An Ultimate Baby Registry for City Living: the essentials and the extras!
We have had babies on the mind lately, with Serena and Milo’s arrival last year. (More here and here.) Most of my friends don’t have kids yet, and I when I was expecting I was pretty overwhelmed by how to prepare for Serena’s arrival. Being a (kind of obsessive?) researcher, I applied those skills to the task and scoured the internet for tips. Now that I am 17 months in, I wanted to share what has worked for us. Natalie and I are planning to come back and edit this post every so often in case we discover new things or a current favorite doesn’t hold up well. There are already so many things to think about when expecting a baby, so hopefully this compilation will help new parents-to-be, or friends looking for a gift to help celebrate! After getting so many tips from blogs myself, I wanted to pass on some info to the next cohort of new parents!
Many of the ‘registry guides’ we came across were made with a suburban house in mind. The constraints of living in a small space, and walking rather than driving to get around really informed our choices, so I looked for items that can collapse or be used for multiple stages, and prioritized things like strollers and carriers more than someone who drives might have. That being said, some of the items that are more adapted to city living are pricier, so these choices might not make sense if you have plenty of space. Ok — here we go!
Where to register
Natalie and I both did registries through BabyList. The advantage is that you can add items from anywhere, and the gifters can purchase at any shop they like and mark gift as reserved. I really liked the ability for people to find the best price, or go to whatever store they like best. It was easy to use, and you can add things like meals or baby snuggles to the list too! There are some registry reward promo codes available after using it, but since they are mainly only 10% off and exclude a huge number of brands, we didn’t end up using them much.
Magic Beans does have registries and might be a good pick if friends and family are local. Even if you chose to register elsewhere, they have great customer service, and when you create an account with them, you earn points towards discounts. We ended up ordering a bunch of things with them and had a great experience. Keep an eye out for their Drool Baby Expos. It’s a chance to see a lot of products in person, and there are awesome deals at the expo. We ended up saving hundreds on our stroller and car seat by purchasing that day.
Amazon is a great place to make a registry, since they offer a 15% off completion code and often already have great prices. Only things sold by Amazon and listed in the ‘baby’ department are eligible for the discount, so keep that in mind. This was a great way to save some money on bigger ticket items we bought ourselves, like the crib, bouncy chair, etc. Plus, if you have Amazon Prime, you can change your account to ‘Amazon Mom’ for 20% off diapers. (Although hopefully dads are changing diapers too these days! ;) )
For people who have had friends or family already pass through the baby stage, hand-me-downs can be awesome. Local parents can check out GardenMoms (wish I knew about this list earlier!) for discussions and an awesome classifieds section — there are lots of great deals on here! The site also has so much great advice from local parents. To join, go on BigTent and search ‘garden moms.’ Craigslist and other similar sites can be a great way to find furniture and more at a steal. This is another great site to watch — not everything is my style and things sometimes need to be cleaned up a bit, but we got a great deal here on nightstands and a dresser for the nursery.
How many clothes you need for each stage will depend quite a bit on how often you want to do laundry! We (luckily!) have a washer and dryer in our apartment, so it was no big deal to run a small load really often. Everyone told me not to buy a lot in small sizes, and they were right! Babies grow so quickly, and until you know how big your babe is and how they will grow, it is hard to know how long they will be in each size. Serena could already wear 0-3 at birth, and grew so quickly that some of the gifts we were given in bigger sizes for warm weather didn’t end up fitting at the right time. Clothes that aren’t specific to a season would be easier to pick up in advance, and make the best gifts. A few favorites for the early days:
Kimono Ts. These basic little T-shirts are so easy – nothing to wrangle over a floppy newborn’s head! This is what babies usually wear at the hospital, and we found them to be perfect for the first few weeks at home, with a blanket tucked around her on our laps.
Pajamas: The Carter’s sleep n’ play pajamas were so simple and cozy for bring a newborn out of the house. In the larger sizes I found that they would shrink a bit too much, but for a little one they were perfect. We had two of the Hanna Andersson snap-up pima cotton pajamas and those were on constant rotation — these are so soft! For older babies, I absolutely love their two-piece long john pajamas. They are a bit pricey but do go on sale periodically and seem to fit for so much longer than other clothes, especially if you have a tall baby.
Outerwear. We’ve kept Serena and Milo warm in this Zutano hat and booties and a Hanna Andersson fleece zip-up one piece over their clothes (not on the website at the moment). These bonnets from Petite Soul have been another favorite, as well as this (splurge) bonnet and sweater from Misha and Puff (bought a bit big with plenty of room to grow).
P.S. Carter’s and Hanna Andersson often have great sales, so if you have time to plan you can wait for a good one!
When Serena was tiny, sleep was definitely not happening enough in this house — even now it’s not always easy. I wish I had found this blog from local sleep specialists earlier — so many good tips!
