A ton of gift ideas for your expecting friends

February 1 | Guest post by SaraBeth
Mommy's Bookworm
Glasses do not come with baby. Photo by rambosanchez.
A long time ago (22 months) in a far-away land, a beautiful young(ish) mother and father-to-be filled out their baby registry. I can tell you now: they didn't know what they were doing. They were first-time parents and completely clueless about what they'd need for their two impending bundles of joy.

The problem with baby showers and registries is that you don't know your baby yet and as novice parents you really don't know what you are going to need. And you aren't going to know whether or not your child will hate the really expensive bouncer that their grandparents purchase them off of the registry.

Below is my practical guide to navigate baby gift registries and beyond: I hope you find it helpful when registering or purchasing:

Un-registered gifting

Your friends may be using an alternative cash registry like Simple Registry, or they might not have a registry at all — these have been some of my favourites that I've seen or been gifted myself:

  • Gift certificate for a pre or post-natal massage
  • A baby photographer booking
  • Gift card to have pictures printed
  • Wall mount wet/dry vac
  • Art work for the nursery
  • Diaper Cake (for those who are going the disposable route)
  • Personalized Blankets (initials or name if known)
  • Anything hand knit
  • Really cute unusual onesies and outfits
  • Gift cards to baby specialty shops or anywhere that parents can get those last minute items they didn't know they needed
  • Gift basket — you can go crazy here! Stock it with snacks, baby wipes, etc.
  • Good quality children's books

The Big Ticket Items

Going in together with a few people for these items really help the expecting parent(s) save some dough and will get used:

Stroller

From left to right: Contours Lite Stroller ($65), Chicco Cortina Together Double Stroller ($299), The First Years Jet Stroller ($39.99), The First Years Ignite Stroller ($57).

Rocking Chair

Coaster Traditional Rocking Chair ($188.79), Baxton Studio Letterio White Cradle Chair ($99.84), Stork Craft Hoop Glider and Ottoman Set ($129), Greendale Home Fashions Standard Rocking Chair ($47.40).

Crib/Bassinett

Nursery 101 Sidney Convertible Crib ($135.99), Athena Daphne Convertible Crib and Changer ($299), Dream On Me 3 in 1 Aden Convertible Mini Crib ($139.88), Contours Classique 3-in-1 Wood Bassinet ($160.99)

High Chair

Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair, Purple ($198.98), Fisher-Price Healthy Care Booster Seat ($22), Boon Flair Pedestal Highchair with Pneumatic Lift ($229), Graco TableFit Highchair ($99.99)

Car Seat

Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 Car Seat ($99.99), Britax Roundabout 55 Convertible Car Seat ($139.99)

Baby carrier/wrap

Boba Wrap Classic Baby Carrier ($34.50), Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Baby Carrier ($47.95), ERGObaby Organic Baby Carrier ($104.52), Boba Classic Baby Carrier ($90)

The Practical Items

These are items that you truly can't have enough of!

Washcloths and hooded towels

Jumping Beans® Olivia Owl Hooded Bath Towel ($21.75), Neat Solutions 12 Pack Solid Bright Washcloth Set ($8.49), Spasilk 10 Pack Soft Terry Washcloth ($9.58), Circo® Baby Knit Stripe Hooded Towel ($12.95)

Bibs, socks, and blankets

aden + anais Muslin Feeding Bibs ($19.95), Bumkins Waterproof SuperBib ($6.99), 4-Pack Colorful Socks ($3.99), Luvable Friends 4 Count Flannel Receiving Blanket Set ($8.99)

What were the most useful items on you've given OR received as baby gifts?

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  1. Nose Frida Snot Sucker (or another brand, I'm not trying to plug them). Its funny, unique and really really useful (and much better than a nasal aspirator).

    Baby legwarmers…amazing for frequent diaper changes, and they can wear them forever compared to pants.

    Amber teething necklace (its a little down the road but also useful)

    squishy tummy time pad (ah goo baby makes a really nice one)

    -and I second offbeat children's books and prenatal massage!

