Top 5 Baby Shower Gift Ideas

I recently wrote a post on the five baby items that I love the most. A friend commented that the post was helpful for people who want to know what to buy for baby showers. It got me to thinking. Before I had a baby, I had no idea what to buy as a baby shower gift. I usually defaulted to purchasing clothes because they are cute and easy to pick out. Now I know that the last thing that most parents need is more tiny clothes. The post on my five favourite items included some big-ticket items, like strollers and monitors, that you’re unlikely to buy as a shower gift. So I’m devising a new, slightly modified list.

Based on my experience, the following are the top five things that I was thankful to receive as shower gifts. Keep in mind, I’m a practical gal, so they aren’t all super exciting. These gifts might not get a lot of attention, but the parents will be thankful. Trust me.

Pampers diapers

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  •  Diapers – You might have to do a bit of recon before you purchase this gift. There are about a million different types of diapers available. If the baby has already been born, ask the parents what kind of diapers they prefer. Then buy that brand in a size or two larger than they are currently using. Or buy a few different sizes. If the baby hasn’t been born, the parents probably at least know if they are planning on using cloth or disposable diapers. Buy them a small assortment. We received so many diapers at our shower that I don’t think we needed to buy any until baby P. was about three months old. It was fantastic.
blankets

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  • Receiving blankets – Yup, they made the list again. These blankets are so useful and you can never have too many. We received some pretty polka-dotted ones that I just love. Buy a few, because they’ll be used!
sleep sack

image courtesy of http://www.halosleep.com

  • Sleep sack – This was on my previous list as well. Most parents that I know love these things. They are a little bit pricey ($20-$30 each), so most parents will probably only invest in one or two. We only had one for a while and ended up washing it every other day when my baby spit up on it. We finally bought a couple more and it made our lives a lot easier. I think this is a safe bet for an awesome shower gift. And they come in different colours and patterns, so you can have fun picking it out!
Personalized blanket

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  • Something personalized – This is probably only a safe gift if the baby has already been born and named. I know people who were dead set on a name prior to the birth and then changed it once the baby arrived, so if you’re attending a shower before the baby is born, use caution. Otherwise, personalized blankets make a great gift. Head on over to Etsy.com for hundreds of options, and the ability to buy a super gift from the comfort of your computer. We received a personalized blanket and a huge personalized bath towel. I love both. The towel is great because we can use it when we go swimming and I don’t have to worry about anyone else claiming that it’s theirs. Gifts like these are much appreciated and show a lot of care and thought.
gift card

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  • Gift cards – When all else fails, if you’re short on time or ideas then a gift card is a great idea for new parents. There’s going to be a bunch of stuff that they need that they didn’t anticipate and it will make it a lot easier on their pocketbook if they have a few gift cards. After our baby was born, we had to go out and buy bottles and a sterilizer within a few days home from the hospital. Thank goodness for the gift cards that we received. It turned a several hundred-dollar purchase into something much more manageable.

Well, that’s my list. I hope you find it helpful. If you have kids, what did you receive as a shower gift that you were grateful for?

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Top 5 Baby Items to Buy Second-Hand (0-6 months)

In two previous posts, I let you know what baby items I found useful and which ones I wish I wouldn’t have bought. Today, I’m going to list the items that you should easily be able to find second-hand.

I recently discovered buy/sell/swap/auction pages on Facebook. They’re super popular, so you should see if they have one in your area. These pages are a fantastic place to find deals on baby things. Craigslist and thrift stores are also a great place to find used kids items. I’ve spent some time hunting down deals, and I’m starting to notice some trends for things that parents always seem to be selling for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay if you bought it new. Here are the top five things that you should be able to save money on by buying second-hand:

