Baby registry dos and don'ts

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Photo credit: Nathan Haniger for BabyCenter

Putting together your baby registry can set off mental fireworks as you think about adorable baby clothes and nursery decorations. But it's also often nerve-wracking to mull over things like which of the dizzying variety of baby bottles would be best to put on the list. Your pregnancy comes with enough worry and stress; this should be one of the fun parts. 

That said, creating a baby registry does involve making a lot of decisions. Do you want a crib or a bassinet, or both? What type of stroller do you want, and what brand and model will suit your exact needs? Is it okay to register for the most expensive items because your wish list includes top quality, or does that look crass? Can you balance between the twin poles of "prepared for any eventuality" and getting so much stuff that your house is a cluttered mess?

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So, what's a savvy mom-to-be to do? Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, we've got loads of tips on how to get the most out of your baby registry, from setting it up to clearing it out.

Why should I register?

Creating a baby registry allows you to curate the items that will adorn your new baby's room, your home, and your baby – possibly even yourself. It also forces you to prepare for your baby's arrival and beyond, allowing you to see the big picture of what life with a new little human might be like. Also, being clear about what you want makes it simple for your friends and family to buy you baby stuff you'll enjoy using every day.


  • Do take advantage of the registry consultants offered at some stores. These knowledgeable folks can guide you toward essential items if you're unsure.
  • Do look out for baby-registry checklists. These can be helpful for keeping you reminded of what's essential; most online registries have them as an integrated feature.
  • Do take advantage of the "welcome box" offered by most retailers when you sign up. In it you'll find coupons and samples. Some of these goodie bags must be picked up in person; others can be mailed to you.


  • Don't count on hand-me-downs for certain safekeeping items such as car seats and cribs. The safety guidelines for these items change periodically, and you want to make sure your gear is up to current standards. Use your registry to ask for these big-ticket items for which safety is essential.
  • Don't avoid a registry because you're having a second (or third or fourth) child, you aren't having a baby shower, or you don't want gifts. You will need some things (updated, safer gear and diapers and wipes come to mind), and those can all go on a registry. Why? Because the cost of supplies for the early days of welcoming a new baby is substantial; and you can also look forward to the price break of a completion discount.
  • Don't underestimate the irresistible urge your friends and family (and even acquaintances!) may have to buy your baby a special gift. Having a registry can let everyone participate in welcoming your little one.

When should I register?

While about 20 percent of moms create their first registry when they find out their baby's gender, there's no hard rule about when to register; it is entirely a personal preference. However, keep in mind that there's no harm in getting one started early, and you could run into trouble if you wait too long.

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  • Do start a list sooner rather than later. That way, you can compile your wish list at your leisure.
  • Do consider any important dates – such as the baby shower, if you're having one – and plan to have the registry completed beforehand.


  • Don't wait until close to your due date to register, if you can help it.
  • Don't worry if your baby comes early and you didn't get around to finishing the registry. Your partner can add any remaining items, and your loved ones can get to shopping without delay.

Where should I register?

All of the online giants – and even many smaller retailers – offer baby registries. The key is to decide which will work best for you and be easiest for gift givers. Also note, it used to be that individual stores offering registries would restrict your choices to the products they sold, but now there are universal registries that allow you to list pretty much anything from anywhere.

Advertisement | page continues below is the original universal registry; it's not a retailer, so all it does is host your registry. Amazon,Opens a new window TargetOpens a new window, and Babylist also allow "add from anywhere" functionality. Meanwhile, other popular registries like Pottery Barn Kids Opens a new windowdoes not.


  • Do keep in mind that some people prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, so consider a registry that offers online and in-store purchase options.
  • Do consider a retailer's completion discount (see "What happens to registry items that no one buys?" below), which could save you a lot of money down the road.
  • Do consider the retailer's return policy. Will return shipping have a fee? Is there an option to return at the store for free?
  • Do inquire if a registry offers a group-gifting option. This feature allows two or more buyers to pitch in on a gift, which is helpful for big-ticket items, like a travel system or crib.


  • Don't want new gifts? That's understandable for the recycling-minded. There are registries such as Encore Baby RegistryOpens a new window that help parents register for gently used (and new) items. These work like a regular registry, except your loved ones buy the gift wherever they want, from yard sale to secondhand store to new at the mall. You can also add cash and favors (such as babysitting) to your registry.
  • Don't want gifts at all? That's fine. You still need to eat, though. With a Meal TrainOpens a new window registry, you create a food-delivery schedule, your loved ones sign up for a time slot, and voilà, dinner is served. You can specify food allergies and preferences, and also request digital gift cards from food-delivery services and restaurants, or ask for cash!
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Should I have more than one registry?

