It’s a time like no other. For new or growing families, the weeks leading up to having a baby can be stressful and overwhelming. Of course, that means a baby shower presents a great opportunity for the parent(s)-to-be to get gifts and last-minute useful items that’ll see them through the first months of their baby’s life. But for the baby-shower guest — especially one who might be clueless about the whole enterprise — it can be a daunting prospect. The question of whether to get your expecting friend something cute or practical, something for them or for the new baby, can be tricky, especially if you’re operating on a budget.
So we asked seven baby experts, from doulas and midwives to gynaecologists and yoga teachers, many of them new mums themselves: What’s the best gift to bring to a baby shower? From frozen-meal vouchers to vaginal oil, read on for their helpful suggestions.
For the parent-to-be
By far the most recommended gift for a baby shower was the services of a doula. A trained professional, also referred to sometimes as a birth coach, a doula can be used alongside a midwife (or midwives) to offer general advice, assistance with a birth plan, and emotional support for the expecting parent(s). “Doulas are shown to reduce the need for pain relief and intervention during labour,” claims birth educator Emma Armstrong, a.k.a. the Naked Doula, who says a doula is “an absolutely priceless gift for an expectant mama”.
Mars Lord, founder of Abuela Doulas, also believes that gifting a new mother a professional birthing expert – in this case a postnatal/postpartum doula – is one of the best ways to ensure a seamless, relaxing transition into motherhood. Recognising that the cost of a doula may not be manageable for a lone gifter, she suggests “dividing the cost with friends and buying vouchers – but it’s best to check with the local doulas how they prefer that.” Better yet, an even more personal gifting element could come in the form of DIY vouchers, which Mars suggests, that will show the expecting parents that the doula has already been paid for.
Carmelle Gentle, a midwife and infant feeding specialist, also recommends pre-paid vouchers for a doula and/or lactation consultant. In her experience, these professionals are essential in “supporting families to achieve their feeding goals, and have the most optimal postpartum period.” Midwife, antenatal educator, and birth debrief facilitator Illiyin Morrison agrees, claiming that “extra support, and someone who is there to wholly advocate for you and your partner, is vital. It will make such a difference to your journey.”
Lord is also “a great lover” of those insulated mugs, stating that they’re perfect for “keeping your drink warm whilst you’re feeding, changing, and/or entertaining the baby.” This Camelbak insulated stainless-steel mug was recommended by two new mums in our previous gift guide for new mums, and keeps hot drinks warm for up to four hours.
Dr. Leah Deutsch, a gynaecologist, prenatal yoga teacher and founder of the Yoga Doc, is “a strong believer in practical gifts, especially if you don’t know what the prospective parents already have.” Whilst teddies and babygrows can be great gifts, Deutsch recommends options that are a “little more creative,” such as vouchers for frozen meals. “In the blur of the first weeks after birth, feeding and caring for yourself can often get sidelined. Having a bunch of wholesome meals ready to go in the freezer can provide one less thing to think about.” Deutsch loves Cook, a healthy frozen-meal provider that offers a 10 percent discount for new parents on their meal boxes for the first six months. There are several different meal boxes to choose from, including “vegetarian favourites” and “first fortnight” for new parents. Cook provides for several different dietary restrictions, and they also offer gift cards. Morrison also recommends Cook meals – she calls the frozen meals “well balanced, high in nutritional value, and full of flavour.” She seconds the value of the new parent discount, and recommends buying meal vouchers for your expecting friend “rather than baby clothes toys or flowers” because the vouchers are so practical.
Another practical baby shower gift that Deutsch recommends is a “mama-to-be massage.” “Pampering mum before the big day can be a really unique treat, and great to get the oxytocin following,” Deutsch tells the Strategist UK. While lots of day spas and salons offer specialised pregnancy massages, Deutsch recommends London’s Lavender on the Hill, which offers a gift voucher for a 60-minute pregnancy massage – the massage can always be arranged postnatally too, she adds.
If you don’t live near Primrose Hill, Urban Massage offer mobile pregnancy treatments, so new and expecting mums can have their massage from home. It offer a range of services, from prenatal and postnatal massages to pregnancy glow facials.
Deutsch also recommends gifting an online antenatal course, which she claims often “goes down as a really welcome present.” “The pandemic has meant that lots of birth preparation courses have gone online,” Deutsch explains, “and although you don’t get in-person, making-friends aspect, this can be a great additional resource to come back to time and time again in the lead-up to the birth, or even after.” Like with gifting a doula or lactation consultant, this could work well with a DIY-voucher system, or prepaying for the course for your expecting friend. Courses can be found all around the UK – the NHS website also has some helpful information about what you can expect from the course.
Morrison explains that at baby showers, where gifts for the baby are “always guaranteed,” the new parent is often forgotten. She recommends a luxury gift box, which directly benefits the expecting parent with products to soothe and relax them. London-based brand Primrose and Ginger – which Morrison calls “the most beautiful and thoughtful boxes” – offer several different care packages for parents-to-be, including products such as washable breast pads, luxury soaps, herbal teas, natural perineal sprays and eco-friendly face cloths.
