You're a teenager with a newborn. How can a stranger help you?
June 11, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

What does a 16-year-old mom need for her baby and herself?

A friend of mine has a 16-year-old client who just gave birth a week ago. Her story isn't mine to tell, but the situation is terrible and she has little to no family support and that is unlikely to change. My friend put a call out for a stroller because the mom can't afford one and is having trouble getting around without. That put me in action.

I'm trying to help with the stroller situation and pull together a baby basket. I want to include things you might need for a baby but wouldn't think of (particularly if you are 16). So far I've managed to get an Ergo and a couple slings donated. I've picked up a month's worth of diapers, gripe water, Vaseline, Penaten cream, a baby health kit (thermometer, nasal syringe, nail clippers, etc.), a couple onesies, and a Sophie and a bunny because every baby should have something to chew on and something to snuggle.

What am I missing? I think mama is formula-feeding, so I'll get some of that once I know what she uses. But what other practical or frivolous-but-super-helpful things should I try to include?

Also, what do 16-year-old girls like? I know that is a generalization, but I'm trying to think of an appropriate gift for a teenaged girl who is probably really scared and overwhelmed right now. Something totally unrelated to baby. I just have no idea what that should be. Keep in mind, I don't know this girl, I've never met her, so I don't know which way her tastes run.
posted by Felicity Rilke to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Get a baby swing. They are fairly inexpensive, you wouldn't think of them if you didn't have a lot of friends with babies, and they gain a lot of extra time. Babies enjoy them, and for a harried sixteen year old, it may be the only way she can put the baby down at first without them screaming.
posted by corb at 1:45 PM on June 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

Spare bottles, a nice diaper bag, a giant tub of baby wipes, baby socks.

As far as something for Mom, what we did when one of my son's friends gave birth a couple months ago was put together a little basket of nice bath supplies - nice soap, body mist, lotion, shower gel, and a foofy bath puff thing. It's so hard to be nice to yourself when you have a newborn, just having something that smells good in the 5 whole minutes you have for a shower can help brighten your mood.
posted by MissySedai at 1:47 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Books. Maybe a book for mom about Baby's first years, and some story time books for the kid to grow into.

A coworker was in a similar situation a few years ago and I was the only person to give her books. They may not be absolute necessities, but to me they're staples!
posted by jschu at 1:50 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

This might be a totally insensitive suggestion because I am not a mom nor do I know why she chose to formula feed, but if she can't afford a stroller, she could save a LOT of money by breastfeeding. So it seems to me that anything you could do to help her with breastfeeding (getting the equipment for pumping or whatnot, lactation consultant?), if she's interested in it, has the potential to be a huge cost savings that she could then use for other needs.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:51 PM on June 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

I give these wipes as baby gifts a lot. Most parents (that I know) don't use them as diaper wipes, but as all-purpose cloths for wiping down anything and everything on and around the baby. The fabric is soft and easy to clean, and buying them in bulk means keeping one or two within reach all around the house.
posted by juliplease at 1:52 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

we have a gorgeous receiving blanket from jj cole that has saved our sanity these past few months as a nice firm swaddle settles baby brambory like nothing else. Also, have you thought about a 'what's going on with your baby' type of book? We have 'what to expect: the first year' which is ok, but I'm sure there are better out there. It's reassuring to have some basic guidebook to refer to when baby is crying at 2 in the morning.
posted by brambory at 1:54 PM on June 11, 2012

Get her a gift card to a grocery store and taxi company in the area.

Perhaps even provide some information about people that she can contact when she needs help such as a help health line, a free clinic's phone number, or any other important contacts such as your own information if you are comfortable and willing to do so.

And, lastly, I'd recommend getting her a journal so that she can have somewhere to record her feelings, a camera to capture special moments with her newborn, and some comfort food such as homemade chocolate chip cookies.
posted by livinglearning at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2012 [19 favorites]

Seconding the baby swing. Also I remember a lot of people gave me cloth diapers, which I scoffed at, because at 19 (when I had my first) I was just too lazy to deal with cloth diapers, and was too poor for a service. But then I learned they make FABULOUS spit up cloths. They drape just right over a shoulder and are soft enough that the baby doesn't get chafed face.

As for the mother - books indeed, or music.

