Buying for Baby
In another hub, I offered a tongue-in-cheek look at what new parents should buy for their baby and expect to actually use. The majority of items that accumulate for the new arrival are often gifts from well-meaning friends and relatives.
The tradition of helping out new parents is time-honored and should be met gratitude from the parents, even if they receive something they don't want or cannot use. The fact that someone took the time to make a generous gesture should be appreciated, however I am pretty certain that all new parents at one time or another have been disappointed with something that they did or did not receive.
Here are some basic suggestions for buying a gift for the baby of a friend or relative, and a few things to avoid.
Before you begin, two things to keep in mind:
First of all, try to know as much as possible about the lifestyle of the parents, and what methods they are going to use. There is a wide range of parenting styles out there that include or exclude specific items.
Taking this into consideration before choosing a gift is a courtesy to the parents, and to yourself. Your money is better spent on a gift that they will need or want, than on a traditional item that may be packed away in the attic for years.
Secondly, don't try to out-do other family members or friends when buying. If you have presented the flashiest gift you will definitely get some attention, but you may also embarrass the parents and others.
If you are buying a big-ticket item, be sure you have the parent's approval. Don't show up at the baby shower or on their doorstep with a large piece of nursery furniture unless you know for certain that it is welcome.
With that said, lets look at some (hopefully) helpful gift ideas, starting with a controversial item:
Depending on who you ask, receiving or giving diapers is either tacky or helpful. You might find out how the parent's feel about this before stocking up on Pampers. I don't see diapers as a tacky gift because they are guaranteed to be used on a daily basis .
Diapers are also pricey, and some struggling parents may be worried about money after all of the new expenses. In cases such as this, a few packages of diapers and wipes may be more welcome in the long run than an engraved spoon or stuffed animal.
You might consider giving the diapers to the parents privately, then a cuter gift at the shower, if you don't want to come across as being too practical.
Be sure to ask if cloth diapers or disposable diapers are preferred.
Another much-debated gift idea. I think gift cards are an excellent idea for new parents. Despite everyone's best intentions, it is still likely that that in the first weeks after baby is born mom and dad will realize they forgot something.
Or maybe they are well stocked on supplies that baby can't use. For instance, what if baby is allergic to certain diapers, lotions, or soaps? There may be a midnight run to the store or pharmacy and a gift card can be handy.
Also, mom may need something in those exhausting postpartum weeks. Baby may be surrounded by luxury, but mom may have neglected her own or dad's needs in the excitement. A gift card for pizza or other take home meal might be very welcome.
Baby socks are teeny, cute, and easily lost. My daughter loved wearing socks, and I appreciated every pair I received. I would highly recommend socks as gifts for anyone having a cold-weather baby.
You aren't limited here to giving just boring packages of socks. Socks are small and can easily be rolled and arranged in gift baskets with other items for a shower gift. Try to include some neutral colored socks in there as well as the gender specific colors. Not all of baby's outfits will be either pink or blue.
One of the best things about baby socks, is that they are a cheap baby gift. This doesn't mean they are tacky. It means that you can supply mom and dad with plenty without breaking your personal budget, yet know that you gave something practical they can use everyday.
Everyone will probably give some item of clothing because just about everyone loves shopping for wee outfits. Clothes will probably always be welcome, but keep in mind that baby won't always be so 'wee'. In fact, some babies are born not fitting into newborn size clothing. Its okay to buy a few tiny shirts or onesies, but if you are giving several outfits, it is a good idea to buy up a size or two.
Also, if you are buying quite some time before baby is born, keep in mind that the seasonal clothes available at the time might not be appropriate once baby is born. If baby is going to be born in the middle of winter, a selection of newborn size sleeveless dresses may be cute, but highly impractical. On the other hand, even though babies need to be kept warm; fuzzy blanket sleepers in the heat of summer will probably be uncomfortable. Some nice jersey knit sleepers would be more suitable.
Please, refrain from buying baby clothes with tacky slogans if you aren't sure the parents will think it amusing.
When you find that perfect outfit, check the tag before you buy it. Make sure it is easy to care for. Nothing that has to hand washed or dry cleaned, no matter how cute, is going to be worn frequently.
Although they are difficult to find, dark or bold colored clothes can be a life-saver during those messy months. They hide stains more easily than pastels or whites and don't look faded as soon.
Grooming and First Aid
Shampoo, lotion, baby oil, neosporin, baby tylenol, thermometer, nail care items, and diaper rash ointment; most parents will use at least a few of these. Arranged in a nice basket, or maybe even a plastic bathtub along with some washcloths can be thoughtful, attractive gift.
If you want to go all out, include a variety of sample sized shampoos and lotions, as baby may be sensitive to some brands and scents and this will allow the parents to try a small amount.
Lavender scented baby wash, shampoo, and lotion smell delicious and can help fussy babies relax.
