In the fall of 2014, I was in the clouds awaiting our first baby boy. I literally spent tons of time researching and building my baby registry before anyone had a baby shower planned for me. I just had to have a plan; like in every situation of my life, I had to know exactly what it was going to take to properly care for my baby in the easiest, most comfortable scenario.
If you're an expecting mother, the best advice I could give you is to get a mom whose "style" you like and appreciate. I don't just mean a fashion sense, but whose parenting style is similar to yours. For example, my good friend Janice was a mom who doesn't sacrifice practicality for brand names or impractical styles. That's how I like to roll, too, and it's so helpful to have an idea of what would be good for YOU and YOUR baby.)
If you're a gift-giver who is looking for ideas on practical gifts to give a young mother, the first thing I'd suggest to you is to start with her registry. Yes, she might not need that $150 baby carrier when a $20 one would suffice, but let her make that decision. If she decides to return the expensive baby carrier you gave her for something else, consider that you gave her a cash gift that significantly contributed to funding this big change in her life.
Now, if you don't have a registry to work with or you want to really give her something that's off registry (or maybe you have to because, like me, you procrastinated and lame gifts were left for the picking), I've got some items that personally saved my new-mom hiney.
1. Diapers, Wipes, and Butt Creams
I know, this sounds like a lame gift, but it's so darn helpful. Whether your mom-to-be is considering using cloth diapers, it wouldn't hurt her to have a package or two of disposables. It WILL come in handy when that babe blows out of their diaper at the Target parking lot or in an airplane. Don't buy Newborn size, though; so many babies are born into size 1, so you can play it safe and gift a size 2 or bigger. They'll surely grow into it eventually, and it'll be there when the baby's ready.
As for wipes, go for brands that make their wipes for sensitive skins. My son was a premie, so his skin was super sensitive. I used Pampers Sensitive Wipes for a while, and now I'm a big believer in Water Wipes. Water Wipes are 99% water, so it'll do the job of cleaning the baby's bum without any chemicals that can cause irritation on sensitive skin.
Finally, the glorious butt cream. Yes, it's not a shiny gift but it's so, so useful. You'll always be remembered as the friend/family member who turned that new mama towards a brand that helped care for her little one. My sister-in-law introduced me to Weleda Calendula cream, which is paraben- and chemical-free, and perfect for the conscious mom. But there are times that natural diaper cream won't cut it, so if your new mom isn't completely biased towards natural products, Desitin Maximum Strength, Aquaphor, and A+D would be my go-to products for battling pesky diaper rashes.
2. Clothing for Later Stages
I know, newborn clothes are so darn cute, but you should resist. My friend Janice told me I'd be loaded with newborn clothes, and she was right. So much of it went unused, so I relied on hand-me-downs for when my baby grew.
You'll do your expecting mother a great service by setting her up for when her baby gets longer and chunkier. Don't think your gift isn't as valuable if it can't be used immediately. I think it'll be even more valuable to the new mom if she has 3-6 month, 9 month, even 12 month-sized clothing packed away for the moment she realizes her baby barely squeezes through a onesie he wore just a week ago (true story!).
When buying clothes, keep in mind the weather when they'll be wearing it. The last thing you want is to buy a cute Springtime dress when the baby will be that size during the winter. You'll guarantee it'll go unused.
3. Mealtime Gear
I was surprised so many moms don't know about the magic of long-sleeved bibs! Your young mom has no clue how messy her kid will be once he/she starts with solids. Babies generally go through more daily wardrobe changes than Mariah Carey would, so ensuring that young frazzled mom has to do one less during the day, is practically a blessing. There are so many cute designs out there; my son has this Bumkins Batman sleeved bib, and we recently gifted a Wonder Woman one to our friends' tot. Just be sure you're getting one that has a pocket for changing dropped foods, and can be easily wiped clean.
4. Certificates for House Cleaning and Meal Services
Speaking of messes, this is a gift most any mom would appreciate, especially the young mom trying to figure out how to get into the rhythm of her new life. Doing something for her around the house is one less thing she needs to worry about today, and I can't stress how HUGE this is for a mom.
