Beyond The Registry
I'm not a parent. I didn't grow up baby-sitting or supervising younger siblings. And until recently, none of my friends had kids. Needless to say, I'm never really sure what to bring to a baby shower. Now that some of my friends are becoming parents, I've given more thought to creative, applicable gifts to give.
A children's library
My favorite touch is to give a popular, sentimental children's book. There are plenty to choose from and even though the newborn baby obviously won't be reading these books themselves, the parents can start to make special memories with their kids while they're reading these books. Nowadays, baby stores are on board with this idea too. You can even pick them up in smaller, baby-friendly, hard cardboard form at many places that the expectant parents are already registered. Some of my favorites are Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear Brown Bear, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to name a few. These hold special memories for me from my childhood, and I like giving something very personal when I pass these books on to friends. Creating a collection of children's literature is a special idea and tradition.
The bare necessities
Parents often register for diapers, considering you need a lot for a newborn. But since diapers fill much of our landfills, a suggestion is that the parents look into a cloth diaper service. Many are comparably priced to disposable diapers and also aren't detrimental to the environment. If the new parents seem on board with this idea, many diaper services offer gift certificates or have programs where you can pay for a portion of the service. Of course you want this to be something they'll actually use, and you don't want to offend them. But if you know the parents well, and if they seem like they might want to give cloth diapers a try, then why not nudge them in the right direction?
Another great gift alternative is to send the parents away for some time by themselves. This can simple, such as offering to babysit once the baby is born during a weekend vacation. Another idea is to buy a gift certificate for an expectant mother such as a post-delivery massage. Think about having friends and family chip in for an overnight getaway for the parents after the baby is born. They'll appreciate your generosity. This time will greatly be utilized for relaxing and sleeping!