Baby shower presents: What to get expecting parents

Why not spoil mom at a baby shower?

Babies are a blessing from God, but it can be hard to figure out what kind of presents they require when a baby shower is being given. A key aspect, though, is many people purchase just for the baby, but some people need to remember the parents of the child to help guarantee they are happy as well and recover properly from the child bearing days. 

A great present to give to the mother is a blanket. These blankets need to be soft and if possible, handmade. When a parent gets these items, they do not have to be concerned about the item not fitting them or the baby at all. Instead, they are able to have these wrapped around them for the frequent midnight feedings and then they can feel the comfort and warmth of the blanket. This warmth, when combined with the parent's body heat may be enough to get the child to sleep. 

Something else that many people may want to get the parents is some relaxing CDs. These can be the gentle waves lapping on the shore, a walk in the forest or the sound of rain falling on the ground. These CDs can both be used for the parents who may use it to fall asleep to or unwind from a long hard day or by the baby, who can fall asleep with these sounds as well.
Having a baby can be an exciting time, but for the parents they are typically worn out by the time the child arrives. Since this is possible, some people need to know about having a baby shower for the upcoming child. However, getting gifts for the child is not all that people should do. They need to consider a couple of gift ideas for the parents as well to guarantee they are completely cared for. 

Do registry taboos exist?

Is it tacky to put certain items on a gift registry?

Living in a small town up north, I'm used to pretty lax baby shower etiquette. People around here register at Walmart, and throw everything from diapers to butt ointment to video games systems (gotta stay occupied during nap time, right?) onto their registries.

I never realized that some circles have "rules" about what to register for, and what to cover yourself, until I started doing some online research while preparing for my own baby shower. These are a couple of the "no-no" items I came across.

Gross stuff: Booger suckers, rectal thermometers, lubricant for rectal thermometers and rash ointment are all facts of life when you become a parent. Unless your shower guest list is a tight knit group, some guests may not want to picture these items in use, especially while nibbling on cake during the gift opening.

Everyday necessities: This one is more controversial. Those opposed to adding things like diapers, wipes, formula, and cold medicine onto registries argue that these are no fun for guests to purchase, and it may make the new parents look like they can't provide for their baby's basic needs on their own. Those in favor of keeping these types of items on the registry make the case that some guests may be last minute shoppers who want to run into a store and grab something quick and easy, so why not have a few no-fail, grab-and-go gift options?

Goodies for parents: It's not really fair, since the parents are the ones going through labor and lack of sleep, but baby shower purists say the shower should only be about the baby. Yes, a new camera will come in handy for taking pictures of the baby. A soothing bubble bath for mom may very well make her a more level-headed parent. Some guests may not make the connection, however and the parents end up coming across as overly opportunistic.

Big items: This is another controversial one. On one hand, people might be offended at the thought that shower guests are asked to cough up the dough for the $1000 designer stroller or brand new nursery furniture set the couple is coveting. On the other hand, some guests like to go in together on special, big-ticket items.

Gift Cards: To close to saying "just give me some moola, please."

Are you aware of any others? Do you think there are certain things that should stay off the registry, or is anything that scans fair game?

Baby gifts on extreme budgets

Using coupons to give gifts without breaking the bank

Gifts for babies and children can bust a budget very quickly. Between holidays, birthday parties and new additions, many families buy gifts for their own children, as well as children of friends and family members, several times per year. Couponing and strategic shopping are essential if you want to purchase brand new gifts for the little ones in your life at affordable prices.

Stack 'em high: Many stores that sell toys and baby products, including Target and Toys 'R Us, allow customers to stack frequently released store coupons with coupons issued by product manufacturers. Organizational skills are required to locate the coupons and pair them together, but the savings is well worth the effort, especially when you can score a triple discount by stacking two coupons with an in-store sale.

Hit seasonal sales: Black Friday and the day after Christmas are ideal days to scour the clearance racks for birthday gifts to give throughout the year. The days following other holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween are opportunities to stock up on small toys, stuffed animals and colorful candy for gift baskets.

Price match: Go to one store that matches competitor prices on toys and baby items. As long as you are armed with a stack of competitor adverts, you'll be able to one-stop shop while always getting the lowest prices in town.

Rack up points: Sign up for free shopping rewards programs, and pay close attention to your mail and e-mail so you know when you've built up enough points to stock up on gifts. If you can be disciplined enough to pay off your entire credit card balance each month, sign up for one that allows you to accumulate points that are exchangeable for store gift cards.



How Many Strollers are Really Necessary?

Make sure to take any strollers you consider for a test drive

Visit any baby superstore and you'll be bombarded with large strollers, compact strollers, jogging strollers, umbrella strollers and double strollers. Some strollers cost nearly as much as my first car did, and others cost as much as my weekly childhood allowance. How can new parents and moms-to-be wade through this sea of strollers and find the right wheels for their family?

The stroller/infant seat combo: This is such a convenient package, and is recommended by many parents. It consists of an infant-sized car seat that can be both snapped into a base installed in a vehicle, and secured into the reclined seat of the stroller. There is a lot of value in being able to switch a sleeping baby from car to stroller without disturbing him. Once the child outgrows the infant seat, the medium to large size stroller components can still be used for many years.

