A Minimalist Baby Registry For Parents Who Kind Of Hate Baby Stuff

When my husband and I found out there was a baby growing in my body, of course I was like, "Yayyyy!"

And then my insuppressible snobbery came out and was like, "BUT THE BABY STUFF. UGH." 

Some women go nuts over precious baby things like tiny newborn-sized moccasins. My mind would probably be an easier place to live if I shared those feelings. But no. I'm thinking about how useless those tiny moccasins are for tiny humans who DON'T NEED TINY SHOES. I have a sometimes ruthless fixation on practicality. I like things to be efficient, well-designed and not disposable, which is a huge (sometimes impossible) challenge when it comes to the baby industry. And babies, in general, who grow up so fast.

It's hard to even pretend to be a minimalist when it comes to babies, and my form of minimalism is 90% wishful thinking as it is. (Also, if you look at how long this post is, I am certainly not a minimalist when it comes to words!) 

I spent nine months over-researching baby gear (went deeeeeply down the rabbit hole), trying to find the very best (and therefore only) stuff we'd need for our baby—the items that aren't all hideous or plastic or wasteful or overly gendered. Space-saving, workhorse items were also important to us because we bought a duplex last year, not a castle. 

I'm still new at this, but I've learned a lot so far about what we actually use and what we don't. I started putting together some baby gear recommendations for a friend and it snowballed into this post. And now I've gotta hit publish before my mind's slate is wiped clean regarding the first few months of parenthood.

P.S. I am using the word "registry" loosely in this post... you probably aren't going to put all of these items on a formal registry with Amazon or wherever. It's more of a comprehensive list of all the stuff you might want to consider for your baby, including the stuff you would likely buy on your own.

P.P.S. This post is full of affiliate links, but I legit own all of this stuff and like it.

P.P.P.S. This post was originally published in August 2018 but updated in July 2019.

THIS IS MY ADORABLE CHILD! | photo by Eliesa Johnson

THIS IS MY ADORABLE CHILD! | photo by Eliesa Johnson

a few tips on baby stuff

1. Where to register for a baby? Amazon, duh.

If you can't find exactly what you want on Amazon already, you can register for literally anything from any store on the Internet with Amazon's universal registry feature. It's so easy, and their fulfillment discount is awesome. P.S. Writing this post I realized how intensely I rely on Amazon (especially now as a parent) and they probably know me better than I know myself and it's terrifying.

2. Reuse, Recycle. Beg, Borrow. 

The easiest way to lessen the environmental impact of your baby stuff is to borrow, buy used and graciously accept all those the bags of hand-me-downs... and to pay it forward on the other side. I barely had to buy any maternity or newborn clothes because we got a whole heap of things from friends and family. I am only a couple months in and already accumulating boxes of things to pass on to my friends who are pregnant now. Mothers are a generous community of women. In addition to your family and social circle, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are also gold mines of like-new baby stuff. Build your registry and then see what you can find from it on the internet at a discount (just make sure to update it so your aunt doesn't buy a duplicate stroller).

3. Sometimes convenience wins and it's not pretty or cheap.

It's true that new babies only need a few things to survive (something to eat, somewhere to sleep and somewhere to poop), but it's also about your survival as a new parent. More on the postpartum fallout in another post, but if certain things can make your life a little easier during this time period, you should get those things if you have the means. A lot of this happens in the throes of chaos after the baby is born rather than during the planning, because you just don't know until you know. Y'know?

4. Think past the newborn phase.

The first weeks go so slow, yet so fast. When I was looking at baby gear and registering for our kid, I also was like, "Well, we don't need a bunch of this stuff for months, so we'll just skip it for now to avoid having too much lying around." To some extent, this is true. You can wait a while to get a high chair and you definitely don't want to go too crazy on baby clothes or diapers because you have no idea what size your kid will need and when. However, I'm so in the moment now that the baby is born that it's hard to think ahead. Whereas when you are pregnant, the only thing you can do is think ahead and you have all the energy in the world when it comes to preparing for the baby. You might not have the energy to do one hour of exercise, but you will have the energy to stay up all night to catalogue your baby's books in a spreadsheet as if you are some sort of mom-librarian. Pregnancy is weird. Ride the nesting wave as long as you can.

5. What's right for me might not be right for you.

Obviously I think I have some worthwhile advice or I wouldn't be writing this post, but my kid, my lifestyle, my budget, my tastes, my boobs, my city's weather, my laundry schedule are probably different from yours and that's okay. If you find even 10% of this advice useful, that's awesome. And you might love tiny moccasins (which I admit are very cute), so go out and buy them and don't let me or anybody else make you feel bad about 'em!


