Over the last couple of years, I have had the immense joy of watching several of my close friends prepare to become first time moms. These women are light years ahead of where I was in preparing to be a new mom and have shared their intentional approach to controlling the amount of stuff and limiting the overwhelm when it comes to baby gear. This is especially forefront when determining how to register for a baby shower.
Many of our conversations have centered around what my essentials are for caring for a baby. While I think asking advice from other moms is a brilliant place to begin, it’s difficult to reconcile my essentials list with their lifestyle or approach to parenting.
Living in a city apartment will look vastly different in terms of necessary items than living in a home outside of town. Some families depend heavily on cars while others exclusively take public transportation. Some parents are able to stay home while others have to or choose to work and have their child in a childcare setting.
I began to wonder if there was a way to make a magical “essentials” list that would apply to all new parents, and it hit me: the two most essential things I have needed after having a baby are time and peace.
In the hope of inspiring baby shower hosts and attendees and myself to think outside the box in providing for new parents, I have compiled a list of practical gifts that contribute to giving them more time and a more peaceful environment and won’t add a single item of clutter to their home.
- Cleaning Service. The last thing I want to do right after having a baby is clean the bathroom. It’s actually pretty low on my list in regular life as well. But with friends and family stopping by to meet the baby, I’d prefer not to treat them to a disgusting bathroom. Not having to worry about the nitty gritty cleaning in those early days is an enormous relief.
- Laundry Service. I’m not familiar with how widespread or easy to use these services are, but being able to go to bed on clean sheets with closets and drawers stocked with clean clothes would be a dream.
- Dine in Delivery Gift Card. A homemade meal is a wonderful treat, and I would never discourage an old-fashioned meal train. However, since we’re talking about tangible gifts to give at a baby shower, a meal delivery gift card ranks high on the list. For the days when time warps and you realize at 8pm that there are no meals coming and no food in your home.
If this service or another like it isn’t available, research restaurants that are close by or provide delivery in the neighborhood. We have also been able to use this service to provide meals for friends who live in other cities when we can’t drop off something homemade.
- Meal Preparation Subscription. A gift card or timed giving for Blue Apron or Hello Fresh would work wonders to take the pressure of meal planning and grocery shopping out of the equation. Many new parents will receive a couple weeks or a month’s worth of family and friends providing meals so the timing for these services should be a little later as things begin to ease into a routine.
- Snack Box. I’m sure there are subscription services for this as well, but you could also put together your own version full of nutritious snacks your friend loves: granola bars, energy bars, protein boxes, dried fruit, nuts, etc. After the baby arrives, consider bringing a fresh version of the box along with your homemade dinner: fresh pastries, yogurt, string cheese, and fruit.
- Massage. Every new parent should be required to get one. Says the mom who has received gift cards from my loving husband after two babies and has yet to go. Holding, supporting, and feeding/breastfeeding a newborn will do terrible things to your neck and shoulders. As will the nights when you manage to get the baby to their bed but fall asleep sitting up or fallen over on the couch. Combine the gift card with a couple hours of free babysitting scheduled ten days after birth, and the chances of its use skyrocket.
- Sleep Training. This one may seem odd, but it is the best monetary investment we have made as parents. Around 5-6 months, once the 4 month sleep regression has thrown everyone for a loop, there is nothing more calming and worthwhile than working with a professional, trained sleep coach to gently teach your baby to sleep. For 12 solid hours. Talk about a gift of time and peace!
My wonderful friend and mom-hero, Kathleen, has worked with us to develop a strategy for both girls, and we plan to sleep train all of our children with her. In the vast expanse of making new and challenging decisions about the little life you’ve been gifted, following a simple plan from someone you trust is a God-send. We also credit professional sleep training for providing peace in our relationship since we could finally stop second guessing each other and arguing at 3am. Trust me on this one.
I realize that this entire list is geared toward new parents rather than the newborn. That is intentional. I firmly believe that helping parents find peace and space will allow everyone to thrive.
Newborns don’t care what onesie or how many onesies they have. You can check off every item on every baby gear checklist in the universe, and your newborn will still cry. There will still be times when the best rocker in the universe won’t replace your arms. In those moments, being able to respond from a place of calm rather than overwhelm will strengthen both of you, which in my book is worth much more than a wipes warmer.