Non-Baby Gifts for New Parents
April 23, 2009 11:33 AM   Subscribe

One of my best friends had a baby last night. I've got baby gifts, but what can I get (or do) for the new parents?

This is my first really close friend to have a baby, so I've never been in this situation before. I have some gifts for the baby himself, but I'd really like to get something for the parents. New parents, what would you have appreciated receiving after the birth of your first child? I know this has been asked a couple times before, but it doesn't seem to have come up in the past couple of years, and the answers given to these questions also seem to include a lot of baby items. I really want to get something for the parents.

I was thinking of food, of course, and then I thought maybe I could come over and cook for them (and clean up!), rather than just bring a tray of something frozen, but would you have wanted someone messing around in your kitchen at that point? Or would you just be glad for the free food and free time? I've also seen recommendations of coming over to clean or do laundry - would that be appreciated, or would you want people to stay out of your stuff? And while I don't mind doing something as a gift, is there an actual physical item you loved or would have loved receiving?

Oh, and I'm sure they're inundated with family right now, so I'm not even expecting to see them for at least a few days.
posted by LolaGeek to Human Relations (36 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking from the perspective of a guy about three weeks away from meeting his first kid - is there anything new mom really, really likes to eat, and has been unable to eat for the last 9 months? If so, buy some of that.

(I'm personally waiting to buy my wife some blue cheese. She really misses it.)
posted by caution live frogs at 11:37 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I preferred for people to make food and bring it over. I just couldn't deal with someone messing around with my kitchen, things were chaotic enough. But I did love the food brought over. Usually we'd have the bringer-of-food hang out with us and eat but it's not required. Also, check in with them before coming over to see if there's anything you can pick up on your way. Going out for a carton of milk was sometimes more of a logistical challenge than I would ever have imagined in those first couple weeks.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

We had a baby 5 weeks ago, and the thing we truly appreciated the most was the cleaning up part. Both sets of our parents cleaned things up for us and we loved it. I'm not so sure if we'd accept a friend to come over and do the same thing, though. It just seems like going way beyond the call of duty for a friend, but if you are really close it may not be a big deal.
posted by zsazsa at 11:41 AM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

* maid service
* ordering and paying for delivery or take away (splurgy)
* bringing food
* laundry service
* personal gift certificates for free babysitting so parents can have a night out
* checking on the parents to see if they need anything
* offer to watch the baby while the parents have time alone for a walk or something
posted by jadepearl at 11:48 AM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My wife and I had our first baby in November...

Bringing prepared food that can be reheated easily is the best. Firstly, new parent schedules are all out of whack, so they don't necessarily want a big meal at regular meal times. Secondly, if this is one of your best friends in the world, you might get away with spending a couple of hours there, but generally visits should be kept short.

I like the idea of getting something for the parents, but it is tricky because they aren't going to have the brain-cycles to appreciate most things for awhile. We watched a lot of videos because of being home all day. If they don't have a DVR, you might offer to tape their usual TV shows, because there will be constant interruptions.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2009

* maid service
* ordering and paying for delivery or take away (splurgy)
* bringing food
* laundry service
* personal gift certificates for free babysitting so parents can have a night out
* checking on the parents to see if they need anything
* offer to watch the baby while the parents have time alone for a walk or something

Just to add to this:

Just as the Imposter said the bringing food thing is best when it is easy prep food they can freeze or store until needed like a lasagna.

I'd also add:

posted by Pollomacho at 11:56 AM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: The food and the cleaning up/laundry were the biggies for me. If they have family visiting right now, then the family will probably be doing lots of that stuff for them. You could give them some cute handmade "coupons" to express your willingness to come over and bring or cook food and clean for them. They won't need that right now, and they may not even realise how much they will need it until family leaves. If one of them is going back to work soon, leaving mum at home alone with baby for the first time, that's going to be an excellent time to cash in those coupons.