Double stroller: This will certainly come in handy for parents who plan on having more than one child in less than five years. To save on space, buy a double version of the stroller/infant seat combo. Many are designed so an older child can ride upright in the stroller while leaving space for the infant seat to also be snapped in.

Umbrella stroller: While not really necessary, some parents appreciate having an umbrella stroller on hand for quick errands, or for trips to crowded events where a bulky stroller can be cumbersome. Since these are often used infrequently, it is not advised to invest a great deal of money on a top-of-the-line model. You should be able to find a basic one for $10 to $20.

Jogging stroller: This may be necessary for a parent who runs regularly and likes to keep a fast pace. Most standard strollers are fine to run with at a moderate pace, but very proficient runners may prefer a jogger to keep from tripping. Avoid spending too much, since this will usually be a secondary stroller.

Everyday stroller: Even if you plan to use it every day, there is no need to spend $1000+ on a stroller. Any stroller priced above the $200 mark is more status than function. Yes, they are very nice strollers, but you can also get a very nice stroller for less if you are willing to forgo the high-end brand name. Look for a model with a seat that can be adjusted to various points between completely upright and completely reclined. Sun shades and cup holders are also essential.

Make sure to take any strollers you consider for a test drive. Here's what to look at:


Leg room: for the child, AND for you. If you have long legs, walk with the stroller at a brisk pace and make sure your feet don't kick against the backs of the wheels

Storage: If you can't fit your purse or your shopping bag in the storage area, you'll definitely be struggling when it comes time to start lugging a diaper bag.

Ease of folding: You'll quickly begin to despise your stroller if you have trouble folding or unfolding it.

What To Do With Old Baby Stuff?

Babies require a lot of gear, and by the time a couple has finished having children they may find themselves with entire basements full of items that still have a lot of life left. How can parents free themselves from the clutter as efficiently as possible?

  • Store: Big ticket items, items with sentimental value, unused items, timeless items. Before deciding to hang on to an item for future grandchildren, ask yourself if it will still have value in 20+ years. Items that tend to become outdated over time include swings, bassinet, decorations and clothing. If you invested in a top-of-the-line stroller, or inherited a beautiful antique rocking horse, set aside some storage to keep these items in the family. Gently used toys may also be useful in the future. One of my daughter's favorite things about visiting her grandma's house is being able to play with all the "vintage" toys that used to belong to her dad. They are just as fun now as they were back then! Make sure to keep up with recall alerts, however.
  • Donate: Non name,brand clothes, bedding, anything that isn't in great condition but is still safe to use. Most donation sites will give you a receipt for tax savings.
  • Sell: Gently used name-brand clothing, anything new with original packaging and tags, toys in good condition. Re-sale shops are convenient and often pay cash up front, but many parents find they can maximize compensation for their items by selling at garage sales, or on websites such as eBay and Craigslist.
  • Repurpose: Clothing made with attractive fabrics, towels, furniture. Creative types may cut squares out of old baby clothes to make keepsake quilts, or salvage old furniture. Your child's crib could be turned into a bench, or his changing table could be turned into a shelving unit. Dressers may be turned into large dollhouses or book cases. Use towels, washcloths and old cotton clothing as cleaning rags.
  • Trow Away: Anything stained, broken, damaged or recalled.

DIY Baby First Aid Kit

Whether it's for your own bundle of joy or wrapped up as a gift, a customized first aid kit is practical and may even save the day in the event of emergency.

Store your kit in a basic plastic case or lunchbox. If you're creating a gift, first aid kit boxes are available at most drugstores and supercenters, or you could repurpose and decorate a sewing notions box or cosmetics case.

Include both acetaminophen and ibuprofen infant drops. One may be recommended over the other based on the child's age, and pediatricians sometimes direct parents to alternate both medicines to quickly bring down high fevers. Make sure to add a medicine dropper to the kit. These are sometimes included with the medications, but it is helpful to have a backup in case of misplacement.

Select a thermometer that can be used rectally, as this is the preferred method for infants. Include personal lubricant to prevent discomfort.

Numbing teething ointment should always be kept on hand, as the need for it may arise unexpectedly with an uncomfortable, crying baby. A washcloth in the kit can be used to wrap ice to treat extreme teething pain.

Items necessary to clean wounds such as antibiotic ointment, gauze and bandages should be in abundant supply, especially once the baby in mobile. Cuts and scrapes will happen frequently. Keep some hand sanitizer in the kit in case you need to treat a wound when soap and water are unavailable.

Keep a card illustrating infant CPR in or near your first aid kit. These can be obtained at Red Cross offices and some local fire departments. It is also important to keep the number for the national poison control line in your kit.

Selecting a "Push Present"

Push presents may be extravagant, such as a new car or expensive jewelry, or they may be as simple as a handmade card or box of chocolate

Carrying and delivering a baby is hard work, and many new fathers are showing appreciation to the women in their lives by presenting them with post-birth gifts. Push presents may be extravagant, such as a new car or expensive jewelry, or they may be as simple as a handmade card or box of chocolate.

