Gifts for new parents
November 27, 2007 4:18 PM   Subscribe

Calling all parents! I'm due to become an uncle in December and with the holidays coming up I want to get my sister and brother-in-law some baby/parent-related gifts. What items did you find indispensable after your baby arrived? Please assume that all the major staples have been acquired at the Baby Shower... I'm looking for the type of thing that you never thought of or realized you needed until after the baby was home.
posted by 27 to Shopping (42 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Vibrating Chair.
Burp clothes or small blankets, lots more than you'd think.
posted by Octoparrot at 4:29 PM on November 27, 2007

I have two must-haves: swaddlers and sound machines.

We used the Kiddopotomus SwaddleMe, available at Babies R Us. Very easy to use, and very effective. I credit any sleep I got during the first few months to the swaddler.

We use cheapo sound machines in the kids' rooms, the Homedics SoundSpa for $20 at Target. This is also a wonderful thing for helping babies sleep - the white noise is soothing and blocks outside noise.
posted by missuswayne at 4:31 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you live in the same city, let them know that you'll come over once a week for some period of time to clean the house, do the laundry and the dishes, go grocery shopping, and make dinner (something in quantity, that can be frozen for leftovers).

You will be their hero.
posted by jokeefe at 4:34 PM on November 27, 2007

Babysit or bring them food. If you can't babysit, offer to hold the baby so they can engage in such luxurious as excretion or basic hygiene.
posted by stet at 4:38 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Things we loved after our home birth:
  • bendy straws (makes breakfast/lunch in bed easier)
  • a boppy
  • a netflix subscription (or blockbuster, or a gift certificate to your local video store...we spent a lot of time indoors that first week)
  • a baby sling (it's so much easier to carry a kid around in a sling than in a carseat, and to me it's a little more intimate) this is sorta a personal item so maybe not the best idea for you to buy
  • one of these things
  • champagne
  • anything to encourage the mom to drink water (nalgene or sigg bottle?)
  • a fitness ball (you know, the big 3' diameter ball you can sit/bounce on....this is great for when they try one of the techniques found in....
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (it's all about the 5 S' me)

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:48 PM on November 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

After our daughter was born it seemed like the most gargantuan thing in the world to go grocery shopping more than once a week. Gone were the days of nipping back to the store for that last ingredient we forgot on the weekly run. Seeing the problems this posed for us, my brother named himself "Big Nose Grocer" (he has a big nose), on call to bring over any groceries I needed on a daily basis. I'd email him the list (I kept it small - just stuff we ran out of unexpectedly) and he'd bring the groceries over after work. Never asked for money. Just came, dropped things off (tea, bread, eggs, whatever), patted the baby on the head, and went away. It was a genius gift and we were SO thankful. After a few months we were much better able to get out of the house and his grocer role naturally faded. Not much money outlay, I only needed to use him in this way about five times total, and HUGE payoff in terms of kudos for him.
posted by Mrs Hilksom at 4:50 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Read jokeefe's and stet's reply again. Do not underestimate the gift of lending the new parents an extra set of hands every now and then.

I would have taken a bullet for anybody who'd helped me during my daughter's first six months.
posted by lekvar at 4:51 PM on November 27, 2007

They won't need it for a while, but the whole child-proofing paraphernalia can run into a bundle. Get them a whole kit-- toilet , cabinet and door checks, coffee table corners, skid pads for rugs, etc. Add in a "gift certificate" saying that you'll install everything for them.
posted by nax at 4:52 PM on November 27, 2007

Baby stuff is so personal, sometimes. One parent's must-have is another parent's "Oh lord, I think those things are terrible..."

So, get/do something for the parents, not the baby. Offering to come over and clean house would be tops. I would've fallen all over my brothers had they offered to scrub a toilet.

Good whisky is always nice. Nursing mothers are allowed a drink, and both parents will likely want a snootful here and there to knock the edge off sleep deprivation.

