The baby aisle is very confusing, and by no accident from this billion dollar market catering to concerned parents and doting family members. Here are some principles to keep in mind as you scan and scour for the perfect gifts for the perfect baby.
I recommend starting with Target or Amazon for ideas and also for your common people guests. They have categories – such as bedding, bath, clothing, health, feeding – to help get you started so you don’t miss major items. Then you can always add on a boutique baby store if your guests are fancy (one of my colleagues :-p) or are just looking for some more unique gifts.
Next, make sure you pick BABY SAFE items. Just because something is labeled “baby”, doesn’t make it safe. Crib bumpers, in bed sleepers (like a bassinet to put in parents’ bed), rock and plays, are NOT safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the baby sleep on his/her back in a bassinet or crib with nothing else in it except a tight fitting sheet around the mattress. Not in the carseat, not in the parents’ bed, not in a crib with bumpers. Another example is a humidifier or vaporizer that has warm air (get a cool-mist humidifier, I have a Crane Drop which so far has been easy to clean and maintain). Theoretically sounds great, but it is actually not recommended due to risk of steam causing burns.
Finally, realize that not everything labeled “Baby” is necessary or priced fairly. For example, Dreft, is a “baby” detergent, but contains fragrance and dye (not unlike regular detergent) and costs about 2.25x than ALL Free and Clear. Bottle warmers and wipes warmers are magnets for mold and can be replaced by very inexpensive techniques. Babies do not need to drink warmed milk, but if you wanted to warm up refrigerated breastmilk or formula, you can just fill a large cup with hot tap water, plop the bottle in there, and wait a few minutes. As for the wipes, being a bit cold will actually wake up the baby better for a more alert feed.
Some gift suggestions:
- Group items from one category for a homemade gift basket
- Bath time for baby – put all the gifts in a bathtub (the easy to clean Fisher Price whale tub I have is no longer sold, but this one is similar and comes with a sling, the sling only bath seats i heard get moldy), towels for body and face (patterns and colors endless!), body wash (I use Honest because they come in two-pack and go on sale at Costco, but I would also use Aveeno baby), and bath toys (DO NOT go for the squirters because they get moldy inside – made that mistake once – instead try these foam sea animals and this floating (6-legged?) octopus which my kids 2 and 5 years old still play with them). TBH, I am not a fan of J&J (too much dye and fragrance) and Babyganics (misleading) which I can only commend for their excellent marketing.
- Me time for mom – facial wipes and dry shampoo (I love Dove but I also have friends who use Not My Mother’s and Batiste) because showering is a luxury and any free time is spent eating or sleeping, coupons for a haircut and massage, new water bottle to keep her hydrated.
- Sleepy time – eye masks for mom and dad, sleep sacks and swaddlers (thought I found these to be more complicated to use than helpful) for baby, white noise or lullaby music CD, and a coupon to babysit around week 2-3 when sleep deprivation REALLY sets in.
- Books for baby – actually, a lot of baby showers now ask for books with a personal message instead of cards. I loved this when my work did this for me, and it was very well received when I used this at the last baby shower I planned. My favorite authors and series include Sandra Boynton, Good Night Moon, The Little Blue Truck, a few touch and feel books, and flap books. The pop up books tended to scare my kids or if they were brave enough, got torn apart very quickly! TJ Maxx and Home Goods has a good selection at reasonable prices.
- Books for parents – See this post for more recommendations
- A few small items plus a large box of size 1 or 2 diapers with customized messages. Don’t buy newborn diapers. Some babies are born too large to fit in them, and most won’t fit after 1 month anyway. Parents will always thank you for diapers. Even better, write some encouraging messages for the parents on some of those diapers. “It gets better”, “Call xxx-xxx-xxxx if you need some relief”, “Knock knock” jokes, “It’s okay to let the baby cry while you take a shower or eat”, “You have a beautiful smile”.
- A massage for mom, sports tickets for dad, one coupon… no wait… SEVERAL coupons for babysitting. I often suggest for the parents to have a family member or close family friend babysit the newborn from 7pm-10pm to give the parents a break to shower, to eat, to take a nap. Especially for parents with babies who don’t like to sleep. After all, it takes a village.
I personally used Amazon (sign up here) and Target (sign up here) to create gift registries and saved a lot from the 10-15% completion discount too, which is a discount that you can use to buy un-gifted products that you still need or want.