Updated on 09.08.07

Financially Savvy Gifts For New Parents

Trent Hamm

Over the last week or two, we’ve received a lot of wonderful gifts from our friends and family and our daughter now has a mountain of clothes to cover the next … year or so of her life. She has a wonderful handmade quilt to wrap herself in, too.

However, the gifts that really were useful to us came from each of our parents. My wife’s parents made a whole bunch of food in advance, brought it, and deposited it in our deep freeze. My parents basically moved in for several days and took care of a whole ton of little tasks around the house – for instance, my father mowed the yard and did some other miscellaneous yard work (like trimming the edges) and my mother washed every possible stitch of laundry in the entire house, folded it, and left it out in neat stacks on our dressers. Both sets of parents shared in babysitting our son as well, meaning that we could focus heavily on bonding with our new arrival.

Here’s the scoop: if you are close enough to new parents that you would consider a gift for them or for their child, strongly consider a nontypical gift instead, something that would save some time for the new parents who are going to be incredibly busy and almost overwhelmed at first with the changes in their life (even if it is a second or third – or more – child). Here are some suggestions for how you can really help out new parents without stretching your pocket book too much.

Do some housework. Go over to their home and do some vacuuming. Clean up around the place. Take out their trash. Clean out their refrigerator. Vacuum. Mop the floor. Mow the yard. All of these tasks are things that anyone can do, but are especially valuable to gobsmacked parents.

Make some food. Prepare some meals that can be stored in their freezer. On their first day home, actually cook a meal for them to eat. Most importantly, clean up everything you happen to use in this process – don’t leave them a mess.

Be a babysitter. If they have other children, offer to babysit them for a few hours or even for a full day. Take the child (or children) to the park or a similar activity and give the new parents time to breathe and bond with the new child.

Offer to run errands. If they need groceries, be willing to get the groceries for them – just get a list of what they need and some payment for the items. You may also want to help with the addressing and preparation of birth announcements and so on.

Of course, this is not to say that gifts of clothes or diapers are unwelcome. This is particularly true for a first child or a first child of a specific gender – quite often, in both cases, clothes will be helpful. However, don’t be afraid to look for such clothes at thrift or second-hand shops for good deals – remember that such clothes are only worn by the child for a very short time.

The best gift you can give new parents are things that give them more time to bond with the new baby and more rest. This is a gift of a true friend and one that will mean more than any other – even better, it’s not one that requires you to whip out the plastic.

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  1. So true! When my daughter was born, the best gift we received was when my mom came up to visit for the weekend and cleaned the entire house. With a new baby, I didn’t have the time or the energy to clean, and the house was in pretty sorry shape.

    I try to pass the favor on when my friends have new babies at home.

  2. Margaret says:

    Please check with the parents about whether the new family would prefer some private time the first few days home. I was in the hospital for 3 days after the birth of my first son, and including the two hours of sleep I had the night before I went in (I was induced, so I was VERY anxious), I probably had a total of 6 hours of sleep in 4 days. When I got home, I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was woken up after less than 1 hour because my mom had brought the neighbours kids over to see the baby, and apparently my husband had told all his family they could come over and see the baby, so we had company from 4pm until about 11pm, several of which were small children, and although they brought over pizza to feed themselves supper, they left the dishes. I was exhausted, I was having a really difficult time nursing (oh yes, the inlaws spent most of the time saying how hungry the baby was, then when I tried to nurse him privately, they kept walking in on me, and since my milk hadn’t come in yet and I already had cracked nipples that made nursing feel like the jabbing of needles, it was just painful, frustrating, exhausing and also embarrassing all around). I still want to cry when I think about that experience. If you MUST come over on their first day home, limit your stay to about 15 minutes, unless BOTH parents have specifically asked you to stay longer (and it only counts if they bring it up — if you ask, they might be agreeing out of politeness). I certainly would have preferred complete isolation for a day or two after we came home, as I was completely exhausted, and even if you had come and done all my dishes or washed my floors (not that anyone did), it would have been hard on me those first few days because I needed sleep and privacy.

    Also, if you are sick or your children are sick, DO NOT visit the newborn. The birth of my second son was much easier. However, when he was two months old, same inlaws invited us for supper. When we got there, their two teenagers had hacking coughs, and they mentioned during the visit that it was so bad they were going to take them to the doctor the next day (and it was okay to expose the newborn to this …. why????). We live an hour away, so I couldn’t just walk out (although I sure would now), so my two year old, my infant, and I all got sick. I was sick for a month, and the baby was sick for over two months, we all had to go through a round of penicillin (and if you have never tasted how awful that is, you should before you set up a two year old to have to have 4 doses of it a day for 10 days), and the baby went through several choking fits daily from the phlem, and 4 times he actually turned purple from lack of oxygen, once when I was driving and it is a miracle we weren’t killed as I hit the brakes to pull over to try to make sure he wasn’t going to die.