To directly answer your question, though: slings and carriers. We now have four different types of babywearing thingies, and I still want more. A gift certificate to anywhere selling a variety of slings &c would probably not go amiss. Rotating them is easier on the back, and they tend to be covered in spit-up or poop when you need them most.

And I had not realised I needed so many little seating options. Unless they live in a smallish apartment, multiple bouncy chairs will be appreciated.
posted by kmennie at 4:52 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get them a super-deluxe battery charger and whole slew of rechargeable batteries (lots of "D" and "AA" sizes especially). I'd be broke by now if I'd had to buy batteries for every new toy/swing/baby gadget that I now own. Something like this would do nicely.

And I absolutely couldn't live without this. Don't you dare laugh; it's worth its weight in gold. I stick an air freshener to the inside of the lid and it's a smell-free diaper pail that doesn't have the stupid plastic sausage-twist maneuver of a Diaper Genie.

An electric sweeper like this Shark has been handy for keeping the floors clean for my now-crawling baby and also helps clean up under the high-chair after mealtimes (food is so fun to throw on the floor!)
posted by mezzanayne at 5:05 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Speaking as an aunt of three:

Tons of onesies and burp cloths for the baby (seriously, I think it's impossible to have too many); a huge food basket (including wine and some nice gourmet treats) for mom & dad.

Also, when (not if) you offer to babysit, be sure to suggest some specific times. "Call me if you need any help" probably won't result in any actual calls from the exhausted parents (who won't be able to find your phone number anyway, much less have the time to make a phone call), but "can I spell you for a few hours on Saturday afternoon or after work on Tuesday" will almost certainly get you a resounding and grateful yes.
posted by scody at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2007

Dish towels, piles of them. My first baby was a spitter-upper. But I agree with many people above -- doing something like cleaning their house or bringing them food is a safer bet. Chances are they'll want it, and they didn't get it at the shower.

In Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott's minister comes over and asks her if there's one thing, any one thing, she would like done. She's embarrassed to admit it, but finally confesses: what she wants more than anything else is for someone to clean her bathroom. (Which he does.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:19 PM on November 27, 2007

I've tried all the babycarriers out there, and I gotta say the Beco is the best.

A gift certificate to a housecleaning service.
Fresh Direct gift card.
Diapers! (If they're crunch granola, you could splurge on some really luxe 1 size fits all cloth diapers.)
Babyfood and/or babyfood making supplies.
posted by DenOfSizer at 5:27 PM on November 27, 2007

I'm about to become a first time aunt in about a week! Unfortunately my sister lives in Houston and I'm in Chicago, so offers of help just won't work. But I am getting her some things *for her* for Christmas. I already know my brother is getting her all baby stuff, but I can't help but think she might feel sad if every single Christmas gift labeled "for Sis" is actually for the baby.

I will probably get her pampering type stuff from Sephora or Lush.
posted by misskaz at 5:28 PM on November 27, 2007

My sister never had enough baby wash clothes. You'd be surprised how dirty and gross those things get.
posted by clh at 5:29 PM on November 27, 2007

Nthing the offer of babysitting or at least making yourself available as an extra set of trusting hands (assuming you are local to the new mom and dad).
posted by mosk at 5:29 PM on November 27, 2007

Washclothes get dirty and gross, not babies..well, yeah they kinda do.
posted by clh at 5:31 PM on November 27, 2007

I have a nine month old. In reading the responses here, I was all yep, yep, yep to EACH answer. The main thing is - anything you can do unobtrusively to help them get like six hours of sleep in a row would be greatly appreciated. (See above - slings, swaddlers, and Happiest Baby.)

