Help A Reader — Baby Shower Ideas

by Katy on August 15, 2014 · 67 comments

My coworker Allison just announced that she’s 14 weeks pregnant with her first child. And as soon as the news spread, came the inevitable advice on what she “needed to buy.” She and I are pretty similar in our mindset about not filling our houses with excessive stuff, and we made eye contact over the nurses’s station as she listened politely to all the enthusiastic advice.

Later, she and I got a moment of private conversation and she shared that two different friends had already offered to throw baby showers for her, which was giving her distress. Allison explained that the baby’s room is quite small, plus she and her husband only plan on having the single child. Add to this that they thoughtfully downsized from a traditional house into a small condo a few years ago, and you can see why keeping it simple is a priority for Allison. She wants to accept her friends’ generous offers, but she also doesn’t want to be saddled with enormous piles of unwanted stuff. (My words, not hers.)

I gave her the suggestion of having of choosing a book theme for one of the showers, where guests could bring baby books to line a bookshelf. Allison loved this idea, and I could see the relief in her eyes. She and I also agreed that this subject would make an excellent blog post.

What non-consumer baby shower ideas do you have Allison? Have you attended or planned any baby showers with clever themes that fit with a less stuff ideology? Also, what baby ideas do you have for Allison in general? Did you buy must-have baby items only to realize their uselessness afterwards, and conversely were there any specific things that saved the day on a daily basis?

Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Katy August 15, 2014 at 10:50 am

I should have added that she’s completely open to receiving used baby items, with the exception of the car seat and crib, would prefer them.

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Jen W. August 15, 2014 at 11:00 am

When I saw the title of this post I immediately thought of the book theme, too. Other ideas could be to do something diaper-related (diaper cake-off if she’s planning to use disposables, or have each person bring a cute cloth diaper if she plans on going that route), or have each person bring her a meal for the freezer, or have people chip in for housekeeping services, or have people make a schedule of when they’ll bring meals or help with housework after the baby is born.

I was pretty lucky with both baby showers that they were small affairs and people mostly got things I really needed from my registry (that I had a really hard time creating!) but when I did get things I didn’t need I went right ahead and returned/exchanged them for store credit, or sold them online or at consignment sales. I think people get so excited about babies that it’s hard to completely avoid unnecessary items, but what you do with them long-term is up to you!

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Carla August 15, 2014 at 11:00 am

What about a diaper shower? I’m assuming she’s looking to buy cloth diapers so if her friends are adamant about throwing a shower, she can tell them what kind of cloth diapers and accessories she’d like.

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Shannon August 15, 2014 at 11:01 am

I attended a book themed shower and it was awesome!

Another shower idea would be for a shower at which attendees could bring a gift for her baby and bring another baby item to donate. That way, if she gets overwhelmed with a ton of stuff she could donate it with the other items and her guests wouldn’t really know.

Tell her not to get too distressed over people wanting to throw showers for her. Since she just announced her pregnancy, everyone’s excited for her.

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Renee Drellishak August 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm

We had a book shower for my first. Most people brought along something that went with the books (rainbow socks to go with My Many Colored Days, frog rainboots to go with Tuesday) and we received some wonderful books I had never heard of as well as our own childhood favorites. It’s especially sweet now that my oldest is reading and I can show her the inscriptions various friends wrote to her in the books.

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Julie August 15, 2014 at 11:06 am

The book shower is a great idea! I’ve also heard of people asking for diapers and wipes to give to a favorite charity at their showers instead of gifts.

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Mary Ann August 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

There are some pretty basic items you need – carseat, crib, stroller. Her friends could pool their money to get the big items. Basic clothing in various sizes is also good. One item that I think is unnecessary is a changing table. A towel or pad on a bed or the floor works just fine.

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Renee Drellishak August 15, 2014 at 2:25 pm

For those of us who are tall and prone to back problems, a changing table is definitely preferable to kneeling on the floor or sitting sideways on a bed or couch. But one could just as easily stick a pad (or each towel) on top of a desk or dresser.

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lori August 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I agree about the change table. We had one of the change pad pillows with a washable slop cover. We placed it on the baby’s dresser, secured it to the back for safety, once she was too big to be up there we just unscrewed it and used the pad on the floor.

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Karen. August 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

The comment about a diaper shower is spot on.

I also like a “meet the baby” brunch — not a shower. Then people can get together and eat and get the baby fix, and mother and baby have the good parts without the thank-you notes.

