Frugal, Minimalist Wannabe Baby Registry

When I was pregnant and it was time to make my baby registry, I attacked it the only way a neurotic over-thinker knows how. I Googled for hours on end: “must-have baby registry”; “what you don’t really need for your baby”; “minimalist baby registry”; “WTF is a wipes warmer”. I realized that I was going to fall somewhere in between an actual minimalist mom and the Pottery Barn Kids mom. There were a lot of convenience items that I wanted to have even if they took up more space, but then there were a lot of items I found completely over-the-top, or at the very least, simply unnecessary.

The information that follows is for the mom-to-be who thinks she might be in that same niche. You can’t picture your shower guests buying a really nice $900 stroller, a plush glider, or a full nursery furniture set. You can’t see yourself caring about really nice curtains or fancy baby shoes. But you also can’t see yourself substituting a regular ol’ couch pillow for a nursing pillow, having just two bibs, or being happy in life without at least one cute animal hooded towel. Also, maybe you aren’t having a giant baby shower, so you know you’ve got to create your registry thoughtfully, and you’ll want to be on the lookout for Facebook mommy group sales or hand-me-downs for some of these things (there will be another post about this coming soon!).

I spent SO MUCH time building my registry that I was happy to share my tips with expecting friends who came after me. I figure half of them took some of my advice, and the other half looked at this list and had a panic attack and the level of detail and just went with the Babies R Us suggested registry items. That’s fine too, at least at BRU (as we loser moms say), you have up until a year after your child is born to exchange items.

Side tip: think before you unpack/wash every single gift. It’s part of the fun and helps you be prepared, but maybe don’t unwrap 30 receiving blankets because you might find you only need one 10-pack and you can exchange the other two packs for the 80 million diapers you realize you’re going to need.

Hope you’re well-rested, here we go!

