Used baby shower items?
March 26, 2014 1:13 PM   Subscribe

How acceptable it is to give baby shower gifts that are previously-used?

I'm attending a baby shower on Saturday. I forgot all about it until not very long ago, and don't have time to ship gifts from the store she is registered at, and definitely don't have time to schlep uptown to the store itself.

I have two kids, not planning on having any more, and I have a bunch of baby items that I'd like to be rid of. Most are in pretty decent or excellent shape, but obviously used. Do you think it's acceptable to give used items at a baby shower? There are a few items on her registry that are things I already have and would really like to get rid of (Bumbo, etc.). Or I could pick something that I found really useful that she doesn't have on her registry.

The practical and eco-conscious part of me says this is totally okay. But socially, is there an expectation that baby shower gifts be brand-new?
posted by Liesl to Human Relations (43 answers total)
Best answer: Offering to give your gently used baby items is a really nice thought, and you could mention that in your card that goes with your NEW present.

I can't imagine anyone wants a used item as a baby shower gift.
posted by kinetic at 1:15 PM on March 26, 2014 [28 favorites]

I have given used gifts at baby showers. I would do it, with two caveats:

1. Ask her ahead of time if this is OK. She'll probably say yes, and it removes the awkwardness of being obviously second hand (no packaging, etc.) and allows her to remove it from her registry so she doesn't get duplicates.

2. Whenever I've given used stuff, I have ALSO gotten at least a small new thing to bring to the shower. Usually it's something that's not on the registry but that I know will be useful to new parents. (rectal thermometer, snotsucker, etc.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:16 PM on March 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

(On the other hand, my group of friends are a very casual bunch and maybe this would not fly in some social circles.)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:17 PM on March 26, 2014

Speaking as someone who is a guest at baby showers but never the guest of honor: the other guests will judge you.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2014 [33 favorites]

It's fine (in fact, quite lovely!) to offer her these hand-me-downs, but they aren't really a present and it would be inappropriate and weird to like wrap them up and give them to her at the shower.

If you really, really don't have time to ship something (have you checked out Amazon's one-day shipping?) or to go to the store, you could use a service like TaskRabbit to have someone else buy a blankie or whatever on your behalf.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:18 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Pick something useful and new to give at the shower - no need to stick with the registry. Then, kindly offer the used items to be given separately from the shower itself. The only shower I've been to where used items were welcomed was at one that specifically requested used items (most of the attendees were parents and had used items to give).
posted by quince at 1:24 PM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Do not give used things as a gift for a baby shower. If you don't have time to get anything shipped from the registry, go buy her something that's not on the registry like a wee baby outfit that would work for a boy or girl. Or order something from the registry and give her a card to say that the item is coming - to your address or hers, whichever works best. But do not give her used things as the shower gift, no.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think good form would be to 1) check if that's cool with the new mom--and get her to take the items off the registry and 2) give a nice new token gift that can be opened at the shower, like a cute onesie or something (but no need to go overboard).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2014

don't have time

Cash! Give cash.
posted by kmennie at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

Were I you, get a nice card and say that the gift you bought is on back-order, or got shipped to the wrong address or something, then get it to her next week. Much more acceptable than wrapping used items and presenting them as a gift. Unless this is a niece and you are passing down your great-grandmother's quilt or something, then yes, get something new and then offer hand-me-downs later.
posted by greta simone at 1:28 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

A Target Gift Card will be most welcome. Cash if Target is a schlep.

You may offer her your gently used hand-me-downs, but they aren't to be presented to her at the shower as your gift.

Be aware, some people want all new things for their baby, so don't put a bunch of pressure on her to take your things. If she says no, don't press.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:29 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah it would be cheap and weird; it's not a gift, it is you cleaning out your closet.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:30 PM on March 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

There's totally a social expectation that gifts be brand new. Give her a gift card for Target or Babies R Us, and then separately give her a big box of your hand-me-downs. But NOT at the shower. As others have said, the other guests will judge you, even if the host won't.
posted by jabes at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not as a shower gift, no. It's tacky to give used items as gifts.

You can still give her these things, if they're in good condition and you'd rather be rid of them, but as hand-me-downs rather than wrapped gifts. The rule with hand-me-downs is that you should ask before you give them: either she'll be super grateful, or she'll decline because she'd prefer new stuff.

For the shower gift, give her a gift card to somewhere super useful like Target or Amazon, maybe bundled with a cute stuffed animal if you want to give her an object. The gift card will be more useful than half the stuff on the registry anyway.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Another concern with used stuff: safety.

