A Crunchy, Minimalist Mom's Essential Baby Registry
I come across “must-have” baby product or registry lists online all the time that are kind of ridiculous. Unfortunately, these (usually long) lists of unnecessary items are misleading for first-time parents. Often times they are sponsored by the products being advertised, as well. So right off, I want to be clear that this post is in no way sponsored. All recommendations for specific products or manufactures that I mention here are simply based on my honest, personal experience. My goal with this post is to hopefully help those parents who are wanting to try to avoid toxic products and also wanting to try to avoid waste (both material waste and financial waste).
Before we get into my list of recommended baby gear, here is some advice, based on my own trial-and-errors, on how to approach your preparations for baby:
This is advice that I very much regret not accepting when I was pregnant for the first time. You would be amazed at how easy it is to find high-quality, gently-used baby products for free, or at a significantly discounted price. I HIGHLY recommend taking advantage of these opportunities whenever possible before resorting to new purchases. From hand-me-downs to consignment shops to thrift stores to garage sales, getting much of what you need “used” is very doable without sacrificing quality or personal style. For this pregnancy, my neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook group was my main source of getting what I needed. Besides the obvious money saving opportunities and environmental benefits, you also avoid exposing your baby’s delicate system to an excess of toxic chemicals. Used clothing has been previously washed several times which breaks down and washes away much of the chemicals that are coating the fibers on new clothing. Used baby gear has also had time to off-gas the worst of their nasty manufacturing chemicals somewhere else other than in your home (or car), away from your baby.
Quality Over Quantity
I am a firm believer that when you are buying new, you usually get what you pay for. Rather than collecting a large quantity of less expensive, lower-quality products, dedicate your resources toward purchasing a select few, high-quality items. High-quality products will last longer, make your life easier (safer, healthier, etc.) and ultimately result in less waste in the landfill. For instance, instead of spending your money on a large wardrobe of adorable but completely impractical new baby outfits, invest your budget in the more expensive car seat that has a higher safety rating and lower toxicity rating. At the end of day, what is really more important?
Encourage Gift Cards
The cool thing about newborns is that they really don’t need much as far as “stuff” goes. They pretty much just need us (and every bit of energy we can muster). Some of my favorite, most worthwhile baby related purchases were made after my first baby was born. Every kid is different with a unique personality and their own set of needs and preferences. Beyond the handful of absolutely essential baby items, you are better off just waiting and seeing what you actually need/want once you get to know baby a bit and figure out what works for your family. This is the beauty of gift cards and online shopping. I know gift cards are just not as much fun to gift and open, but...this approach to gift giving usually is far more useful.
Use An Online Registry Website
I’m a big fan of registry websites, such as Babylist, that allow you to put together a registry of items from any shop you want. This way, you are not limited by what is offered by a single retailer. This is also a great way to support small, local and online-only businesses. You can even request gifts of help such as gifts of prepared meals or house cleaning. If you are not familiar with Babylist, feel free to click here to check out a little example registry that I put together.
My Crunchy, Minimalist Baby Registry List
Infant Car Seat
For most families, a car seat is going to be an absolute necessity. I found selecting a car seat to be a bit stressful. Like buying a new car, there are so many options! There is no such thing as a “locally sourced” or “non-toxic” option when it comes to car seats. My recommendation is to find a balance between safety ratings and choosing to support manufactures that are making real efforts to minimize the toxic chemicals used in their baby gear products. Take some time to actually research and review the most up to date safety and toxicity evaluations and rankings available online. Then make your decision based on what falls within your budget. If receiving a used car seat, make sure you know for sure that that seat has never been involved in an accident and be aware of expiration dates and safety recalls.
Diapers and Wipes
If you are at all interested in a more affordable and environmental-friendly approach to diapers and wipes, I strongly recommend at least giving cloth diapers and reusable wipes a try. Even if you can only use these diapering methods part-time, I believe that it is totally worth the little bit of extra effort. These days there are so many cloth diapering options, helpful accessories and online resources available to make the process much easier. For that reason, I'm not going to spend the time diving into the world of cloth diapering here. But, I will say, I recommend starting small and increasing your stash of supplies as you get more comfortable with using cloth diapers. I know parents will sometimes make a large investment up front with the best intentions and then end up just using only disposable diapers.
