Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Guide to Great Baby Shower Gifts

If you're a woman, you've undoubtedly attended more than your fair share of baby shower. Baby showers are so fun-- they remind me of spring with all of those storks and lambs and chicks and whatnot. Sugar cookies shaped like rattles, game like Baby Bingo-- what's not to love about baby showers?

Although I must admit that, unless you're a new mother yourself, the gift opening portion of the shower can get old really quickly. If it's a big shower, filled with random work associates, neighbors and great aunts that the family only sees when its gift giving time, then the gift opening session can seem endless. We've all been to baby showers where the mother to be opens gift after gift-- practical but predictable gifts like receiving blankets, onesies, and those terry cloth hooded bath towels. There's only so many of these "adorable" things you can ogle over before you start to get bored, very bored indeed. Oh sure, the new mother loves it (and that's really all that matters). Still, when a unique gift is opened, suddenly everyone starts paying attention. There's always that gift, that one gift, that outdoes all of the others.

"What a cute idea", you might say. "Why didn't I think of that?"

To the proud buyer you may say, "Where did you get that?"

It doesn't matter at this point. You've already given your contribution to the new baby-- a green or yellow outfit from a baby store, a package of onesies, and a two-pack of binkies. You had heard somewhere that that's all a new mother really needs.

It's true that most expectant mothers register at their favorite baby store for things they need, so if you need to buy a gift it's very easy to just check the registry and buy something that's listed. The problem is, you can bet that whatever you buy, someone else will also buy it because, although many of us check the registry for gift ideas, many of us also forget to tell the cashier to delete the item we're purchasing off the list. Thus, the expectant mommy may be getting duplicates of some of her gifts. Trust me, I know-- I still have an extra Diaper Genie I'm trying to pawn off.

Instead of buying something predictable, it's so much fun to buy something special. Here are some ideas for great baby shower gifts that will have the mom to be and all of the other guests ooohing and ahhhing for the rest of the shower.

-- A basket of goodies. Fill a big wicker hamper (which can later be sued in baby's room) with a bunch of important baby stuff: Diapers, diaper rash cream, blankets, a grooming kit (make sure it included those all important
fingernail clippers), a rattle or a plush toy, and a pacifier thermometer. I fist saw a pacifier thermometer when I received one at my own baby shower. I swear it was my favorite gift! I had never seen one before and it was literally the only way I could take my baby's temperature during the first year. I highly recommend them.

-- A Christmas ornament. Even if the baby is due in July, eventually baby's first Christmas will roll around. A beautiful ornament will be a gift that will be treasured for years to come. If you know what the baby's name will be, you can even buy a personalized ornament. Be careful, though-- if there is any chance that the name could be changed once the baby arrives, don't buy anything personalized. A "Baby's First Christmas' ornament will do just fine.

-- A mini library of books. Babies love books and if you read to your children when they are babies they will likely develop a lifelong love of reading. Give a gift of a mini library and include some favorite baby and toddler books. Some suggestions (and my personal favorites) include the classic touch and feel book, "Pat The Bunny" by Dorothy Kunhardt, "I Love You as Much" by Laura Krauss Melmed and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" by Bill Martin. You can also buy plush books or board books-- these types of books are suitable for young babies who like to drool and chew all over their literature.

-- A year full of clothing. Buy the newborn a wardrobe of clothing in sizes 0 to 3 months, 3 to 6 months and 6 to 12 month sizes. This will provide the blessed child with new outfits to wear all throughout his or her first year. Make sure to take into consideration what season it will be when he or she is in each size.

-- Homemade quilt or blanket. Homemade gifts are by far the most precious. Making a homemade quilt or blanket take talent. So if that's not your thing you may want to go another route. If you do know how to quilt or crochet, there are some wonderful patterns for homemade baby gifts that you can make.

--Baby Einstein DVDs and a lullaby CD. The Baby Einstein franchise is a bestselling series of books, videos and learning toys that every baby and new mother will love. The videos or DVDs are especially wonderful--lovely images are shown amidst a background of soothing classical melodies. My personal favorites are "Baby Bach", "Baby Mozart", "Baby Van Gogh" and "Baby Santa".

-- Address labels with new baby's name printed on them. This is an inexpensive gift, but it will be the most talked about. Keep in mind that you can only pull this off if you know absolutely for sure what the new baby's name will be. If you do, then order some pre-made address labels that say the family's name and includes the new baby. For example, they could say "The Smith's" at the top and then all of the names of the Smith clan-- Joe, Sally, Ashley, Joey and baby Emma!

-- Matching robes for mommy and baby. Plush robes, one in mommy's size and on in a baby size, are a lovely gift. There are websites that actually sell matching stuff for mom and baby. A gift like this will make the new mom feel special amidst all of the attention that the baby is getting.

-- A homemade gift certificate for a night of free babysitting. Use your computer and a clipart program to create a personalized certificate for a night of free babysitting. The new mom will be ready to cash in on it by about the third week after the baby's birth. You can also include a gift certificate to the expectant couple's favorite restaurant. That way they'll actually have somewhere to go while you sit with their precious baby.

--Stuff for mom. New moms are sometimes left out. While I don't think they actually resent all of the hoopla surrounding the new baby, they certainly appreciate a little attention once in a while. Enter the perfect gift-- stuff for mom. Give her a gift basket full of stuff to pamper herself with-- bath oil, moisturizing lotion, candles and some ultra comfy pajamas. Or give her a gift certificate for a day of beauty-- a manicure, pedicure, massage or an appointment to get her hair done. This will be much appreciated gift that she can use either before or after the baby arrives.

I realize that some of you would rather by something that the mother has specifically requested, or at the very least something that she really, really can't do without. If that's the case, here are some of the best gift suggestions for any new mother. Buy one of these and you'll be a best friend for life.

-- A Boppy pillow. This item is a must have for any nursing mother. It was truly the only thing I could use to get my babies in a comfortable position for feeding. You can buy this item in any department store or baby specialty store.

-- A baby monitor. Believe it or not, mom will actually have to leave her baby's side once in a while. This device makes it possible for mom to hear baby from anywhere in the house. The prices for one these things are all over the place-- look for a mid priced monitor made by a reputable manufacturer.

-- "The Girlfriend's Guide to Baby's First Year" by Vicki Iovine. Nearly very expectant mother reads the hilarious "Girlfriend's Guide to Expecting" while she is pregnant-- it's so much more personal than the dry, textbook-like "What to Expect When You're Expecting". Vicki Iovine's follow up book deals with everything a new mother can anticipate during baby's first year. It's a book that the new mom will turn to again and again as she tried to learn the ropes of new motherhood.

-- A bottle warmer. This item is a must have! Newborn babies like warm milk--whether it's form the breast or from a bottle. This gadget makes it super easy to warm up baby's milk. No more heating bottles upon the stove when you can have this puppy to do all of the work for you! Even if the mother has not requested this item on her registry, do her a favor and buy one for her. Later on, when she realizes how she could never live without the thing, you'll get a warm and sincere thank you.

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