As we prepared for our first babies, we did a LOT of research about "baby registry must haves", "baby registry checklist", "best baby registry", etc etc etc...but somehow we still found ourselves asking "why didn't I think about this!!" after our babes arrived.
So, here we are, trying to tell you what we wished we knew while we were test driving strollers, knee deep in reviews of the-cutest-ever-baby-moccasins, and filling up Pinterest boards with nursery inspo. This post contains affiliate links to products we personally used (and liked!), which means that if you make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
For E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G we used, check out our full guide here: Baby Registry for First Time Moms.
Things to Think About When You're Registering or Shopping for Baby
What You'll Use When
Approx. 0-3 or 4 months, but can be as long as 5 or 6 depending on factors like: your baby's size, the bassinet's size, and when your baby begins rolling over.
Note that while you can start your baby out from day one in a crib or certain pack 'n plays, the bassinet is nice because it is usually quite high off the ground so you're not bending over really far to place baby in, it's smaller so it can be close to your bed which may make night feedings easier, etc.
Read about Safe Sleep from the AAP for information about room sharing, safe sleep surfaces, pacifier recommendations, and how to dress your baby to avoid them overheating.
Swaddles for Sleep
Approx. 0-3 months, but you must stop swaddling once baby attempts to roll over.
Keep in mind that improper swaddling may lead to hip dysplasia. To avoid hip dysplasia, the International Hip Dysplasia Institute recommends that legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips, which will allow for natural development of the hip joints. In other words, the baby’s legs should not be tightly wrapped straight down and pressed together. (Read more, more, and more!)
Note that if you use a Snoo, the baby can be safely swaddled for up to 6 months because the built-in swaddle prevents rolling over. It is also designed to allow for healthy hip movement. (Read more)
Approx. 0-2 or 3 years old, but it depends on the stroller's weight limit
Infant Car Seat Attachment (sometimes sold as a separate piece, sometimes already compatible)
The ability to remove the stroller seat and just click the carseat into the stroller can be convenient for going from car to store or doctor's appt. Some babies even like going for walks in the carseat attached to the stroller.
Bassinet Attachment (0-2 or 3 months)
Bassinets are ideal for newborns and babies without the neck support and the muscle tone to sit upright for a long time.
If you plan to have multiple back to back (or are expecting multiples), you probably want to consider a stroller that can handle more than one little one at a time.
WTFTM Share: I thought I was going to use the car seat attached to the stroller ALL.THE.TIME with C, but I only used it once. He HATED his infant car seat, so we got him out of it ASAP after every drive and just held him or put him in the stroller seat, which he loved! For the stroller, we liked the Nuna Mixx because it has the option to lay the entire seat flat without having to detach the seat/attach a bassinet. It served as a built-in bassinet, which meant one less thing to deal with. It also gave the flexibility on a walk to sit up and look around when he was awake and lay him flat if he fell asleep.
According to the AAP: "Children should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, up to the limits of their car safety seat. This will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4."
Typically you will buy two different car seats - rear-facing infant car seat & a convertible car seat.
Rear-facing Infant Car Seat
Approx. 0 to 9m up to 2 years, depending on your seat's height and weight limits.
Convertible Car Seat
Can be from day one, but usually recommended closer to 9m to 2 years
Register your carseat after you buy it so that you're able to receive important recall information.
Don't install your carseat too early (looking at you type-A moms!) because if you get in any type of accident before baby arrives, you'll have to replace the carseat. Your automobile insurance will often replace it, but it can take some time.
Car seats have expiration dates, so be sure to consider this if you buy a carseat second-hand or want to use it for future babies as well. This article from The Car Seat Lady explains all about expiration dates!
Your instruction manual will explain how to install the carseat, but if you get confused, check YouTube because there are plenty of helpful videos!
You can also have your carseat installation inspected by certified technicians, free-of-charge. Find a place near you using the NHTSA website.
Learn how to buckle your baby in before he or she arrives! This video from The Car Seat Lady has everything you need to know.
Make sure baby's chin is not touching his or her chest in the car seat, as it can block the airway. The head positioned to the side is natural and better for breathing. Read more here from The Car Seat Lady.
WTFTM Share: When we were leaving the hospital to bring C home, I desperately looked around for a nurse to ask if we had buckled him into the car seat correctly. I couldn't find one (of course!), but my husband who had never "researched" a single thing baby-related, reassured me that it was fine. We did get home, but now that I know how to properly buckle C in, I cringe at the photo of him with the chest buckle by his belly button and a mile of strap-slack!
Approx. 4m+ to 18-24 months
Some high chairs have a "recline" setting that can be used earlier than four months for sitting/bottle feeding, but not for eating solids. Solid foods will start closer to 4-6 months depending on your pediatrician's recommendation.
Once you start feeding solids, the baby needs to be in an upright position, ideally with a well-positioned footrest. If the seat you choose doesn't have a footrest, trying creating one yourself!
Register your high chair after you buy it so you'll be notified in the case of a safety recall.
This video from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) walks you through the important things to remember for high-chair safety.
If you use a second-hand high-chair, check if it has been recalled (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Before choosing a high chair, read reviews online about if it's easy to clean, sturdy, and comfortable!
Bouncers, Swings, etc:
0-4 months depending on the item's weight/height limits.
