Baby on Board: What to (Actually) Bring New Parents

What our friends brought us the first time around that made all the difference.

Megan Isennock - September 06, 2017

Baby on Board: What to (Actually) Bring New Parents

What our friends brought us the first time around that made all the difference.

Megan Isennock - September 06, 2017

A fresh Lou in the hospital almost two years ago. -Megan Isennock

Our daughter is set to arrive this month and I’m slowly realizing that we are, for real, about to have two kids under two. We’re about as prepared as we can be, and now it’s just a waiting game. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Lou’s birth and trying to remember what we needed, what we forgot, and what our friends brought us that made all the difference.

If you’ve got someone in your life who is expecting, I’ve compiled a list of suggested items to bring over when you meet their progeny. Be mindful that the first few weeks of parenthood are an exhausting, wonderful, confusing fever dream, so keep your visit short and don’t give anything if you’re expecting a thank-you note.

(And if I’m your friend who is expecting and you’re coming to visit us, please bring watermelon popsicles and stay for a while because I will be hopped up on painkillers and in need of a constant rotation of people to talk at.) 

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Seltzer water: Before breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible to be thirsty while chugging water. When you are someone else’s sole source of nutrients, it feels like someone coated your insides with Scotchguard and you’ll never be sated again. Histrionics aside, when friends showed up with my favorite flavor of La Croix or a few big glass bottles of mineral water, I poured a glass over ice and lemon and felt more like a grown-up human and less like a bathtub drain. Showing up with some “not tap” water is an inexpensive and extremely useful way to make a new mom consider renaming her baby after you.

Food! During Towson University’s spring 2008 semester, I had the good fortune to fall into platonic love with my best friend Lauren. The relationship paid off in spades when she turned her passion for cooking into a career, thus enabling me to brag about the joys of having a chef close to my heart. After I had Lou, she showed up unannounced with bags of groceries and spent an entire day cooking, packaging the food in Tupperware, cleaning my kitchen, keeping me company, and just generally making me feel happy that I transferred schools and met this culinary fairy godmother.

You can give a similar gift to your new mom friend without all the hard work. Get a few people together to spring for a week of food from Gundalow Gourmet (they’ll tailor the menu to her needs and drop the meals off in pre-portioned Tupperware—it’s amazing). You could also consider a Whole Foods or Uber Eats gift card, or simply call ahead and ask what she’s craving.

Booze! I really surprised myself and my community by not wanting to drink alcohol until Lou was five or six weeks old. When my typical desire for wine returned, I was grateful to have a few bottles from friends already chilling in the fridge. My husband had popped a few bottles over the course of the first month—it’s not easy for dad’s either—and it was nice for him to have a little stockpile without needing to leave the house. Bring something you know both parents like, and feel good knowing your contribution will be enjoyed at the exact right moment they require some adult time.

Flowers: This one doesn’t really need an entire paragraph, right? Bring something beautiful for her to look at that doesn’t poop at 3 a.m. or require the use of nipple shields. Bonus points if you toss the flowers in a simple glass vase. Super bonus points if you get up early and create a bouquet from Local Color Flowers’ Saturday morning studio hours.

Diapers, etc.: This one is for family and close friends. Call the new mama and say, “I am standing in Target/Giant/CVS and I need you to tell me exactly what you need.” It can be really hard to suddenly accept help from every well-meaning person in your life, and telling her that you’re already at the store—and she just needs to say the words—takes away a lot of pressure and guilt.

Hand-me-downs: It’s difficult to know exactly what your baby will need until you’ve gotten home and realized you really didn’t need that bottle warmer, but could very much benefit from a Rock’n’Play. If you’re a mom of slightly older kids and still have infant supplies in good shape, shoot your friend a text and ask if there’s anything she opted not to buy that you could drop off. We were foolish enough to think that we didn’t need a bassinet—I think we assumed Lou would sleep in his nursery even though I couldn’t stand up unassisted the first two weeks. So friend generously lent us hers. She saved us money and time, and gave us the added gift of getting to swap early parenting stories with someone who knew what we were going through.

If more kids are in your future, make sure to indicate you’d like it back. If not, it’s okay to tell your friend that it’s hers to pass on to the next mom, or to donate when she’s finished with it.

Something for the other kid: You can opt to bring a small present for the newly displaced child instead of continuing the gift parade for the mom and baby. Crayons and a roll of brown paper (we recently taped brown paper to the entire surface of our coffee table and Lou has never been happier and we’ve never had more free time), dolls, sticker books, or Magna-Tiles are all good gifts for younger kids. For older kids, a $20 Amazon gift card gives them the freedom to pick something themselves and requires the attention of a parent to help make the purchase (which is what they really want anyway). Anything to make that transition to newfound sibling-hood all the easier.

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