Shopping for expectant parents or brand new bundles of joy can be one of the less challenging/more fun gift-buying situations. With endless aisles of clothes, toys and flashy little gadgets, it’s almost as if you can’t go wrong! Right?
The truth is, new parents end up with giant storage containers full of adorable clothes (that still have the tags on them), toys (that never see the world outside of their packaging) and random accessories (that simply take up space). And worst of all, there’s probably still a boatload of stuff that those parents actually need.
It’s not that parents-to-be and new mommies and daddies aren’t appreciative of the time and effort that goes toward any gift – because they really, really are. But if you want to put your dollars toward something that is both meaningful and practical, here are some tips.
1. Don’t buy diapers
Parents are always going on about how much money they spend on diapers, so this may come as a surprise. But the reality is, each baby spends different amounts of time wearing each diaper size – it’s impossible to predict when and for how long a certain diaper size will be needed. Brands are also a factor, as certain ones might be perfect for one infant and cause leaks for another, for example. Just like you have your preferred brand of coffee, parents develop their preferred brands of diapers.
Instead, buy wipes
During the first couple years of baby’s life, wipes become a universal accessory. Aside from their obvious use, wipes also act as hand, face and spill cleaners (especially in public) and trust us when we say that parents can never have enough. Your best bet would be purchasing a natural or hypoallergenic type, just to be on the safe side.
2. Don’t buy elaborate outfits
That little sparkly tutu with a matching onesie, tights and cardigan is the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen – we know. And that plaid shirt with the bowtie and suspenders? Dying of cuteness. But here’s the thing. Dressing a newborn baby is time consuming. It’s frustrating. And it’s basically pointless because his/her poop is just going to leak again in 20 minutes and then you’re back at square one.
Instead, buy basics
Newborns tend to spend most of their time in comfortable sleepers and onesies. Buying those practical items in a variety of sizes and colours will help mom and dad be prepared at every stage. Coordinate with a couple pairs of matching stretchy pants and zip-up sweaters so that all pieces can be interchangeable when those inevitable leak and spit-up situations arise. (If you must get the token elaborate outfit, opt for something in a size closer to the 6-12 month range when baby will actually be out and about for longer periods of time.)
3. Don’t buy bath or skincare products
Allergies and skin sensitivities are common these days and that baby could be one of the many who suffer from them. It’s best not to spend money on oodles of products that could go to waste. (Thanks to my son’s eczema, the baskets full of products we received are still being used up by yours truly. And yes, I constantly smell like baby lotion.)
Instead, buy health-related items
This doesn’t mean, “Go raid the baby medicine aisle at Shoppers!” But there are definitely a few items that are key to have. Children’s Benadryl and Infants’ Tylenol/Advil Pediatric Drops are helpful for baby’s first allergic reaction or fever. Consider including a thermometer, baby-safe cotton ear swabs or nasal spray (we like the hydraSense spray, along with its Nasal Aspirator Starter Kit). A first-time parent might give these items a strange look at first, but we promise that a time will come when they’re thankful.
4. Don’t buy the biggest toy on the shelf
Bigger isn’t always better – especially when it involves new parents trying to cram an entire store’s worth of toys inside inconspicuous bins and drawers (not that they stay inconspicuous for long because it’s actually impossible). Handing someone a giant toy, especially for a wee baby, comes off as borderline obnoxious. And reality check: babies tend to find enjoyment in the details.
Instead, buy something small and interactive
It could be the size of your hand, but if it’s got a variety of buttons, dials, colours and textures, it will provide hours of entertainment for a bright-eyed baby. Interactive toys also offer the element of surprise as baby’s brain develops. At first, he/she might not notice the tiny ridges on the surface or the “ding, ding” that occurs when a dial is turned – but those little discoveries over time will have baby falling in love with the toy over and over again.
5. Don’t buy stuffed animals
It can be hard to resist, but leave the stuffed animals for the immediate family to purchase when the baby is first born. You might think you’ve found the perfect teddy, but once that teddy enters baby’s nursery, it becomes one in a million. Don’t contribute to the neglect of innocent stuffed animals by subjecting them to a lifetime of collecting dust in a closet somewhere. Just say NO.
Instead, buy books
Unlike toys and stuffed animals with awkward shapes and sizes, books fit nicely onto shelves, in baskets or stuffed under the coffee table – and a kid can never have enough. Make it more meaningful by purchasing a book that you used to love as a child or holds a special place in your heart for another reason. Then, write a personal message on the inside cover so that the child will always know the sentiment behind the gift.
6. Don’t buy nursery décor
You know when you see photos of perfectly decorated nurseries online with every accent pillow, wall decoration, blanket and bedding item immaculately coordinated in a singular theme? Those rooms belong to parents who haven’t received gifts yet. People love to feel like they’re being helpful by adding to an existing theme or colour palette, but typically those “unique” items just muddle everything the parents have worked hard to create.
Instead, buy organizational items
As much as new parents (especially first-time parents) think of every detail when it comes to constructing a fabulous looking nursery, they also tend to underestimate just how much they’ll need proper organizational tools. Storage baskets and boxes, drawer organizers and hanging closet organizers are all helpful. Bonus points if you can find collapsible storage boxes/bins that can be neatly tucked away until they’re needed.
7. Don’t (necessarily) buy blue for boys, pink for girls
Whether we like it or not, the baby boy and girl sections of clothing and toy stores tend to predominantly feature blue and pink, respectively. And there will always be traditionalists who stick to this cliché. But for new parents, the repetitiveness of these colours can be flat-out nauseating. It’s not that blue or pink items should automatically be a hard pass while browsing the aisles, but there’s nothing wrong with branching out a little, either.
Instead, buy unique
A new baby is a special, one-of-a-kind little individual in the eyes of his or her parents. So why not spend an extra few minutes finding something truly unique and memorable? Maybe it’s a set of building blocks that feature the child’s name, a growth chart with space to fill in his or her name and birth date or even just a simple outfit in colours that aren’t so typical (read: colours other than blue or pink). It doesn’t have to be expensive or over-the-top in order to be unforgettable.
Exception to the rules
Two words: Gift. Registry. Should the parents have one completed, it is absolutely your best bet to ignore all of the aforementioned tips and buy from the registry. Combining items from the registry with one of the above suggestions is also acceptable. But there’s nothing worse for new parents than ending up with piles of lovely items that are just not necessary, when they’re desperately in need of the stuff they registered for.
When in doubt, gift cards are also generally a hit. Or, use the provided tips to purchase a smaller item, and round the present out with a gift card.
If you’re still uncertain about what to buy, simply have your own baby, attend at least three baby showers in your honour, organize an entire nursery and spend a year of baby’s life trying to creatively tuck items under furniture and behind doors while the ominous mound of toys in the corner continues to multiply. (But it’s probably just easier to stick to the guide.)