Baby registry, baby registry must haves, pediatric physical therapy

As a pediatric physical therapist, I often get asked for recommendations on toys and baby gear that will help promote a child’s gross motor development. The items are endless and marketing is strong! So I’ve decided to save you some money and compile a list of things that you DON’T need on your baby registry, from my experience as both a mom and pediatric physical therapist.

1. Stroller/Car Seat Combo: This sounds genius, right? However, imagine putting your baby in the stroller/car seat combo, loading up the car, driving 20-30 minutes, having a coffee or lunch date, completing some errands, loading back up, and driving home. Ooy! The time spent strapped in can add up fast for your baby. While it is a convenient combination, it makes it far too easy to leave baby secure and strapped. Thus, in turn, limiting the amount of time baby spends stretched out, moving, and exploring their environment. Variation is key for gross motor development, so creating opportunities for baby to be in different positions throughout the day - held in your arms, across your lap, in a baby carrier, on the floor, etc. - will provide the opportunities they need to develop. While these stroller/car seat combos seem convenient, they, in fact, can become a hindrance to your baby’s gross motor development. So, save that money and opt for a convertible car seat + bassinet stroller or baby carrier. This ensures baby will be in a variety of positions throughout the day. 

2. Infant Swings & Bouncers: Sometimes your baby needs a safe place to be or needs some movement. And sometimes your arms need a break. But, rest assured, infant swings and bouncers are not a must. Instead, opt for a baby carrier. It’s portable and far cheaper than purchasing a swing or bouncer for multiple rooms in your home. Your arms get a break, your baby gets movement, and you both experience bonding that won’t happen with swings and bouncers.

3. Infant Seats: Infant seats often place a baby in a less than ideal position and posture. They also “lock a baby in place,” which is not the reality when it comes to sitting. Babies need to MOVE in and out of sitting, which is why I do not recommend infant seats. A more functional and affordable option is a Boppy pillow. And, yup, you probably have one of those on your registry too. Use a Boppy pillow around your child’s waist to support them while in a sitting position. The pillow will provide support while still allowing baby to move and change positions.

4. Snoo: This one can be a hot topic! But, first of all, they are expensive, although rental options are now in place. And, the Snoo essentially restricts your baby’s movement ALL NIGHT. If your baby sleeps in one position all night, of course, they are at a much higher risk of developing a flat spot on their noggin! And, if that’s the case, additional services will be needed, on top of the already expensive short-term baby bed. Trust me, I almost fell for one as a new mom because sleep for parents is so important, especially for those returning to work. But, just know, a bedside bassinet or crib works just beautifully!

5. Infant Loungers: Many of these have been recalled or deemed unsafe; therefore, I cannot in good faith recommend them. These soft, inclined loungers also increase a child’s risk for worsening of torticollis/plagiocephally. They restrict a baby’s movement to a tiny space and limit their ability to look around and explore their environment. Instead of purchasing an infant lounger that will be used for a short time, opt for a blanket on the floor or a mat inside a playpen. Baby can explore in a safe environment without these additional risks!

6. Jumpers: This includes those on the floor and those supported in doorways - just don’t. In my experience, jumpers often create atypical movement patterns and can result in underdeveloped abdominal muscles, toe walking, and arching preferences. This can then lead to hindered development of rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking. Does this mean if your baby uses or used a jumper that this will be the case? Absolutely not! However, avoiding jumpers can help you avoid unnecessary services and intervention down the road. (Again, I’m trying to save you money both on baby gear and services!) Baby will stand and jump when their body is ready. Instead consider a soft play mat or pikler triangles to encourage climbing (excellent for total body strength). And, if you’re looking for a fun activity to bring out some baby giggles, look for an indoor/outdoor swing. It will give you many more years of enjoyment.

In addition, if your child has a side preference, torticollis, and/or plagiocephaly, prolonged time spent on an inclined surface, like the ones listed above, can increase the risk of additional head flattening and tightness of the neck and trunk muscles.

I will let you in on a secret - when my son was in the infant stage we had a bouncer. Yup, I - a pediatric physical therapist - owned and used a “container” with my child. I kept it as my one safe space to use in moderation while I did the dishes, cooked, fed the dogs, etc. With one container, I was still able to ensure my son received ample floor time and free play. I share this because containers are not “bad.” However, when used often, they can create less opportunities for your child to move and develop gross motor skills. So, my advice is to pick one, limit the total time in containers/positioning devices to less than 2 hours per day, and follow up that usage with an equal amount of unrestricted play time in the floor.

But, please remember this information is educational in nature, and should be used to guide you in making the right choice for your family. When in doubt, ask for help or suggestions. At Milestones At Play, we are here to be a resource for you! If you enjoyed this blog post download our "Container Swap" guide for FREE!

If you have questions about your child's gross motor skills, head shape, or side preference let us know - we are here to help. As a mom and a pediatric physical therapist, it is my goal to set kiddos and parents up for gross motor success. Stay tuned as I publish more blog posts with gross motor tips. And if you made it this far, thank you! Please check out and follow, like, comment, etc. our social media accounts. I appreciate it!   

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Dr. Amie Dougherty

Dr. Amie Dougherty

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