NICU Baby Registry: Items You’ll Need in the NICU and Beyond

written by MEGAN FURLONG

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nicu registry"
nicu registry
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

I see it time and time again: an urgent call for help in Facebook moms’ groups: “Help! My baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit—the NICU—and I have no idea what my baby needs!” Generally, a few ideas are tossed into the comments along with a bunch of words of encouragement and hope. But wouldn’t it be nice if a sample NICU registry existed somewhere so new NICU moms knew exactly what they needed?

Well, this one’s for you, NICU moms! I’m a NICU nurse and certified lactation counselor who has cared for thousands of NICU babies over the last eight years. I’ve basically seen it all, from a completely unnecessary full-sized rocking horse delivered from loving family to the perfect preemie-sized wrap top that allows the medical equipment to fit just-so. Below, I’ve rounded up my favorite NICU-friendly items to add to your NICU registry.


Choosing Items for the NICU

As a quick note, a baby in the NICU doesn’t necessarily need anything—items required to care for a NICU baby are generally supplied by the NICU. However, there are plenty of things that can be added to your “NICU registry” to make the journey just a little bit easier. For this list, items were chosen if they:


Are multipurpose

Bonus points if the item can be used in both the NICU and at home or if the item can be used in several different ways.


Are small

There might not be a ton of storage space for your baby’s items in the NICU, so smaller items were chosen intentionally.


Help ease the transition to home

NICU life is hard, but transitioning to home can be even harder for some families. We included ideas that can help bridge the gap between ICU-level care and the home environment.


Gifts for NICU Parents

It’s so easy to feel like the road to home is long and endless, especially if little milestones aren’t celebrated along the way. This NICU gifting category is perfect for friends and family who want to send over a small gift to show their love.



baby name sign
Etsy | Oak and Vine Creations
Double-Sided Baby Name Sign

One side has baby’s name, and the other side has space to fill in baby’s birth details once they arrive. The name side can be used for baby showers, pregnancy announcements, and newborn photos, and the birth details side is great to announce the baby's arrival! Plus, the sign is small and can fit next to a NICU baby (and their medical accessories) for photos.

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baby milestone cards
Every Tiny Thing
NICU Milestone Cards

This is perfect for milestone photos, as it is small and can be taped to the isolette or crib. It's great for any baby in the NICU—not limited to just premature babies.

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printed baby blanket
Kyte Baby
Rainbow Baby Blanket

This can cover the isolette for smaller babies, can serve as a mattress cover in open cribs, and is great for tummy time when baby goes home.

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hand sanitizer charm
Amazon | Itzy Ritzy
Hand Sanitizer Keychain

The NICU is very, very strict about hand washing and sanitizing to keep the babies safe and free from infection. While sanitizer is plentiful in the NICU, this sanitizer chain is perfect to keep on your purse, keys, or lanyard for times when you are away from your baby’s bedside (lunch, coffee, quick trips home). It's also great to toss into your diaper bag when your baby graduates from the NICU.

multiple colors available

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Thread Wallets
Neck Lanyard

As a way to reduce germs, some NICUs do not allow jackets and purses into their patient care areas. Keep your NICU parent ID, hand sanitizer, and locker key all together in one place using this lanyard.

30+ colors/patterns available

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water bottle
Target | Owala
FreeSip Water Bottle

This is leak-proof and has a built-in straw and flip-top lid (so you can sneak a sip of water during kangaroo care!). It also keeps contents cold for 24 hours.

multiple colors available

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Amazon | Corkcicle
Insulated Coffee Mug

This stainless steel mug is great to keep coffee or tea hot for up to three hours when parents are on their way to the NICU each day.

multiple colors available

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Breastfeeding and Pumping

Some NICU babies are too small or sick to breastfeed or bottle-feed at first, so many NICU moms pump to establish milk supply.

baby laundry bag
Amazon | CleverMade
Laundry Backsack

Baby laundry can pile up for those with a little bit of a longer NICU stay. This bag can carry up to 40 pounds over the shoulder or convert to a backpack. It can be used for carrying groceries, running errands, or day trips to the beach or park once your baby graduates from the NICU.