Another gift-box company Morrison recommends is Don’t Buy Her Flowers, which makes pregnancy, new mum and new dad packages, as well as the option to create your own gift boxes from a range of products – you can also add one of Cook’s food vouchers to any of its care packages.
Emma Armstrong agrees with Morrison that a baby shower should be all about the expecting parent, but “we seem to often forget about them.” For a mum-to-be, Armstrong recommends Nessa Organics’ Vagina Victory Oil, which she says “is perfect and safe for perineal massage, and after too!” The vegan, cruelty-free oil is specifically formulated to help restore elasticity and reduce hormonal dryness, as well as soothing the area and providing relief postpartum. “I love this brand,” Armstrong says, “as their products are organic, vegan-friendly, and natural – their whole range is just gorgeous!”
Not all expecting mothers will be planning on breastfeeding, but if they are, Strategist UK contributor and founder of parenting newsletter The Little Things, Ellen Wallwork, recommends a box of cooling compresses. “These were one of my greatest discoveries when I became a mum,” she says, “as breastfeeding can make you sore, but these small rectangular compresses are soaked in a cooling gel that instantly soothes and helps heal.” The small rectangular compresses are flat and nondescript enough to slot into your bra without being obvious, and you can wear them for up to an hour in between feeds – the soothing gel is made from natural ingredients, so there’s no risk of damage to either mum or baby. “Whenever I’ve given them as a gift to a friend,” Wallwork says, “they’ve always ended up buying more.”
Another gift that may help soothe breastfeeding mothers’ pain is a nursing pillow, which Wallwork claims “is a great gift for parents-to-be, whether or not they plan to breastfeed, as it can help to prevent arm ache.” “The joy of cradling your newborn baby in your arms is a memory that stays with new parents forever, but that joy can be tempered somewhat by the persistent pain that sets in after holding your arms in an unnatural position for hours on end,” she notes. This curved cushion from IKEA sits around your middle, allowing the baby to rest comfortably and safely without all their weight straining the parent’s arm. Wallwork also likes that the cushion allows for one hand to be free for eating, scrolling through Instagram, or holding a book while the baby feeds or sleeps.
Finally, for those planning to breastfeed, this nursing vest comes recommended by illustrator Becky Barnicoat. She loved it so much she drew us a cartoon ode about it. The B-Shirt was designed by two mums, and Barnicoat said she benefits from how it keeps her warm in winter while also allowing for easy access (without having to get a whole boob out in front of strangers). This could be a thoughtful, practical gift for the mum-to-be you’re browsing for.
“When my son’s birth didn’t go to plan, there was one book I was very glad I had read,” Wallwork says. She recommends Rebecca Schiller’s book, as she loves “Schiller’s way of setting out all the information about the (many) decisions you have to make – from pain relief to how to feed your newborn – in a non-preachy or dogmatic way.” Everyone is different when it comes to parenting, and considering how much information is out there – from Instagram to vlogs and beyond – it may be overwhelming for your expecting friend. Wallwork states that Schiller’s writing “makes it easier to come to decisions that feel right for you, rather than feeling like there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do things.”
For the new baby
“Lots of the toys new parents are given as gifts won’t end up being used for months,” says Wallwork, “as newborns don’t really need toys.” That’s why she suggests these teethers, “as they’re designed to be held by the tiniest of hands. Plus, newborns are drawn to faces, so even before they can hold these for themselves they’ll love to look at them.” These rubber and silicone teethers come in stimulating colours and patterns, so newborns will be drawn to the way they look whilst also soothing their teeth as they begin to grow. Wallwork was gifted both of these herself when her son was born, and she says they rarely left the house without one in the pram.
Like toys, babygrows and other outfits are popular gifts for baby showers, but Wallwork never purchases clothes in “newborn” sizes for her expecting friends, “as babies grow out of them quickly. Instead I buy babygrows sized for six to nine months.” Wallwork loves the sustainable ethos of H&M’s conscious range – these babygrows are made from 100 percent organic cotton, are reasonably priced, and a large range of styles are available.
Nina Malone, Dope Black Mums podcast host, and founder of the Dope Black Mums Instagram account, dedicated to celebrating Black motherhood, suggests supporting small businesses, such as Beiige Store. Working with artisan artists in Ghana and “handmade from start to finish,” Beiige’s kids products include feeding bibs, baby baskets, and cribs. Each artisan product is made to order, offering a truly unique gift for parents-to-be.
Malone also recommends these handmade bibs from Muffin Sisters, another brand that celebrates African culture through its baby products, from blankets to baby shower gift sets. Malone loves “the quality and durability” of these “gorgeous and practical” bibs – this vibrant, soft bib is easy to wipe clean and ideal for messy meal times as your friend’s baby gets a bit bigger.
Malone calls Colour Celebrations her “go-to brand for gifting.” Founder Deborah Ajaja created the children’s company after the birth of her son, as she struggled to find products that were made for, and representative of, her family. We’ve written about the Colour Celebrations baby milestone cards before, and now the company offers sustainably sourced “toddler T-shirts,” along with a colourful height chart to track children’s growth spurts.
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