If you live in their town, what they really need is your unobtrusive help, but, they don't want you to spend the night and they don't want you to take the baby, and you can't win with them because they are exhausted and adjusting to their new lives and one of them is going through the most extreme hormonal changes of their entire lives. It's not personal - just be practical, helpful, patient, and forgiving.
posted by pomegranate at 5:32 PM on November 27, 2007

jokeefe is right. I am still tearfully grateful for an offer of babysitting so I could take a nap, seven years ago. Totally agree with levkar: "I would have taken a bullet for anybody who'd helped me during my daughter's first six months." Specific times is another good idea, or at least make sure to follow through on it, as it is likely that they won't take you up on it otherwise.

I also like the idea of a big batch of child-proofing stuff, so you have something to actually hand them as well. It's cheap and the time they need it will creep up on them suddenly!
posted by theredpen at 5:35 PM on November 27, 2007

I asked this same question to a friend with a 5 month old baby, and she said The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD was the most helpful thing they got. So I will put in another vote for that.
posted by ohio at 5:37 PM on November 27, 2007

My two must-haves:
1. The Baby Bjorn carrier. I have a newborn, and the BBC makes it possible for me to be out and about (easier to maneuver than a carriage, and I have both hands free). I can even do laundry with Baby Monkeytoes in her BBC.

2. The Baby Bjorn Baby Sitter. Lightweight, portable, no batteries required -- I can rock my little one to sleep as I'm sitting at the computer. Also great for the bathroom; that way, she's within sight and hearing range while I'm showering.

3. An Over the Shoulder Baby Holder for when baby gets a little bigger. I used mine until my son was 3. Between the carrier and the sling, I never had to lug a stupid car seat anywhere, and my son was glad of the closeness.

Oh my God, I would get my tubes untied and have another child for a family member who was willing to clean my kitchen or take my toddler to the park.

For me, the best gift is guilt-free time -- and the knowledge that I can do whatever I want (usually housework, unfortunately) while my children are being cared for by someone I trust.

Other stuff?
* A spare Boppy cover (not the crushed velvet; they were just recalled)

* A membership at a local museum (can get mom or dad and baby out of the house to somewhere that's warm and dry and paid for -- a good thing in winter, and walking around carrying a baby is good exercise)

* Bottle brushes (if they're bottle feeding)

* Spare hats for baby

* "Ask Dr. Mark" has lots of sensible advice.

Good for you for being so considerate and congratulations, uncle-to-be! Best of luck to mom, dad and baby.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:45 PM on November 27, 2007

Three must-have. Sorry, added the third and forgot to change the first sentence.... mama-brain strikes again.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:46 PM on November 27, 2007

Must-haveS. Arghhh.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:46 PM on November 27, 2007

I'm far far away from my sister - in another country, in fact - but I wanted to help. So I googled a housecleaning company in her town and called them up and explained the situation. They were happy to arrange a time with her and then bill my credit card for it. She called me to say it was the BEST GIFT EVER, and I plan on doing it again when she has her 2nd kid in a few months.
posted by web-goddess at 6:20 PM on November 27, 2007

Besides the oh-so-ideal babysitting you plan to offer, how about:
-A gift subscription to Netflix?
-Clothes for a 6- or 9-month old? Them critters can grow fast and all those cute newborn clothes look ridiculous on a big baby.
-Once a week for a couple of months, on a designated day, order them a reasonably healthy dinner delivered. Doesn't have to be fancy, a spinach burrito and a half-bottle of beer (shhhh) used to taste like heaven. You can pull this off from afar, if you don't live nearby.
-Have patience with all the stories and pictures. They're going through something HUGE

Congratulations. You sound like a great brother.
posted by eve harrington at 6:22 PM on November 27, 2007

As the mother of a soon-to-be one year old, here's what I have found most useful:

1. Food, food, and more food... I ate way more in the first few months of nursing than I did at any point during the pregnancy. Sleep deprivation makes it hard to organize yourself enough to put a meal together.

