Small gift ideas for friend with newborn
December 9, 2013 9:54 PM   Subscribe

A friend's first child arrived yesterday, and I'll be seeing him this weekend. Ideas for a small, useful gift?

This isn't someone I'd call a close friend -- we see each other a couple of times a year if that -- but he's done me one or two biggish favors in the past, e.g. helping me move, and I'd like to repay him somehow. I want a gift that could actually be useful to him and his wife, rather than a symbolic gesture of thanks/goodwill (he's the kind of person who tends to be dismissive of such gestures). I'm basically broke at the moment so would rather not spend more than $20 or so; on the other hand, I have plenty of time, so I'm thinking maybe I'll go food, e.g. a nice big batch of homemade hummus. Any other bright ideas, hive mind? If you're a parent, what small things would have made your life easier or nicer when you were home with a week-old baby?
posted by zeri to Human Relations (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: WUBBANUB. They are a new-baby revelation in pacifiers as infants can clutch the stuffed toy part long before they can grab a pacifier, leading to WAY LESS DROPPED PACIFIER SCREAMING. Also they are adorbs. Toys R Us usually carries them. Amazon definitely does, if you have prime and can ship it that fast!

It is an epiphany in pacifiers that you would never buy for yourself because who spends $13 on a pacifier? But OH MY GOD IT IS A LIFESAVER.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:58 PM on December 9, 2013 [10 favorites]

Why not offer to bring them dinner (something reheatable if you are seeing them earlier in the day)? I'm sure cooking is the last thing they want to do right now.
posted by cecic at 9:59 PM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd give your friend a pack of diapers and a pacifier. They're gonna have their hands full with all the stuff coming out of that baby's orifices (noise, poop, etc) and any parent is gonna go through that stuff fast.
posted by johnpoe50 at 10:00 PM on December 9, 2013

Food. And a really nice book, perhaps one that has some meaning to you. I really like Hug by Jez Alborough, as it only has 3 words, has a lovely story, and is a book a small child will eventually be able to "read" and then read.

I would shy away from diapers and pacifiers, unless you know their choices around these. (Some people only do cloth, 7th generation, etc., and some people think pacifiers are awful, etc).
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:07 PM on December 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

Trail mix with good quality chocolate and dried cherries. Dinner in a pot. An offer to fold clothes, clean house or wash dishes. A gift certifacte to a place to eat with a promise that you will watch the baby. An offer to watch baby so mother can sleep.
posted by 101cats at 10:09 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're thinking of bringing a meal, consider a batch of breakfasty muffins, too. One-handed foods are good things in the early days and weeks of parenting, when one can't count on having both hands free.
posted by mumkin at 10:25 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently gave what I thought was a gag gift but ended up being an eye-saver. Friend says it has come in handy many times. YMMV depending on plumbing.
posted by Lieber Frau at 10:36 PM on December 9, 2013

I like the Wubbanub idea and have used it in a similar situation. However, my baby actually doesn't like Soothie pacifiers and unfortunately that pacifier is sewn onto the stuffed animal. So unfortunately that one is also a little tricky if you don't know baby preferences.

I received a bath towel embroidered with her name at about that time - extremely useful and it is also lovely and soft. She was teeny for it at 1 week, but babies end up taking a lot of baths for many years to come. You can get them for less than $30 on Etsy, not sure where mine personally came from.

One other idea would be either a SwaddleMe or a white noise machine. I had a challenging baby for sleep and loved both of those things - not all babies may like these but I do feel like the vast majority of parents have moments in the first weeks where they really want to at least try the swaddle-shushing methods for soothing.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:11 PM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lasagna and a cabbage. Or, home made muesli bars. Or, a lot of cloth washcloths or cloth nappies (even if they don't use cloth, they are excellent for wiping up effluvia).
posted by Kaleidoscope at 11:26 PM on December 9, 2013

Wubanub sounds awesome because it is something "too much" for parents to spring for, yet not quite fitting an obvious price point for a gift from family members.

But aside from that, man, food for the grownups. Not aluminum trays of lasagna, but snacks. Protein and carbs, easy eating without portions. If it were me, I'd be sending a basket from our local awesome not-precious cheese-and-specialties shop -- cheese and crackers and antipasti and humus and fresh bread and pickled veggies and such.
posted by desuetude at 11:30 PM on December 9, 2013

My wife found a need for multiple snacky items while breast feeding, especially during the long nights, so nice treats that are easy to access when holding a baby (small and tasty) would be appreciated. My sister in law got my wife a subscription to graze boxes, but I think those might be UK only. Food for freezing was much appreciated and saved us a lot of trouble in the first few weeks. I was personally very happy when we got books and toys, because while they weren't particularly relevant in the first few months, we also didn't have many.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:58 AM on December 10, 2013

Best answer: Almonds. Big bags of almonds. Nuts are the perfect one-handed snack for nursing mothers, and almonds increase milk supply. But even if nobody is nursing, usually nobody is doing a great job eating either and nuts are the perfect stash-anywhere one-handed snack. Seriously: almonds!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:05 AM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Food is a good idea. Maybe not lasagna, though; when I was due for a baby I got four lasagnas, which was awesome, but it wouldn't hurt to mix it up a little. :) Hummus sounds pretty great.
posted by feets at 1:09 AM on December 10, 2013

For baby: Nappies, baby towels (people towels are way, way too gigantic), and zipper based swaddles if they are into that jazz (we were, they were great).

