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Off-Registry Baby Gifts: Is There a Polite Way to Say

Off-Registry Baby Gifts: Is There a Polite Way to Say “No Thanks”?

By Amalah

Hi, Amalah.

I was wondering if you’d be willing to weigh in on an issue I’m having with our baby registry.

For a number of reasons, I decided to put together a very simple, no-nonsense registry consisting of the items I know that we and the baby need. We intend to cloth diaper and breastfeed, and as a first-time mom I’m aware that I have no idea what types of diapers I will love/hate and what type of bottles my little one will take to, once I have to pump to return to work.

After asking for advice from a lot of women I respect, I concluded that one of the best ways to figure these things out is to register for a few different diapers/bottles. In addition, the registry comprises of basics like mattress pads and crib sheets, socks, carriers, and only a few big-ticket items like a monitor and a high chair.

I’ve gotten some complaints (word of mouth) that “there’s nothing left” on the registry or simply, people don’t like what I’ve chosen. My husband wasn’t very involved in putting the registry together (or doing the research into the items I’ve chosen) and these comments are being delivered to him instead of to me. Family members are insisting to him that they buy things that they think we need versus buying the items I’ve so carefully curated.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I genuinely appreciate that anyone is willing to help us with these things in the first place. But at the same time, I don’t need a fancy baby food processor (one of the suggested gifts) in place of our real necessities.

So, I ask you – is there a polite way of emphasizing this point?

Any help/guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,


I mean, believe me, I’m so in your court here and applaud you for restricting your baby registry to the basic necessities instead of running around the store all scanner-happy because it’s all a big, manic grab for STUFF STUFF FREE STUFF. But it still comes down to the basic, fundamental point that registries — wedding, baby, otherwise — are merely a list of helpful suggestions, but that’s it. They help cut down on duplicate gifts and give shower guests and gift-givers some guidance, but you can’t “make” people stick to your registry. You (or your shower host) provide a store name/online link when asked, and that’s it. Your friends and family are perfectly entitled to reject your selections and exercise free shopping will.

If people are whining to your husband that “there’s nothing left” (when there actually IS, but honestly — nobody wants to be the person buying one bottle, a pack of socks and a rectal thermometer; people want to buy stuff that’s “FUN!”), he should simply and politely say something like, “Yes, our family and friends really shocked us with their generosity, so there’s very little left we feel we ‘need’ right away, beyond a few more basic necessities.” (He could also allude to the fact that you guys are holding off on a lot of purchases/decisions until the baby is here, which a smart gift-giver will interpret as GIFT CARDS, PLEASE.)

If people are whining that they simply don’t like what you’ve chosen (!!), he should shut that down with some prompt kindness. Thank them for thinking of you, but really, you guys are set and they shouldn’t feel obligated to buy you anything. Because screw them, that’s rude. You don’t need gifts from rude people. (But two rudes don’t make a right, thus ordering them to follow the registry OR ELSE isn’t any better.)

Then when the (inevitable) off-registry gifts start showing up, you write very nice thank-you notes and then return unwanted stuff to the store, where you exchange them for any remaining registry items, or for gift cards to use later, once your baby is here and you have a better sense of what you need and want. Even if there’s no gift receipt, most of the “big” stores (Babies R Us, Target, Buy Buy Baby, etc.) will issue store credit in exchange for items that they stock, no questions asked. I’ve done this every time. It’s no biggie.

That said, pay attention to WHO is giving you the off-registry stuff. If it’s someone who has had a baby within the last few years, they may not be actively trying to snub your choices, but simply want to give you something that they personally found to be essential. (My mother-in-law also tends to buy baby gifts based on the stuff she remembers us raving about, rather than the registry.) I admit I give just about every pregnant woman I know a Miracle Blanket, whether they registered for one or not. I’m not trying to throw shade on the velcro SwaddleMe or Sleep Sack you registered for, I’m just trying to give you something I hope will be useful and helpful. And Miracle Blankets are the goddamn bomb.

And lots of people love that baby food processor. Me, I used a…regular food processor, and had no interest in cluttering up my kitchen with such a specific appliance with a limited window of use.  BUT. If I’d been given one, I would have assumed it was purchased with the best of intentions (Hi I Hear You Like Making Your Own Baby Food So I Got You A Thing That Makes Baby Food), given the giver my sincere thanks, and then quietly returned it. Or donated it or given it away, if there wasn’t anything else I needed. Since it sounds like you’ve got a lot of basics gathering dust on your registry, think of it this way: One person’s insistence on buying an overpriced baby food processor is gonna give you enough store credit to buy all the socks, burp rags and bottles you want. SCORE.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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