What (Never) To Buy for a Baby Shower

A friend of a friend asked for advice on what to buy for a baby shower. She wanted to buy something very thoughtful and was doing her research, and so asked, “What was one thing you didn’t know you needed that you found out you needed after Ada was born?” I happened to be on a play date with three other moms with babies Ada’s age (approx. 8 months) and so passed the question on.

Two moms said, “Nothing.” One mom said newborn diapers, since her baby wore that size for a surprising length of time. I said a baby carrier (we got the Infantino Flip carrier) since the Moby wrap I originally bought was frustratingly difficult for everyone except me to use and can only carry up to 17-18 pounds before the fabric begins to stretch (something I found out long after the fact).

But later, I continued thinking about it and came up with a short list. You have to understand that stores like Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby make all their money off of people buying things for their babies–people who don’t have babies and so don’t know what they really do and really don’t need–so lists of recommended items are very easy to find. However, because these lists of “items you REALLY need” are made by the companies who make ALL of their money off such purchases, there are lots of items on the lists that you really don’t need. At all. So most of the time, people get a bunch of stuff they don’t need rather than a bunch of things they do need. However, you certainly can’t tell people what you DON’T need unless directly asked because these people are being so kind as to GIVE you tons of stuff… However, now that I’ve already had my first baby and won’t need anything (except clothes if #2 is a boy) from here on out, I feel safe in making these suggestions.

That being said, I’ve written two short lists. Here goes…

What To Buy

1. What’s on the registry. Seems obvious, but you might be amazed at how rarely we get what we actually registered for. People would rather buy clothes or things they think you need that you don’t really need. Oftentimes, you didn’t register for it because you don’t need it (e.g., already have one) or don’t want it.

2. Gift cards. Shocking, I know, but one of the best gifts you can give is gift cards. Why? Because many of the items on the registry typically are high-dollar items that everyone needs in a first-world country where parents live in constant fear of CPS (e.g., brand new crib) and get around using motor vehicles (e.g., car seat) and both expect or are expected to have certain *technically* unnecessary amenities (e.g., stroller, high chair, etc.). However, few people can actually afford these items. And, let’s face it, most newborns have only two sets of grandparents. If one set buys the crib and the other set buys the dresser, that still leaves the rocking chair, car seat, stroller, high chair, etc. Buying them a gift card to the store at which they registered for the most high-dollar items is the most sensible, useful thing to do–and the gift for which, ultimately, they will probably be most grateful.

3. Diapers and wipes. This works for everyone who isn’t doing cloth diapers (like me), so basically everyone I know (except me, lol). Diapers are pretty dadgum expensive. I’ve read estimates of almost $1,000 in the first year spent on diapers and wipes on average. One of the moms in my playgroup said she bought her first set of diapers when her baby was 8 months old, a prime example of the most practical gift, and one for which she was extremely grateful.

4. Hand-me-downs. I know, shocking. You’d think people would prefer all brand-new, matching stuff. And it’s true that most people do, myself included. But I was also profoundly grateful for all the hand-me-downs I received. From a practical standpoint, you get more stuff from hand-me-downs than from whatever gift the giver can afford. Furthermore, people understand that if they get a hand-me-down they don’t want or need, they can hand it down to someone else. If you don’t want your hand-me-downs going to someone else, however, SAY SO and don’t take offense if they give it back. It may be they already have five dozen other outfits in that same size.

5. Handmade gifts. Okay, I admit this one is really risky because it’s not like they can return it to the store if they don’t like it. But I loved the handmade gifts I received. By far, the most useful were homemade double-size swaddling blankets. (What you don’t know unless you already have a baby is that swaddling blankets are typically barely big enough for a small newborn.)

What NEVER to Buy

1. Clothes. I can hear the groans and complaints from here! But seriously. EVERYBODY wants to buy cute baby clothes for the new baby. And so EVERYBODY does. And the people who think ahead buy 6 month size outfits–but no further. So, if you’re like me, you end up with four dozen newborn outfits, three dozen 3 month outfits, and 5 dozen (you read that right) 6 month outfits. And NO 9 month or 12 month outfits.

2. Clothes. Believe it or not, people have different tastes, even when it comes to baby clothes. I, for example, hate pink. Imagine trying to buy clothes for a baby girl when pink is not allowed. If it’s not specifically on the registry, you can’t be sure it’s their taste.

3. Clothes. Even if you think it’s the cutest outfit and they couldn’t possibly want to return it, consider that there are a limited number of designs produced and sold each year and, as unlikely as it sounds, they WILL get multiple copies of exactly the same outfit. Unbelievable, right? Wrong! I received multiple copies of four different outfits–three copies of one and two copies of the others.

4. Clothes. Many times, you can return them and buy the same or a similar outfit. But, for obvious reasons, if there’s no gift receipt, the store only gives for it the lowest price for which it sold–otherwise, the store would lose money because people could just buy clearance items and return them for full price all the time. But what it means is the person returning it usually doesn’t get enough money to buy a different outfit. For example, I received a really cute Christmas outfit, but by the time the season came around, Ada had outgrown it. So I attempted to return it to Kohl’s, but upon discovering I would only get $1.25 for it, I decided to keep it and hope it fits a future kid at the right time of year. Had I gotten a gift receipt, I could have gotten more money for it–possibly enough to buy a Christmas outfit in Ada’s size.

5. Clothes. Returning clothes is a real hassle because, in addition to the discussion above regarding prices, it’s also difficult to know where they came from. For example, did you know there are three different Carter’s brands? I took a bunch of Carter’s clothing to the Carter’s store and on several items, they said, “These aren’t ours. Do you know what brand they are?” I replied, “…Carter’s…?” They then explained that there are several Carter’s brands, but they were unable to tell me where their own brands are sold. It took some serious research and a lot of driving around and a lot of wasted time trying to figure out where they came from. (Btw, Carter’s Just One You is only sold at Target and Carter’s Child of Mine is only sold at Wal-Mart.) Gift receipts would have solved that problem.

So the moral is: if you absolutely insist on giving clothes, at least provide a gift receipt so the recipient doesn’t have to drive all around the kingdom looking for the source store and so they can return it for more than $1.25 if they need to. And if you buy them clothes, make it at least 12 month, 18 month, or even 2T.



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