baby proof: gifts for new parents.

March 28, 2016
gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves
It’s the time of year (and the time of life) when I know a lot of folks who are welcoming teeny-tinies into their lives. Two of my very best friends are expecting little guys this spring and summer and just this weekend I celebrated at a shower for one of them. 
 
Welcoming a new baby into a house is, to put it lightly, a big deal. Doesn’t matter if you’ve done it before. For brand new moms and dads (and for seasoned moms and dads of brand-new babies), it’s really nice to receive a little something to know they’re being cared for while they’re so busy caring for someone else. Here are a few ideas for small gifts for new parents. They’re gifts that tow the line between practical, personal, and a little bit special, but that don’t often find their way onto traditional baby registries (see also).
gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves
Stress relief.
It’s not all stressful, but there are elements of having a tiny newborn that can fray your nerves and I loved wearing this sweet scent when Faye was just born (and still). The tangerine and lavender are calming scents, to be sure, but there’s also something about feeling like you have a secret weapon against stress that feels comforting: a talisman in the form of a roller-ball, if you will. Best of all the scent’s not too overpowering for a newborn but it’s lovely enough feel refreshed…and….calm.
 
A good night’s sleep.
There’s not much you can do to make sure your friends with new babies will get enough sleep, but a nod in that direction would still be welcome. New parents spend so much time in bed and while they might not have time to change their sheets as often as you’d like, there’s always time to swap in fresh pillowcases. I love the idea of offering a parent of a newborn a special set of pillowcases. Whether they’re vintage or new: wash ’em, iron ’em, and wrap them up with a sprig of lavender and a note wishing sweet slumbers for parents and babe, both.
 
Sweet dreams.
Similar to the idea above…it’s nice to feel at least a bit refreshed even in moments when you can’t have fresh clean everything all the time. A spritz of lavender on your bedsheets can go a long way toward maintaining sanity (and maybe even encouraging that precious sleep!). I usually make my own very humble linen spray (with just water + lavender oil), but this one is specially formulated for bed linens, minus artificial fragrances. 
 
Luxury.
If you want to give an extra-special gift, a new cotton robe would be lovely. I love cotton robes because they’re lightweight and easy to wear and they don’t take up all of the space that a terrycloth robe does. This organic cotton robe looks especially lovely. And this unisex robe would be as good for sleep-deprived papas or mamas.
 
Comfort.
It sounds a little personal maybe, but comfy underwear takes on a whole new meaning postpartum. I love these undies from Storq. They’re so soft and stretchy but don’t make you feel like you’re wearing something that’s only utilitarian. And I still wear them…22 months after the fact. 
 
Relaxation. 
Despite having known that my body’s shape had shifted during pregnancy, it wasn’t until after I’d given birth and was reaching for my coziest sweats the next day that I realized that they didn’t fit the way they used to (even during pregnancy). Luckily, my mom had brought me a pair of cotton pajama pants in a size larger than I normally wear. They were just what I needed to pull over all of my tender parts without having to shimmy or shove or generally try to make them fit. GODSEND. These look just right but anything soft and roomy would do. (PS. A nice idea for any parent of a newborn, not just the one giving birth.)
 
Protection.
If you’re close to the mama who you’re giving a gift to, you might choose to give something super practical but strangely missing from a lot of conversations about “new mom must-haves”. One of the kindest gifts I received before Faye was born was a set of washable nursing pads from my sister. I had zero idea that my boobs would be leaking breast milk for weeks (and months) as I first began to nurse and receiving the gift felt not only practical, but like I was being specially cared for. See also: nipple creambottom spray, and lots of encouragement to stock up on extra large pads and mesh underwear, and witch hazel pads from the hospital (or to buy ’em for birth at home). Another perfect gift? A shortstack of cloth prefold diapers in the largest size. Good for everything from acting as a burp cloth, to serving as a mattress protector, to giving extra breast-feeding support, to sopping up spills and accidents, to putting over your face and crying into when you just need to have a good sob, to playing endless games of peekaboo. They can do no wrong and they’ll always get used. 
 
Nourishment.
Maybe it goes without saying that one of the kindest gifts for parents of a new little guy is a homecooked meal. If you’re close enough to offer one: amazing. I’ll never ever forget the ravioli with fiddleheads that my brother-in-law came over and cooked us the night after Faye was born. I couldn’t sit in my chair to eat it, but damn did it taste good.
 
Peace of mind.
Finally, as so many folks in this space have expressed, there’s a lot of undue pressure on new parents to buy all the things. I’m firmly in the camp of you not needing very much at all in the way of baby gear, but if you did find something helpful and if it’s not so helpful to you anymore (or at least not the moment), consider offering it as a loaner to a friend. Getting the chance to use a bouncy chair for a few months (or a few weeks if that’s all you need) instead of buying one brand-new, might be just the thing that helps them get over a hump (or a crying fit).
gifts for new parents | reading my tea leaves
 What about you guys? Favorite little gifts to give to friends or family welcoming a new baby?

