I am by no means a parenting expert, but having recently been the recipient of not one, but TWO baby showers, having been to loads of them over the years, and having many friends who’ve recently had kids, I have plenty to say on the subject of gift giving for expecting parents. Here are my top 7 tips to make sure that your gift is the most-appreciated one at the party.
Stick to the Registry
Seriously, if I were limiting this blog post to a single piece of advice, this would be it. STICK TO THE REGISTRY. New parents spend a LOT of time and energy putting together their registries. Whether they’re working within a specific theme, trying to stay in line with a particular parenting style, or simply have a small house, expecting parents are usually only putting the most necessary items on their registries. These are the items they NEED or WANT most. For example, Ben and I have a very small house, so our registry really focused on multi-use items and the absolute bare necessities. Our registry even explicitly stated that our house was small and we didn’t want a lot of extraneous stuff. But we still got it. Of course a gift is ALWAYS appreciated, but it’s appreciated even more when it’s something useful and wanted. I know it can feel icky or impersonal to just pick something off a list, but trust me, this is the best way to give expecting parents a gift they will treasure.
Always Include a Gift Receipt
No matter how confident you are that the gift you’ve purchased is perfect in every way, do your pregnant friend a favor and include a gift receipt. You simply can’t account for things like receiving multiples of the same item, or a baby growing so fast he or she never gets to use the item. Including a gift receipt means that new parents will be able to exchange the unused item for something they really might need later.
Put Down the Baby Blankets
For real. Unless blankets are something that the new parents have specifically registered for, or they are handmade items that have a lot of sentimental value, just save everybody a headache and DON’T BUY BABY BLANKETS. Ben and I registered for five muslin swaddle blankets, as we’d gotten lots of cotton and muslin blankets as hand-me-downs from my coworker already. Between the two showers that were thrown for us, we ended up with no less than a dozen blankets in addition to the ones we’d registered for and the ones we already had. This is simply too many. They don’t fit in our linen closet and are currently stacked in the baby’s crib for lack of anywhere to put them (and without gift receipts, we were unable to return them!). Keep in mind, most hospitals will send new parents home with a stack too. Baby blankets are an unnecessary purchase that will just end up taking up space and being donated.
Provide a Service Rather Than a “Thing”
This is a big one that I wish more people would consider. It’s downright easy to just run out to a baby store or buy something from Amazon. But providing a service for new parents is so, so valuable. Team up with a few friends to buy a newborn or maternity photo shoot. Engage a cleaning service to come out and clean up the family’s house before or after baby comes home (or offer to do it yourself!). Give a “gift certificate” for free babysitting or dog walking or offer to drop off nutritious meals. Ben’s aunt is a professional photographer, and her gift to us was a newborn portrait session. She lives in upstate NY and even said she would come to us. Now THAT is a thoughtful gift that isn’t taking up extra space in our house.
Remember the Parents
Yeah, sure, a baby shower is generally about welcoming the new baby and making sure that the parents have everything that they might need to care for baby after baby is born. But new parents are still people, and moms especially can feel like they lose a bit of themselves in the wake of a new baby joining the family. Give mom a spa day, or offer to babysit so the parents can spend some one-on-one time together after baby is born. Give a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or a couple of bottles of their favorite wine. My gift from my mother in law was a spa day and free babysitting, which meant the world to me. Remembering that parents are going through an incredibly emotional time and need some love too will be appreciated.
Avoid Buying Newborn-Sized Everything
While it seems like common sense to buy newborn clothes for a new baby, it’s important to remember that just like adults, new babies come in all shapes and sizes. Some babies are born way too big to ever fit newborn clothes, and preemies are swimming in them. It’s a really great idea to gift a variety of sizes so that the new parents have a depth and breadth of clothes before baby comes. Babies also grow incredibly fast, so having 10-12 newborn outfits and nothing else might mean that within a week or two, parents have to run out and buy new clothes because nothing fits. Also, consider the season along with the size. If a baby is born in the summer, they’re most likely not going to need a newborn-sized snowsuit.
Cash (or an Amazon Gift Card) is King
I know it seems crass to give cash, but honestly you couldn’t possibly give a better gift. Every baby and every family is different, and sometimes parents discover a few weeks or months in that the baby hates the bottles they registered for, or that the Rock ‘n’ Play everyone said was so magical isn’t working for them. Or, they just didn’t end up getting everything they registered for. Having some extra cash around can really help out for those unexpected expenses. It can also be used for things like ordering takeout when they just can’t face cooking, or paying a babysitter so they can have a date night. We received a cash gift from one set of friends and used it to buy a bunch of baby first aid and health care items that we hadn’t even thought to register for, like Baby Tylenol and a baby toothbrush. And we received a TON of Amazon gift cards, which we can use for things like diapers or more clothes as needed.
This one isn’t really about the gift itself, but how one delivers the gift: include your mailing address in the card. I know that 9 times out of 10 at showers these days, the host or hostess will have you write out a self-addressed envelope, but it doesn’t always work out that way. At my shower, my mom and sister forgot to put the envelopes out, so I didn’t have those handy self-addressed envelopes. Thankfully, our Amazon registry got most of the addresses. But for anyone who didn’t buy a gift off the registry, I had to track down a mailing address for them, which made the already annoying task of doing thank-you notes even more annoying. By including your address with your gift, you’re potentially saving parents a hassle.
So there you have it. My tips that are guaranteed to make you the most popular baby-gift-giver around.***
***I can’t actually guarantee this. But I’m pretty confident that the tips above will help you make your expecting friends very happy.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with any of my tips? Anything to add?