Don't want to register for my I making a mistake?
June 1, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I don't want to register for the upcoming birth of my child. Nothing against people who do it, but (1) I am a minimalist; (2) I enjoyed the wedding gifts I got that didn't come from my registry (heartfelt, unique, awesome); and (3) what I do need is on the more expensive side (so I can either load up the registry with crap I don't want or come off looking greedy). Am I making a big mistake?

Look, I get it. I would love for others to buy everything for this kid, but in reality I know people love giving cutesy items at a shower or for the baby's birth and most people I know will be looking at the $30-50 price point (not the $75-200 price point of the few items that I feel I really need). Those who want to spend more, like close family, I would hope would ask me what I need, and then if they insist I could name a specific, pricier item (though I still don't like the idea of Granny buying me a breast pump, for instance).

But I reaaallllllly don't want to register for this baby. I just don't like the idea of it, for all of the reasons mentioned above. And perhaps most of all, I just can't get over the notion that this is a baby, and what do babies need? Not much. And what they do need, I feel I should be responsible for buying. The fact that I'm having a shower is already a gift grab, and so I like that without a registry, people have the freedom to bring what they want. (Although, of course, I understand that a registry is convenient for gift-givers.)

If I could get over the way I feel about this, and if I could look at the practical picture, I would still get hung up by the logistics. I think it would look really weird and bad to have only about 8 items on my registry that are all between $75 and $200 (most closer to $200). And I just don't think that's in people's price points, not to mention the fact that what I feel I need are the kinds of things that people probably wouldn't feel right buying me, either, because they're things like car seats and breast pumps and video monitors. In other words, I don't expect that registering will somehow get me the things that I need anyway. (Some of you might say here "go ahead and register even if they won't buy it!" But I don't like the concept of baby registries so much that I don't think the utility of registering for those few items will outweigh how I feel about it.)

So in my mind I'm okay with this, I think, but I am getting crap from shower guests who don't have a "guide" and I need reassurance that this is okay or voices of reason telling me to go ahead and register (even with my short, expensive registry wish-list).
posted by juliagulia to Human Relations (59 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I held a baby shower for my friend and asked that people buy books if they wanted to bring a gift. Kids books are not cheap and a nice little library of books is a great start in life.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:11 PM on June 1, 2013 [42 favorites]

If you register at a place that you can physically get to nearby, like say if there's a Babies R Us not far from you, and people buy off your registry, I think you can return the gifts for store credit to get the things you do need. I exchanged a LOT of stuff at Babies R Us.

You can also register for the expensive things you want and people can go in together on purchases.

Also: if this is your first child you kind of don't know what you need until you've had the kid for a bit. First time moms are subject to a lot of weird marketing that doesn't wind up being real relevant. You may think you need that top of the line Bjorn, but your kid might hate it, your back might hurt, etc. A lot of "standard" stuff is useless, like bassinets, for example. (I mean you can find a use for it, but they'll grow out of it in a month, so $200 better saved for a crib. That sort of thing.)

Store credit is useful, so registering at a place that facilitates registry gift exchanges is, in my mind, the way to go.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:12 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You could ask for stuff like books, diapers, or donations to charity.
posted by bleep at 4:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing is, people are going to give you stuff regardless. The good thing about a registry is that you give people ideas of your taste and your needs, so they're not running out half-cocked getting you weird stuff you don't want and will never use. I had some friends who didn't register for their wedding and someone gave them a four foot tall hand-crafted wooden leprechaun. Not registering will also increase the risk that you'll end up with duplicates of certain things that you'll later have to deal with returning.

So, yeah. For the aunts and uncles and grandmas and coworkers of the world who want to buy you things, go ahead and register. It doesn't mean you're telling the world, "Buy me these items." It's saying, "if you want to buy me something and don't know me well enough to anticipate what I'd like, here are some ideas."
posted by something something at 4:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [15 favorites]

If you are having a baby shower, it is a nice thing to have a registry. Almost everyone hates attending baby showers, they're already, as you say, rude and gift grabby, don't make it harder on people by not having a registry.
posted by brainmouse at 4:13 PM on June 1, 2013 [11 favorites]

Speaking from experience: if you don't register, you will get a million adorable outfits that will be righteously unsuitable to put the baby in unless you are planning on taking them to a lot of very formal events. Register for the shit you actually want, regardless of cost, and then throw some onesies and burp clothes and diapers on there.
posted by KathrynT at 4:15 PM on June 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah. Certainly you will need diaper cream and bath stuff and diapers and etc. If you put in a spectrum of prices you won't look greedy, and if a group wants to go in together and buy a big item then they know what you like. It's all good.

Plus if this is your first, you want to register for things like undershirts and receiving blankets. I had no earthly idea just how awesome and useful a bunch of receiving blankets would be. Take someone with you who has been through childbirth and they can help you come up with ideas for inexpensive items you will be glad were listed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:18 PM on June 1, 2013

As far as the $75-100 items that you say you really need: group gifts are a thing. Having going through this myself as a parent, I'll always pitch into a group gift buy for Some Useful But Expensive Equipment like a car seat or a stroller over yet another set of shirts with monkeys printed on them.
posted by jamaro at 4:22 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, you should register. I'm a minimalist too, but you need blankets and a rectal thermometer and diapers and changing pads and those velcro swaddling things that are amazing for helping a newborn sleep.

