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Baby Shower Etiquette: Rules For Hosts And Guests

Mom at baby shower holding belly

Baby showers are a time to celebrate the little one on the way and give special (and needed!) gifts to the mom-to-be. But whether you’re hosting a baby shower, attending, or are the expecting mom, you probably have baby shower etiquette questions.

No matter your role at the upcoming shower, the Newton Baby experts are here to answer your questions. We’ll cover basic etiquette rules for the host or hostess, the mom-to-be, and the guest.

Baby Shower Etiquette For Hosts And Hostesses

Hostess at baby shower serving drinks

Who Can Have A Baby Shower?

Any parent expecting a child! That includes single parents, adoptive parents, and anyone in-between.

The most common situation is a shower for a pregnant mom, so that’s what we’ll refer to in this article, but we believe that baby showers are appropriate for anyone welcoming a new child into their life!

Are Baby Showers Appropriate For Second Or Third Babies?

Years ago, it may have been thought baby showers were only appropriate for a woman’s first child.

While some may still stick to that rule, baby shower etiquette has changed over the years. It’s now considered acceptable to have a baby shower or baby sprinkle for second or third babies (or fourth or fifth!).

If that’s the case, be sure that the expecting mom registers for exactly what she needs since the essentials for a second baby are different from when she was getting her house baby-ready for the very first time.

For a second or third baby, you might consider shifting the focus of the celebration. Turn it into a special time with the mother-to-be and fewer gifts, or ask guests to bring gifts that go with a certain theme (such as books).

Baby Sprinkle

If you (or the parents-to-be) want a lighter, low-key party, consider throwing a baby sprinkle instead of a shower. This is a great option for the second (and beyond) child!

A baby sprinkle won’t have all the bells and whistles that a baby shower does. The guest list is usually a little smaller, with only the parents’ closest friends and family members attending.

The gift registry is a bit different as well. Instead of big-ticket items, the parents-to-be are usually sprinkled with diapers, wipes, and other baby must-haves. The parents likely already have what they need as far as baby gear goes, like a Newton Baby Crib Mattress.

So if you’ve heard the guest of honor hinting around about a smaller gathering, check with them to see if a baby sprinkle is a good option!

baby shower themed cookies

Who Throws The Baby Shower?

The better question is “who shouldn’t throw the baby shower?” And the answer to that question: the mom-to-be and her partner.

Traditionally, immediate family was out of the running as well when it came to throwing a baby shower. But now, it’s much more acceptable for any close friend or family member to throw a shower for the expecting mom!

Who Foots The Bill?

The host pays for the expenses of the baby shower. That being said, co-hosting a shower with one or two others is a good way to split the costs (and the planning).

When Should The Baby Shower Happen?

For pregnant moms-to-be, baby showers typically happen sometime during the third trimester. Around four to eight weeks before her due date is a good time.

Holding the shower well before the baby’s expected arrival gives the expecting parents enough time to prepare the nursery with the gifts they received and purchase anything they didn’t.

You’ll want to take into account whether or not she has other showers, cultural norms, and how comfortable she’ll be once her belly gets big later in her pregnancy.

When Should Invitations Be Sent?

Traditionally, etiquette calls for baby shower invitations to be sent four to six weeks before the party. Send the invitations too early and guests may forget. Send them too late and they might not have enough time to prepare.

invitations following baby shower etiquette

Are Electronic Invitations OK?

Pretty paper invitations are a nice touch, but electronic invitations are a-OK to use, especially if you’re in a time crunch or trying to lend a hand to the planet and cut down on paper.

Whatever sort of invite you choose, include all the information guests need:

  • The mother’s name
  • Date
  • Time
  • Place
  • How and when to RSVP
  • Any special instructions, like what to wear or what to bring (in the case of gifts for a themed shower).

It’s up for debate whether you should include registry information on the invitations, on a separate slip of paper inside the envelope, or leave it out altogether, so use your discretion.