If you are going the disposable diapering route, make sure you look into what materials are used in the diapers you purchase. Many of the most popular diaper brands use really nasty chemicals and synthetic materials in their diapers (even if they advertise otherwise...) that can cause all sorts of problems for baby's sensitive skin (and our planet).
I could go on and on about how amazing and life-saving a high-quality baby carrier can be. But, like cloth diapering, the world of baby wearing is rich with different styles of carriers, fashionable designs, accessories and helpful how-to resources. I highly recommend taking some time to checking out both your local and online baby wearing communities to learn more about this topic before you decide what kind of carrier is best for your family. Personally, I'm a fan of having at least one sturdy woven wrap carrier option and one more structured carrier option (such as the popular Ergobaby carrier). Please take a little bit of time to read up on how to safely carry your baby and how to properly use the carrier you select. Be aware that there are some popular carriers on the market that can potential be harmful to baby. For instance, those structured carriers that allow baby legs to dangle free, such as those with the forward-facing carry option. Baby's legs should always be fully supported all the way to the knees to keep their hips protected. Baby carriers are one of those items that it definitely worth spending a bit more on for a high-quality product, BUT it is also very easy to find what you want second-hand in perfect condition.
Babies don't need very much clothing. Seriously. I totally understand how shopping and purchasing adorable outfits is so much fun. But... you will regret it if you get carried away. Babies grow so fast and the next thing you know you have a mountain of clothing items that are too small and still have tags on them. As I mentioned before, it really is easy to acquire awesome second-hand baby clothing. For your baby's delicate, developing systems, it’s best to stick with used clothing that has already been washed several times. When purchasing new items for baby, I highly recommend sticking with organic fabrics.
Skin Care Products
There are only a few basic skin care products that are necessary. I would recommend a baby soap/shampoo, a baby lotion and a bottom balm. That is really all you need. I recommend sticking to organic products with minimal ingredients. Be careful to not fall victim to "green washing" which is very common with baby care products. Green washing is a marketing tool that manufactures use to trick consumers in to assuming that products are "natural" or "non-toxic" just based on the branding or packaging design. Don't judge a book by it's cover! Read the ingredient lists and look for the official organic certification labels. Like with food, if you don't know what an ingredient is or you can not pronounce it, you probably don't want to be rubbing it in to your baby's precious body.
Blankets and Swaddles
Having a selection of different blanket and swaddle options is really helpful. The problem is that most parents end up with way, way too many. You really only need a couple of each and you will quickly discover that you or baby have a favorite that is your go to. People love to gift blankets, especially grandmothers. Soon-to-be parents also love to buy blankets because, like clothing, they come in a million adorable designs. My advice for blankets and swaddles is the same as with clothing: don't get carried away, seek out second-hand and stick to organic or natural (cotton, hemp, linen, wool) materials.
As far as I'm concerned, a great diaper bag is a must. My recommendation would be to get something that is neutral in design. Something that will compliment any outfit and will hide dirt and spills. If you have a parenting partner, pick something you both feel comfortable totting around. Personally, if my man is with me, I expect him to carry the heavy diaper bag. Also, be creative. A favorite backpack or an awesome thrift store bag find can work perfectly as a diaper bag.
If you are breastfeeding, you will most likely want to have a nursing pillow. I ended up trying out several nursing pillows before I found "the one". I starting working from home almost immediately after having my son so I needed to be able to work on a computer and breastfeed at the same time. I found the popular Boppy pillow to not be helpful at all. I highly recommend getting a pillow that is more structured. Unfortunately, the nursing pillow that I love is no longer on the market...
If you are bottle feeding or pumping, you will need bottles. My only advice here is to go with glass bottles. They are more expensive but they hold up way longer (forever, if they don't break) than plastic so you can most likely find second-hand.
Products I Love, But Are Not Essential
I would love to hear from you if you have any additional items you would recommend! As always, feel free to reach out with questions.