I thought I could make do with a tit and a towel, but really, there are all these little things you end up buying anyway.
posted by Specklet at 4:28 PM on June 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

As a frequent baby shower guest (three so far this year and one to come), I really appreciate a registry so I know what the parent's taste is, and I especially like a chance to contribute to a group gift to get them a big ticket item that they really need. But from what I've observed at these showers, there are some guests that are going to get you whatever they think is cute, or helpful, or they will make something for you. So even if you register, you can count on getting unique stuff too.
posted by donajo at 4:29 PM on June 1, 2013

You are right. Registering for showers, or for Tuesday, may be commonplace but that doesn't make it polite,

Not having a registry is not rude. Having a registry for a shower is rude. Lucky for you, etiquette matches your personal tastes and preferences here, and you don't have to bend yourself out of shape to conform to what you anticipate others will demand of you.
posted by tel3path at 4:29 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

I literally do not even believe in gift registries. You're fine.
posted by padraigin at 4:34 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Find a way to make it easy for people who want to do something nice for you.
Perhaps you could give them a theme of some kind? Books, nursery colors, Mouse Mouse items, whatever. Do you have a favorite baby-item seller on Etsy? Or, if people ask, let them know what you really need,-the turbo x 3900 stroller, or whatever, and perhaps they'd like to band together to give it to you.

I agree that things that are not on the registry are often the most fun.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:41 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Agreed with KathrynT. Mother of a 4 month old here. I hate registries and I did not register for my baby. I made a google drive document with a list of things I needed so that no one was required to buy from any specific store, they could just mark it off the document if they had gotten something. I specifically asked for used/secondhand things. I put things on the list that did not cost money, like a night of babysitting or frozen dinners to eat postpartum.

And actually I would have to disagree that you don't need much stuff for a baby. You don't necessarily need what the marketers tell you you need, but you do need quite a bit of stuff. And there's a boatload of stuff that isn't a "need" per SE, but it sure is nice to have.

What about a baby bathtub? Sure does help so you're not freaking out about dropping a soapy, slippery newborn. Diapers? Burp cloths and bibs have been hugely necessary. A Rock N Play has been a godsend. A used Baby Bjorn is our trusty baby transporter every day. She got plenty of wear out of all the cute outfits she was given. She enjoys the stroller toys she received and anything that entertains her and keeps her from crying for a few minutes is great for me. She smiles at the baby books she received. I use the muslin swaddle blankets frequently, the breastfeeding covers far more than I expected, heck, I use the muslin blankets as breastfeeding covers. The fleecy blankets are great for tummy time. I didn't think I'd need as many as I got, but it turns out babies spit up, pee, and poop on everything. Right now my baby's wearing her 4th outfit of the day, her 3rd bib, and she messed up two blankets and 4 burp cloths. I needed a place to put her down while I put in the laundry and cleaned the spit up off the floor, so the bouncy seat and the Boppy pillow came in very handy as baby holders. While she was sleeping I used my spare set of breast pump bottles and flanges because the others are in the dishwasher. I used my hands free pumping bra so I could read Ask Metafilter while I pumped. Without her pacifier she would have screamed all through lunch today, and without the pacifier leash the pacifier would have fallen on the floor countless times. I entertained her with a Wubbanub and a Skip Hop toy when she got fussy while we watched Star Trek this evening. And there are about ten other things I've used for her today that I didn't mention here (changing pad, both portable kit and home, cloth diapers, spray, butt ointment, cloth wipes,car seat, window shade, diaper bag, sun hat, for some examples).

So.... I am really glad I let people buy me these gifts. They really have been useful. Check out for more. And I did get a bunch of gorgeous picture books for when she is older too, and I think the book shower is a great concept. Congrats on your upcoming baby!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:42 PM on June 1, 2013 [17 favorites]

If you don't want to register, and you can otherwise afford to provide for your child yourself, and you won't feel insulted when people give you random baby gifts just because it's what you do, then sure, don't register.

But yeah, even if you don't register, people are probably going to give your baby gifts, because it's what humans do. If you want to have a say in what those are, registering seems logical.
posted by Sara C. at 4:49 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you are truly OK with getting nothing but hand-knit acrylic blankets you can't wash and weather-inappropriate clothing you don't like, go registry-free, but there are so many things that are nice to have (treehorn+bunny has good ideas), you might as well register for a few of them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:53 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I greatly, greatly, greatly appreciate moms (and brides) who have registries.

I give people highly educational wooden toys and board books for their children when they do not register; this satisfies my 'what on earth do I get them I'm sure they will get a million onsies" panicky thought process upon learning the registry does not exist. No idea what other people do; people are odd (which is why I will have a registry if I ever have a baby.)
posted by SMPA at 4:54 PM on June 1, 2013

I don't think you need to register, and if you're genuinely uncomfortable with it, all the more reason not to, but while your emotions are unimpeachable, your logic isn't super sound.