Who Is Invited?

Who is invited is entirely up to the mom-to-be. Baby showers were once strictly for the ladies in her life, but this has changed in recent years!

Now, showers can also include men and kids. It simply depends on the vibe you want to create and who the expecting mother wants to include.

Who Plans The Menu?

The host typically takes the reins when it comes to planning the menu and preparing the food, whether it’s tea, hors d'oeuvres, or a light meal.

Still, it’s a good idea to ask the expecting mom if she has any preferences (did somebody say “pregnancy cravings?”). Also ask if she’s OK with you serving refreshments that she can’t enjoy, such as alcohol.

Are Baby Shower Games A Must?

A typical baby shower includes playing games, watching the mother-to-be open gifts, eating, and drinking. However, games aren’t a must.

Some baby shower hosts and hostesses are foregoing the typical games in favor of other activities. Ask the expecting mother what she thinks about games and what she would like to do!

Friends and family at a baby shower

Should The Mom-To-Be Open Gifts During The Shower?

Traditionally, opening gifts happens during the shower. It gives guests a chance to watch the mom-to-be open the gifts they brought and everyone likes seeing all of the tiny, cute baby things!

However, the baby shower tide is changing. Rethink the traditional gift-opening ritual if the expecting mom feels shy about it or if there will be lots of guests and lots of gifts, making gift-opening a long process.

Should You Give Party Favors To Guests?

If you’re wondering whether or not you should provide party favors to your guests, honestly, it’s really up to you. Party favors are a nice gesture to thank guests for coming, but they can quickly get expensive.

If you do choose to give party favors, feel free to cap your spending at just a few dollars per guest. For example, a bottle of lotion, bar of soap, candy bags, or little trinkets are good options.

Also, consider giving a favor that correlates with the theme of the shower. If you’re throwing a “Mom-To-Bee” shower, for example, you could give a honeycomb bar of soap to the guests as a party favor.

How Long Should The Shower Last?

The pressure is on when it comes to hosting and entertaining your guests, so just exactly how long should you keep the party going? The typical amount of time for a baby shower to last is about two hours.

That gives your guests plenty of time to eat or snack, chat with the mom-to-be, play games (if you’re offering games), and watch the mom-to-be open her gifts.

Another option is a drop-in baby shower. If the mom-to-be has a long guest list, sometimes having guests “drop-in” between a certain time gives visitors some flexibility and gives mom (or parents) more time to spend with their friends and family individually.

If you choose to host a drop-in shower, you can extend the length of time for the shower from two hours to four or five hours.

Where Should You Host The Shower?

Baby showers can be hosted anywhere from parks to houses to churches to country clubs. Honestly, the sky's the limit when it comes to the baby shower location! Talk it over with the mom- or parents-to-be and see if they have a preference.

If you’re hosting the shower with others, brainstorm with them to see what you can come up with. Just whatever you do, don’t host it at the expecting mom’s house (unless she asks).

She might feel like a host even though she isn’t. The mom-to-be may end up serving drinks or asking guests if they need anything because it’s her house. And she’ll feel pressured to make sure everything is perfect.

Let mom kick her feet up and relax, just not in her own home!

Should The Baby Shower Have A Specific Theme?

Baby shower decorations and sweets table

Most baby showers stick with a theme. It makes decorating and planning that much more fun! Let your creativity run wild!

But if you’re stuck and can’t come up with a theme, here are a few ideas.

Rubber Duck

The rubber duck is a timeless theme for a baby shower. Every baby will have a rubber duck in their bath at some point. Use rubber ducks as decorations by having them float in a punch bowl or rest on top of the cake.

If the expecting mom is saving her baby’s gender reveal for the big day, a rubber duck is a good gender-neutral theme for the baby shower!

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Reach for the stars with another timeless baby shower theme! This one is more than just a sweet lullaby to sing, and you can go all out with decorations.

