i have been that person giving a newborn books as a present so many times. guess what, newborns can't read
-- Emily Gould (@EmilyGould) June 7, 2015
As author Emily Gould found out recently when she became a mother, there are a lot of gifts we give to new parents that are, for lack of a better word, useless. Books!? they scream nationwide. We don’t need books! We need diapers, we need wipes, we need an extra hour in the day to sleep!
While we can’t slow the Earth’s rotation (we’re a tech startup, not Superman [also, imagine how actually devastating that would be to everything about the planet]), we can create this list of things that new parents actually need. If you’ve been through this before, some of these ideas will seem obvious to you, but if this is the first time you’ve bought a present for a new parent, this list will be a godsend.
New parents/parents-to-be: send this list to your own parents, your friends, your siblings, your extended family, your mailman! And if you’re one of those family members reading this list: it is actually okay to get them a book. The baby will need books. But please, use diapers as wrapping paper.
from now on i am only giving things that can be pooped barfed or milked into or onto
-- Emily Gould (@EmilyGould) June 7, 2015
Diapers, Wipes, and other baby cleaning supplies
Babies go through a lot of diapers. Seriously, it’s hard to fully appreciate how many diapers new parents will need. In the first month alone, moms and dads will be changing baby’s diaper between ten and twelve times per day. By the end of the first month, that baby will have gone through 445 diapers. According to math I made up, that’s enough diapers to build a second house just to hold more diapers!
On top of diapers, parents need baby wipes, diaper cream and ointment, and a diaper pail. Also useful? Hand sanitizer. Or one of those showers in high school science labs for chemical emergencies. (Ask any parent–a full diaper can often seem like small-scale chemical warfare.)
New parents barely have enough time to shower in the morning, let alone cook full meals for themselves. Relative to them, you have all the time in the world! So how’s this for an exchange: you give up a bit of your free time to make the new parents some freezable meals, and they eat them.
What’s good to freeze? You can Google "freezable dishes" for thousands of listicles, but think of classic recipes: lasagnas, pot pie, casseroles, and lots and lots of chicken.
Houses, apartments, and other dwellings are built to get messy–especially when there are kids involved. New parents don’t have a lot of time to clean themselves, let alone clean the house, so help them out by offering to give the kitchen or bathrooms a good scrub. Helping the new parents with laundry–both theirs and the baby’s–is also a great gift.
Sit on the baby (scratch that, "babysitting")
Give the new parents the gift of a night on the town (or, more likely, a night of uninterrupted sleep in their own bed). Just taking the baby off of their hands for a few hours will be an incredible help–not having to stop whatever they’re doing when the baby starts crying means that they can take a cat nap, clean, cook, or catch up on Orange Is The New Black (no judgement).
Amazon Mom is a special program for Amazon Prime members that gives moms discounts on their baby registry, diaper subscriptions, and exclusive coupons. Plus, free two-day shipping and unlimited music and video streaming (including a bunch of kid’s shows).
Of course, to get all of this, you need subscribe to Amazon Prime at $99 per year. It may seem steep up front, but the free shipping on stuff like diaper subscriptions can add up to hundreds of dollars of savings. You can help a new parent save even more by buying an Amazon Prime membership for them.
Pee Pee Teepees
These little cloth teepees are designed to protect new parents from their baby boys peeing on them while at the changing table. I think they’re really funny, and probably pretty useful!
You want to give a gift to the baby, but you don’t want to give them something that will be used and tossed aside. You want something that will grow along with them and provide them with a bit of financial security in the years to come.
The classic choice used to be bonds, but they’re falling out of favor. CDs are also a safe option, but the interest rates are incredibly low.
Assuming your number one priority is helping the baby pay for college, a 529 savings plan is probably your best bet. 529 savings plans are state-sponsored and make it easy for relatives and friends to help invest in a baby’s college education. A 529 savings plan belongs to you, with the child as the beneficiary, meaning that you remain in control of the money. As long as the money is used to pay for higher education, it’s also completely tax free.
And if the baby decides they’d rather be a circus clown? You can change the beneficiary on the account to their little brother. He wants to go to med school.
Image: David Goehring