So around now, I was planning to blog a carefully thought-out list of christmas presents for Toddlers – but, if you follow my Facebook Page you may have noticed that I was soundly beaten to it by this post full of gorgeous goodies from Eloise over at FridaBeMighty. There’s something there to get everyone’s christmas shopping started, but it may be of particular interest to those of a Montessori persuasion. The beehive below is a little taster of the toys she suggests (Sheesh. Guess my recommendations of a second-hand bib and a half-eaten bag of Hob-Nobs will have to wait for another time.)
Anyway…… while I was flagellating myself for failing to update this blog for a fortnight, I received a text from a pal who was shopping in Guildford and needed emergency gift recommendations for a new baby but also for the parents-to-be.
Naturally, my first response for the Mum was ‘a packet of panty pads for the freezer!’. (I’ll just go ahead and assume that anyone looking at this right now and going ‘WTF..?’ has never given birth!)
But it did get me recalling some of our go-to items back when Eva was newborn, so I’ll share them here. Not all of them are available from Guildford Town centre, but that shouldn’t be a problem in these wondrous days of interwebs!
1) FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY:
National Trust or RHS Membership:
Not a glaringly obvious one but, nonetheless, this is my top recommendation. I have seen so much use out of my RHS membership, it must have paid for itself several times over, especially with RHS Wisley just up the the road, here in Surrey. It’s awash with Mums both new and seasoned, so new parents will feel right at home. Apart from the beautiful gardens themselves, there’s a rustic play area, softplay and two or three decent changing facilities. Plus the Clore Learning Centre for older kiddies. And you can always take a picnic, if on a budget. Most of all, there is fresh air and plenty to look at for the whole family, with frequent seasonal events. It’s an invaluable sanitary of fresh air and escape.
I find National Trust is a little more hit and miss on changing facilities given all the different locations, but is still totally awesome, of course! And you’re supporting this country’s beauty and heritage into the bargain. What’s not to like?
Not to state the obvious but a new family spends a lot of time sitting feeding a baby/rocking a baby/pumping a boob/holding a pump on a boob while Mum feeds with the other one…. and so they may as well take in some quality TV. Plus, frankly, parents might need the escapism! (You only have to take a squint at Orange Is The New Black to feel like your breastfeeding woes are relatively uncomplicated in the scheme of things).
So, good news folks: Netflix Gift Cards are A Thing.
(I’m having less luck finding Amazon Prime or HBO Now equivalents in the UK at the time of writing, though).
A nice little baby journal that keeps tweeness to a minimum by asking for info via lists:
Parents can gradually fill in ‘A list of my parenting mishaps’, ‘A list of advice for your future’, ‘A list of your friends (real and imaginary) over the years’ …etc.
It has some quirky illustrations too.
Haynes Baby Manual:
One for Dad in particular to enjoy, but everyone can have a chuckle at the slightly offhand, reassuring ManSpeak this is written in!
2) FOR BABY
Ewan the Dream Sheep:
This little guy isn’t cheap, but he can pay dividends for babies who can’t sleep. The soothing sounds and light are designed to imitate the feeling of still being in the womb, in keeping with the Fourth Trimester theory.
Footnote: If you’re the new parent and would like to recreate Ewan on a budget, all you need is a tablet, and the Sound Sleeper app.
Ghastly V-Tech Contraption:
This came recommended to me by an interior designer friend, a lady of impeccable taste. And if that revelation has you raising an eyebrow in disbelief, that’s because it seems to work. If there is one plastic eyesore that might just buy the family an extra twenty minutes precious sleep, it’s this V-Tech Sleepy Bear Sweet Dreams.. errr.. Thing.
You strap it onto the side of the cot, where it is triggered by Baby’s cries, and offers soothing lullabies or ‘natural’ sounds in response. It will also light up and project a twee rotating image on to the ceiling if you like.
One warning: this thing gets through batteries like nobody’s business. We noticed that V-Tech recommend not using rechargeable batteries, but we have been using them for a year, and it’s absolutely fine. It takes four AAs, which we recharge approximately every 10 days. You can work out your own ‘recharge’ schedule by keeping count of the days until it starts inviting you to ‘listen to the beautiful sounds’ about 40 times in a row.
Eva still gets daily use out of this monstrosity. I often enter her bedroom in the mornings to find her serenely sitting in her cot pressing the penguin button or exclaiming ‘Bear! Bear! over and over again’. And a Brucie bonus: at least you have the option of White as well Sickly Pink, these days, which might allow your eyeballs some respite.
Just consider buying a rechargeable battery kit too, if you’re gifting it.
To put it bluntly, the more places a new Mum has to plonk a baby, the better. My main challenge with the tiny Eva was just somewhere close to put her down for a minute while I had a wee/ poured a tea/ took a breath. You barely even feel like leaving the room with a new baby and, most of the time, they aren’t keen on the idea either. To be honest, along with a sling, I would have taken practically all the bouncers you could hand me. I regularly see these handed down the generations. They are so simple and comfy, no faffing with straps and buckles. Here’s the latest iteration on this classic, and I’d recommend the toy bar too, which keeps them entertained as they grow:
You can even whip the front bit off and use it as a seat for toddlers later on.
Footnote: if you are the parent and want to do this on a budget – Gumtree is awash with the things!
Baby Essentials Basket:
This isn’t going to win any prices for looks, but these are all items that made our life so much easier, so why not present them in a nice basket, or some such? (Although lets not think too hard about how you fit a giant sponge inside a basket..see below!)
Yeah, I know, boring as hell. But, seriously, you can’t have enough muslins when there’s a new baby around. They’re like gold dust. Slightly sicky-smelling gold dust.