Use stars as the background for the shower and decorate in gold, white, silver, and pink or blue. The expecting mom will be over the moon with this theme!

Mom-To-Bee

Decorate with yellow and black and offer theme-related food, like cookies shaped like a bee or beehive, and don’t forget the honey. The mom-to-bee will love all your little touches and the shower will be the buzz around the town!

What About A Surprise Baby Shower?

Surprise baby showers are not always a good idea.

If the expecting mom doesn’t know that she’s having a party, she might start to wonder (and maybe worry!) about whether or not someone is throwing her one and how she’ll get everything she needs for her baby.

That said, if you do want to throw a surprise baby shower, just let mom know that something special is in the works.

She doesn’t have to be privy to all the ends-and-outs of the shower, but just knowing that you’re thinking of her and her baby will take some of the wonder (and worry!) off her mind!

Baby Shower Etiquette For Guests

Guest giving gifts by following baby shower etiquette

What Should You Do When You Receive An Invitation?

When you receive an invitation to a baby shower, the first thing you should do is check the invitation for two things: who is invited and when you need to RSVP.

Don’t assume your kids or significant other are invited unless it says so on the invitation! Avoid a faux pas by looking at the invite before making plans.

The other thing you’ll want to look for is the RSVP date and contact information. Be a considerate guest and let the host or hostess know in a timely manner whether or not you will be able to attend.

What If You Can’t Attend?

If you can’t attend the baby shower, let the host or hostess know so soon as possible.

Additionally, although gifts and treats are always welcome, there’s no need to feel obligated to send something. You can always save your gift for when you get to meet the baby in person.

Can You Go Without A Gift?

Never show up to a baby shower without a gift in hand! That being said, you’re not required to buy a gift from the registry.

Feel free to shop around and choose any special gift for the new little one (and their mommy!). It’s also OK to go in with a group to purchase one of the more expensive items on the registry, like the rocking chair, stroller, or crib mattress.

Lastly, consider bringing a practical gift — something cute but useful, like Newton Baby’s Breathable, Organic Cotton Sheets.

What Should You Talk About At The Shower?

Once you’re at the event, good baby shower etiquette includes keeping conversation encouraging and lighthearted!

Avoid making comments about how big her third-trimester belly is or bringing up controversial topics like parenting styles, birth methods, discipline, or breastfeeding!

You want the mom-to-be to feel encouraged and excited about the upcoming adventure with her new little one!

Expecting mom holding belly and baby shower balloons at her baby shower

Avoid The Belly Rub

Not every mom likes to have their belly rubbed, especially at a party where there will be lots of hands reaching for it!

If one person starts rubbing mom’s belly, it’s like a chain reaction and then everyone starts rubbing her belly, which she may not prefer.

At the baby shower, try to avoid doing this just to be on the safe side. Respect mom’s boundaries and save the belly rubbing for another time!

Don’t Discuss Breastfeeding

Not every mom chooses to breastfeed, and that’s OK! Preference, health reasons, scheduling, and a slew of other things play a role in whether or not the expecting mom chooses to breastfeed.

Sometimes breastfeeding can be a controversial topic among parents, so avoid it during the baby shower. And sometimes breastfeeding can be a touchy subject for moms.

Maybe this is mom’s second (or beyond) time around, and she wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. It may be a hard topic for her to discuss.

Remember, a baby shower is a time of celebration for the parents-to-be. Keep the conversations lighthearted and encouraging!

Give Advice Later

Some moms welcome advice, whereas other moms are tired of hearing it. Again, keep the conversations light and encouraging during the shower.

This may not be the time to randomly offer any type of advice in regard to parenting, birthing, or whatever else.

While there is a time and place and for giving advice, a baby shower just might not be it. However, some parents-to-be will ask for advice. And if that’s the case, by all means, go for it!

Baby Shower Etiquette For Expecting Moms

Expecting mom with flowers at baby shower

Is It OK To Have More Than One Baby Shower?

