Someone in my office – or more accurately, their wife – has just given birth. The usual card and collection circulated around his colleagues with a request for baby gift ideas. The standard baby items were suggested: baby clothes, a soft toy or a blanket of sorts. Whilst kind in intention, let me tell you that THESE ARE THE WORST GIFTS YOU CAN GIVE NEW PARENTS. Why? Because every other person in their lives has the exact same idea and, as a result, the baby ends up with more clothes than it can possibly wear before he or she grows out of them, cuddly toys that will be cast aside for the one favoured toy (or indeed, favoured object, as it’s as likely to be a wooden spoon as an expensive teddy bear) and endless blankets (although this is slightly more useful given how many of them will spend their time in the washing machine having been coated in a bodily fluid of sorts).
Among the many things we learned in the subsequent weeks after having a baby is that people love to shower babies with gifts. Family and friends, including those with whom we seldom speak, emerged from the woodwork with generous presents for the new arrival.
All gifts are welcome gifts – especially given the cost of preparing for a child. However, in a sea of new born onesies, some presents stood out as particularly thoughtful ideas that made a significant difference to our first few weeks as parents.
- Decent ready-made food. One friend gifted us a voucher for an upmarket readymade food brand that allowed us to stock the freezer with delicious boxed meals. This was by far and above the best gift we received. When you’re adjusting to a life of broken sleep cooking is just not a priority. Another friend sent a box of frozen chopped fruit ready to whizz into smoothies – a brilliant way to keep a breastfeeding new mum full of fluids, nutrients and energy.
- Hands on home help. House chores were dropped very quickly postpartum, leaving piles of dirty clothes and dishes as we worked out how to stop our new overlord from crying. If you can spend 30 minutes doing the dishes for the parent of a recent arrival they’ll love you for it. Or if you have some (any) experience with babies, holding the baby while they sort their lives out is a very easy way to support them in those chaotic few weeks as they muddle through.
- Breastfeeding comforts. Breastfeeding is boring. Imagine sitting in a chair for 30-45 minutes at a time, every couple of hours, every day, every week, for several months. It is dull. Anything you can think of to make it more bearable for mummy… comfortable dressing gowns and blankets, online film service subscription, or books loaded on a tablet, all help keep her sane through those long hours.
- Home Massage. In those first few weeks leaving the house is a bit of a struggle. At the same time, mum is likely to be feeling a bit battered and in need of TLC. Book a masseuse to visit home and give her a post-pregnancy massage (and offer to babysit for the hour if the other partner isn’t available). It will be a welcome respite to the physical attrition of pregnancy, labour, and parenthood.
- Activities. This is a new world for most first-time parents. Long gone are late nights in the pub or spontaneous weekends to European cities. Instead, baby cinema and mummy meet ups are on the agenda. Help them navigate their way around with a subscription to a baby magazine or vouchers to local baby-centred activities.
And last but not least, remember that mum is allowed to drink again. Load her up with the good stuff.