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33 Comments

  • Reply Angela March 28, 2016 at 8:42 am

    I love to give nursing supplies (nipple cream, nursing pads, a new water bottle, snacks, chapstick, etc… Stuff you dont want to have to get up and get yourself during a nursing sesh.), and I love to give stuff like baby medicine (gripe water, teething balm, infant Tylenol) too. Obviously not needed for a newborn, but when you need stuff like that, you need it like 5 minutes ago and running to the store with a sick or fussy baby is no fun. So that’s why I give it as part of a gift.

    Lastly, a friend of mine always includes a gift card to get sexy panties or a new bra. Again, not needed right away, but like you said, your body changes and down the road you might want something new to make YOU feel pretty, especially after months of all your focus being on someone else.

  • Reply Katherine March 28, 2016 at 10:04 am

    I recently took a safety course with the local fire department, and our instructor made a great comment about gifting new parents with new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, in addition to fire extinguishers. His reasoning was that those items have a lifespan, and if there are smoke detectors included with the apartment, chances are they are expired, as would be the extinguishers. I thought it was a great idea, albeit a little on the non-romantic side. I thought it was a way for someone to show they truly cared, though.

  • Reply Susana Galli March 28, 2016 at 11:06 am

    What about Dark chocolate?! And a salt stone lamp, its the perfect smoothing light to keep on all night whiteout disturbing the sleeping dad who doesn’t need to wake for feeds, and still enough to check if the baby is still breathing .. 🙂 As we all do!

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 28, 2016 at 11:21 am

      I think we disagree on whether dads should wake up for feeds ;); but the salt stone lamp sounds lovely and chocolate is always welcome.

      • Reply Tarynkay March 29, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        If the Baby is bottle-fed, absolutely dad should be getting up for his share of feeds. But I never figured out what dad should be up doing while I’m nursing the baby in the middle of the night and it just doesn’t make sense to have 2 sleep deprived parents.

        • Reply Erin Boyle March 29, 2016 at 3:22 pm

          Ha! Understood. James always did the waking up/baby retrieval and I did the nursing 😉

    • Reply Erin March 28, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      I always gift a Twilight Turtle for the same reason as you suggest the salt lamp. TT has soft lit stars and is on a timer (which, for me was great because I knew if I could feed her and get her back to sleep before turtle went out – it was <45 mins.) – she still loves to sleep with her stars on, even 6 years later!

  • Reply Joanna March 28, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    A Contigo water bottle (they never leak and are easy to do with one hand at any angle) and some freezable nutritionally dense one-handed snacks for ravenous early-nursing moments.

  • Reply Katie Swanson March 28, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I have two little boys now and am the first of my friends to become a mama. I’ve made a running list over the last four years of helpful things and at the top of the list are service gifts. A house cleaner, a dog walker or a post partum doula are all on my list of lovely things to receive when you have a new baby! They are things you can do yourself if you live close by or can hire out if you are farther away.

  • Reply Audrey @ The Thrifty Traveler CA March 28, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I love the idea of getting something for the mom. Looking back on my two kiddos, one of my favorite baby shower gifts was a gift certificate for a massage. This is something I would never splurge on (and my friend knew that) so it was a real treat for me. Aside from gifts of food (which were AMAZING), I loved when people brought dark chocolate or really good coffee beans (decaf if the mom is paranoid about caffeine and breastfeeding). A really good beer would have also been nice. I’m not a big drinker and after not drinking for 9 months I could only handle about 6 oz. before I felt tipsy, but my first sip of beer after having a kid was magical 🙂

    • Reply Jen March 28, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      A massage voucher is a great idea!

  • Reply Alexa March 28, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I don’t have any babes of my own just yet, but I am celebrating a close friends’ twins turning one soon and I’ve been turning gift ideas over in my head. I am working on dreaming something up for the parents, since they’ve survived their first year and the babies won’t know the difference. Did anyone do anything similarly non-traditional when Faye turned one?

    Thank you!

  • Reply Emily March 28, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I love this post! What wonderful ideas! I’ve been searching for ideas of what to give a new mom for herself and you nailed it! I usually bring a freezable meal and a half gallon mason jar of homemade trail mix for those early starving post partum days.

  • Reply Jen March 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Such a nice collection of ideas – I’ll be mentally bookmarking this. I haven’t had to buy many gifts for new parents, but have tried to steer clear of adding to the mountain of cute outfits and plastic toys that people receive by trying to give more practical things, like sweet little bathing treats for mama and baby (something that’ll get used but might seem too pricey to splurge on as a new parent). The last time friends gave birth, my boyfriend and I gifted a cinema voucher – with a note saying that it was for their first post-baby date. The year-long expiry date meant that there was no rush for them to decide to use it, and it was a little treat to look forward to, without worrying about the cost.