Many people like to have their little ones in their room for the first months. I used the Baby Bjorn cradle which I loved. The mesh sides were nice for Serena to snuggle up to, I could rock it gently, and it could be collapsed for storage once outgrown. (P.S. These sheets from Kushies are cheaper than the Baby Bjorn ones.)
For travel we love the Baby Bjorn travel crib — its not tiny, but it does pack up into a small suitcase type bag. Now that Serena is older, we have it in our living room as a playpen for corralling her while we put the stroller outside or take a quick shower, so we definitely get tons of use out of it.
There are so many choices for cribs! Natalie and I both went with this sweet style in white and have been happy with it. The Naturepedic mattress I chose has a firm side for newborns and a softer side for toddlers – so helpful to be able to flip it and continue using it as she grows. These crib sheets have held up well (get two!)
I ordered one of these waterproof liners thinking I would use it on the crib but it was too bulky. It was so helpful, however, to cover one side of the couch during those first few weeks as we were getting the hang of things.
Natalie loved the Rock ‘n Play for Milo! This is a crowd favorite. Natalie used it from 0-3 months in her living room for the baby to nap, and when nothing else would soothe him, this would always do the trick. Plus, it is compact and easy to move around the house. They even brought it on vacation with them! There are lots of versions. This is the one Natalie had, and she recommends looking for one that rocks on its own.
The Aden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets are so great. They can be used to swaddle a tiny baby, but also are perfect to throw in the stroller as an extra layer, or to create a little shade (the bamboo which are so soft, but they snag easily and aren’t grippy as the cotton muslin to use as a swaddle). Once our little ones were stronger, the Miracle Blanket was the absolute best swaddle, and those little baby burritos were the cutest! We both used the the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit to transition our swaddle addicts to sleep sacks. Some babies might not need that in-between step, but it made things easier for us!
White noise can also be a great sleep aid, help set the mood for sleep, and disguise any little noises that could startle a sleeping baby. At home I use a speaker playing the rain track on this CD, and Natalie likes the Marpac Dohm (a bit too loud for me, but many love it!). This little one is great for travel!
This super-reasonable plastic bath was one of the best purchases! The foam sling made it easier to bathe a newborn, and when removed it can be used for a long time — my 17 month old still loves it, and it lets us use much less water and not worry about her slipping on the porcelain of the tub.
Serena loves this trio of stacking ducks, and you can use them to rinse shampoo off little heads too. This set of muslin washcloths have been great, and chewing on a damp one when teething seemed to really help as well.
The Keekaroo peanut changing pad is one of the best inventions — it’s smooth surface can just be wiped off, so no need to buy or clean changing pad covers.
We’ve been ordering diaper and wipes through Amazon, since if you switch to “Amazon Mom” (same as Prime, just the annoyingly gendered name), diapers are 20% off with subscribe and save. The Earth’s Best diapers have been great, and they are chlorine- and fragrance-free. It’s crazy how many diapers are loaded up with fragrance! They tend to run a little smaller than other brands. We are also fans of WaterWipes — they use water and .1% grapefruit extract as a preservative, so are perfect for sensitive baby skin. This dispenser helps to keep the wipes wet, although the latch can break if your baby keep kicking it to the floor! ;)
I have liked this Jujube diaper bag — it can be a backpack (although not the most comfortable) or shoulder bag, and hangs well on the stroller. The changing pad and all the pockets have come in handy, since we often leave the house in the morning and don’t come back until evening. For quicker outings I sometimes use a little backpack like this, or tighten a tiny purse around my waist to bring just keys and a phone to the playground or the store hands-free.
Fun and toys
In the first few month, the Baby Bjorn Balance chair was a lifesaver, and Serena loved the wooden toy attachment. An activity gym was hands-down the best toy for the first little while. The mat creates a nice little spot to lay the baby down, and it is so important for them to be on the floor, stretch out, and explore all the ways they can move! The Skip Hop activity gyms come with lots of cute toys too, so we would bring a few in the car or attach one to the stroller.
Lamaze makes some great toys — we loved this firefly toy to attach to the stroller and bring on outings (they also make an adorable moose.) Their cloth books are great too, especially this one. This simple high-contrast book is eye-catching for even tiny babes, and Serena liked looking at her books once she was just a few months old. (Some favorite board books: Corduroy, Madeline, Peekaboo Morning, anything from Sandra Boynton.)
Teethers are also a nice thing to have. We liked the baby Sophie better than the larger version, since it is easier to wash without the worry of water getting inside to create mold. These round LifeFactory teethers were also a big hit, but often just a damp washcloth or finger to chew seemed to help the most!