2 colors available

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nicu cooler bag
Rylee & Cru
Cooler Bag

Keep breast milk cold on the way from home to the NICU each day. At 11x7 inches, it fits all the bottles you’ll need each day for your baby. It has both handles and a strap to make carrying super easy.

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pumping bra
Kindred Bravely
Hands-Free Nursing and Pumping Bra

For pumping, nursing, or both at the same time, this bra comes with an extender, as size can fluctuate during the postpartum period.

available in a wide range of sizes from 30B-46I

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lactation massager
Lactation Massager

This helps relieve clogged ducts and engorgement, and some women note a faster milk letdown and breast-emptying, improved milk flow. Use the lactation massager while your favorite pumping bra holds your pump in place!

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NICU Baby Clothes

These clothes for the NICU were chosen for both function and style.

baby top
Monica + Andy
Hello Baby Top

Wrap-style tops are perfect for NICU babies because they are easy to slip on, give space for medical accessories, and are easy to open for head-to-toe assessments.

The Hello Baby Top comes in many different colors and in preemie to newborn sizes. I highly recommend not purchasing a white, off-white, or pale yellow color because it looks very similar to the hospital shirts and will definitely get mixed into the hospital laundry accidentally!

The wrap top can be “dressed up” with a hat, bow, or swaddle.

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baby bow
Little Poppy Co.
Mini Headband Monthly Subscription

This is such a fun idea for a NICU baby, whether they are still in the NICU or have graduated. Get this monthly gift of three mini headbands. Some babies aren’t able to wear any clothes in the NICU, so a headband can be a nice alternative.

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nice baby clothes
Cotton Romper

This romper is made of organic cotton, buttons down the front, and can accommodate NICU accessories like monitor wires and IV tubing.

The spring-themed print is perfect to celebrate warmer weather!

5 colors available

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nicu clothes
Burt's Bees Baby
Organic Wrap-Front Jumpsuit

It's perfect to keep baby warm from transitioning from isolette to crib. The buttons make this outfit NICU-friendly. Plus, it's not a footed outfit, which is ideal for the NICU!

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For Home

These items will make the transition home that much easier.

hatch rest+
BuyBuyBaby | Hatch
Rest+ Sound Machine & Night Light

Great for larger NICUs that have slightly more storage space, this Hatch sound machine also has a customizable night light. It can be controlled remotely with an app.

It also transitions to an “OK to wake” clock for toddlers and has a two-way audio monitor.

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hatch changing pad
BuyBuyBaby | Hatch
Grow Smart Changing Pad and Scale

This Hatch device is multipurpose and doubles as both a diaper-changing pad and scale. It's great for NICU babies who are transitioning to mostly breastfeeding or for babies who need to be closely monitored for weight gain. It's easy to wipe clean—no changing-pad cover needed.

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baby rectal thermometer
BuyBuyBaby | Fridababy
Rectal Thermometer

”Parent proof,” this thermometer is small, so it can only be inserted so deep. It reads baby’s temperature within 10 seconds, and the screen lights up for nighttime temp checks.

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baby nasal aspirator
Target | Safety 1st
Nasal Bulb Syringe

This nasal aspirator is used to suction boogers and snot, breast milk/formula, or baby puke from the nose and mouth in an emergency.

This is important for every family to have on hand just in case, and this one is inexpensive and easy to clean.

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dr. brown's formula mixing pitcher
BuyBuyBaby | Dr. Brown's
Formula Mixing Pitcher

This is great for babies receiving formula. Mix the whole batch for the day, pop it in the fridge, and warm it up for each feeding. The mixing blade prevents formula from clumping. It's great for NICU graduates who are receiving fortified breast milk feedings (a prescribed diet when formula powder is mixed with breast milk to increase the number of calories intentionally); the mixing blade helps to ensure the formula is mixed evenly in the breast milk.

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halo sleep swaddle
Halo Sleep
Cotton Swaddle

The easiest way to swaddle your baby: pop them into the swaddle, velcro the flaps closed, and done!

Comes in knit or fleece and a variety of colors and patterns.

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baby play gym
Play Gym

Once your baby is home, it's so important for their development to provide opportunities for “play time.” Since babies learn from movement, the Lovevery play gym is perfect! Place your baby on their belly for tummy time, on their back to move and explore, or on their side with support and supervision.

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