* Highchairs, car seats, cribs, playpens, and any other furniture: anything recalled? Any cracked or broken slats on the crib or playpen? Has the car seat ever been in an accident? Does the item meet or exceed modern safety requirements?
* Clothing and bedding: flame retardant chemicals eventually wash out; is anything stained or torn?
* Toys: anything broken, faded, stained or missing bits? You might accept (and sterilize) used chewtoys, but stuff with actual teething marks is kind of tacky as a gift.
posted by easily confused at 1:37 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was actually at a baby shower where someone got secondhand gifts. This was at a baby shower for fancy people who were almost all the wags of dudes with high paying jobs. Gift was a card with a Land of Nod gift card in it and then over at the side (not actually given during present time, just sort of brought in and put in the corner) was a decorative wicker basket with some lovely baby ribbon on it full of gently used, relatively new baby things from the mom who was done having kids.
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

OK: buying something small/inconsequential off-registry
(My internal rule is: "anything they are likely to need 1 of = stick to the registry. Anything they are likely to need multiples of = go nuts)
OK: giving a gift card
Usually OK: giving cash (depends on the person, you'd know her best)
Not OK: giving someone a used item as a Gift at an Event*
Not OK: giving someone a used item without first asking the recipient if s/he wants it

*unless we are talking used Faberge eggs or the like.
posted by jamaro at 1:43 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would not have minded receiving used stuff at a shower, but then I am Cheap and Frugal. Most of my daughter's things are hand-me-downs or consignment stuff. But I would not give a used item at a shower, even if I knew that the mother-to-be was as Cheap and Frugal as I am. A token new gift or gift card along with an offer of all the used stuff would be more appropriate.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2014

Yeah I agree that there is an expectation that things be brand new at a baby shower. However I think you should separately contact the mom-to-be and offer hand-me-downs. My mom said the best gift she got was from her friend whose daughter is a few years old than me - a beautiful bassinet and some lovely fancy clothes, all perfect for the first few months and in nice condition.
posted by radioamy at 1:55 PM on March 26, 2014

At baby showers I've been to, I've seen people bring hand-me-downs (that they had clearly previously discussed with the honoree) in addition to a gift, but not wrapped in place of a gift.

The last one I went to, several people did bring cards with printed-out pictures of the items that were being shipped.
posted by songs about trains at 1:55 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In the context of all the "OMG, nevar!!!" answers above, I'd say it really depends on the mother. I went to a baby shower of a very green-conscious lady, who had specifically requested a few new things but also a list of the kinds of things she would prefer to have second-hand. That meant hand-me-downs from friends who already had babies, or I got to go nuts in the baby-consignment store. Her list basically followed the obvious things suggested above, regarding safety of used items, the used items being things that didn't matter so much, etc. Of course, I'm the first to say that this lady is kind of a special case, with kind of a special shower.
I think most moms would be happy to get used things (and I assume the friend in question is okay with it in general, or you wouldn't even be asking) - so the real question is, is it okay at the shower? And that kind of depends on the shower. If she's throwing a fancy party with delicate finger food and people will be wearing dresses, and all the boxes will be exquisitely gift-wrapped, then no. If you are one of her more well-off friends, then no. her mom is throwing her a shower, and you and your friends are pretty casual about stuff, and you don't care what her aunts think, go for it. I'd include a card that says "Baby Leisl loved this and I hope you'll find it as indispensible as I did" or some way to make the secondhandness personal rather than cheapass. Also, quantity matters, you can't just give her a scuffed Bumbo, $40 of used stuff is a lot more items than $40 of new stuff.

Basically check with the mom ahead of time. It's not so outrageous that she'd be insulted if you even asked, but I could see her being insulted if you sprang it on her with no warning.
posted by aimedwander at 1:59 PM on March 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

I always give books. You can find board books and kids books almost anywhere - Goodnight Moon, Pat the Bunny, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Peter Rabbit, The Velveteen Rabbit .... give a book (or two) and a gift card as has been suggested (you can also find gift cards even at your grocery store) and then include also the promise of your hand me downs.
posted by gudrun at 2:06 PM on March 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nthing the gift card and a pre-discussion about your gently used items.

Be honest and apologetic about spacing on her shower present. You have two kids, and being a parent myself, I am assuming that those children are at least partly the reason you don't have time to schlep uptown. Especially if she doesn't have kids already, she's likely going to space on something similar in the future, and being honest will let her know she's not alone in it.

With regards to the used items, a pre-discussion can be helpful, because as noted, she may be totally cool with it. However, people* can get weird about this because there can be some I'M AM RESPONSIBLE TO PROVIDE FOR THIS BABY AND NOW LOOK, THERE IS CHARITY OF USED THINGS, I'M A FAILURE! vibe to it.

(*Note: I'm actually going tonight to pick up some used baby stuff for our 2nd, a son due in June, and for me personally, I am experiencing the above vibe right now. Even though I know it's bullshit delusion, there it is.)
posted by Debaser626 at 2:07 PM on March 26, 2014

The only thing that makes me say no is the fact that baby showers are usually all about opening the gifts in front of people. And giving someone your gently used baby things seems more like a "doing someone a solid" kind of thing, and less of an "I want everyone else we know to know that I bestowed this kindness on you" kind of thing.