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Erin B August 19, 2014 at 9:54 am

I love this idea!

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Sarah August 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

A co-worker shower is the perfect scenario for a pool to buy one of the big, expensive items. (car seat, crib, stroller or soft carrier) I’d say try to get folks excited about that. It is usually one of the very best ways to really help out the new parents!

I also love the diaper shower idea – cloth or disposable she is going to need quite a few!!!

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Karen August 15, 2014 at 11:31 am

Yep, those are pretty much my suggestions. She is absolutely going to need some big ticket things, no way around there. Car seat, baby carrier, if she is going to wear the baby, decent stroller. Somewhere for baby to sleep, whether it be a co-sleeper or crib. I would make the shower about helping her get those things. If people want to buy something personal, and they usually do, then make it a book.

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michele August 15, 2014 at 11:33 am

Something completely different could be a blessing way. It’s more like a party for the mother to know that she is loved and supported than for the baby. http://pregnancy.about.com/cs/blessingway/a/aa102202a.htm

I’ve been to a few and they are beautiful. Gifts are not traditionally part of a blessing way.

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Jen August 15, 2014 at 11:37 am

I love the idea of a book shower! A gift card shower might be good for her too.

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Julia August 15, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I’m 19 weeks pregnant myself, and contemplating the whole baby shower idea. I like the idea of a blessingway, and I like the idea of a meet the baby brunch. I have set up a registry through babyli.st, but I haven’t shared it with anyone. I think what I’d really like to do is, if a friend offers to through me a baby shower, opt for a second hand shower. I would love to spend an afternoon in the park with my growing community (I moved a couple years ago, so most of my friends live elsewhere), and I would happily take any hand-me-downs or items purchased second hand that my friends are willing to share. We can use the registry to help share what I’m looking for/what’s been taken care of. Some of my friends don’t have kids yet, and if they don’t want to go thrifting for a gift, I would like to encourage consumables (freezer meals, lotions and balms, etc.) and cloth diapers. I have been amazed at the generosity of my friends thus far– I think I’m set for maternity clothes, and I have a friend driving up with a big load of newborn clothes and cloth diapers today. So far, I think I’ve spent a total of $45 at thrift and consignment stores, and bought nothing new!

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Emily H. August 15, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Another unique idea is a “service registry” where the mom-to-be or shower coordinator creates a list of desired services, such as house cleaning, providing a fresh or frozen meal, running errands, shuttling to/from appointments, gardening/mowing/shoveling while the new family is focused on the baby, having a babysitter, etc. and then the guests either:
–sign up to do the services themselves
–chip in for a reputable company to do things like house cleaning or designate envelopes for these things like “first date after baby – babysitter money”

Cashing in these coupons can be awkward if it’s not a tight knit group (or if someone offers to babysit who the mom would rather not have babysit), so it’s best to gauge the group you’re with, maybe even having a combo of the two styles.

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Nicole August 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Jen W nailed it!

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Sharon H. August 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm

A good baby carrier or wrap is one of the best things to promote mother-baby bonding. Our local parenting support group has a collection of beautiful donated carriers, and one of the ladies is an expert on helping a mom choose and fit ones that work for her. We call it The Babywearing Road Show, because we take it on the road for home shows and public events.

A little canvasing of local crunchy-type moms will turn up a wealth of info and suggestions for which carriers worked for whom. Keep the baby high and firmly bound to mom’s chest, ‘close enough to kiss’ the top of the head, and keep the back of the carrier up high on the baby’s back. Make sure baby isn’t dangling like those dreadful Ergo strap carriers — it’s bad for their spine and puts too much pressure on the crotch. Knees should be equal to or higher than the butt.

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Sabrina August 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm

I love the idea of giving a favorite children’s story book. Another idea would be for everyone to write a note to share a favorite baby or childhood memory, and have the host pull them together. Those with children could offer suggestions or advice… or tell a funny story, too.

I started out buying a lot of second-hand stuff out of necessity for our budget with our first child, and you soon realize that you don’t need as much as you think.

If she is going with cloth diapers, cute diaper covers would be a great gift (with some brand suggestions). As for secondhand stuff, I was still pretty picky on what I wanted (or felt I could adequately clean), so maybe a gift card to a secondhand store (make store suggestions) would be good.

