Ah, the baby shower. Great for the parent-to-be, not always so great for the guest, at least when it comes to choosing a gift.
Sure, there's lots of baby stuff out there, but you want to get something these parents will really appreciate — and use. After all, as the 19th-century designer William Morris once said, "If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." Marie Kondo would agree — and so would we.
Finding the truly useful baby shower gift may be a little trickier than the beautiful (Monique Lhuillier elephant rocker for the win), so here are some ideas to consider as you shop.
1. A year's worth of diapers
All babies need diapers of some sort, right? Find out whether the parents in question are going down the cloth or disposable route, and then either pay for a month's worth of a cloth diaper service or fill a reusable hamper with as many disposables as possible. No, it's not the sexiest gift. But yes, they'll absolutely love it. Seriously. If you want to jazz it up a bit, check out diaper bundles from places like The Honest Company and IncrediBundles.com, where you can tailor your gift to suit your budget.
2. Basic onesies
Newborns spend most of their time in onesies, and they also spend most of their time messing them up, so a constant supply is required. Check out the seven-piece baby suit gift set ($48 at Primary) — a color for every day of the week, in theory, but we all know the tot will work their way through at least three of these in 24 hours.
3. Books for Baby
If the family already has a bookcase full of their other kid's favorites, they'll appreciate some of the latest releases. Or if this baby is their first, gift them a starter set of old and new classics, such as Peepo! by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.
4. A backup baby bag
Step 1: Buy an awesome diaper bag, such as the Eddie Bauer fashion Heather backpack ($49.99 at Target). Step 2: Fill it with everything you would have in your everyday diaper bag if you were the most organized parent ever. Think a onesie, a bottle, a teething ring, a pacifier, a small bottle of electrolyte solution, a bib, a thermometer, gas-relief medicine, assorted sizes of diapers, diaper cream, a small pack of powder, shampoo and lotion, infant acetaminophen and a small can of ready-made formula. Step 3: Tell your friend to keep it in the trunk of their car. It will completely save the day at some point, and when that day comes, they will thank you profusely.
5. Meals for a month
The problem with gifting a monthly subscription for somewhere like HelloFresh or Blue Apron to new parents is that they still have to cook the meals. A better idea is to create a calendar and have every baby shower guest write their name down on a week, beginning a couple of weeks after the baby's due date. (You can always move everything forward if Baby makes an early entrance.) In their week, each person brings a couple of prepared meals for the new parents to eat or freeze.
6. Clothes in bigger sizes
Lots of people gift clothes in newborn, 3-month and 6-month sizes, but spoiler alert: Babies don't stop growing. No parent wants to peer into the dresser on Baby's first birthday and realize nothing fits anymore. They'll appreciate clothes in bigger sizes — even up to 2T and 3T. (For little ones with older siblings, it can also be nice to ensure that some of their wardrobe isn't hand-me-downs.) Try an ever-so-cute tot outfit like this Fun-pocket play set, ($52 at Boden).
7. An "uh-oh" basket
An "uh-oh" basket packed with infant pain reliever, a thermometer, a notepad and pen, clippers, nail files, petroleum jelly and diaper rash cream (for starters) is a savior. The idea is that it goes in the cabinet until it's needed — that day when the parents have an "uh-oh" moment and can get their hands on whatever they need to deal with the emergency/drama/meltdown without going to the store. Genius. For a ready-made version, check out the Fridababy Bitty Bundle of Joy ($49.99 at Target).
8. Monthly blocks
Monthly blocks, like those available at BB Blocks, are a fun way to document a baby's development, particularly for parents who don't have the time, money, energy or inclination to go down the professional-portrait route. Of course, no parent needs a prop to get snap-happy, but monthly blocks (variations like nursery pillows, blankets and cards are available too) give them an adorable, instant reminder of what their kid looked like at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. ("Remember when Chicago was 10 months old and had her finger stuck up her nose at all times?" Kim Kardashian West will wonder. That sort of thing.)
9. Baby booties
Teeny-tiny baby socks are the cutest things in the world. But they're useless because they don't stay on. Ever. Enter the Zutano fleece booties (starting at $13.80 at Amazon) — available in a zillion colors and guaranteed to keep the feet of even the most rigorous kickers warm. For a more lightweight (and fashion-forward) option, you can't beat Freshly Picked's adorable moccasins, which start at 0- to 3-month size.
10. Gift certificates
If all else fails, get a gift certificate. Boring? Maybe. Useful? Hell, yes. A gift card for a baby megastore is possibly the best gift for parents who already have kids because they'll already have a lot of what their newborn will need. It really is the only way to ensure they'll get something they really want.
Of course, the parents-to-be may insist your presence at their baby shower is the only present they need. Heads up: They might not really mean that. It may simply be code for, "Please, don't get us stuff we don't need that will fill up our house for years to come." Those diapers are probably looking like a genius gift right about now, eh?