Living in the city poses specific benefits and challenges for all periods of life, but we especially found this to be true when thinking about having a small children in our little Beacon Hill pad. So many of the lists that you see at baby stores include huge swings or exersaucers, but then consider a all-terrain stroller to be an optional expense. We had to be very careful not to buy too many things and clutter up our space, but because we have no car and log a huge number of miles on the sidewalks, a solid stroller was important. Both Natalie and I ended up choosing the Bugaboo Cameleon, and have been so happy with it! I absolutely had angst about spending so much on a stroller, but it was the only one narrow enough to fit through our tiny doorway but tough enough to manage getting up and down the hill everyday over those crazy bricks! It turns so well, and I love the ability to have the seat face me or outwards. It can be used as a kind of high chair at restaurants, which is incredibly useful. For us, it was an awesome purchase, but even without a car if I had lived somewhere with flat sidewalks I might have gone with something less expensive. (I’ve heard good things about the CityMini GT (on sale!)).The Bugaboo also doesn’t collapse very small, so might not be best for car owners. For travel my friend picked me up a Chicco Liteway umbrella stroller for $20 at a sample sale, and it has worked perfectly! It reclines fully so is suitable from birth, and for people who don’t use a stroller as much, this might be all you need! Natalie has had great luck using a Summer Infant 3-D Lite for travel, and it’s the stroller she around brings in the car. (Plus, it’s less than $65!)
A stroller organizer like this is useful, and if you live in a cold climate a bunting like this one will help keep your little one warm, and expands to fit a toddler. Definitely easier than buying a super warm winter snowsuit to fit a quickly growing baby!
When Serena was teeny-tiny (under about 6 months) I loved wearing her in the Solly Wrap — the material is so soft and cozy. As she got older and heavier, I prefer to use a Lillebaby carrier. For getting things done at home, taking walks in the neighborhood, or going somewhere with a lot of stairs, having a carrier that you like is so helpful. There is a definitely a learning curve, and I spent a little while on Youtube figuring these out, but they gave me so much freedom! The Make My Belly Fit panel was a perfect way to keep her cozy — I would put the carrier on over a tank top, then add a sweater or button-up shirt, and then a jacket with the zip-in panel. These walks are some of my favorite memories of those first few months.
Any way you decide to feed a newborn, it is a challenging job! I nursed Serena, and found the Boppy pillow helpful (lots of slipcovers available), while Natalie preferred the Breast Friend. Trying them out in a store could be a easier way to decide between the options. At the beginning, having plenty of burp cloths around was key! For out and about we both loved the Bebe au Lait nursing cover — it makes it so much easier. Serena was not a huge fan of the bottle, but we had the most luck with these glass ones. Next time, if I have another bottle-refusing baby, I will try an open cup earlier. Serena had an easy time learning how to sip from a cup with this slanted version, and now also loves these sippy cups.
When babies are tiny, it feels like you are at the pediatrician’s office so often! There really aren’t many supplies besides a thermometer that you need to have at home, except for something to help when they get stuffed up. Many people swear by the Fridababy Snotsucker, and while we have something similar we have only used it when she has a really terrible runny nose. (Apparently, you need to be careful not to use aspirators too much as it can inflame the nasal passageways.) However when Serena had the inevitable colds, I used this saline spray or these drops many times a day. I like that you don’t have to worry about over using it! Those and nice warm baths seemed to really help.
Newborn nails are so so tiny, and honestly kind of intimidating to trim! I started out with little clippers, but ended up liking these Japanese scissors I found on Amazon. (Natalie actually saw them at the drugstore in Japan!)
Once a little baby is born, it is so easy to forget about your own needs in the emotional ride of new motherhood, caring for a little one 24-7, and adjusting to having someone new in the family. Finding time to sleep is I think the absolute most important thing you can do. Of course, in the early weeks to few months, newborns wake up often to eat since their stomachs are so tiny, and that is to be expected. Switching off as much as possible and resting when you can is important! Serena was not a great sleeper, and I wish I had discovered this blog earlier! We ended up talking with one of the sleep consultants a few times, and she really helped get us on the right track.
Just as you are spending so much time nourishing a tiny babe, you need nourishment too! Having food that I could eat with one hand was so helpful in the first few weeks at home with Serena on my own. Thinking ahead to stock the pantry or the freezer with some favorites may be a good idea. (Oats help milk production, so oatmeal cookies were a fave treat!)
Finding others who are in the same position is such a great way to share tips and combat the isolation people can sometimes feel when spending all their time with a little baby. I loved the free support group at MGH (no need to be a patient there!), classes at Hill House, and once I was cleared for exercise, mommy and baby barre classes with Jennifer Phelan (similar classes in Charlestown). Natalie has also found a wonderful support group in South Boston as well as baby and parent yoga. If you meet others in your neighborhood, it is even easier to meet up for a coffee or an impromptu walk!
Once the whirlwind of the first few weeks dies down, it feels so nice to have a little time alone here and there. Even a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood was such a welcome chance to reset.
For those who have made it all the way to the bottom of this novel (whew!), you might be expecting a new baby yourself, thinking ahead to that time, or have a close friend who is. As challenging as we have found motherhood at times, it has also been such an amazing and magical time! Seeing these little ones grow and develop their own unique personalities is such a joy — we hope you have a hefty dose of joy along with your sleepless nights too! ;)
Laura and Natalie