Best Gifts for New Parents

My daughter was born on a snowy day in March. We brought her home in a gender-neutral cream-colored snowsuit that was so enormous it floated around her tiny body like she was a doll. We spent 20 tense minutes at the hospital door desperately trying to buckle her car seat around the endless mounds of extra fabric. As first-time parents, we had clearly not understood the actual size of a newborn baby. With the realization that we were responsible for this little being came the other realization that we were going to need to go shopping.

Our case was extreme. I've always been superstitious, plus I did not want to know the baby’s sex, so I had bought nothing beyond the crib and stroller during my pregnancy. I just couldn’t imagine committing to a color palette or setting up a room before the baby’s arrival at the door. Now it seemed that we were woefully unprepared in every way as I raced to put together a registry and wish list for friends and family. I nearly cried with joy when my brother-in-law spontaneously showed up with socks for the baby on day two. Socks?! How could we not have thought of that?

It was with great relief that the gifts began to arrive, some in person and some by mail. The best gifts came from those families that also had little children and clearly saw the situation for what it was: New parents plus newborn equals chaos! These people sent their gifts by post and made sure that they were easily returnable. They tried to make our lives easier. They didn’t linger in our home expecting the baby to like being held by them or actually smile. But for those who haven’t been there yet, the following are some gift ideas for the new family:

Help a mom out: The gifts that focused on “me” as an actual individual and improved my well being were truly appreciated. I had a 30-hour labor (my OB’s record!) and still felt kind of yucky for weeks. The colleague who brought me expensive bath gel and lotion and perfume was my new best friend. It made me feel so much better. Other ideas for mom include post-natal massages, at-home services for nails or hair (since you have no time to leave), flowers, or accessories (if you are familiar enough with her taste).

Registry review: If they registered for it, they clearly want it. It’s an easy one, don’t fight it. Also, a gift certificate to Amazon is always welcome. It will be used. Your creativity is not being tested; the obvious choice can be the best.

Feed a family: The need to actually feed yourself becomes a continual burden once you are on a three-hour sleep cycle. Bringing or sending (even better!) food and drink to new parents is an underrated gesture that brings much happiness.

Sleep needs: A newborn spends about 16 hours every day sleeping. The crib is essential, as are all of the swaddling blankets and the crib mattress. A durable and easy-to-clean crib mattress is a no-brainer for a gift (organized with the blessing of the parents.) New parents learn that swaddling helps sleep and swaddling blankets are in constant demand. They are also cute and can be used in countless ways.

Personalization: When the haze of infancy is gone, it’s hard to get rid of things with the baby’s name on them, as those things tend to be the keepers. Some of the “best of the best” for me included personalized stationary for “thank you” notes for all the gifts, step stools that transitioned all over the house for years, and other useful things like bathrobes, towels, and burp cloths. On a more formal note, a silver feeding spoon makes feeding feel fancy. It is an instant classic, sure to be passed on and treasured.