    5 agree
    • Do not click on links , do not click on links, despite this being my internet mantra I am always click. Now, after reading about the 'Snot Sucker' (Shudder) I am going back to Offbeat Home and Life and staying there, forever!

      1 agrees
      • The snotsucker is the best invention ever made… its my new go to baby shower gift. Yes it sounds and seems gross, but isn't really… and trust me that in the middle of the night with a stuffy screaming little heathen, it can seem like an invention of the gods.

        1 agrees
    • Ha! I don't want to derail the convo, but they look super uncomfortable to me!

      3 agree
  2. I ended up having 3 baby showers and the vast majority of gifts were random items that were not on my registry. We put a lot of time and research into our registry. We also wanted to go minimalist since we rent such a tiny space. So it was pretty annoying that we had to return a bunch of unwanted items (or donate unreturnables) and then purchase out of pocket all of the items we did want that were left on the registry.

    My rule for shower purchases is to buy the most boring item on the registry (like a carseat adapter for the stroller). It may not be cute or fun, but chances are no one else is buying it and the parents NEED it!

    5 agree
    • I felt the exact same way!

      Except I have to confess that I'm now the obnoxious mom clucking over my friends' registries about how they have the wrong items on there 😛 For example, my friend asked for soothers that I KNOW are terrible (not just because they were terrible for me but because I don't know a single person who liked them). So now I'm faced with the shower conundrum – do I get her what she asked for on the registry (that she spent a long time on) or do I get her the soothers that all the moms I know agree are awesome?

      So torn…

      1 agrees
      • Why not ask her?
        Give her your experience and ask if she wants the soothers you recommend or the ones she registered for. Maybe she has a particular reason for wanting those ones, or maybe she just stuck any soothers on there not knowing the differences between them

        1 agrees
        • My sister-in-law asked me if I really wanted something, or if it was ok to get something similar if she thought it would be better. I really had no idea what I was doing, and I appreciated her experience.

          11 agree
  3. You're psychic!!!
    My Facebook status today was asking friends for their baby registry recommendations!

  4. I was a rock star in at swaddling in the baby care class, but it was whole different story with my wriggly baby. The velcro swaddle blankets made life soooo much easier.

    And our little swing was a life saver for the first 5 months. We didn't have room for the big one, but we loved the portable size swing.

    2 agree
    • I personally don't like the pre-made swaddle blankets. They work only if your baby is the "right" size. If your baby is smaller or larger than average, or very slim, they just do not seem to work. Plus, they look so uncomfortable!

  5. Cloth diapers or a few months cloth diapering service if you know they are planning on doing that.

    Good quality, wood toys. My daughter really liked the couple of Haba toys she had when she was smaller (and I thought they were nice looking and sounding and will last forever) and now that she is a bit older lots of the Plan and Melissa and Doug toys are great, but they are kind of expensive. I also don't know any kids who wouldn't like and need a bunch of wooden blocks , but they aren't cheap to buy either. I guess nice toys won't be useful right away with a newborn, but even some pretty small babies like to hold and chew and throw blocks.

    And I always loooove good children's book, we are getting quite the library for her but if people ask that's what I suggest they get for my daughter.

    1 agrees
  6. Make sure to list multiple and larger sizes. It seems like during gift giving times (baby shower, birthdays, holidays) you get inundated with a lot of clothes for the baby's current size which while helpful for not having to wash as often means down the road you may have to scramble.

    I would also like to say that First Ignite stroller is awesome! We have a traditional larger stroller which I still use for walks around here and for travels (improptu high chair!) but that The First Years Ignite stroller is amazing! The wheels are great and as your child gets older they may like the extra freedom it affords them.

    I would also say for rocking chairs and carriers to try them out and be realistic about how comfortable they are day in and day out.

    Also a really nice diaper bag can be pricey and could be a nice item to put in there (for walks I like a tote but for anything super active I like a mini backpack).

