Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practical Gifts for Expecting Parents

When my Bug was born three years ago, I was one of the first among my close friends to have a baby. Most of my friends from high school aren't even married (or in a committed relationship) yet, but that's slowly starting to change.

Now that I'm almost (gasp!) thirty years old, I imagine a lot more friends from my age group are going to start entering baby land. That biological clock is ticking, after all (forgive me for saying that, but it's actually pretty true).

Aside from that, most of the new friends I've made in San Diego are also moms, married with a baby or two, or are planning to start trying for one soon. And thus, I expect I may start hearing more happy announcements in the next few years about incoming newborns. Let the creative Facebook declarations commence!

Whether baby showers happen or not, everyone loves sending gifts to expecting mothers, especially first-timers. I know I loved (and deeply appreciated) the flow of clothes and books and toys, much of it from people who had already been in my position long before me. People who understood to offer clothes in sizes other than just newborn, so that I'd actually have enough onesies and sleepers and such to get me by for at least the first year. People who thought to offer things I'd never think of getting on my own. People who knew me well enough to not offer obnoxious battery-operated toys or boxes upon boxes of disposable diapers.

Since having my own baby, I've learned a lot about some of the more practical gifts one can give an expectant parent. Looking for gift ideas for the next baby shower you get invited to? Here are some you may not have thought of.

There are so many things to learn about pregnancy and birth and parenting. In my opinion, every pregnant woman needs a good childbirth class; why not help pay for a series? Or perhaps a breastfeeding class? Or a baby massage class? (Or maybe a prenatal massage for mama?) Perhaps some prenatal yoga classes to help her relax during pregnancy? Or think ahead and find a good baby sign language class. If an entire set of classes is out of your price range, consider teaming up with another friend to pay for the classes, or get a gift certificate to contribute to the overall cost.

Being a new mama is hard, what with the lack of sleep and lack of time for doing anything other than holding baby (or so it seems!). And it's even worse for a first-time mama, who might be struggling with breastfeeding, or who might need help just staying on top of laundry, or who would love to have some kind of meal that didn't come from a box. Consider paying for (or helping to pay for) some kind of service like a postpartum doula (who can help with baby care, assist with breastfeeding, and answer any and all questions a new parent might have) or a maid.

Well, you've probably thought of this one. I did mention it above, after all. But try thinking outside the box if you just can't resist getting clothes (and who can?). Don't just shop for newborn or 0-3 month clothes, as most babies grow out of those ridiculously fast. Look for 6 month, 9 month, or even 12-18 month articles of clothing, to ensure that baby will be fashionably clad for some time to come. Look in unusual places to find clothes too. Try online stores like Etsy for one-of-a-kind onesies, check out websites like ThinkGeek for your nerdy AWESOME friends, and look in local gift stores for outfits that you can't find at stores like Babies R Us. I've even seen some pretty awesome onesies and toddler t-shirts at my local farmers' market!

Yes, everybody gives baby blankets. But yes, new parents will probably use all of those baby blankets. As a matter of fact, there will be times when every single one of those blankets are in the laundry hamper, because they have been spit up on or peed on or otherwise been dirtied. In my opinion, new parents can never have too many baby blankets. Look for unusual designs and consider getting gender-neutral colors so that blankets can be reused for subsequent babies or passed on more easily to family/friends. Bonus points for handmade blankets or quilts!

Handmade quilts also make for great photo ops.

Enough said, right? Make sure you find out preferences first, though! If cloth diapers are the thing, are there any particular styles or brands that would be preferred? Consider gift certificates to websites like Cotton Babies, so mama can pick out her own. Consider cloth diaper accessories, like wet bags or cloth diaper wipes, or even cloth diaper detergent. If she's going with disposables, also check for preferences: bleach-free, eco-friendly, biodegradable? Something special for ultra-sensitive newborn skin, but something different when baby gets older? Going with a name brand, either due to a rewards program or easy availability or some other reason? It's important to have plenty in the smaller sizes, but also consider getting some in larger sizes that will last beyond the first few months.

