Holiday Gift Ideas for Newborns; or It’s Adorable, and So Were the Other 10 We Received

Disclaimer: Despite my nagging sense that this blog could come back to haunt me in a Miss Manners column, it’s a story that needs to be told. So rest assured: if you think one of the Don’ts below apply to you, it doesn’t. We loved your gift and treasure it deeply.

As the holiday shopping season approaches and the Agent of Chaos’ fourth month has past, I feel I’ve become something of an expert on baby gifts. Between the baby shower, visits from friends and family, and our first big trip back to the home planet (complete with a lovely party that felt like a second baby shower) we’ve received a plethora of presents, an embarrassment of kindnesses, several shopping bagsful of goodies… all of which lead me to the conclusion that it’s really, really hard to shop for babies. Why? Because every last item is so damned adorable. It’s all small, it’s all cute, it’s all got woodland and sea animals and little bells and big-eyed creatures, and it’s all designed to make both giver and receiver spontaneously burst into a chorus of “AWWW!” I said “Awwww!” to nearly everything we’ve gotten, and I meant every single outburst. But then, upon returning home, I must wonder: How long must I keep the latest batch of cuteness before passing it on to another lucky soul?

NOTE: If the baby registry’s still going, buy from it!

Do NOT Buy…

  • Resist the temptation to buy stuffed animals!

    Stuffed animals. They’re cute; they’re easy; they sit on a shelf for years and collect dust. Immediate family—grandparents, especially— will take care of all the baby’s stuffed animal needs. Instead: Buy a cute toy that has edges that crinkle, parts that move, or little mirrors, like Jacques the Peacock.
  • Goodnight, Moon and/or The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The new parents already own it. Trust me. I’ve had four copies of GM and three of TVHC come through the door, and I got another just last week. They’re terrific books, but they’re on everyone’s list. Instead: Check a list of Caldecott Medal books and buy the titles you remember from your childhood. My favorite gift book is Hug, by Jez Alborough. It’s sweet, funny, and has been known to make grown men cry.
  • Clothing in gender-specific colors. I like pink. Love it, in fact. My wedding dress was pink. If I get one more pink anything, though, I won’t be held responsible for my actions. Instead: Buy green, yellow, orange, anything but pink or blue.
  • Legwarmers for the tiny dancer

    Baby pants. A personal pet peeve of mine. Pulling up pants over squirmy legs is a pain in the diaper. Instead: Baby Legwarmers, which keep her little chubby thighs warm AND stay on during diaper changes. Even better: one pair can fit a newborn from hip to toe, and a toddler from thigh to ankle, so she’ll wear them for a long time.

DO buy…

  • Something practical, but boring. If you’re parent, think about what you overlooked after childbirth; if not, use common sense. When in doubt as to the brand of items below, I always err on the side of anything labeled “natural,” “organic,” or “something-free.” Some useful gift suggestions:
    • Newborn-sized diapers
    • Gift card to (or Walgreens)
    • Washcloths
    • Baby-sized fingernail clippers
    • If Mom is nursing and you’re close to enough to get a personal item, nursing pads will be MUCH needed. In addition, eyedrops, chapstick and a big water bottle will be invaluable—breastfeeding dehydrates like you wouldn’t believe.
    • If the birth was vaginal and you’re close enough to buy a personal item, maxi pads, ibuprofen and witch hazel pads will be worth their weight in gold for the first month.
    • Baby wipes
    • Food: bring a prepared dinner in a reusable container. Just make sure to call first.
  • Itzbeen one week since you cried for milk...

    Baby gadgets. The Baby Industrial Complex is awash in safety devices, gewgaws and other bright flashy things, and they’re a great way to exercise your creative gift-buying freedom. Websites like have loads of baby gadgets that, at first blush, seem silly, but in reality are terrific… and more than likely, new parents will not have considered them as registry-necessary. Just be sure to include the gift receipt if the parents aren’t into it.
    • Itzbeen: This handy device times the baby’s day-to-day tune-ups: sleep, diaper, feeding, the last breast fed (right or left) and a few wildcard timers. I used it in the hospital to time when I’d last taken a Vicodin, and we’ve used it since to time the baby’s naps, as well as when we last made a bottle (Is this bottle an hour or three hours old?). Thanks to Tony and Randi for that!
    • Bottle Warmer: Better than the microwave, and more convenient than the stovetop.
    • Grobag Egg Thermometer: We received this from my mother-in-law’s cousin, and while the packaging is ludicrous—implying that the cute little glowing egg will save your baby from crib death—it actually is kind of nice to have at her bedside. Sometimes it’s hard to know how cold or warm a room really is (especially when you’re overheated from breastfeeding dehydration) so seeing the egg glow blue is a good indicator that she needs an extra blanket.
    • Yellow Alert: Baby is snug like the rug bug.

      Sleep Sheep or other white noise machine. Or if you’re super-techie, the Voice-Activated Crib Light w/ Womb Sounds. I don’t own it, but I want it. When your baby begins to cry, it switches on a colored light and plays womb noises. How cool is that?
    • Easy Expression Hands-Free Pumping Bra: Allows a breastfeeding mom to let go of the bottles while double-pumping. It even zips up the front for easy wearability. Fricking BRILLIANT. Thanks to the friend of the NICU mom who bought it as a gift, or I’d never have known it existed.
    • Alternative Diaper Starter Set: While this could seem like an unwelcome hint that the parent shouldn’t use disposables, if they’ve expressed interest in it, it’s a good gift. Many parents might not realize how far technology has brought the non-disposable diaper world, or maybe they just don’t want the upfront cost of trying them out. GDiapers are great for partially disposable diapers, and I’ve also heard great things about Bummis cloth diapers.

And really, we do love all the gifts we’ve received. Honestly!

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3 Responses to Holiday Gift Ideas for Newborns; or It’s Adorable, and So Were the Other 10 We Received

  1. Leslie says:

    Nice list!

    I also recommend a couple of cheap alternatives:
    – cut holes in an old jog bra for breast pump cones–holds them in place just as well
    – slow cooker filled with a few inches of water just as good as a baby bottle warmer
    – radio tuned into static works well as a white noise machine
    – ipod has an app that does all of the stuff that that itzbeen does
    – the scissors on a swiss army knife are the best baby nail clippers out there
    – make your own baby leg warmers out of cute knee high socks. Much cheaper than $12 a pair. And baby tights are great because you don’t have to worry about socks coming off, although having your wee one wear baby shoes like Robeez keeps those socks on too.

  2. Leslie says:

    Oh and I love my cloth diapers–actually I love my cloth diaper service. It’s like a CSA box for diapers. They are local–less than 50 miles from my house, reusable and so much easier than people know and cheaper than other organic disposables alternatives out there. OK. Getting off my soap box.

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