The people who are going to give you heartfelt, unique, non-registry gifts or cute random baby clothes are going to give you things regardless of whether you register. And people are going to give you gifts regardless of whether you register, so not registering will not engender any kind of minimalism -- in fact, you're more likely to get useless crap you don't want which is sort of anti-minimalist.

Since people are asking and giving you a hard time, you might consider registering for a small number of things, and then giving registry information only to those who specifically ask. Register for the cheaper big ticket items, but not the more expensive ones, and add some things that you'll likely need a lot of (receiving blankets, bibs, soothers, onesies, diapers, books, etc).
posted by jacquilynne at 4:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I won't pile on to a question that seems well answered, but I'd like to point out to ThePinkSuperhero (and others) that hand knit blankets made of acrylic are washable.
posted by telegraph at 4:59 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't have to have a registry. You don't even have to have a shower.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

One additional factor that may or may not apply:

If you don't know or are not telling people the gender of the baby, there's a good chance a lot of this registry pressure is people not knowing what color to buy things. Baby stores are an overwhelming horror of gendered items. So, just picking a non-pink/non-blue color scheme and telling people what it is might help a lot: "Oh, we need all the usual things, onesies and blankets and soothers and whatnot, we're mostly going with orange and yellow!" will probably be enough for a lot of people to get past the need for an actual registry.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Supposing people were giving you a hard time about wanting fart jokes in your wedding ceremony, but you didn't want to do it because you tended to agree with the accepted (by one or two people) standard that a wedding ceremony is not the right place for fart jokes.

Well, then, you wouldn't have to have fart jokes in your wedding ceremony! And people who insisted that you should, may correctly be left to make armpit noises amongst themselves.

Your thinking is right, you just have to remember that you can't please everybody.
posted by tel3path at 5:01 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a dude, with no children (yet) and I should make clear that I'm speaking only for myself and not my wife (with whom I just had a spirited discussion on this very topic thanks to this question, and who feels differently), and I have no useful information to add regarding bassinets or acrylic blankets or whatever.

But, here's my voice of solidarity: registries irritate me for any of the same reasons you name, and if you feel that way, that's plenty of reason not to do it. Yes, that may confuse people. So what? It's your baby. If people don't buy you stuff because of it, then you win. If they're forced to come up with other gift ideas on their own instead of picking off a list, then (as with your wedding) you also win. My wife is over there right now listing all the ways in which you don't win, but I'm not going to list those because (a) I'm answering this question, not her, which is weird enough to given that this is not really my type of question, and (b) it seems well covered already above.

All that to say, skip the registry if you feel strongly about it, and screw what other people think.
posted by captainawesome at 5:10 PM on June 1, 2013

Speaking from experience: if you don't register, you will get a million adorable outfits that will be righteously unsuitable to put the baby in unless you are planning on taking them to a lot of very formal events.

This. The best-case scenario is that your child will be well-equipped for an imaginary life of garden parties, and you will feel guilty about all the cute stuff you will never use.

The worst-case scenario is that you will get a ton of hideous gendered stuff, handmade atrocities, and other stuff that you will feel guilty about never using.

Not registering does not reduce the amount stuff you will get. It merely increases the crap:useful ratio.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:14 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sometimes groups of people like to know about "big, expensive" gifts. Like a group of co-workers or a group of cousins may want to all chip in and get you a Pack N Play. So sometimes gift registries serve a purpose even when you don't have things with all range of prices. But it is perfectly OK not to have a registry.
posted by molasses at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2013

I get what most everyone is saying; I really do. If I don't register, I am definitely risking ending up with a bunch of useless stuff. But to be honest, I think this will happen anyway. I think that if people want to get me what I want them to get me, they will end up with a list that will offend them. They will wonder why I'm not buying the car seat or breast pump or whatever myself. They will be offended that all I have on there is well beyond what they wanted to spend. Or, I could please them and add in the baby lotions and shampoos, but to me that is like giving somebody a list of things I need to pick up at the pharmacy. That's not useful to me, either. First, I need to worry about having a car seat to bring my child home in from the hospital! Coincidentally, I just attended a shower two weeks ago where the expectant mother had 60 guests and received five things from her (long) registry, so I'm not sure it's always worth it--and particularly not in my case, where there are so few items that I would want to put on there and each one is well more than I or anyone else would probably want to spend on a shower or new baby gift.

And I don't have a color scheme (nor am I picky about colors), nor do I know the baby's sex, so I can see how it makes it harder. Maybe the solution is to have the shower host tell people, if they ask about a registry, that anything would be great, and that I don't care about specific colors or what-not.
posted by juliagulia at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2013

If you register at Target or Babies R Us (and possibly at Amazon, I forget), they send you a "completion" coupon for 10% or 20% off remaining items on the registry after whatever you put as the due date. Which is nice for you buying those big-ticket items. Also people can get you gift cards to those stores in whatever amount they feel is appropriate. If you are among the first of your friends/same-generation relatives/whoever these shower guests are having a baby, it is a MERCY to have a registry because you have NO IDEA what to get for baby showers when you're not yet in baby-realm. People LOVE buying organic diaper cream.

