Gift Ideas for New Baby

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Birth and Shower Gifts  


Gift for family of newly adopted baby?

Feb 2012

Some good friends will soon be traveling to Korea to adopt a one-year-old baby boy. They have been waiting so long for this moment and have been patient through lots of frustrating delays in the process. We would love to get the family a thoughtful homecoming gift--any ideas? Anything useful for the road ahead as they all get to know one another? wanna be a helpful friend

I suppose some people may think this is boring, but I ALWAYS appreciated getting well-made, soft blankets or small quilts for my kids. They are personal, useful, easy to carry, take a long time to ''grow out'' of and keep forever. My kids (now elementary age) have treasured their baby blankets as they've grown up and still ask for them sometimes. I don't think it's possible to have enough! Just don't get anything dry-clean or hand-wash only -- that's the opposite of a gift blanket lover

How about a family photo session? Reenie

When I brought my 1-year-old home from China, I got a family zoo membership (living in Oakland, it was to the Oakland zoo). Being able to get out of the house and go somewhere child friendly whenever we wanted to-- wonderful. We've always renewed it.

That's very sweet of you for thinking of your friends. Why don't you throw them a baby shower (and advise people the child is already a year old)? The best gift you can give is to not treat an adoptive family any differently than you would if the child was born from their bodies. Because in the end, they're not. Every family has their own issues, and theirs will happen to include issues specific to adoption. But the child is their child the same a biological son or daughter.

So, gifts: clothing, toys, books, blankets, gift cards, a supply of diapers, the usual. Check with them to make sure they don't already have 5 boxes of hand-me-downs. Offer to make meals--the first year will be hard, just like any other parents' first year. If you want to honor their homecoming, have some flowers delivered of make special cookies.

Hope that is helpful (but it wasn't really all that special!) L adoptive mom

What a wonderful friend you are! When we adopted our daughter from China, now 6, we really appreciated having people like you in our lives-- that is the first thing.

Couple different thoughts. One, any help with travel logistics is wonderful. For instance, we had a flurry of pre-trip purchasing before we left, and a friend helped us stay sane in the store. Also, we took a van to the airport, and the same friend drove our car to pick us up from the airport-- we were way too tired to drive. Another friend stocked our fridge with favorite prepared foods from Trader Joe's while we were out, and another babyproofed (bolting bookcases to the wall).

One thing is, after all the waiting, it is nice to just feel like a regular new parent. So all the general fuss, doting and gifties, baby shower... all that stuff you were longing for while waiting.

Being tossed in to parent a toddler, parenting advice/help is good. For instance, one of the best books we had was ''What to Expect, the Toddler Years.'' It was good to know what things are ''normal'' as opposed to part of the adoption adjustment. Sleep is also a challenge-- an adopted child takes time to get into a normal sleep cycle after coming home and it is exhausting. The Dr. Weissbluth baby sleep book and the No-Cry Sleep solution were great.

We had friends who also helped baby sit or be a ''mother's helper'' while we caught up on chores. One thing is that some adoptive parents believe in bunkering down with the new child for bonding time without socializing - - so respect that if that is what they want.

There are a ton of great books about adoption for both kids and adults, also Korean/Asian themed books. These days, lots of choice-- those are also nice. East WInd Books is a great local source (

Honestly, the best thing our friends did was to care and to help us feel like a real family after all the waiting. Those relationships have continued to be meaningful to us and our daughter. China Mommy

Baby shower gifts for second child

Sept 2010

I am going to be hosting a baby shower for a friend's second grandchild. Frankly, the mom-to-be already has a lot of baby gear and she and her husband are fairly comfortable. Does anyone have any ideas about how to advise guests about ''gifts'' so that the mom-to-be does not get too many duplicates? Nancy

If the parents/grandparents don't need any baby gear, how about asking guests to bring a wish, poem, quote, advice or other item to be pasted into a scrapbook for the baby-to-be? Make it more of a celebration of the new life than a loot-collecting occasion. Or ask people to bring donations of diapers or other baby items that you could take to Bananas or another organization that helps people in need. Or have an activity at the shower where people each design a quilt square or something that can be assembled for the baby, rather than bringing gifts. I've been to showers where each of these ideas was used, and they were all wonderful. Been There, Done That

I'm so glad you brought this up. I was just invited to a friend's shower for her fourth child. Having bought gift for the previous three children (both a shower gift and then clothing when they were born), I'm feeling a bit curmudgeonly about buying MORE. (And this isn't a particularly close friend, more a business associate.) I'm trying to figure out if it's kosher to give a small piece of clothing and a card saying I'm donating to Partners in Health in honor of her and her child. I feel like this just isn't done -- wrong of me to consider this? Ann

Things like diaper service or a house-cleaner, or someone to deliver home- cooked meals those first weeks are all really useful and helpful gifts that would not duplicate what the first child already has to pass down to the second baby. Also, don't forget to get something for the first child. It's often important so he/she would feel included in welcoming the new baby. paula

It seems like a baby ''shower'' isn't really whats needed in this circumstance. How about a baby ''celebration'' without gifts, or perhaps gifts to donate to more needy families. There are constant solicitations in the BPN Marketplace newsletter from organizations desperately seeking donations of critical baby supplies. You could both celebrate the new arrival and spread the wealth at the same time. Anon

Ask for books! If there are any duplicate books they can to local schools in need. D.C.

I always found that having everyone invited (or who wants to partake) in chipping in for a housekeeper was greatly appreciated! Its a huge help those first 3 months and usually runs about $90 per visit. kelley

Frankly, I question why this shower is happening at all. Unless there's a huge gap between kids, the parents usually have everything they need. I've been to ''showers'' for second babies where we just had tea and wished the mother well. It's nice to acknowledge the exciting new event, but why do gifts? At one shower we each brought a bead to add to a birth bracelet. You could have people bring poems or cards with good wishes. enough stuff already

focus it on the mother then. look up ''blessingway'' info and do that instead of a regular lame baby shower! blonderedbrown

Books are always wonderful gifts. You might suggest a story theme, ''help build baby's library'', for the shower and ask guests to bring a favorite children's book. While there is still the chance of some duplication, it can add a wonderful element to the party. Guests usually have fond memories attached to their particular choice, whether from their own childhood, or from reading it with their children/grandchildren, which you might ask them to share during the gift-giving. Tara


Since it seems as though the couple is pretty set...then one thought would simply be to have a ''money tree'' for the baby-to-be. This way the individuals that are coming will clearly understand that this money is not for the mom, rather directly for the baby (possibly for a new savings account, etc.). If invitations have not been sent out yet, I would definitely add in a little note stating just that, ''Money Tree for Baby - No gifts please.''

