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Not sure if a traditional baby registry is right for you? Here are 8 great ideas for alternatives to a standard baby registries and gifts. Finding the right fit for you helps you save money & feel more supported.
When we had our baby, we did not have a baby registry. I have some hang ups about the financial and environmental impacts of buying new and gift giving, and had hoped skipping a registry would help mitigate that. In hindsight, we would have been better off finding alternatives to a traditional baby registry instead.
Since gift giving and baby registries are a big part of the culture around having a new baby, our attempt to opt out added stress for everyone. The grandparents had to run interference, I worried a lot about unneeded gifts going to waste, and loved ones wanted to help but didn’t know how.
To our credit, our plan had been to ask for meals following the birth. I was so excited to eat again after having hyperemesis all pregnancy, and we hadn’t been able to prep freezer meals because of my illness. Unfortunately, the effects of hyperemesis didn’t magically go away after birth, and navigating eating postpartum turned out to be too much of a minefield for a meal train.
Related Post: 7 Lessons from My Hyperemesis Pregnancy
Luckily, there are many alternatives if a traditional baby registry isn’t the best fit for you. For example, you could opt for a diaper party instead of a standard baby shower. Building a diaper stockpile will save you money on recurring baby expenses and you won’t have to worry about last minute trips to the store when diapers run low.
Indeed, successfully navigating baby gifts while pregnant can help you:
- feel more supported postpartum,
- save you money down the road,
- increase the value you gain from the gifts you receive.
And that’s exactly how loved ones want you to feel when you receive their gift or help! If setting up an alternative to a baby registry helps achieve this, it is truly win win for everyone. Below I detail some alternate ideas for baby registries to help get you started.
A Note on Traditional Baby Registries
Even though we skipped sending out a traditional baby registry to friends and family, I actually did set up private registries at both Amazon Baby Registry and Target Baby Registry. Why? Private baby registries helped me stay organized and, more importantly, to take advantage of completion discounts and welcome boxes.
Completion discounts give you about 10-15% off any purchase you make from your baby registry shortly before your due date. We used completion discounts to get all our final purchases for both babies.
Amazon’s baby registry offers 15% off for Prime members from 60-days before to 60-days after your due date (registry benefits as of Feb. 2023). You can use this discount twice which is nice because there will be things you won’t realize you need until after birth. You also get a free welcome box with baby swag and samples. We liked getting different bottles and pacifiers to try in our welcome boxes.
Target similarly offers a 15% discount that can be used once online and once in-person. You get a welcome bag with them as well but it has to be picked up in store and availability may vary.
Where to Set Up Alternatives to a Traditional Baby Registry
An important part of choosing an alternative to a traditional baby registry is finding a way for it to easily be shared with friends and family.
Luckily, many websites are now hip to parents wanting more options than traditional brick and mortar retail baby gifts. There are sites dedicated to cash contributions, favors and help, secondhand items, or ones that let you mix and match.
Here are sites where you can set up an alternative to a retail baby registry:
- Babylist: Babylist is a big player in the baby registry world. They offer the ability to mix listing more traditional baby gifts with favors, experiences and cash gifts. For most soon-to-be-parents, Babylist is a good one stop shop for registering.
- GiveInKind: GiveInKind lets you register for support, help and meals. It also has options to ask for cash donations directly through Paypal and link to an Amazon wishlist. I like that it has options outside of traditional birth too, like bed rest or pregnancy loss support.
- EncoreBaby: Encore Baby is a registry site specializing in requesting secondhand baby items instead of new retail gifts.
- MyRegistry: MyRegistry is a universal registry site, but it also offers cash gift funds as an alternative to a more traditional registry.
- MealTrain: MealTrain lets you organize meal gifts, where individuals sign up to cover a meal slot (through home cooked meals, delivery or cash/gift card contributions) based on the family’s needs.
- Set up your own website: If you’re into a more labor-intensive option, you can also set up your own website. Some places you can set up independent sites include WordPress.org (free, but requires hosting), WordPress.com (free), Squarespace (not free), or Wix (free-ish).
What to Register for As Alternatives to Traditional Baby Registry Gifts
If you’ve decided to forgo the traditional baby registry full of baby clothes and gear, there are still so many ways loved ones can help. Consider some of these ideas for great alternatives to traditional baby gifts:
- Cash funds
- Secondhand baby items
- Acts of service (e.g. house cleaning, picking up groceries)
- Memories and family stories
Let’s dive into each of the these in more detail.
