Baby Must-Haves (and Don't-Needs) for Your Registry

Shop smart for your new arrival with this checklist of baby must-haves, nice-to-haves, and registry items you don't need to spend money on.

When it's your first time registering for a baby shower, it's so easy to get overwhelmed. Both online and brick-and-mortar retailers may have you convinced that you need everything they have on offer. But the list of things your baby actually needs is fairly short. Before your guests (or you) blow a small fortune, it's important to understand which items are essential and which are totally unnecessary.

To help you wade through the hype, we've drawn up this list based on our own experience and that of other parents. Those must-have baby items are categorized as "necessities," while those that might make your life easier are listed as "nice-to-haves." We also mention unsafe products that you should avoid.

Baby Essentials for the First 3 to 4 Months

We provide a detailed list of each category below, but in general, your baby must-haves for the first three months of their life should include:

  • Nursery furniture and gear
  • Baby linens, including crib and bassinet sheets, baby blankets, and swaddles
  • Babyproofing gear
  • Feeding gear
  • Diaper essentials
  • Hygiene and grooming essentials
  • Baby clothes
  • Travel gear, including car seats and strollers
  • Entertainment
  • Baby gear, like swings and play mats
  • First aid and baby care equipment

Read on for a closer look at the items in each category. Just remember: Every family's needs are different, so modify this list can (and should!) be modified to your tastes.

Nursery Furniture

The necessities:

  • Crib
  • Crib mattress

The nice-to-haves:

  • Changing table
  • Bassinet (safe until the baby is 3 to 6 months old or weighs 15 pounds)
  • Rocking chair or glider
  • Humidifier or vaporizer
  • Dresser/chest (to bolt to the wall)
  • Hamper
  • Baby monitor, if you have a big house

What you don't need: A secondhand crib. Get a new one for safety purposes instead.

Baby Linens

The necessities:

The nice-to-haves:

  • Matching quilt or a crib skirt (for decoration)

What you don't need: Pillows, loose bedding or blankets, sleep positioners, bumper pads, or mattress padding. All of these items increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and should be kept out of the crib.

Babyproofing Gear

The necessities (after 4 months):

  • Gates at the top and bottom of all stairs
  • Cabinet latches
  • Drawer latches
  • Outlet covers
  • Furniture anchors

The nice-to-haves:

  • Toilet lock
  • Corner guards for low tables
  • Fireplace bumper

Formula-Feeding Gear

The necessities:

  • About 8 bottles with newborn nipples (try several brands to find the one your baby prefers)
  • Bottle-cleaning brush or a dishwasher basket
  • Bottle-drying rack
  • Several weeks' worth of baby formula (to start)
  • 6 or more cotton bibs
  • 6 or more burp cloths (though receiving blankets and cloth diapers also do the trick)
  • Insulated cooler/carrier for outings

The nice-to-haves:

  • Dry formula dispenser
  • Bottle sterilizer

What you don't need: A bottle warmer (heating in hot water works just as well) or a bottle holder/propper.

Breastfeeding/Chestfeeding Gear

The necessities:

  • Nursing pillow
  • 2 or 3 nursing bras
  • 2 or 3 boxes of nursing pads or a set of reusable pads
  • Freezer-safe breast/chest milk storage bags or containers
  • 6 or more burp cloths (receiving blankets and cloth diapers also work)

The nice-to-haves:

  • Breast/chest pump (a double electric pump is most convenient, but some parents prefer hand pumps)
  • Several bottles and nipples, if someone else will be feeding your baby pumped milk (you'll want to get several brands of nipple to find the one your baby prefers)
  • Nipple cream for the first few weeks

Solid Food Feeding Gear

The necessities (not needed until 4 to 6 months):

  • High chair
  • Bibs
  • Infant feeding silverware
  • Infant bowl

The nice-to-haves:

  • Mess mat for under the high chair (a plastic shower curtain can work)
  • Baby food mill (if you're ambitious enough to puree your own baby food)

Diapering Gear

The necessities:

  • 2 packs of newborn diapers (to start)
  • Wipes
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Diaper pail or trash can with lid

If you're cloth diapering, you'll want to check out our full guide to cloth diapering.

