The Short Version
Gift registries are a wonderful thing. Use them. The best way to fill these with items you will need is to consult lists that other parents-to-be have made and then pick and choose. Sources like Consumer Reports and the numerous baby books are helpful in getting a feel for what is available but they can add to the confusion rather than clarify. Start with the parents you know and work from their recommendations to these lists in order to streamline your process.
The Long Version
Let’s say your friends and family members are the sort of people who want to throw you a large baby shower. Your first instinct regarding the gifts may be to just let people get you what they want.
This is a mistake.
As strange as it may be for you to tell people what gifts to buy, especially since you are clueless about what you need, if you let people go their own way you are going to discover two things very quickly.
1) You and your partner do have very definite opinions concerning toys and games and furnishings even if you think you don’t.
2) People will spend quite a lot of money on things you do not want.
The second point is key because chances are you will not be able to exchange or return these gifts. This is because many of these gifts will come from people you do not know well (or at all) and come from unknown sources (no gift receipt in the bag). You will be stuck with a lot of items, and many will be large, ugly things.
The trick to registries is to set them up well before an event like the baby shower. Many people like to shop early. As in you just told everyone you are pregnant so they immediately go online and buy you something.
Registries are detailed entities. You need to provide all of the information that they ask for, especially things like maiden names and the names of the grandparents, so that people can, in fact, find these lists (they will still have trouble finding the list so save URLs and send out mass emails).
Now you need to fill the registry. If you are lucky your partner will know exactly what they want (and what you need) and just make the list. Otherwise you will be sitting beside them for hours on end pouring through sites, clicking on every damn link.
If you know anyone who has made a registry or wish list your best bet is to look at their list first. They are going to have things on their list, whether it’s bottles, a changing table or a particular brand of diapers that will help you make your choice. In addition they are going to have items you have not thought of and may never have heard of. This is a good thing, now you can click and explore with purpose and make your own decisions (do I want a baby wipe heater?)
Because what you don’t know yet is that whenever you go to buy anything for your child, whether it is the car seat, clothing or, yes, diapers, you are going to be swamped with choices.
This brings us to the next point: How do I make informed choices?
Your best bet is to talk to other parents that you know. Every website and book designed to help evaluate these products (and there are many) has their own set of criteria and while they are detailed they are not always helpful.
For example: my wife and I used the book Baby Bargains because the pediatric ward at our hospital said it was the only book we would need. While it was helpful with some items it only deepened our confusion when it came to topics like car seats.
The book offered a detailed explanation on how the government tests car seats, then it explained how other companies like Consumer Reports tests the seats and pointed out how the two tests differ. They then offer the results of their own tests (which have a different set of criteria from the other tests) and give the products a letter grade.
The book sorts car seats by their prices and then assigns a grade and review to each car seat in these sub-groups. The helpfulness of the grades and reviews is diminished because they still compare car seats against one another regardless of their price. So, yes, the $500 model is considered to be better than every model in the $150 bracket in terms of perks and ease of use. Is it safer? I don’t know because they do not address this point.
Also, their reviews do not always coincide with their grades. I read several reviews that seemed glowing only to see that the car seat was given a D grade. The opposite was also true, a review that seemed largely negative and a grade of an A. I have singled out this particular book because we used it the more than any other resource – but my wife and I did find discrepancies of this nature in every resource we used.
We could not find one resource that simplified ratings and reviews of products. Ultimately we went with a product that was similar to what other parents we knew had, our car seat and stroller offering improvements the other parents wished they had. I would suggest using people you know as the first resource because having a child really field tests these products and gives a person a sense of any shortcomings they may have.
Once you have these recommendations then take a look and make sure that people at Consumer Reports or Baby Bargains don’t give the product a failing grade. If it gets a grade you can live with add it to the list and move forward!
Certain items require this much work, you don’t want to take chances with the larger more expensive items that you cannot replace. Obviously with items such as the car seat you will be more interested in safety than if it has a cup holder. The real trick is to draw a line and not over think every purchase or item to add the the registry.