  • Clothes – Parents tend to be given a lot of clothes for their newborn, and babies grow quickly. Especially for sizes newborn to 6 months, you can find brand new or almost new clothes quite inexpensively. Since young babies aren’t mobile, most of these clothes are in pretty good condition. It’s important that babies aren’t exposed to second-hand smoke, so try to find clothes that come from a non-smoking home. Look for parents selling “lots” of clothes; people will often get rid of all of their baby’s clothes in a certain size all at once (I just bought a box of 30 pieces of clothing for $50). Thrift stores are another great place to find good condition, used clothes. When buying second-hand clothing, make sure you wash it well before your baby wears it.
  • Books – I was shocked to learn how much a new children’s book costs. $20 for a picture book! It’s easy to find good condition, used kid’s books. Thrift stores are usually overflowing with them and so they sell them super inexpensively. Many also give you a deal if you buy a certain amount (like buy four, get one free). You’ll want to flip through the book before you buy it as many of them have rips, scribbles, stickers, or stains in them…but there are many that are in perfect condition.
  • Bassinet – some people may not be comfortable with the idea of buying their baby’s first bed second-hand, but we did and I’m glad that we didn’t spend over $100 to buy one new. My baby initially hated it, then got used to it but quickly outgrew it, so we only got a couple of month’s use out of it. There are lots of parents trying to sell bassinets as many thrift stores won’t accept them. As a result, you can get a great deal (I bought mine used for $40 and ending up reselling it for $20). Look for a modern style to ensure it complies with recent safety regulations. You want something sturdy, and if it comes with a stand make sure that the bed clips or fastens securely to the stand. And, of course, you’ll want to wash all the bedding and mattresses that it comes with before your baby sleeps in it.
  • Toys – the second-hand market is saturated with used toys. I have a theory that if we stopped producing new toys now, we’d still have enough to pass down to future generations until the end of time. Because of this, parents have to practically give toys away. I like buying hard plastic toys (like stacking rings, nesting cups, shape sorters) second-hand because they can be washed and sterilized in the dishwasher. Wooden toys can also be easily cleaned. I’m a little iffy on plush toys; they often look grubby and I never know if I can clean them well enough because of all the stuffing. Thrift store toys can be a bit overpriced; I like buying at garage sales or directly from parents because they’re usually so desperate to get rid of it that they’ll give you a deal.
  • Activity mats, bouncy chairs, swings etc. – Babies outgrow these items quickly so, again, you can usually find a good deal
    play mat

    Image courtesy of http://www.toysrus.ca

    on items that are relatively new. I would look for chairs that have removable cloth liners that can be machine washed. Most play mats can be tossed in with the laundry. If you’re buying a bouncer or jumper, make sure that it’s been assembled correctly and it still has all of its pieces.

Top 5 Baby Items That You Don’t Need (0-6 months)

In a previous post, I listed the top five baby items that made my life a lot easier. The overwhelming majority of baby items on the market these days are things that are nice to have, but not really necessary. Following is my list of things that I think you can save your money by not buying.

  •  Baby shoes – I’m not going to lie. Baby shoes are super cute. My baby gets more compliments on his shoes than on any other part of his wardrobe. But they’re completely unnecessary. He doesn’t walk, and when we go out his feet are usually covered by socks, a sleeper, or a blanket (or all three). Babies’ feet grow quickly, and if you’re like me you’ll end up with a bin of super cute, unworn shoes with the tags still on. If you want to buy shoes for your baby, invest in one pair in a neutral colour.

    crib

    Image courtesy of Wikipedia

  • Crib wedges, pillows, bumper pads, etc. – most safe sleep guidelines recommend not placing any additional blankets or paraphenelia in your baby’s bed. A crib all decked out with bumper pads does look pretty cute, but all of the moms that I know who bought them ended up taking them out of the crib once their baby started to roll around. Why take the risk? Save your money and buy a cute fitted sheet for the crib or a mobile that your baby can enjoy too.
  • Bottle sterilizer – we actually use our bottle sterilizer all the time, so I’m not going to say that it hasn’t been useful, but it’s a big, clunky, electric thing that takes up an entire counter. When we go to someone else’s house, we inevitably end up steaming our bottles on the stove using a deep pot with a built-in strainer. I wish that we would have bought one of those instead. That way, it could fit in the cupboard and we would have a use for it after our bottle sterilizing days are over.
  • Newborn size diapers – you’ll want to have some diapers on hand when your baby arrives, but I would caution against buying too many in the same size or brand. We ended up with boxes of extra newborn diapers because my baby outgrew them so quickly (and he wasn’t a big newborn). We also discovered that a certain brand of diapers leak, so we ended up getting rid of a few boxes of those as well. All parents have a favourite brand and style of diaper. If you want to stock up on diapers before the baby gets here, I would recommend buying a variety of sizes and brands. That way, if one of them doesn’t work out, you’re not stuck giving away hundreds of dollars worth of diapers. If you’re using cloth diapers, the same applies. Buy a variety of styles and see what works before investing too much money.
  • Baby videos – I don’t want to mention brand names, but there are some prominent companies out there who make DVD’s designed especially for babies. There is new research being done that has concluded that watching TV may not be beneficial for infants. Now, I’m not telling you to not let your baby watch TV. I have the TV on in my house during the day. I’m just saying that those specialty baby DVD’s are super expensive, and the company that manufactures them has admitted that they have no educational value. Save your money and read to your baby instead. If you want to watch TV with your baby, watch one of the hundreds of kids programs available on the cable that you’re already paying for. Your baby won’t be less of a genius for it!