And trust will still get people that bring gifts out of formality or just not wanting to comply or what have you...but with that, at least you did your best and had the baby and family's best intentions at hand as the host! Best of luck, Shannon

I'd advise people to either get the mom a nice, thoughtful gift (incl cooked and delivered meals after the baby is born, or volunteering to babysit or do light house cleaning or laundry) or go w/the all perfect gift certificate to Target or Babies-R-Us. I know some people don't like to give a gift certificate, but it really is the best gift when you already have everything you need. Suruchi

I think baby showers for second children are fairly uncommon for the exact reasons you stated. Is the mom-to- be expecting a baby of a different gender than the first? If that's the case, maybe she could register for clothes or other things she would like and you could include a message in the invitation saying ''so-and so is registered (here)'' or ''so-and so is expecting a girl and would like...'' Another option is to have a gift-free baby shower, or request a new or used book for the baby in the invitation instead of a traditional gift. I have attended showers which do all of the above. There are a lot of options. anon

There's a wonderful non-profit organization called Onesie Twosie that's perfect for you. People who want to give a baby shower gift donate the amount they would spend (or any amount) and Onesie Twosie buys new baby stuff for women who can't afford it. Check out the website: Debbie

I used and loved it. You can put in any item that you could use (even non-monetary things like ''please bring us a meal'' or ''help us walk our dog after the baby is born'' etc.) and people can click to give you that gift from your list. I used it b/c we wanted mostly recycled/used items for our baby and it was perfect. Laura

Well there's the obvious registry. Beyond that you could ask about charities she's particularly fond of. I suggested donations in lieu of gifts at my shower. Programs that help children of the less fortunate are some of my favorites... don't need more stuff

Why don't you do a ''build a library'' shower? Mom and baby will get some good books and any ''doubles'' can be donated to a library or children's center. book lover

You've got a lot of options here - just mention something in the invite and people will get it. I recently gave birth to my 2nd and definitely did NOT want any more ''stuff.'' By the 2nd time, you know what you have and what specific things you might need, and if there are any gaps in your baby-gear collection you want to fill them in yourself. Here are some possibilities:
- book shower - have everyone bring a kids' book they like. hard to have too many of those.
- advice shower
- coupon shower - offers to help with babysitting, dinner, etc.
- donations to a children's charity
- diaper shower (make sure to ask for different sizes)
- decorated onesie shower (you buy a bunch of white onesies and the party-goers personalize them w/markers, etc.)
- if they are a crafy/handy group (and you are, too), you could collaborate on a special blanket or cup or other crafty item that you could work on before or during the shower.

If I were the mom, I would just enjoy spending time with my friends and celebrating the new arrival without having to acquire more possessions. Very kind of you to do this for your friend and her grandchild. mom of 2

I was in exactly that position. Our ''mother to be'' didn't really need anything but wanted a party. So, that experience led to our forming a non profit called Onesie Twosie that takes monetary donations, purchases needed items for babies born to families who, for various reasons, cannot buy these necessities themselves. The items are distributed (and requested) by organizations e.g. the Homeless Prenatal Project in SF and the NICU at Oakland Children's Hospital. It worked out really well for my niece, she loved having the party and recieved small gifts and she felt really good about helping other new moms. Check out Onesie Twosie at Good luck. laurie

Second baby gifts are hard! These are the ones I'm giving now:

Baby books/albums. If the parents are likely to put together a baby book or album, there are some beautiful ones out there. Try Rag and Bone bindery online. The only problem is that they tend to be pricey, so they're mostly good for close friends or family.

Kid books. Most of us with kids have an unusual kid book we love that everyone doesn't already have. This is inexpensive and the older sib will probably like it too.

Both of these gifts are easy to order online and ship. Allison

I can't suggest a specific way to do this, but wanted to share with you a great new program that helps provide needed baby items to moms who DON'T have lots that they need - Onesie-Twosie. They encourage those buying shower or baby gifts to also buy something for less fortunate families. Check out R.K.

Gifts for the second child's birth

Sept 2006

I've had 4 friends recently give birth to their second child and I want to acknowledge the birth with something special. I find that they are already up to their ears in clothes, toys, and books from the first kid and really don't want to get anymore ''stuff'' to clutter the house. It doesn't feel right to let the birth go by without an acknowledgement however. For those nearby, we are supporting with help around the house and watching their other kid, so that is something, but would still like a little gift to send along, esp. for those long- distance. Any ideas from those of you with more than one kid? anon

My son loves balloons and when our baby was born that is what we recommended. He gets sheer joy from them, they don't cost much. The mylar ones last for weeks...yet, when they're done, you just toss 'em or you can even save them get them refilled at the grocery store! simple things are the best

What I loved getting were onesies personalized for the baby. Just buy white onesies, some fabric paint and get creative marga

Gift cards are great second baby gifts, especially when the parents don't really need anything new. The parents can then buy something they really need, even if it isn't for the baby. They can get books, boys or clothes for the older child (that the baby will use when it's older) or even use it to purchase the next gift they need to give someone.

Alternatively, buy something for Mom instead of the baby. A friend who knew I had everything I needed for the baby gave me a small necklace for myself. At a time when so much is focused on the kids, and the mother probably doesn't feel her best (having just given birth), it's nice for the mother to get something personal and new just for her.

You might also give the parents a parenting book. I really liked ''Blessings of a Skinned Knee,'' which was a gift from my sister-in-law Susan

I'm getting ready to have my second child and here are my thoughts: My first child was born in the spring and so all of the clothes we have for the first several months are summer clothes. I'm hoping to get some warmer newborn items. Our first is a boy. If the second is a girl, I'm hoping to receive some girl clothes. My diaper bag was a cheap one which is now falling apart and mildewing in some places so I'm asking for a new diaper bag. Diapers or contributions to our diaper service are always welcome. And a delivered meal would be a wonderful gift! anon

I agree that parents don't need more general ''stuff'' for the 2nd, esp. if the 2nd is the same gender as the first. (If not, then a few gender-specific clothes & toys can be nice.) But what the 2nd doesn't get is hardly anything that is unique to them.

Some ideas: a baby book for writing down milestones and special thoughts, special blanket or lovey, photo album or scrapbook (find out which the parents prefer), baby cup or bowl with baby's name on it, something else with baby's name on it like a step stool, coat hook, picture frame, pillow, etc. Also at this time of year, a special Halloween costume for baby (not a hand-me-down from the first child) might be nice. (My 3 year old is happy to wear & play with her sister's hand-me-downs, but she just recently noticed that her big sister has a bowl with her name on it and asked, ''Where's *my* bowl?'' --oops!) --mom of 2

Gift certificates! When I had my second, the only thing I really wanted was gift certificates from Target. Or Any store that sells a variety of useful things and that you can find easily either online or with a car ride. And when I got them, all I bought was diapers, anyway! Jill

I always give something for the first child--usually some sort of toy that will help to occupy them while the parents are busy with the baby! Parent of two

Unique and Witty Baby Shower Gift

Sept 2005

Does anyone have any good ideas for an original and witty baby shower/new mother gift? I'm tired of giving the same old booties and blanket set and want to give something the mother will really get a kick out of. Tired of the same old massage oil kits. In my experience, both parents are a little too exhausted to be romantically massaging each other. Any ideas? Holly

A great shower gift is a set of personalized burp cloths or bodysuits from Retrofit Baby ( I'm completely biased since my husband and I own the company. After searching endlessly for a ducky-free, bunny-free shower gift for my sister-in-law, we decided to just make our own. She and the other women at her shower went absolutely nuts for it so we started a company! No massage oil involved. rachel

I love the items Wry Baby sells. They're available locally (Waddle & Swaddle on Shattuck, for one) and online.


I have made care packages for new parents, putting in the things I found most useful as a new mom, that aren't the typical gifts (a fabric swim diaper, a bottle of Baby Tylenol, a refillable travel pack of wipes, those felt/rubber lap pads, binky-strap-clip things, a small bottle of Purell hand cleaner, etc.)

