Bringing up baby is not what used to be. 

Vintage Mother and Baby
Credit: Getty/GraphicaArtis/Contributor

Congrats—you're having a baby! Once you get comfortable with the idea of bringing another human into the world, you're probably ready to tackle your nursery to-do list, including the all-important baby registry. My husband and I (both first-time parents) were shocked at the variety of baby products available these days, and decided to seek advice from a handful of more experienced parents before compiling our registry. The lesson: Many newborn "essentials" are obvious—or downright frivolous—but these five gems shouldn't be left off your list.

1. A Smart Baby Monitor
We thought picking the perfect baby name was tough—but who knew that the world of baby monitors could also be so overwhelming? The basic no-frills plastic version seemed the only way to go—until we discovered that there's a myriad of high-tech options on the market today, offering lux capabilities like infrared cameras, motion sensors, and 24/7 iPhone streaming. Do your research, and settle on the one that best suits your budget and your needs. That said, the smartest piece of advice we received was to look for an option with a solid long-term warranty, meaning that if your monitor gives out while your household still depends on it, they'll send you a new one for free—no questions asked.

2. A (Seemingly) Military-Grade Diaper Pail
Apparently, all diaper pails are not created equal, and pails made of plastic are especially prone to absorbing odors. Though they're a little pricier, we learned that investing in a sturdy steel-constructed pail would eliminate this issue, making diaper changes far more bearable and extending the life of the pail through multiple babies. A gift like this may not garner the most attention at your baby shower, but you'll appreciate it in the long run.

3. Cotton Receiving Blankets—and Lots of Them
We already knew that soft, thin cotton blankets would be an essential part of the nursery, but we learned from more seasoned parents that stocking up is key. Some of your blanket stash will always be in the wash or the hamper, so buy more than you think you'll need and keep clean stacks on hand, storing extras in the car, in your diaper bag, at day care—anywhere you think you may need them. They're great for swaddling, layering for warmth, serving as cover for breastfeeding, keeping the sun out of a stroller or car seat, and generally protecting parents' hair and clothing from whatever baby dishes up.

4. Waterproof Crib Mattress Covers
Keep your perfectly decorated nursery pristine and avoid annoying middle-of-the-night crib changes by having 3-4 waterproof mattress covers on hand, layering them with clean crib sheets on the baby's mattress. By using this layered method—cover, sheet, cover, sheet, etc.—you can simply peel off a messy sheet and mattress pad, and immediately put baby back to sweet dreams on the pristine sheet below. Brilliant.

5. A Dependable Noise Machine
Although we once imagined ourselves standing next to the crib and admiring our soundly sleeping child to the tune of a classic nursery lullaby, we've since been informed that no modern nursery is complete without a high-quality noise machine—one that's loud enough to mask outdoor noises but soothing enough to play for hours on end. Apparently a whole generation of children is catching a few extra hours of sleep due to this genius nursery must-have, and our baby will be no exception. Keep bedtime routines consistent by also registering for a smaller battery-powered travel option, perfect for impromptu naps outside the home and overnight stays at Grandma's.