But. If you really do not want people buying big-ticket items (they totally will go in in groups) or small-ticket items and if people ask, the host is going to say "just whatever," and you are a minimalist and do not want random crap, I think you are better off going with a shower theme -- specifically, I think you ought to have a "baby's library" theme and ask each person to give the baby a book that was specifically meaningful for them as a child. You will end up with four copies of Goodnight Moon if you don't have a registry, but that's okay, we're officially on copy five of Goodnight Moon.

If you do go with a library theme shower, I have a couple of really great "activities" that are non-lame and end with cute keepsakes, me-mail me.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Wanted to add that I did not register and had a brunch instead if a shower, for which I specified no presents. Guess what I got? A million pink onesies. Sometimes with sparkles. And even the word "princess" in sparkles.

Most of my friends registered, and you know what they got? Carseats and strollers and stuff they actually used.

People love getting baby stuff. I got things from people I'd never met (husband's coworkers, friends of the inlaws, random neighbors, etc.) Once I bit the bullet and set up a small registry (after my baby was born), the nature of the gifts became much more useful, and the tracking stuff made sending thank you notes much easier too. (No small consideration when you're sleep deprived).

And I totally get what you're saying; I tried my damnedest to go gift-free. But in my experience, not registering does not alleviate those concerns, and may indeed make it worse.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:32 PM on June 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

You basically described our registry: a few expensive things (stroller, car seat) and a few inexpensive (bottles). We also had a list that was just a list: books, clothes, thermometer. Yes, grandparents bought the stroller, but no need for a registry for that--they asked ahead of time.

Mostly people gave us great books and toys and clothes, and it was clear they had a blast shopping for baby things. And the stuff they did get us was amazing and useful and fun and I wouldn't have thought to get a lot of it, and we were happy to get it (mostly).

They did *not* choose any of the inexpensive things off of the registry. And they did *not* get together to buy the expensive stuff. In retrospect, I kind of wish I hadn't had the registry at all.

Baby stuff is easy to get rid of. Donate, return, consign, ebay. Don't do the registry. Do pick out what you want so if someone asks, you can tell them which pump you'd like. So yes, skip the registry.
posted by orange (sherbet) rabbit at 5:36 PM on June 1, 2013

juliagulia: "They will wonder why I'm not buying the car seat or breast pump or whatever myself. They will be offended that all I have on there is well beyond what they wanted to spend. Or, I could please them and add in the baby lotions and shampoos, but to me that is like giving somebody a list of things I need to pick up at the pharmacy. That's not useful to me, either."

Baby registries are much different from, say, wedding registries. You're not asking for some gold-plated kitchen geegaw, you're asking for stuff you and your kiddo actually need, and your friends understand that, especially the ones with kids of their own.

I feel the same way you do about "stuff", but when we had our son about a year ago, a close friend of ours gave us her list of "stuff to get", and said it was a fairly minimalist list. There were like a 100 things on it, and you know what? We wound up needing almost everything she noted. You won't believe how many things you need. treehorn+bunny's comment is a good starting point.

Lastly, there are a few pricey things your baby will only use for a couple months, but which are really helpful- things like a bassinet and a rocking swing (you may think this is a silly thing, but any parent will tell you there are times where your kid is screaming and nothing will soothe him until you put him in the rocker and it's like fucking magic). Ask your friends with kids if any of them have this stuff in storage- there's no shame in borrowing.
posted by mkultra at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

As far as useless stuff or just stuff, there is always the option of donating what you don't use/no longer need. Women's shelters always need that stuff.

The thing is, in many ways, like a wedding, a shower is not for you. It is a chance for people to express joy and feel like they are helping you during this huge event.

Relax your death grip, is what I'm saying. Make a simple registry and put the expensive stuff on. Return or donate what you don't want. Once the kid is here, you will have much bigger things to worry about than an overabundance of pacifiers.
posted by emjaybee at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Or, I could please them and add in the baby lotions and shampoos, but to me that is like giving somebody a list of things I need to pick up at the pharmacy. That's not useful to me, either

Why not? Saves you a trip to the pharmacy! And saves your $$ to put toward the big stuff!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:47 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I didn't register for my baby shower, and I didn't get that much stuff, and it was GREAT. Friends decorated onesies, and I think a few people brought things (useful stuff like washcloths, which we use for wipes), but nobody knew what they were doing because none of my friends had kids, so we ended up with a great party.

My mom's friends threw her a "grandmother shower," though, and they wanted to know if I was registered. So I put together a quick Amazon wishlist, with stuff like basic white onesies, a diaper bag I didn't hate, one of each of a couple of different kinds of swaddlers so I could try them, that sort of thing. Some people bought stuff off of that list. We got one giant, hideously pink thing that we wouldn't have used even if we did have a daughter, and a bunch of Babies R Us gift cards. It worked fine.

Like you, I felt uncomfortable asking for stuff like Lanolin or butt cream, and we strongly prefer to have less stuff, and to have the stuff we do have be secondhand. The above strategy worked well. I think it's completely fine for you to make a registry or Amazon wishlist with the expensive stuff -- no one is going to judge you for that, and you can balance it out by tossing a few random little things on there, just to give people ideas.