Each one was wrapped in wrapping paper and then put into a large gift bag. Onto each one, I had taped a note about what it is, how to use it, and why I found it such a great thing to have. Everyone I've given a care package to loved it and had a great time opening all the little things. Happy showering! Heidi

I got a disco ball for my own baby's room before she was born. I hung it in direct sunlight, and for about 2 hours every day the whole room is just magical, awash in dancing lights. My now-four-month-old is fascinated by it. It sure beats a mobile.

I've now given this as a gift to several people, some expecting, some not, and it's a big hit.

You can just hang a disco ball with fishing wire. No need to buy the motor that spins it - just give it a gentle spin yourself and it'll go for hours, winding and unwinding. You can buy a light for it but again, you don't have to.

Just google the net and you can find one. I paid about $40 for mine. Good luck! Kimberly

Give the expectant mom and her partner a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant, with a coupon from you stating that you will babysit the night they go out.

New parents don't always remember that their relationship is the priority, and it must be nurtured. They need encouragement to spend time together as a couple, to have regular dates, as adults, not parents, away from the baby.

The baby will get plenty of gifts from everyone else. If not, there's always the good deals offered on the Marketplace email list. anonymous

Here's what someone did for me, and then I did for another friend: a care package with all the little things you don't know you'll need until you're parenting a newborn. Like: lansinoh nipple cream, hand sanitizer for changing diapers on the go, teething tablets, massage oil for baby, postpartum herbs for mom to soak with, nursing mom's tea, all-natural diaper rash cream, olive oil for removing meconium, gripe water for colic, baby tylenol, disposable nursing pads -- just all the things one might use in the 1st 6 mos of a baby's life. I put it all in a nice basket, with matching tags to indicate what you're supposed to do with each product. You can make those funny. Like, for a nasal aspirator, I wrote ''baby will HATE this.'' I loved the gift when I got it, and I think my friend did too. I agree that it's much more fun and personal than baby booties! newish mom

It's not witty at all, but the most helpful thing I've gotten for either of my babies is PREPARED or EASY TO PREPARE meals. That said, you could give a hand-made gift certificate of a promise to bring dinner over for several nights. If you're not into delivering a meal every other night for the first week or so when the baby comes home, get some made for the couple at Dinner Source in Emeryville. ( You order from a menu online, go in and prep the meals for freezing (they are basically complete) or pay an additional $4/each to have them made for you. You should be able to get about 6 meals for $100 or so. Split it with friends if it's too expensive. - For new babies, FOOD IS THE TICKET!

What I like giving/receiving is the gift that is really practical - maybe even verging on ''boring.''

Food - Gift certificates to Trader Joe's or nice but cheap restaurants that do take-out. Easy ''whole meal'' basket - e.g. pasta, sauce, cheese, fruit, crackers. Or a basket of healthy snacks for mom. Child safety stuff - outlet plugs, cabinet locks, good quality thermometer etc.

Things That Will Get Lost So It's Nice to Have a Back Up - teething toys, nail clippers, socks, small toys, hats, bibs.

Books - For the child - no such thing as too many for any age. For the parent - a really good, no nonense medical reference guide for when the child has that scary cough and high fever at 3 a.m. or what really is the best way to remove a splinter (And easy to read for both the sitter and the grandparents). Practical Mom

You can get them a baby light switch cover. That's defintely something different. Look at & put in their search box baby light switch cover & you will see all kinds of different designs. Good Luck! Shelly

You could get some fabric paints and decorate some onesies. You don't have to be very artistic and can get as witty and whimisical as you like. Ideas: polka-dots or swirly designs; ''IN'' with arrow pointing to the head, ''OUT'' with arrow pointing to the bottom; ''Got Milk?''; ... you get the idea. I also recommend giving different sizes, like 2 three month, 2 six month and 2 nine month, so your gift lasts longer. Trish

Baby gift you can't find in France

August 2005

Dear French mums of the bay area, my dear dear friend who is french and lives in Paris is expecting twin girls due in November. I am going to visit her this fall and I'd like to put together a gift basket. I am particularly interesed in getting useful baby stuff that you can't find over there. Any suggestions? Please email me your response as well as posting it, so I am sure to read it Merci! barbara

We spent last summer in France while I was pregnant so I think I might have a few ideas. First of all, the fashion there is so different ($$$ expectations) that I would not want to get any clothes. I'd say that it is the products and the great word-of-mouth things that would make a special gift. For example, BabyWise is a book that is highly recommended for recommendations on sleep. The Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder that cost $2.50 is a great find. Also, the Lanolin nipple creme or Boudreaux's Butt Paste that you can get at Elephant Pharmacy. What worked great for our babe was this heartbear, that made the sound of a heartbeat. We got this as a gift for new parents and they found it a big sleep saver for themselves. Lastly, a CD of either white noise for sleep or nursery songs would be fun. I bet Baby Einstein is not as popular there either. Good luck! ellen

Gift for mom of Triplets

April 2003

Our nice next door neighbor is due with unexpected triplets, two boys and a girl. She's gone through the baby shower ( babies shower?) with close friends and family, but I'd like to offer a small thoughtful gift because I know it will be difficult. She already has a 3 year old. I'd appreciate any ideas for something not usually thought of, but useful considering the multiple birth. We've been brainstorming, thinking about frozen meals and things to make her life easier, but haven't come up with anything we like as yet. Thank you, Loni

How about the gift of taking her 3 year old out for the day for some special one-on-one fun time. I am sure that the older child will also be overwhelmed by the triplets (yikes!) and might feel lost in the shuffle and that the mom might feel guilty about not giving him/her much time and attention. Giving the older child a break/fun/attention might be a welcome gift for both mom and child. MK

Checked in with my good friend in Connecticut who is the mom of three 20 month old triplets. Here are her recommendations for the mom-to-be:

''Coupon for baby sitting so the mom to be can go to lunch! Couple this with the book ''little miracles'' compiled by Dan Zadra with Katie Lambert. The other thing is a small refrigerator which I suspect is not too expensive. This way you can make bottles in mass.'' grazziela

You are on the right track trying to think of ideas to make her life easier. The absolute best gift to give a mom of multiples is HELP in any form. Because it can be hard to take somebody up on a vague offer (''let us know if you'd like some help'') the best is to make a concrete specific offer which you initiate following through on. Help is most likely to be offered early on (particularly with visiting relatives or hired help for the first week/s), but disapear after that. You may want to check this out with the family when scheduling the help you choose to offer.

Food is one good idea--for a variation on the concept of bringing over a frozen dish , you may want to consider picking a mutually agreeable night of the week and offering to make dinner for example every Monday for the first month (or 2 or 3...) of the babies' lives. It's great for the parents to have meals taken care of in a way they don't have to think about or plan for. This method means no defrosting, no concerns about having enough freezer space, and can feel more personal. Dinner could take the form of either a drop-off or of a visit where you hold a baby or two during the meal.

If cooking is not your thing, but you'd like to help them out with meals, another option is a gift certificate to Home on The Range--they deliver ''home-cooked'' meals in the bay area. With a gift certificate, your neighbor could just call them and order from them whatever day is convenient for her. They have monthly menu with a few selections for each day.