Mr. Koala, watching over Nilou's crib. | photo by Eliesa Johnson

Mr. Koala, watching over Nilou's crib. | photo by Eliesa Johnson

Minimalist Baby Registry

"Minimalist" already seems like an oxymoron... this post is so long. But it is literally everything.


Nursing Stuff

Let's start with the nursing. If you're planning to breastfeed and/or pump milk for your offspring, you'll need a lot of this stuff before you need a crib or a stroller or anything like that. Babies are hangry nearly every time they are awake at the beginning, so feeding them is all you do. If you're planning on formula-feeding, you can obviously skip several things on the list.

  • Nursing Tanks

Pick up at least three comfy nursing tanks. I basically lived in a similar version of these Target cotton tops, day and night. I wear them as pajamas. I wear them around the house. I wear them under my clothes at work (because pumping means you have to get your boobs out at the office, too). Most nursing tanks are very spandex-y and tight, and these are not—I like that.

  • Nursing Bras

I would recommend at least two comfortable but supportive nursing bras to start (one to wear while one is in the laundry). Most of the time, I wear these super-affordable (!!) Sayceli nursing bras. They are the exact same as the the popular $50+ Bravado ones, though don’t hold up quite as well in the wash. One Bravado bra I really do like is this ballet nursing bra. I mostly wear it at home as it has virtually no support, but the fabric is very soft.

Your size may fluctuate a lot, so you might want to buy a couple of styles and sizes close to your due date and then return the ones that don't work out once your milk comes in (a good errand for someone else to run).

And then a few weeks/months later, you can re-evaluate because you'll be doing more normal activities by then and your boobs may be a bit smaller (more like deflated... womp, womp) in comparison to the early weeks. For more of a normal bra with underwire and whatnot, I like this Anita nursing bra because it comes in a full range of sizes. Target has some affordable options too, but only go up to DDD.

This stuff is so necessary for the first few weeks—bring it to the hospital with you. The softest, best nipple cream is called Motherlove Nipple Cream. It's kind of expensive for a tiny jar, but it's far and away the winner after trying a few. Personally, I didn't like the consistency of Earth Mama (too grainy if there are temperature fluctuations) or Lanisoh (too thick and vaseline-like). To grease the breast pump flanges and make pumping more comfortable in the early days, I just used plain coconut oil and refilled a nipple cream jar so it was more portable than a giant mason jar.

If you have a baby with reflux like mine did, you'll need so many. We could not be stingy with these things, unfortunately. We use big swaddle blankets as burp cloths when we are out because they are huge and better protect our real clothes (and those of our friends and family)—more on those multi-tasking swaddles later on, I love them. At home we use these Gerber cloth diapers, which work nicely. Some babies don't spit up much though, so I'd recommend registering for a few and you can figure out what works for you after the baby is born if you need more (lots more). Once Nilou stopped spitting up so much (around six months), we started using these for clean-up at mealtimes to save on paper towels.

Nilou doesn't seem picky about bottles, so we aren't either. We inherited different kinds to try and she seems to like all of them. Avent's are affordable so are sticking with those for daycare. I think the Comotomo bottles are super cute though. My sister swears by Dr. Brown's, and her kids were picky about bottles. Before investing heavily in one brand of bottles, I would recommend borrowing a sampler from friends or putting a couple different brands on your registry just in case your baby is choosier. To warm them up without a special bottle warmer, just fill a bowl with hot water and there you go. Free bottle warmer.

I thought this Boon lawn drying rack was unnecessary, but it's not. There are so many small pump parts and bottle parts floating around all the time and this helps keep them contained.

I don't think of these nursing pillows as a must, though they are useful at the very beginning. I used the Brest Friend pillow regularly for about 2-3 weeks until Nilou and I got the hang of things and her neck was less noodle-y. It's got back support. It feels super secure. The cover is a soft and practical terrycloth. Having used the Boppy a few times, I think the Brest Friend is a better breastfeeding pillow, but you might get more long-term use out of a Boppy because the babies can lounge in those as they get older.

  • Comfortable space to feed the baby

It is my opinion that you don't need specific furniture to feed a baby, whether you're nursing or bottle-feeding. You just need various comfy and convenient locations around your house. If that means a special nursing chair or glider for you, that's great. In our house, I just have a back support pillow that I kept in our bed or on the couch in the living room because that's where I nursed most often in the early weeks. Our friends were about to donate their old nursing glider to Goodwill, but donated it to us instead... I rarely used it until Nilou moved into her own room at about six months, but I’m glad we have it now.

I've never been such a fan of a water bottle before, especially one this ugly. However, I keep this hideous one-handed water bottle within arms reach at all times now, but especially while nursing (one-handed meaning not these beautiful glass ones that I've used for many years but require both hands to screw the top off). This beast has a giant rubber straw that helps me down gallons of water every day.

