Creating your baby registry is one of the most exciting getting-ready-for-baby tasks a mama takes part in (other than, you know, growing a life). But even though sorting through adorably teeny this and itsy bitsy that can be loads of fun, that doesn't change the fact that there are SO many products from which to choose—not to mention slight variations in version for each. And how do parents know if you even need that *very specific* item to begin with, since each baby's likes are so different? It helps to have an expert guiding you through the what's-actually-worth-it process, whether it's veteran parents in your life who will likely offer up suggestions, or stores like buybuy BABY that handpick the must-have options and make registry building super easy for you.
From strollers to car seats and swings (because you'll definitely be needing a swing at some point), here are our top picks for first-time parents of the items you'll be glad you put on your baby registry, trust us.
UPPAbaby VISTA stroller
The best recommendation is the one from someone you trust and if you ask around, it won't take long for you to learn that UPPAbaby® is one of the most beloved stroller brands by new and seasoned moms alike. The VISTA is their crème de la crème, and it comes with all sorts of high quality features (think an ultra-sturdy frame and all-wheel suspension to help absorb all those bumps on the road) that will keep your babe comfortable no matter where your walk takes you. Plus, it comes in a bunch of great colors and transitions to a double as your family grows.
Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat
When it comes to keeping your little one safe, a car seat is probably the most important piece of gear you'll buy. While you'll hopefully never need to test it out, the KeyFit® seat keeps your little peanut extra secure with things like side impact protection—plus, thanks to handy bubble indicators, installing it correctly doesn't require a rocket scientist[JS9] . It's all about making your life easier while helping you breathe easier, too!
4moms mamaRoo classic infant seat
All hail the infant swing 🙌. Whether your cute new bundle is generally calm or has more of a defiant streak, chances are there'll be a time when you need some hands-free soothing. Enter the mamaRoo, a beyond useful swing that looks as cozy as it is. Strap the nugget in, choose one of five distinct motion patterns, and let yourself enjoy that moment of solitude on the couch (without leaving baby unsupervised, of course).
HALO Bassinest premier series swivel sleeper
Being a new mom is all about snuggles and, if we're being honest, surviving those sleepless nights. And since the American Association of Pediatrics' current recommendation is to have your baby sleep in your room for at least the first 6 months of life anyway, why not have your little one spend his or her early nights snoozing in a bedside bassinet to save some time in the middle of the night? The HALO Bassinest is designed to nuzzle right up next to your bed, too, so you won't even have to get out from under the comforter during those 3am feedings.
Graco Table2Table premier fold 7-in1 convertible high chair
Spoiler alert: Your little babe is going to grow up fast. While it may seem like they'll be in that just-learning-how-to-eat phase forever, they'll outgrow the full-fledged high chair in a blink. While you can definitely buy a variety of different seating apparatuses for them, you can also buy one that'll last with your growing baby. With seven different configurations ranging from an infant reclining high chair to a toddler table and little chair, this is the only one you'll ever need.
Fisher-Price 4-in-1 sling 'n seat bath tub
Bath time is arguably one of the cutest elements of parenthood. So rather than concentrating on holding your slippery little baby safely in the sink while also, you know, washing them, do yourself a favor and invest in an infant tub with an adjustable sling. It'll help make the bonding time fun of bath time more secure so you can focus on enjoying those beautiful sudsy moments.
Hatch Baby Rest sound machine night light + time-to-rise
Technology has brought us a lot of advantages, but one of the best? The ability to comfort your little one without ever leaving bed. The Hatch Baby Rest offers sound- and light-control from your smartphone so you can use the power of noise to help them back to sleep if they fuss in the middle of the night without requiring you to drag your tired self out of bed. Plus, when the toddler years come around, it doubles as a time-to-rise clock so that ball of energy knows when it's appropriate to barrel into your room.
Fridababy baby basics kit
Fridababy has made a name for itself with its cheeky (but incredibly practical) products like the congestion-fighting NoseFrida® and the less-than-pleasant Windi. With this basics bundle, you can get four of their most popular—for nose, behind, scalp and nails—in one convenient package. It's not glamorous, mamas, but it's parenting at its finest.