While some women have no expectation of a gift from their husbands, others may be upset by the lack of one, so the best way for men to proceed is to get something, even if it is a small token. Practical families can benefit from gifts such as a weekend getaway or favorite DVD, which are beneficial to the entire household.

Men can never go wrong with jewelry, and there are enough styles and price points available to select an ideal gift. Engraveable designs hold special meaning and often become treasured family heirlooms. If purchasing an expensive piece, it may be best to keep it at home rather than bring it to the hospital, as the unfamiliarity and general chaos of hospital rooms could result in misplacement or damage.

Some other frequently requested and gifted push presents include handbags or diaper bags, flowers, books, pampering bath products and nursery decor. Avoid any type of clothing, since post-partum body changes may bring disappointment if the article doesn't fit right away.

Adoptive parents may also present gifts following a new addition. Couples frequently exchange mutual gifts after a successful adoption as rewards for getting through all the paperwork and meetings involved with the process, and as a welcome into the world of parenthood.


Are Organic Baby Toys Necessary?

"Despite claims made by organic toy manufacturers, the toys are not always nontoxic."

Many families are switching to organic food, in an attempt to avoid some of the potentially harmful pesticides and chemical dyes sometimes present in consumables. But what about other things your baby touches, and possibly puts in his mouth, on a daily basis -- his toys? Some parents are shelling out big money to create totally organic play environments for their babies, while others avoid the extra expense associated with these products.

Organic toys are typically made of wood or natural fabrics. If paints and dyes are used, they are supposed to be nontoxic. Many parents appreciate the classic look of these toys, which often bring about nostalgia due to similarities to toys popular during previous generations.  Despite claims made by organic toy manufacturers, the toys are not always nontoxic. A 2011 study found toxins in some organic toys. Still, the frequency at which toys tested positive for toxins was greater in traditional toys than organic toys. For example, the study indicated that 70 percent of toys made by Mattel tested positive, while 20 percent of toys made by organic toymaker Melissa and Doug tested positive.

The Verdict: Buy organic toys because you or your child are drawn to them, and you think they will stimulate young imaginations. Stocking up on piles of organic toys is a wallet-buster, and you have no guarantees that even organic toys will be completely free of toxins. Plus, most children will have access to non--organic toys at daycare, school, or playdates. Short of keeping the child in a bubble, there is no way to keep him completely unexposed to toxins, and the toy industry is heavily regulated to ensure no toy is a danger to children.  You should avoid toys more than 20 years old, however, because some hazardous materials may have been used in manufacturing them.




Nontraditional Gifts New Parents Love

Sick of baby blankets and onesies? You are not alone. Most baby showers include some duplicated gifts, even when a registry is used, and post-shower returns of unwanted gifts are so common, there are etiquette rules specifically for the circumstance.

Next time you are looking for a gift that sets you apart from the crowd, try one of these innovative parent-pleasers.

Babysitting vouchers, if you know the couple well. Once the baby is born, the new parents will soon be on the lookout for trusted sitters, so they can get away for dates and errands. Print them on squares of scrapbooking paper decorated with stickers or stamps, and bind or tie them into a booklet.

Photography is highly sought after by parents with a new addition. They will want to capture every moment, and may not be able to splurge on expensive photo packages. Ask your favorite photographer about pre-paying for a first year package. Many professional shutterbugs offer this service -- it usually includes maternity and newborn sessions, and a shoot about every three months during the first year, including the child's first birthday. If you're on a budget, this is an ideal gift to have several shower attendees chip in for.

Pampering products or services for Mom, who is often overlooked when everyone is swooning over Baby. She's the one who will be delivering the baby, feeding the baby, stressing out worrying about the baby, and getting up at night with the baby -- why not get her a little something that is just for her? Try a gift certificate for a spa service or manicure, a fluffy robe, some aromatherapy candles, or a nice bottle of bubble bath (or wine!).



My Favorite Baby Items

One thing that comes to mind for many different people who already have a baby, are expecting a baby, or are trying for a baby is finding the best items for raising the baby. After having three children, I have found that there are certain items that made my life much easier.

The first thing that I found to be a must have for a baby is a bouncy chair. This is probably my most used baby item. It provides a place for the baby to rest when they are little without taking a lot of room and gives the baby a place to sit up and watch things as they get older. Additionally, most bouncy chairs now come with additional options and toys, such as vibrating, playing music, or having a toy bar. These features are often a great thing to use to distract the baby for enough time to allow mommy to get things done.

Another item that I cannot live without for my children is a small chair that allows them to sit up before they can sit up on their own. For my first two children this was the Bumbo and for my last baby, a chair just like it. The only concern with this chair is making sure that the baby can hold his head up by himself. With this chair, the baby can see what is going on around him and he is often happier than he would be in any other chair. This chair can also serve as an alternative to a high chair. I tend to feed my baby food on the floor during the first few months of eating and this chair puts them at the perfect height.