Once my SO went back to work I quickly started to crave adult company, but all my friends were working. And lunch tended to be very slapdash and unhealthy. I still remember my contractor (of all people!) came over to fix a few last items and brought me some delicious hummus and pitas for lunch, prepared it for me and then went about his business. We had a bit of a chat about babies and house remodeling, and it was great.
posted by Joh at 11:58 AM on April 23, 2009

My Mom and sister had a great idea that they used for my brother and sister-in-law when they had a baby. They went to one of these meal-prep places like Dream Dinners, and they prepped the meals and then gave them to my brother and his wife. This way they had 14 meals that they could basically heat up and serve. I thought it was a great idea.
posted by bove at 12:01 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing my mother and friends did, that was so appreciated, is they would come over and hang out with the baby so we could SLEEP. We were not ready for babysitting, to leave her alone with someone, but we knew we could be woken if there was a problem. Having someone play with the baby for a couple hours (in between feedings), so we could spend two hours in the same bed together was just....heaven.

In fact, for Mothers Day my husband gave me a full, uninterrupted, blessed 8 hours of overnight sleep (and a beautiful engraved locket)....
posted by bunnycup at 12:08 PM on April 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

This way they had 14 meals that they could basically heat up and serve.
Might want to be sure they have room to store that much perishable food!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:10 PM on April 23, 2009

A journal.

Babies do so many amazing things but lack of sleep means the parents will be forgetting them soon after they happen. I realized this was happening to me after about six months, but didn't get around to buying a journal until my twins were a year old. Better late than never, I guess.

Now I buy a journal for all of my friends who become parents. That, and a copy of Dr. Suess' Fox in Socks.
posted by TurnedIntoANewt at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: Ongoing support. Go over and sit and chat while she feeds the baby. Let her get a shower. Feed her. Take care of the Mom - that's what she doesn't have time to so.
posted by MiffyCLB at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: N-thing all the food advice. Baked goods, too, especially if mum will be breastfeeding (she's expending a huge number of calories nursing). Being able to munch a oatmeal raisin cookie with a glass of milk is nice. Fresh fruit and veggies, washed, prepped, in the fridge and ready to eat would be great.

Early on I appreciated baby-watching especially when I was at home. Then I could get some sleep, take a shower, read a book.

Do they have/want baby announcements and/or thank you notes for the baby gifts? You could make/buy them and at least address and stamp them if mum and dad actually want to hand-write the notes themselves.
posted by angiep at 12:14 PM on April 23, 2009

I got a postnatal massage as a gift, and it was HEAVEN. To be able to leave the baby for an hour (with my hubby) and get pampered was a true treat.
posted by boulder20something at 12:15 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sushi, booze, and frozen home-made meals.
posted by Simon Barclay at 12:23 PM on April 23, 2009

During the first couple of months, I complete forgot about my own needs and was constantly running out of the stuff I used. So maybe a gift basket of her favorite shampoo, conditioner, and beauty type stuff.

Prepared meals, maid/laundry service, or offering to micro-sit up to an hour and a half so mom and dad can do things like shower, nap, sort their mail, etc.
posted by FunkyHelix at 12:45 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Two things:

- Food. Doesn't have to be anything fancy. Someone brought us a rotiseree chicken and some pasta salad from the grocery store deli and it was the best thing ever.

- If you are comfortable with the idea, come over and hang out with the baby for an hour or two so they can run errands, or catch up on sleep, or do some household chores, etc. Even if you just *hold* the baby while they, say, vacuum and do laundry - it really helps.
posted by Ostara at 12:52 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: Right now your friend has a crush of family visiting. That's great. But they will leave, and your friends will still need help. The first three weeks, as I recall, were really tough- I was exhausted, the baby was hungry ALL THE TIME, nursing nonstop it seemed, and I cried more in the first month than I probably did in the previous ten years combined. I was so tired, I was too tired to realize just how tired I was. I needed to be told to go to lie down. I was so exhausted, people would ask me what they could do to help and I couldn't even think of an answer. The people who said "how can I help?" or "what should I make for dinner?" got a blank stare from me. The people who said "I'm going to take the dog for a walk, and then come back and fix you a stir-fry. How does that sound?" or "I'm happy to watch the baby while you go lie down"- those folks have my gratitude to this day.

