Here's a popular baby item you won't find on the gift registry: Baby's own website, with his or her own domain name.
A growing number of expectant and new parents are setting up websites for chronicling every moment of their babies' lives -- some starting at conception by posting growing belly pictures, ultrasound images and even a countdown to the due date.
Once they've decided on a name for the baby, they're registering it as a website. For popular names like Braden and Ava, it's a virtual race to get the matching domain name before someone else does.
Hundreds of companies sell domain names, most going for about $10 a year. Today's babies will grow up with the Internet -- and the idea of sharing their life stories online, as many older kids are doing through sites like Facebook.http://www.chasepowell.com/
"We decided on his actual name when I was around five months pregnant and immediately bought the domain name at GoDaddy.com for around 9 bucks a year. It took us forever to decide on Chase, so we were excited that the name was available," Christina Powell said.
They launched the site on blogger.com, a free service, with the "It's a boy'' ultrasound photo.
"People thought it was pretty cool that he had not even been born yet and he already had his own website," she said.
Online registrar GoDaddy.com pitches buying one for baby as a starting point for the child's online identity.
"As more and more people interact, connect and conduct activities online, a domain-based identity will become increasingly important," said Warren Adelman, president and COO of GoDaddy.
But Christina Powell, an accountant, said she just wanted a convenient way to keep in touch with farflung relatives.
‘‘Everyone wanted to see pictures, and I got tired of emailing pictures to people individually," she said.
She writes the blog from Chase's perspective, recently musing about her struggle to assemble his highchair:
"She got most of it together when Dad came out and told her it looked funny. Sure
enough, she put the seat on backwards!''
All the attention to the site has inspired Chase's parents to get creative with the photos they post. His mother made a turkey costume for him to wear for his first Thanksgiving, and took photos of him on a big platter, Anne Geddes-style, garnishes and all.
"I don't do huge pages, so it doesn't take that long to throw some pictures up there and write about what's been going on," Christina Powell said. "It's a nice way of keeping a journal. I also write in his baby book, but this way everyone gets to share in his life."
Ryan and Tricia Sakai created Babyjellybeans.com in San Francisco four years ago to help parents create sites for their babies.
"We made a site for our son, and we used it to share photos and news. It was primarily just for us," Ryan Sakai said.
Then they decided to make a business out it, developing an application to allow others to do the same. It costs their clients $8.95 a month.
Now the site has hundreds of members from around the world, who can choose from templates like "secret garden", "under the sea'' or "angel in pink." Parents can share photos and videos, create a slide show and record their baby's milestones.
Visitors can order photo prints from Shutterfly directly. It's easy enough that even sleep-deprived mommies and daddies can use it.
Ryan Sakai said customers don't seem to be worried about privacy -- or those embarrassing baby pictures lingering in cyberspace when the child grows up to run for president.
"The site is only online as long as you want it to be. When the kid is 10 years old, he's probably not going to want to have those baby pictures online. We can take down the site because we host it."
Parents decide whether to keep the pages public or private. Storing photos in cyberspace offers some protection against loss.
‘‘People from Louisiana lost all of their actual photo albums. Some had a website with us
aand all of their baby's pictures are still intact," Ryan Sakai said.
Elizabeth Driscoll at GoDaddy said she has seen several instances of parents reserving the child's name with a negative phrase to prevent bullies from getting it first: For example, JenniferCohenBites.com.
But most are just looking to create an online journal -- and to exchange stories with others. Lori Weinstock and her husband, Marc, of Coral Springs have a 23-year-old son and two 2-year-old children adopted from China. Lori Weinstock blogged about the family's journey to adopt -- and learned alot from others who were writing about their experiences.
Now the Weinstocks share their children's lives in public sites online.
"We have a lot of friends from all around the country, a lot we met in China," said Weinstock, a real estate agent. "The websites are easy ways to communicate and stay in contact with people from all over the world."
HOW TO GET STARTED
See if your baby's name is available as a domain name. There are hundreds of registrars, including GoDaddy.com, Nameseek.com or Verio.com. A quick search will show if it's available. Most cost $9.95 a year.
Adding a middle name or initial can expand the options, or using .net rather than .com.