Also, I know this is more baby related, but one or two good solid books on what to expect (like the "What to Expect when Expecting" series) would be awesome. When I was a single poor mother at 19, I lived in those, because I was constantly worrying I was doing something wrong. It's nice to have something at least close to an owner's manual. Babies can be scary in the beginning. I also wore out the Spock book, but I don't know if that's still relevant. My babies were quite a few years ago, and they're almost grown men now.
posted by routergirl at 1:56 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Connections to a mother's group, and a way to attend it.
Tutoring if it looks like she'll be able to continue with school.
Fuzzy socks for her.

Breastfeeding cookies, even if she's not actually breastfeeding, they're packed full of nutrients that she'll need to keep her energy up.
A crock pot and some recipes to use with it, because she isn't going to have time to stare at the stove. But over the course of a morning you can get a few veggies chopped up and into the thing, then toss the meat on top and turn it on.
Those convenience pouches of rice that you just microwave for a minute or two. Sure, they're tons more expensive than a bulk bag of rice, but again with the time and the attention span.
posted by bilabial at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Car seat. Massively expensive if you're poor, and she'll need it if she ever has to get a ride or a taxi to urgent care or a far away appointment. You're also not supposed to get a used one in case it's been in an accident, but we got ours from neighbors we knew well and trusted, so if you can get someone you trust who's baby just outgrew the seat to pass it on that could be great.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:03 PM on June 11, 2012 [11 favorites]

A baby hat for summer sun, little shirts, can't have too many onsies, receiving blankets, baby swing as already mentioned, car seat, books are great, for mom, a new mother how to book, for baby, Pat the Bunny and other baby books, a My first year book for memories and photos.

The bath stuff sounds like a nice thing for mom, maybe a gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure too.

Good luck to her and bless you and all who are helping her in this hard time.
posted by mermayd at 2:06 PM on June 11, 2012

Oh yeah, seconding a swing or bouncer (basic ones are very cheap). Having somewhere to put the baby down so you can pee is a bid deal. Clothes in a range of sizes. Baby clothes are funny because if you have a network they fall from the sky used and new, but without contacts i bet you'd be SOL and they add up, even at Walmart. Newborn clothes are all over thrift stores and eBay (search "lot" or "bundle" the gender and size), bigger sizes don't seen to show up so much used so get expensive even more quickly new.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:09 PM on June 11, 2012

She needs a good high chair. One the baby can hang out in.

Serious, a high quality high chair makes a huge difference in a mamma's life.
posted by roboton666 at 2:13 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

and one of these too.
posted by roboton666 at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2012

Anytime I buy a present for a mom I include diapers. Pampers for boys and Huggies for girls. They will go through a LOT.

Also advil for the mom.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 2:17 PM on June 11, 2012

[Flagging includes moving on folks. Please give us a chance to do our jobs. Please make an effort to not ruin this thread with well-meaning but misguided derails.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:43 PM on June 11, 2012

High chair is too soon. This is an infant and it'll be 6 loooooooooong months (at least) before a high chair is applicable.

A bouncer chair is a wonderful comfort and safer emergency sleep situation for a tiny baby than a swing.

A safe bath set-up for baby seems crucial to me.

I can list more baby stuff when I get home and can look around me.

For mama, I would not advise headphones. Ability to hear baby clearly even when sleeping is absolutely crucial to preventing harm. A single earbud popped in to hear media while doing other things is sufficient.

An ereader would be a really good gift, if she's into reading at all. She's probably not going to have time to do big self-care things, but her self-image is probably suffering at this point, so anything that could comfort her in that respect would likely be a good idea. A super-comfy but cute lounging outfit would probably be welcome.

Bless her heart. Glad she's got good people trying to support her. May she grasp these lifelines and surpass all doubts, fears, and dangers with her and her baby intact.
posted by batmonkey at 2:57 PM on June 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I see you're in Toronto. MeMail me! I have an infant carseat and base, none-expired, no accident, exersaucer, I think a bouncer, books and some other stuff literally waiting for a garage sale - not too many clothes or a stroller but mail! I've got stuff!
posted by Zen_warrior at 3:03 PM on June 11, 2012 [21 favorites]

Maybe a gift card to a clothing store for mom, or some clothes--she might be quite a different size than she used to be.

PS. Thank you for restoring some of my faith in humanity.
posted by lily_bart at 3:07 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Such good suggestions - especially expensive items like a car seat which might break the bank for a mom without much money.

Ditto baby clothes in larger sizes - babies outgrow those "newborn" clothes quickly. In fact, some babies are born too big for newborn sizes.