    Pretty much all of Trent’s ideas about things to do for the new family are just as appropriate a week or two or more after the birth (actually, even more appropriate, as the family probably cleaned the house before the birth, so it will not immediately fall apart, but after a week or two is when it will really need some attention again).

  3. I should have clarified. My mom came up two weeks after our daughter was born, so the timing was perfect. I completely agree that you should give new parents space for a while. It’s important for new parents to have the freedom to nap when the baby does!

  4. Margaret says:

    I guess I should say that the babysitter idea — taking the older kids — is the one thing that I think would be really great in the first little while. I think my first would have really enjoyed some out of the house activity and some undivided attention. I have also known new moms who had someone who would offer to drop by and watch baby for a few minutes so they could have a shower or a nap, and they really seemed to appreciate it.

  5. Helen says:

    good points, Margaret, about being sensitive about sickness. This applies with older kids, too – sure, they get exposed to stuff anyway, but that’s different to being in a room for hours with a sick person.

    I’d like to add that gifts and help are appropriate -especially- for the second and third and more child. Just because you’ve ‘done it before’ doesn’t make this new life any less precious, and having other kids to care for makes parents have less time for preparation.

    Gift ideas: a session at a photographer’s (a luxury that can be hard to justify), a box of photo printer paper and ink, or a voucher for photo processing, a voucher to hire a digital video camera for a weekend, a voucher for a local housecleaning service (or for your own services, to be redeemed as needed, if you are close enough that the giftee will take you up on it.)

    Our second child was seriously ‘underphotographed’ compared to the first – we just never had the time or money. The practical cotton playsuits and melamine dishes were well used, while the fancy china and silver are all packed away in a box for safe keeping.

    I think people often choose ‘keepsake’ presents and objects that will be kept because they want to be remembered, but at a time when your finances and time are strained to the limit, practical, consumable presents will be immensely valued.

  6. kim says:

    This is off Trent’s topic, but I wanted to respond to Margaret’s comment. The cough and phlem you described sounds a lot like RSV. Any excessive cold symptoms in an infant should be checked out by a doctor. My youngest got RSV at six weeks and needed to be hospitalized. It spreads like wildfire through day care centers. We will be coming into RSV season very soon. Never feel like you owe it to anyone to expose an infant to someone who has a cold. Most people (from older babies through adults) get RSV as just a bad cold. The only way to tell the difference is through the testing of nasal secretions. It is always OK to tell someone that they have to wait to see the baby. After my daughter got out of the hospital, we actually told my inlaws that they would have to wait another month or so before coming to meet the baby. My mother in law works in a daycare center and I just couldn’t risk exposing my baby’s weakened lungs to any more germs.

  7. dudeybave says:

    Thanks for the post. Good ideas to keep in mind. Helen, I like your idea on the voucher for a photography session and/or vouchers for printing services and the like. It is a cool idea that I had not thought about. It’s something that the parents would probably like to do, but maybe not have the energy/time/money/resources to set up a session with their new bundle of joy.

  8. Iris Hood says:

    Absolutely, wonderful advice. I’m a single w/o children and often times spend between $25 – $50 on each relative/friend’s new baby brought into the world. I like the idea of offering a service vs. cracking open the wallet one more time!

  9. Angela says:

    As I was reading the list of suggestions, I noticed the same list (except for maybe the diaper and clothes) would work for someone who is dealing with any life changing event.

    I was widowed at 37 and I had three kids, ages 13, 11, and 9 at the time. The ‘get the kids out of the house’ suggestion was very appropriate for them. A break from their current, not very wonderful, reality was most welcomed.

    So, think of these wonderful suggestions for any life changing event.

  10. Cat says:

    My cousin recently had her first baby and he is actually the first baby from our generation. My sister, my partner and I gave her a “Parent’s Night In” box: I took an old shoebox and covered it with scraps of paper from my scrapbooking supplies – pastel blues, yellows and rainbow coloured paper. Then inside the box went a voucher for a well known DVD chainshop, a packet of cornchips (bought on sale) and salsa, a bag of lollies (also on sale), a packet of Maltesers, and two mini-bags of microwave popcorn (that we had in the cupboard and weren’t going to use).

    As we wrote in the card, the parents do all the hard work so we think they should get a present as well. We also figured that as first time parents they might be a little shorter on time and cash than normal. The present cost less than $30 all up and the look on Nikki’s face was worth it – she almost started crying, saying how perfect it was and how it was the only gift given to her and her hubby.

    Just an idea!

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