You could also put the word out that you're starting a college fund for Junior, and let people send money for that. I've been surprised at how much that idea has appealed to some of my extended family -- my grandmother has bought her fair share of baby toys, and she loves knowing that she's able to help out my kid for his far-off future.

Oh, other non-stuff ideas to put in the ear of your baby shower organizer:
1) Babysitting hours.
2) Gift cards to a food delivery service/grocery delivery service.
3) Have people bring food for your freezer instead of presents.
4) Diaper service credits.
5) Postpartum doula hours.
posted by linettasky at 6:08 PM on June 1, 2013

OMG babies use a ton of stuff in the $20-50 range, no matter how minimalist you are! Clothes, burp cloths, sleep sacks, sheets, toys, bouncy chairs, diaper pails, slings or wraps ... It goes on and on. And the funny thing is - people desperately want to buy babies stuff. So just register and enjoy it.
posted by yarly at 6:26 PM on June 1, 2013

I didn't have a registry for my first, but did have one for my second. I found having a registry was helpful for number 2 because we had a lot of stuff already from number 1 and this helped people not duplicate items.

Babies are different than weddings - they need a lot of specific stuff and I found that those who are not clued into babies really appreciate having guidance.
posted by Leezie at 6:30 PM on June 1, 2013

They will wonder why I'm not buying the car seat or breast pump or whatever myself.

You could always buy the car seat and breast pump yourself and fill the registry with inoffensive useful stuff you don't hate.

At least that way you avoid being showered with princesses or trucks/firefighters/whatever the boy equivalent is.
posted by Sara C. at 6:36 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

They will wonder why I'm not buying the car seat or breast pump or whatever myself. They will be offended that all I have on there is well beyond what they wanted to spend. Or, I could please them and add in the baby lotions and shampoos, but to me that is like giving somebody a list of things I need to pick up at the pharmacy.

Just as a data point, I have never, ever thought anything like this about any registry I've bought things from. They want that kind of flatware? Those napkins? This brand of diaper cream? Okay! Good to know, very helpful, greatly appreciated. It's never occurred to me to wonder why they're not buying XYZ themselves.

I hope I'm not the only one.
posted by rtha at 6:54 PM on June 1, 2013 [14 favorites]

>: "I hate registries and I did not register for my baby. I made a google drive document with a list of things I needed so that no one was required to buy from any specific store, they could just mark it off the document if they had gotten something. I specifically asked for used/secondhand things. I put things on the list that did not cost money, like a night of babysitting or frozen dinners to eat postpartum. "

This is a registry in that a registry is a list of things you could use associated with the event being celebrated.

Whether you should have a registry is really going to be situational. But if there is any chance that people you are only sort of acquainted with will be sending you gifts a registry is a stress reducer for those people. IE: if you work in a larger office or one of you have a large extended family then a registry with stuff like nipples, wipes, bottles, or formula will save you getting a dealing with a stack of clothing and stuffed animals you don't need. People like myself who know that it's considered appropriate and semi mandatory to get a work colleague a baby gift will be helped out a lot. Otherwise you end up with what ever is in the impulse bin at Babies R Us in our price range.
posted by Mitheral at 6:59 PM on June 1, 2013

They will wonder why I'm not buying the car seat or breast pump or whatever myself.

No, they won't. Really. I don't know your age, but you're definitely younger than I am, so I can tell you that those of us who never had kids, and the ones who had them long ago, feel AWFUL not remembering how long kids can wear particular sizes, or not knowing what the in-thing or brand is. We want to look at a registry and think, "Is there something at the dollar value I want to spend or at twice or three times that level that I can go in on a gift with two or three others so Parents and Baby are happy?" We've gone in ten-gals-for-a-crib at workplaces, and we've certainly done car seats and breast pumps and digital thermometers.

You need small things in multiples (diapers, baby wipes), medium things (clothes, toys) and large things (whatever they call playpens these days, a breast pump) and services, as mentioned above. Make an Amazon baby list for every single thing (remember, it doesn't have to be sold at Amazon -- you can use the Amazon Universal Wish list doohickey to list massages at your nearby spa (you'll need them!) and gift cards for, as others noted, diaper service credits and food delivery). Anyplace you can shop online is fair game.

If there's something you DON'T want, don't list it, but if there's something you need, put it on the list, because if you're leaving it off because of what people will think, you're projecting judgment onto people whose major thought it is, "Yay, baby! Boo, having to come up with gift ideas on my own."
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:15 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't have to have a registry, but you have to give clueless people like me a little guidance. Enlist the help of the shower organizer or a good friend that people are likely to ask for where you're registered. They should say, "Oh she's not registered anywhere, and they don't have a color picked out. She already has a crib, but needs pretty much everything else!" If people want to get together on a big item, they'll ask further, and your helper should be armed with suggestions ("She's been looking at this model of car seat, and really wants a diaper genie." etc)

I recently went to a baby shower where the organizer said "Bring your favorite book, new or used." A couple of people got together and bought a car seat, some people brought clothes and diapers, and some people brought books. She got everything from cloth baby books to young adult novels. It was awesome.
posted by rakaidan at 7:33 PM on June 1, 2013

If you make a registry and don't end up using the stuff... you can take it back far easier. This is the ONLY reason I registered, and I'm glad I did.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:36 PM on June 1, 2013

I have lots of relatives, have been to tons of baby showers, and I love giving baby gifts! (Seriously, for most people the shower is torture, but we really enjoy buying the gifts.) I have done it both ways: buying clothes, smaller items, etc., or going in on the bigger items. Many times, when I'm really excited about the baby, I've done both.