Yes! If more than one friend offers to throw a shower, you can say “yes!” to all of them.

There’s nothing wrong with having multiple celebrations to accommodate different groups: for example, you may have one shower for friends and coworkers and another just for family.

What Can You Do To Help?

Your job as the expecting mom is mostly to sit back, relax, and open gifts!

That said, it could be a nice gesture to ask the host or hostess ahead of time if you can help with the food or let them know that you’d like to prepare small favors for the guests.

What Should Your Registry Include?

Your baby registry should include a large variety of baby items, from lower-priced essentials (like spoons, diapers, and swaddles) to the bigger items, such as a stroller and your baby’s crib mattress.

Having a large variety is considerate to your guests because it allows them to pick what they like and spend what they want.

If you’re putting bigger-ticket items on your registry, register for a breathable mattress! Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress is comfy, 100% breathable, 100% washable, and independently tested and certified for low chemical emissions.

What About Thank-You Notes?

In addition to oohing and aahing over the gifts your loved ones bring, your other job is to write thank-you notes for those gifts!

Your friends and family have showered you with love and baby items, and now you have the chance to express your gratitude with a card.

Make the thank-you cards as personal as you can, thanking the guest for coming, for their support, and for their gift.

Send the notes out soon after the shower unless your baby makes an early appearance, in which case, it’s OK to take a few weeks to get your cards written and mailed.

To top off great baby shower etiquette, give a small gift and thank-you note to the host or hostess of your shower, too! After all, they put a lot of time, effort, and heart into throwing you a sweet celebration.

Friend talking with expecting mom while following baby shower etiquette

Can You Throw Your Own Shower?

As we mentioned earlier, the mom-to-be usually doesn’t throw her own shower. Sometimes, though, traditions are broken and new traditions are made.

But maybe throwing your own baby shower isn’t a tradition you want to start.

Lots of planning and preparation takes place when it comes to throwing and hosting a baby shower. And since you’ll be around eight months pregnant at the time of your shower, it might not be the best idea to throw your own celebration out of consideration for your body.

If no one has mentioned giving you a shower and this is the reason you’re thinking about throwing your own, consider bringing up the topic with a close friend.

Once they hear that you’re thinking about throwing your own shower, most likely, they’ll be more than happy to host!

Should You Give The Host A Gift?

Giving the host a gift isn’t required, but it is a nice gesture and the host would appreciate it. A bottle of wine, a gift card, or something personalized make great host gifts!

Whether you opt for buying a host gift or not, always write the host a thank you note and let them know how much you appreciate them and the shower they threw for you.

Virtual Baby Shower Etiquette

Virtual events have become commonplace in recent months. And having a virtual baby shower makes it a lot easier for friends and family who live far away to join the celebration.

If you can’t have an in-person baby shower, a virtual baby shower is the next best thing. But as with any baby shower, there are a few etiquette tips to follow for a virtual one.

When hosting a virtual baby shower, gather the guestlist for the parents-to-be and send out all of the virtual invitations about two to four weeks before the shower. Make sure to give the guests the address of the parents-to-be so they can send their gifts.

When attending a virtual baby shower, make sure you RSVP to let the host and parents-to-be know if you’ll be able to make it. Also, make sure you join the virtual baby shower on time.

When attending your own virtual baby shower, keep a running list of who sent you gifts and who joined your shower so you can send them thank-you cards in the mail.

Showers Of Love And Support

expecting mom celebrating with family and friends

For the host and guests, a baby shower is a time to show care and support. For the mother-to-be, it’s a time to receive them!

Follow our baby shower etiquette rules to help this important event go off without a hitch.

Once the expecting mom is outfitted with baby essentials like swaddles, a Newton Baby Crib Mattress, and, most importantly, your encouragement, she’ll be ready to welcome her new little one and all the adventures that lie ahead!

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