For parents: food. Especially meals. Buying a snack at the store is easy; buying a meal is much harder.
posted by smoke at 1:56 AM on December 10, 2013

A set of dribble-bibs (e.g.), we got some as a gift when our baby was born and we're still using them 20 months later. Really useful and there are some super cute designs.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:00 AM on December 10, 2013

Lots and lots and LOTS of burp cloths. The parents will be going thru dozens every week and they will never have enough. They're my standard baby gift - half a dozen to a dozen and a half (depending on how well i know the parents) as an add-on to whatever other gift i'm bringing!
posted by tabubilgirl at 4:52 AM on December 10, 2013

I wouldn't buy a pacifier without knowing the parents' plans for using one. My first kid would spit every kind under the sun out, and my second one knew she was getting a raw deal when one would go in her mouth, so it was a waste of money to even have. We threw them away after a month.

I'd stick with things like: food, three or four packages of diapers one size up from where baby is now, fun books that don't require thinking, a subscription to Hulu or Netflix if she doesn't have one already, etc.

Lots of snack foods for mom --- granola bars, cereal bars, etc in spades!
posted by zizzle at 4:58 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a brand new baby. Food for the grownups! Especially if you've got the time to make it yourself. Baked goods, fruit salad, trail mix, a dinner that isn't lasagna. HOWEVER, if you're not close to this person, you should ask about food preferences: gluten? nuts? only organic? vegan? paleo? It's a very specific world out there these days.

N-thing on avoiding pacifiers; parents have opinions, and a newborn won't be using one anyway. Also things like diapers and burp cloths -- do they use a diaper service? If so, not such good gifts.
posted by kestralwing at 5:05 AM on December 10, 2013

The last time this happened, I bought a twelve-pack of stout for the nursing mother. Really! It's traditional! The baby is walking and talking now, but she still remembers this fondly.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:03 AM on December 10, 2013

My go to, best received, useful, baby gifts were a tub of butt paste (best diaper cream ever), diapers, and if the mom is breast feeding (and especially if it is her first) the gel nipple pads. And everyone needs diapers.
posted by katers890 at 6:48 AM on December 10, 2013

One particular tradition suggests precious metals, incense, and perfume...

...but I'm going to second the bulk food like lasagna; also stews & soups, beans and rice. Just avoid any spice; I'm informed by a mom I know that breastfeeding after spicy foods makes for an upset baby.

Food should be heat-and-eat-- if there's any kind of fussy prep involved, it may not be the right thing. You probably know the cooking habits of your friend-- are they the microwaving kind, or prefer the oven/stovetop?
posted by Sunburnt at 7:15 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hands down the best gift we got was the Sassy Go Go Bug Set - a $10 gift. They are stroller toys - you hang them from the car seat handle or stroller canopy and baby will stare, stare at them and when old enough will reach for them and crinkle and move the bugs around. My baby has been obsessed with these since she was a newborn and still loves them as a six month old. We took a road trip when she was two months old and she cried a lot of the way, the only thing that calmed her down was one of us crinkling the leaf on the little ladybug toy. We received the ones I linked to above and these from different friends who had babies who also said their kids were obsessed with them. If you search on Amazon for "stroller toys" or "Sassy stroller toys", you'll see all the different options.

Oh, she also gets a kick out of these wrist rattles. Same brand (Sassy has great toys).

And finally, these burp clothes that can later be used as bibs. We used the hell out of them as burp clothes and just started using them as bibs. They are fantastic.

All of these were gifts from parent friends, and things that I didn't even know about as a first time parent.

*The wubbanub is a good idea BUT babies and parents are both very picky about pacifiers and I personally wouldn't have wanted one as a gift. My baby doesn't take a pacifier, even though we offered her about four different kinds.
posted by echo0720 at 7:37 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Food would be great, but check first to see if they'll have someone helping them out at home. My mom stayed with us for a month and cooked us three meals a day plus made me snacks whenever I wanted. I wouldn't have needed any food that couldn't be frozen and used later.

(Yes, my mom is super awesome, and I know this sort of thing is not the norm)
posted by echo0720 at 7:41 AM on December 10, 2013

Homemade granola!! My friend made me some right after my baby was born and it really hit the spot. Here's one recipe from Alton Brown.

And check back in later, maybe a month or two, to see if you can help out with any big household chores, like shoveling snow or yard work. These kinds of things fall by the wayside when you have an infant!
posted by yarly at 8:06 AM on December 10, 2013

Take cooked food, and/or an Amazon gift certificate. Seriously, don't buy stuff for the baby. Seriously.