    A pack n' play can be useful for a long time whether it's for actual sleeping over someone else's house in or putting the baby in there for a second to get something out of the oven (I stopped using the crib for things like that so my baby would view the crib as only his sleeping area).

    I would also be careful on things you think are necessary but really aren't in case your baby hates them (for instance my guy has always hated pacifiers and bibs and I have a ton of beautiful bibs that are practically brand new because he won't wear them).

    Also do not get too many of the same bottles some babies are finicky about the kinds of nipples they will use.

    I also wouldn't put onesies or stuffed animals on a registry because people seem to feel the need to give those anyway and you may end up drowning in too small onesies and stuffed animals (and the stuffed animals also always seem not to be age appropriate because people don't get how easily removable eyes and ribbon can be dangerous for a baby)

    Then here are my lists of my son's favorites that I would by another one of if we lost (I actually have for the Sophie which was lost on a walk somewhere):

    Sophie the giraffe

    Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Click 'n Learn Remote

    All of Baby, Nose to Toes

    Manhattan Toy Ready Set Go Mini Cars

    • I hear that with the cuddly toys – I've only been on the buying side of baby-things, and all I've learned is that so many "baby toys" aren't safe til they're about 2 (?), you can only find this out by reading a tiny label (partial sight does not help) and they end up getting too many anyway.

      That said, I'm still on a quest to get my new niece/nephew due in June a baby-friendly cuddly hippo. Why? Because hippos are awesome, man!

      1 agrees
      • You know.. my son had a ton of stuffed animals that he didn't care about until he was well over 1 year. You could always GET the hippo, and then it can hang out in the kid's room until he's ready for it. 🙂

        4 agree
  7. One of the most useful things we got that I would have never bought myself was a pacifier leash that attached to the baby's shirt. I hadn't planned on using pacifiers at all, but my baby was a sucker and refused to comfort nurse if he was full, so he used his pacifier all the time and that cute pacifier leash saved me from loosing tons of pacifiers.

    The Woombie sleep sack was fantastic. Also, a very small rocking/vibrating chair allowed me time enough to shower without a crying baby for the first three months.

    2 agree
  8. Recieving blankets! We use them for everything- burp cloths, a place to lay baby, an emergency diaper, etc. I think I have around 25 and I think that is just about the right amount. I also agree on Sophie, my guy loves her.

    As for a registry, we put together a spreadsheet on google docs that we shared with family and anyone else who asked. That way everyone was on the same page and items could be easily purchased anywhere. We also let friends and family know that we were totally cool with used/thrifted items.

    1 agrees
  9. I cannot agree more with encouraging people to buy larger sizes of clothes or else once your baby is 6 months old nothing fits them any more and they`ll have worn a third of gifted clothing if you`re lucky…

    my general advice is to keep it simple. You don`t need a highchair for at least 6 months. After almost buying all the ones listed above (I hesitated for weeks) I ended up buying the 20$ plastic one from ikea. Super easy to wash, carry and very stable. Every one of my friends who bought an expensive highchair regretted it. Those trendy tripp trapps are cool enough but your baby won`t be comfortable in them without the pricey baby add-on. It`s more for older kids.

    I think baby stuff in general is overhyped – babies need next to nothing beyond a place to sleep, diapers, a few onesies and blankets. I also returned about half the stuff we received – plastic annoyingly loud toys, a gazillion extra blankets, etc.

    Despite explaining our wishes to our guests, the reality is most people will just pick up something cute at walmart and be done with it. With that said a few family members got together and bought a nice stroller, which we appreciated.

    I think by shopping used you can get nice, high quality items you couldn`t afford new. They usually look brand new and won`t fall apart after a few years. Most parents of older kids just want to make room in their basements and so will sell them cheap.

    6 agree
    • Another one of the best gifts I received was a gift certificate to a used children's clothing store. Was so handy at 6 month when none of the new clothes fit any more!

      7 agree
    • The deal with the trip trapp though is that they last. And, a toddler isn't complaining about having to sit in a high-chair "like a baby." I have friends who love their tripp trapps; yes they bought teh add-on for when their children were younger, but the kids are still using them now and they are almost 3.