Here are a couple of things about the big ticket items: One, everybody knows when they see those that the parents are not going to get everything on the list. That's how it works. But if you put everything on the list, people feel they have a choice. Two, everybody ALSO knows that the parents-to-be don't expect any one person (except maybe the grandparents, because grandparents eat that stuff up) to foot the bill for a big ticket item. We all know you put it on the list with the thought that maybe people will pick one of the things and chip in on it. Three—and I pinky swear that I am telling the truth here—it feels really nice to chip in for something I know the parents-to-be really need. I love knowing that my $25 or $50 or whatever is really going to be used for months and maybe even years. Totally love that. Why? Because I'm minimalist too and don't like a lot of crap, but even more: every time I see the baby in the stroller or crib or swing I helped buy, I feel ... connected. A part of the baby's life. Like I've really helped.

However, it's your life, and your reasons are sound. Register or don't. It will be okay either way. Really, it really will. :)

Congrats on the baby, by the way.
posted by CheekyEv at 7:37 PM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you don't want to register, don't register. My friend had a book shower for me and it was wonderful and we got so many awesome books that I'd never heard of. On the other hand, my workplace is really into baby showers and I knew that if I didn't register, I would get the most random array of stuff imaginable AND it would make more work for the people buying me the gifts because they wouldn't be able to just check stuff off. I ended up with some off-registry stuff as well as a bunch of cute (and some horrifying) clothes, but most of it was stuff off my registry that went to good use. I'm pretty averse to "stuff" and we live in a smallish NYC apartment and we still found that we either needed or wanted a LOT of things, even though many of the big-ticket items we acquired secondhand--for a few months it seemed like we were getting semiweekly deliveries from Amazon. Some of all the baby gear options are ridiculous, of course, and some are kid-dependant, but many of them exist because they make some aspect of parenting easier. Like, I had this idea that we didn't need a special swaddler, we would just use a blanket. Except we had a large and very active baby Houdini on whom a blanket swaddle would last about 20 minutes. The hand me down velcro swaddler we got seemed weirdly tight and hard to use. So we got a Woombie, and the first time I put him in it and just zipped the damn thing up and it stayed like that till he woke up again, I could have kissed the inventor.

You know your potential shower invitees best, of course, but there are any number of things in the $15-75 range that are not really too personal. Remember also that you will need things later in the first year that you don't need immediately. Those Aden & Anais blankets treehorn & bunny mentioned are really expensive for what they are, but they are the perfect size and weight and we use ours all the time. Unless you are planning to nurse exclusively until the kid weans, you will need some kind of bottles and bottle brush. You will need sippy cups and straw cups later in the first year when kiddo is learning how to drink from a cup. If you are planning to have a crib, you will need crib sheets and (more than one) waterproof mattress cover (trust me on this). If you live in a place that has winter, those stroller "sleeping bag"-style blankets like the BundleMe are great for not having to wrestle your tiny flailing infant in and out of a coat when you go outdoors. It is not ridiculous to register for some simple toys like blocks.

My point is that pretty much everyone recognizes that having a baby entails acquiring a pretty substantial amount of practical stuff, and most people are cool with that. People who want to go off-registry will, and people like me who honestly just want to get something you'll use and not spend too much time on it will thank you.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:45 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I didn't register or have a shower. Crazy, I know! For the most part I got very nice useful gifts from people who felt like buying them.
posted by hockeyfan at 7:49 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Aside: If you are insured and in the US, your breastpump should be covered under the Affordable Care Act. Save a couple hundred toward your other items!
posted by deadcrow at 8:15 PM on June 1, 2013

I don't have kids (my choice) but I love buying things off of registries. I want to gift something and it is so nice to know what is needed and be able to choose something in my price range, from a $5 pack of pacifiers and an expensive car seat - whatever I can afford. Giving is a gift to the receiver, too, and know what is truly needed is a blessing.

But I agree that it is your choice.
posted by michellenoel at 8:16 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oops - just noticed the fact that most of your price points are $30 - $50. You may find that some folks go in together on something and that is just fine.

Oh - congratulations!
posted by michellenoel at 8:17 PM on June 1, 2013

Is it a terrible mistake if you don't register? No, absolutely not. I mean, these are presents we're talking about, not nuclear launch codes.

However, I think it's worth keeping in mind, whether or not you register, that baby presents are quite different than wedding presents. Wedding presents, for modern western couples, really just seem to be about stuff or "experiences"/cash in lieu of stuff. But with babies ... people really do want to help you and your baby be comfortable and have an easy time of settling into being a family. Especially if you have other friends who have kids or who are close to other people with kids - they really want to help you because they understand how it changes your way of life. They don't want to burden you with things you don't need or the chore of returning gifts. A registry can at least guide people into the ballpark of what you need and what sort of baby goods you'd like.