  • Extra phone chargers with extra long cords

I know a phone charger is a weird thing to put in the nursing section, but in the beginning babies are so tired that you're not really going to be staring lovingly into each other's eyes like in your imagination. The reality is that you will probably be on your phone a lot when you're nursing, ordering more diapers and googling things like "baby crying all the time" and "how long should a newborn baby nurse because it's been four goddamn hours and I'm dying." 

Eventually you will leave the house and need to feed the baby. I thought I would just rig up some kind of cover easily with a swaddle blanket (and I still do sometimes), but it's kind of a pain. It takes time to gain confidence nursing in public, and this thing helped me in the summer. There are a lot of these out there, but this one is soft, breathable, and a cool-mom striped pattern that sort of looks like my regular clothes. (Note: Once the weather got colder, I happen to have a lot of loose-fitting tops and sweaters so I just stuff her underneath my shirt and that works well.)
 


Pumping Stuff

This isn't a thing you register for, but you will likely need it if you plan to breastfeed. And I needed it within the first couple of days that Nilou as born, which I wasn’t prepared for.

Most insurance companies (if not all) will cover your breast pump and additional supplies, and I went through Aeroflow to arrange mine during the third trimester. They take care of billing your insurance and send you a set of new pump parts every month (also covered by insurance), which a lot of people probably do not take advantage of (I wouldn't have even known without their reminder emails!). I have the Spectra S1 Breast Pump and like it so far. It has a long battery life, but I do wish it wasn't so bulky. 

This Simple Wishes pumping bra is awesome. It keeps things in place and it's comfortable. You can actually tote the pump around and do things while you’re pumping. Now that I'm back at work, I think having two pumping bras is worthwhile for laundry purposes. I am also intrigued by this Bravado pumping bra as well (it clips right into any nursing bra or tank), but haven't tried it.

I use this Packit lunch bag, and love it because it doesn't require any separate ice packs that take up space in the bag. You just freeze the whole bag and it stays cold for 10 hours! The ease of being able to go fridgeless for most of the work day is so nice because I bop around a lot. Each time I use the pump, I just wipe the flanges dry, put them in a plastic bag and back into the cooler so they stay cold. Then I just wash everything at the end of the day.

I have so many feelings about these damned bags. The branding is SO. GROSS. Mommy's Precious?! WTF. And the logo of the bag with the face rubbing its belly and licking its lips. IT IS DISGUSTING. The fucking tagline "Because every drop is gold." BLEGH. They are good quality and I've never had a leak, so I put my feelings aside and use them.

When I went back to work, I stressed out about this part for some reason. I wound up commandeering this backpack we originally intended to use as a diaper bag. It's working really well, considering the awkwardly shaped Spectra pump. I love that it doesn't scream "baby" and it fits everything perfectly. It also will fit my laptop, a notebook and sometimes even lunch.
 


Sleep

Aside from drinking milk, this is the main thing the baby does, so they need a few things.

If you haven't already seen all the ads for the Snoo bassinet online, I shall explain. It's a gorgeous, smart tech bassinet based off Dr. Harvey Karp's baby whisperer methods that he outlines in his book The Happiest Baby on the Block, which has a cult following with parents. He is like the most respected authority on baby sleep. The bassinet is designed with combination of motion and white noise that ebbs and flows to simulate the womb and help babies sleep well. The swaddle hooks into the bassinet itself, so it's like a magical straightjacket. When the baby fusses, the Snoo's motion and white noise go up a level to try and calm her down.

My husband and I had seen it online last year and we were like, "Wow, this looks so cool!" And then around Christmas, we were talked about it again and I was saying how unnecessary and expensive it was when he sheepishly said, "I already bought it while it was on sale. It was going to be a surprise for you." And then I felt bad because he was so excited about it and I threw a wet blanket on the excitement, but I also was, like, crying on the inside about all the money that he had just thrown away on this snake oil contraption.

I was SO skeptical of the Snoo. It could not possibly live up to the hype and the price and I was absolutely prepared to send it back (they have a 30-day money-back guarantee). However, I admit now it is probably the best thing we own.

By about 5 weeks, Nilou was consistently sleeping 6 hours every night without waking up. At 8 weeks, 9 hours. At 12 weeks, she started sleeping 11+ hours every night without waking up (!!!). In comparison to our other friends with babies her age and even those much older, this seems like a fucking miracle.

I was worried it would be hard to pick up on her cues when she actually needs something, but it's not. She lets us know 100% when she's hungry, has done some real damage in her diaper or just doesn't want to be asleep anymore. But all those times that she wakes up because of our creaky old floors or a weird dream or for seemingly no reason at all, the Snoo's baseline level magic will put her back to sleep. This is not to say we haven't spent a lot of time rocking this girl and getting her to the point where she's ready to go to bed, but once she is asleep in the evening, she stays that way until morning.