Could you grab a gift card, or maybe buy something that is on her registry from a different store? I mean, a receiving blanket is a receiving blanket is a receiving blanket, no?
posted by Sara C. at 2:08 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ask, and give at another time. Sorry!
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:15 PM on March 26, 2014

It's fucking rude of her to have a registry for a baby shower, so you definitely don't have to feel bad about not buying off the registry.

Normally, shower gifts are supposed to be small but useful items, so I would suggest buying a rattle or a big supply of Wet Ones and giving her the used stuff separately.

BUT if you have a ton of gorgeous stuff that you don't need any more, I think it would be great fun to box them up and give them to her as a lovely abundant gift. It's fun to get a pile of used stuff as far as I'm concerned.

Just remember that shower gifts are opened in the presence of others, so if you think it could make others uncomfortable to see her open such a sizeable gift, maybe go for the "buy a small gift, give her the used stuff separately" option.
posted by tel3path at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2014

Buy 1 new thing and then give a box-o-used-baby-stuff, which you have cleaned and shined up. I like to gift 2 6-packs of baby socks, all the same or limited colors because life is too short to match up tiny socks, they hide everywhere and vanish at an alarming rate. Or a few critical 1st aid items - baby tylenol and a digital thermometer.

Baby stuff is so expensive, and getting stuff, like a pack-n-play or highchair that's still in good condition, and is really clean, is a generous gift. You could have a quick yard sale and more than pay for a new gift, but I think you have to bring a new thing to a shower, because I am old school. However, and also because I am old school, you do not have to spend 50-100 on something from a registry. And, it's perfectly okay to go look through stuff and gift that extra Baby Book you never got around to returning, or any new thing you might have tucked away.
posted by theora55 at 2:28 PM on March 26, 2014

This is exactly why every supermarket now has racks of gift cards and their own greeting card aisle.

Bring the used gifts at another time.... because if you're so short on time, you probably don't have time to properly clean them or make sure they haven't been on a recall list before passing them on.
posted by haplesschild at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yes to Amazon Prime, gift card, buying something online and putting a picture of it in a card and giving her the card at the shower, buying children's books, asking her if she'd like hand me downs, etc. But also I'm planning a shower for a friend and my gift idea was perhaps a gift professional house cleaning or money to spend on Seamless so they can order delivery food or money to spend on a laundry service so they don't have to worry about doing laundry. The mother has made a point of wanting the shower to include her husband and I thought, what better way to include the husband than to tell him he doesn't have to do laundry or clean the apartment once in a while?
posted by kat518 at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's fucking rude of her to have a registry for a baby shower

This must be very culturally contextual, because I had a HUGE amount of pressure from my mother in law to not only register, but register for the big stuff - car seat, stroller, etc. And then, her friends actually got me that stuff (got together to get it, some got big stuff on their own, etc).

But, of course, in my experience/culture it's not rude at all to buy non-registry items, either. I think I'd just be sure to be aware of the cultural norms in terms of all of this - registry, new/used, etc.
posted by Pax at 2:50 PM on March 26, 2014 [24 favorites]

you have to give her something new, but you can offer her your entire inventory of baby gear as well.

cash is way preferable to gift cards, because it doesn't lock in the recipient to one store.
posted by bruce at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2014

Talk to the mom now and offer the items you have that are on the registry. She can decide if she wants yours and replace them on the registry with other items she may want. Gift card or small item for the actual gift. Hand-me-downs are the best, but they aren't a gift!
posted by Swisstine at 3:10 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely offer her the hand-me-downs! Don't suggest that she take items off the registry if you have them to offer used; she can take that step (she might want to use your used one only if she doesn't receive it new).

Feel free to give her something that doesn't require a trip to the baby store - a gift certificate for a pedicure or a massage. Or something simple like some children's books + a check for $50. Don't stress over it, it's a silly social ritual that is really about telling her how much you love her and support her.

(The baby shower is not about the gifts; it's about terrifying her with stories about episiotomies, and boring her with unsolicited advice about nursing and sleep schedules.)
posted by amaire at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2014

I definitely have given a card at a baby shower with "gifts on the way!" written inside because I failed to get it together to order them far enough in advance. In all cases, the gifts have not actually been opened at the shower, so it hasn't been some big embarrassment in front of everyone. But I guess most people open gifts at their showers? I don't know.