Another thing we found extremely helpful, was somebody who volunteered to pick up groceries for us once a week for a month. Our friends picked the day and time; we emailed our shopping list, and they picked up stuff for us while they did their own shopping as well. We got a brief visit when they came by, and it was wonderful not to have to take the time to do the shopping trip ourselves (we of course wrote a check to cover the cost each week).

Her three-year-old is probably going to need some extra attention since the triplets will surely take a lot of time. Maybe you could offer to take the three-year-old on some little outings so s/he could feel special, or your family could offer to watch the triplets for a few hours to give the parents time to spend with their three year old. If you really want to be generous, you could even offer to do it on a regular basis (once a week for a month or once a month for a year?).

When trying to think of other types of help that might be appreciated, consider that multiples means--lots of diapers, lots of dishes (and possibly bottles & formula), lots of laundry, lots of cleaning and little time for anything else. Anything you do to help along any of those lines is sure to be greatly appreciated!!

What's the One ''Must Have'' Item?

Dec 2003

I'm going to be a new, single, first time mom in March and I couldn't be more excited! My friends are already asking what's on the new baby wish list. Well I started looking at the tons of items available on the different registries and I got a little overwhelmed.

So figured, who better to ask than all the people on the Parents Network. If you could pick one item that you absolutely couldn't do without during pregnancy, at childbirth and as a new parent, what would it be? (Well, in all fairness, it could be 3 separate items since all three scenarios are different.)

Look forward to hearing your responses!! Michelle

1. Baby Bjorn -- Having you hand free lets you accomplish everyday activities like eating.

2. Fisher Price Cradle Swing -- It soothes the fussy baby.

3. Medela Seemless Nursing Bra -- A nursing bra the looks and feels like a real bra. Adriane

Congratulations - If I could do it over again, I'd have to say a must have item is not an item at all - Ask for help! Babysitting so you can sleep or get out of the house, a housecleaner, or even some home-made meals. Outside of the basics (like a stroller, crib, diapers, bottles) all the baby stuff turns out to really be unnecessary. Allison

during pregnancy: massage from someone experienced in working on pregnant women

at birth: if you will be in a hospital, it's nice to have a couple of friends prepared to redecorate the room. My friends did this for me using fabric, art prints, statues, flowers, and music. It changed everything--no longer a clinical experience. At home or in the hospital, the presence of a doula makes a big difference.

with baby: baby sling and nursing pillow. Or...a postpartum doula for a few weeks would be very nice--someone to come in and help with the baby, food, the house--as you will be tired. Ann

Wow, wouldn't it be nice if there really was one thing that made it all easier? If I can only pick one, the answer has to be ''help.'' From my husband, my neighbors, my family, the cleaning service, our doula, my mom's group, etc. Get it; you'll need it.

But, perhaps more in the spirit of your question: I found a sling indispensible during the newborn period especially. Some parents and babies prefer a Bjorn, but the point is that a way to carry a baby who can't be put down while also fulfilling your need for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or to use the bathroom, etc. is very important. This is also where help comes in, if you have friends from whom you can borrow these items to experiment with what works for you and baby.

During labor, we had assembled quite a number of supposed labor aides, and none of them mattered a bit; for me, in labor, help really was the only must-have item. I highly highly highly recommend using a doula.

Indispensible for pregnancy? LOL, has to have been Tums for me.

Congratulations on your pregnancy! another new mama

A Baby Bjorn...keep your hands free while carrying (and snuggling with) your baby everywhere (on the train, while mopping the floor, on a hike, etc). These are great for the first year. Jan

I have a couple things I can't imagine getting by without - for the labor and delivery of my baby we hired a doula to coach me. She was great. A little expensive if you're strapped for cash but you can get a doula free or cheap with less experience. Any way you do it. I'd highly recommend having one. mine was Judy Ballinger aksharadoula AT

post delivery my cousin arranged for all family and friends who were interested to bring meals. she scheduled 3 or 4 a week and we were getting meals well into the second month - it was a god send! I've also heard of people asking for time rather than gifts. as a single parent that could be especially useful. time to hold the baby while you do other things or just take a break.

ok last thing, the one actual item we've used more than anything else is our baby carrier. we have a Bjorn but slings can be just as good once you get used to them and they can be used for longer because they are more versatile as the baby gets older. Ilona

Congratulations on your pregnancy!

My baby was high-need and had a challenging temperament from the beginning. He screamed at the top of his lungs every time he was not in my arms,for instance when I changed his diapers (which is about a dozen times a day at the beginning!). What saved my sanity during diaper changes was the black and white mobile (you can find it at any baby store such as Baby World, not at big chain stores.) The store clerks will know immediately what you are talking about. It has geometrical figures and it looks very simple, but it's absolutely mesmerizing for babies for the first 4 to 6 months. My son stopped crying as soon as I hanged this simple mobile above his changing table. It was like magic.

The baby bjorn, once he could look outside (when he could hold his head up) was another life-saver, since he also screamed whenever I tried to go outdoors with him in the stroller. He did not like being in the Baby Bjorn for the first couple of months,when looking towards my chest.

In terms of you post-partum period, getting outside help for meals and house-cleaning is the best gift you can give to yourself. If you can't afford paying for it, ask your closest friends/family to cook double batches whenever they can and bring you half of what they cook to freeze when they visit you. Or you can ask for payed cleaning services as gifts from a few close people (instead of getting 10 receiving blankets or sheets when you only need a few). I did not have any of this and I certainly felt it in exhaustion and depression as the days went by. Good luck! Anon

It's more than one:

Brest friend breast feeding pillow. way better than the boppy.

Carrying systems: sling, bjorn or snuggli (snuggli is better when they are older, more support) and stroller you can take a decent walk with. I used all three, and later the back pack.

Friends to bring you meals on preappointed days. Your shower organizer can coordinate this.

newborn sacks (leg free infant wear, for speedy changes w/o sleepless fumbling)

soothies (pads for nipple soreness)

lansinol (for soreness too)

happy I had these!

For pregnancy it would be Shiva Rae's Yoga Workout tape For birth it would be a birth ball, a doula and a warm shower For the newborn it would be a New Native Sling My Must Haves

That's easy! A sling! A New Native sling, in which baby sort of crumples up in the pocket and falls happily asleep next to you as if still in utero. You just carry him around all day, and everybody is happy. You can use it for probably two years, too, if you learn how to sling a growing baby/toddler.

And though you didn't ask, thought I'd go ahead and tell you that the one toy you can't live without when baby's about 18 months or so: Legos. My seven year old STILL spends hours with her Legos. The three year old loves them as well. Good luck, Mamma! SlingMama

Must haves for us: ''Buzzy chair'' - the reclining chair thing that can vibrate, and a baby swing. Katia

If your infant likes it (and here is the problem -- some do, some don't), a baby swing is really wonderful. For the first five or six months of my son's life, it allowed my husband and me to both eat dinner at the same time, rather than in shifts with one of us holding the baby. I didn't leave my son in it for huge amounts of time, but it did allow me to have my hands free for 10 or 15 minutes when I really needed it. Karen

Congrats! If you're an active person and would like to stay so during your pregnancy, I highly recommend a ''belly belt,'' which is basically a big velcro and elastic belt that goes around your belly just below where your tummy will be sticking out. It provides great support for your lower back and protruding tummy, especially later in the pregnancy, and allowed me to continue power walking until basically up to the day I delivered. I bought mine at a maternity store for about $20, I think, but I'm sure you can find one through the BPN used.

