Friends & Family

Off the Registry: Baby Shower Gifts Every Mom-to-Be Wants (Even if She Doesn’t Know It)

DSCN1174I think four of my friends are pregnant right now, and I am, too. One friend and at least one acquaintance had their babies this month. Babies are kind of on my brain–so, of course, consumer that I am, baby gifts are on my brain, too. I know it’s considered most polite to follow the registry, but let’s face it: new moms don’t always know what they need (I speak from experience). Plus, whatever they have on the registry, they can later buy with a registry fulfillment discount (unless they registered at Joe’s Baby Junk, Etc.) These gifts are all in some way material, but they come with the additional gift of motherly wisdom.

The Little Green:

Babies are messy, right from day one. Starting with milk, formula, spit-up, and poop, they will mess your carpet and upholstery up. Goldfish crackers, once chewed and spat out, make an amazing orange crust that is no fun to clean. In a baby’s hands, any substance can become a sticky, slimy mess. Once, the boy got a crayon stuck in the undercarriage of his push toy and drew a long purple line across our living room rug. Without the Little Green, our house would look like a Jackson Pollack painting. (And, no, no one is paying me to say this. I’m sure there are lots of other fine brands of portable stain removing, carpet cleaning devices, but we have a Little Green.)

Hospital Survival Kit

A friend did this for me and I was so grateful. She included travel-size toiletries, headbands, heavy duty maxi pads, and a big bag of M&Ms. When it came time to pack for the hospital, half the work had been done for me. For the M&Ms, I was especially grateful.

Local Know-How:

Make a map of all the stroller-friendly walking paths in the area, coffee shops with kid play areas, parks with toddler playgrounds, restaurants with the best changing tables. When the time comes for Mommy to get out of the house with the baby, she will be so grateful to you.


Boys need them. Girls need them. Mommy needs them. Even if she hasn’t registered for them. I had no idea what to dress my son in when he was first born. There were bodysuits and “sleep and plays” and within the first week all of these had been marinated in acid yellow poop and so my mother went out and bought him some gowns. I thought, Gowns? Really? Isn’t that a little old-fashioned? (Okay, I don’t remember what I thought, but I remember smirking a little.) Turns out, gowns are the absolute best item of clothing for a newborn. Comfy, warm, roomy, and snap-free, zipper-free access to the diaper. Plus they have little mitten things at the end so your kid doesn’t scratch his eyeballs out. This new kid of mine will probably wear gowns (and only gowns) for the first two months of its life.

Clip-on Earrings and Nursing Necklaces:

I love jewelry. I know a lot of women who do. But when you have a wee one, jewelry just isn’t practical. My son had ripped at least two necklaces off my neck before he was seven months old (I thought, he’s so tiny! He couldn’t possibly hurt it!). I tried wearing studs in my ears, thinking he couldn’t possibly hurt them, but as soon as his motor skills got good enough, he started trying to yank them out. Clip-on earrings are, admittedly, a choking hazard–but when Mommy needs to feel pretty, she wants to know she’s not going to end up bleeding out. (Supervise your kids. Seriously, most things are only choking hazards if you leave your kids alone with them.)

A Boobie Box:

If you know Mommy-to-be is planning on nursing, there are a lot of products out there to help her deal with the chafing, burning, and chapping that comes with transforming your nipples into pieces of tire rubber. A friend of mine bought me a couple in the hospital–and perhaps that’s a more appropriate time than the shower, but not every mom ends up wanting company when she’s just had her loins rent in twain. Soothies are a mother’s best friends. Lanolin is a must-have: it provides instant relief and is safe for the baby to ingest, so unlike a lot of products, you don’t have to wash before nursing. Soft cotton nursing pads are much more comfortable than the disposable kind, and more environmentally friendly. If you have a favorite nursing bra, pass that comfort on. Nursing camisoles are probably the best fashion choice a nursing mom can make. More ideas: an amazing TV series or uplifting movie on DVD for mom to watch when she’s constantly chained to the bed/glider/wherever she nurses trying to get the baby to latch. Breastmilk storage bags. Fenugreek (if Mom is concerned about supply).

Baby Lit Books:

Soon enough, Mommy’s brain will be turning to Jell-O from all the sleepless nights and endless readings of Goodnight, Moon and Baby’s First Words. Baby Lit books are so cute, so clever, and such a relief for the board book boredom. Babies love the illustrations, and they teach excellent lessons (counting, colors, weather, sounds, anatomy, ocean life) while allowing Mommy an iota of intellectual stimulation. Our favorites: Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles (sounds), Pride and Prejudice (counting), Alice in Wonderland (colors), Wuthering Heights (weather), Moby Dick (ocean), and the boy’s all-time favorite: Frankenstein (anatomy).


Our Roomba is my son’s favorite toy. He keeps it running whenever possible. It’s sucked up more Lincoln Logs than I can count, been used as a step stool, pushed around, flipped over, and it just keeps going. This might sound a little bit annoying, and it is, but it also does a great job of sucking up Cheerios, dirt, crumbs, and anything else that sits on the surface of the floor. I could be following my kid around with a hand vac, or vacuuming several times a week, but Roomba cuts my work in half.


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