2. Swaddlers ( Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe ). YMMV. This was great during the first 3 months.

3. Cleaning help. I thought I'd never get cleaning help, but it's been a life-, time-, and marriage-saver.

4. What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
by Lise Eliot. This book presents the scientific/medical/biological explanations of development, which the other popular development books don't do. It's easy to find information about when a child is supposed to walk, talk, etc, but this book explains WHY.

5. A package of larger size (i.e., not newborn) diapers (size 1,2,3) and onesies (6-,9-,12-month). It's good to have some on hand when you suddenly realize that the little one has outgrown their current size (especially diapers).
posted by ellenaim at 6:25 PM on November 27, 2007

from my friends who have had babies, i would definitely offer to babysit, if you're in town. or plan to come visit later on and meet the baby and bring some dvds for yourself. then send mom and dad out to dinner while you babysit and clean the house.

a lot of babies are now born so big that they only fit into newborn-sized clothes for about a week. bigger onesies will buy mom and dad some time before they go shopping.

my dad said the best thing he ever had was one of those baby bjorn things so he could carry me around (my mom had to have major surgery right after i was born, so he ended up being my main parent for a couple of months).

i would get dad a cool diaper bag so he doesn't feel like he's carrying around either a toddler's backpack or his wife's purse.

finally, if mom is nursing, she'll want to cover up to feed baby in public. enlist a trusty female friend and buy a couple of washable patterened shawls or wraps so she doesn't have to wear a baby blanket in public.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:36 PM on November 27, 2007

Even though there are no babies in my life right now, I think this would make a great gift: Bumpo Baby Seat

Be aware, however, that some people will require help with common sense use of this product... Bumpo safety notice
posted by splendid animal at 6:43 PM on November 27, 2007

"she'll want to cover up to feed baby in public..."

One parent's must-have is another parent's "Oh lord, I think those things are terrible..."
posted by kmennie at 7:19 PM on November 27, 2007

If you are going to be at the hospital, you might start by thinking of an alternative to hospital food for the new or expecting parents. I have been at several births where the new the expectant father has not eaten all day, or the day after the birth, the mother has a craving for some specific meal or food. In case you don't know, when labor starts, the mother is encouraged to not eat much and the father will not be able to get away in all liklihood. Most fathers don't think to pack snacks and drinks for the big day, so they are stuck with ice chips and coffee from the nurses station. Once the birth has taken place, the mother can eat freely, usually the next day, but will not enjoy the hospital fare. Insist on going out to get anything they want. Give them choices. But don't let them nice their way out of it. And don't forget a variety of snacks to munch on while the father watches the TV as his wife sleeps. It's difficult to make a hospital feel like home, but you can do a lot to make their time in the hospital room comfy if you try.
posted by boots77 at 7:49 PM on November 27, 2007

finally, if mom is nursing, she'll want to cover up to feed baby in public.

...or not. I would've been pissed to get something like that. It sends a message that the giver probably doesn't intend.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:59 PM on November 27, 2007

I'm not a parent, but I have read a lot of AskMe in the last few years, and I knew similar questions had come up before. Here are some threads you might browse for ideas:

10 posts tagged with baby and gift
3 posts tagged with baby and gifts
1 posts [sic] tagged with newborn and gift
posted by jewishbuddha at 8:08 PM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: Wow! The response here has been incredible... TONS of great ideas. I knew I could count on you, MeFites! Thank you.

Unfortunately, I'm in AZ and my sister is in MA, so housecleaning/babysitting is not viable in the short term - but I know what I'll be doing on visits home. Working out a deal with a cleaning service is a possibility, although I think the grandparents to be have that covered for the most part.

I'll be forwarding this to my sister and my brother-in-law in hopes they'll pick some of their favorite suggestions.