For childbirth, if you're having a c-section, the best gift you could have is to make sure that the bed you'll be staying in for several days while you recover has a ''pull-up'' bar to help you get yourself out of bed without using your abdominal muscles. My bed did not and I sure wish I'd thought to ask for one in advance.

For a newborn baby, get a ''bouncy seat'' with toys and vibrating action like a ''Kick & Play'' or similar. Babies love it right from the start so that they can see everything, and it's a safe place to strap him or her so that you can do important things like go to the bathroom or take a shower. The baby will be able to use it until age 6-7 months, probably, so you'll get lots of use out of it. Also a great thing to take along if you're travelling anywhere.

Good luck!

A sling and directions how to use it. Infant Tylenol and a thermometer. A snap-n-go stroller and infant car seat to start. An umbrella type stroller (Kolcrafts are good and cheap) for later and a Britax Roundabout car seat for later. A baby monitor. A pack-n-play. A nursing stool. Books: Marc Weissbluth's ''Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child'' E. Pantley's ''No-Cry Sleep Solution'' H. Karp ''Happiest Baby on the Block'' An Avent Isis Breast Pump and An Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. A good nursing chair and pillow.
Good luck and enjoy! katwoman

Remembering back to both my kids, the thing that got the most use of all was the Baby Bjorn. I guess any comfortable sling or carrier that frees your hands while you carry the baby would fulfill the same crucial function. Second up (and it lasted longer) was the stroller... but the expensive Aprica was a real pain. The simple, light, foldable umbrella stroller was key. LA

A good quality glider-rocker fits the bill, though it's a high- priced item so a bunch of friends would probably need to pitch in. Dutalier is the most popular brand. It was the only chair I could sit in while I was pregnant, the best for nursing a small baby, wonderful for reading to a toddler, and now good for snuggling with a preschooler.

For smaller items I couldn't do without: a body pillow during pregnancy and a Baby Bjorn and vibrating bouncy seat for infancy. Lauren

During pregnancy, my must-have item was a nearby restroom :) Right after our buddy was born (and I mean the day after) I realized that we had forgotten one item that I simply could not do without: a nursing chair. I had to send my husband out in the dark and the rain across town to snag one before the store closed. By ''nursing chair'' I don't mean a special chair designed for nursing, but just a rocking or comfortable chair that is built so that you can rest your arms on its arms while you feed the baby. I tried nursing on our bed lying down (many women do this successfully) and found that I couldn't quite manage. I think I was afraid of crushing the little mite\xc2\x82. And during the day it makes sense to have such a chair. Ours was a glider, rather inexpensive, and a godsend. My husband liked sitting in it so much I had to kick him out numerous times to nurse, and so we got a second one! Finally, once our son was a bit older I felt that I absolutely had to have an electric swing for him so that I could cook dinner, clean the kitchen, or anything else that was impeded by having to hold a squirming child in my arms. But alas I must tell you that he didn't like the swing. It happens. So I put him in his car seat on the kitchen table and cranked up the radio. That kept him happy for limited amounts of time. Best of luck to you and your baby! rocking mama

I had a top 10, not a top 1 :-) for the first month after my daugther was born last year, in a rough semblance of order:

  1. Glider Rocker (can be expensive, but soooo worth it. I spent, and still spend, hours in that chair)
  2. Baby Emery Boards (you will NOT want to go anywhere near those tiny fingers with clippers for at least a month)
  3. Baby Bjorn (I know some folks swear by slings, but they were only a source of frustration for me)
  4. Fisher Price Kick & Play Bouncy seat (I only name the brand and type because we had several and none came close to that one)
  5. The unfortunately named My Brest Friend nursing pillow (we also had two Boppys -- worthless)
  6. Bassinet on wheels (ours also doubled as a moses basket -- she slept in that thing for the first 2 months, everywhere around the house)
  7.  PJs and clothing that snaps or zips ALL THE WAY from neck to toes. (Gap and Carters were almost the only ones who had this very, very important feature)
  8. SIDE-snap t-shirts (so you don't have to pull them over baby's head -- you wont break it's neck, but you will feel like you might. Terrifying for a new parent!)
  9. The Pampers wipes in the pop-up tub (if you are using disposable wipes). All the others were incredibly frustrating to get out of the box/container/package for my inexperienced fingers.
  10. Lots and lots and lots of urp cloths (we used cloth diapers for those).

Congrats on your new adventure! Lisa

Congratulations! Pregnancy, childbirth and life with a newborn are exciting, and tiring. The one thing I could not have done without is some help around the house and some companionship. At this stage I think babies do best with happy, healthy, rested moms, not with specific products. After a month or two, you will need something to keep your hands free and baby occupied, like a sling, excersaucer, swing or bouncy seat. But borrow these before buying, because different babies like different things. Good Luck. LC

Pregnancy: A body pillow. Childbirth: I had a c-section, so didn't have to go through labor. What I really appreciated afterwards was a small portable fan. I was really, really hot in the room and that fan saved me.

New Parent: There are tons of things that I found necessary, but other than my breast pump (my preemie wasn't able to breastfeed), none essential. Beyond diapers at the beginning the one thing I needed the most were onesies for the baby (helped keep up the diapers) and blankets for swadling her. But later on many things proved very important: the vibrating bassinet, when the baby wouldn't calm down any other way, a rocker, when she had to be rocked to sleep,the stroller, etc. etc. anon

Congrats! Here is my two cents (three kids under my belt...):

1. Pregnancy: Underwear that fits and a jog bra

2. Birth: Over-rated! The only thing you ''need'' is to have someone help you remember what to do in order to ease your pain/transitions. My sister had this whole fantasy created, where she wanted to listen to classical music and drink champaigne.... When it came right down to it, none of that mattered. We did have my father take B and Color photos before and after the birth, and I really love those.

3. Babyhood: A Snap and Go (the car seat snaps into the stroller base). I like the Graco Brand they sell at Rockridge Kids the best. A vibrating bouncy seat (our babies loved to sleep in there, when they would not sleep anywhere else) and a water bottle with a straw, for me to drink water out of while I nursed. Have a Great Time!

A Baby Bjorn. Don't skimp, and get the cheaper versions...this is a must have. Melissa

I had a very hard time nursing my first baby. Positioning her was so difficult and the one thing that saved us was the Brest Friend nursing pillow. It's firm (unlike the Boppy which is so...floppy) and you can even velcro it around your waist to really anchor it in place.

I always can't imagine a newly-babied universe without some sort of baby carrier. Early on (the first month) a sling is fantastic, but after a month the Baby Bjorn is so handy (I almost cried when my wee ones got too heavy for it.).