How about a white noise machine? White noise can soothe many a fussy baby (which is why some parents find that their baby calms down when they run the vacuum cleaner).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:08 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

A completely non-baby-related, frivolous gift for Mom is an iTunes card. That's all my 16yo ever wants. Or a prepaid phone and phone card if she doesn't have a phone?

A gift card to a general merchandise store like Target or even Walmart or a place where she can get more than just groceries (especially clothes as has been mentioned)

It doesn't sound like she has a car, but if she does, or even has access to one for borrowing, then a gas gift card would be great too.

A bus card or subway card or whatever is the public transportation in her town?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:47 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Came here to suggest lots of diapers. As someone who is days from giving birth, diapers are pricey and if you can't afford them, you won't be picky about a brand....
posted by dearest at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be a totally insensitive suggestion because I am not a mom nor do I know why she chose to formula feed, but if she can't afford a stroller, she could save a LOT of money by breastfeeding. So it seems to me that anything you could do to help her with breastfeeding (getting the equipment for pumping or whatnot, lactation consultant?), if she's interested in it, has the potential to be a huge cost savings that she could then use for other needs.

WIC clinics can provide this free of cost. In addition, WIC will provide health check ups for mom and baby, and vouchers for formula and healthy food (when the baby is old enough). If your friend hasn't already referred her, try mentioning it to her.
posted by nuclear_soup at 4:03 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an amazing thing you're doing--thank you.

It looks to me like most of the essential baby stuff has been covered--I was going to say slings, but you've already got those! If you don't have a baby med kid--teething tablets, baby Tylenol, etc--you might want to consider including one of those, as well. It probably won't be needed right away, but when it is, there's a lot to be said for having it on hand and not having to drag a sick infant out on public transport to get meds.

As for something for mom, though, maybe a handful of gift cards--$10 to McDonald's, $10 to Starbucks, etc. Sometimes being a mother is utterly exhausting, and being able to give someone $5 or whatever to make food and give it to you on a tray can be a huge relief.
posted by MeghanC at 4:06 PM on June 11, 2012

This is really awesome and caring of you. And you're right, it would be great to give her something that's just for her. My sister had a baby just after her 17th birthday, and she was a little bummed that every present was baby stuff. Gift cards are a great idea, and she might also appreciate a magazine subscription, ideally something that comes frequently, like Entertainment Weekly. Something lightweight. It's really nice to give your brain a little vacation when you're with a baby all day.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 4:19 PM on June 11, 2012

Thanks, everyone! These are great suggestions.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 4:46 PM on June 11, 2012

This may seem an odd suggestion, but I took a Child Care CPR course when my daughter was an infant, and it really really helped me to know when to freak out and when not to. Having a good first aid kit and guide would likely be very helpful.
posted by peagood at 5:12 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite] would be very helpful for her. Also the store once upon a child on bayview - has cheap used baby stuff. Google it. If you or your friend could coordinate bringing meals to her every couple of days, that'd be a huge load off her. Being alone with a baby is hard, so make sure she has company every day. Make sure she's taking vitamins too. Get her a gift certificate for post natal massage that she can redeem in a couple of weeks.
posted by foxjacket at 5:15 PM on June 11, 2012

Thanks for helping this family out.

Hopefully their need for housing, utilities, transportation, food, and medical care are adequately met, so I'll move on from there. I was a teenage single parent and here are some things that would have helped me and my daughter-

Baby gear:
Without a support system, how will she wrangle the baby while she cooks, cleans, looks for work, goes to the grocery store, sleeps or takes a shower? Anything that will give mom an extra pair of hands while she deals with daily life is gold right now. It will become even more valuable as the baby gains mobility.

Social support:
Can you do some research and help her find a local young mom's group? Motherhood can be really isolating; much more so when you're young and facing disapproval from every angle. Knowing you're not alone and learning from other parents in similar circumstances can be a tremendous help.

Whether or not she is able/willing/interested in continuing her own education right now, learning child development while the baby is still young is crucial. I probably would have felt offended by the suggestion at the time, but life skills training (budgeting, dealing with landlords/government agencies/filling out job applications, learning that it's ok to ask for help) would also have made a huge difference to my family to this day.

She has taken on a tremendously difficult task, but she doesn't have to do it alone. There is help out there and there's no shame in reaching out and asking for every single bit of assistance possible. The more she surrounds herself with judgement-free, positive people who believe in her ability to do well by herself and her child, the easier it will be to for her to do just that.