Graco 4Ever all-in-one convertible car seat
Whether or not you choose to purchase an infant car seat for the first months, you will eventually need a convertible car seat as your kiddo gets bigger, and the best options will grow with them. The Graco® 4Ever All-in-1 accommodates children up to 40 pounds facing backwards and up to 65 pounds facing forward. Plus, it can be used as a booster seat up through the age of 10. One less thing to buy until then, mama!
Skip*Hop explore + more 3-stage activity center
Insider parenting tip: Invest in a few great toys that serve as a great way to help your baby learn and explore and stay safe (read: unable to crawl away when you turn your head for a split second). An activity center serves both of those purposes—keeps them entertained and contained fabulously. Even better, the SKIP*HOP® Explore & More 3-Stage has an extra-long shelf life as it converts to an activity table when they outgrow the harness. Plus, there's a snack bowl attachment, and as every mama knows, snacks mean victory.
This article was sponsored by buybuy BABY. Thank you for supporting the brands that support mamas and Motherly.
If, like me and my husband, you have doubts about making the visit from Santa the central event of your holidays, let me tell you the story of why we decided this iconic character shouldn't visit our house.
Let me say, before we start, that I have nothing against Santa. I like him and his rosy cheeks. Nor am I some Grinch who hates Christmas. On the contrary, December 1st, like clockwork, our house is fully decorated and Bing Crosby is Dreaming of A White Christmas. Still, my husband and I have decided to go against the tide and not include a visit from Santa in our holiday traditions. The gifts under the tree are from family and friends.
Before I had kids, I couldn't understand why other parents around me would go to such lengths to make the story of Santa believable. The letter, the photo, the half-eaten cookie. It all felt like an exhausting lie.
"When you have your own kids, you will understand"—a standard phrase that became true so many times. But in the case of Santa, my view did not change after having kids.
When our son was born, we were convinced that we did not want to do the whole Santa thing. I could not see myself putting on what felt like a whole charade. But, looking around to all the Santa excitement, it seemed like we couldn't avoid it.
In his first two years, our son was too young to care about Santa. He was just ecstatic with the lights, the decorations, the gifts. Before his third Christmas, we decided to get ahead of the Santa wagon. Instead of waiting for him to ask, we explained that the story of the true Santa, Saint Nicolas, is the moving story of a kind man, a long long time ago, who would go around and offer poor children gifts.
In honor of that man, for Christmas, we all become Santa and offer each other gifts. In the question of whether Santa exists or not, the answer is that he did exist, but now he exists only in stories. He does not ride a sleigh around the world every Christmas Eve to bring gifts, though. Simple as that. Our daughter, now three, is going to hear the same story this year.
The most common remark we get in response to our decision is that we deprive our kids of the magic of Christmas. My reaction is, have you watched kids? It takes a lot to destroy magic for them, as they go on discovering the world balancing between imagination and reality. Mice can talk, bicycles can fly, and, yes, a man in red can go around the world on a sleigh over one night. Kids do not need us for this imaginary world.
On the contrary, I think that many of the newest traditions related to Santa are thought out by and addressed to adults. It feels like we have taken a lovely tradition, stripped all its magic and brought it down to our own mundane adult world, trying to make it more "realistic." In the process, we have added one more source of stress in our already overflowing life.
Of course, there are parents who enjoy every moment of it. Which is great. But most parents I know seem to be stressed over Santa, the letter, the cookie and everything that comes with. And that is what I mostly fail to understand.
Why set up yourself for that? It is ridiculous to claim parents are lying to their kids when they tell them about Santa. It is just a fun story, a game we play. It is the extreme effort in making it believable, of leaving no ambiguity, that makes it look like a lie after all.
And our own kids? How do they like the holidays without Santa? They both look forward to decorating the tree, choosing the gifts and spending time together as a family. And I am proud to see that they enjoy this process a lot.
I have a love-hate relationship with New Year's resolutions. I love the opportunity to reflect on the previous year and assess what's been working well—and what hasn't. But I dislike the pressure of a resolution and feeling like if we don't stick to them, somehow we've failed. Plus, mamas don't need any more pressure than we already have!
Still, every year I make them and I think if we go into it with the right mindset (goodbye, pressure to do it all) then we can start out the year on the right foot. If you're like me, sometimes a treat to incentivize my resolutions is just what I need to really get excited by it, and stick to it.
So, we've curated a list of our favorite gear to help you make those resolutions... and then decide whether or not you actually want to stick to them 😉.
