A one-stop guide to help ease the stress of registering for baby gear and products as a first-time mom.

By Jessica Hartshorn and Maria Vega
Thayer Allyson Gowdy

Walk into any baby store and you're likely to be overwhelmed by the number of choices in products. An entire wall of bottles. An entire aisle of strollers. An entire section of baby monitors. It's enough to make any first-timer run out of the store. No need to panic, registering for baby can be a simple task.

With a little planning and help, you can sign up for everything you want and need without breaking a preggo sweat.

Plus, if you do it in person, you get to use a fun scanner.

When to Register

A growing number of parents-to-be start their registry in the first trimester, keeping it private while clicking on things they like. Some first-timers come in to review their options first, and on average, many families start their registries around the 17-week mark.

That said, there's no right or wrong answer for this one. Some pregnant women start at 12 weeks, others do it a few weeks before their showers — it's up to you. The best advice is to give yourself plenty of time and at least have it ready by the time your friends and family are ready to start getting baby gifts for you.

    Where to Register

    Here's how we see it: Visit a store like Buy Buy Baby, Walmart or Target if you want to pick up and look at actual products. They're also perfect places for speaking to real, live human beings who might help you. If you don't want to deal with sales associates and would prefer to read through dozens of real-user reviews on your own time, start at Amazon or Diapers.com. No matter which retailer you choose, you'll be able to fuss endlessly with your registry thanks to apps and mobile sites. 

    If you want to avoid the store all together, there are plenty of websites that help you create online-only registries. Similar to Pinterest, BabyList lets expectant parents register for gifts from different online stores and services with a simple click from any web page (even Etsy shops!). Other online registries include My RegistryLand of NodGiggle (which also offers a registry app) and many more.

    Who to Take Shopping

    First up should be your partner. If he or she wants nothing to do with registering, go with a family member or friend you trust. It could be a bonding moment for you and your mom, your sister or maybe a good friend. Someone who has some experience buying and using baby products and gear is a plus.

      Tips for Building the Best Baby Registry Ever

      Start with the obvious. 

      You know you need an infant car seat and somewhere safe for the baby to sleep. Start with those two. Soon enough you'll be looking at the many kinds of infant bathtubs with your eyes glazing over, but you can just do sponge-baths for the first month if necessary. So knock out the two must-haves and then gloat that you've started your registry.

      ​​​​​​​Use your list as a game plan.

      Besides being a wish list of gifts you hope to get, your registry can also serve as your baby planner. It’s where you can track and organize gear, including the stuff you intend to buy yourself.

      “On average, our registrants buy about a quarter of the items in their total registry themselves,” says Laura Levine, senior marketing manager for Amazon Baby Registry and the mom of three. One reason: Retailers like Amazon, Babies “R” Us, and Target offer a registry completion discount, which means a deal on anything you’ve put on your list. So why not add everything from the crib to a high chair? Saves money and stress!

      Use your list as a game plan.

      Besides being a wish list of gifts you hope to get, your registry can also serve as your baby planner. It’s where you can track and organize gear, including the stuff you intend to buy yourself. “On average, our registrants buy about a quarter of the items in their total registry themselves,” says Levine. One reason: Retailers like Amazon, Babies “R” Us, and Target offer a registry completion discount, which means a deal on anything you’ve put on your list. So why not add everything from the crib to a high chair? Saves money and stress!

      Update often. 

      Expectant parents change their list all the time, so just own the fact that your registry is a constant work in progress. It doesn’t have to feel perfect before you begin to share it with friends! “Customers visit their registry with us anywhere from a few times per week to a dozen or more,” says Levine. Accessing your registry on your smartphone makes it practically irresistible. “With your phone you can tinker with your registry anytime, anywhere,” Levine says. 

      Remember that this is basically a guessing game.

      Different things work for different babies. Every product on the market exists because some baby needed something exactly like that. Will your baby? Who knows. You haven't met your baby yet! You are guessing. Filling out a registry is not like taking the SAT. There is not only one correct answer.

      Stressed by stroller choices?

      Register for a “starter stroller” for the newborn days. Look for a full-size model that folds easily, weighs about 15 to 25 pounds, and can carry an infant car seat. Is it made for dirt trails? No. Will it fit in a plane’s overhead compartment? No. Those are niche needs you can find in your next stroller. Talk to friends, stick to your budget, and you’ll be good! 

      Encourage gift sharing. 

      "Suggest that gift-givers contact your shower host (or you in a discreet way) if they want to pitch in to share the cost of an expensive necessity, such as a stroller, a car seat or a crib," says Target spokeswoman Jana O'Leary.

      Can’t commit to baby gear?

      If you’ve got three types of swaddles and four brands of bottles on your registry, pare down to one or maybe two brands. After all, you can only start with one! And gift buyers like to know they’re getting you what you really want.

      Wish to keep your registry secret for now?

      It’s easy to set an Amazon or Babylist registry as “private.” If you start on Target.com, don’t check the box next to “Make my registry publicly available online.” At Buy Buy Baby, if you start a registry in-store, it can stay off the Internet until you’re ready. But at Babies “R” Us, all lists are live once they’re started. Here’s a gentle reminder, though: It’s doubtful anyone is snooping, so don’t feel self-conscious!

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