  • Blankets (but see below)
  • High chair that attaches to a chair – While there are some cool 4-in-1 high chairs, we went with a $50 one that attaches to a table chair. I liked that it didn’t take up extra floor space. I actually found one used on a Facebook mommy group for $10 and then returned the new one we received.
  • Bibs – People will probably just buy you a bunch, so you may not need to register for them, but definitely register for some plastic ones for when baby is eating solids.
  • Burp cloths – Same as bibs, people will probably just buy you some even if you don’t register for them. The plain white cloth folded diapers work well as burp cloths, but there are cute printed ones too. But I would definitely suggest getting them versus just trying to use kitchen/house towels; the cloths are so much softer and just the right size.
  • Baby gates – You won’t need them for awhile, but still good to register for one or more.
  • Changing pad cushion with curved edges – We put that on top of a dresser in our daughter’s nursery; we didn’t have a separate baby changing table. They sell decorative fabric covers for the changing pad for softness and to match your decor. I got 2 fabric covers so if one was in the wash I had a replacement (not frugal or minimalist, but convenient!).
  • Thin waterproof pads: I got a few small ones to use on the changing pad and a couple longer ones that we put in the pack n play’s changing area. It helps to catch accidents so you’re not having to take off the fabric cover all the time.
  • Crib – Should be JPMA certified, have two heights for the mattress, and ideally will convert to a day bed/toddler bed. Some also serve as a headboard for a queen if you buy side rails later on. We got ours on Amazon – very affordable options there.
  • Pack n play/portable crib and sheets- They’re all pretty much the same, so pick one that’s not crazy expensive. I found it handy to have one that has a changing “tray” attached to it. We had ours set up downstairs as a safe place to put our baby down but where she could still move around freely. If you can’t get your hands on a bassinet, a pack n play is handy for keeping the baby near your bed. It’s handy for traveling (obviously), and it’s handy as the baby grows and you need to contain your walker so you can run and do a load of laundry or take a conference call or whatever parent thing you need to do!
  • Fisher Price Rock and Play – This consistently got suggested on every registry recommendation list I ready! Definitely register for the one that rocks itself by plugging in. I would recommend this over a swing and over a bouncer seat because 1) the pediatrician will tell you it’s safe to sleep in some nights if needed due to acid reflux or fussiness, but the pediatrician will tell you it’s NOT safe for them to sleep overnight in a swing or seat and 2) it was super easy to carry around the house, whereas a lot of swings are big and bulky and not really portable.
  • Grooming kit – They have elaborate ones, sure, but the minimum you need are baby nail clippers and a couple brushes/combs.
  • Thermometer – I preferred the plain digital ones (also register for thermometer covers for taking temp rectally – it’s the most accurate!) but some people swear by that Exergen temporal scanner
  • Nose Frida snot sucker – DEFINITELY, plus extra filters – allows you so much more control than a regular bulb syringe for unstuffing your poor little snotty baby
  • Bedding – This was super confusing to me because there are so many different THINGS. Our setup is: waterproof mattress cover, sheet, a second waterproof mattress cover, a second sheet. That’s it. If there’s an accident we just pull off the top two layers and the bed is still made. I did not buy “sheet protectors” because there’s already a waterproof layer underneath the sheet, and I honestly don’t care if the sheets end up stained. We have a couple flannel sheets for winter, and a couple cotton sheets for summer. Get more if you are slow with laundry, but think about where you’ll keep all the extras.
  • Video baby monitor – We got a closed network one, other people like the wifi ones where you can use your phone to peek in. My husband was scarred by some video monitor hacker story, that’s why we got the closed network one  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Pacifier clip – Even if baby never takes a pacifier, we used one of these to attach teething rings or other small toys to her at restaurants.
  • Car roller shades
  • Diaper change mat – You’ll read below how I was anti-diaper bag, but this magical little thing was a life saver. I could clip it around any purse handle without having to lug a bunch of crap with me, I used it as an impromptu nursing pillow when we were traveling, I put it down on every restroom diaper changing station, I still use it today at 2.5 years old to discreetly bring diapers around with me. Change diapers EVERYWHERE.
  • Medela steam bags – Used for sanitizing bottles/nipples for the first couple weeks (or as your doctor recommends), then for sanitizing your breast pump parts if you’re going to pump. You can also sanitize certain toys, pacifiers, etc.
    • They sell whole sanitizing contraptions but the steam bags work just fine and take up much less space.
  • Bottle brush – The Dr. Brown’s ones are a solid choice. Hang on to the skinny little brush that comes with it, it’s handy later on for cleaning straw cups.
  • Stroller with a car seat that you can pop in and out – I thought it was dumb to waste money on a car seat we would use for less than a year, and then have to buy another car seat to be a convertible seat to take her the next few years, but now I can’t imagine what it would have been like to not be able to bring the car seat around with us so easily. It’s a convenience, for sure!
    • Extra car seat base for anyone who will need to drive your babe around
  • Baby carrier – I bought an Ergo 360 off of Craigslist and I’m glad I (or one of my guests) didn’t pay full price. We got some use out of it, but not as much as I thought we would. I never fully got into baby-wearing, so it was just something I used every now and then. There are lots of brands and models out there, and I’m sure in the past three years a lot has changed, just do your best to pick one! Or, wait for a consignment sale or a generous friend and get one for a bargain. or free!
  • Wipes and diapers – Just pick whatever you want, you can always exchange later if the boxes are unopened (if you don’t like the brand, if your baby is enormous and skips to size 2, etc.).
  • If you plan on nursing
    • Make sure you get your breast pump through insurance, it’s super easy but I think not everyone knows that it’s covered. I used the McKesson 800 number that I got from Babies R Us and ordered it over the phone with a prescription from my OB.