We could just be blessed with an incredible child who knows how to sleep at night, but I doubt it. She's pretty bad at most things so far, and I doubt she would be excelling at sleep without the help. :) Anyway, if you have the means or very generous family/friends to buy this (when they are having a sale!), the Snoo is worth hype. If not, there are plenty of other great bassinets out there that are not so intense but still have some of the useful features like the white noise.

Update October 2018: We successfully transitioned Nilou out of her Snoo bassinet at about six months without much trouble. 11/10 would still stand by my original Snoo review.

As I mentioned in the novel I wrote about bassinets up there, white noise is a gift from the universe! We have this small portable white noise machine that's awesome for travel and powerful enough that we'll probably use it regularly in the baby's room once she transitions out of the Snoo. There are also apps out there to use in a pinch, but a separate machine is practical so that you don't have to abandon your phone next to the baby's crib every time he or she is sleeping.

  • Swaddles

Swaddling helps babies feel snug as a bug, like they are still inside a womb. Most babies are escape artists though, so good swaddles are important. We had a whole bunch of swaddles to try from a friend, but Nilou could get out of all of them except the Halo SleepSack and the Snoo swaddles. If you are going with the Snoo, there are special swaddles that hook into the bassinet so you have to use those. If you are going with a different bassinet or crib, I'd recommend the Halo or the new Sleepea swaddles (like the ones that go in the Snoo, but without the parts that attach to the bassinet).

  • Swaddle blankets

We don't use these blankets for actual swaddling, but we use them ALL the time. Nilou had reflux for months and basically needed a tarp set out any time she was doing anything, so we put these on her bouncer chair, the couch, ourselves, other people, etc. for protection from her spit-up. The muslin ones are absorbent, so we just use them as burp cloths when we're out and about, and as summer blanket for her car seat or to block the sun in the stroller. Margeaux & May has really cute prints. The basic white Swaddle Designs blankets are awesome too (and so soft), and the silky bamboo blend swaddles from Aden and Anais are nice because they are very lightweight and come in shibori prints.

  • Other blankets

We received SO many cute blankets as gifts. I'm especially obsessed with an adorable, knit zebra blanket my cousin got at Patina in Minneapolis (see? I am not immune to recognizing cuteness), and also this Swedish one from Lina Johansson was perfect for tummy time because it's kind of like a towel on one side (always with the spit up).

  • Crib

We chose this mid-century-style crib from All Modern that matched the vintage dressers that we already had for the room. For now while we’re using the bassinet, it is perpetually full of clean laundry that we struggle to keep up with folding. Like many cribs, it transforms into a toddler bed. This one from West Elm is more expensive but also gorgeous—just saying.

I won't know if this is comfortable until Nilou learns how to talk, but it better be! This Moonlight Slumber mattress had the best reviews, so we trusted the collective.

The mattress is waterproof, but another layer of protection from bodily fluids is always necessary so we have this Margeaux & May cover on the bed.

  • Jersey crib sheets

Two sheet sets are sufficient for us for the bassinet, so I assume two will also be enough for the crib. Burt's Bees and Amazon Basics are pretty much exactly the same (super soft), but one is half the price.

Our kid is very inconsistent with taking pacifiers. We've tried a bunch, and her favorite (sometimes) seems to be this MAM newborn pacifier. (Note: There was a window of time at about 4-5 months old where Nilou was into pacifiers. Outside of that window, she couldn’t have cared less—but every baby is different.)

We have this one. I don't understand why it has such amazing reviews because I honestly don't really like it that much. It’s fine, but not rave-worthy. Does anyone else know of a better one? Please share. (Update July 2019: This monitor is donezo. The screen is entirely white now and we can’t monitor anything anymore with it. Don’t buy it.)

We don’t use our travel crib often enough that I think of it as essential, but I do like it. It’s nice to set up at our parents’ houses or take on road trips. We haven’t taken it on a flight yet because we usually just stay in a place that has a pack ‘n’ play available. There are usually lots of travel cribs available online in like-new condition (that’s where we got ours). Or it’s a good thing to borrow or lend out because it’s not something everyone needs that often.



Bath Stuff

 We bathed Nilou in the sink until she wouldn’t fit, and then transitioned her to the regular bathtub without any trouble.

Like the Snoo, this extremely well-designed Puj bathtub is a miracle-worker in the early months. It's hard to explain how the foldable design works in the bathroom sink, but it's really unique and our daughter is obsessed with it. We never thought we'd do a bath nightly, but she loves it so we do (we just don't use soap every night). She will sometimes be freaking the eff out and then will become instantly calm in the bath.