Other stuff is nice and handy and helpful, but I wouldn't call a changing table a ''must have'' item. I would not have made it, or so it seems, without a nursing pillow and a baby carrier. Um, I guess I would call an infant seat a must have item, but...well, you know that. mg

Baby Bjorn!! Rhea

you're due in March? well, if you haven't already started (i hope you have) a childbirth class/regimen, you might consider the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirt (husband coached!). it is an amazing way to prepare for your first experience, and even if you don't enroll in the classes, the *book* may give you invaluable information about how to prepare! my wife and i found ''The Baby Book'' by Sears and Sears undeniably the most important book we had *after* our son was born...

those, along with ''The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know About Nursing Your Child from Birth Through Weaning'' by Martha Sears, RN and William Sears, MD, are the three *must have* itemsi would suggest! ricky

Diaper service. That's what I told people when they asked what I wanted as a wedding present (yes, it was a shotgun wedding). We used Tiny Tots, and found them quite congenial. Mom

Hi - your question is so fun I just had to answer. You split this into three categories so I'll answer that way: What you must have for:

1) pregnancy - a really high-quality expensive pair of shoes that will not make you feel fat, ugly or matronly, but will provide your feet with a little room to grow and swell. Mine were low kitten-heeled Mary Janes that were/are so cute, only I knew were comfortable.

2) childbirth - you need the perspective that given 9 months of pregnancy and 18+ years of parenthood, this is only a few hours of your life. That and the $300 extra it will cost for a private room, and you're set. Try not to obsess.

3) parenthood - for the new baby days, a good comfortable chair you don't mind spending serveral hours a day in. It doesn't need to be a glider - I liked my overstuffed armchair & ottoman. If you need to recommend something smaller that your friends can afford to buy you, I would ask for gift certificates for cleaning or cooking services. The rest (newborn clothing, toys, gadgets) you will get by the truckload anyway.

Best of luck!!! mom of three (with cute shoes)

The first three items that come to mind are: 1) Nursing Bib: I don't know where this was purchased, it was given to me as a hand-me-down, but it was priceless! It was a big blue cotton bib that snapped around my neck with mesh at the top so you could see through and inside to help baby latch on, adjust, etc. and pockets at the bottom (think an apron, only around your neck). For nursing at times during church, in crowded restaurants, etc., it was definitely a life saver. Worked much better than blankets or scarves because it didn't slip off or make baby too hot, and I could see through when I needed to. (Came with matching burp cloth and pillow).

2) Boppy Pillow: Great to put baby on while nursing sitting down in chairs or in bed. You can purchase, separately, a removable cover that zips off for easy cleaning. Also wonderful to lay baby on with gym swinging overhead to play with and entertain. You can actually buy boppies that convert to gyms - I highly recommend that one!

3) Zooper ''Z-street'' Stroller: We've turned so many of our friends on to this lightweight, manuverable, good looking stroller. It comes in a variety of colors. Allows for most car seats to fasten in safely/easily, and it very quickly/painlessly folds up into the size of an umbrella stroller! It has been the only stroller we've needed because when our baby was new he'd be in the car seat, and as he grows, the stroller grows with him. Like most newer car seats, it has a five point harness belt that keeps our little tiger safely secured, especially when he doesn't want to be! It also comes with a sunscreen and rainscreen. The top shade has a window to allow for peeking. Only thing I don't like is how the seat adjusts back (you'll see what I'm talking about if you check one out)and like most smaller-type strollers, the handle doesn't switch from one side to the other (to keep baby out of sun) - but not enough to regret buying it (for less than $200, 1.5 years ago.) Good luck! sepee

A changing table.

Every time I travel and there isn't one around, I'm always glad to get home to mine. Makes it much easier to restrain a squirmy toddler during a diaper change. anon

I'll answer the ''during childbirth'' portion of the question. I have two: a mirror and, if you're giving birth in the summer, a fan.

Tall mirrors on wheels are available at Alta Bates, but not everyone knows that (the nurses won't necessarily ask you if you want it). I love that I got to see my babies come out--we had a camera but ended up not really using it, in all the excitement.

Fans are not readily available at the hospital. My first was born in VERY hot weather, so I brought one with me and everybody (doctors, nurses) commented on how much they appreciated it too! (One of the doctors said my room was the most comfortable in the building.) The problem is that many of the windows don't open, so this really was vital to my comfort. Violet

I'm expecting my second in January (the first is only 16 months) so I should know the answer to this but when I think about all the products available it's hard to pick one. There are the bouncy seats, the baby gyms, the swings, and the slings, all of which are indispensable a little later on (except for the sling which is useful right away).

For your childbirth I would strongly recommend a doula. Your girlfriends won\xc2\x92t be able to wrap one up for your shower but they can contribute to the cost. Others may have another opinion but even if you have a very strong companion for your birth I have found that a doula is worth her weight in gold.

If I had to pick something for the first few months after childbirth I would have to say lots of swaddling blankets, lots of onsies, lots of one piece 'jammies (the basics), of course the car seat (the one with the zig zag handle) and the stroller, and someone to help you. Maybe your friends could take turns coming over to help you cook or clean or run errands during the first month or two so that you have more time with the baby.

Now that I\xc2\x92ve said all this I do think a good nursing pillow, if you will be breastfeeding, is a necessity. I know many like the Boppy but I preferred the My Breast Friend. Its more stable, stays in place if you have to stand up, and is more comfortable for me than the Boppy. Don\xc2\x92t buy it new \xad you can get it for 40 - 50% less at a used store like Darla\xc2\x92s in El Cerrito, Bearly Worn in Walnut Creek, Play it Again in San Rafael, etc\xc2\x85

Forget the overpriced cute outfits, the stuffed animals, the wipe warmers, and the hooded towels, etc\xc2\x85 You can get that stuff later if you want it at a used store at a fraction of the price. You can also get those cute overpriced crib sets (bumper, sheets, cribskirt, etc...) at the used stores. I know this doesn\xc2\x92t answer your exact question (The ONE must have item) but it's what comes to mind. S.W.

Congrats Michelle! Guess what? I know the one perfect item and it really is ONE perfect item for all three scenarios. I could not and will not live without my snoogle. It's a full-body pillow that has a funky little curve in it. cut and paste the following to see it!

I could not survived those 8 long months (my guy came a little early!) of pregnancy without it. It's also great now to prop him up as he's learning to sit all by himself! (*sigh*...he's growing up so fast!) I also used it those first few weeks as a breastfeeding pillow when it was still kinda akward. (but then I got my boppy...another ''must-have'').

Good luck and happy sleeping. Get it all in now, because you're not gonna get much later! snoogle-mama

If you\xc2\x92re planning to breastfeed the one item that I very highly recommend is a \xc2\x93My Breast Friend\xc2\x94 nursing pad. Recent new mom

During pregnancy: a long maternity pillow to sleep with

During childbirth: a DOULA--I cannot imagine my labor without one. Our Doula was Joan Taylor (510) 482 8927, and she was fantastic.

As a new parent: a sleep sack, a ''My Brest Friend'' nursing pillow by Zenoff (way way better than a Boppy), a gymini, a bouncy chair and a portable/travel swing (you can get it at Target -- it folds down for easy travel, but is a great swing with lights and music -- our baby loved it, and we were able to take him all sorts of places in it). If you have those five things you can survive through 8 mos easy.

Also, you should totally take advantage of the used baby clothing stores on College Avenue (Lora's Closet and the other one, name escaping me, across the street from the Cotton Company near Rockridge Bart). They have fantastic clothes, but also all the other items you need too. I regret buying everything new -- total waste of money! Good luck with your new baby!