    • Lansinoh HPA lanolin for your nipples – This is what they gave out in the hospital, there are a lot of other brands but some of them say you should wipe off before feeding and that’s just annoying.
    • My Brest Friend pillow – So I ended up getting a Boppy pillow and a few covers for like $10 and a Brest Friend for $5 off of a mommy Facebook group, because I wanted to try both but didn’t want to take up space on my registry because they’re $30 or more each. The Brest Friend ended up working so much better for me for nursing, but the Boppy comes in handy too just for lounging around on the couch. If you can find a way to get both and you have the space, it might be worth it, but if you had to pick one, I would suggest the Brest Friend.
    • Milk storage bags
    • Hands-free pumping bra: I attempted to rig my own to save money, but after ever-so-lightly nudging a flange and dripping milk all over my leg at work, I snapped that stubborn frugal bone in half and bought the Simple Wishes bra and NEVER LOOKED BACK.
  • Baby hangers – I thought were dumb but then found that they are definitely easier for hanging tiny clothes!
  • Feeding supplies for when baby is older – I didn’t go overboard, but I registered for some stuff that came in handy later – spoons, sippy cups, little bowls, small containers for packing food for daycare.
  • Clothes – It was funny because everyone said not to register for clothes because I was going to get SO many clothes and I really didn’t! But anyway, I had registered for socks and white onesies because I didn’t think anyone would buy those boring but useful things on their own (and I was right).
  • Bassinet (or pack n play mentioned above) – It was nice to have a little bassinet to have her sleep next to our bed for the first few months (and now the APA is recommendingAPA is recommending having baby in your room for the first six months or more!). Someone loaned me one, but if she hadn’t offered, I would have just used the pack and play with the bassinet attachment. Our pediatrician said we could have used the Rock and Play mentioned above, but I didn’t want our daughter to get used to sleeping all cradled and coddled up, for when we transitioned her to the crib later.
  • Pacifiers – Register for some but don’t open them all and wash them at once like we did, because she ended up not taking a pacifier, so I couldn’t return the unused ones.
  • A couple hooded bath towels (2-3) – you can just use your own towels, but the hood is nice and they’re freaking adorable and we used them for a couple years before she outgrew them and wanted “big girl towels”
  • A few wash rags (5 is probably a good number) – you can use your own wash rags, but the baby ones are a little softer
  • High speed bottle warmer – For the month that my husband was home with her when I went back to work, it was great for him to have this to be able to heat a bottle in a couple of minutes. It’s not necessary because you can always just heat water in a microwave safe glass, then put the bottle in the hot water for a few minutes (you can’t microwave breast milk directly). But if you have room, just get it for the convenience because as another mom once said to me, “You won’t think you NEED it but if that baby is crying you’re going to want that bottle heated up fast” lol.
  • Halo sleep sacks – These are sleeveless zip up sacks since babies shouldn’t have blankets or anything in the crib until they’re at least 1 (another AAP recommendation). It was handy in the winter to put her in long sleeve jammies and then put on the sack to keep her toasty. I bought them in progressively larger sizes and bought lightweight ones for summer but ended up returning those, because once she started rolling around in her sleep and it got warmer out, I didn’t think she needed them anymore. Some people use them up until like 2 years old.
  • Play mat/gym – These are the little things that are a mat on the floor with arms that arch over the baby with toys dangling down. We used it ALL THE TIME, but in theory you could just pop your baby onto the floor and put toys next to baby. But I thought there was something fun about the hanging toys, and it made her want to reach for stuff/try to roll.
  • All of the little toys and teething things, etc. – If you want to be a minimalist you really only need like a couple teething things and a couple “stroller toy” things that you can clip onto the carseat or wherever. We ended up with so many little rattle toys and like 6 different teething items. It’s nice to switch things up because she does get excited seeing new things, but we definitely don’t need as many as we got.
  • Diaper Genie – I was so anti diaper genie and I can’t really say why. I think maybe it was because you need to buy the special refill bags, plus it’s a big thing that can’t be repurposed after the baby, plus I didn’t like the idea of having to unload a weeks old sack of poop diapers. We just use a very small step-on trash can, and I fixed a charcoal pad filter (they sell them for counter top composting bins) to the inside of the lid, and I put baking soda and baby powder into the can to help keep it fresh. I use regular kitchen bags, only put pee diapers in there and empty it every couple nights. Yes now that I spell that all out, I realize that’s probably more work than a diaper genie, but it’s just what I wanted to do. But if you want one, you can usually find tons of them at baby consignment sales, or people selling them on Facebook groups, so you could save space on your registry by buying one used. Register for the bag refills though!!
  • Medela breast pump car adapter – I registered for one of these and returned it later because I realized I would never pump in my car. But if you have a long commute, register away!
  • Velcro swaddlers – You can try to find these cheap at a consignment store or Facebook mommy group, get them there. They’re kinda pricey, and you may not like them. I borrowed a couple from a friend and ended up preferring to just swaddle her in a big gauzy blanket (see below). The velcro ones were easy to put on, but try to low key change a diaper after a 4 am feeding and watch your baby’s eyes shoot open when you let that velcro rip!
  • There are other elaborate sleep outfits like the Merlin suit and the zipadeedip – I wouldn’t suggest one of these unless your baby has crazy problems sleeping and you get desperate.
  • Nursery furniture – I looked at nursery furniture as another way to get parents to spend more than they need to. We bought a simple IKEA dresser (ANCHOR ANY DRESSER!!!!) that was the right height for me and my husband to change diapers on top.
