Some lovely friends of ours have just had their first baby. I won’t embarrass them by naming them in my blog, but you know who you are and congratulations! We’re so thrilled your little daughter is here!
When our son was born, it was this friend (we will call him T) who was the very first to send him a card. It said “Dear S, congratulations on your zero-th birthday!” This made me chuckle. Also, T came to visit a few weeks later with a present for our tiny baby. It was a lovely cutlery set, with a knife, fork and spoon that slotted into little holders to make them look like people. He apologised, saying it was a long way off still but he just liked the look of the cutlery and thought it would be fun, in time. That time was a time we could barely imagine when our son was only 7 weeks old, but it has now arrived. The Toddler loves the cutlery but also loves playing with the people-shaped holders and often gets them out of the drawer when my attention is occupied elsewhere. He plays some elaborate, imaginative game with them that I don’t get because I am not two.
It got me thinking about what to buy for a newborn baby. It is actually quite a minefield, and I think our friend T did an excellent job. So I thought I’d collect some thoughts, in case you also have a lot of friends about to give birth to their first baby and you are loitering with intent in the Mothercare sleepsuit aisle, unable to commit to a purchase.
Thought No. 1: Buy for the (far) future
Clothes for a newborn are always welcome, but you could also consider going up a few sizes. A ten month old baby is usually limping along from wash day to wash day, bursting out of sleepsuits that are really a size too small because nothing else was clean. If anything, a ten month old baby needs twice as many sleepsuits as a newborn. They still do all the explosive poo and the sicking up, but they are also eating – and they’re not very good at it yet. You don’t know this when your baby is a few weeks old, of course, but you will thank the kind friend who gave you a five pack of 9-12 month sleepsuits later.
You could also take a leaf out of our friend’s book and provide equipment for the future. Weaning is probably the last thing on a new parent’s mind, but when they get to that stage they will be pleased to find that they are all ready with little bowls and spoons and plastic plates and cutlery.
Thought No. 2: Avoid sensitive parenting issues in your gift-giving
When my first child was five months old, one of my friends was about to have her first baby. I felt like an expert by that point, and thought I knew exactly what would be a good present: I bought her a swaddling blanket. It had been a life saver for us. We had discovered that our son was keeping himself awake and waking himself in the night because his arms kept flailing and he’d bop himself on the head involuntarily. The day I bought a proper swaddling blanket he slept through the night. Obviously I wanted to share this miracle cure with my friend. However, what I hadn’t considered was that swaddling is one of those hotly debated topics in baby-care (and there are many) and people are just as likely to feel really uneasy about using a swaddling blanket as to embrace them with enthusiasm. There are many things like this that could go either way: Gina Ford books, weaning spoons, nipple shields… I even felt a little bad buying a friend’s little boy pants for his second birthday, because I didn’t want her to think that I was giving a subtle hint that it was about time he was potty trained. Basically, if you’re not sure, just ask for a wish list!
Thought No. 3: Cuddly toys are forever
The great thing about cuddly toys is that children are not going to grow out of them, one size fits all. Even if it doesn’t end up being The Favourite Toy, your gift will almost certainly be a frequent guest at tiny tea parties or a student at a cuddly toy school. It will be given a name and a personality and might even be awarded the great honour of sleeping in the child’s bed. Tip: many soft toys shed bits of fluff and are therefore not suitable for newborn babies. You can get special teddies that are baby-safe, for cuddling from birth. Don’t worry if you have already bought one that isn’t though – fluff shedding is not frowned-upon at teddy bear picnics, just in cots.
Thought No. 4: Practical help
The most amazing gift our local friends gave us was food. Every night for two weeks, a rota of lovely people brought us dinner (usually dessert as well) so that we didn’t need to worry about cooking and could just focus on being new parents. Most people actually brought us enough for several meals, so we ended up being able to eat left-overs from the freezer for another week. Sometimes people would ring to say they were in the supermarket and did we need anything. Other times they would offer to take the baby for a walk in the pram while we had a nap. These are all amazing things to do for new parents and I feel quite sad that most of my pregnant friends/relatives live too far away for me to be able to be of any practical help to them. Again, if you are not sure whether what you are thinking of doing for someone is going to be helpful, just ask!
Finally, I just want to say: Happy zero-th birthday to little baby M, I am sorry we live too far away to cook your parents dinner, but we hope to meet you really soon!
Got any more good present tips? Please add your own in the comments below!