The Newborn Stage
When I was pregnant with my first child, I struggled to figure out exactly what I would really need. Reading through every article I could find online, talking with friends who had recently had babies, and even following general suggestion lists through local stores for registry items made for even more confusion. Other people would ask me, “What are the best new mom gifts?” In the end, I erred on the side of over abundance and through the generosity of friends and family ended up with just about every new gadget or baby device possibly available on the market. I had so many things, toys, gadgets, and “new mom gift” items that I could barely even store them in our home.
Along came baby #1 (of 4), and as is often the case- most of the things that were marketed to help me ace this new mom thing turned out to be much less helpful in real life. My beautiful new baby came with some surprises of her own, and all of the things I thought I’d use were no longer as helpful as they first seemed. She cried constantly and hated the swing, bouncy, crib and basically every container I had been gifted by my loving friends and family. Now I know that this was a blessing for her head shape and avoiding plagiocephaly, but at the time I felt confused, frustrated and just so, so tired.
Now that I’ve had 4 kids, and have seen how different each of my own experiences as a new mom have been- I’d like to share some simple tips for new mom gifts that look a little deeper than simple registry items. The goal here is to empower you to be the best mom you can be, and to also be able to help other moms around you become the best moms they can be as well- during one of the most tricky stages of parenting. Here are the new mom gifts I found to be most helpful.
My Personal Favorites
Arrange a meal schedule that friends can sign up for
This is the number one most helpful gift that was given to me after each of my kids were born. Having meals provided for a newborn’s family for at least the first 3 weeks of their life not only ensures that mom is getting enough to eat, but it also takes the stress off whoever typically cooks for the family- allowing all hands to be on deck for the new mom. There are several meal planning services online that are free, many of them even have recipe suggestions as well as options for new parents to pick their favorite restaurants in case someone would rather send a gift card so the parents can order in. Here are a few with various distinctions and features:
- Mealtrain.com- I love how simple and straightforward this one is. It also has options to be able to add a family’s favorite restaurants or meal delivery services in case people want to help but don’t like to cook. You can also note food allergies, it’s easy to see who and for what purpose you are providing a meal, and it’s easily shareable- so you don’t need to feel like you have to collect everyones email address.
- Takethemameal.com- I’ve heard great things about this service. Like MealTrain- it allows you to note any food allergies, when meals are needed, and it also has recipe suggestions to browse through.
- Giveinkind.com- This one looks super beneficial. It has the option of planning for specific needs, but the real punch it packs is that it allows the family being supported to add wish list items. So maybe the new parents actually don’t want people cooking for them, but would rather ask for specifics like help with grocery shopping, laundry, errand running, baby holding, help getting to doctor visits. The possibilities are endless.
The real stars of baby gear were the following:
- For breastfeeding- nipple cream. Baby Begin loves Nipple Butter, and truly there are so many on the market that a small basket of many varieties would be a great gift idea so moms can try all and decide on their own favorite.
- Also for breastfeeding- a large water bottle. We love the Hydroflask- it has lots of colors to choose from and many different options in terms of capacity and lid choice. Lots of hospitals will send new moms home with one, but general features that are helpful would be size, ability to keep water very cold (did you know swallowing ice cold water during the let down reflex helps minimize pain), and portability (is it easy to carry from one room to another).
- Diapers, diapers, diapers. A friend hosted a diaper shower for our firstborn and we ended up with several months’ worth of diapers ready to go. Receipts attached allowed us to try several brands and exchange as needed once we found what worked for our baby.
- Newborn detergent. There is just so much laundry when you have a newborn and stocking up on detergent free of any irritant or perfume is a great idea
- Newborn washcloths- they are great for washing baby, but also can be dampened and put in the freezer to place on sore boobs between feedings, used to wipe tiny eyes and noses, and even used to spot clean spit up spots that may happen to end up on mom or dad’s clothes or furniture.
- Getting a new mom a good sized playmat that is fairly cushioned is a great way to get some tummy time in for her little one. Now that I’m at Baby Begin I see what a good thing it was that my oldest didn’t like containers. This Baby Care Play Mat is incredible and isn’t too hard to incorporate into your decor either. It’s big too so you can leave it down until baby is up and walking.
- Other rockstars in newborn care are the parent’s choice of wipes (maybe wait until they have the baby and ask what they like), a good diaper bag (ask if mom has her eye on one), and money toward strollers or carseats.
Tell a new mom specific things you’d like to help with, instead of an open ended offer of help
Everyone seemed to say “let me know how I can help”. While this is a very kind gesture, my first daughter had severe colic and I did not have much family support so I was facing much of new motherhood alone. I was pretty overwhelmed and completely exhausted, and I didn’t think anyone would want to come hold a crying, super uncomfortable baby for an hour. Telling a new mom “I would love to hold your baby even if they are crying, pooping, or spitty so you can go take a nap” would be an amazing gift. And then take the next step and offer some specific times you could come.
Don’t like to hold newborns? No problem! Offering other specific things are equally helpful- “I’m at the store and have been thinking of you. I’d love to drop something on your porch. Need any baby items? Have any cravings?” Or even “hey- if you’re ok with it, I’d love to come do some laundry for you while you just focus on your baby.” Anything you can offer goes a long way and is a relief to a tired mom who may have lost sense of what day or even time of day it is.
If you are able, offer a weekly or monthly service
Offering a new mom a service that lasts throughout the newborn phase is an incredible gift. Things that could be beneficial could be things like 3 months, 6 months, or a year of housecleaning, a gift card for a set number of sessions with a masseuse or esthetician to pamper a new mom, a gift card for a set amount of yard maintenance, or even a gift card for food or grocery delivery through a favorite local store. The key is to offer and ask “I’d love to be able to give you this gift if it would be helpful. Do you have a favorite service that you use?”
To our New Moms
Now, a word to our new moms reading this. It’s ok and healthy to need help when you bring a new baby home. Your life has just turned completely upside down and inside out. When you have a baby you enter what I like to call the fourth trimester. And it can be a real doozy. All those months of growing that sweet baby may leave you feeling exhausted and in an unfamiliar body. A new body, honestly- one that is doing things she has never done and flooding you with hormones you just didn’t have before your sweet bundle arrived.
When people offer to help, be honest with them. What do YOU need most? Would you rather use one of the scheduling apps to plan out visits with all the well meaning people who want to come hold the baby? Do you need to tell everyone you’re not accepting visitors until you’ve adjusted to this new life? Is there any one particular thing that is overwhelming you that you could text someone and ask for help? Sometimes even telling a friend “I need a drink from sonic and a piece of chocolate” to lift your mood can change the complete course of your day. We all need help sometimes. You’re not alone.
One last thought in regard to new mom gifts. The baby industry is a 300 billion dollar industry and new moms are marketed to constantly with the latest and greatest devices, apparel, and baby gear that will help make their lives a breeze as a new mom. In reality- becoming a new mom is often more exhausting and less glamorous than advertised. Simplicity is truly the most important thing in caring for a new mom and baby. Just taking action to reach out to find out how you can help goes a long way. “What do you need most?” is music to a new mom’s ears.
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Written by: Kerri Covington, Parent Educator