      1 agrees
      • Yes! I love our Tripp Trapp. My daughter LOVED sitting at the table with us and eating from 5.5 months on. It's still going strong at 23 months and barely looks worn. She will be in it for several more years because sitting at a regular chair with the table at your chin is no way to eat. Plus, they safely and easily hold an adult so I can store them for extra seating once they finally grow it of them. "They" because we bight our son one before he was even born. Also, they can be found on Craigslist for about $100.

        • We got our son a tripp trapp at age one when we tired of washing the large plastic beast. Wonderful for him to be at the table too. Our baby began using it at 5.5 months and just adores being at the table. And it is so easy to clean. This is probably our second favorite kid purchase – truly!

    • The only thing about buying used is you have to be careful you're not buying something that got recalled. Otherwise, yep, buy used!

      1 agrees
  10. Gift certificates for restaurants that do take out. Sure, it's not a gift for the baby, but once that newborn is there, boy will it be appreciated.

    16 agree
  11. Any advice on baby monitors? I am registering now and am WAY over my head trying to find a baby monitor. DH wants a video monitor, but what monitor is good enough? As usual there are too many choices.

    1 agrees
    • Go with a cheapie. Unless you live in a manse, you'll hear the baby crying anyway, and you'll need to go in to hear her breathing regardless. I recommend something with batteries so you can take it outside if you want some fresh air while the baby naps, but otherwise, don't spend a fortune. You can always get the video monitor later if You really want more info.

      2 agree
    • I got a "cheapie" video monitor and love it! I know it's silly, but I just loved being able to see what was going on- my son is hysterical as he rolls around and talks to himself as he goes to sleep-we call it "baby tv". In any event, we've used this guy since he started sleeping in his own room at about 6 months. I have lots of friends with the wireless video monitors that have nothing but trouble, so I went low tech. The handheld ones looks so convenient, but this has been so reliable. It would be nice if it was smaller, but it is still small enough that we usually bring it with us when we travel (so we can hang out with the grandparents, but know kiddo is sleeping okay in a strange house too).

  12. a nice baby sling ( like the k'tan or any other wrap sling a newborn can fit into and then grow with). We did also get one of the boba carriers, haven't tried it yet though. I like the slings so much that we don't have a stroller cause we have yet to need one.

  13. Our baby wrap and sling were probably the most useful gifts we got while my daughter was under a year old.
    My inlaws later purchased our Little Life carrier, which was the best thing EVER!

    Our daughter is two now and still loves it, plus it makes backpacking/snowshoeing, etc super easy.

    I would also look at maybe putting a Bike carrier with a couple of attachments on to your registry, especially if you are the active kind. We bought our Burley, and immediately sold our stroller.

    Definitely ask for clothes for older, we got lucky and didn't have to buy much until about 18months.

    Books, Books, Books! Believe me when I say that you can only read a book so many times before you hate the site of it and want something new.

    1 agrees
    • The kids bike carrier and the backpack that allows the kid to see while you're hiking are both brilliant ideas for active parents! I will have to remember those for the next shower I go to…

  14. I'm way too much of a control freak to let other people buy major baby equipment for me. If I was pregnant, I'd want to get it all myself. Just as well that registries aren't really a thing here – they aren't really used even for weddings!

    2 agree
    • Entirely out of curiousity, where are you located? Everyone around here Midwest U.S.) does registries for everything….

  15. I always buys onesies. Plain, ordinary "who cares if these get covered in bodily fluids" onesies. I buy a couple packs in different sizes and usually throw something cutsey and cheap into the gift bag too so the mom-to-be doesn't think I'm too practical to buy cute stuff. I don't have kids, but I have yet to meet a single mom who said, "I wish I'd had less onesies and more fancy clothes."

