The very pretty—erm, wait, I think maybe handsome—Nick writes:
Mir, You are very very pretty and your blog is the bomb dot com. I was wondering if you could help me out finding some deals on things for little ones, more specifically the very very little ones. My good friend and his wife just had their first baby, a little girl. I would like to get them a present, but don’t have a whole lot of coin these days. I almost ordered the little bear costume you posted the other day, but wasn’t sure if blue was appropriate for infant girls. Also, any advice on what new parents might need would be helpful, as I am only in my 20s and this is my first friend to have a little crumb snatcher. Thanks again my pretty friend.
This is a great question, because most of us reach an age where suddenly all of our friends are spawning, and the “what do we buy for a new baby?” question starts coming up a lot. Fortunately this issue a lot easier to deal with than you might think. Because it turns out that there is no shortage of stuff to buy for babies!
Assuming that there’s no baby registry to consult (and I have mixed feelings about baby registries, so I’m not even going to touch that issue), my rules for buying for a new baby are surprisingly simple.
Let’s start with what not to do. There are some items you simply should not buy for other people (says I) even if they’re useful things. The first class of items should be avoided because they are either too personal or they’re too specific. Sometimes they’re both! These items include things like bottles (they may be breastfeeding, and even if they aren’t, some babies are very nipple-specific), pacifiers (some people avoid them), diapers (although diapers are a needed item, maybe they like one specific brand, or maybe they’re using cloth), highly gender stereotyped clothing (slight caveat here—this is okay if you know the parents very well and you know they won’t mind, but I cannot tell you how many people gave me tip-to-toe pink outfits when I had my daughter and honestly, I just didn’t like pink very much), or any sort of “how to” baby manual unless it’s meant to be humorous.
The other things you should not buy, as a childless person, include any sort of “useful gadget.” Someone who’s never diapered a baby may think a wipes warmer sounds awesome and high-tech, whereas most of us who’ve had kids know that that’s a pretty useless object. The exception to this rule would be something that a parent recommends to you, I guess, but generally I’d say steer clear.
Okay. That’s what not to do. So what should you do?
1) Books. If you’ve read me for more than 5 minutes you know that I am a fool for books. You really can’t go wrong with books, both because they can be gotten cheaply and because they’re educational and one-size-fits-all. And most folks will gravitate towards the soft fabric books or chunky board books, but I’m here to tell you that books are for a lifetime. Buy a nice copy of Falling Up or a set of Frances books or whatever you loved as a kid; they’ll keep.
2) Toys. Again, it’s really pretty hard to go wrong with toys as there’s no fit involved. I like most Baby Lamaze toys for early infant/toddlers as a can’t-go-wrong option; any sort of classic wooden block set would be nice, too. It doesn’t have to be something she can use right this second. While I wouldn’t recommend the microscope science playset just yet, a set of Duplo wouldn’t be out of the question, either.
3) Necessary baby clothing. That would be things like onesies and baby gowns and footie sleepers and bibs. Boring but practical. Buy bigger than 0-3 months, though—chances are the parents got a ton of tiny stuff, already. Buy in the 3-6 or 6-9 month size.
4) Unnecessary baby clothing. This category includes things like t-shirts with goofy things written on them, Trumpette sock sets, and yes, things like that bear-hooded fleece I posted last week. Resist the urge to give an entire outfit unless you feel fairly fashion savvy and like you know what the parents like. On the other hand, a baby towel with some sort of animal hood? Classic. (Okay, that’s not technically clothing. So sue me.)
5) Dining accouterments. Again, the parents have likely received a ton of teeny baby things. Think ahead. Toddlers need little silverware and unbreakable bowls (there is no shortage of adorable dish sets for kids available, honestly, I mean just look at this), and sippy cups and entertaining place mats.
6) Parental respite. You can’t put a price on the offer to watch the baby for a night so the parents can go out to dinner. And if you don’t feel comfortable volunteering to babysit, you can still give them a dining certificate or a bottle of wine or something from Omaha Steaks or something else that is to pamper them. I know it’s traditional to give something to the baby, but it’s the parents who are doing all the work, after all!
The thing I would stress most of all, Nick, is that this is not about what you spend. Some of my very favorite baby gifts were the most inexpensive ones, ones that were clearly purchased with our family in mind and a desire to share in our happiness. You don’t have to spend a lot. You just have to give something you think they’ll enjoy. I hope that helps.