In an upcoming post, I’ll continue helping you to save money by listing the top 5 baby things that you should buy second-hand.

Top 5 Baby Items That I Love (0-6 months)

If you’ve been to a Babies ‘R’ Us lately then you know about the ridiculous variety of items that you can buy for infants and toddlers these days.

When you find out you’re expecting, it can be overwhelming to choose what to buy. Most of us are on a limited budget, and don’t want to spend money on a bunch of crap that we’re never going to use. But how do you know what you need? Well, that’s where I come in because I’m going to tell you. I was fortunate enough to be the recipient of a ton of free baby stuff, given to me by my brother and sister whose kids had just outgrown it. Some of it was useful, and some of it wasn’t. I have compiled a list of the top five items that I would definitely recommend for new parents. I’m not being sponsored or endorsed by any of these companies; this is totally my opinion based on my experience.

sleep sack

Image courtesy of http://www.halosleep.com

  • Sleep sack – I love putting my baby to sleep in this. Safe sleep guidelines suggest that you not put your baby to bed with a blanket, but I wanted to keep my baby warm. The sleep sack is warm, comfortable, and roomy enough that your baby can move his legs around inside it. It comes in different sizes, and depending on the brand may be sleeveless or have long sleeves (I love the long-sleeved ones). They can seem a little pricey at $20-$30 each, but if you use it every night like I do, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of it.
bottle warmer

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  • Bottle warmer – babies like warm milk. I didn’t want to warm bottles in the microwave, but waiting for water to heat up on the stove, then placing the bottle in the water until it was warm took forever. When my little guy is hungry, he’s hungry now! The bottle warmer that we have is awesome. It heats up a bottle from the fridge in about 2-3 minutes. You just dump some water in the bottom of the warmer, pop in the bottle, and press a button. Steam heats up the bottle quickly with no hot spots. I love my warmer!
blankets

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  • Receiving blankets – I was given many of these as gifts. At first, I had no clue what they were for. I folded them up and put them in a drawer and figured that if I didn’t need them, I’d just get rid of them. Now, almost six months later, I probably go through two or three blankets a day. They are great for cleaning up spit-up and drool on your baby’s face, clothes, the floor, etc. When your baby is little, you can use them to swaddle him. If I’m out at a play group or someone’s house and want to put my baby on the floor, I can spread one out and put him on top. I tuck one onto my baby when he’s in the car seat or stroller to keep him warm and for easy clean-up. Honestly, it’s rare to see me without one of these blankets tossed over my shoulder. They are so immeasurably useful. Buy more than you think you’ll need, because you’ll be using them all the time and they get dirty quickly.
travel system

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  • Travel system – if you’re going to leave the house with your baby, you’re going to need a car seat and probably a stroller. Travel systems are cool because the car seat clips right on to the stroller, so you can transition the baby from your house to the car to the stroller without having to take him out of the seat. It’s great for babies who like to sleep in the car because you can get them into the house without having to wake them up. My little guy just outgrew his travel system car seat and we’re adjusting to having to strap and unstrap him from the new seat to get him in and out of the car. The travel system was WAY easier. I miss it.
monitor

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    • Video monitor – my partner and I had a lot of discussion about what kind of monitor we wanted. The video monitors are quite a bit more expensive than the ones that just provide audio, so we were trying to decide if it would be worth it. In the end, we decided to splurge and spend a bit more for a video monitor and I’m glad we did. I love being able to turn on the visual and watch my baby in his crib. Even if I can’t hear him, sometimes I can see him wriggling around so I know that he’s okay. When he’s older and more mobile, it will be nice to be able to check on him and see what he’s up to in his room. Considering that we’ll be using the monitor every day for at least a couple of years, it was definitely worth the extra expense.

These are the five items that I have found most useful in the first six months of my baby’s life. I hope that you find this helpful. In my next post, I’ll help you save some money by listing the five baby items that I found totally unnecessary.

10 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Parenthood

So, you’re expecting a baby! Very likely, from the very first time that you announced it, you were given a piece of advice. Or maybe several pieces.  There is nothing like having a baby to compel family, friends, and total strangers to tell you what you should do with that little meatloaf once it’s born. I understand the hypocrisy of writing an article like this while simultaneously scoffing at those who give advice, but I’m going to give you the straight deal, yo. I’m not going to tell you whether you should co-sleep or vaccinate or breast-feed, because those are all personal decisions.  But there are some things that I learned the hard way that would have made my life way easier if I had just known them up front.