I suggest getting her a certificate for a future house cleaning or meal delivery service so she can schedule it whenever it's most convenient for her. You can do this through services like TaskRabbit, or just call a local business and prepay.
5. Errands and Rides
On the same vein as #4, if you have a car and some time, it'll be a huge help to offer this to the new mom. During those days where she got little-to-no sleep during the night, she'll love you for picking up her groceries, medicines, or even taking her to her doctor's appointments and watching the baby so she's feeling the extra support and love. I'm sure the new dad would be tremendously appreciative of this when he has to make the difficult move to go back to work.
6. Gym Day
And I don't mean a membership at 24 Hour Fitness, ha! I'm talking about gyms for babies like there are indoor gyms for kids. Gymboree has play and music classes for babies from age 0 months through 5 years. There's also The Little Gym, Romp n' Roll, and tons others. This is a great way to get your young mom and her babe some fun bonding time, as well as a way for her to socialize and meet other new moms experiencing the same things. It'll be a wonderful gift for her and her baby, mentally and physically.
7. Date Night
One of the most special gifts I received was from one of my good friends: a restaurant gift card and babysitting. She and her husband came over one evening and watched our son as my husband and I went out for a night out on the town. This was such a special gift; it may not be a big deal for you, but for frazzled, tired parents who haven't seen a movie in theaters in ages, THIS is quite the treat. and it's welcomed at any point in time––even when the kid's not-so-new anymore!
I'd strongly suggest you don't offer the babysitting part if you're not comfortable being alone with babies, or if you're not super close to the parents. But you can still give them a date night gift along with a coupon for where they can find a reputable sitter, or prepay their regular sitter so it's not expense out of their pocket.
And if either of these options aren't feasible for one reason or another, then gift them an at-home-date-night box with all the fun essentials for a sweet, romantic night together... whenever they're ready. I love this idea classy set from Handmade Mood and this romantic Valentine's basket from Idealist Mom. Get creative!
8. Nerve-Calming Gifts
For as much as someone can tell you that your baby WILL have a fever, you're never too emotionally ready for it when it's your firstborn sick for the first time. Help the newbie parents be ready for when that time comes by stocking them up with essentials. Little Remedies has a Survival Kit that includes meds for nasal blockage, tummy aches, and fevers. You can also put together your own basket with a combination of first-aid supplies. A few things I would put into a gift basket are:
- NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator
- Children's meds like Ibuprofen and Benadryl
- Bandaids (waterproof, preferably)
- Baby nail clippers
- Forehead thermometer
It might also help the new mom and dad to have access to a parenting class or two, especially during those first few days. If you can prepay for classes of the parents' choice, they may appreciate it. It can give them a chance to talk to nurses who can give advice on caring for the new one, and answer all those questions about the weird things happening to her body.
Money is generous and loving; it might fit into a small envelope, but boy, this gift packs a punch. Don't think that giving the young mom a wad of cash is a cop-out for doing some actual shopping. It's the complete opposite! Cash is a great gift that allows the mom to choose where she can allocate it to support her new life.
When I was pregnant, my husband's family put together a surprise mini-shower at the family's Thanksgiving reunion. So many of his extended family pooled money for us, and it basically paid for our son's swanky crib! If we hadn't gotten those generous cash gifts, I don't know how we would've gotten a new crib. It was a real blessing!
10. Something Handmade
For as much as we mean to (and want to), a gift that helps that new mom capture those memories is an irreplaceable treasure. If you like scrapbooking, you can gift your new mom a scrapbook of her baby's first year. Commit to taking wonderful pictures of her child, and collect some of her own, and put into a sweet little scrapbook you can gift on the baby's first birthday.
You can also make a quick growth chart out of wood or burlap they can hang in the nursery, wall art, a colorful paper mobile––the DIY gift possibilities are endless and doable for the novice. Don't shy away from a project if it's your first try; you might just pick up a new hobby. ;)
Anything else you'd add to the list of gift ideas for the new mom?