I think one place where hand-me-downs might be an appropriate gift would be if you were giving a really big-ticket item. If your gift could be sold on Craigslist for, say, over $100, I think it's perfectly appropriate, but you still may want to mention it beforehand. We just got a used fancy stroller for $300 and I would have been freaking delighted to get that for free as a shower gift.
posted by town of cats at 4:01 PM on March 26, 2014

Definitely offer to give your friend the hand me downs if you would like her to have them. Definitely do not give your friend the used items as a baby shower gift. Used stuff is not a gift, it is more like, I was decluttering, thought you could use this! Unless she wrote explicitly on the invitation, "We are eco-friendly and would love hand me down gifts" I think it's pretty tacky (and I'd be one of the guests to judge you). The shower needs to be about her and her baby. Giving her used gifts kinds of makes it about you in a roundabout way (baby items you picked, baby items you want to get rid of).

If you can't afford or don't have time for a gift, give her a card. And the hand me downs at a later date.
posted by mermily at 4:04 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with what everyone's said here: offer her your used items, don't give them at the shower. And I'd add, be understanding if she says no or some of those items mysteriously go missing. I received a ton of awesome hand-me-downs (a haiku diaper bag!) and also a ton of really useless hand-me-downs (tons of aftermarket car seat add-ons!) from well-meaning friends and relatives and ended up donating a bunch.

Along similar lines, if you choose to go off-registry, please think useful more than cute. The best stuff you could get is probably at your local Walgreens. I really could have used a rectal thermometer, a nasal aspirator, baby tylenol, lanisoh, and breastfeeding pads. Instead I got a bagillion pairs of baby shoes.

If you must give a used item, I'd pick one really nice and meaningful item and detail in the card why you're giving it: "Putting baby in this wrap was the only way I was able to get work done when LieslJr was tiny. I hope it's just as useful for you!"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this is totally an ask thing. I've had 2 kids, and I would have been happy with used things as gifts, and for one friend I've given used stuff, but I knew she was ok with it. I do have friends that I wouldn't do it for though. So depends on your friend and the only way to be sure is to ask. I agree if you can swing it costwise (which I don't see as a problem you listed in your questions), get something new even if it's a gift card or a something off the registry, but if you can't, and your friend is fine with used, then just do used.
posted by katers890 at 4:31 PM on March 26, 2014

It's Wednesday, you can still order something from Amazon. If you already have children, you know what she needs. As to the used items, I (not a parent, but auntie to many kids) would appreciate ANYTHING that new parents are often wanting for long after the shower. Those items have been loved by your children. Maybe pack up, in nice wrapping/bag/whatever, the ones you think would be especially useful. Like 5 items. Tell her they are used when you arrive, and she can decide to open or not in front of others. Personally, I would feel like a rockstar if I gave something used to my friend that she then mentions 2 months after birth as the BEST THING EVER.
posted by waitangi at 4:32 PM on March 26, 2014

I agree that it depends on the mother-to-be and your relationship with her.

I was in the fortunate position that my cousin had a baby 10 months before I did, and she works in a fairly tony place, so she was gifted lots of high-dollar items. When she saw my registry she called me and told me not to register for several of the items, that she would pass those on to me. I thanked her and then I specifically told her not to bring a new gift. I also asked her if she wanted me to return any of the items to her, but she asked me to pass them on when I was done with them. So, it's worth having the conversation with your friend.

If you feel that the things are simply too used or if you simply want to make the gesture of also "giving something new", I highly recommend an Amazon gift card. When my baby was born I discovered that Amazon is the best thing since sliced bread - running low on diapers (or shampoo, or whatever else would you out to Babies R Us or Target)? No need to bundle a newborn up between feedings, naps, and you not having taken a shower - just order and it will be delivered right to your front door. Heaven!
posted by vignettist at 4:38 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Second Amazon, and even better, sign her up for 3+ mos of recurring diaper delivery (unless you know she's doing cloth)
posted by slow graffiti at 4:44 PM on March 26, 2014

If it's a very high dollar item like one of those crazy all terrain strollers then I think it would be ok, but honestly if it's not something you could resell easily for a decent amount of money it just seems like you are gifting stuff you'd otherwise be donating to goodwill.

The only caveat I would say is if the family is struggling financially and you given them a massive bag of baby clothes or other things that would ease their worries about being ready or able to afford the baby. But you'd need to give a lot of stuff to sort of turn it into the grand gesture.
posted by whoaali at 6:08 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you get to a bookstore? I'd pick out some board books, get a gift receipt, and separately email her a list of the used items you have and ask if she'd like any of them.

Put me in the camp of not rude to have a registry, and also not rude to buy something not on her registry. Just try to make sure she can exchange it if need be.
posted by JenMarie at 6:40 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would find it tacky. I use almost 100% hand-me-down and thrifted clothing for myself and my children, and I love both giving and receiving them. But for something like a shower, a party, a wedding - unless it's something really valuable/meaningful/etc, go with something new and that you know the recipient would enjoy.
posted by celtalitha at 8:32 PM on March 26, 2014

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