Cash funds as alternatives to New Baby Gifts
Let’s be real, most new parents would find a lot more value in a cash gift than another 0-3 month size outfit that their baby will outgrow immediately. In my perfect world, we would have simply shared a link to our 529 educational savings account as an alternative to a traditional baby registry.
Related Post: Advantages & Disadvantages of 529 Savings Plans
However, asking for cash fund contributions in lieu of traditional baby gifts can be a delicate ask depending on your circle. One way to assuage some of the etiquette worries about asking for cash is to provide specific savings goals or costs you plan to use the gifts towards.
As you think about registering, take a moment to reflect on the big ticket expenses you have coming down the pike. I bet there are a number of savings goals where loved ones’ help would be greatly appreciated.
Here are some ideas of possible cash funds to include instead of traditional baby items:
- Education Savings Fund: A gift to an educational savings account like a 529 plan at birth will have a lot more value than a gift later in life because of the power of compounding interest. Some 529 plans even provide links that you can share with family members so they can give directly to your baby’s education fund.
- Childcare Fund: Childcare is a huge expense for many families. Over 22% of parents in a NY Times survey reported paying over $1000 a month in childcare costs. Even if you are not using traditional daycare, a babysitting cash fund is a great gift for the occasional respite.
- Rainy Day or Emergency Fund: It is more important than ever to have an emergency fund once a child joins the family. Babies often bring unexpected costs and/or lost work time that a healthy rainy day fund can help buffer.
- Doula or Medical Costs Fund: Being pregnant in the U.S. is not cheap, even with solid health insurance (you can check out all my pregnancy and birth costs for an example). Birth support, like help with medical costs or doula costs, can be a wonderful gift. For many families, additional birth support like doulas are not covered by insurance, even though research shows their association with positive birth outcomes.
- Diaper Fund: If you are using disposable diapers, you are going to use a lot of diapers. Even if you opt for the more affordable store brands, you’ll spend hundreds on diapers in the first year of life (you can find examples of our monthly baby budgets here).
- “Oh man, I didn’t know a baby needed that“ Fund: It is impossible to know exactly what you’ll need for your baby until you actually meet them. There will inevitably be things you need in the first year that you didn’t anticipate. A cash fund to help with these pop up expenses may be helpful.
Diapers Parties as an Alternative to A Baby Registry
An alternative to asking for cash contributions for diapers is to ask for diapers themselves. One way to do this is to simply add diapers to your existing registry.
However, it may be hard to tempt family members to go for the practical option of diapers when other fun baby things are on the registry list. If you are serious about setting up a diaper stockpile, consider having a diaper party instead of a traditional baby shower.
Diaper parties ask guest to give diapers specifically instead of other gifts. They may also include a raffle where guest get more entries depending on the amount of diapers they bring.
If you are gifted diapers, keep them in their boxes until you are absolutely ready to use them. You are usually able to exchange diapers to most stores if the package is unopened.
If you are in-between sizes, try a sized-up diaper first before opening a box of the smaller size so that you aren’t stuck with a half used box that your baby outgrew. For opened boxes, you may consider selling them on Facebook Marketplace or donating them.
Ask for Secondhand Baby Items
No matter how minimalist you want to be with your baby, babies inevitably require some accessories. At a minimum you’ll need a safe sleep space, some clothes, feeding items, and transport for your baby. You’ll also find there is baby gear that will just make your life easier (looking at you, my beloved baby jails).
However, nearly all the stuff you need for a baby you can get used. Other than car seats and sleep spaces which should be bought new, secondhand baby gear is an easy way to reduce waste and costs. Because babies grow quickly, most used baby items are in nearly new condition to boot.
Related Post: Do You Really Need a Bassinet?
Asking for baby items secondhand helps reduce your consumer footprint and is a great alternative to a traditional baby registry. As an added bonus, gifting families will be excited and thankful to get their old baby gear out of their house.
SoKindRegistry allows you to specify if you’d like an item secondhand, and EncoreBaby is specifically design to ask for secondhand baby gifts.
Meals as alternatives to baby gifts
There is a lot standing between you and home-cooked meals after a new baby. First, you’re tired. Like really, really tired. And simple tasks like cooking or going to the grocery store are constantly thwarted by the constant churn of feeding, baby soothing, and naps.
If you have a hard recovery, physically preparing food or lifting groceries may also be challenging. I found it very easy to lose track of feeding myself amidst all the other demands.