If you don't feel comfortable just coming up with something yourself, call up your friend before you come over and ask her to make a list of things for you to do around the house, or a grocery list- then you know you aren't overstepping, and she has some time to come up with things if she is too tired to think straight at that moment.

If they have any pets, offer to do whatever pet care is needed. Walk the dog. Clean the litterbox. Etc.
posted by ambrosia at 12:52 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just to jump on the bandwagon:

-- Food! I think I existed on cold cereal for three days straight at one point because leaving the house was just. Too. Hard. You know what kind of food they like. Bring it over.

-- Having someone come over for an hour or two to watch the baby so I could take a shower or take a nap.

-- Having someone come over and clean / do laundry. Laundry was actually ok, but cleaning ... especially cleaning the bathrooms ... was HUGE because I didn't want to put the baby in another room and I also didn't want him in the same room with me while I used smelly, probably toxic chemicals to clean up the bathroom.
posted by anastasiav at 1:14 PM on April 23, 2009

Ear plugs.

What I found was, when the parent who was not in charge of the baby needed to sleep, ear plugs were the key.

Also, when calming a colicy baby, the best thing to do was lie down with him on the bed. With ear plugs in. With luck, both will fall asleep. Walking around with a screaming infant on your shoulder is a lot easier to take when the sound can be deadened somewhat, too.

Also, it is good for a laugh.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 1:17 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: As the current owner of a two-week-old baby girl, I would just love some company. My husband is going back to work on Monday, and it's been the three of us in our apartment for the last two weeks - which has been great - but at the same time, it's a little isolating. I mean, yes, if someone came over and brought food or made us dinner or threw in a load of laundry, or watched the baby so I could nap, that would be terrific. But at the same time, I'd also appreciate some adult conversation that is NOT about the baby, since my husband and I are pretty much spending our days babbling at her or trying to catch up on sleep. My sister came by last weekend and we just vegged on the couch while she told me about her job, and it was perfect - just what I needed.
posted by sutel at 1:33 PM on April 23, 2009

Maybe chip in with some friends and get them a postpartum doula for x hours.
posted by mattbucher at 1:39 PM on April 23, 2009

Who has room in their freezer for fourteen dinners all at once? You all must have much more impressive refrigerators than I do.

Which is to say that if you're giving food, you may want to do it piecemeal, because otherwise your friends may not have anywhere to put it.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:54 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I always wait about a month and THEN bring bring dinner. Usually I cook, visit, clean up. Times like this, people tend to get a lot of up front help. I'm due in 4 weeks, and think that would be great -- I will have lots of family help for about a month, and then..... sort of worry that I'll be lonely.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The gifts for the baby really please the parents. I did not realize this until I had a baby. That said, bring over food that can be frozen and easily prepared. When you visit, offer to do laundry, run errands, or just do any dishes that obviously need to be done. If the Mom is still in her jammies at 3 p.m., offer to take care of the baby while she has a shower.
posted by theora55 at 2:11 PM on April 23, 2009

Some of those meals can go in the fridge to be cooked and eaten in the next few days. From what I remember, when you go to one of those meal prep places, the entire 12-14 dinners fit in one standard cooler.
posted by bove at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2009

A voucher for a massage.
posted by lottie at 4:25 PM on April 23, 2009

I've had LOTS of luck with lasagna.

I make it from scratch, including the sauce, with a mixture of veggies and protein. It's a balanced meal baked in a disposable pan. My sister-in-law said (unabashedly) it's perfect for new parents because it's hearty and healthy, and can be eaten cold, with one hand, for a week.
posted by nadise at 4:43 PM on April 23, 2009

I've never had a baby but I do enjoy making food that can be frozen and reheated later. This burrito recipe is great. Healthy, easy, compact (I had 20 in one little corner of my freezer) and tasty, especially when crisped in the oven.
posted by doift at 5:30 PM on April 23, 2009

Best answer: I absolutely agree with everybody who has suggested giving food*. Just wanted to add - please put that food in containers that are disposable! That will mean new parents don't have to fuss over cleaning off baked-on lasagna spotlessly, remembering what dish belongs to you, and co-ordinating return.