We use the California Baby shampoo on her hair and bod about every 3-5 days or so. She doesn't react to it and it smells nice. (Update July 2019: One bottle lasted over a year!)

You don't need special washcloths for a baby. Just use your normal washcloths or pick up a couple of soft ones if you don't have any.

Same goes for towels. You don't neeeeed a special towel for a baby, but even I can't resist this bear face.

  • lotion

This kid is doing fine without lotion in the summer. I use sweet almond oil for myself to moisturize, so we’ll just use that on her. It’s more natural than any of the natural lotions anyway. Update July 2019: This California Baby Calendula Cream was great for winter’s dry patches.

Definitely could survive without this little bathtime whale pitcher from Skip Hop and just use any old plastic cup, but the baby thinks it’s funny! And it does an okay job of keeping water out of her eyes, so it's functional. 

Update July 2019: Also not essential, but I got nervous about safety when Nilou started her wobbly standing and zombie-lurching around in the tub. So we got a protective faucet cover and it matches the whale pitcher.


Sickness + Health

Clippers are for suckers! At the beginning, at least. The constant battle against razor nails can indeed be won with these nail clippers and nail files. I trim while she is asleep, but can sometimes get her to tolerate filing while she is awake.

You don't need one until you need one.

The constant stream of daycare colds are no joke, and the bulb they give you at the hospital doesn’t work as well as this thing. This is super necessary. And super gross. You can use your HSA/FSA card on this, by the way!

  • Boogie Wipes

    I thought these were kind of wasteful and unnecessary, but they are actually very useful and gentle for constant runny noses and face-wiping. You can also use your HSA/FSA card for these.

  • Zarbee’s Naturals Baby Cough Syrup

    This stuff works. Not necessarily a registry item, but good to know.


Butt Stuff

Two friends highly recommended this Keekaroo changing pad, so I trusted them even though it seemed a bit absurd in price. And lo and behold, this was the only place Nilou would hang out happily for the first five weeks of her life (see photo above). Little weirdo. In addition, it's wipeable so we don't have to spend money or drawer space or laundry space on changing pad covers.

To be clear, this is not a wipes warmer! That seems unnecessary, personally. However, a weighted, one-handed wipes dispenser is a very handy thing when you are cleaning up a wriggly butt that is trying to dive off the table. I prefer the style of the Ubbi dispenser, but Oxo also makes a really nice one.

  • Diapers, obviously

We considered doing a cloth diapering service, but we never pulled the trigger on that so this is focused on disposables.

You're gonna need tons of diapers, but don't buy tons of them before the baby is born. Just get maybe one package of newborn diapers to start (or one package each from two different brands you want to try). Some friends of ours gave us leftover newborn diapers in a bunch of different brands, so we've tried so many at this point and try to take into account performance/eco-friendliness/chemicallyness/cost. 

  1. Mama Bear: the ones we use on a regular basis—like Pampers Pure but cheaper

  2. Pampers Pure: basically the same as Pampers Swaddlers, but without chlorine, fragrance, parabens, etc. (expensive though)

  3. Andy Pandy Biodegradable: these are made from bamboo, work very well and are the most eco-friendly, but too expensive for us

  4. Pampers Swaddlers: a good diaper, which is why everybody uses them

  5. Seventh Generation: good overall, and a little reasonable than some of the other eco-friendly brands when it comes to price

  • wipes

We've been using both Water Wipes and Amazon's brand of wipes. No complaints about either.

I like the Weleda brand for my own hand lotion, so I figured it would be nice and natural for the baby. They have this diaper care cream with calendula and zinc oxide. We only use it at night before her long sleep at night, and we haven't had any issues with diaper rash so far.

My husband convinced me that we needed this and turns out this diaper caddy thing is extremely useful. It's easy to manage with one hand and unfolds into a changing mat, with a place for diapers, wipes, cream and room for an extra onesie just in case. That way you aren't digging around your bag trying to find everything while your baby is literally pooping all over everyone at a restaurant. IMPORTANT HACK: Stick a roll of dog poo bags in there to contain both the baby's dirty diapers and blowout clothing casualties.

I like the Ubbi pail because you can just use regular garbage bags (though we actually use the Ubbi bags, too). It seems to contain the hazardous materials and toxic fumes. My husband would like you to know (because he is right here over my shoulder) that he likes it better than the Diaper Genie even though we have never owned a Diaper Genie.

A diaper-specific bag isn't necessary—you just need something that fits the stuff you want to carry. You might already own one that works. We just use a regular ol' canvas bag sometimes or a big tote my mother-in-law bought me from the Philippines.

