Guest Blog: What Do You REALLY Need to Register For?

Hi Readers! Here’s a boiled down excerpt from a book I loved, Ada Calhoun’s “Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids.” Ada was the founding editor at and the more she read about parental doubts — is  this the right way to raise kids or is that? — the more she realized: All that really matters is food, shelter and love. Not the “right” equipment, or the “right” phrases, or the “right” sleeping solution, or “stimulation,” or all the rest. She’s so sensible — and funny, too! Here’s her blog and here’s her take on:

The Truth About Registering by Ada Calhoun

We were at Coney Island last summer with our ratty lightweight stroller, and I noticed that no one on the boardwalk or on the beach had one of those high-end vehicles with the great shocks, tailor-made for bumpy boardwalk rides and off-roading.

In fact, I realized that the only time I ever saw those thousand-dollar strollers was when they were being pushed around uptown by nannies. Smooth sidewalks. No need for any advanced swivel features.

So who are those super expensive things for? The list of registry “must-haves” gets longer by the year, and the status symbols get more ludicrous. Those thousand-dollar strollers are common, as are $40 3-month t-shrits.

Pick up a parenting magazine or check a parenting blog and you are hit with a particular set of cultural pressures about where you’re supposed to live, how you’resupposed to behave, what you’re supposed to own. But who has set these standards? The most liberating thing in the world can be the realization that there are almost no “necessities.”

There’s nothing wrong with some cute baby bunting, a nightlight, or an industrial breast pump. But I always wonder how people can talk themselves into spending thousands of dollars on nursery gear that will only be needed for two years max. It’s sure not for the kid. He’d be just as happy in a drawer. Here’s all one actually needs as a new parent:

1. Somewhere for baby to sleep (crib – Ikea has nice ones for under $100, Pack ‘n Play, bassinet, your bed, a cardboard box with a pillow in it).

2. Something for baby to eat (breast milk or formula and a few months later some cereal and mashed-up fruit and vegetables).

3. Something for baby to wear (onesies for the summer, add some layers when it’s cold; almost always available as hand-me-downs from a friend or neighbor, by bulk from eBay or from Old Navy, Target or Children’s Place).

4. Some way to transport baby (sling, Baby Bjorn, stroller or car seat — or, you know, your arms).

5. Diapers and wipes (unless you go the wacky “elimination communication” route, it’s hard to get around this one. You can go for cloth if you’d rather – although recent studies show the environmental impact is the same because of the washing, so you can’t go wrong  — or right — ecologically).

A few months in you may want to add some toys (empty two-liter bottles, paper towel rolls and pots and pans all work well), some books (Goodnight Moon plus a few others) and bigger clothes (see above for sources).

So you can get away with spending next to nothing.

The only major change in your needs is some babysitting help so you can get out of the house when you need to, whether that’s to work or for your own sanity. But again, even if you don’t have family or friends who can help out, you can eventually work out some kind of trade-off with a fellow parent or share a babysitter.

This doesn’t mean you might not want a fancy stroller or a sleek crib or full-time nanny — just that you don’t need any of these things. — A.C.