I'll leave you with this bit of advice - if you don't register, and people start sniffing around for what to get you, do not tell them, "Oh, you don't have to get me anything, we're keeping to our minimalist lifestyle as much as we can with a baby." A dear friend of me did that recently for her baby shower. The truth is they did need things for the baby, and I had to kind of dig around in conversation and keep my eyes open in her house to figure out what specific items were potentially most welcome. (Not impossible as we're close, but still. And I am rather minimalist myself so it's not like I was looking for a list to undermine her way of doing things.) So don't be coy in personal conversation either - you can say, "We're really trying to keep ourselves from disappearing under a deluge of baby gear, but I can tell you we don't have any swaddling blankets/pacifiers/breastmilk storage bags yet."
posted by stowaway at 8:31 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Re: your update, I think the lotions and ointments are the most minor part of what you would need. I have found that people use the lotion type stuff to "decorate" other more elaborate gifts, so for example I got a diaper bag that someone had stocked with all the necessary little items. A basket of bath stuff including toys and shampoo. That sort of thing. It really wasn't like people doing a pharmacy run for me, it was thoughtful and sweet (although honestly in my postpartum state I would have welcomed someone doing a pharmacy run for me). For what it's worth I did not put anything above $50 on my list of things I needed, because I felt the same way you do about it.

If what you are worried about is people getting offended, I really don't think that should be your deciding factor. People will get offended if you don't have a registry. People will think what they think no matter what you do, and especially where parenthood is concerned, people can be very judgmental. Forget what they will think.

I really think that if all you think you need is a breast pump and a car seat that you may have not thought far enough past the first day of bringing baby home. If you have thought about all the other stuff but just don't want people to get it for you, that's your prerogative. But the weeks that come after baby-having are going to be ones you may really not be up to shopping during. Based on your follow up, though, I think maybe you should not have a shower at all. If you will not enjoy it and it will make you that stressed or irritated about other people's expectations, it won't be fun, and it's not worth doing if it won't be a happy occasion.
P.s. did you know breast pumps are mandated to be covered by insurance under Obamacare? You might not need to ask for that!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:44 PM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask people to write out their favourite recipe and give you that so you can compile them into a family recipe book. Not at all grabby yet people still get to feel they've done something nice for you. The book will be a lovely memento in time to come and could even be useful.
posted by hazyjane at 11:41 PM on June 1, 2013

If you don't want to register, just don't do it. People who want to give you gifts will do so, and some may ask you what you want, so it would be a good idea to at least think of a list of things for when that happens. Even if you tell them to get you childrens books, or wooden toys, or clothes that are 6-12 months, think of something that is in the vein of what you'd like your child to have.

If you don't make a registry, you will probably get a bazillion baby blankets. That seems to be a trend with the people I know. You'll also probably get a ton of stuff that you won't want. Save those things to gift to others later on, since there's going to be someone else who will want it more than you do.
posted by markblasco at 12:38 AM on June 2, 2013

In your position, I wouldn't register. At least not traditionally. I'd create a free custom registry at Honeyfund or something like it. You imagine up a list and place values and set quantities. It amounts to getting cash but gives people a "thing" they can say they got you. Consider things like:
*one CSA box to keep mom eating healthy, $40, qty 12
*"mom's choice" baby stuff at (insert fav store), $25, qty 10
*a latte and treat for mom, $10, qty 10
*babysitter for the night, $30, set quantity to 5
*massage, $100, qty 3
*nursery love (carpentry work), $50, qty 8

And so on. Include the URL in some tasteful way in all correspondence, perhaps even your signature. You can even go so far as to say "Your friendship and support is all I need. For those who request a registry, I have created a Honeyfund for Baby X here, insert link."
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:30 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

I should have added that at least on Honeyfund, the purchaser has the option to print a gift certificate for inclusion with a card, for the shower. (Also, I haven't researched it, but I'm sure some alternative site exists specifically for things like baby showers, but in a pinch Honeyfund could work).
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:37 AM on June 2, 2013

My baby shower was on Saturday past and I specifically requested no gifts. People were encouraged instead to bring a plate of something tasty or a bottle of something nice to share instead. I've been slowly stocking up on needed items and scored a lot of hand me downs from friends and relatives with small babies, so I seriously did not need any more stuff.

I still got some presents, mostly clothes, and a fair bit more gendered stuff than I really wanted, but boy did we eat well! Worked much better for me all round.
posted by Jilder at 6:41 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dad here - 2 kids, one over four the other almost two... we have a boy and a girl.

Even if you register you will get a lot of off the registry items - whether you have a shower, or if you just pop out a baby. Seriously, people - some even seemingly random - give you stuff.

