By Sarah Dillingham, Contributing Writer
It’s mid-December. Shoppers are bustling past you on the sidewalk, the aroma of gingerbread latte is wafting through the air, and everyone has an Amazon.com window up on their browser…the holiday season is in full swing, but there are still a few shopping days left before it’s time to panic about those gifts you haven’t figured out yet! (And you can probably still get them on time with free shipping.)
Chances are you have some pregnant mamas on your gift list. Experienced moms and dads tend to know exactly what they need – through hard-won experience – and probably won’t be shy about letting you know what to buy! But first-time parents often feel overwhelmed with suggestions and anticipation, and may not have a clue what they’re really going to need.
So we’ve put together a list of must-have favorites everyone seems to love, and duds that tend to end up in the back of the closet or the “return” pile.
Gifts A New Mama Needs
Below are some great gift ideas a first-time pregnant mom might not even know she needs – but she’ll love you forever once she starts using any one of these gifts!
1) Baby Carrier
A first-time mom may not yet realize how essential it will be to have her baby close and secure, and both hands free to do whatever she needs to do. Baby wearing solves this problem! It might just save her sanity. Newborns are happiest snuggled right up to mom where they can hear that familiar heartbeat and nurse or suckle whenever they need to. Below are some great starter baby carriers to help the new mom on your list discover what works best for her.
- Stretchy Wrap: A stretchy wrap is a fabulous beginner carrier that can even be used right after birth for a mom who delivers in the hospital and wants to safely co-sleep with her baby. Stretchy wraps are relatively inexpensive, easy to learn how to use, and appropriate for newborns and babies up to about 30 lbs. Popular stretchy wraps include the Moby wrap and the Boba wrap.
- Buckle carrier: Buckle wraps are easy to get baby in and out of without a lot of experience, and provide great back support to mom and head/neck support for baby. (Parents of newborns will need to use the included newborn support according to instructions.) Two popular options are the Tula Baby Carrier with the infant insert, and the Ergo Baby with the infant insert.
- Mei Tai: A Mei Tai is a great compromise between the two options above. It’s both easy to learn how to use and easy to get on and off quickly, while it provides good support for both mom and baby. A rolled up cloth can be used for extra head and neck support for infants. Popular mei tai wraps include Babyhawk and Infantino.
Babywearing takes a little practice but the investment of learning time quickly pays huge dividends! There are lots of instructional videos on YouTube and more information available from Babywearing International. You could even include as part of your gift a pre-paid baby wearing class in your area – many retail sellers of baby carriers offer them, such as Greenberries in Baltimore, Maryland.
2) Classic Reference Books
The new mom on your list will likely receive lots of books, but her library won’t be complete without these essentials. She’ll be eternally grateful to have this information close at hand when she needs it most, without having to dig around online or the back of her shelves for valid resources.
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – if you know an expectant mom is planning to breastfeed or even considering it, this volume is indispensable. Even the most educated and determined mom can hit plenty of unexpected bumps in the road, especially as she and her new baby are just starting their breastfeeding journey. This classic, first published in 1958, belongs on every shelf.
- Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child is another classic that belongs on every shelf. This encyclopedic volume of symptoms, maladies, and remedies will be a godsend for the new mom who needs to quickly figure out what’s wrong and what to do about it.
- Natural Remedies for Kids, by our own Kate Tietje, is another great resource to include in any parent’s comprehensive resource library.
- Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family – this a great read for any new mom, whether she’s already planning to co-sleep or even if she hasn’t yet considered it. This guide includes viable strategies for maintaining a happy, well-rested family, based on current peer-reviewed research.
3) Space Organizers
The best way to realize how much space you once took for granted is to bring a new baby into the family! There’s no such thing as being too organized or efficient when a new baby arrives and turns old routines upside down. Hanging organizers and similar space-savers will help keep the closet in control and may even eliminate the need for a separate set of “baby furniture,” particularly if there is no separate “baby’s room” in co-sleeping households.
