What unexpected things did you want when you were new parents?

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Silver foil "for you" gift tag from Etsy seller PennedBlack
Silver foil “for you” gift tag from Etsy seller PennedBlack
I have the pleasure of welcoming two new cousins into this world this year. I want to give the parents gifts that they will want, and use, once the babies are born.

Most people come up with blankets, diapers, etc., and I understand how useful those are (I intend to help buy a duffle bag and stuff it full of diapers!) but I wanted to know if there were any items or helpful suggestions that would be useful for me to give or do for the new parents.

What “strange” or “unusual” items will be useful for the new parents? What unexpected items did you not have that you wish you did have when you were new parents?

Thank you for your time and input.

Good question! We’ve talked about things to gift to and for babies before, but what can you gift the new parents. So let’s hear it straight from the parental Homies themselves…

What are the best unique gifts for new parents? What are the things you got that you never expected or asked for, but that you came to depend on?

Comments on What unexpected things did you want when you were new parents?

  1. Of course, time and support. Just being available to do stuff if they need it. Like fold some laundry or run an errand or just to chat is always appreciated.

    Food! My sister and sister-in-law spent a day with me prepping pre-cooked frozen meals like casseroles and spaghetti sauce before the baby was born. It was great bonding fun. I seriously think we would have eaten toast for the first two chaotic weeks if I hadn’t had those meals to fall back on. (And I am an enthusiastic cook usually.)

    Maybe as a group gift, some kind of high-quality comfortable rocking chair. Make sure it is comfortable and has armrests.

    For the new mom, a gift certificate for a hairdresser. I don’t know why but me (and almost all my mom friends) had a phase about 1 or two months after baby where we needed a new look. You’re tired, your hair is falling out (literally! It’s the hormones.) and a new color or cut is a great mood booster.

    Also, I would have looooved a new-baby photoshoot with a professional photographer, but I couldn’t afford it.

    Finally, maybe a subscription to netflix or some on-demand movie thing. They didn’t exist ten years ago, but man was I tired of watching the weather report cycle or ad-programs during all those endless nights when baby wouldn’t sleep!

    These are my personal ideas. I think it is very thoughtful and considerate of you to think of the parents, not just the baby!

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  3. Granola bars or other easy snack that can be eaten with one hand, reusable water bottles, toilet paper (strange but true), if mom is going to pump- those wipes to clean the gear, and for the brave… Lanolin nipple cream.

  4. My gift that I typically give is a bit weird, but comes from having 2 bubs myself, vaginally.

    A pack of maternity pads
    Washable breast pads
    Hydrogel cooling breast pads
    Benefibre (tasteless, dissolvable fibre supplement for regulating one’s bowels)
    And I usually stick some fancy chocolates and a cute onesie in the gift bag too.

    It’s a gift for the mum. I didn’t really know what to expect first time, and ending up making several trips to the chemist to get supplies in that first week. I also needed some heavy pain killers due to a tear, but I’m not going to stick codeine in a gift bag, lol! I’m not sure how useful the benefibre and maternity pads would be after a cesarean, maybe someone could weigh in?

  5. This will depend on the parent’s tastes, but a wetbag and cloth wipes. You can buy the cloth wipes at Green Mountain Diapers online, and wetbags on Etsy. The cloth wipes did a better job than disposables and they didn’t cause a rash.

    The indestructible books by Kaaren Pixton were a huge hit at our house too.
    Kids can chew on them, drool on them, and they don’t tear or have binder staples.

    Oh and a book of baby play ideas using household items was great for me.
    Rachel Cooley’s “Begin with a Blanket” has tons of tummy time ideas, and yes, tunmy time is supposed to begin in the first week.

    A mirror that could be put in the pack and play was a big hit too. We just got a few of these off Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B009AG8XS6/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1468502815&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=mirror+sheets&dpPl=1&dpID=31X-pSJdy%2BL&ref=plSrch

  6. This is just what I needed! I’m due with my first in November and I don’t have very many friends with babies (and only one friend who cloth diapered) so I feel like I don’t know anything about what I really need.

  7. The unexpected thing I didn’t know I wanted was for someone to call me! Maternity leave was unexpectedly lonely. Let your friend know a couple of times that you’re available to come over and you can either hold the baby while they shower or whatever, or you can wash dishes, sweep the floor, cook, etc. while chatting with your friend.

    If they have a dog, offer to walk the dog, possibly with your friend and the baby if they want to. I had had a day dream of walking the dog with the baby in the stroller but when the baby actually arrived I was scared to go out on my own with the baby and the dog. The first time we all went out together my mom came too so she pushed the stroller and I remembered OH YEAH my dog is actually really good about walking on the leash and won’t somehow pull it over because she saw a cat. After that I was able to get out to walk the baby and the dog about twice a week (it would have been more if the weather was cooperative) and it made such a difference to my mental health (and the dog’s too) but I needed a buddy to help me with that first time.