I recently bought an Amber & Ash tote bag as a new work bag and am kind of obsessed with it and use it as the baby bag sometimes. It's one of the most functional bags I've ever owned and it’s nice when we’re on longer excursions because it can be carried like a backpack or a tote.


Car seat + Stroller

We have the Nuna Pipa infant car seat, which is one of the safest and lightest infant car seats of the bunch. It can also be strapped in to a car without a base, if needed, so that makes it great for traveling. It has a built-in "dream drape" we use constantly to keep Nilou in the shade.

  • convertible car seat: Britax Marathon ClickTight

    Depending on your situation, you might want to register for a convertible car seat (or two) right away or wait on this purchase until your child grows out of their infant car seat. Many convertible car seats will work for tiny babies all the way through college, so in theory this is the only car seat you’ll ever need and you could totally skip the infant car seat. Update July 2019: The timing happened to work out very well for us with Nilou’s age, but we waited until Amazon Prime Day and purchased two of these Britax Marathon ClickTight car seats at a hefty discount—one for each car. They have loads of rave reviews, very high safety ratings and I’ll update again once we actually start using them.

  • Stroller: Baby Jogger City Mini GT, Nuna Mixx2 or Nuna Tavo

I don't think you can go wrong with any of these three strollers (or Uppababy—also extremely nice), but the Baby Jogger seemed to be a good fit for our life and we love it so far.

We went back and forth a lot on whether to get the Nuna Mixx2 or Nuna Tavo stroller travel system (both work with our car seat) or the Baby Jogger City Mini GT (with adapters so the Nuna car seat can still click right in). We had originally planned on one of the Nunas because I assumed they would be the best, but then we test drove them side-by-side after the Baby Jogger was recommended to us by no less than six friends. 

The Baby Jogger has really, really smooth ride. It folds and unfolds super easily in one motion with one hand (it's famous for it!), and it's pretty compact once it's folded down so it makes it easy to throw it in the trunk. 

The Nuna (and Uppababy) strollers feel more high-end in the design, fabrics and features. For me, the black 2019 Tavo stroller is most stylish looking stroller ever and the Nuna car seat clicks right in without adapters. With the Mixx2, the storage baskets are much bigger and you have more options with the baby's seat. It turns into a little bassinet and you can face the seat toward you, which is something I wish ours did, but not a huge deal in the long-run.

  • Travel stroller: Mountain Buggy Nano or Uppababy Minu

We didn't want two strollers, so this is a minimalism fail. We travel a lot though—something a little lighter and more compact felt like it would be useful and it gets just about as much use as our regular stroller these days.

I love the Uppababy Minu, which is a pretty new model that I test drove in the store. However, the Mountain Buggy Nano is also very popular and sleek (and $150+ cheaper), so we bought that instead. 

Both can be used with an infant car seat, are very lightweight and fold down small enough that you can stow them in the overhead compartment on planes. And yet they feel sturdy enough to use every day. We used the Nano all over Europe and it was perfect. My husband keeps it in his car now so that we don’t have to transfer the other stroller back and forth.


photo by Eliesa Johnson

photo by Eliesa Johnson

Wraps + Carriers + places to set the baby down

I could not have gotten through the first four months without this piece of fabric (see above: yawning baby!). The Solly wrap is wizardry, like a wearable swaddle. Nilou doesn't always do well with sleeps during the day, but she will nap in this thing for a while. Even if she's not sleeping, I can at least tidy up or walk our dog. Nilou can come along for the ride and I can use both my hands. They come in great colors and it's a lightweight fabric so neither of us gets hot (I tried a friend’s Moby, but it was too thick for summer). I got the camel one, which is one of those colors that's so ugly it's cute.

We wound up with EVERY baby-wearing device somehow. For the record, you don’t need both of these, but I would recommend choosing one of them. My husband and I like the mesh Baby Bjorn Mini and the more classic Baby Bjorn. The mesh one is awesome because it’s more breathable and compact enough to just stuff in the baby bag. The classic one is more comfortable to wear though, and will be useful for longer (kids hit the weight limit for the Mini around 12 months) so that’s the best long-term pick. These carriers are especially great for traveling and dog walks because our dog cannot handle the stroller yet. I think we found both of these on Craigslist.

Another one?! Seriously, carriers are clearly our most obvious minimalism fail and you can thank my husband for that. This is not a must by any means, but if you do a lot of hiking, it’s super comfortable. And the weight limit is 48 lbs, so you can use it for a very long time.

1000% love this bouncer. Around six weeks old, Nilou started hanging out in this. I like it because I can set her up and take a shower or get something done without always having to wear her on my body like I had been. It doesn't have any bells and whistles, but it doesn't need them. (Update July 2019: We stopped using this around the time Nilou was too busy to sit still and just wanted to crawl around.)