     Baby Care and First Aid Kit.
If you want to get something that will really be appreciated, consider putting together a collection of essential baby care items. First, think of the essentials: shampoo, body wash, baby lotion, diaper rash ointment (pick your favorite; I absolutely love Angel Baby Bottom Balm). Add in some other useful tools: nasal aspirator (those bulb thingies that are used to remove boogers from baby's nose) (or consider a Nosefrida if you're edgy like that), baby nail clippers. To make your collection complete, add in items like a quick-read thermometer, saline spray or drops (to help break up congestion), baby-friendly acetaminophen (Tylenol, in case of fevers), and baby chest rub (preferably a variety that is free of menthol and petroleum products). Earth Mama Angel Baby offers a fantastic Baby Essentials Bundle if you're looking for an easier option along these lines.

     Mama Postpartum Kit.
Chances are good that someone will think of getting a new parent some of the baby supplies listed above, but what about supplies to care for the newly postpartum mama? Recovering from labor and birth is tough, but some thoughtfulness from a friend can go a long way to helping a new mama stay sane. Items to consider: pads (for postpartum bleeding, or lochia) (bonus points for also including soothing freezable postpartum pads to help with healing), Epsom salt, an herbal sitz bath blend, a peri bottle, something soothing for the perineum (such as Mama Bottom Balm). Earth Mama Angel Baby also offers a Postpartum Recovery Essentials Bundle, which might be an easier route.

     Mama Breastfeeding Essentials Kit.
For the mama who plans to breastfeed, a few supplies will always be appreciated! Consider a container of your favorite nipple butter/cream (Lanolin was the only thing that worked for me, but other friends have other favorites), reusable breast pads, a nursing necklace (something pretty for baby to focus on while nursing; I love the ones by Wild Mother Arts), lactation tea. One of my good friends got me a package of breast shells, which I can say with complete honesty were a lifesaver for me. For mamas who want one, consider a nursing cover, or thin blankets for covering with while out and about. For even more bonus points, include a package (or a subscription!!) of lactation cookies.

Most women spend plenty of time during their pregnancy reading pregnancy books and learning all about labor and delivery, but not as many pick up books on actual baby care. And believe me, all new parents will be glad to find a trusted book nearby for all of those unexpected baby things that crop up in the middle of the night! So give a book or three so that mama has a good resource to turn to when questions arise. Also consider a good breastfeeding book for the nursing mother, books about fatherhood, or even a book that focuses solely on postpartum care. Or maybe just get copies of some of your favorite children's books; baby may not really be able to focus on stories or elaborate pictures yet, but reading to babies is always a great idea. Some of my favorite books for new parents:

     Other Assorted Baby Gear
Consider getting some other piece of baby gear that may have been overlooked by others. How about a vaporizer, to help baby breathe easier when congested? How about a baby carrier, like a Moby wrap or an Ergo? How about something to make bathing baby easier, like a simple baby tub or a Blooming Bath? How about some simple toys? Don't go too crazy with specialized items that aren't really that useful, but don't be afraid to think outside of the box either.

This is a Blooming Bath, which makes it easy to convert your kitchen sink to a baby bathtub.

Chances are good that in the days and weeks following the birth, mama will sometimes have a hard time feeding herself. There's simply not enough time to cook when there's a newborn that needs to be held! And this problem is even worse for a woman who is nursing, and therefore most likely ravenously hungry all the time. The solution? Make ahead and freeze meals for her, so that she (or some other member of the family) has only to throw a dish in the oven in order to get delicious, healthy food ready. Consider simple, easily freezable meals like lasagna or enchiladas, soups or chilis. Check ahead of time for dietary preferences/needs (vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, possible allergies). Consider including healthy snacks like trail mix or dried fruit. Another idea: collaborate with other friends to set up a schedule of bringing by freshly cooked dinners every day for the first few weeks after baby is born. Or bring by a few bags of groceries. One last option: gift certificates for some favorite restaurants that offer take out or delivery.


  1. I RECOGNIZE THAT QUILT! I had forgotten :-) Thanks for the post--super useful!

    1. WE STILL ADORE THAT QUILT! We snuggle with on cool days. :)

  2. I love these! ! I especially love services, classes and food! ! All things I ended up spending lots of money on or wishing I could, while much of the toys, clothes, chemically diapers and lotions went to goodwill or got thrown away, once I kept them long enough to get over some of the guilt! !

    1. I know, right?!? Thankfully, I was able to decline the diapers outright, but I felt bad about never using some of the baby shampoos or lotions. (Although, in the defense of the people who gave them, most people actually do use those things...) I try to give gifts that will not only be useful, but that will hopefully be things they didn't receive from anyone else.