  • Glider – I saw how much those really nice arm chair rockers cost, my frugal bone quivered in fear, and I looked at the size of our nursery and knew we couldn’t go that route. I went with a traditional wooden glider because I figured if our parents survived without these new-fangled cushy chairs, I would get by. I admittedly paid too much for my glider on Craigslist, spent way too fucking long repainting it white, bought rocking chair cushions which I spent hours making new fabric covers for to match the nursery, found out it squeaked and sprayed select joints with cooking spray because I knew I would lose my damn mind listening to constant squeaks, and then got really mad when, at a consignment sale, I saw a white glider for half what I paid. But I’m (mostly) no longer sour on that, and the simple glider chair has served us well. Almost 3 years in, we still use it for story time every night. A foot stool/rocker is also helpful, especially if you’re nursing and need to change positions every now and then for comfort. Just don’t let your husband sit on it like a chair because shockingly a glider foot stool is not designed to hold a full-grown man.
  • Baby food maker – I didn’t register for or receive anything like this, but personally I wouldn’t suggest a baby food maker. If you have space and really want the convenience, I think they can steam and blend food all in one, so sure, it sounds nice. But for the short period of time where I was actually pureeing food, it was fine to just use a $5 steamer basket in one of my pots, then throw it in the food processor (or a blender). Also, our fridge doesn’t have an ice maker so we still use ice cube trays and those were perfect for freezing baby food in portions. You don’t NEED the special trays marketed for freezing baby food.
  • Sofie the Giraffe – let’s talk about Sofie the fucking Giraffe. Whoever came up with this toy has to be a bazillionaire because everyone RAVES about this damn thing. I drank the Kool-aid myself, and as soon as we took it out of the package and gave it a squeak (I didn’t know it squeaked), my dog’s eyes lit up like Christmas morning and we knew it was going back. We bought the only-slightly-cheaper Sofie teether, which was promptly lost since did you know that babies sometimes drop things? If your dog is not a maniac for squeak toys, go for the big Sofie. Skip the teether, it’s too easily lost for a $16 piece of baby-safe silicone.
  • I mentioned it above, but I didn’t want a bouncer seat or a swing. I didn’t want all those things taking up space, I didn’t want her strapped into something all the time instead of being free on the floor, and I didn’t want her to get used to only being able to fall asleep a certain way and then I wouldn’t be able to have those things with me when we traveled to the in-laws, etc. Seats and swings are easy to find at consignment sales, so give it a thought before you register for anything too pricey.
  • Disposable place mats – I thought these would be great for dining out, but I totally forgot I had them until I found them in a closet when my daughter was almost 1. We always just put food right on the restaurant table, and often didn’t even wipe the table down. After she started daycare at 5 months, my tolerance for disgusting things was raised considerably.
  • Car mirror – I’ve read mommy blogs about not using them because they can be a projectile in an accident, but shit, my backseat always has tons of stuff in it that would be projectiles. So for me, I was more worried that I would be distracted. If it will make you sane, get it, if you can live without, don’t.
  • Misc list of things I decided I didn’t need: baby bath robe, wipes warmer, special baby laundry detergent (we just use anything “Free”).
  • Bottles are bananas. I drove myself crazy trying to figure out what kind of bottles I wanted and in what size, and then it ended up that we won some sort of parenting lottery and she drank straight from the Medela bottles I pumped into!! That’s your ideal situation, because then you don’t have to pump into bottles and pour into other bottles and wash all those mother fucking bottles. Anyway, if you plan on breastfeeding then 5 oz bottles are probably fine, the larger 8 oz bottles would have just been more bulk for us. My best advice is to register for a lot and you can always exchange them later, just don’t open/wash them until baby is a couple months old and you try a bottle for the first time (or earlier if doing formula or supplementing).
  • Blankets – there are 20,000 kinds of blankets and you’ll also get tons of blankets that you didn’t register for. People fucking love giving blankets. I would suggest a few small flannel receiving blankets that are just good to have for miscellanous use, a few larger lightweight gauzy blankets which are good for swaddling and then later for draping over the stroller for shade, etc. (the fancy brand is Aden and Anais that are sold online, but Babies R Us has Aden by Aden and Anais and they’re probably exactly the same, just different prints)
  • Nursing pads – I got Bamboobies reusable ones and they were pretty nice, but I’m not sure if they’re wildly better than the other reusable ones to warrant the price. I also tried many different kinds of disposable pads and the only ones I liked were “Nuk ultra thin” that did not have the sticky pad on the back, but that was my preference. You’ll probably manage to accumulate a bunch of samples during your pregnancy so you can try those out and see what you like. And I fortunately stopped using them completely after a few months, I thought I would be leaking forever but that’s only early on when things are changing a lot.
  • Strollers – my husband and I literally almost fought in the stroller aisle at BRU when were trying to pick one. He wanted one that was a little more substantial, had a snack tray, whatever else, I honestly wasn’t listening. I knew the one I wanted, and it was just a matter of being persistent to eventually convince him that my choice was best. Our stroller is light (it’s right there in the name!), easy to open and close, and affordable. I almost bought one of the snap and go stroller frames because they have a huge basket underneath, but then I realized we’d eventually need an “umbrella” stroller later and I didn’t want to spoil myself with luxury stroller storage and then go to no storage at all. This stroller is a good compromise. We also got a BOB jogging stroller which is a beast that I don’t bring shopping or to the zoo, but is a MUST if you’re a runner. Look for used BOBs on Craigslist, they hold up really well and you can pay $125 or less depending on the quality. For a brief while I nearly lost my mind researching two-child strollers and trying to do the math on when we would have a second and whether the first would still be under the weight limit…and then I realized that’s all crazy because who knows what the future will hold. Buy for what you know is coming, don’t try to plan TOO far in advance.

If I’ve somehow managed to forget covering something, comment below!


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