I wouldn't call this a must, though I have friends who love-love-love these things so I thought I’d still include it in this list. Our baby napped in the Snuggle Me during the day when she was very little (the first 2-3 weeks). I loved it for taking photos of her, too. With N's reflux I was sometimes hesitant to put her down flat, so I think that kept us from using it as much as we might've otherwise. I like that Snuggle Me is a Minnesota company and doesn't have the logo so prominently displayed (looking at you, DockATot). If you can find one lightly used or to borrow, I'd do that at least to see if you want to make the investment, because these are pricey.

  • Rock 'n' Play/Baby Swing/etc.

There are so many other sleep/play/soothe gadgets out there, guys. We have survived without any of them. And I guess I’m very glad we didn’t use a rock ‘n’ play because they’ve all since been recalled (April 2019).


Feeding Stuff

This is a section of stuff you won't necessarily need for a few months, but might as well figure out the basics while you have the energy.

We have the Inglesina Fast Table chair that clips on to the countertop or table, but we stopped using it after our friends lent us a Bumbo seat, which is simply a lot easier to clean. We can also set Nilou somewhere where she can’t feed the dog, because she thinks that is hilarious.

If we had more space in our dining room, we'd definitely get a dedicated high chair (IKEA has a good one that's $22, and I have heard great things about the Stokke Tripp Trapp, on the other end of the budget spectrum). For us, I like that the Bumbo is portable and stows easily when it's not being used. The caveats to the Bumbo are that it shouldn’t be used at all until the baby can sit up well on their own, and it might not work at all for babies with chubby legs. Nilou’s legs are exceptionally lithe.

Update July 2019: We graduated Nilou to this booster seat at about 13 months (a little earlier than what’s recommended—15 months). Eating right at the table seems to help her with her manners, and it was nice to transition her right from the Bumbo into this. If you’re thinking a little past the first year for your registry, this is a great option for a booster seat.

Every parent I know owns these. They aren’t entirely spill-proof, but a nice sippy cup overall. I am more obsessed with this one with a straw because it really is very spill-proof, making it better to throw in a bag when we’re going out. Update July 2019: We stopped using bottles almost entirely around 12 months and transitioned to (mostly) these two types of cups.

You don't need a baby-specific plate or bowl, but something that they can't move easily or throw onto the ground is nice. This one has a marble look to it that I thought was kind of chic for a baby dish. It is silicone and suctions so it won't slide off the table.

I can’t recommend these silicone Modern Twist bibs enough once you have an eater. The pouch collects all the foods. And ours has an otter on it! If you don’t want to spend that much on a bib (understandable), these Oxo Tot bibs also have a pouch to collect all the foods, but the fabric part does stain if you eat a lot of turmeric in your house (** the half-Indian woman raises her hand **).

This is a funny one because they are meant for cloth diapers, but these have been essential for us in carting food and beverages around for Nilou. We use them all the time. If something spills a little bit (looking at you, sippy cups), these are going to contain the mess.

  • utensils

We used these Oxo Tot spoons early on for pureed foods, and they were admittedly a lot less messy than using a regular teaspoon like I had been trying to do for a couple weeks when Nilou first started eating. You won’t need toddler utensils for a little while.


Baby Clothes

It's hard to know what you're going to need or want until your baby is actually in front of you. My advice? Register for a mix of sizes so that you aren't stuck with only newborn clothes and nothing for the next phase. And focus mainly on zippered sleepers.

Both my husband and I are the kind of people that wear the same few items of clothing over and over, so it's not a shock that we wind up dressing our daughter in the same few items on a regular basis. Her daytime uniform is either a one-piece romper or a onesie + pants/shorts. Also, depending on the time of year and how often you do laundry (we do it pretty much constantly), you don't need very many baby clothes, so this is the one area you can easily keep minimal.

  • zippered footie pajamas

Nilou didn't really wear anything else except sleepers for the first month, day and night. Choose a few with the fold-over mitts because baby fingernails are like tiny razor blades and baby mittens are useless. And definitely zippers-only, people. Snaps are torture when you are trying to put clothes on a crying baby at 3 am because she crapped all over herself.

Stretchy fabrics are the easiest to put on tiny babies and are light for summer (like Pajammie, Kickee Pants or Silkberry—all really nice), but the classic cotton pajamas tend to hold up better in the wash so it's a trade-off. We typically have about four sleepers per size, which feels like plenty because we do laundry all the time.