If you know the parents will be formula feeding, then bottles can be a nice gift. Some parents may have a preference for a certain type. If not, be sure to at least make sure that the bottles are BPA-free, and that the nipples can be replaced easily. Nearby stores might not carry the right rings and nipples for certain brands. Throwing in a bottle brush is a nice touch. They wear out fast.
If they are going to be breastfeeding consider a breastfeeding pillow, nursing shawl, or selection of bottles if the mother will be expressing for bottle feeding. Milk storage bags are also very useful, but may seem rather personal.
Like the clothes, you might consider buying up a few months. Feeding sets for solid food will be needed later on, and very few people will think to buy them before baby is born.
Bibs and Burpcloths
Good rule of thumb, baby can't have enough of these things. Velcro bibs are easier than tie-on bibs and soft bibs are better for younger babies.
Every baby needs toys! But not every toy is good for baby. The best toys for a young baby are small enough to be held easily, and aren't heavy enough to hurt them if they drop them or accidentally hit themselves.
Buying toys that can be played well into toddler-hood is a better idea than toys that will be outgrown in the first month or two. Classics such as stacking rings, cups or blocks are always good. You can buy toys that are for older children, but to me it seems cruel to keep tons of interesting toys shelved out of a child's reach until they are old enough to play with them.
Slightly unusual, but still useful ideas
- Storage:Some of the most useful gifts I received were plastic and wicker storage bins. These were perfect for sorting keeping baby stuff together in different rooms of the house. I kept a small diaper changing station in several rooms to make it easier in those first weeks. The larger bins became toyboxes later, or I used them to store items as they were outgrown.
- Babyproofing stuff-That day when baby starts creeping about checking out outlets can come sooner than most parents expect.
- Head support for carseat. These keep a smaller baby from lolling about in a carseat on bumpy car rides.
- Baby-sized clothes hangers.
- Books: a few nice story books or bathtime books are wonderful gifts for baby!
Whether you are buying gifts for expectant parents, or reading yet another list of things you might need as a parent-to-be,remember these basic rules.
- Make sure it is safe.
- Make sure it is easy to clean.
- Make sure parts can be easily replaced.
- Babies are individuals.
Good Idea, Wrong Baby
Some things sound great in theory and look even better on the shelves. Here is where good intentions and baby's individual personality sometimes clash.
There is really no way to know how well received these items will be until they are tried. I can only give personal experiences with these products:
- Playmat: A friend gave me one of these as a gift. It was brightly colored with a variety of dangling toys. It played music, and the printed pictures on it all had different textures to explore. I loved it! My baby, however...hated it. At first I thought she was just resisting tummy time, but I quickly discovered that she preferred to be on a plain blanket on the floor rather than the mat. It was used four or five times, then packed away. It made her cry whenever she saw it. However, one of the removable toys remained her favorite toy for five months.
- Swaddler: All babies love to be nestled in a warm cozy swaddler. Right? Wrong! Some babies will actually scream if you swaddle them. Those too were packed away, along with swaddling blankets. In fact, all the blankets were packed away. And the baby quilts were hung as decoration. She would only sleep under an afghan.
- Nite-Lite: Again, not-so-much. My daughter would only sleep in complete darkness or with the full-sized lamp turned on. even the soft, soothing blue LED light on the baby monitor would irritate her. However, the night light is well loved by most children and parents. We loved the one we received as a gift and are still using it in the bathroom. So what if it is a pink monkey? Its cute!
- Baby Monitors: I asked for and received a very nice set of monitors. And they have been used twice. Our daughter still sleeps in our room at night, and the house is small enough that if she cries we can hear it from any room. Find out if the baby will sleep in a nursery or the parent's room.
No, no, no!
Believe it or not, I have seen some people buy these to give as baby gifts, or ask if they were okay!
- Buy grownup shampoo for babies! Ouch!
- Buy an ipod for a baby! Bad idea!
- Toys that cannot be cleaned.
- A pet. Not without the parent's consent!
Nursery and Accessories
When it comes to the nursery or accessories such as a diaper bag, many parents prefer to choose these items for themselves. It is probably best not to surprise them with a highchair, rocking chair, swing, cradle, crib, or complete bedding set unless you know for certain it was something they wanted.
When it comes to decorative items, don't buy something just because you personally like it. Make sure it will go with the theme.
Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on August 25, 2012:
Thanks CassyLu! Yeah, a Babies R Us card would be wonderful. That way you would at least know that the parents were able to pick out something they liked or needed. Thanks for the comment!
CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on August 23, 2012:
Lots of great ideas here! Diapers and wipes are always on the must have and need lists so that's what I always go for. Or do a gift card at babies-r-us or something so they can get other specail items.
Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on August 13, 2012:
Thank you, sunshine! I remember when people asked what I wanted I suggested gift cards and was met with shocked expressions. Why? They are great!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on August 13, 2012:
Unless the parents are registered and I know exactly what they need I just give gift cards. No one could ever go wrong with a gift card or money. You listed some great gift ideas!:)