That’s why receiving meals or groceries can be a wonderful relief during the postpartum period. If you are interested in receiving meal help from friends after birth, there are a number of options, including:
- Meal Drop-offs: MealTrain and GiveInKind both have scheduling features to help organize meal drop-offs (so you don’t receive three dinners on the same night). Loved ones volunteer for a meal slot and then handle all the logistics of getting you a meal at that particular time.
- Grocery Drop-offs: Similarly, loved ones can help with grocery drop off instead of prepared meals. This is helpful so that you have basics on hand. GiveInKind’s more flexible scheduling feature, where you can include chores and help, would work well for this.
- Healthy Snacks: When asking for help with meals and food, don’t forget about snacks. Easily accessible snacks are so helpful in the postpartum period, when meal time can easily get interrupted or when you are up in the middle of the night. For those breastfeeding, snack needs may be even higher. Consider putting a snack drop off request on you list.
- Gift cards to Food Delivery Services: Gift cards to food delivery services can be an easy way for out-of-town friends to help keep you fed. That said, many food delivery services can be problematic in terms of the fees they charge restaurants and under-compensation for drivers. As an alternative, consider rounding up a list of local establishments or services that run delivery independently.
- Gift cards to Neighborhood Restaurants: If you want to avoid food delivery service companies, consider adding gift cards to a few nearby restaurants to your list. This will give loved ones specific food ideas and help support your local favorites.
Help & Experiences Make Great Baby Gifts
Much like it is hard to keep yourself fed after a new baby, it is also difficult to stay on top of life’s little chores. Consider asking for specific help in the weeks following birth.
Something I learned when my dad was in hospice was that people want to help but often don’t know how. You’ll likely hear a lot of “let us know if you need anything.”
It helps everyone if you have some specific ideas of where help would be appreciated. (Corollary: when offering help to someone else, try to give a specific offer when possible. After our experience with my dad’s illness, we now ask people “can we send you a pizza?” instead of “let us know if you need anything”.)
In the months leading up to birth, take stock of the weekly tasks you do and note where you could use help in the weeks after birth. You can add a few of these items on your baby registry on sites like Babylist, GiveInKind and SoKindRegistry.
Some ideas of help that you may like after birth:
- Childcare of other kids
- Lawn care
- Holding your new baby while you shower.
Memories, Family History or Advice Compilations
One thing people love about baby showers is the opportunity to swap stories and advice with the parents-to-be. A great alternative to a baby registry is setting up an online repository where friends and family members can share baby advice, memories or family history with the parents-to-be.
There are many ways to approach this. A friend or family member could serve as the organizer, akin to spearheading a baby shower. They could ask loved ones to send in short videos to be compiled together. Having video of all your loved ones will be something you will be so thankful you have as time passes (I really wish we had more videos of my dad, for example).
If you’d like an easier option, you could set up a quick Google Survey Form and ask people to type up their advice or memories. The link can be easily distributed with a digital shower invitation or birth announcement.
Books as a Baby Gift Alternative
Books can be great alternatives to traditional baby registry gifts (or cards at a baby shower). Asking friends and family to give their favorite childhood books, with a note in the book, is a sweet way to grow your baby’s book collection.
I personally would suggested mixing this with something else and not exclusively asking for books. Free baby books are easy to come by and books seem to multiple once you have kids. Getting some as gifts though is lovely and it will likely expose you to books you would not otherwise have found. Gifted books are how we discovered how useful bath books are for babies, not just at bath time. They are perfect to chew and light enough for their little hands.
Donations as an alternative to baby registries
If you have everything you need to bring your baby home, you may consider asking for donations in lieu of baby gifts. In our baby announcement, we asked loved ones to consider reaching out to representatives about parental leave or supporting healthcare access and maternal health initiatives, like the Hyperemesis Foundation.
Here are a few ideas for pregnancy and infant related organizations to get you started:
- Black Mamas Matter: Black Mamas Matter is working to improve black mothers’ pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences and health outcomes
- National Birth Equity Collaborative: National Birth Equity Collaborative seeks to improve black maternal healthcare through advocacy, research and training.
- Postpartum Support International: Postpartum Support International advocates for and supports parents facing emotional or mental health challenges during pregnancy or postpartum.
- MomsRising: MomsRising pushes a broad platform of issues impacting women, children and families.
Looking for more ways to make babyhood more affordable? Check out 9 Ways to Save on Maternity Clothes.
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