    5 agree
  16. The only thing I would say about diaper cakes for those using disposables: Make sure you buy more than just newborn/size 1 diapers. My SIL got 3 diaper cakes at her shower, but mine was the only one that included size 2 & 3 diapers as well as size 1. Though the diapers get thrown away, parents are greatful to have a few larger sizes as well because the small sizes get outgrown SO fast. This can apply to clothes as well-I always get some 9 month and 12 month sizes (and give reciepts just in case baby is very small) because no one can resist the adorable, tiny outfits but baby outgrows them SO fast leaving parents with nothing for baby to wear when they get to 4-6 months.

    1 agrees
  17. I have only been on the buying end so far, but a friend had a second hand shower deal and that was pretty awesome. I know my mom is an amazing thrift store/garage sale maven and was able to help my oldest bro and his young bride outfit their baby with almost everything. They still have a ton of stuff that they used for the next FIVE kids!
    google "second hand baby registry", there are a couple and I don't want to plug any of them since I haven't used them myself. You don't have to pick out colors and patterns and can request useful stuff but still let people enjoy picking out cute prints and adding their favorites.

    Also, I have bought every single baby a cheap blanket that is satin on one side and fuzzy on the other with an animal head thing in the corner. They have all ended up drooling all over them for a long time and then turning into a Linus-style item.

    1 agrees
  18. The price on the white rocking chair is wrong. That's actually the price for ONLY the cushions. If I could find one that cheap I would buy it in an instant!

    2 agree
    • Ah that makes more sense! 🙂 Still, most of this stuff is way cheaper then it is in Australia – especially anything 'brand name'. I know it costs to ship stuff here, but surely not that much. I'm looking at you Stokke..

      2 agree
  19. Post-partum doula service
    or, less grand but still wonderful, arrange delivered meals (home-cooked or restaurant-delivered, it doesn't really matter), lots at first, then several spaced out over the first few months

    A waterproof mattress cover for Mama's bed (they can be really pricey, esp. king size, but so worth it)

    Castile soap (for use as baby shampoo)

    If she's cloth diapering, bulk package of Country Save laundry detergent–THE BEST for cloth diapers.

    3 agree
    • Another thing I'd suggest if you know mom is wanting to cloth diaper is paying for a diaper service for a few months if it's within your means. It means she won't have as much laundry to do herself but will have a load of fresh diapers delievered to her door weekly!

  20. Single greatest baby product we got was the Love to Dream swaddles. My very active bub hated being wrapped in the normal cloths but loves these – they allow for so much more movement and for their hands to be up. And the 'lite' version is awesome for the Queensland summer. http://www.lovetodream.com.au/

    The other thing I'd recommend is an activity mat so you have somewhere safe and interesting to put bubs while you run to the loo! 🙂

  21. Halo Newborn Sleepsack Swaddle. Zipper and Velcro. Neither of us could deal (effectively) with non-Velcro swaddlers.
    Ergo carrier. She's 22 lbs and we still use it! We had the infant insert, but it didn't work for her/us, so we used a hand-me-down Baby Bjorne (gasp!) until she was big enough for the Ergo.
    We received SO MANY blankets, both hand made and store bought, it's ridiculous. I figure she'll be able to turn our entire living room (which isn't huge) into a fort made out of tiny blankets.

    • I felt guilty that our son did not use all those blankets as a baby but they sure became popular later. In fact he has a bit of a blanket fetish!

  22. Be careful when you buy larger sized clothes for babies. Something 6-9 months that looks great today will be totally out of season when the kid is 6-9 months. We received some thoughtful larger clothes that are long-sleeved and long-legged, which will fit come July. Now Seattle never gets very hot so we might be able to pull it off, but you never know.

    1 agrees
    • I've actually included a note on my registry that states what season it will be for each size clothing
      E.g 0-3 months = July-Oct (summer/autumn clothes please)
      3-6 months = Oct-Jan (winter clothes please)

      Hopefully we should get stuff in the right size/season combination then

      2 agree
      • Be careful with this though as your baby may not grow as you may expect. I know a baby that was in 6 month clothing at 12 months and my big boy was in 2T and 3T at 12 months.