  • Don’t listen to advice.  Okay, finish reading the rest of this article and then start ignoring advice. Most people mean well, but what works for one parent and baby doesn’t necessarily work for another. From the day that your baby is born, you will know that child better than anyone else does. You will know what works for your family and what doesn’t. When a stranger comes up to you and tells you that you should stop your son from sucking his thumb because it means that he’s going to have dental problems for the rest of his life, you should smile and walk away. Or tell them to piss off. Whatever is your own personal style.
  • Do what works. You might have some idea now about what kind of parent you want to be and what kind of parenting techniques you plan to use. That might work out. It might not. Most parents that I know have had to suck it up and do at least one thing that they told themselves they would never do. Just go with it. If you planned to exclusively baby-wear, but your baby will only sleep if he’s in a stroller, then do what you have to do. If you wanted to co-sleep but you change your mind because your baby is a restless sleeper, put him in his own room and get some rest. Being a parent is all about learning what works, and you won’t know until you’re doing it.
  • Don’t feel guilty. This is one that I’m still having a challenging time with. Parenting is a tough gig, and nobody gets it done perfectly. You’ll do some things that, in hindsight, you wish you had done differently. You can’t continue to beat yourself up over it. Consider it a learning process, because it is. And please, do NOT let anyone else make you feel guilty about your choices; you chose them for a reason. You’re free to change your mind, but please don’t do it because someone else made you feel bad about what you’re doing. As long as you have your baby’s health and happiness in mind, you’ll do fine.
  • Don’t Google anything. This applies to you while you’re pregnant as well. I’m only half-kidding about this. Here is an example about how the internet is designed to make parents crazy. Maybe your baby’s had a stuffy nose for a few days and you want to look online to see if it’s anything to be worried about. You Google it and are immediately overwhelmed with a barrage of message board posts from parents whose baby had EXACTLY the same symptoms and they waited to go to the hospital and their baby DIED. Or maybe you are confronted with posts from parents writing that the reason babies get sick is because they are formula-fed and if your baby was just breast-fed, it would never get sick. People who have a story to tell or a soapbox to stand on use the internet to do so. People whose babies have a bit of a cold and get over it probably aren’t going to post about it. I’m not saying to never look anything up (educating yourself about your baby is important), but review the results with a critical mind. And if you are truly concerned, talk to an expert in your real life.
  • Let things go. Having a baby around means that priorities change. Maybe your house is a mess and you’ve ordered take-out for the third time this week. Maybe you’re wearing the same milk-covered shirt that you were wearing yesterday. Things like this won’t matter as much as they did in the pre-baby days. I would way rather take my baby to the park on a nice sunny day than spend that time cleaning my house. The dishes can wait another day.
  • Take care of yourself. I know, I just told you to let things go. But you can’t just let yourself completely go. Being a full-time caretaker of anyone is draining, and you need to practice some self-care. Simple things like making sure you eat and have a shower can make a big difference. You need some time for you. Take some time to go fishing or go to the gym or read a book or whatever recharges your batteries. There are times when it might seem impossible, but it’s really important so try to fit it in.
  • Don’t compare yourself and your baby to other parents and babies. All parents do things differently and all babies develop at different rates. Babies are people, and they have their own personalities. Comparing yourself or them to anyone else is pointless.
  • Sleep when you can. You might be a parent, but you’re still a human being and you need to sleep. For some people, it works to sleep when the baby sleeps. Maybe you need to bring in someone to watch the baby so that you can have a nap. Whatever you need to do, do it.
  • Accept help. Especially in the early days, right after your baby is born, people will be tripping over themselves to help you out. Take them up on it! They won’t be there for long, believe me. After a couple of months, people go back to their own lives and you’ll be flying solo. So accept those home-cooked meals and offers of house cleaning while you can.
  • Have fun! After hearing all the horror stories about sleepless nights and dirty diapers and incessant crying you might be wondering what you’re in for. I remember my baby shower at work was so filled with warnings about what was to come that it felt like a funeral. Yup, being a parent is hard work. But your life is about to get awesome! People wouldn’t have more than one kid if the good stuff didn’t outweigh the bad. Honestly, the first time your little baby looks at you with recognition and smiles, it won’t matter when the last time was that you got a full night of sleep.  Those little guys change so quickly, so enjoy yourself and them. Being a parent is the best!
Smiling Baby

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