JoJo do some nice ones
Sudocrem/Waitrose Bottom Butter/Calendula Nappy Change Cream
Again, not thrilling, but very, very handy. Wrap them up in the muslins to make them look prettier ;0)
You might consider a more portable tube of Sudocreme for a changing bag, in case the Parents-to-Be already bought a big vat of it (Parents-to-be: if you’re reading this, buy a big vat of it!)
These can be found at your local Waitrose and Boots.
Bibs, Bibs, Bibs:
I’m a bit of a Bib obsessive and yes, there are plenty of nice-looking ones out there but I’ll tell you now, they will be of sh*t-all use to a new baby unless they have fleece lining. Because, boy, can those little people drool up a storm!
At 18 months Eva is now open to non-waterproof offerings, but I regularly swop back to fleece-lined ones during teething.
I’m a big fan of the sheer variety of Funky Giraffe bandana bibs and also tickled pink by their satin ones for posh outings (or maybe just because EveryBaby should get to sport a bowtie once in a while!)
Or you can take it up a notch and gift a lovely hand-made one. EmmaNealeHandmade on Etsy has some tasteful (and fleece-lined!) offerings!
I swear by these things. Their purpose is to keep Baby’s socks on, but they became a fashion accessory in themselves when Eva was young. Now she rarely needs them, but I remember them with nostalgia!
Mothercare typically stocks the more sedate colours, with more ‘exciting’ options available online
Polarn O Pyret Clothes:
The Ubiquitous P.O.P is beloved of parents everywhere for it’s organic and easy-to-wear sensibilities, and there’s an outlet in House of Fraser. As a bonus, much of this is unisex, making life easier if baby’s gender is yet to be revealed. So, Guildford locals, either head there for some goodies, or let the parents decide themselves by popping a House of Fraser gift card into the hamper. ….you could even slip a P.O.P leaflet into the card to get the message across :0)
Bath Body Sponge:
This might not look like much, but we found this made bath time way less stressful for parents and baby. Simply bathe them in your ‘big person’ bath, with this underneath. It leaves your other hand free if needed, rather than having to hold their head up all the time. The more expensive baby bath was very quickly relegated to storage.
Pamper-Pack for Mum:
What did I crave, post birth (apart from copious amounts of frozen panty pants, of course)? Endless, unspeakably large chunks of milk chocolate! I can’t count the bars of Galaxy I put away in those first few weeks. Him Indoors was on order to pick one up just about every time he passed within a twenty mile radius of a food shop. Breastfeeding just makes your body cry out for sugar!
With this in mind, a giant slab from Hotel Chocolat might be just what ‘Doctor Boobs’ ordered! It comes in lots of luscious flavours, and is just about big enough to knock someone out with.
And if you’re looking for something a little more high-end, I can’t recommend Demarquette Salted Caramels enough (Just try not to dwell on the speed and disregard with which these may be wolfed down by any new Mum!!)
This is for sore/cracked nipples and, believe me, they are par for the course in the first weeks of breastfeeding. But this will also go on to be used on other dry bits.. and maybe even over-sucked baby thumbs later on. It’s an essential, and you can grab a tube from Boots.
Approximately two days after giving birth, I looked down to notice my hands had aged at least sixty years. Going from a cushy life of computers and donuts to washing sh*t up about sixty times a day had taken its toll.
If you want to shell out for New Mum in this manner, get yourself down to Jo Malone or Liz Earle. Good old Lush will see you straight if your Mum is of a hippier persuasion. Their stuff always smells delicious too, once you’re out of the slightly cloying shop smell! Space NK, if you’re wanting funkier options.
Volumising Shampoo and Conditioner:
Fact: in a crappy twist of nature, pregnant women frequently sail through their nine months with abundant and shiny locks, only to have these tresses generally start looking like crap and falling out a few weeks after Baby shows up. So you could always treat her to some good volumising hair products? You could take a trip to Kiehls for some of their volumizing shampoo, or Debenhams for this this Aveda offering, though a quick scout around good ol’ Boots should give up some goods if you don’t fancy shelling out so much dosh.
No, seriously. You cannot use both hands to eat a meal for at least three months after having a baby, because you are always holding the baby. Fact.
NO THANKS, FOLKS:
Some things are gifted with the best intentions but…
Unless its something really special and/or made by yourself, maybe skip the soft toys, folks. It’s not that children don’t love them (well, Eva certainly does!) but Every Parent Ever finds themselves disappearing under a mountain of the things pretty much immediately. And they do not present good use of space when your possessions have just doubled thanks to Loads of Baby Stuff.
I will say this though: they are funny. I regularly knock up against a terrifying pink elephant that looks like something from an acid trip, a fluorescent giraffe that looks like he’s the one having the acid trip, and an octopus with the approximate dimensions of a circus tent. I’m fond of all these terrors as looking at them reminds me of the lovely friends and family who bought them. At the same time I often want to feed them to the neighbourhood Rottweiler.
They never stay on.
They won’t want to add Hungover to Knackered. Leave it at least six months.
All this said, the best thing gift you can give New Parents is support. Offer to take round some food for them to eat or freeze, hold the baby so Mum or Dad has time to make a cuppa.. (Its amazing how liberating just having a moment to do this ‘babyless’ can feel in the early days!). Lend a sympathetic ear as they break down in tears of exhaustion, or overwhelming baby love.Or, most likely, both.
Most parents won’t want to be parted from their new baby for long, but, if local, maybe offer babysitting for a couple hours just while they get some shut-eye.
But for all the other stuff.. Happy Shopping!