        2 agree
  23. If they plan on breastfeeding and have never done it before, I would recommend some lanolin for her sore nipples and those pads you put in your bra because she will be leaking like a fountain for a couple of months. I'm glad my stepmom got me those things because I needed them almost immediately and didn't even know they existed to get them myself.

  24. My mom's go to gift for baby showers is a small bottle of champagne and 2 flutes for the parents to take to the hospital so they can have it immediately after the baby is born.

    I guess someone did it for her when my brother and I were born and its something that you NEVER THINK OF getting but you'd like to have.

    1 agrees
    • I'd be uneasy giving alcohol as a hospital present. I'm not a doctor, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I'd imagine at least some hospitals would have a policy against alcohol on property. Alcohol might not mix well with any drugs given during labor and women who plan to breastfeed should avoid alcohol since it gets into their milk.

  25. A friend recently had a baby shower and I went up to a mom at the baby store and asked her what gift she got as a new mom that she never would have thought of but looooved having. I walked out with these little disposable mat things for public changing tables and little bags to tie up dirt diapers ect when on the go (they look like bags for dog poo to me) and my pal loved them. It makes going out much more convenient for her. I also made a cloth book for baby, since they are easier for little hands to hold and chew, plus unlike the cardboard books can be tossed in the washer when they get gross. Plus I got her laundry soap and butt cream: I knew they would be used.

    1 agrees
  26. We had most of our major equipment (cot, capsule, carseat and pram) gifted to us by family who had just outgrown theirs.
    And I was NOT asking my friends to buy us a travel cot, thats for sure!

    So, our list (I didn't register anywhere) was all stuff that if we got multiples, it was fine, (same if no-one got it for us at all) and it was all cheaper stuff – bibs, facecloths, towels, cot sheets, clothes for 6mo+, wipes, baby bathtime stuff etc.

    I think we got 24 facecloths, but no cot sheets. And thats ok, I'm absolutely sure we will use ALL of those facecloths, and cot sheets are not a big expense. Now we can go shopping for those extra little bits we think we might want to treat the baby to, like merino sleeping sacks…

  27. Best gift we got at our shower was a basket of infant "medical" items:
    – a good quality, instant read, digital ear thermometer (I know some of the reviews suggest not using these on infants under 6mths, however the one we got was the EXACT same one our family doctor used on our baby and he taught us to use it properly.)
    – infant tylenol
    – gripe water
    – hospital grade nasal aspirator
    – eucalyptus oil + saline drops (helps with stuffy noses)

    While we didn't immediately use some of these items, they certainly were the items we didn't think to but beforehand. At 2am when the baby is screaming and running a fever, we were so glad we didn't have to go running out to the drugstore for tylenol!

    1 agrees
  28. A few things we used/use the most:

    -Portable washing machine (group gift from my family), as apartment-dwellers who cloth diaper (though we don't just use it for diapers)

    -Ergo carrier. 21 months old and still using this on a near-daily basis. Also, a stretchy wrap for the early months.

    -Bouncy chair (or swing). AKA you need somewhere you can put the baby down. Even if you babywear. We had a craigslist bouncy chair and a hand-me-down swing, kiddo hated the swing but loved the bouncy chair. Later, the hand-me-down exersaucer fulfilled the same need. Even if you want to hold your baby as much as posible, sometimes you need to take a shower or cook something hot.

  29. Prefold diapers and a cover in the form of fleece or wool pants. Even if they don't get used as diapers, they can always use them as burp cloths and the pants still work as pants. Clothes that are NOT newborn size. Everybody always buys the tiny clothes, but when they outgrow them, the larger sizes you bought will always be appreciated. Breastfeeding supplies of any kind, be it nursing pads, lanolin, a pump, or a gift certificate to get some nursing clothes.

  30. No kids over here but for me my go to baby shower gift is a good quailty stuffed animal i know its not the traditonal router but its cute usally easy to pick out and the moms like them .

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