6 great gift ideas for your friend’s new baby

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You have got an invitation to a baby shower. Or one of your friends just had a baby. You have no idea what to get them. Of course, if they have a gift list, it makes your life easy. But more often than not, there is no gift list and they already got loads of presents from other people.

I have been there. Choosing presents is not easy! So I asked some mum friends and here is what they told me.

Idea 1. Books

monkey_puzzleA book is an under-utilised gift for a baby shower. It is a shame because this is one present that can never go wrong. There is so much to choose from! There are picture books for prams that can be used from birth, there are books for bath. There are books for babies and toddlers (for inspiration check out 40 books to read before you are 4). And you can always get them an illustrated book that you enjoyed as a child (Winnie the Pooh? Pippi Longstocking? Mary Poppins? Alice in Wonderland?). Parents will enjoy reading them together when babies are a bit older.

Idea 2. Clothes

This is pretty much a default option. Which means that everyone else also thought about it.

Pretty cotton sleepsuits always go down well because one cannot have too many. Another good idea can be to get something for 6 months plus because everyone usually goes for newborn size, 0-3 months or 3-6 at most.

For a baby girl you can get a gorgeous headband like this one. Baby girls often get mistaken for boys and parents find that the only way that stops the questions is the headband. Yes, you won’t believe it, even when you dress them solely in pink, some people still ask “Is this a boy?”

Things to avoid:

  • newborn clothes that go over the head (t-shirts, jumpers, etc). Since the baby cannot hold their head yet they are difficult to put on.
  • 0-6 months size of hats and boots. Baby can be born with a big head so the hats may never fit. And they won’t need boots until they are at least 9-10 months.

Idea 3. Cute and soft bathing towel

Like this one.

Idea 4. Aden+Anais muslin and swaddle blankets

New mums say that you can never have enough muslins. Aden+Anais ones are gorgeous and soft and have beautiful designs.

Like this and this.

Idea 5. Rattle (or maracas)

Rattle for baby isolated on white background without shadowThis is the best value for money toy. Babies love rattles. Ideally you want something that can be tied to a pram because in the beginning it is going to be dropped a lot.

There are many varieties: wrist rattles that you can put on a newborn, rattles that they need to hold like this one and this one.

Things to avoid:

  • Soft cuddly toys – with the baby’s arrival these just seem to multiply in our house. And baby doesn’t play with them. Some parents put a comforter  – soft cuddly toy – into the baby’s crib, but they tend to choose it themselves and get at least two of the same (because once the baby likes their comforter it is used well into toddlerhood so it will need a backup or two).

Idea 6. Toy TV remote control

The toy TV remote control seems to be  a hit on every playdate we go to. In general, toys that resemble everyday objects (like mobile phone or keys) tend to be very popular with babies from 6 months plus.

 

There are a few other things that make very practical gifts. Activity mat, mobile, nappy changing bag, white noise machine. If you get one of those, ask the parents if they already have it. Experienced parents also often give a parenting book or a sling/baby carrier – but with these presents you need to know what you are getting, so I am not even going to go there.

For more inspiration check out my post Things you will need for a newborn.

 

Do you know of any other great and unusual baby shower gifts? Have you been given something your baby really enjoyed? Let us know in the comments!

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Before the baby comes, part three: Baby sleep

After you have fed (see part 1) and soothed (see part 2) your baby comes sleeping. Or not sleeping. This remains a topic of parents concerns and conversations for months. In that sense, you will probably read a lot about babies and toddlers sleep over the years, but there are two books I would recommend to start with before the baby arrives: The No-cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and Sleeping with your baby by James McKenna

The No-cry Sleep Solution

no-cry-coverI think that some of parents’ stress about baby sleep comes from wrong expectations. As soon as you become a parent, everyone starts asking: “How’s the sleep going?”, “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”. As if the goal of parenting is to get the baby to this milestone asap. But what is more natural for the baby: to sleep 8 hours straight from 6 weeks of age or to wake up 6 times a night for a little suck at 8 months of age? In reality the latter is more natural and likely (even if not desirable!), but most parents expect their babies to be in the first group. And if the babies are not, then there must be something wrong with the baby and parents need to “fix it”.

Elizabeth Pantley’s book is good at managing the expectations. For instance, “sleeping through the night” means a 5 hour sleep stretch and not a 12 hour one. And that not every single cry and stir at night requires parents’ attention. And why babies wake up – in fact we all do, adults are just better at falling asleep while most babies will need some help.