"I will get to the gym more."
The Vooray Burner Gym Bag is durable and oh-so-pretty, making it the perfect gym buddy. It has lots of pockets, including a ventilated shoe pocket and a mesh water bottle pouch. Plus, the bottom is made of a waterproof base to keep your gear dry even if you share a locker room with the swim team. Happy exercising!
"I will get more sleep."
The BlanQuil Weight Blanket is a total favorite of our Managing Editor, Kaitlyn Russell. "I wasn't a believer in the weighted blanket trend until I added this to my bed. I struggle to fall asleep but this has played a huge role in helping me fall asleep faster (and stay asleep). The 15-pound one is the perfect weight for me—it's as if I'm being swaddled perfectly."
"I will eat a more plant-based diet."
If you're feeling the need to up your veggies and minimize your meat and dairy, The Forks Over Knives Cookbook will get you there (in a delicious way). Bon appetit! 🥒
"I will prioritize self-care."
The Balance Bound planner is the newest planner to hit the scene, and it's bound to change the way we structure our days. With designated areas to plan for all areas of your life—work, self, others, and home—it ensures that you're dividing your attention equally... and not burning out in the process.
Psst: Use code MOTHERLY through December 31st for 15% off!
"I will run a 5k."
Psst: Our runners also recommend getting fitted for sneakers at a local running shop. They'll asses your feet and gait, and help you find the perfect sneakers for you.
"I will protect my skin from the sun."
We all know we need to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun (even in the winter). But finding a facial sunscreen we love can be hard... or at least, it was hard. Enter Maelove's Sun Protector. It gets wildly good reviews, and does double duty as a makeup primer.
"I will take my vitamins."
Motherly's Managing Editor, Kaitlyn Russell, loves her Care/of vitamins. "Choosing supplements is hard, and I had stopped taking vitamins because all of the bottles piled up on my dresser and got overwhelming. This takes the guesswork out and I actually felt more energized and healthier knowing I was getting what I needed. Bonus: they come in one (yes, one!) packet that has your name and a daily quote or fact on it, making it a fun part of your morning routine." Prices start at $5.
Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting new vitamins or supplements.
"I will have more sex."
Listen, when you're a parent, certain activities tends to, um, get away from you. If you've decided that 2020 is your year to reclaim your sex life (in whatever way feels comfortable and exciting for you), choose a natural and non-irritating lubrication like Penchant.
"I will spend more time outside."
The power of spending time outside cannot be overstated—yet in our hectic grown-up lives, it is so easy forget (especially when it's cold out). The Arc'teryx Covert Fleece Hoodie is a perfect grab-and-go-outside layer to keep by your front door. Get out there, mama.
"I will start meditating."
Our co-founder, Liz Tenety, adores Simple Habit. "I love Simple Habit's meditation-for-real-life approach. With hundreds of five to ten minute meditations, and many more multi-day lessons, I've pressed play on meditations focused on relieving work stress, connecting with my husband, and starting my day with more intentionality. The app also adjusts its offerings depending on time of day, making it easy for you to start your day right—or unwind after a long week—or even embrace a quiet morning. Nothing has helped boost my resilience in motherhood more than this simple meditation habit. I wish it for each and every mother I know."
"I will go for walks after dinner."
Post-dinner walks can be great for digestion, mental health and getting your body ready for sleep. But post day-light savings, the darkness can make it a bit dangerous. We are mildly obsessed with this sci-fi looking REFLECT360 Running Jacket that will keep you warm and safe, while you decompress outside.
"I will switch to tea."
Okay, okay, so the coffee situation has gotten a little out of hand. We. Hear. You. If switching to tea is your goal, Vahdam Teas are an amazing way to do it. They have a huge variety to choose from, are delicious, and honestly just really pretty. Sip you later, coffee.
"I will save more money."
Parenting seems to be synonymous with money flying out the window. Creating a budget can be an extremely powerful tool to regain control over your finances. You Need a Budget (or YNAB) is a fan favorite, for good reason. It makes budgeting and saving easy—and dare I say it—fun!
"I will drink more water."
According to one study, 75% of adults don't drink enough water. Yikes! Let's change that by making sure we get eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Or, make it easy and invest in an awesome water bottle, like this one from Welly (that also has a tea infuser). Fill it up four times per day and you'll be well-hydrated!