Thanks again!
posted by 27 at 8:26 PM on November 27, 2007

not gonna get in on the whole "ohmigod hide yr boobs in public" vs "breastfeeding is natural & beautiful" debate.... but if she's the type who will want to cover up once in a while, i saw a new mom using this nursing cover thingie, which has a little hoopy thing so she can still see the baby but no-one else can. whatever her preferred level of nursing privacy, i can definitely imagine occasions when it would be nice to have the option to cover up- even just for climate control.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:42 PM on November 27, 2007

Mom of a five-week old here:

A diaper bag stuffed with the essentials for those first changes:
--newborn size diapers
--baby wipes
--changing pads (disposable)
--plastic bags to throw away diapers in when you're out
You think you have all these things, but nothing beats having them all together in a bag...even if the mom has another bag.

Also, my friends set up a dinner delivery brigade and brought us meals every other day for two-plus weeks. Example: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, salad greens and homemade brownies, all in disposable pans so they could just be heated up and nothing needed be returned.

Also, I got two boppys at my shower and foolishly returned one. We ended up buying another to have one on two different floors so we didn't have to haul it around.
posted by GaelFC at 8:58 PM on November 27, 2007

nthing the SwaddleMe. Fantastic product, my kid's wrapped up in one now.

We got a Boppy, but my wife tried My Brest Friend and VASTLY preferred it. Generally breastfeeding clinics use this rather than the Boppy.

Don't waste time on newborn clothes. Kid'll be in jammies for a while.

Netflix? HELLS YES. Saved our lives months one and two. We went through all of Deadwood, Carnivale, and the first two seasons of Six Feet Under.

The best pacifier (if they intend to use them, natch) is the Gumdrop. Won't fuck up a newborn's breastfeeding. They. Are. Awesome. One of the most useful gifts we ever got. Buy three or four of them.

Diapers, wipes. More diapers, more wipes. A case of diapers, a case of wipes.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:26 PM on November 27, 2007

Father of a 7-month baby here. Like somebody said, a lot of this stuff is very personal: don't buy us diapers because we use a very specific brand and size, don't buy us a baby carrier because we/our baby likes a specific model and it's not the one you bought us.

I was going to say a vibrating bouncy chair and lots of thick, absorbent bibs, but the very first poster said exactly that. Also, we're approaching winter and a baby wipe warmer would come in handy.
posted by msittig at 9:52 PM on November 27, 2007

My little niece has loved this "ExerSaucer" since she was around 6 or 7 months old. My sister loves it too, since she can put the baby there for a few minutes and she'll be entertained and safe (and off her hands for a while).

It's a great gift too, my mom has given it to a few of my cousins who've had babies in the past year.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:20 PM on November 27, 2007

I've been know to give Syrup of Ipecac, outlet plug covers and safety latches. Then again, I'm the mother of two and a R.N..

People never buy these things early enough, they think they have plenty of time but never get around to it soon enough.
posted by 6:1 at 11:20 PM on November 27, 2007

Although this is not a necessity, and maybe a little pricey, it's a damn nice gift: a video camera. I have two kids and still don't have one!
posted by missuswayne at 5:56 AM on November 28, 2007

If they are using disposable diapers, a diaper genie is a brilliant invention; really keeps the stink down.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:40 AM on November 28, 2007

I can't believe nobody has suggested this yet (maybe because you specified non-baby shower gifts?), but for the love of god, make sure they have a BABY SWING.

Funnily enough, I read a similar thread here on MeFi before we had our own kids and clearly remember everyone saying how important a swing is - and let me tell you, they were right. We had twins and ended up getting another swing because they were just indispensable. Especially if the baby has acid reflux or anything like that - the semi-upright position is extremely soothing and helpful.

We had this one which I would highly, highly recommend - in addition to the tinny music you find on all baby things, it also has sounds like 'rushing water' and 'crashing waves' - which is extremely soothing to baby and parent alike, because all that tinny baby music gets extremely annoying after a few months... It also adjusts to swing forwards/backwards and side-to-side. Seriously, cannot recommend it highly enough - they saved our lives.
posted by widdershins at 7:48 AM on November 28, 2007

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