If she has items that she has already decided she does not need / want, she could talk to the hostess about it. My mother bought stuff for me at garage sales that I would have never bought (too old or not in good condition). Since it was my mom, I had to try to use it for a while… within reason. My mother-in-law had 30-year-old baby items that she wanted to give us that were not in good condition. Some of the clothes I took out of nostalgia, but things like the baby carriage were not safe. I also asked her to not buy battery-operated items, which she ignored. So you have to find a happy place with some very well-meaning relatives and friends.

If the sex of the baby is known, buying clothing past infant stage can be helpful, too.

As for an item that I wouldn’t have bought but did find a use for: a baby wipe warmer (helpful for wintertime and those middle-of-the-night diaper changes). Even when I used cloth wipes along with the cloth diapers, it was easy to put them in a wipe container to stay moist and warm. One person gave me a handmade hooded towel, which I loved. I copied that design and that is my go-to gift for new moms (and much appreciated.) It is a bath towel that is folded to make a pleat in the middle, then you use half a hand towel to make the hood. It is large enough to use for many years. I also was given a baby wrap body carrier, which was so much easier to use, and can be adjusted to carry the baby on your hip later. It is 3 yards of cotton fabric, pleated and sewn into two round metal rings at the end — also useful for a cover when breastfeeding, too.

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Winter Light Homestead August 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Honestly, you really can’t top that book theme! But, here are other ideas.

Diaper shower: either cloth and covers or disposables depending on her preference. Have the invitation specifically state “sizes larger than newborn, please.” That baby will outgrow newborn stuff way before the newborn stuff is used up.

Craft-A-Onesie shower: Have a variety of sizes of plain white onesies and tables of fabric paints, iron on interfacing and fabrics, a couple of sewing machines (and ppl who can use them), etc. spread across party tables. Have the party be that guests don’t bring gifts. Each guest will decorate a special, personalized onesie for the kiddo at the shower.

Better World shower: Explain that the mama doesn’t need/want a whole bunch of baby items but, instead, is far more invested in needing her child to grow up in a better world. Ask each guest to make a donation to a charity (maybe invitation could provide list of suggestions that are dear to the parents’ hearts, esp. child/infant related causes) in the new baby’s honor.

Nourishment Shower: Have guests bring either easy-to-fix healthy groceries or freezer ready potlucks in order that the new parents will have a month’s worth of easy food on hand during the endurance march of exhaustion that is baby’s first month.

The Gift of Time: Instead of physical items, ask each guest to gift a commitment to do something for the new family over the course of baby’s first 3 months. Ideas include house cleaning pledges, laundry pledges, meal pledges, “I will sit with the baby while the worn out new Mama takes a bath, gets her hair cut, or otherwise does something in the way of self-care”, etc.

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Chicago Mom August 23, 2014 at 11:59 am

My Husband and I agree that any of these ideas are great! We appreciated sleeping more than any other gift. We were lucky that our child was born after most of my cousins had older children. So there were nights (that I remember all these years later as THE BEST GIFT EVER) where Hub & I slept while baby got pumped milk and attention from a relative.

I still woke up when the baby woke (some sort of primal alarm system) and still had to feed or pump twice a night (um, yeah full boobs do not allow comfortable slumber). Hubby could sleep right through. We always say that one night a week of “real” sleep kept us functional.

Hand me downs were amazing and many “new born” hand me downs still had tags attached since babies grow so quickly. I wanted to second what another poster wrote & warn the new parents away from “new born” stuff.

Also, good old cash is always a good gift.

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Winter Light Homestead August 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Oh, one more:

If the parents observe Christmas, they could request that it be an ornament shower. All the better if the ornaments are homemade. The baby starts life out with a collection of very special holiday ornaments that will be meaningful for the family for years to come.

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Donna August 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm

With my last baby shower I asked people to bring frozen meals or financial contribution for cloth diapers. I ate well for 2 weeks after baby was born and we were able to completely fund a stash of diapers.

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Kate August 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Another idea that would nourish, but not take up all their freezer space, would be a restaurant & grocery gift card shower. I would have loved to have a little extra money I could spend on the fresh fruit I craved after each of my children was born, or to have the ability to order what I really wanted from a restaurant. Some of the home-cooked meals that were gifted to us were just completely unappetizing to us. We love our friends, we just don’t agree on what a yummy dinner tastes like. :)

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Renee Drellishak August 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

1) if she’s cloth diapering then a gift certificate for a diaper service is awesome. They can get them cleaner than you ever will, and why not relieve yourself of extra chores like washing diapers, when what you really want to spend all your time doing is cuddling the baby and sleeping? You can always DIY later when the gift certificates run out and you have your wits about you again.

2) if she’s not cloth diapering then, you know, diapers.

Not non-consumery but indispensable for our family:

3) if they like to eat out and plan to take the baby with them, then a Tiny Diner Placemat is a great thing once they are starting to self-feed. It’s a silicone mat that suctions to the table and is great for that phase when you want to just stick some Cheerios or cooked carrot bits or whatever in front of them but a plate will inevitably become a frisbee. It keeps their food off of the restaurant tables, helps you leave less mess behind so you don’t feel like Those Parents, and Bonus, it is dishwasher safe.

4) JJ Cole picnic blanket. I bought this for mommy boot camp workouts for the infants to play on while I did sit-ups, etc.. We will have this forever. It folds up into a neat package with its own carrying strap, is machine washable and the base is water resistant, which in the Pacific Northwet where the grass is almost always damp even in the summer, will save you from being that mom with the wet spot on her butt at the park.

5) a five year diary. Forget about repackage baby books. They almost never have spaces for the real memorable stuff like the diaper change that required 6 diapers and three outfits, or the time the little sweetie repeated your favorite swear word in church. I got a small 5 year diary for each of my girls. There’s a page for every day of the year an each page is separated into 5 sections, (one for each year). Each section is only about 4 lines long, so long enough to jot down the milestone/horror/treasured memory but not so long that you feel like you have to write a novel to fill the space. I keep mine by my bed and write in them when something occurs to me. Sometimes a month or so will go by. I occasionally backfill with kid-related Facebook updates. It’s neat to look on their birthdays or Christmas and see multiple year’s worth of memories.

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Kristi Taylor August 15, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Overall, some terrific input here! Can I suggest as an alternative to selling unwanted gifts, if they can’t be exchanged, that donating the items to a local shelter or charity like WEAVE be considered?

And my “who would possibly need one of these?!” items that we still use to this day, is a wipe warmer. We recently went paperless in the bathroom (except for guests & “extreme” circumstances), and it’s a nice way to keep our small towels warm & comfortable. Plus, it was absolutely essential during the cold winter months when our little man was small.

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Diane August 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm

We had a “Pamper Me” themed couples shower (it’s nice to include first-time dads, too!) where guests brought a pack of disposable diapers of any size and a container of wipes (unless she’s doing homemade wipes). We ended up not needing to purchase diapers until our daughter was seven months old. Talk about savings!!

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Siaci August 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

My friends all livemin tiny Brooklyn apatments and are big on keeping the clutter down. Their number one shower request was for diaper service! Many services offer gift certificates, as well as extras like nurshing pads and washcloths.
Overall, gift certificates and services seem to be the way to go. People will insist in bringing something tangible, though; swaddling cloths are very useful, and some in gorgeous prints you can later use as fashion scarfs!

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lori August 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I had a lot of baby stuff for my daughter. Most of it got consigned once we realized that we were not using it or used it so little it wasn’t worth the space it took up in our small house. Babies actually need very little. Basically food, diapering and mostly love and attention. The things I found most useful was the little bouncy feeding chair, we had one that converted into a rocking chair that she used when a toddler and for when she was big enough to sit up well the exersaucer. That gave me free hands to do other things like cook and fold laundry while she played in it. Mine I bought used for $15, about $60 new. And I got a lot of use out of my baby beco carrier, it went from front for baby to back for toddler, it was by far our best purchase. Other things we enjoyed and still do are books, baby books and some nice classic books for when the child gets older.

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Pat August 15, 2014 at 3:16 pm

30 odd years ago my sister was expecting twins. She and her husband were young and lived in a tiny house. She had already received oodles of hand-me-downs so I threw a food shower for her. She got boxes and boxes of baby food for all ages and it really helped them for many months once she stopped nursing.

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Kim from Philadelphia August 15, 2014 at 3:31 pm

I’ll share my experience, though it is slightly different; our son joined our family via adoption and he was just over 2 years when he arrived.

Showers and registries absolutely horrify me. The quantity of new ( and many unnecessary) items that most people claim are “must haves” makes me want to hurl ( just being honest)

My coworkers and friends know me and respected my perspective. Plus we bypassed many baby gadgets from the infancy stage. They knew I’m very practical and didn’t want “too much”
2 of them interrogated me about our most important needs ( 2 new car seats and a durable umbrella stroller, as well as clothes) so groups of people pitched in on these bigger ticket items, which was beyond fabulous.
Many people bought him clothes- in sizes 2T and 3T. He wasn’t a big boy so he wore these for three years.
These were the bulk of our gifts. So wonderful and practical. We also received books ( both my husband and I are bookworms) as well as many gift cards which came in handy fir purchasing pull-ups, wipes, baby gates, safety items.

So my take home message is :

1) identify larger ticket items via a registry or word of mouth. This allows people to pool resources and limit the number if gifts
2) let it be knows that gently used items are fine by you- perhaps even preferred for clothes, etc
3) let it be known that gift cards would be great to stock up on essentials.
4) let it be known that your living space is small.

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Winter Light Homestead August 15, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Oh, and looking waaaaaay back, things I’m glad we always had on hand when my kiddo was an itty bitty guy:

A splat mat: Yes, a $1 store shower curtain under that end of the kitchen table and the baby’s high chair will work. But, if a shower guest wants to give a cute splat mat, let ‘em have at it! My kiddo had an Elmo one. One of our most useful baby/toddler items! Also, the splat mat we had was thick and durable. It lasted the entire baby/toddler stretch (something a $1 shower curtain isn’t likely to manage).

2. A baby wearing device: I had a hand-me-down front snuggly when my son was a wee tiny thing. Then, he often rode in a baby backpack (registered for and received as baby gift) after he grew some. My son got worn WAY more than he ever rode in a stroller. This was especially good for outdoors activities w/stroller unfriendly surfaces or when visiting stroller unfriendly places (having a baby in a stroller quickly makes a parent appreciate how NOT handicap accessible most places are for people in wheelchairs :( ). Or, simply for getting things done around the home when he was in that I’ll-scream-nonstop-if-you-put-me-down stage.

3. Never. Enough. Onesies. ACQUIRE ALL THE ONESIES. You will not regret that seemingly infinite pile of onesies. But, you may regret not having more.

4. A radio (or, I guess nowadays, a speaker to dock your phone in) in the baby’s room – this was something I always, ALWAYS appreciated having. It’s good for baby AND Mama. You need a music source in that room. You really, really do.

5. Reusable boo boo packs to keep in the freezer for those inevitable ouchies, especially during the cruising months when every picture anyone takes of your child includes a bruise or bruises on your nascent walker’s forehead.

6. You cannot have enough SOFT terry cloth wash rags. They aren’t just for bath time. Babies leak. From pretty much every orifice. Often. They’re also kinda uncoordinated and spill stuff like ALL THE TIME. And, did I mention the leaking? The near constant leaking? Oh, lawdamighty! There’s a lot of wiping involved with these little critters. Big, soft wash clothes are your snuggly, useful friends. Also, a soft terry cloth washrag can be thoroughly wetted and then popped into the freezer to turn into an excellent teether. Just keep a set of them rotating through the freezer. Don’t get those tiny little baby sized wash clothes. Get regular, Mama-hand sized wash clothes. Just make sure they are very soft terry cloth. Get a lot of them. Then get a dozen more. You can’t have enough of these. (See also: onesies).

7. Baby safe sunblock. Always have a bottle/tube ready to go in the diaper bag.

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Lisa August 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm

The two best gifts I received were 1) a gift certificate for six weeks of a diaper service. I was planning on cloth diapering anyway, and this gave me a cushion of time when I didn’t have to deal with washing diapers.
2) I was on maternity leave when I hit my tenth year anniversary at work. Their tradition was to celebrate by letting you go to any fancy restaurant in the city with your significant other, and they picked up the tab. I asked them to convert that into gift certificates to several cheaper, local restaurants that delivered. We loved it so much that now when there’s a group gift being given, we often pool our money for a dinner delivery service.

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Tracy August 15, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Have not read through all of the other comments, but what about “gift certificates” for services, like making dinner, or taking mom and baby out to the park, or things like that? Or maybe a night of watching the baby (when it’s older) so that mom and dad can have a date?

It doesn’t have to be all about things.

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Amanda August 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Love the book shower idea! We had multiple large showers thrown by the sweetest folks. I registered, and that helped to focus the stuff. Then after all the showers were done I sorted everything and returned hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. The resulting store credit at places like babies r us and target was great for the inevitable baby need.

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Debbie August 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm

There are many great ideas already mentioned here that I can’t add anymore. Gift cards are great and practical and lets the mom/parents buy whatever they need in their own time. Food is a lifesaver, especially in the following weeks/months after the baby arrives. For my own shower, I tried to keep my registry to a minimum, but did greatly appreciate friends chipping in to buy large ticket items like the crib mattress. I had already bought many things 2ndhand from Craigslist and consignment. Another friend also informed people prior to her shower that she is open to and prefers gently used and 2ndhand items rather than new. The book shower ideas is great! Be sure to ask for a books for various ages, for those board books will someday soon be outgrown!

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AnnW August 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

She could ask the party people to bring a small layette in a basket to give to new mothers in shelters or domestic abuse houses. People love to pick out onesies and blankets and sox. It would also probably be cheaper than buying carseats, etc. If so many people wanted to come to her showers, this would allow everyone to participate without her getting overloaded.

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Jeanne August 15, 2014 at 9:20 pm

I am completely anti-baby shower. Maybe I’m superstitious, but I think it’s weird and risky to celebrate something that has not yet happened. Because of that, I usually decline baby showers but then present a gift when the baby has been safely escorted into this world. I usually pick out a favorite book and I also like to get something for Mom like a pregnancy massage or a pedicure gift certificate. I’m sending this new little family lovely happy wishes for a healthy happy baby and look forward to hearing how Mom negotiates this new NCA challenge.

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Thrifty Writer September 5, 2014 at 8:11 am

I’m from a culture that believes that it’s bad luck to gift baby clothes, in particular, though all items for the baby, really until the baby is born, so I totally get this. There is a little ceremony we have for pregnant women where they are gifted a piece of clothing.

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Diana August 15, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I luv this post! I’m saving these ideas!

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Linda M August 16, 2014 at 4:37 am

I think all the previous comments are very good.
I would like to offer a couple of other suggestions. Whoever is giving the shower could find out which car seat and crib the Mom-to-be is wanting and from where….then all the people invited to the shower could contribute to purchasing the item or if not enough money collected, then a gift card to where she wants to purchase one.
Also, starting a college fund or purchasing a savings bond for the new little one. That would take no room and keep growing yearly. I know you have to have a SS# to purchase a savings bond….but the gift could specify what it was for and then let one of the new parents set up the account. That is a gift that keeps on giving.

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Diane August 16, 2014 at 4:45 am

A lovely handmade baby quilt that can be passed down through the generations as a heirloom. Also could be hung on the wall of the nursery as decor.

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Jackie P August 16, 2014 at 5:22 am

I like to give money for gifts for my nieces and nephews as well as my granddaughter. I write in the card that it is for their future. I usually give a small gift and a cheque. I want to see them looked after in their future. Whether school or buying a house.

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Melissa August 16, 2014 at 6:47 am

One of my like-minded friends threw a “Diapers and Dinners” shower for me…people brought the diapers and related supplies I was planning to use as well as pre-made frozen dinners that I stashed in my freezer. (The friend who hosted the shower graciously! returned all the dishes for me about a month after my son was born and everything had been eaten!)

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Cindy August 16, 2014 at 10:02 am

I’m expecting my fourth and I’ve given away most of our little baby things over the years just because I’ve learned we don’t need most of it. We live in a small condo and some of these baby “necessities” take up a monster amount of room (changing table? change the baby on a blanket on the floor). I recieved a ton of stuff with my first, and each baby after I also recieved a ton of gifts… very generous but totally unnecessary. I’ve learned that babies r us has an awesome return policy (i’ve gone in there with an entire shopping cart full of returns) I’ve also learned that people grab stuff up off ebay if it’s NWT. We’ve gotten rid of the crib, swing, bouncer, play gym, most of the cutesy toys and we live mostly in hand me downs- the one and only item I could not live with out is my ergo baby carrier. great topic.

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Cindy August 16, 2014 at 10:14 am

by the way katy- I think one of the reasons I’m so crazy about your blog is because you’ve mentioned you were a labor and delivery nurse- all the labor and delivery nurses I have met through my very long labors and were AMAZING people. It takes a very special person to do what you do.

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Katy August 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Thank you, that’s very sweet of you!

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Bonnie August 16, 2014 at 10:16 am

When my daughter was born 23 years ago, most of the gifts were basically cute and useless. I appreciated the thought, but the best things that I used the most were the changing table I bought at a garage sale, and the borrowed crib. That being said, I went to a shower once where it was requested that we all bring disposable diapers and wipes. That was great! Personally, I see nothing wrong with having an old fashioned “money tree” and requesting cash. People want to give SOMETHING, so why not just give the cash you would have spent on the usually useless item? Make it a “Wishing Tree” and have the guest write a wish for the baby on the card, along with the cash.

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Robin August 16, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I’d recommend asking for diaper creams, baby shampoos and lotions, baby tylenol and other necessary baby products for shower gifts.

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Lesley August 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I have often given new moms “The First 1000 Days” by Nikki McClure. It’s a very nice baby journal, available on Amazon–in case anyone is thinking of the book shower idea!

Honestly, I think that’s a great idea. Another is that she could ask other parents something like “Instead of new gifts, we would love to receive your gently used baby items, or donations to Baby X’s diaper fund.” I’m sure there’s more than one parent out there saying, “Oy, what am I going to do with all this?!” And those that don’t have any baby stuff, like me, could donate instead.

If your friend is afraid to broach the subject of “I don’t want a bunch of junk,” maybe she can tell her friends what you told us: that they downsized thoughtfully, that they are trying not to focus on things because having too many possessions was very stressful. Hopefully she can find a way to say it so that her friends will understand.

It’s been said before, and of course I’m not a parent, but babies don’t really need THAT much stuff. Parents without the “super organic baby sling that plays Mozart while it reduces the greenhouse effect and teaches your child Mandarin” are NOT bad parents!

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cathy August 16, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Lots of Lansinoh!
The best non-consumer things we received were a month or so of diaper service (we continued it for awhile until we were ready to buy diapers and do a lot of laundry), a handmade hooded towel, a beautiful quilt made by two friends, many beautiful children’s books, and a week’s worth of meals for the freezer.
We could have used gift certificates for more diaper service, many more meals (because, honestly, we were way too tired to cook!) and gift certificates for restaurants that either do carryout or delivery.
Honestly, I think a lot of people would be happy to either give a gift card or donate money for a big-ticket item (car seat, stroller) rather than shop for cute, but either useless or short-term use items.

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Miki August 16, 2014 at 10:25 pm

There are tons of different baby shower themes you can use to decorate the small space.

I offer free printable themes for girl, boy and neutral baby showers. Each theme comes with a theme related banner, game, topper and invitation. I hope you enjoy these free resources.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

P.S. the book theme is not a bad idea, i think you can pair it with the fairy tale theme.

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Barb August 17, 2014 at 8:10 am

I had a child ten full years after my last, and knew I did not want to have any more. All the hand me downs were gone, although I did have a relative who was having kids at the same time and we talked about sharing.

The things I told my mom I HAD to have were a really great care seat. A really good stroller (I lived in Washington DC and the stroller was used daily, and a small folding one would not work. I needed a Pram, pure and simple and a good one. A crib .

And what I dont see mentioned here. A rocking chair. I realize this depends on the person. In my house, the rocking chair in the babys room was, put quite simply, essential. Some people are rockers, some are not. If you are, you know what I mean.

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Christa August 17, 2014 at 10:17 am

For our second baby, I didn’t think I needed a shower but my sister-in-law did so I suggested that instead of gifts for the baby, it might be nice to have dinner meals provided by the guests. Things that I could put in the freezer and thaw once the baby was born and we didn’t have time to prepare anything (let alone eat!). We still received gifts from those guests that wanted to gift cute outfits, etc. but the food was a real plus to us and some of the guests even gifted us with gift cards to favorite restaurants. Just a thought.

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Denise August 17, 2014 at 11:40 am

Honestly, I am NOT a fan of the book theme, and here’s why: we received many, many, many books for our children over the years. Many of the people giving them purchased books that were not in my taste (think Disney Princess-type cheapo books) and then placed said inscriptions inside them.
We also received multiples (think for our five) of several books: all inscribed.
Book GIFT CARDS would have been lovely. I cherish reading and am exceedingly picky about what I read aloud to my children
I have three children and I advise wooden toys, non plastic, that can be handed down.
Also, a diaper party is wonderful, cloth or regular. If she’s going to cloth diaper, there WILL come a time (think traveling) where disposable diapers will come in handy too, so having some on hand is lovely.
Another idea is a freezer meal party. Instead of gifts for the baby, all the invitees bring a freezer meal for the family to help with those first few months of chaos. I was so grateful for that luxury!
Even if there are food allergies, this can be worked around.

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Denise August 17, 2014 at 11:42 am

Oh, another idea is to host a party in the baby’s name for a sponsor child. The shower recipients bring a small monetary donation to be given in the family’s name for a child in need.
Then people gather in fellowship to worship the new bundle and feel great about giving to another Mama’s new bundle too.