"I will get organized."
"I will get up to date with my health screenings."
Honesty time (without an ounce of judgment, promise). When was the last time you got a pap smear? How about a breast exam? And the dentist? Taking care of ourselves so often falls to the bottom of our list, but mama, do you have any idea how important you are? Commit to taking care of yourself. Find a perpetual calendar (or use your phone) and keep track of the dates when you will get your routine screening, tests, vaccines and more. (And then, remember to actually go.)
Psst: Start this resolution off with a trip to your general practitioner. Recommendations vary per person, and they can help you determine when you need to be seen.
"I will develop a skincare routine."
No, I have never washed my face with my husband's body wash because I was too tired to see straight, let alone take care of my skin. Er, well, maybe... once... but enough! The Ordinary has a TON of cult favorites to help you get your skin routine right. And the prices are ah-mazing.
Our MotherlyStories Editor, Conz Preti, is a huge fan. She said, "I started using their stuff after my chin rebelled on me and I had major break outs all over. There was no way of controlling them. Another mom friend recommended the brand and I dove right in, buying their break out specific products. After a week of using them—A WEEK!—my chin was back to normal and has been since. I've stopped using The Ordinary since I've gotten pregnant (unsure if it's pregnancy safe so don't want to risk it) but cannot wait to resume once babies are here. I'd love to explore more of their other stuff! Also, the prices are unbeatable. That's why I decided to try their stuff, if they didn't work, I wouldn't be left with an empty bank account."
"I will be more present with my kids."
These guided mindfulness activity cards are perfect for encouraging our kids (and, ahem, us) to become fully present in the moment.
"I will use more natural products."
There has been a lot of excitement about the use of manuka honey when it comes to natural ways to fight bacterias and viruses—and it is based on evidence! If you're interested in incorporating some more nature-based health remedies, we love the First Honey line of first aide products. I've tried them on a few of my kids' boo-boos (and my own), and i've been really impressed with them!
"I will make ordinary moments magical."
So often we rush from one task to the next, without stopping to consider the beauty all around us. Take time to find magic in the mundane. Whether it's by treating yourself to some luxurious aromatherapy body wash, to simply watching the clouds overhead, see if you can find a few moments every day to be mindful of all that is good.
We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.
The holiday season always makes me a bit sentimental. I especially think of my mother-in-law, who left us way too early and way too fast, because she loved the holidays. She passed away when I was only three months pregnant with our first child two years ago and I always had this gut feeling that she was at peace because she knew her two boys were taken care of and on their way to creating their own families. But that doesn't mean I don't selfishly wish she were here to see the amazing dad her son has become.
I knew from the beginning my husband was good with kids. Way before we even planned a life together and while casually dating in New York City, I knew. He cares a lot, he listens a lot and he remembers everything. Those three things make him the most thoughtful and loving person I've ever met. Add to the mix that he has an insane imagination and a great sense of humor and he is legit the center of attention whenever there are children around. The first time I saw him hold our friend's newborn, my ovaries twinkled and I knew he would be the father of my children.
I found out I was pregnant with our son because of my mother-in-law. We were on our honeymoon and I dreamt that she was in the hospital and I told her, "I have a little secret to share, you're going to be a grandma again!" I woke up sobbing and didn't have the guts to tell my husband about my dream because I was mortified about having dreamt about her in a hospital, but also so sad because I thought I would never be able to say those words out loud to her.
We flew back home and as soon as we landed my husband got the call that she was in the hospital. My heart skipped a beat. Off he went to see her and the second he stepped outside of the house, I peed on a stick—it was positive.
Shortly after finding out I went to visit her in hospice and at barely 6 weeks pregnant I shared the good news. At some point she told all the nurses there and whenever I came to visit they would let me nap on the bed next to her. She spent the rest of her days coming up with name suggestions for us.
My husband always said that me being pregnant during the hardest time of his life made him see the light at the end of the tunnel. He was losing the woman who gave him life while I was growing the life we created together.
After her passing and my delivery, we found ourselves talking about how we never knew how hard it is to really be a parent. We made sure to tell our three other parents how grateful we are that they changed diapers, cleaned bottles and stayed up at night while we were tiny. I so wish I could tell her that, but I can't.
