Becoming a new mother is a highly emotional time. “The joy of your new baby happens at the same time as immense hormonal change, sleep deprivation and a loss of autonomy as life changes from a career to being a home milk/care dispensary,” states Emma Anderson, an early childhood expert and consultant. Avoid the pitfalls of giving impractical or inappropriate gifts with a few of these helpful suggestions.
Tiny sneakers. These are very cute and hard to pass up, but if you’ve ever watched a new mother struggle to keep socks on their baby’s feet you’ll see the impracticality of this gift. Doula and breastfeeding consultant Piper Harrell reminds us, “They can’t walk, need I say more?” Opt instead for bundles of socks, Brigitte Prat, owner of Lu Lu’s Baby and single mother, suggests. Choosing multiples of the same color and type can be helpful when miniature socks inevitably go missing. When the temperature drops, soft wooly booties are also useful.
Fussy or impractical baby clothes. “Absolutely no!” Prat emphatically says. “Anything that requires hand washing or is hard to put on or remove makes it difficult to change a diaper,” says Emma Anderson, early childhood expert. Mothers like one or two extravagant outfits to show their babies off occasionally, but on a day-to-day basis onesies with snap closures, stretchy cotton fabrics and anything which can be thrown in the washer and dryer are ideal. Layering works well in the cooler weather and tank onesies are great for summer.
Lingerie. Avoid the temptation to cheer up a new mom with fancy underwear. Anderson reinforces this: “Stretch marks, extra fat, huge leaky breasts and new saggy parts can make you feel like covering up for a while.” Harrell recommends nursing tanks, comfortable and forgiving underwear and yoga pants.
Expensive bedding. Babies are always spitting up and diaper leakage is common, which results in endless laundry for new mothers. Expensive crib and sheet sets will only serve to frustrate a mother who is trying to stay on top of her household chores. Simple, machine-washable bedding is best for cribs. Both Harrell and Anderson recommend baby blankets and wraps as invaluable and easy to care for. These are also small enough to use when out and about and fit nicely into a compact bag and, later, they can also double as dish cloths.
Diaper warmers and/or wipes warmers. Sounds like a good idea, right? Unfortunately these often end up collecting dust or head straight to the next yard sale. In fact, Harrell recommends staying clear of purchasing too many newborn diapers all together. Often they will only fit for a short while and unless her baby is premature, a new mother will find herself quickly moving up in diaper size. Better to find out what size the baby is currently using and buy a batch before you pop by to visit.
Pee-pee teepees. Pee-pee teepees, if you didn’t already know, are meant to protect the diaper changer from receiving an unwanted spray in the face. The teepees tend to fall off easily as the baby’s little legs wriggle around. Simply folding the pad placed underneath the baby over their lower bodies solves this issue. Changing diapers becomes a fledgling mother’s new preoccupation and anything that complicates this already hard-to-manage at times task is simply too much. The fewer accessories mom has to reach for, or think about, the better.
Overly scented baby lotion. Newborns smell great! “Most baby lotions are actually irritating for the baby,” Harrell reminds us. A newborn’s skin is very sensitive so these lotions, and washes and shampoos may do more harm than good. She recommends using mild olive oil to clean your little one—it acts as a gentle disinfectant as well as strengthening the mother-baby bond through massage.
Movie tickets. A new mom’s life has just changed in ways she could never have predicted, and she may be feeling that certain parts of her life are over forever. “Who can ever leave a new baby and go to the theater? And if you take them, they are guaranteed to cry!” Anderson tells us. Luckily, some cinemas these days have a “crying room.” Check your local cinemas and find out if they have sessions for mothers and babies—when your friend is feeling isolated at home suggest you go together to see that movie she’s been dying to watch.
Complicated kitchen equipment. Bottle warmers get a thumbs-down from both Harrell and Anderson. “Headed to a landfill faster than you can say ‘high-maintenance,’” jokes Harrell. Anderson recommends using a cup of hot water to warm the milk. This is a less messy, fussy and faster way to give the baby what he/she needs on demand. When it comes to getting busy in the kitchen, new moms often feel as though they don’t even have time to cook, let alone warm a bottle. Bring over easy-to-heat meals for her and her family—something that is sure to put a smile on any new mother’s face.
Large baby swings. These simply take up too much room. “If you have to buy an accessory please think of size … baby loungers that vibrate are just as good’,” states Harrell. We often think the bigger the better when we look at purchasing fun things for a new mom. This isn’t always the case and the last thing we want is for a family to add more to the already growing collection of gear that is used once and never again.
Crib accessories. As much as we love to watch a baby engaged in an object or sound, experts say we may need to take a step back. Anderson tells us that “a new baby needs very little. They can’t see beyond 30 centimeters and there are studies that show babies can become overstimulated by too much color and sound.” Mothers might better enjoy a noise machine that plays ocean sounds or audio books to help them occupy their babies or put them to sleep. After all, a new mom is almost always sleep-deprived and anything you can do to help in that department will be more than appreciated.