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Sunday, January 24, 2016

I’ve been thinking about baby showers lately.

Oh, don’t give me that look. There’s no news here. (Except for the fact that there seems to be a lot of other people’s baby news around me recently.) It’s led to some musing about the time when my boys were infants, what we thought we knew before they arrived, and what we learned. These days, I feel like an old pro ... of babyhood, if not the challenges inherent in older kids. (AKA, “Your friend told you WHAT?”)

I mused to some co-workers that I should write a column about the things new parents really aren’t going to need that they nonetheless love to register for, and the things a potential baby-gift buyer can purchase that will actually be the most use. The response was enthusiastic. So I tried to step back in time 7 or 11 years or so, and remember when the boys were tiny.

New parents (and baby-gift purchasers), in no particular order, I suggest you reconsider the following:

ONE: Anything newborn or 0-3 month size.

I’m not suggesting that you never buy the kid anything in this size. Heck, you might wind up needing a number of things. But I do suggest waiting to buy a great deal of clothing in the tinier sizes until after the child in question is born.

Why? Two words: Nine pounds. My eldest son, who was predicted to be quite small, wound up being a whopper. Anything designed for newborns never fit him at all. His brother, a bit smaller, only wore that size briefly.

The new parents certainly might need smaller clothing. But I’d wait to make those purchases until after the baby has arrived. Also, people seem to like to buy tiny clothes. When the kid is entering size 6-9 months and they don’t have near as much in the closet, they’ll thank you.

TWO: Anything complicated or frilly.

Sure, it looks adorable. The parents might get a few cute photos out of it ... before it’s spit up on, peed on, pooped on or other desecrated. Babies produce a tremendous amount of bodily fluids, more than you might ever think possible. And they seem to have a sixth sense for when this will damage a delicate outfit beyond all repair. (Anything that can be described by the word “delicate” should probably be considered a bad idea in general.) You can buy a lot of cute things that are far more practical.

Oh, I’m not going to recommend anyone try to stop grandma from buying the baby’s first suit or Easter dress. (I mean, just stand back if my mom ever gets the word she’s going to have a granddaughter.) But for the most part, this sort of thing might be nice for a few “oooooh and aaaahs” at the shower, but it’s not going to help the new parents out much at all.

THREE: A baby carrier.

I’m finding most of these items come with disclaimers. Some kids love these things. I’ve certainly seen my share of contented babies snoozing away in them while strapped snugly to mom or dad. But they’re one of those things that are best purchased after the baby has arrived and you have a feel for his or her personality.

Case in point: Sam. I purchased a nice carrier before he was born. He was a summer baby, and I had mental images of happy days walking around sunny Buffalo festivals with him safely tucked inside, or peering outside with interest.

Big fat NOPE.

Sam hated the carrier. He hated it with a white-hot passion. When he was small enough to have to ride facing me, he hated it because he couldn’t see anything, and he wanted to see everything. And then when he was big enough to face outward, he wanted to be out, damn it, and preferably mobile.
By all means, think about it. Do the research on the variety and the safety standards so you know what you want. Just wait until you have an idea of the kid’s personality before you actually buy.

FOUR: Stuffed animals.

Again, a disclaimer. I’ve purchased stuffed animals for babies that the kids still love years later. I had a number of precious one in my own childhood. Like most things, stuffed animals in moderation are great.

But though many are purchased, few are chosen. The stuffie that gets picked as a child’s utter favorite companion will be only one of a pure avalanche of plush critters from well-meaning family and friends. And when the kids are, say, 7 and 11, and the time has come to clean out some of the old toys, you have a dilemma.

You’ll find that no one really wants old stuffed animals ... and it really doesn’t feel right to just pitch them. (I’ve seen “Toy Story” too many times.) So, I beg you, make sure you really want to buy that stuffed puppy and that you’re not just picking it as a default present.

There are better things you can buy in the latter case. Check back in next week for my thoughts on that.

+Jill Keppeler doesn’t really miss the baby stage. Much. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler or email her at

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