Every new mom knows the classic routine of having a baby shower and hoping for the best. Yes, I absolutely adore the booties my grandmother took the time to crochet—as well as enough toys to stock the shelves of FAO Schwartz. As a freelancer, though, my income fluctuates anywhere between being able to hand a few Gs to homeless people in need and dining on Ramen while watching public domain movies on YouTube in the dark.
That’s why the best baby gifts I ever received as a new mom didn’t necessarily score high in cuteness points. They did, however, rock the socks off the convenience factor. If a special woman in your life is expecting her first or even her fifth little bundle of joy, draw some inspiration from the gifts I appreciated the most before heading to that reveal party.
1. Future Financial Peace of Mind
My brother-in-law shows roughly as much emotion as your average IRS agent—it’s all about the money. While we jokingly refer to him as Scrooge every December 25, behind his gruff exterior lies the heart of a saint, albeit the Patron Saint of Fiscal Responsibility.
When I received my reveal card from him, I discovered he had opened a 529 college savings plan for my baby’s future educational expenses. Did my friends squeal and ooh and ahh? Not so much. In terms of practicality, though, my brother-in-law harnessed the power of time to compound interest and create what will become a sizable gift for my little one when the time comes to pursue a degree.
2. Tools for Diaper Duty
My friends refer to me as the plastic Nazi and I take no offense to this. When it came to deciding between disposable diapers and cloth, I chose the more environmentally friendly option.
Several friends pooled their resources to get me a diaper laundry container that neutralized odors naturally until the contents could be washed. They also hooked me up with a ton of cloth diapers in various sizes so my baby’s behind would remain comfortably swaddled.
3. Easy-to-Heat & Drink Noms
Many people treat new moms to easy-to-heat casseroles and quiches. I won’t lie: As a busy mother, the slow cooker and oven have become my best friends. Even if I had the time to cook, parenting a newborn saps me of the energy to do so.
However, the one thing I missed the most during both of my pregnancies was a nice meal paired with the right wine. I literally cried with delight when my bestie arrived after I returned home with my youngest with a gift basket loaded with delicious bubbly and the cheese, nuts and fruit to match. Pro-tip: Sipping one drink only has a negligible effect on breast milk and that first glass of wine after nine months on the wagon tastes like heaven, especially with well-aged cheddar.
4. A Therapist Visit (or 10)
Even women who don’t develop postpartum depression need to adjust to the psychological reality of having another human being 100 percent dependent upon them for care. Talk therapy doesn’t come cheap—even with health insurance coverage.
My mum did the legwork for me when I had my first. Because I returned to work less than a week after giving birth due to the fact I telecommute, she hooked me up with an online therapy program so I could reach out for help without needing to find a sitter.
5. Books, Books & More Books
I refuse to apologize for being a serious bookworm. It’s in my blood. I distinctly remember the day my mum took my pre-K self to summer library, but then left me waiting to read a Curious George book while she cooked dinner. She let a potful of noodles boil to mush when I grew impatient and started loudly reading, “The man with the big, yellow hat …”
I read to both my babies in the womb and while I can’t guarantee they’ll inherit my appreciation of quiet rainy days spent on a cozy window seat with a gripping novel, I can make sure they’re ready for school. Gifts of age-appropriate books always make my A-list.
6. A Rocking Chair
Something about rocking a baby to sleep while covered in an afghan makes me feel pleasantly nostalgic. It’s long been a tradition in my family to pass down this favorite piece of furniture. It didn’t cost them a dime, but now I can rock-a-bye baby the way my mother and her mother before her did in earlier generations.
7. A Cleaning Coupon
My own mum could put TV’s “Queen of Clean” to shame with her near-OCD addiction to banishing every single particle of dirt daring to show its ugly face indoors. I, fortunately, have a more pacifistic relationship with a bit of disorder in my home, but when things get too messy, it does make me snappy.
Trust me on this—new moms won’t feel insulted by cleaning help coupons. Whether you hire a professional service or simply use your own elbow grease, she will appreciate having chores taken off her plate.
8. A Ma-Spa Day
Schlepping around a baby and swollen breasts wreaks havoc on the backs of new moms. A spa day replete with massage, facial and pedicure does wonders to help her heal after childbirth. No room in the budget for paying the pros? Offer to pamper her yourself at home.
Gifts Mamas Truly Love
Giving birth comes with physical pain, financial stress and a host of practical things to plan ahead of time. New babies don’t remember the gifts given in infancy—but every new mom will appreciate these treats and be happy to return the favor when the time comes.