Ok, men, raise your hands if you like to go shopping. No, I’m not talking about spending an hour at Home Depot trying to decide between the Skil and the Milwaukee circular saw (let me know which one you pick, I’m in the market for one). I’m talking about toiling away your Sunday afternoon trying to pick between an airplane theme and a safari theme. Yep, if you and your wife or girlfriend are expecting your first child, it’s time to start thinking about the baby registry.

Stay strong, my friend.

When Wife and I found out we were pregnant with Bubby, we paid a visit to our local Babies R Us to put together the list of all the things we hoped family and friends would buy for us. The kind folks at the store were nice enough to have a list prepared of all the things we were going to “need” before the baby arrived. Of course the bottom line of their financial statements had nothing to do with their altruism and everything on the list was crucial to our baby’s health and well-being.

It was a truly daunting experience. Pacifiers, changing tables, sheet sets, curtains, bottles, burp cloths, receiving blankets, cribs, lamps, gliders, diapers, clothes, baby monitors, diaper bags, strollers, car seats, and safety equipment. What the hell is a receiving blanket? Do we really need it all? If there are multiple brands, which is best? Does our baby really care if he sleeps with giraffes or space ships?

Eventually we left and rescheduled and asked my older sister, who already had a daughter, for help. She walked us through the store, pared down the list to a manageable size, and saved us a ton of time and money. So my goal with this post is to be your older sister with a daughter and help you make a little more sense of what can be a seriously overwhelming task.

MUST-HAVES:

  • Crib: Obviously the child needs a place to sleep. As with most other items on this list, check the safety reviews and select something you’re comfortable with, but don’t break the bank. Your kid won’t know the difference between Eddie Bauer and something off the shelf at Wal-Mart. If you can afford it, I recommend spending a little more to get one that converts to a toddler bed. Two years will fly by, and you’ll have enough other unexpected expenses along the way that you won’t want to buy a new bed.
  • Portable Sleeper/Play Yard: The most common is probably the Pack ‘n Play, which is what we have. These are portable, adjustable, and easy to store. And if you ever plan on: a) bringing your kids with you anywhere for an overnight trip or b) having anyone watch your kids, invest in one of these.
  • Baby-proofing Items: Outlet covers, cabinet latches, and, if you have steps, a gate are essential. Kids will find nooks and crannies you didn’t even know you had in your house, so there’s no need for them to have access to the easy stuff like outlets and cabinets.
  • High-Chair: Again, pretty obvious, but I included this here to let you know you have some time before this is necessary. Your baby won’t be able to sit up or eat solid food for several months, so you won’t need this right away.
  • Diapers: You don’t necessarily need to register for diapers; you will get plenty and you’ll be able to take some home from the hospital. But if you do, don’t register for anything smaller than size 2. They outgrow the newborn size in about a day, and you should get plenty of size 1 from friends, family, and doctors. We learned our lesson with Bubby and stocked up on size 2 before Boo was born, so we didn’t have to buy diapers for about the first three months of his life.

MAYBE, MAYBE NOT

  • Burp Cloths: The typical burp cloth was just not substantive enough to handle my boys’ regurg. After about half a bottle, the thing was completely soiled. We found that something a little heavier, like a washcloth or, you know, a beach towel, was more suited to the task. If your kids don’t spit up much, however, a standard burp cloth may be fine. On a related note, don’t plan on getting new carpet until you’re finished having kids.
  • Diaper Bag: So you need to have ten diapers, a pack of baby wipes, three changes of clothes, bottles, formula or breast milk, burp cloths, toys and snacks with you at all times. In my experience, the diaper bag just didn’t cut it. We ended up using an old book bag from college. Maybe it wasn’t as stylish, but at least we could throw the baby in there in a pinch…
  • Travel System Stroller/Car Seat: I really wish we had this with Bubby. We lucked into one with Boo, and it was absolutely a lifesaver. The ability to lift the entire car seat, baby and all, out of the car and plop it into the stroller is a game-changer. It’s not necessary but highly recommended. We also made the mistake with Bubby of buying a lightweight stroller in addition to the heavy-duty model we used most often. Unless you enjoy backaches from stooping over to push your kid, pass on the lightweight model.

Absolutely Not

  • Changing Table: Please, please, please save your money unless you are physically incapable of changing a diaper on the living room floor, because that’s where ninety-nine out of a hundred diapers will be changed. It’s nice in theory to have a place where you always change diapers, but when real life takes over, you’re changing the smelly kid wherever is convenient for you. And you remember what I said about your carpet earlier, right?
  • Diaper Warmer: I really shouldn’t have to explain this. It’s going to take your kid three years to learn not to shit himself. I don’t think he’s going to notice if his butt is a little chilly for four seconds.
  • Name-Brand Anything: Unless you’re right in the middle of casting for America’s Next Top Baby, generic diapers and hand-me-down clothes will do just fine. My boys have miraculously survived thus far, and with only minor emotional scarring from not having the newest pair of Weeboks. The up & up brand of diapers from Target is our preferred method of collecting baby poop, and they typically offer a $10 gift card when you buy two large boxes.
  • Shoes: Unless you give birth to a foal, it will be a good twelve to fifteen months before your child is walking. Shoes are just something else to waste money on and another step between you and getting to work on time.

While this is far from an exhaustive list in any of the three categories, it’s a good start and more than Wife and I had during our first go-round. Talk to other people you know who have had kids, talk with your wife or girlfriend, and develop a game plan. Just remember that kids a hundred years ago survived with far less than you will undoubtedly have, and all they really need are food, shelter and love. Now quit worrying about shopping and go take a nap. You’re going to need to stockpile your sleep for the next few months.

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