I received a text this morning from a good friend. She is not yet a mom, and is heading to a baby shower this weekend. Her question was simple - "can I bring non-registry items to the shower?" and I probably gave her way more of an answer than she ever wanted. Last year I put together a post about what new parents should think about when creating their baby registry, and while this is similar, this post aims to help those going to a shower who are not sure what they really should purchase to help out the new family. I know I look at showers very differently post-baby than I did pre-baby and it would have been helpful to truly know what new parents need so I could give a gift that was both useful and fun.
1. Buy something off of the registry.
It seems to be common sense, but almost nobody does it. Babies are so much fun to buy for. I used to walk into Babies R Us with every intention of purchasing something off of the registry and immediately I would hear every stuffed animal, cute baby blankie, and rubber duckie call my name as I entered the store. It's important to remember that there is a reason for the registry. Yes, nail clippers and snot suckers are a bit on the boring side, but they are necessary for new little babies and all of those necessary items really add up for expecting parents. Even a few little things off of the registry coupled with something fun can really help out.
2. Buy something for toddlers.
It's amazing how quickly the infant stage goes by. (I'm writing that for those moms who are in week 3 and feel like they will never ever sleep again). I had no idea how soon we would need sippy cups, baby spoons, toddler toys, and 18 month clothing. If the parents are first time parents they may not see the value of "older" gifts, but as they are scrambling at the last minute because their kid is ready for cereal seemingly overnight, they will be incredibly grateful as they remember they are already set up for the next stage.
3. Buy diapers - the size after the next size up.
I'll preface this by saying it's really helpful to know what brand diaper the parents are going to use since this can be personal preference. It's also helpful to know if they plan to cloth or use disposables. While our intention was to cloth, it just didn't happen for us and I'll never forget the day that our daughter went up to size two and I realized someone had given us an entire box of size two diapers. It was like Christmas. Diapers are really expensive and the longer you can help those parents go without adding that to their shrinking budget, the more grateful they are bound to be.
4. Buy something for mom.
By the time the shower rolls around, it is very likely that mom is starting to feel it. Her back hurts, she's starting to not sleep well, she's tired. At my shower, in the midst of all the cuteness, I opened up a gift certificate for a pedicure. I almost cried. I needed something that made me feel human so badly, and it was one of my favorite gifts that day.
5. Buy books.
A kid can never have enough books. We started reading to Molly every night at two months, and even at that little age, a picture book could calm her down. (Her favorite was Black on White by Tana Hoban - seriously, she would stop mid-scream to see the pictures). Help the parents to be ready to introduce reading early by giving books that they can read to their baby from the start. Some other favorites of Molly's in the first year were Little Hands Love, and Rainbow Colors Peekaboo.
And what should you avoid purchasing? I don't want to use the word "avoid" because I think if you know the parents would love it or really need something, you should buy it! But be aware that they will be oversaturated with things like baby blankets, hooded towels (this was a staple gift of mine pre-kids!), socks, and clothing. And while I personally cannot resist throwing in a cute outfit, I'm always sure to add something that I know they need from their registry, or something that I know they won't get much of.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is the fact that you are there for the couple and showing love to their child that you haven't even met yet. It was amazing feeling like Molly was already loved by so many people, and none of us had even met her.