    • I would love to know how to make this work! Honestly, everyone says don’t visit a friend who has a new baby without cleaning or helping out with a chore–and I’m totally down with that! But it is *very* awkward to be visiting said friend and try to convince them to tell you where the vacuum cleaner is! People just want to sit and chat, or look at the baby with you! I’ve never gotten any new parent to let me do more than a few dishes! Even if I call and say, “I’m coming over to mow your lawn” it never works out! How how how??

      • For me, accepting help was difficult because of hormones and fatigue.

        The hormones post pregnancy made me really anal about having everything exactly where I needed it. If a loved one put the spatula I needed away in the wrong place it would make me break down in tears. Silly, right? But it felt so real at the time.

        The barrage of helpful questions was too much for my sleep-deprived mind. It was just as much work in my mind to answer “where does this go” a dozen times as it was to do it myself.

        What really helped was when someone could hold and play with our sweet baby while I did the cleaning. Doing the cleaning myself made me feel great.

        • I read somewhere that one could make a list of things that could be done (laundry, dishes, quick tidy-up house, feed / walk dog, etc) before baby, so when people ask what they can do to help, you just have to pull up one of those!

          • Yes, make it up two months in advance!

            Our little dumpling came a month early – just as I was starting to prep these sorts of things! Oh well.

  8. Definitely food! Bonus points if it can be eaten one-handed over a nursing or sleeping baby’s head.

    If you can afford it, a nice carrier or sling. But you should probably ask the parents first, as they may have a preference on carrier style.

    Clothes in toddler sizes. Everyone loves to buy teeny-tiny baby clothes, but those kids will need something to wear in a year from now, too.

    One of the best gifts I got was a set of hand-made bibs, made from old washcloths with fabric scrap ties and patterns sewn on. Hand-made gifts are always special, and those bibs offered way more coverage than most of the store-bought ones.

    Instead of blankets, swaddle sacks with Velcro closure. I couldn’t swaddle my child in a regular blanket to save my life. Those Velcro things were a lifesaver.

    Regarding diapers: great idea, but make sure you ask the parents whether they intend to use cloth or disposable diapers. And then buy supplies accordingly.

    • Yes to food. The lentil soup, date squares and chicken casserole my friend brought over were just wonderful. Make your favorite meal, freeze it and bring it over. I’d never had lentil soup, now am converted!

  9. I remember walking down the swaddle aisle ahead of time at Babies ‘R Us and thinking – why in the world are there so many of these? I guess we’ll get one and see if we need it… Fast forward to when we got home from the hospital: “BUY ALL THE SWADDLES. RIGHT NOW.” (Only way he would sleep for the first few weeks.)

    – oogiebear Ear & Nose Cleaner
    – Muslin Swaddle Blankets (bigger than most baby blankets, easier to swaddle, not as hot) (we chose aden by aden+ anais Swaddleplus 4-Pack at Babies R Us and ended up with 3 packs of 4 so we didn’t have to do laundry as much)
    – So many diaper wipes. So many. (not strange or unusual but I use so, so many)
    – Hand sanitizer
    – Boppy Newborn Lounger (bought ahead of time and one of the best ways I spent money)
    – SOCK COP Sock Clips Multi-Colors (reduce time spent matching tiny little baby socks)
    – Baby Bum Brush Diaper Cream Applicator Tool
    – Itzy Ritzy Travel Happens Wet Sealed Wet Bag (a wet bag, basically)
    – Sound Machine (ocean is the current favorite for calming)
    – Rocking Chair/Glider (I know, a big gift and not unusual but I really, really didn’t understand the critical need to buy one…)
    – OxiClean Baby Stain Fighter (regular is ok too) (for the really tough stains)
    – OxiClean Max Force Baby Spray (for most stains)
    – Gerber 5 Count Heavyweight Gauze Prefold, White (cloth diapers, but we use them as burp cloths instead for more/better coverage.)

    (My kid is almost 3 months old so we did this all pretty recently.)

  10. I so agree with all of this. I went to my first baby shower (which was a nice, small, cozy affair) about a year before my first was born, and I remember looking at the gifts and thinking, “Wow, I NEVER would have thought to buy that, but it’s actually probably way more helpful than the clothes I got!” Those were, indeed, the same kinds of things that I appreciated most (even though I didn’t have a shower). These were mainly upscale body care items, both for me and the baby. Burt’s Bees makes a baby gift set that I thought was just awesome. Also, as far as diapers go, one of our friends got us a pack of Honest Co. diapers, and even though we couldn’t afford to buy them on the regular, it was so nice to put our new son in really cute diapers for a little while. It seems silly, but it’s those little luxuries that make a huge difference at the very beginning. Also, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. Quite possibly my favorite (and most used) thing ever.