I didn't see the original post, so I don't know the exact question you asked. But, on others' lists of ''must-haves'', I didn't see the one and only item that my son loved as a newborn that he still loves now at 18 months. That's his Fisher- Price ''Ocean Wonders Aquarium''. This is a crib toy that looks (sort of) like an aquarium, complete with plastic fish that gyrate, and bubbles, lights and music when you turn it on (instead of music, you can set it to bubble sounds). My son was fascinated by the lights at 6 weeks of age -- he often stared at it until he dropped off to sleep. At 18 months, when he wakes up in the morning he now turns it on himself, and there's little buttons he can push to make some of the critters move. This often keeps him amused for a good 10-15 minutes after he wakes up, allowing me to stay in bed a little longer -- and as far as I'm concerned, a few extra minutes of sleep is a priceless commondity for any mom! Good luck with the baby-to- be! Diane

Without question a ''birth ball'' (10 mos. later, i'm still bouncing the baby to sleep on it), a baby bjorn and a bouncy seat -- for the five minutes at a time that the baby is not in the bjorn! Congratulations! anon

Love your question! Things are always more clear in hindsight - i was so overwhelmed when i was pregnant and trying to figure out what i really needed!

Pregnancy: Good moisturizing cleanser - i like the Shi Kai body cleanser you can get at trader joe's or berkeley bowl - it made a huge difference for me - couple that w/ a pleasant sugar scrub - i like the tangerine from trader joe's - and a huge percentage of your stretch marks will disappear!

Just post Birth: the # of a lactation consultant if you are breastfeeding - if you are in berkeley find the # of the city lac consultant that will come for free! I know several first time mommies that had a hard time the first few weeks and didn't think they would need a lac consultant (including me) and wouldn't have gotten through without them.

First 6 months: Fisher price rocking chair - it will last longer than a bouncy chair because your toddler can use it!

Good luck! What you will really need the most is a lot of patience and belief that you are doing a great job as a new mom! anon

Unless I missed it, I'm surprised no one mentioned a good mini- tub for the bath. In the early days (and even beyond), bathing can be such a stressful activity, especially if you're doing it on your own. I can't imagine living without our Evenflo tub, which came with a detachable canopy (like a hammock) that we used until our son was big enough for the mini-tub itself. It really took all the panic out of bathtime. Good luck! Laura

MayaWrap at My child is now almost ten months and twenty-one pounds and i still use it to take the weight off my arms. Has convenient large pocket for the liitle things you need to carry. It has been indispensable for car errands and public transportation -- not a hiking item. liz

Jolly Jumper...both of my daughters could jump for hours

Circle's great to have a safe place to put them down for a moment. We've got a lot more use out of this than I thought...My three year old still climbs into it to play.

Baby Bjorn

Good stroller....check out the MacClaren. They are worth every penny. We went the cheaper route and it broke. The only friends I know who still use their original stroller are those who invested in a MacClaren

Lansinoh cream for nipples, and use it before you start to hurt. Otherwise, you'll need your breathing exercises for breastfeeding! Sandra

American present for new family in Hong Kong

November 2001

My brother and his wife are about to have a new baby in Hong Kong. I'd like to send them a gift that would be useful, and perhaps difficult to get in there. Does anyone have any sense of an American item that would be useful and harder or more expensive to get there? Thanks.

Have you seen the Birthday Cakes that FTD Florists make up? All the ingredients are things for the baby made up to look like a birthday cake. Or throw a shower for them with your friends and then send everything over. Hong Kong pretty much has everything we have so it would be difficult to find something unique unless you want to go the antique route (early american cradle or crib). I don't suppose they have too many of those around there. marianne

When I had my baby in Hong Kong my friends and family in the States sent lots of clothes....probably because they are light and easy to send. However, it was like sending coal to Newcastle....since HK makes a lot of baby clothes. What I appreciated most were parenting magazines, books for me (What to expect in the first year, travelling with children, etc.), books for the baby, music - especially a tape of lullabyes, the black and white infant toys- expensive in HK, the baby bjorn backpack - also very expensive in HK- but available, a cheap nightlight that can stick to the wall (with batteries). You also might wait until after the baby is born to find out what they need. US medicines - baby tylenol, etc. are expensive there and a medicine kit for baby would be a great gift. As would some bathing products that are natural - try the Real Goods store next to Smith Hawkins. HK is very dirty and something 100% cotton, cuddly, or just non-toxic is great. Good luck! Amelia

It's pretty easy to get mainstream baby stuff in Hong Kong, so you might want to go alternative (Berkeley) stuff. We had lots of success with a boppy nursing pillow, Sear's Baby Book, and natural baby wash stuff. My sister sent Tucks Pads and Lasinoh, neither of which are readily available there.

What was your best baby shower gift for under $20?

What was your favorite baby-shower gift for $20 or less; and where can you get one?

I got a ton of great gifts, but the best thing is what I bought for us afterward (and what I now buy for new parents): a set of burp cloths. With our 5-month-old, our motto is you never can have enough burp bloths. You can buy a set of really good ones on Baby Center ( It sounds really dull, and it won't get the ooohs and ahs at the party. But later your friends will thank you and remember you. And the burp cloths will still be in use long after Baby has outgrown the clothes.

my favorite gift for under $20 are packages of flannel receiving blankets from Target. I used them all the time for my newborn, and they made great (heavyduty) spit-up cloths too.

favorite baby shower gift for $20.00 or less:
1) diaper covers
try barefoot baby catalog or biobottoms catalog for really nice ones
2) gift certificate to a used baby clothing store

Baby gifts: My two best baby gifts were: a very large, colorful, translucent scarf. This was actually the wrapping for a tiny pair of booties which my son never wore. But I got more use out of that scarf that you would believe. I used it to shield me when we were breastfeeding in public, as a blanket, as an emergency changing or napping surface, to carry things in, to play peek-a-boo with, the list goes on an on. I'd bet this tie-dyed scarf was bought on Telegraph ave. for under $10 (admittedly, 11 years ago). Second was a gift from my sister of baby tylenol, pedialyte drink, and various things of that nature such as a dropper, and medicine measuring spoon. It's just the kind of thing that one, in the happy euphoria of having a baby, doesn't think of needing, and just the kind of thing you will need some morning at 2 am. Perhaps this last present is best coming from a close friend or relative, though.

I felt we got the most use out of bath toys. Two, three years later, we were still playing with bath toys we got as a baby gift. Another gift that was billed to me as guaranteed to put your baby to sleep was a Lullaby Light Show. It's a wind up musical light. I've seen them at Toys R Us. We didn't really use it until our son was closer to one year old, but then it became part of our bedtime routine until he was about 3.

After my baby was born, my view of shower gifts changed quite a bit. I had always gone for cuteness when giving baby shower gifts, but after my daughter arrived, I found myself returning gifts we'd received. I exchanged several adorable but impractical outfits from BabyGap and gave away a number of gadgets that went unused, and I decided then that when my next pregnant friend had her shower, I was going to do something based on actual, real maternal experience. So I put together an assortment of little things that had each turned out to be perfect for their purposes -- the perfect teething ring, for example, was one that could be frozen but that had a small nonfreezing handle so the baby wouldn't have to grip ice. The perfect carseat toy was three plastic fish that hooked together and hung from the carseat handle. (They could be unobtrusively nudged to one end of the handle when not in use.) The perfect burp cloths were a dozen cloth diapers. The perfect newborn t-shirt was the type that snapped or tied on one side instead of directly over the umbilical cord. And the perfect baby toy (which was also good for a knowing laugh from the experienced moms when it was opened) was an empty paper towel roll. I popped in a board book because I always like to give kids books, and I wrapped each item individually and then placed them all in a cute gift bag. I've given these bags to perhaps half a dozen expectant parents now -- they're always a source of fun and, well, people seem to appreciate them. This is a gift that can be tailored to any budget -- how thoughtful the choice of items is will make or break the gift's real value.