The nice-to-haves:

  • Waterproof changing table pad (if you get a changing table)
  • 2 or 3 changing table pad covers (usually cotton or terry cloth)
  • 4 or 5 waterproof square or rectangular pads for under baby's bottom (these will protect the cover that's protecting the pad—you can also use a towel or doggy pee pad)
  • Baby cream, if your baby has dry skin (coconut oil works, too)

What you don't need: A wipe warmer or a diaper stacker (though they're pretty)

chicco bravo trio travel system on colored background
Courtesy of Chicco

Bathing and Grooming Gear

The necessities:

  • 2 hooded towels
  • 4 washcloths
  • Infant tub (for after the umbilical cord falls off)
  • Bath seat or inflatable tub-within-a-tub (for after 6 months)
  • Baby bath wash
  • Baby shampoo
  • Baby comb and brush set
  • Nail scissors/nail clippers/nail file set (some parents find an electric nail trimmer easier)
  • A rinse cup

The nice-to-haves:

  • Bath toys
  • Mesh bag to store bath toys
  • Bath thermometer
  • Faucet guard

What you don't need: A baby-size robe. It's hard enough to get your baby dressed in their real clothes!

Baby Clothing

The necessities:

  • 7 or more snap-crotch bodysuits/onesies
  • 3 or 4 T-shirts and/or side-snap shirts
  • 3 or 4 pairs of pants
  • Several snap-up or zippered rompers
  • 7 pairs of pajamas and/or sleeping gowns
  • Sun hat
  • Cold-weather hat and cardigan (if it gets cold)
  • Bunting or snowsuit (if it gets really cold)
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • Several booties
  • Baby hangers for the closet

The nice-to-haves:

  • A special outfit for bringing baby home and/or showing them off
  • Several shirt-and-pant sets
  • Baby swimsuit or rash guard (if you foresee pool or beach trips; not needed immediately)

What you don't need: Shoes. Wait until your baby is walking outside (i.e., the toddler years).

Baby Travel Gear

The necessities:

  • Convertible car seat that fits a newborn
  • Stroller that accommodates a newborn
  • Diaper bag filled with diapers, wipes, changing pad, and a spare outfit
  • Baby carrier that can accommodate a newborn

The nice-to-haves:

  • Infant car seat and base
  • Baby wrap or sling for newborns and lighter infants
  • Baby hiking backpack (for after 6 months)
  • Stroller that your car seat fits onto
  • Rain cover for the stroller
  • Warm blanket to wrap your baby in during winter strolls
  • Sunshades for the car windows
  • Big diaper bag for overnight trips

What you don't need: A mirror to see your baby in the car (these can be a hazard if there's an accident). Also avoid secondhand car seats for safety reasons.

First Baby Toys

No baby must-haves, but these items are nice-to-haves:

  • Soft books and board books
  • Rattles
  • Soft blocks
  • Activity gym/play mat
  • Toys that attach to a stroller
  • Something plush that crinkles, rattles, and/or squeaks
  • Multiple baskets in which to store toys (place one in the baby's room, living room, and kitchen)

What you don't need: Car seat toy bars. These are an added risk if there's an accident.

Baby Seats

The necessities:

  • Bouncer seat or infant seat
  • Stationary activity center (once baby is 4 months old)
  • Playmat

The nice-to-haves:

  • Swing
  • Moses basket (usable until baby reaches 3 months)
  • Portable play yard

What you don't need: A walker or a jumper. Get a stationary center instead, for safety reasons.

Baby Care Basics

The necessities:

  • Several pacifiers (try different brands to see which one your baby prefers)
  • Thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Infant pain reliever
  • Nasal aspirator or snotsucker
  • Saline nose drops
  • Electrolyte drink, such as Pedialyte, for dehydration

The nice-to-haves:

  • Teether
  • Vapor bath (once baby is 3 months old)
  • Anti-gas medicine or gripe water
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