Some parents object to giving their child a pacifier, or a stuffed animal, or what-have-you. Some people only want to use a specific type of environmentally-friendly diapers. Some people are very picky about what clothes their kid wears. Unless they mention something specific that they need, they probably already have a ton of stuff for the newborn that isn't going to get used anyway.

With the food, especially if the mother is nursing, you never know what dietary restrictions they might have. Common dietary restrictions for nursing mothers are avoiding dairy, and avoiding gluten. In our case, I had to avoid both. We lived on stir-frys for a long time at our house (make sure the food is prepared with no msg!). And tacos, but that's harder to take pre-made. So now my go-to for new parents is stir-frys, with a side of steamed rice.

Amazon delivery was AWESOME during the first few weeks of my LO's life; I didn't have to bundle him up and figure out how to get out of the house while accommodating his nursing and nap schedule. And I didn't have to worry about whether or not I'd gotten to have a shower that day.

Don't stay more than a half hour. Call first and see if there's anything you can pick up at the store on your way.
posted by vignettist at 8:25 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

A gift certificate to a restaurant that delivers will certainly be used and appreciated.
posted by Twicketface at 9:06 AM on December 10, 2013

Wubbanubs are awesome! My son loved his long horn bull. Babies and parents can be picky about pacifiers, but I wouldn't really worry about that with a wubbanub because it's a soft toy they can chew on even if they don't like the pacifier itself. My son chewed on the various appendages as much as or more than the pacifier part.

But if you're at all worried, I'd pick out a couple of board books. You can find lots book recs on askme. I'd vote for: In My Tree; Spring is Here; Brown Bear, Brown Bear; and/or Peekaboo (Taro Gomi). They won't use them right away but will be happy to have them in a couple of months.
posted by JenMarie at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2013

My standard baby gift is unbleached flat (not prefold) cloth diapers. Amazon has Oso Cozy brand ones. My baby spit up a lot in the first few months, and those made the best spit-up cloths.
posted by Anne Neville at 9:30 AM on December 10, 2013

Best answer: This is a little bit different than what you asked for, but if you wanted to get something nice and under $20 for the baby (instead of for the parents), here are my two go-to gift ideas:

* Our babies loved taggies, which are little blankets/plush animals with not just one tag, but dozens of tags for the kids to chew on. So cute!

* Another ultra-cute item is the line of "snugglers" from Douglas cuddle toys. We have the monkey, another monkey, a puppy, and another monkey.

Sometimes babies are easier to buy for than grown-ups. But either way, you're doing a nice thing.
posted by math at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2013

I LOVE the idea of food -- from new mom's I have known, this has been a gift they have really appreciated. Maybe a fresh fruit tray with the fruit all cut up -- easy to grab and refuel during the day! Or dinner that can be easily reheated.

Another thing a new mom friend of mine really appreciated was some help with house cleaning. She was being driven nuts by not being able to keep stuff as clean as she had it before, and even just some vacuuming helped her sanity a bit. Maybe you're not close enough with this friend to offer that, but just thought I would throw it out there if you're richer in time than money! :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:13 AM on December 10, 2013

Best answer: When babies are that new, they don't really need gifts from you. Your food for the parents idea is great.
The items that were best received when I brought them over were fresh berries and fruit and other healthy small and ready to eat things.
One friend said everyone was bringing her freezer dishes and she was excited to see a raw vegetable. Hummus would be good, especially in small tupperwares and with pre-cut and baggies of washed celery sticks, carrots, broccoli florets, cherry tomatoes, and pita chips.
Make it as easy as possible for them to grab the food and eat while doing other things.
posted by rmless at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Lots of great ideas here!

Ignorant nonbreeder question: why do some parents object to pacifiers? And at what age do babies typically start using them?
posted by zeri at 11:07 AM on December 10, 2013

For those who are nursing, they object to using pacifiers because nursing often and on demand is an important part of the nursing relationship, both to build trust and the bond between the child and the mother, and to build the physical supply of milk that the mother can produce. Sometimes the appearance is that the baby is using the mother as a pacifier, but there is a biological component where the baby is signaling to the mother's body that more milk needs to be produced. If that interaction is circumvented by the use of a pacifier, it can result in the mother having less milk available, which is a huge stress on mother and child.

A lot of people don't want to use them because it creates a habit for the child, where the child goes to sleep with a pacifier in their mouth, the paci falls out, the baby wakes up but does not have the dexterity yet to replace the paci into their own mouth, and so cries, thereby waking the parents who have to go in and replace the paci... rinse and repeat, every 20 minutes, all night long.

Sometimes parents object to pacifiers because there have been reports that said the use of pacifiers affects the way the bite is formed. I won't go into whether or not those reports have been debunked.
posted by vignettist at 11:54 AM on December 10, 2013

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