A Pro's Guide to Baby Registries
As a children's consignment shop, we at Monk's Trunk have become unintended experts of baby registry misfires--every day, we hear from parents wanting to unload the baby gifts that they never used in order to buy more practical things. So I thought it might be helpful to share some of the advice I've given first-time parents preparing baby registries.
Let's be honest: the vast majority of baby gear items you don't actually need. This guide aims to help reduce space in the landfill, and to save you a bit of money as well.
Each of these things is something that new moms regularly ask for at our consignment shop. Sometimes we have them and sometimes they're hard to come by, so I've also noted which are easy to find second-hand.
JUST SAY NO TO CLOTHING, BLANKETS, AND STUFFED ANIMALS
Our store gets offered more than enough infant clothing, blankets, and plush toys to fill a gymnasium. We have to pass on the vast majority. Friends and family will give you these, whether you register for them or not. My advice: return as much of it as you can, taking store credit if necessary, and don't feel guilty about it.
Infant clothing 6 months and under gets a couple of wears at most and is not worth any major expense, except for special occasions or specific uses (wedding outfits, Christenings). Every day we hear from people bemoaning the waste on clothing that their children outgrew before they could wear it.
One exception: Aden + Anais muslin blankets are worth registering for. They are lightweight cotton, extremely helpful in hot weather. They can be used for swaddling as well as sun/mosquito proectors and summer blankets.
Recommended: In these parts, the Ergo is by far the most popular. They can be used for newborns, though the real advantage comes when the baby is 5 months and up--and thus too heavy for many people to carry. The advantage of the Ergo over other carriers is that it places the baby's weight on the parent's hips rather than on the shoulders, making it easier on your back.
Beco also makes great carriers, comparable to the Ergo; they're more popular on the West Coast. Both the Ergo and Beco have very high resale value (we sell used Original model Ergos for $70 and they go quickly), making them worth the higher upfront cost than other baby gear items. If you want just one carrier, this is the one to get. For newborns, you'll need the infant insert as well; however, some families save money by using a blanket or towel instead. If you know what you're doing it works just as well.
COLD WEATHER GEAR
Stroller bunting is a helpful item for colder climates. JJ Cole Bundleme is the most popular. You can save money by skipping the infant size--which babes grow out of quickly--and just get the toddler one, which can be used for infants. (One caveat: toddler bunting doesn't work so well with MacLaren umbrella strollers -- it's so long it often rubs against the ground and gets wet in snowy weather.) The Urban model tends to wear better than fleece ones.
Baby carrier covers such as Peekaru. If you're planning on carrying your baby a LOT, this can be handy: it's a fleece coverall that keeps both baby and parent warm. They are very hard to come by second-hand and thus have high resale value.
BabyLegs: Unlike leggings or pants, these leg warmers don't need to be taken off during diaper changes.
Sophie the Giraffe Teether: Made of latex rubber rather than plastic or wood. It's one of few teethers that we sell second-hand. (HABA wood teethers are popular, too.)
BreathableBaby Mesh Crib Liner: Avoid convential bumpers, which can gag baby or provide a launching pad out of the crib. These do neither, but keep those arms and legs from getting stuck inbetween bars.
Miracle Blanket: Some people have used Halo's SwaddleMe products and others like them for their ease of use, but we usually have a ton of those at the store; many babies are able to escape easily from the swaddle, in which case they may end up with the blanket covering their face. We recommend the Miracle Blanket. It's velcro-free, light cotton, and virtually escape-proof.
Most baby toys aren't worth buying or registering for. Babies are just as happy playing with empty yogurt containers, pots, and pans as they are with toys designed for them. And baby toys have close to zero resale value, so they get junked all too quickly.
That said, toys can buy precious time by occupying the kids. So if you really want some recommendations, here they are:
An engaging crib toy. Yeah, we parents all hate electronic toys--and we highly encourage you to find one used, due to their environmental impact--but my kid LOVED the Tiny Love Developlay Activity Center.
Other great toys include the Manhattan Toy Skwish, Oball and pull-to-stand toys such as LeapFrog Learn & Groove Table (they are extremely popular with kids learning to "cruise.").
Walkers: You can probably find a good walker second hand. I like Fisher-Price's over the expensive wood ones (such as those by Haba and Radio Flyer). They are plastic and ugly, but you can often find one second-hand, so the purchase won't be your fault...
LEGO Duplos, Megabloks, foam blocks: Most children don't start using blocks until they are at least 2-years-old, but this is one of few things for older kids that you can get away with registering for.
BOUNCERS AND SWINGS
Bouncers are easy to come by second-hand, but if you really want a nice, new one, get the Baby Bjorn Babysitter. (If you keep it in great shape, unlike most bouncers, you'll be able to sell it for more than $20 when you're done.) I don't have an opinion on swings. They're easy to come by second hand.
My favorite for babies about 6 months are Indestructibles, books babies can chew, since that's all they want to do with books at that age anyway. The finishes on board books aren't good for babies to consume, but if you can keep babies' mouth off of them, they're great to have. For babies around 1 year, focus on books with good rhymes, touch and feel, and lift-the-flap books. (In fact, lift-flap books were my son's often favorite "toy.") Maisy books are particularly popular with the infant set.
Lots of info is available elsewhere. Medela pumps have the highest resale value.
Ditto on stroller advice. Our two cents: a nice, lightweight stroller, such as a Maclaren Triumph or UPPAbaby G-Luxe is worth buying new. People who buy high-end, large stroller systems (Bugaboo, Stokke, etc.) always end up wanting a lightweight umbrella stroller as well. Quality umbrella strollers (MacLarens, G-Lite, etc.) are the most in-demand second hand, so you can always sell it when you're done.
If you happen to be getting a stroller second-hand, be sure to register for a rain cover for that stroller since rain covers often disappear or get damaged.
BUMBO + TABLE TRAY
Bumbos are helpful for babies 2 months and up to build neck strength and to prepare for sitting up. Good to get used, though, since a used one is often indistinguishable from a new one.
Baby Bjorn, Safety First, or Boon potties are popular. Bjorn also makes a great potty ring to go on top of normal toilet seats.
Soft-soled shoes such as Robeez are very helpful for sizes 6 months and up. (Under 6 months, you're better off with footed bottoms.) We'd also recommend a rubber-soled slipper shoe for 12 months and up, such as Skidders.
GOGO KIDZ TRAVELMATE
This, or other similar items, is a very handy device for airport travel. It allows you to turn your baby into luggage and wheel her around in her car seat.
GET SECOND HAND
Exersaucers and jumperoos: I generally don't recommend registering for an exersaucer because they are so easy to find used. They are extremely helpful for most parents, but take up a lot of space, so people want to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
High chair: You may think a high chair is important, but it's used for a very short time and takes up a lot of landfill space.
Slings, swings, and infant clothing.