We talk about my mother-in-law to my son all the time, just like we do about his other grandparents. We share what she used to like—cooking apple pie, being in nature, playing with her dog. But we also slowly introduce the concept of her not being physically with us. Every time my son sees the photo we have framed of her after hiking Mount Katahdin in her 70s—something I can't even imagine doing now in my mid-30s—he squeals her name in excitement letting us know he recognizes her, despite never having met her.
And my heart breaks because I wish she could be here to teach him about nature and go bird watching together in Maine, something they are both weirdly into despite the generational gap they have.
Today, while our now 2-year-old napped and I loafed with my very pregnant belly, my husband decided it would be a great idea to make a house out of a cardboard box for our son to play with. Hours later we, as a family, were having the times of our lives playing with the house and I couldn't help but sob quietly as my two dudes passed a basketball through the window, wishing that she could see this with her own eyes.
I truly would not be able to do this whole being a parent thing without my husband.
When I stress, he calms me down.
When I'm out of ideas for entertainment, he invents a new game for all of us to play.
When I can't change a diaper because my current pregnancy has me constantly gagging, he makes a new rule that he will change all poopy diapers until the new babies come.
He's the love of my life, he's my son's hero, and I know a big part of that is because of who raised him.
I see my mother-in-law in my husband. I see her in my son. And I hope to see her in our two little girls.
I just wish I could see her seeing them because I know she'd be so proud.
Let it be noted that my love language is not gift-giving. If you are the gift-giver extraordinaire and/or like nothing more than to receive the perfect something, then this tradition might not be for you. But it saved our Christmas and our bank account and for us, it's the gift that really keeps on giving.
For years we operated under the standard gift-giving and gift-receiving protocol. I paid much less attention to this before I was married of course, giving little to no thought on presents, because when you are young, say before 25, you are the present. Your mere presence is a treat enough, or so you think. My gifts in those years looked suspiciously like things you would buy in airport gift shops—hoodies and paperback bestsellers and fudge of every flavor.
But marriage changed the rules on holidays. Suddenly, I was one-half of a couple and had received china and a roasting pan and hand-blown glass vases for my wedding. Per decorum, I should know what good gift-giving looks like.
And of course there were two Christmases now, one with my family and one with the in-laws, and I wanted to get it right. So, over the years, I developed this debilitating pattern: In the moleskin journal I keep in my purse for grocery lists, I had a second list of the names of immediate family. This was a running list that lasted all year.
If say, my mom mentioned that Pandora opened up a store in the nearest mall and then jangled her charm bracelet at me, I surreptitiously noted it in the book. If my brother's kids switched schools, I wrote down the new colors of allegiance and kept an eye out for this color scheme in all athletic and academic apparel.
I got good at gifts, great even, over the years. But … it was breaking the bank and sucking the life out of the holidays. Come November a fog of anxiety drifted into our house and didn't leave until New Year's.
This is not a way to live. And I must not have been the only one sinking under the pressure, because not too long ago my sister-in-law looked at me over a bowl of pad thai during my birthday dinner in the first week of December and said, "why don't we just do Secret Santa for the adults?"
I could have kissed her.
You do it for work parties all the time, so why not family? It would turn gifts into a kind of game and who doesn't like games? It was genius.
We set the ground rules:
- Everyone draws a name out of a hat.
- If you get your spouse, you draw again.
- There's a maximum spending limit so not one outdoes anyone else.
- No one leaks the name of who they got. (This last one never stands. I have managed to figure out every single person every single year.)
Christmas day has turned magical again.
It begins with a brunch that lasts all day until someone in early evening looks at the hardening cinnamon rolls and pigs-in-a-blanket and decides we need to order pizza. And we drink mimosas and toast each other and one-by-one step forward bearing the single gift we have brought. It's a single moment that doesn't get swallowed in the chaos of the day.
While the kids tear through reams of paper until all the adults are yelling "slow down!" so we don't actually lose the gifts under the debris, we have our one gift to hold on to and enjoy.
It has saved our Christmas so we can pay attention to the things that matter: the happy kids hopped up on sugar cookies and monkey bread, the family all together in one place for a day, Elvis singing his "Blue Christmas" in the background. We have ever so slowly taken back the day and focused it on the people, not the things.
If you or your family are on the fence about giving up the gift extravaganza, take in through the four psychological checkpoints (mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health) and see if the Secret Santa trade-off doesn't make you feel better.