Most moms (as in, nearly 60 percent) do make more than one registry. Having multiple registries is nice if you have specific retailers or brands you're faithful to, or if you're going for a consistent look. For example, perhaps you like the idea of a coordinated Crate&Kids nursery, but you'd rather get your everyday essentials from Walmart.


  • Do select at least one universal registry if you're going with two or more retailers.
  • Do consider a registry where you can add household items like laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.
  • Do think about starting a registry for your own use. More than half of moms interviewed by BabyCenter for a survey on registries say the gifts they got were not on their registry and 25 percent wound up creating a separate registry to manage getting what they needed and weren't getting from others (and still earning a completion bonus).


  • Don't list the same item across multiple sites. Otherwise you may end up with duplicates.
  • Don't register at too many sites if you're prone to getting overwhelmed – even one is a lot to manage!
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What should be on my registry?

This is the million-dollar question – or at least a biggie. Luckily, we've got resources for you to make the selection process headache-free. Keep in mind, though, that the more you include, the better (remember, you'll likely have a completion discount to apply to what's left; see below), so think ahead into the toddler years and what you might need, if you have room to store items until then.


  • Do check our baby-registry checklists of essential products. These lists cover just about every category you can think of, and will help you weed out the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.
  • Do include items from a range of prices. A $5 sippy cup can be just as prized as a $200 baby food processer when it comes to feeding your baby.
  • Do factor in your lifestyle. Will you be outside in the sun a lot? If so, consider gear to trick out your stroller for shade and lots of extra water. Do you anticipate spending a good deal of time in the car? If yes, add gadgets to keep your car clean and your little one entertained when you're out and about.
  • Do keep mama in mind. Register for things you'll need in those early days, such as a nursing bra or tank, if you plan to breastfeed.
  • Do think about throwing on items that will help you feed or cloth your older baby or even – gasp! – the toddler or preschooler version of your baby. That way when they suddenly grow up and it's unexpectedly cold outside, you have that nice, up-size fleece ready to go.
  • Do keep the family in mind. Don't be shy about adding food-delivery or cleaning-service gift cards to your registry. You may discover that this is your favorite gift of all.
  • Do consider a line item for a babymoon on your universal registry. You'll be glad for the alone time and freedom with your partner – time you might not have for a while!


  • Don't let yourself get sucked into the Internet rabbit hole of endless baby products. Instead, trust what other parents have found to be their top choices for things like car seats and wipes in our best-of lists.
  • Don't register for gear you don't have room for. A play yard, swing, changing table, crib, highchair, or glider all take up space. Some of them a lot of space. So, while thinking ahead to toddler beds and potties is smart, don't do it at the expense of the comfort factor in your living areas.
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How do I tell people about my registry?

Technology makes spreading the word about where you're registered easy. Online registries will give you a link you can share with others. And both in-store and online registries will allow your loved ones to find you by name.


  • Do include the registry link on your baby-shower invitations, at gender-reveal events, or wherever you are most active on social media.
  • Do make a decision about whether you want your registry public or private. Public means that anyone will be able to find your registry, which is nice if you have a wide network of folks (faraway loved ones, old college friends, your mom's neighbor's cousin) chomping at the bit to buy a gift. Private means that only those who have your link will be able to access your registry.


  • Don't get discouraged if the baby comes and you didn't get everything you needed. Some folks wait until after the baby arrives to buy gifts. You can always discreetly include the link on a baby announcement.
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What happens to registry items that no one buys?

Most retailers offer a completion discount to parents – that is, a 10 to 15 percent discount on eligible items left unbought on a registry. Completion discounts only apply during certain time periods, so make sure you know when yours expires.


  • Do read the fine print so you're clear on the terms of the discount. Some items may not be eligible, and typically only the registrant can take advantage of the discount.
  • Do be sure everything you think you might need – now and in the near future – is on your list before you make the final purchase.


  • Don't miss the window for buying items at a discount. Make sure you mark dates on your calendar.
  • Don't assume that everything will qualify for a discount. In particular, items on a universal registry are not likely to be eligible.
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Ready to get started?

Here's a quick list of all the ones we mentioned and links to get them working for you.

target baby registry

Receive a free welcome gift worth more than $80 in coupons and samples. You'll also get a 15 percent discount on everything left in your registry.

amazon baby registry

Add items from any site using Amazon's Universal Registry. Prime members get a 15 percent completion discount on eligible items.

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babylist baby registry

Add anything you want to this universal registry.

encore baby registry

Register for a huge range of items, secondhand, repurposed, or new, from wherever your gift giver chooses.

mealtrain baby registry

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Register for food instead of (or in addition to) gifts.

Follow your baby's amazing development

BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

The Big Baby Registry Rethink, BabyCenter & What to Expect Parenting Trend Talks™, April 2020. BabyCenter

Marisa Solís

Marisa Solís is a book editor with more than 20 years in the publishing industry.