyone wants you to buy their stuff, and there keeps being more of it. Now there aren't just wipes, there are special wipes just for wiping noses. When and how did THAT happen? When your nesting instinct is at an all-time high, it can be tempting to just register for everything under the sun. But I'm assuming you have a finite number of friends and co-workers who are going to pony up for stuff. It's good to register, and to share that registry widely, because otherwise I promise you'll end up with 27 adorable hooded towels and no stroller. But it's also good to be selective about what you register for, so you can be sure you're starting out with the stuff you really need.

So, for starters, here's a secret no one's telling you: Teeny tiny babies need almost nothing. They need:

  • Loving arms to rock and hold them
  • Diapers, of the cloth and/or disposable variety.
  • Wipes, or if you're cheap like me, baby washcloths cut in half and a little tub of water next to the changing table.
  • Somewhere to sleep — actually, multiple places to sleep, because you might have your baby in your room with you for days or weeks or months, in a bassinet or bouncy chair (or...um...unbuckled in a car seat, like we did on my son's first night, because, you know, Parents of the Year!). You will eventually want an actual crib too.
  • Clothes. Skip newborn sizes and opt for zero to three months and beyond. Just know that everyone wants to buy you clothes, because they're cute. Avoid complicated stuff, like adorable PJs with real buttonholes. Because you know what you want at 2 a.m.? A gown you can easily pull up to change a diaper. And remember: Babies don't actually need every piece of baby clothing ever made. They don't need their clothes to match or to be monogrammed (but hey, if that's your thing, go nuts).
  • A car seat and one or more bases, depending on how many cars you have.
  • A stroller, preferably one that you can click that carseat into.
  • Pacifiers (if that's your thing...I couldn't have survived without them).
  • Swaddling blankets, if you want to get any sleep. Ever.
  • Baby shampoo.
  • A baby thermometer, because sickness sneaks up on you FAST.
  • A dresser-top baby changing pad. You don't actually need a whole changing table, if you don't want one.
  • A baby monitor, if you have a big house. Our house size (small and one-story) doesn't really require a monitor, since we could hear everything in every corner of the house.
  • Formula and bottles, if you're going to formula feed, which is nobody's business but your own.

Here's what they DON'T actually need just yet (It's fine for you, and them, to have these things, but everyone's gonna be okay without them):

  • Toys. They have basically zero motor skills, for starters, and they sleep or eat all the time. You know what's a fun toy for a newborn? Your boobs. Fun to look at? Your face.
  • Stimulating black-and-white flashcards. Yeah, I went there. Turns out THE WHOLE WORLD is brand-new and interesting to a baby, and literally billions of babies have made it to adulthood without black-and-white flashcards showing elegantly designed giraffes and squirrels.
  • Matching nursery stuff. That's totally for your benefit, mama, and it's totally cool. Just saying don't stress yourself out about it. No baby ever grew up unhappy because their nursery didn't have a theme.
  • A crazy detailed play mat. A blanket and a couple of tupperware containers and a toy or two can keep a little baby really happy. And if you have a dog sniffing around the baby: stimulation heaven!

Now, for soon-to-be working & breastfeeding moms, there's a THIRD category: stuff your baby couldn't care less about, but it's going to make or break your stress level and your success:

  • A breast pump. Did you know that Obamacare requires almost all insurance plans to pay for a breast pump? Flip over your insurance card and call the number on the back to ask how you get yours and whether they cover only certain types. A recent discovery of mine is the Swiss brand Ardo. I can't speak to it directly, since I'm no longer breastfeeding, but I saw a demo and that thing is SILENT. Like, don't-have-to-lie-on-a-conference-call silent. Plus, they gave me a piece of Swiss chocolate after the demo.
  • Extra pump bottles and pump parts to go along with your pump, because when you're working, it really helps to double or triple up on this stuff. Consider a set of Pumpin' Pal flanges, which can increase your output, are more comfortable and are compatible with most pumps. -  Steam sterilizing microwave bags. You don't have to sterilize your pump parts every single day (and certainly not between every pumping session — throw those things unwashed into a Ziploc, into that opaque lunch bag, and into the fridge between sessions — it's totally sanitary), but a few times a week is nice.
  • Breast pads out the wazoo. Nobody needs Tim from Accounting seeing your shirt soaked with breastmilk. And if it can happen to Jennifer Love Hewitt, it can happen to you. -  Breastmilk storage bags
  • A hands-free pumping bra.
  • So, so, so many gallon-size, slider-top Ziploc bags. For pump parts, for frozen bags of milk while you thaw them (they are prone to leaking, and a Ziploc will catch and save that milk), and to individually house your pump parts if you ever travel by air (because if the airport agent wants to inspect your pump, you do NOT want him touching your pump parts after he's touched 1,000 other travelers).
  • A hand pump, for emergencies and very busy work days.
  • A reusable lunch bag to store your pumped milk, and your pump parts, in the fridge during the work day.
  • A breastfeeding pillow, which isn't for work, but which is really, really helpful at home. I swear by the My Brest Friend pillow, despite (or maybe because of) its totally silly name.
  • Some herbal help for your milk supply. Don't let supplements convince you your body can't make enough milk — it probably can. But if you run into trouble, UpSpring makes a drinkable supplement of Blessed Thistle and Fenugreek.
  • Can I say it without sounding like a jerk? A copy of my book to help you survive pumping breastmilk at work. I promise it'll help :)

You'll notice that much of this back-to-work stuff is, well, not that cute or exciting. But there are a few ways to treat yourself with cute upgrades:

  • If you're into cute, retro design instead of hand-scrawled Post-It notes, get a MilkIt Kit set of do-not-disturb door signs and milk labels.
  • A pretty  scarf will help you feel covered up while pumping. You will likely want this, even if you're a free-the-nipple, nurse-in-public person.
  • A replacement bag for your this-is-supposed-to-look-like-a-briefcase pump bag can make you feel a little more human.

I hope that having this stuff listed all in one place will calm your racing mama brain. Places that have baby registries AND carry this kind of stuff include Target, BuyBuyBaby, Babies R Us, and Amazon. Browse these retailers, and others, through  The Bump's baby registry!

You can totally register for older-baby stuff too; my recommendation there is to focus on items that you will use a lot and that are a bit more expensive, to help you save money: strollers, high chairs, a jumpy thing to occupy the baby while you pee.

So now...get clicking! Allow yourself to indulge in a few really adorable things, but remember that your baby is going to be the most adorable thing in the room, hands-down. And you, to him or her, are going to be the most fascinating, most comforting, most wonderful new-baby-gift that little person could ever get. Good luck, mama, and I'll see you on the other side!

PHOTO: Darcy Strobel