Read about time limits/safe usage from the AAP
Make sure baby's chin is not touching his or her chest, as it can block the airway. The head positioned to the side is natural and better for breathing.
Avoid prolonged use of containers like bouncers and swings to avoid "flat head syndrome".
Remember that if you think your baby's head is a little flat, just talk to your pediatrician about it and they will likely recommend physical therapy or a helmet. Pediatricians see it all the time because the prevalence of "flat heads" increased with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's "Safe to Sleep" campaign. But, more importantly, it has helped reduce the prevalence of SIDS!
Introducing Solids to Your Baby
If you and your pediatrician decide to start your baby off with baby purées, you'll likely start using the items (spoons, bibs, baby food, high chair) sometime between 4 and 6 months.
Baby Led Weaning
If you and your pediatrician decide to follow the baby-led weaning route, you'll likely start using the items (self-feeding spoons, silicone plates and bowls, open cup, straw cup, bibs, high chair) around 6 months when your baby can sit independently. (Read More)
Newborn Sleep Tips
We highly recommend Taking Cara Babies Newborn course. She will teach you so much about how to survive the early days with your baby. From sleep and hunger cues to wake windows and feeding routines, you'll feel far more confident going into parenthood having taken her course! Not sponsored, not a partnership, just our favorite resource for new moms!
For the over-achievers, see our post about Tips & Tricks for Caring for Baby
While it's not something you will register for, you will want to set aside some money for it!
The hospital may offer a free virtual class, but it doesn't hurt to research the type of class that you think fits your "vibe".
For example, are you planning to ask for an epidural, are you hoping to have an unmedicated birth or will you be having a C-Section? Hospital or birthing center? Spouse present or going solo? Having a general idea of your "birth plan" may help you decide which type of birth class to take.
WTFTM Share: I always liked the midwife at my doctor's office, so when she said she hosted a birth class, I signed up immediately, no-questions-asked! Fast forward to the month before my due date, and she's telling my class how magical the "birth" of the placenta is and how we should praise it for sustaining baby's life up to that point. It wasn't quite my speed, so I definitely would ask a question or two next time!
Self-Care & Loose Ends
Take some time to pamper yourself and tie up loose ends before baby comes. ANYTHING you can take off your plate for the first month or two will be worth the hassle now.
Could you use a haircut or color? Book it!
Do you have a couple minutes to paint your toenails? Now's the time!
Have you been putting off taking your dog to the vet to update shots or doing the overnight trial run at doggie-daycare? Dooooo it!
Does your car need an oil change? You get the idea...
Keep your gas tank 3/4 full during the third trimester, just in case!
Make one last big trip to Costco or Target to stock up on essentials. (Read our checklist)
Swap some late-night Instagram scrolling for reading or thinking about:
How to identify and resources for postpartum depression and anxiety
How you and your spouse will split up household chores
Ways to Save
Buy secondhand on Facebook Marketplace, Once Upon a Child, Craigslist, and Goodwill
REMINDER: Check if a particular item has been recalled before buying it secondhand (Consumer Product Safety Commission)
Baby Carrier or Sling, Swing, Bouncer, Stroller, High Chair, Changing Pad, Diaper Pail, Bassinet, Crib, Pack n' Play, Clothes, Infant Tub, White Noise Machine, Books
WTFTM Tip: Once Upon a Child is a nationwide secondhand baby store that has nearly everything you could imagine for clothes, gear, and toys. All items are well organized, and you can often find clothes with the tags still on. Check if there is a store near you!
Spread Out the Purchases:
You likely won't use the following items in the first three months, so you can buy them later to spread out your costs.
High Chair, Spoons, Plates, Bibs, Toys, Teethers, Crib/Mattress/Sheets (if using a bassinet at first), Baby Proofing Items, Bath Toys, Convertible Car Seat (if planning to buy an infant car seat), Baby Monitor (if planning to room share for the first few months), Pack 'n Play
Health & Safety Considerations
Electronic toys with lights/sounds/songs: We received some as gifts, and our babies did like them, but we tried to limit use after reading about potentially decreasing in quality/quantity of language (some more information)
Contained Activity Centers/Exersaucer: Recommended to keep usage to a maximum of 15 minutes, twice a day, to avoid hip dysplasia which didn't seem worth the price to us, but some people LOVE them, so totally up to you! (AAP, Rehabilitation Nurse's Recommendation from CHLA)
Bath squirting toys: can get moldy no matter how well you clean them, so we opted for bath toys without holes like these
Sit Me Up Chairs, Bumbo Seat, Walker, Door Jumper: some info about potential hip dysplasia
Crib Bumpers/Quilts: AAP reports they are a SIDS risk
Infant Sleep Positioners: AAP reports that they can be a suffocation risk
Note: These can feel like a lot. By sharing these tips, we certainly don't want to make you feel scared / guilty / ashamed / overwhelmed. We have no judgement for mamas who did things differently than we did or used products we skipped. Whatever it takes, mama, whatever.it.takes. We choose to share these here because having information helped us to feel more confident in new motherhood - with so many decisions to make as a new or expecting mama, sometimes it just felt easier to defer to the experts. We want to give you this information so that you can make the best decisions for your family and your baby... and so you don't feel guilty / ashamed / overwhelmed. Talk to your pediatrician and do what feels right!