My favorite cotton pajamas so far are the Earthy Organic sleepers, which are very high-quality and have a handy two-way zipper. They run long, which is good for Nilou because she’s tall. They tend to go in and out of stock on Amazon, but they are great. I also like Owlivia Organic (heavier cotton for fall/winter), Burt's Bees (not as high-quality, but very affordable), Old Navy (they run slim) and Parade Organics (just right).

  • onesies

I just told you snaps were torture, but they aren't that bad during the day. Nilou wore three long-sleeved kimono onesies from Carter's on rotation with some pants or shorts once we started dressing her in "real clothes" more often. (Just kidding, we still dressed her in basic onesies and pants/shorts almost every day until she was six months old.) When babies are very little, the kimono style makes them easier to put on than regular long-sleeved onesies (and they also have the built-in mitts). Update July 2019: After Nilou start eating more solid food at about 6-9 months (therefore having more solid bowel movements and less blowouts), onesies became less convenient than separates.

  • baby leggings + shorts

N has two pairs of shorts, a pair of stretchy-soft jogger pants and a couple pairs of leggings. That's really all she needs in the summer. Most of them are from Old Navy.

  • real outfits

Online shopping is quite easy while nursing, so you'll have plenty of time to pick out the cute things after the baby is born. We have maybe 3-4 "dressier" outfits for Nilou right now (mostly from the Gap and Old Navy) and that feels like more than enough. My favorite thing to put her in are cotton rompers because they are practical but they look less basic than her usual basics. And she’s lucky to have a ton of hand-me-downs from her cousins.

  • outerwear

    Nilou was born in spring so we didn’t need a lot of weather-related items right away. JUST KIDDING, we live in a frozen hellscape and a huge blizzard was dropping feet of snow on top of Minneapolis as we drove the baby home from the hospital in mid-April. Anyway, we were mostly inside during the last of the cold season so we got away with not having many warm newborn things. However, if you are due in a colder month, things like baby zip-up hoodies, jackets, buntings, fleece booties, mittens, hats, socks, etc. are obviously important right away. We wound up finding a really cute sherpa bunting from H&M for her first winter. Tip: Make sure to find coats/buntings that are car seat-friendly.

Don't be stingy about the bibs. We went through a million of these bandana bibs per day during the spit-up phase, and I think they are adorable (llama prints, cactus prints!).


Toys + Books

  • Books

Nilou has a lot of books already. I have to remind myself that the library exists and we don't need to own all the books in the world. Board books and sensory books are her favorites so far. Personally, I love the Little Feminist series and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (she laughs all the way through). Any sort of peek-a-boo book is a hit with her, too. I also have a few books in Spanish that I like to read to her because my attempts to speak Spanish to her have otherwise failed (Ni guau ni miau is beyond cute and was originally written in Spanish, which is always a nice thing to find versus the usual translations of English books).

Newborns don't care about toys, but our daughter started to kind of care about some of them at four months. Other than the teethers, she likes sensory toys (like this Infantino toy that has crinkly paper inside so it makes noise). She is starting to make friends with her stuffed tiger (Jellycat makes the softest stuffed animals EVER) and she is into this wooden baby gym from IKEA. And that is is basically her whole toy collection right now. Yup.

In the wings, we have some $3 stacking cups I also bought at IKEA, a Jellycat puppy lovey (that looks like our dog Georgie) and this Manhattan Toy contraption that is a rattle that also looks like a piece of modern art. (Update: At six months, she became obsessed with the cups and the rattle. The cups are great for the bath, too.)

I don't own either of these, but I am intrigued by The Play Gym and the Play Kits by Lovevery, because they seem like exactly what I want in baby toys: purposeful developmentally appropriate toys in non-ugly packages that could literally just be the only toys that we have. They come with guides for the parents, which I find really helpful because a lot of us have forgotten how to really play. And that’s your depressing observation for the day, you’re welcome.


Not-Really-For-The-Baby Stuff

Hell yeah it's okay put a massage on your registry.

  • Prenatal or postnatal massage

  • Prenatal or postnatal yoga classes

  • newborn or family photo session with a local photographer

  • Artifact Uprising gift card

To have the baby's first photo album printed. Because if you put it off you will never do it.

For the record, it did not prevent stretch marks but I still like this body oil.

  • waterproof mattress protector for your own bed

Because your water might break in that bed, yo.

It can be quite useful when you are stuck with a sleeping or nursing baby on top of you for hours and can't move. You can use it to ask questions, order supplies, play podcasts, listen to music, turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, etc.


Time-Saving Services

I've talked about this before when I wrote a post about grocery delivery service, but spending money to save me time and grief on something I don't love to do is one of the best luxuries. Best of all for the true minimalist, these do not take up any physical space.


Okay, I'm DONE.

If you have any questions about baby stuff or things I may have forgotten to include in this monstrosity of a post, please leave a comment!