A gift of a full dinner to be delivered on a evening sometime (first week or two) after baby is born. I got both the take-out pizza and chinese on paper plate variety as well as the full home cooked chicken dinner with homemade apple pie on nice dishes variety. Both types were wonderful. The meals were delivered on a previously agreed upon evening and then the generous givers promptly left us to ourselves. In the case of the chicken dinner, the whole meal was delivered in an ice chest with instructions to return dishes to chest UNWASHED for pick up the next day. A coupon from a local restaurant that delivers would be good too. Although I didn't fully appreciate these gifts until after the birth of my daughter, these were by far the best!

I generally give a toiletries kit: For about $20 you can get the teeny finger nail clippers, shampoo, cheap washcloths, mild soap, A, tylenol, a little tiny hairbrush. I expand the gift for closer friends to include a cute hooded towel, a bathtub and some tub toys.

The best shower gift I got was a sort of receiving blanket with feet. I know you said under $20 and this is about $40 but go in on it with someone because it's truly great! Imagine a five-point star. The baby's head goes at the top point, the two side points fold across her/his body, and the little feet go in pockets at the two bottom points. It's perfect because it doesn't get all bunched up in the car seat and baby bjorn-type things since it sort of has legs. Hard to explain, but go look at them at Rockridge Kids. The one I got was long-john fabric but I've seen them in flannel too. Oh, and it comes with a little cap too.

Hadley The Fisher Price Soothing Sounds Aquarium! But I think it is $25. It is my son't favorite thing and I think he will love it for years to come. Available at Toys R US. Fisher Price Soothing VIBRATING (this is key) bouncer about $25. Available at Toys R US. Sassy makes a fish shaped rattle available only at Target it seems, and that is far and away my sons favorite toy. Probably around $4 Mustella makes a great starter kit of their soaps and it is about $20. Available at Rockridge Kids. This was a great gift.

a very high quality set of childrens nail scissors. Great for when the baby is small, and i *still* use them on my 10 and 6 year old.

I have to say that the ONLY shower gift that I am still using is my Diaper Genie. I LOVE IT. I have a very sensitive sense of smell and often gag while changing poopy diapers. I would not be able to live in our house if they were not sealed up in the diaper genie. (I remember baby sitting in houses that reeked of diaper pail. I could smell it as soon as I crossed the threshold.) I know that this is not a very Berkeley type gift, but I highly recommend it.

The gift I give at baby showers is homemade receiving blankets. The moms just nod and say thanks at first, but a couple of months down the road they are very grateful, raving about them. In case you haven't noticed in the stores most commercial receiving blankets are small rectangles of cloth... 30'x36' or 36'x40'. These are usually 100% cotton and shrink up so that they are much smaller and often no longer rectangular. They make swaddling difficult, are thin, and get ratty looking very fast. Instead, I buy 100% cotton flannel and make square receiving blankets. (2 pieces of flannel sewn right sides together, then turned right sides out, and sew around the edge with a blanket stitch to finish. I usually pick one print for the top and then a solid in a complementary color for the back.) The first ones that I made were 36'x36' but as I started making more I began making them about 40'x40' (have them cut 1 1/4 yds of each fabric to do this) just to waste less fabric. These swaddle a little more bulky, but most parents I know give up on swaddling after the first two weeks... and use receiving blankets as regular blankets after that anyway. Because they are double thick flannel they are quite warm, and are good for use in the winter months.

Baby shower gift: I love the little mirrors that hook onto the rear-view mirror in the car so I can see my kid in the back seat without turning around. My kid is 9 now, and I still use it! I've seen them at various baby stores, usually with the childproofing things.

Memorable Baby Gifts

Feb 1999

Someone gave us a lovely picture frame with our baby's name engraved on it, which we really liked. They are easy to get at Things Remembered (in malls all over the bay area), there are many styles to choose from, and they are not expensive.

Quilts are always memorable gifts, but there is a catalog called Exposures which not only does a quilt, but it puts your pictures that you give them on the quilt (as sepias or black/whites). I always thought it would be cool to do a family tree quilt and put a picture of the parents as kids/babies, and then their parents. I don't have Exposure's number off hand, but if you call the 1-800 operator, they'll have the number and you can request a catalog. It is expensive though, as I recall. Around 250$. But it would be memorable and special!

A really special and unique baby gitf is a DREAM CATCHER. A Dream Catcher as I understand it was designed years ago by the Native Americans and come in many sizes shape and colors. They are a type of hanging mobile that you hang on or over the baby's crib or in their room not just for the baby to look at but legend has it that it catches all the baby's bad dreams so that they will never have a bad dream or nightmare. I have seen some really beautiful ones sold right on Telegraph and run anywhere from $10 to $65 depending on size and complexity. They have always been received extremely well by mothers when I have given them.

Someone had a horoscope chart done for my son. It was pretty cool to read about how he would turn out (at least according to the stars!) Of course, this is a pretty expensive gift, especially if you have limited belief in astrology.

One of my favorite baby gifts is a music box. The music box that I was given as a baby played the theme from Romeo and Juliet and to this day whenever I hear that song I think of my music box. My Aunt and Uncle gave me my music box when I was born, and in turn we gave my their daughter a music box when she was born. I had comptetely forgotten about the music boxes until I opened the gift from my aunt for my baby. It is so nice to think that he will have a special connection to a song (His plays Zipity Do Dah).

I was given a memory box on the occasion of my baby's birth and have really appreciated it. I don't know where it came from, but it's basically like a cigar box decorated with antique-y Winnie the Pooh figures on it, and entitled a box to put thing in. It's nice because it can accommodate things other than papers (like the hospital bracelets, etc) and you can use it in about one second--just open the lid and drop the item in--no need to wait for time enough to write/glue/label etc. as you would with a regular scrapbook.

Gifts for Twin Babies

Nov 1999

I would appreciate some advice regarding twins. I have friends who will be new parents of twins next spring, and I want to get them a nice christmas present. Any of you who've recently had twins - can you tell me what was a really useful and fabulous thing [not a service, but an item] that just made life so much better for you? And all of that for around $125 - $150? I thought about a comfy rocking chair, or one of those double baby-bjorn things [although that's not the brand], but I'm just not sure. Thanks.

I have 9 month old twins and the most useful items so far were: bouncy chairs with toy bars, baby bjorns, snap-n-gos - you attach the car seat to them to make a stroller I found that two of everything was needed so two of one of the above would be a great present. By the way - the double snuggly (like the baby bjorn) was really cumbersome - two baby bjorns are much better.

We have 6 month old twins, and the best gifts we got were: a double jogger (more than your budget but a great gift if you want to go in with a few other people), a double stroller, and vibrating bouncy seats.