Yes, that's a simple task, but multiply it by n (number of wellwishers dropping off food) and factor in the head-spinningness of new parenthood. Too Much Trouble.

We had a heap of visitors as new parents, and I come from a culture where Visitors Must Be Fed. It was good to have a stockpile of (bought!) cookies and snacks on hand, for that as well as breastfeeding.

*I still get teary over the lady who gave us a fish pie. Her kids knew my husband who works at the local library. She must have got up extra early that morning to bake it before getting her kids to school. She couldn't have known that it was my first day alone at home with the baby after a really scary extra week in hospital by myself. It was the best gift.
posted by Catch at 5:52 PM on April 23, 2009

Oh also, if she's nursing, you might consider making Lactation Cookies. It's really my favorite chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe (and don't worry, it won't make the husband lactate).
posted by otherwordlyglow at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great responses! Sounds like new parents will appreciate just about anything that gives them a few moments to themselves, so with that in mind I offered to do anything they need. I left it pretty open-ended, but I figure when I get over there and see what might need to be done around the house, I could ask if they'd like me to help with xyz, or just do it. I will definitely bring some food, too (maybe even lactation cookies - she does plan to bf). I will also happily offer my company, especially once her husband returns to work. I work at home one day a week, don't see any reason I couldn't do it from her place...
posted by LolaGeek at 5:54 AM on April 24, 2009

About a month after the birth, take her out and get her drunk. This is a three-fold gift:

* 9 dry months is a long time for mommy. A long, long time.
* She will probably be intensely glad for the evening's escape and adult company.
* It will give Daddy some time alone with the baby, which in the first few months is usually severely lacking. He will eventually thank you too.
posted by rusty at 6:47 AM on April 24, 2009

Best answer: I'm expecting my third baby in late summer and often bring meals to families at church who have just had babies.

Food was always welcome, and much appreciated. I suggest (for a couple) making a casserole in an 8x8 pan -- that way they wont' be eating the same thing for a week at a time. Casseroles like lasagna are easy to reheat, too. (But we loved the more elaborate/simple food as well.) If others are bringing meals, as well as you: we ended up with tons of bagged salad greens that we couldn't eat. We were grateful, but we couldn't eat that much salad every day. So think of bringing a fruit salad or carrot sticks and hummus.

I craved carbs like muffins and french bread. I've posted about the Dutch Apple Cheese muffins from Cooks' Country magazine (they were a grand prize winner) before, and these were amazing -- tasty, with cheese in the muffin and apple on top. Protein + carbs + fiber? Perfection.

Oh, and nursing moms CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT eat cruciferous veggies -- it makes the baby incredibly, painfully gassy. Even a single bite of broccoli, cabbage or coleslaw and it was all over for us for a full night, the baby was in such agonies. But carrots, tomatoes, homemade salsa, avocados -- all these made my day!

I loved having someone help me with laundry and cleaning, too. Just folding a basket of laundry is good.

Nthing just watching the baby so the mom can take a shower. Heaven!!!!!
And if they have more kids in future? Take the others to a park to play so the parents can get a little respite. Even an hour makes a huge difference.
posted by mdiskin at 7:49 AM on April 24, 2009

Oh, and nursing moms CANNOT CANNOT CANNOT eat cruciferous veggies -- it makes the baby incredibly, painfully gassy. Even a single bite of broccoli, cabbage or coleslaw and it was all over for us for a full night, the baby was in such agonies.

This is only true for some moms and some babies. It certainly was not a problem for us. You might just ask if there is anything to avoid.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:08 PM on April 24, 2009

Love all these ideas, and agree with most. I would just echo the above poster who said to get as specific as possible in your offer, once you see a need. When I'm tired and overwhelmed, esp with a new baby at home, a vague "let me know what I can do to help" just stresses me out (or else I feel bad asking for what I'd really like). But yeah, someone to bring food and do some concrete chore is great-my mom weeded my flower beds after my first was born, for instance. My best friend will clean the kitchen completely without even asking.

Either that, or a massage or pedicure or something completely indulgent and pampering for the exhausted parents.

Or a great bottle of wine :)
posted by purenitrous at 9:52 PM on April 25, 2009

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