  • Reply Mun March 28, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Such sweet, sweet suggestions. Would definitely refer back to this post when I need to get my next new parent gift 🙂

  • Reply Catherine March 28, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    The book Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott is the best gift I received, and I now give it to everyone. It’s so great specifically because it’s funny and does not give any parenting advice, at a time when it’s easy to inundate yourself with instructional parenting books that can be conflicting and really stress a new parent out.
    I also like to give the couple nice homemade pasta sauces and pasta that they can freeze and use in a pinch when things get crazy.

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 28, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Yes! I got this one from one of my dearest friends, too! So great. Homemade pasta and sauce sound amazing.

  • Reply Kathleen March 28, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    I am a mom of two littles- 2 and 8 months. I have found that the best gifts are food! Although I love to cook, when exhausted with no sleep, it is so nice to have a nice homemade meal show up 🙂 Even better is one I can pop into oven and enjoy hot (lasagna, baked pasta, baked chicken dish, etc). Since having my own, I have started doing this for friends as soon as they arrive home with their babies. I have purchased a couple inexpensive casserole dishes for these in the event that I don’t get the dish back (I’m totally okay with!).

  • Reply SLG March 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Erin, where do you usually get your lavender oil?

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 29, 2016 at 10:41 am

      I usually buy whatever organic pure essential oil is available at my local grocery store (usually aura cacia!); but I’ve recently also loved the lavender essential oil that S.W. Basics is selling!

  • Reply Kim March 29, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I recently made Erin’s deodorizing discs for my diaper pail and they are great! Thinking those would be a nice gift for new parents packaged in a big mason jar. A loose breastfeeding tank or slip with deep v neck line would also be nice for BFing moms. I never realized how much time I would spend BFing and great to have convenient, UNCOMPLICATED tops.

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 29, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Yay!

  • Reply Lo March 29, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    I love this list! I know you usually link to products that are ethically made and/or produced in the USA, so just curious if you know whether Eberjey pieces fall into those categories. I love their stuff, but haven’t been able to find much info about the company’s production.

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 29, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Admittedly I haven’t done a deep dive into Eberjey myself!

  • Reply Audrey F March 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    I love this post for myself! I’m 7 months pregnant and have only been purchasing things for the baby. Nice little ideas to treat myself as well 🙂

  • Reply Jess @UsedYorkCity March 29, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    I just had my little man in December, and a special gift my parents got me was his birthstone charm. Also, the other thing that meant so much was when friends would text post delivery to ask how I was holding up. Made me feel loved, cause those first few weeks were really tough!

  • Reply Robyn March 29, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    It has been a long time since I had a baby but it was so helpful when friends brought meals, offered to do laundry or go to the grocery store for me.

  • Reply Karen T. March 30, 2016 at 3:13 am

    When my grandson was born last October, I gave my daughter several freezable meals, an open-ended promise to come over and clean her house or run errands, a massage voucher, and a hand-crocheted blankie for the darling new boy. We also contributed to buying the crib and car seat. My niece is pregnant now, and lives several hundred miles away from me, but I can still send an auntie-made blankie, some gift cards for healthy meals-to-go (Chipotle!), and a Massage Envy voucher.

  • Reply Bri March 30, 2016 at 11:43 am

    So many great ideas here. I especially love the idea of giving fresh pillow cases. Gah! How I wish someone would have thought of that for me. Having a winter baby (or any time of the year baby!) I spent an overwheing amount of time in the bed trying to get the hang of nursing/clinging to sleep, that anything to freshen up our space would have been so welcome! I haven’t read it yet, but I have a feeling this book: Mama Bare: the birth of mother by Kristen Gail Hedges is going to be a necessary read. Thinking about picking up a copy and including it in with my new mama gifts. I tear up just reading the description on Amazon.

  • Reply ladylyn April 1, 2016 at 12:35 am

    I usually give bibs made with upcycled denim, handknit baby hats, or little quilts. Sometimes I bring meals, but other than that I haven’t really thought about giving to the parents. I saw this today, and I think it would make a GREAT new mom gift. https://society6.com/product/mom-guilt-is-stupid_travel-mug#59=436

  • Reply Jill April 4, 2016 at 12:19 am

    When my son was born , 4 years ago, I bought myself a kindle. It was so handy to be able to read anything I wanted without having to get up and with only one hand! I haven’t really used it since the days of intense nightly nursing but I’m pregnant again and I’m going to use it for this baby and then pass it along to another mama.

  • Reply Nicole Krensky April 21, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Erin! I finally bought lavender essential oil specifically to make the linen spray you mention in this post. How many parts water to lavender oil do you recommend? Also, any recommendations on a nice, well-functioning, and sustainable spray vessel?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Erin Boyle April 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Oh awesome! I go mostly by smell—but I’d say about 10 drops in a spray bottle would do it! As for the bottle: my favorite spray bottle hack is taking an old spray nozzle from any kind of bottle you might have had (washing it well beforehand!) and screwing it onto the top of a glass white vinegar bottle. The one-inch top is standard so it will fit! And then you get a pretty glass bottle for next to nothing! Otherwise, I also like the stainless steel misters you can often find in health food stores near the essential oils!

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