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Sunday, January 31, 2016

I’m taking a brief break from kid hijinks to write a bit about my thoughts on new parenthood and baby showers ... specifically, do’s and don’ts as far as presents go. As always, this is my opinion alone. (Albeit opinion informed by years of parenting.)

So, last week I rattled on about what I saw as four don’ts. Each came with disclaimers. I’m sure these will, as well, but they’re things we found useful, once upon a time.

ONE: Practical clothing.

This was going to be divided up into two or three items, but it really does depend on the time of year and, to some extent, on the baby in question. It definitely did with ours.

Two words: Bodysuits and sleepers. You can never have enough.

(Note: By bodysuits, I mean those little one-piece outfits often called “onesies” – a term that’s actually trademarked.)

They often go under other clothing, but in the summer (or with a child who runs warm, like one of ours did), a onesie alone can be the garb of the day. They wash well, you’ll almost always need one and you can pick up a pack of five or so plain ones for $10-$15.

Want to be fancier? Get them in patterns or colors. Need something a little warmer? You can get them with long sleeves. You can find them with cute sayings on them, or characters. (The boys had one, passed on from older brother to younger brother, with Darth Vader emblazoned on it.)

On the flip side: Cozy one-piece sleepers.

Nothing fancy or frilly. Just a good ol’ terrycloth or fleece or something lighter weight for warm weather. When the parents are too exhausted or too busy or too ... whatever ... they’re a great way to say “Hey! The kid is clothed!” and move on to more pressing things. And I’m pretty sure that they must be more comfortable then many fancier items.

And, as I said before, it’s nice to get an array of sizes. When the kid is moving into size 9-12 months and all the tiny, adorable things don’t fit anymore, the parents will thank you.

TWO: Cloth diapers.

Bear with me. This isn’t just for those dedicated folks who decide to use these for their intended purpose. (Although good for them.)

You’ll see lots of so-called “burp clothes” in baby supply aisles and stores. They tend to be flimsy, colorful, sometimes decorated, and you might pay $12 or more for a package of four.

Skip these. Head for the cloth diapers.

They’re not pretty. They’re just white. They’re sturdy and they’re less expensive. They probably won’t be on anyone’s registry.

They’re the best.

Think about these things will be used for. (And believe me, they will be used.) Do you really want the pretty, embroidered, thin ones? Or do you want the sturdy ones that can be washed frequently without falling apart? With plenty of bleach?

It sounds silly, but these were one of the most useful things we received.

THREE: The little things.

Babies need a lot of big stuff. They need cribs and car seats and highchairs and strollers. But not everyone can pony up the cash for that sort of baby shower gift.

The thing is, babies need a lot of little stuff, too. New parents will find a need for a steady supply of baby wash (for sensitive baby skin) and lotion. Those soft little washcloths are good, too. Again, however, I suggest you go for the simple, inexpensive ones. These things tend to get lost.

So do baby spoons, when the kid is old enough to sample food. We had a pack of study plastic spoons in bright colors that someone bought us. They washed well and if one went missing (perhaps hurled across the room after Sam decided he hated carrots), it wasn’t a big deal. We kept a handful in the diaper bag at all times. Very useful.

If you’re looking for a baby gift and can’t spend a ton, a basket stocked with an assortment of the little stuff can be very helpful and useful. I still remember some of these types of gifts, many years later.

FOUR: Musical toys.

Big disclaimer here: Make sure it’s not too obnoxious and that there’s a volume control. And I’m sure that, as with all these items, it partly depends on the baby and the personality involved.

But if you’re the sort of person who likes to buy toys, even for an infant who hasn’t the foggiest grasp of what a toy really is, music tends to catch their attention. At least it did with my two.

To this day, Jim’s musical frog, purchased for him when he was 5 months old, is still a soothing companion for him. Just the other day, I found him sitting with it, listening to a lullaby. (And now that I think of it, I can hear it in the other room as I type this ...)

That leads me to another note: Make sure the batteries can be changed. He had a beloved teddy bear once with which that wasn’t possible. The demise of the music led to many tears and a lengthy (and not entirely successful) hunt for a similar model.

So, there you have it. But remember, every baby, every parent, differs. What we found practical and useful may not work for everyone.

However, nearly seven years after my youngest turned 1, these are still the things I remember. That has to count for something, right?

+Jill Keppeler cannot say enough good things about the practicality of cloth diapers as burp clothes. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler or email her at


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