Then, the author asks you if you and your partner consider your baby sleep to be a problem. It doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what works for your family. For instance, I enjoy bed sharing and manage to get a good sleep even if our son wants to breastfeed 6 times a night (I hardly wake up for these feedings). But it will be different when I go back to work. So by then I will need to teach him to fall back asleep without my help.

And finally, Elizabeth Pantley shows you how to work on your specific goal. The book is full of mums’ stories to show you that there is hope. You create a plan, try it for 10 days, adjust, try the new plan for 10 more days. As a mother of 4 and a parent educator the author suggests plenty of ideas to try.

This book is a great alternative to Cry It Out method. A lot of parents start with “we won’t do Cry It Out training”, but after 5 (6, 7, ..) months of sleep deprivation they are happy to try anything. Well, this book offers an approach that is good to everyone in the family. Skim through before the baby comes and keep in your library for later. I bet you will read it.

Sleeping with your baby

sleeping-with-your-baby-coverThere is a lot of controversy surrounding bed sharing, mostly due to the fear of SIDS. Before their child is born most people say that they will not put their baby in bed with them. Some of them even look down at the parents who admit that they do it and think “oh these poor people, they are raising a psychologically dependent child. I will never do that!”

However, a few months after their child is born almost 90% of parents in the UK have slept together with their baby at least once, by choice or accidentally. Whether bed sharing is for you and your family or whether you prefer a different sleeping arrangement, this is a good book to read before the baby comes.

James McKenna is an anthropologist who spent his entire career researching co-sleeping. In the first part of the book he talks about risks and benefits. In short, it is good for babies because it makes them feel safe and allows them to breastfeed easily. They don’t fully awaken and don’t need to be settled. Therefore mothers (and fathers) actually get more sleep. It is also safe (if the guidelines are followed) because breastfeeding mums have an instinct and won’t roll onto their babies. The risks exist and they are mostly due to babies being trapped in bedding, headboards, or sleeping with other adults (not mum) or siblings, so safe bed sharing guidelines should always be followed. The second part of the book provides these guidelines.

There is a lot of misinformation about bed sharing and co-sleeping so it is a good book to read to make an informed decision about it. It may also convince you to persevere with breastfeeding in the difficult early days.

And it is only 128 pages long which makes it a quick read!

This post is part of “Before the baby comes” series:

Before the baby comes, part two: baby cues and cries

When I was in my final weeks of pregnancy, one of my colleagues said: “Don’t prepare so much for the birth, prepare for what comes after. In the hospital you will have professionals looking after you, so you will get a lot of help. However, when you come home there will be noone to help you and no time to learn”. Good advice, but where to start?

I went on a bit of a binge reading exercise, gulping books about brain development and discipline, caring for a newborn and raising a bilingual child. However, initially, the thing that will be most helpful is to know why my baby cries (and how I calm him down). Deciphering the cues and cries is what my last 3 months were about.

First of all, this video about baby language has been immensely helpful. It is only 17 minutes long and it will save you a lot of guessing. It talks about five distinctive sounds all babies make in their first months of life (indicating that they are hungry, uncomfortable, sleepy, need a burp, or need to fart). Apparently, all babies make these sounds, it is based on reflexes.

THB-coverThen, if I were to recommend one and only one book for the first-time parent, it would be The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. This book tells you what is happening with your baby for their first three months, so called “the fourth trimester”. The author argues that all babies are born 3 months prematurely because our heads are too big and we won’t be able to squeeze through the pelvis any later. So the baby is often overwhelmed by the outside world and cannot handle all the sounds, movement and interaction just yet. The best way to calm her down is to emulated the womb environment in the following five steps: swaddle her tightly to reduce movement, turn her on her side or stomach (lying on their back makes babies feel as if they are falling down and activates the Moro reflex), shush her as this resembles the sound of blood moving through the vessels, swing her as she was swung all the time in the womb, and finally, give her something to suck on.

This book is great in many ways. First, it gives you an idea of what may be happening with your baby. The advice is actionable and lets you move through a routine which will be great for the stressed and sleep-deprived state you will be in. Finally and most importantly, it gives dad something to do and be useful.

If you don’t have time to read the book, it is also available as a DVD.

This post is part of “Before the baby comes” series: