If someone you know is expecting a baby and you have the urge to gift them with something unique and truly useful instead of the standard 4-pack of receiving blankets or a squeaking giraffe, we’ve got some great ideas for you.
- Laundry Supplies: Buy a laundry basket (basic plastic, classic wicker, decorative bin matching the nursery colors) of your choice and FILL it with tubs of OxiClean, Dreft detergent, stain removers, tiny hangers, you name it. A trip down the laundry supplies aisle at a baby store or box store will give you plenty of ideas. Do not underestimate how much laundry a new baby creates and double (or triple) up on the supplies – they will be appreciated and put to good use!
- Amazon Prime Membership: An Amazon Prime membership runs $99 (sometimes it is on sale for less) and provides unlimited access to TV shows and movies, books, photo storage, two day shipping on many items as well as subscription discounts on those items – very handy for diapers, wipes, household supplies, pet food, etc.
- Meal Train: The moment you hear that mom is in labor, get that meal train moving. Friends, neighbors and family members can sign up to provide a meal (or many meals) for the new parents starting on a specified day and for whatever duration of time is chosen. Items that freeze well and that have been divided into single servings or servings for two are especially helpful because they can be quickly heated up by the parent on baby duty while the other is at work, or sleeping, etc. Helpful hint: Delivering the meals in disposable containers is great – the new parents won’t have to worry about returning dishes (or even washing them).
- Birth Announcement $$ and Postage: Give gift cards (or a check) for use at Shutterfly, VistaPrint, Minted or other places that print birth announcements. Expenses like this can really add up and you can help the new parents afford beautiful announcements (and a memory they are likely to have forever in their scrapbook). Include a few sheets or books of stamps to help cover postage. Those little details make a gift even more thoughtful.
- Photographs: A hospital contracted photographer often visits the new parents within the first few days of the child’s birth. Sometimes parents schedule a photography session themselves to capture family photos very close to the arrival of their adorable new family member. Cover or help defray this expense by paying for or contributing towards the photo packages.
- A month of Sundays: Many new parents don’t want to leave the baby’s side. But some quickly realize that they could use a break, either to sleep or just get some fresh air. Offer to babysit for a certain amount of time (2-4 hours) every Sunday for a month so that mom and / or dad can go to a restaurant, see a movie, take a walk, sleep, take a swim, go to the gym or anything else they could use a few hours for. It’s an investment of time on your part but your reward is getting to spend time with that adorable baby!
- Diapers and Wipes: Boring gift? Maybe. Useful gift? Diaper parties are becoming popular when a family is expecting a 2nd or 3rd child because the family generally already has the basic equipment, furnishings and toys. But first time expectant parents can use them too! In addition to whatever gift you are considering (clothes, toys, books) toss in a box of diapers. If you want to keep it going, have Amazon (or yourself) deliver a box each week (or each month) for a specific amount of time. The gift that keep on receiving.
- The future: Grandparents, relatives and other friends have been known to fund UGMA, UTMA, 529 and college saver accounts up on the birth of a child. Personally, I like UTMA and UGMA accounts best because they can be used immediately for the benefit of the child and are not restricted solely to educational expenses. They don’t receive the same tax treatment as educational accounts, but they can be used for braces, summer camps, soccer classes, upgrades for car seats and other kid equipment, etc. Regular savings accounts are great too and help parents with expenses down the road (when the baby needs bigger clothes, a bigger bed, age-suitable toys and books).
- Childcare: For parents who do not have the luxury of being able to stay home with baby, childcare is one of the largest expenses they face. A grandparent or relative considering making a deposit in a 529 or college saver account on an annual basis might also consider if during year one and two, childcare expenses might be even more helpful for new parents. Planning for the future is wonderful, but covering the present can also help reduce emotional and financial stress for mom and dad. Depending on what mom and dad have chosen, you can help cover the expense of daycare, a nanny, babysitters or the increasingly popular services of an au pair (to learn more about au pairs visit www.aupairfoundation.org).
- Understanding: Do not underestimate the gift of understanding. New parents (especially new moms) often feel a little left out of the girl’s nights out, late night get-togethers or non-child friendly functions that some of their friends-without-kids invite them to. The frequent need to decline often makes the invitations come less regularly and before a new mom knows it, she feels a little bit alienated. Try to be understanding and plan some functions that the new parents can join, even if baby is in tow. Make it a point to go by and see them, just to chat and have a glass of wine (or cup of tea/coffee) while baby is sleep. Plan movie nights at THEIR house. Remember that someday it might be you who needs gift of understanding.
Those receiving blankets, onesies, booties, picture frames and rattles are still great and welcome, but if you think out of the box a little you can find many ways to add even more joy to mommy and daddy’s big day.