I suppose we should begin with the end: a list of all the things you should NOT put on your baby registry.
These items are ones that you should either (A) pass on altogether, (B) borrow from a friend or buy secondhand, or (C) "wait and see" if you need it.
DVDs for babies - Baby Einstein, Baby Genius, Brainy Baby, Baby Signing Time. They all insist adamantly that they're not like each other (but they really are all the same). They claim to make your baby smarter, happier, funnier, better. Don't buy it...and don't forget that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV until after age two.
Hooded Towels - They seem snuggly and sweet and so marvelously miniature. Then, you get them home and realize they're snuggly and sweet...and ridiculously small. Isn't the goal to keep the baby warm after a bath? Regular, adult-sized towels are so much better for wrapping and warming.
Baby Shoes (0-6 months) - Babies don't walk. In fact, they don't even crawl until they're at least 6 months. The teeny kicks may be absolutely adorable, but they're also completely unnecessary.
Baby Oil and Baby Powder - These items are relics from the 1950s, yet they still randomly show up on registry "must have" lists. They are most definitely not "must haves." They are "why-do-I-have-these" items.
Baby Brush and Comb - That tiny doll-sized matching brush and comb set is so cute, but also highly impractical. They will likely go unused, except perhaps by the baby's older sibling and her collection of dolls.
BORROW OR BUY SECONDHAND
Swing - Some babies like 'em, some babies hate 'em, some babies throw up in 'em. This is not an item you want to invest big bucks in. Even if your baby LOVES the rhythmic back-and-forth motion and the accompanying tunes, it's unlikely that he or she will use the swing for more than 6 months.
Nursery Decor - Ah, the "baby's room." It's what everyone wants to know about (Did you paint the baby's room? Did you hang up those cute little letters that spell out the baby's name? Do you have a "theme"?). It's how you show your parenting skills even before the baby arrives. It's as if having a flawlessly magazine-ready room will guarantee your prowess as a parent. But that's ridiculous for 102 reasons (which I'll save for another post in the future), most notably of which that (a) the baby does not care if the room is decorated and (b) the baby may not even end up sleeping in that room.
Mobile - Do you really need a hanging thing getting in your way as you put your baby in the crib in a sleepy stupor? Wait a minute...who said anything about putting the baby in a crib? Moving right along to...
Crib & Crib Mattress & Crib Linens - This is a little secret I'll clue you in on. Some babies don't sleep in cribs. GASP! We have a 2-year-old and a 1-month-old and you can search high-and-low throughout our house and you won't find a crib anywhere. That said, plenty of people do use cribs, but I wouldn't run out and buy that expensive cherry wood bed of luxury because it may sit forlornly in your perfectly-decorated nursery with no baby inside. Instead, borrow one from a friend or buy a bassinet off CraigsList for the first few months until you can decide what sleeping arrangements work best for your family.
Travel System Stroller (and infant car seat) - Again, you might use this. You might not. I much prefer to take my baby right out of that car seat and carry her in my arms or in a carrier when we're out-and-about.
WAIT AND SEE
Breast Pump - If you're returning to work post-baby and want to give your baby the benefits of breastmilk, those suction cups may become your new office-mate. If, however, you're a stay-at-home mom, you probably don't need a double-electric pump. You might prefer to use a manual pump or to hand express. Or you might not use a pump at all.
Bottles, Bottle Warmer, and Bottle Accessories - Childrens' story books and Hollywood would have us believe that all babies drink from bottles...but that's not always the case.
Pacifiers - Again, this one's a "toss up." Some babies use them. Some babies don't. Our two girls never did.
Bibs and Burp Cloths - Some babies drool a lot. Other babies don't. Some parents dutifully put bibs on their babes at mealtime. Other moms just let the mess get all over the place and then stick their kid in the bath afterward.
The resounding message of this post is, of course, that all babies are different and all parents are different. And I'm not just saying that to be politically correct. That's the truth.
Perhaps baby registry companies make those extra-long "must have" lists because such a wide array of parenting philosophies and baby behaviors abound. Oh, wait - scratch that - they're just out to make big money. ;)
YOUR TURN: Do you agree or disagree with the items on my list? What would you add to the list of things NOT to register for?