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Skidd August 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I was gifted sooo many lotions, creams, soaps, etc. I don’t think I used any of them!! I felt so bad but I didn’t want to put all those chemicals on my brand new baby. Coconut Oil and lansinoh was all we ever used. I will never gift those things because I know every mother has their personal preference. The item that I received that I used for at least the first two years; a moby wrap. I think food is always appreciated… in any form. Gift cards, freezer meals, delivered hot meals. Non-seasonal clothes were appreciated as well.

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Rebecca B. A. R. August 18, 2014 at 8:36 am

I always give a handprint/footprint kit, and sometimes add money with it. I have found that people like the small kit that will become a very neat, personal keepsake later. Babies don’t need a lot of things and they don’t stay little for very long, so having something to physically remind people of how tiny they were is always really neat.

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Amy August 18, 2014 at 2:03 pm

These are all great ideas. I think no matter how adamant she might be that she doesn’t want new baby clothes/gadgets, people are going to buy her some. People just like to buy baby stuff. I had multiple showers for my first (a girl) and I kept everything I got, when I was naive and was in love with all the pink, fluffy stuff. I didn’t even have showers for my second or third babies, but people sent me lots of clothes after they were born. My second was a boy so I kept everything I got for him, but I returned much of the stuff I received for the third baby (a girl–I saved a lot of the stuff from my first baby). I felt a little guilty about returning gifts but honestly, I did not need the clutter and the extra money was helpful.

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margm August 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

How odd that an anti-consumer approach to a babyshower is still to suggest dozens of ways that people should still give gifts and spend money – giving books, pooling money to buy big ticket items, buying gifts to donate, etc. How about just having an event with NO GIFTS??! How about a party just for the sake of a party – friends and loved ones getting together, talking, spending time together, bonding, creating community. Every life event need not be marked with getting our friends and family to buy us stuff. Most people I know don’t actually enjoy sitting around a circle watching another adult open gifts. And please stop tormenting co-workers for awkward gifts and requests for money. Advice columns are full of workers writing in to ask how to get out of various office pools of money and gift giving.

Just spend a nice afternoon with friends, eat some food, drink some drinks and insist on no gifts. It really shouldn’t be this hard.

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Kat August 19, 2014 at 3:49 pm

A very cool friend of mine specifically asked (on her invitation) for gently used and well loved items from friends’ children to pass on to her new child. Frozen dinners have been discussed here, but what my friends did for me (knowing how vehemently I dislike consumer stuff) was set up a care calendar for after the birth, and each came by one night, usually delivered dinner, sometimes hung out and folded laundry or held the baby while I showered, etc. yes, some of them brought “stuff” too, but it was really a special way to introduce the new guy to my friends….

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Donna G August 19, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I recently went to a shower with a “Gift in Time” theme. On each invitation there was an age and the invitee was to buy a gift, not to exceed $20, and write a brief note for the baby at that age. So, I had sweet 16 and since the baby is going to be a girl I bought her an adorable silver key chain that I found at a little boutique for $16.
It was incredibly sweet to see the creative gifts guests brought for each age.
The notes were put in a box for Momma and baby to read together on each birthday.
I think it may have been one of the nicest showers I’ve been to and no duplicates to return!

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Shannon J. Perkins August 21, 2014 at 7:56 pm

I love organizing an event like this. I suggest that the theme that she want for her baby shower is definitely a very great idea. I was at a baby shower last month and she also has this theme. It was a nice celebration that the mom-to-be enjoyed a lot. So I think your friend must go for this baby shower theme.

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Laura August 27, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Everyone bring a bead that they can thread onto a necklace for her to wear during labour. I had mine as part of my own blessing way, lots of different eclectic beads ppl had kindly given really made me feel special. Also a baby wrap/sling promotes mother/baby bonding but also much better than these pricy strollers. I knitted blankets from freecycled wool and painted a mural in my sons room to welcome him.

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Thrifty Writer September 5, 2014 at 7:58 am

When I know far enough in advance, I knit a blanket. I’d like to think it’s better made than something store bought, and I think it has a lot more meaning because it was handmade especially for THAT baby.

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Brooke September 29, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I knit. Constantly, according to my husband. :) I generally knit play food, from a giant Goodwill stash, filled with crochet chains of more of the same yarn. If there aren’t baby showers, then it goes to a charity at Christmastime. Also, in keeping with the “no stuff” rule my husband and I try to have for our niece and nephews (we have an aunt that is a super-consumer), the first five years they got savings bonds, intended for college costs.

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