4) Festive Nutritious Treats
Few offerings are more appreciated than delicious, freshly prepared foods either right before or right after birth. Lactation cookies make great holiday treats in lieu of traditional sweets, and nutrient-dense easy snacks, packed in decorative containers, will be treasured when there’s no time to cook and the mom on your list is ravenous in those wee hours of the morning!
5) Gift Cards
Gift cards may seem impersonal, but sometimes new parents just don’t know what they’ll need until they need it – and let’s face it, all new parents can use a little extra cash. A gift card from a favorite natural grocery store, or online or brick-and-mortar venue you know the expectant parents frequently use, will be very much appreciated. You can make it a more intimate and nostalgic gift by enclosing a gift certificate in a handmade inscribed card.
Gifts to Skip for New Mama
When the good cheer of the holidays overtakes us, sometimes “ridiculous” takes the opportunity to disguise itself as “adorable.” We at Modern Alternative Pregnancy are here to help.
This is essentially a Keurig-style formula brewing contraption. While it’s true that December is the month of deliciously exotic spiced coffee beverages, and this may tempt otherwise reasonable people to be charmed (as opposed to mind-numbingly depressed) by the idea of serving a tiny brewed formula beverage to an infant, please don’t – just don’t.
Keurig machines, even delightfully cute ones, harbor mold and bacteria you wouldn’t want anywhere near a newborn’s virgin gut. Parents who choose bottle feeding will value the simplicity and cleanliness of a measuring cup half-full of warm water, so let’s do our species a favor by not encouraging this kind of trend.
Electricity is a handy collection of phenomena which, when harnessed appropriately, can serve us very well. And it’s true that wet things against naked skin can be startling. This might be enough justification to have a large box attached to a long chord tumbling around the changing table when you’re dealing with a poop blowout…except that electric heat tends to dry out and/or burn the wipes, which defeats the purpose.
Happily, there is a viable alternative: the human hand, which happens to be exactly body temperature at all times. The new mom on your list very likely has one of these attached to the end of each arm…which she can use to warm up wipes for a few moments, if she discovers a handwritten note from her infant explaining that the sensation of room-temperature wipes on his delicate skin was too much to bear, and he has put himself up for adoption.
This robotic facsimile of a parent’s gentle movements is a somewhat controversial inclusion in our list of “don’t’s,” as some parents really appreciate the novelty of this bouncer. However, we have to conclude that it’s tough enough out here for a newborn. The womb is warm and perfect, and the world can be cold and harsh – so why thrust an infant, first thing upon arrival, straight into the Uncanny Valley?
Sometimes the shortest distance between two points turns out to be not drawing a line where you don’t need one. (Kudos to the brilliant engineers who designed this product, but how about channeling that energy into a solar-powered minivan?) The environment most resembling the embrace of a loving parent is actually very close at hand – see #1 under “Gifts a New Mama Needs” above.
Bottles and pacifiers have become universal symbols of cuddly newborns, so it might seem appealing to include these items in gift packages. But neither gift givers nor prospective parents may realize that any artificial nipple, including bottles, pacifiers, sippy cups, etc, can undermine a fledgling breastfeeding relationship, especially if there are any issues such as separation at birth, low milk supply, or failure to latch.
Even parents who already know they have personal or medical reasons to bottle feed will have to experiment with which kind of artificial nipple works for their child, so single items or sets bought in advance will likely have to be returned. This is where gift cards come in handy (see #5 under “Gifts a New Mama Needs”) so parents can purchase what’s needed once they figure it out.
Even if the world’s loveliest crib appears on a prospective mom’s wish list, there’s a very good chance it will become a shelf or a pet bed once she spends a few days functioning on 30-minute night’s sleep after getting up every time the baby cries. While some parents have great success with cribs, it can be a long-shot gift item, and so makes another good candidate for the gift card if a prospective mom really wants one.
We hope this guide helps you through your final days of holiday shopping adventures, and wish you the very happiest of holidays!