Now here's the thing:

Even if people don't know the sex of the baby, they'll wait on it - you'll pop out the kid, and they'll go running to the store to get baby clothes - seemingly immediately... Then they'll all stop by, tell you they were thinking of you and how excited for you they were and that they knew that you hadn't registered for something, but that they thought of you and that they just had to get something... And then they'll all pull out three 0-3 month outfits. Most will be different from each other, but they'll be some definite overlap since they all went shopping at the same time. When your kid is 2.5 months and they've just outgrown their 0-3 month outfits - each of which the kid has only worn once (but there were just so damn many of them!) you'll be headed to the store to buy 3-6 month outfits. You'll likely donate or save all the 0-3 month outfits, but realistically that's it - everything is done in terms of gift giving. You'll flood an appropriate charity with baby clothes that they have in abundance (everybody gets too many little little baby clothes), and that will be the end of it. By registering it, you help control the floodgates and set caps on 5 0-3 month outfits, 5 3-6 month outfits, 5 6-9 month outfits and so on. Kids sound reasonably priced, but I assure you - take the charity.

Lastly, if you really really don't want other people to clothe your child - let them buy you diapers in the size 1-2 range. Storage might become a bit of a problem, but if you can cope with that - you'll be extremely thankful for the amount of cash you save that way. (and if you are doing cloth diapers... you may still want to have a few disposable ones for being out and about... nothing says 'life of the party at the grocery store' like the person carrying around a partially washed out poopy diaper in their diaper bag...
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:15 AM on June 2, 2013

I think it is appropriate to ask for one big ticket item.

The coordinator of your baby shower can designate it as a "group gift" and solicit contributions to it for people that don't know what to get or for those who want to contribute in a lower price point than the one that you named.

A google doc for items is fine. Be sure to name items you will need in 6-12 months including mildly expensive things like Robeez, in addition to newborn themed items. Winter cardigans are also pricy but useful. If you remind people of the future they can get their cute on in a larger size.

I have a large family of people that have had lots of babies so in my case it is unnecessary to register. People buy cute things and enjoy picking them out. We let them. The best use I found for the overabundance of newborn items was to stockpile and regift at future baby showers. This kept me going for years.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:40 AM on June 2, 2013

Registries for babies are unheard of in the UK, and baby showers are uncommon too. (I've heard of a couple of people having them for babies; bridal showers don't exist here.) I clicked through to this question as this is literally the first time I've ever heard of people having registries for births - is it so common in the US that you will be seen as weird for not doing it?

However, people always want to buy stuff for a new baby.
posted by mippy at 9:33 AM on June 2, 2013

I have been reading these answers since yesterday and just wanted to mention one other issue. Is it possible that you are reluctant to pick out more than those few kind of expensive items because you are intimidated by the sheer number of choices and types of baby paraphernalia there are out there? When I was having a baby I sort of dreaded tackling the registry because it meant making affirmative choices and doing research about what I thought we would really need and, from that array of stuff, exactly which one of the dozens of options we thought we would want. There were just hundreds of things to look at and it was daunting and kind of tiresome.

I think if this is part of your consideration in not really wanting a registry, even kind of subconsciously, it is totally understandable. But, BUT, as a new mom I had my hands full with the baby when she came, and I was so glad to already have the things I needed or wanted to try, like a baby swing, already in the house. So IMHO it is better to do your research and choice making about most stuff BEFORE the baby comes, not after, and many people do this through making a registry (whether they share it with others or not). I do think it would be a shame if military industrial babyshopping complex intimidated you into putting off preparing for the baby's arrival.

You say you do not want a lot of stuff, and I hear you, but it sounds like you are having a shower so you are going to get STUFF from people regardless. Registering could be the difference between getting 10% useful stuff/90% random stuff (no registry) vs. 60% useful stuff/40% random stuff (registry).

If you only want to put the big ticket items on your registry, that's fine (though I worry you might be under preparing) -- you say your prospective shower attendees have been complaining so I think people would especially understand your minimalist list as the response of someone who didn't want to make a registry and only did so to pacify guests.

Anyway, good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 10:28 AM on June 2, 2013

I think there's much more case to be made for going registry-less in the case of weddings, where gifts really are gifts-- socially decorative tokens of the affection and regard and well-wishes between giver and recipient.

But baby shower presents are much more like Red Cross disaster donations: there's this person you know who's about to go through a crazy semi-emergent life situation, so everybody sort of bands together to try to provide some material stuff to make the transition just that much easier. As a gift-giver in that situation, I mostly want to know what I can do to make my gift as effective as possible: what do you need? What can I bring that will give you the most utility through the extremely sucky and sleep-deprived days to come? As treehorn+bunny points out, you most certainly will need many, many things for your baby, minimalist or not-- diapers and wipes come to mind, as well as blankets and washcloths and a thermometer and diaper cream, not just through the newborn months but beyond. As a guest, I would find it heartbreakingly frustrating to have to go and spend money on a random stuffed bunny or pack of overpriced 0-3 onesies that I suspect the mom will not like, simply because she felt delicate about communicating what she actually needed for her upcoming baby.

If you like the personalized aspect, then by all means, ask people to bring a favorite childhood book along with whatever else they're getting. But I definitely would try to get over your delicacy about making practical gift suggestions. It's the nature of the situation for people to want to help; assisting them to do so (even if that means letting them know that you could really use a couple economy packs of 0-1 diapers, and some 2-3s on top of that) can only be a gracious and considerate act.
posted by Bardolph at 1:20 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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