Feel free to memail me if you like. It's been awhile, but I remember what it's like.

Also, if somebody would have given me a one-time housekeeper or a babysitter just so I could take a shower and go to the toilet by myself without worrying I probably would have wept from gratitude.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:52 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Everyone has suggested a bunch of great stuff (I'm especially loving the disposable nappies, bouncer/swing, iTunes and gift cards). Can I also suggest something pretty for the baby, and chocolates, silly novels and sparkly hair stuff for the mum? Chocolate and engrossing trash was all I wanted when I was chained to a tiny baby.
posted by grueandbleen at 6:31 PM on June 11, 2012

A subscription to Cosmo or Seventeen would be good and they are cheap if you subscribe online. Also, a gift certificate for the momma to get a hair cut or 2. Everyone feels better when they have a new haircut.
posted by jmd97 at 6:43 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Laundry service for a couple months.
posted by ainsley at 6:45 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Does she have to move around a lot? If her housing is at all precarious, a good wheelie suitcase is amazingly useful over trying to schlep things plus a baby in random duffel bags.

For formula, does she have the sterilizer equipment sorted out? I had a standalone plug-in sterilizer, but you can get ones that use the microwave. All that beat boiling a pot of water for a clean bottle while the baby cries. It's only usually the first few months - we stopped sterilizing at about 3 months when she was chewing the furniture anyway, and just wash in hot water, but it did help. I'm sure there are secondhand ones.

A playmat with those arches overhead for to clip on toys is great because you can put the baby down pre-crawling and let them play without worrying about a dirty floor. They fold up small and can be machine washed.

You Look Too Young To Be A Mom has good reviews as a collection of personal essays by a range of teenage moms. If she doesn't have a local support group, maybe that will help her feel less alone.

I really like the suggestions of something for her. My go-to gift for people in hospital or stuck sick is a pile of trashy magazines and a box of chocolates.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:52 PM on June 11, 2012

Also, you can get almost all this stuff really cheap second-hand. The only thing that must be bought new really is the car-seat. Make sure she knows where to shop, maybe a copy of Baby Bargains to get her started. It would be awful if she felt like she had to spend $200 to get a high-chair when she can get one for $25.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:55 PM on June 11, 2012

A car seat. Some hospitals won't let you leave without one. Also, it can double as a bassinet. A sling might be handy, too.
posted by elizeh at 7:27 PM on June 11, 2012

My favorite book about children is Caring for your baby and young child. It explains each stage really well, is pretty easy to look up any questions you have, and has a good section at the back for troubleshooting illness and injury. (I like that it's at the back, not part of what you would read through normally.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:55 PM on June 11, 2012

Coming back to mention getting her a copy of Help We've Got Kids in print - whether or not she'd use any or all of the coupons, it's a great directory, in a way.

Also, a copy of the Little Paper would be super helpful - you can pick one up at any kid-centric place. It's like NOW for families - it will list every drop-in, class or event for people with children.

The Little Paper also lists the drop-ins and parenting centres, which are lifesavers at that age. They're all over the city, in schools and at community centres and places like Riverdale Farm's meeting house. That was where I'd go to have a cup of coffee and someone would hold my baby while I drank it. Learning songs and lap games and the little things that make kids happy is more fun in places like that. Because they're community-based, if she's not going to be moving around, this is where her child will meet (as was the case in our neighbourhood) the kids he/she will eventually play with and go to school with. If she's moving around, it's a way to quickly meet other parents in the neighbourhood who can help her network for what she'll need. As a bonus, they often have drop and swap areas, where you can leave clean, used baby clothes and pick up the next size, for free; and toy libraries; and parenting book shelves.
posted by peagood at 5:00 AM on June 12, 2012

My daughter had a child when she was 16. The most important thing she will need is support from family and friends. A 16 year old is not mature enough to handle raising a child on her own. She will need time with friends and she will need to do teenage activities even though she is a mom. My husband and I were basically surrogate parents for our grand-daughter's first 8 years while my daughter continued her education. She still spends many nights over at our house and has turned out to be a well adjusted, wonderful girl.
posted by sybarite09 at 6:39 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe show her how to get onto the local Freecycle? People go through baby items fast, and so baby items are very often offered and asked for.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:46 AM on June 12, 2012

« Older Early retirement account withdrawal   |   Is There a Quick and Easy Fix for My Paint-Chipped... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.