  11. I second most of the food comments. I really wish I had snack packs stashed all over the house. I was starved so many times when I was breast feeding with no food or drink in easy arm reach.
    Also, offer to set-up one of the meal calendars. I wish I had done that (though I’m not sure they were a thing when I had my son). Really any type of dinner prep is great. The meal calendars involve more folks and people are more likely to bring fresh food (salads, etc) instead of more casserole. Plus it builds in visiting time.

  12. Our favorite thing we bought after our son was born was a 30 pack of hand-towel sized gym towels. They make amazing burp/spit cloths — they’re super absorbent, and fully interchangeable, so you don’t have to worry if a few go missing. 30 is also plenty to have available everywhere around the house, in the diaper bag, and still avoid doing laundry all the dang time when the baby is getting multiple towels messy every day.

    They also come in colors — we picked a light brown color, so stains don’t show easily. We use them much less often now that he’s 9 months old, but we still use them plenty!

  13. If the mother is breast-feeding, water bottles and easy-to-eat-one-handed snacks. I couldn’t believe how instantly and intensely hungry and thirsty I would become when nursing in the early weeks/months.
    Gift cards for coffee shops/restaurants are great for everyone when no one has the energy to cook.

  14. Hoo boy. I have a four week old and I have some THOUGHTS.

    Long device charging cables. A bunch of em. And USB plugs. For every room of the house with a chair or sofa where you’ll be holding the baby.

    Protein or granola bars, also for every baby-holding/nursing/pumping place.

    Bottle brush if they don’t have one already.

    If they don’t have cable and you want to spend a little extra $$, a Fire Stick and a PlayStation Vue subscription.

    Ready-to-eat fruits and veggies. The prepackaged cut up kind you buy at the grocery store. Not a bag of grapes. Not a whole pineapple. No. I would not have eaten fruit otherwise.

    Banana bread muffins and spreadable butter.

    Burp cloths and washcloths. Boring. Standard gift. Whatever. But more than you think they’ll ever need.

    Extra ponytail holders or headbands. How the heck do these disappear so quickly. Does my couch eat them? I don’t know.

  15. NoseFrida! Booger suckers become an emergency item that first week. My sister-in-law was horrified that I gave it to her as a shower gift, but they ended up loving it.

  16. Not a parent, but a parent friend told me the best gift she received was baby clothes.. for 3/6/9 months time. Most new parents (apparently) find themselves inundated with newborn baby clothes because they’re so cute and tiny.. but babies grow pretty quickly, and 12 weeks in all the cute baby clothes you got given don’t fit the little one anymore and suddenly you need to run out and buy bigger clothes. Buying them a range of clothes for when baby gets a bit bigger means they’ll at least have something that’ll fit without having to rush to the store.

    • This, plus sometimes the baby comes out bigger than you think. When I was born, I was huge and not a single bit of the 0-3 month clothes that my mom had been given fit– I was already size 6mo. My mom said she wished people had given her bigger clothes so I could have used any of them!

      • So, I swore that i was doing things right, and just kept out the 3-6 month clothes…a friend of mine had given me newborn sizes but I was SO sure they were too small since me and daddy were big babies. Fast forward to baby boy being born 3 weeks early at 5lbs 4 ozes. Even if he went the full 40 weeks he would have still fit in them . My mom had to do an emergency wash session before I came home!

  17. Hubs and I have awesome sisters.
    My sis gifted a family photo session with the same photographer we used for our wedding.
    His sis set up the college fund and put in the initial deposit.

  18. Fruit salad. As a postpartum doula, one of my clients’ favorite things is when I cut up fruits and veg for them and leave them in the fridge so they’re super easy to just eat. When you’re not sleeping enough, you aren’t going to deal with those carrots in the bottom of the veggie drawer or the melon on the counter, but if someone else cuts them up while they’re still good, all of a sudden you have a snack!

    Yoga ball. Our first baby required bouncing. SO MUCH BOUNCING.

    But the most awesome, best gift we got? We were losing it a few weeks in, and a friend corralled her parent friends and had them write “it gets better” letters. She packaged them up with chocolate, fuzzy socks, the kind of novel you read on the beach, and some really nice lotion, and mailed it to us. It was a gift that was entirely for us, as parents. We cried through the letters, and kept them. It felt so good to be seen and recognized as parents having a hard time, and as adults independent of our children.

  19. So my metamore (in her prophetic wisdom), bought this little tub seat during her nesting phase. I thought it was kind of silly because we already had a baby tub and they couldn’t be used together.

    However, since the baby was born, I had thought a couple of times how nice it would be if he could just shower with me rather than waiting until someone else was around to keep him from crying. And I think of the bath chair before dismissing it. Because the problem was that he’d cry when I put him down. So if he cries when sitting in a bouncer next to my computer chair, why would being in the shower with me matter if I still wasn’t holding him?

    But one day I was changing him and thinking about how stinky we both were. About how we both needed to bathe. “Why not? Why not try doing it at the same time?”

    It was great. We showered until we started to run out of hot water, way longer than I intended. He was just so content. Showering has become my favorite part of our day, and he seems to genuinely enjoy it as well.


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