Baby shower gifts are a gesture of blessing and well wishes for new parents, but finding a unique baby gift that is also useful for the parents-to-be can be a daunting task. The last thing you want is for them to take your gift back to the store for an exchange or return.
As a mum of two boys (the third one coming), I’ve seen my fair share of impractical and/or unimaginative newborn gifts. In this comprehensive guide, I share from my own parenting experience the best baby products that every parent will love and actually use, plus how to choose and make your selection.
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Avoid these baby shower gifts (and why):
- Baby blankets – Safe sleeping guidelines for babies actually recommend using ONLY a tight-fitting sheet and nothing else, that means no toys or baby blankets in the cot.
- Nappies – While it is true that this is essential, not all nappies are created equal. It will take most parents some trial and error before finding a nappy that doesn’t leak for their baby, and some might even choose to use reusable cloth nappies. So by gifting parents a whole lot of nappies of the same brand, you’re not doing them a favour because they might not even get through the entire pack.
- Baby bottles – Any mum with a colic baby or a baby that refuses the bottle will tell you that it takes A LOT of testing to find a suitable bottle for her baby. Avoid adding to her stash of dust-collecting bottles sitting at the back of the cupboard.
- Baby clothes, shoes, accessories – There are a myriad of problems with any of these gifts, including sizing, seasonal changes, personal styling preferences, and materials.
Unique baby gift ideas that new parents will love:
Sensory development classes are design to stimulate babies’ key senses, with the added aim of developing their love of music and movement. These classes are great fun for bubs and mums alike, providing a wonderful time of bonding and a good play date.
MyBestGift is an Australian website that offers a range of unique experiences as e-gifts, all guaranteed at the best price. They have a range of sensory classes for 0-2 year olds that are perfect for mums who like to be out and about.
You can sort the classes out by state, price, and age to find a suitable gift for yourself or a friend.
Pram accessories such as a universal pram cup holder are indispensable to every parent’s outing with their little ones. Toys, however, are essential to keeping the baby entertained so they stay happily seated, or as a fun distraction when they’re about to chuck a tantrum.
Tips for choosing good pram toys:
- Make sure they are attachable – Toys that can be attached using a clip-on, hook, or other ways are a bonus because we all know how much babies like to chuck things out. Attachable toys are also more versatile in use – they are great additions to car seats, baby bouncers and play gyms as well.
- Are the materials safe and hygienic for chewing? – Babies can start teething from as early as two months old and well into toddlerhood. Teething babies are prone to chewing and drooling, so choose toys that are easy to wash, clean and dry, such as silicone or wooden ones, can prevent bacteria and mould growth.
- Does it offer enough variety or interactivity? – Pram accessories that are fun and interesting will hold baby’s attention for longer. Anything that moves, makes sounds, or is shiny will be a bonus.
The TINY LOVE Meadow Days Sunny Stroll (above) is the perfect example of a pram toy that ticks all the boxes. The arch is flexible enough to bend all ways and can be attached anywhere with its universal clip.
It has six different activities to keep baby busy – a mirror, a sun prism, a baby-activated propeller, a teether, a rattling ball, and a bee rattler. Watch its video for full features.
White noise such as heartbeat, falling raindrops, or waves is a great sleeping aid that works wonders for some babies. A light and portable machine with a variety of white noise options can be a lifesaver for a new parent in those first few months.
However, it is crucial to choose a machine that does not produce noise exceeding 50 decibels, which is the recommended safe limit for baby’s sensitive hearing.
How to choose a white noise machine for baby:
Read the specifications to find out if it’s within the safe sound limit of 50 decibels. Alternatively, if you can’t find this information, make sure the machine has adjustable volume controls.
Check its weight and dimensions. A light machine will be easier for parents to take it on-the-go, in the pram and car. That said, smaller white noise machines tend to rely on batteries (rather than plug-in power) which can drain very quickly, so they may be unsuitable for night time use.
Make sure it has a continuous play mode. You’ll be surprised how many white noise machines on the market only come with timed mode, i.e. the sounds play for a fixed interval, e.g. 20 mins, and then stops abruptly. This was one of the problems I wrote in my review of the Baby Shusher which is often recommended by sleep experts.
The sudden stopping of white noise often spooks the baby awake. No continuous sounds also mean that when the baby wakes from her sleep cycle and finds herself surrounded by chirping silence, she will find it harder to settle back to sleep.
The Skip Hop – Moonlight & Melodies Owl Nightlight Soother is a popular white noise machine with an impressive list of functions:
- Plays 4 melodies and 4 nature sounds (Rainforest, Jungle crickets, Waves, White noise with heartbeat)
- Continuous play, and also an auto-off timer for 15, 30, or 60 minutes
- Plugs into any standard outlet
- Volume control
- Stars and moonlight projection
- Glowing nightlight with dimming capabilities
It is also available as an award-winning travel-friendly version with the Skip Hop Stroll and Go Portable, which comes with a silicone strap for easy and durable attachment to bags, carriers, prams and more.
Waterproof play mats are essential to every household with babies and toddlers. Not only do they provide a safe playing environment for younger babies, but the thinner ones can also be used as a splat mat (also known as high chair mat) for messy eaters. Many can also be used during arts and crafts activities or picnic outings for easy cleanup.
Before buying a play mat, first consider the needs of the parents:
- Will the mat be used primarily for playing, feeding, outings, or a mixture?
Thinner mats like this one are generally used for feeding. They don’t have a foam middle layer so the weight of the high chair wouldn’t make an imprint on the layers. They are lightweight and easy to fold and carry around.
- Are the parents style-conscious?
If the parents have a certain theme or style for the nursery, you may want to consider the colours and patterns of the play mat. Gender neutral options with softer colours are generally safer if you’re uncertain.
- What’s a suitable mat size for the room?
While larger play mats give crawling babies more space to move around, it leaves less walking space for the adults (you want to try and minimise foot traffic across play mats to keep it as hygienic for baby as possible).
The above reversible and foldable playmat offers the best of all worlds. It is made from odourless and non-toxic material, comes with a travel carry bag, folds easily, has a non-slip backing and is waterproof on both sides.
Made with five layers, it is thick enough to provide shock absorbency, yet at the same time thin enough to be used as a feeding or activity mat. The popular Nordic forest design with soft colours will fit in seamlessly with most decor.
Milestone cards are one of those nice-to-have things that most mums don’t usually splurge on. With a variety of photo-editing apps and filters available on their phones, I personally only know a handful of friends who actually purchased milestone cards for their baby.
Undeniably though, there is beauty in having a nice looking prop and an unedited photo, especially if the cards add personality to the photo!
Most baby milestone cards on the market are about A5 in size with rounded corners for safety reasons. They’re also thick, card stock usually with a glossy finish, to give them slight protection against baby’s drool and inevitable chewing.
Beautiful alternatives to baby milestone cards:
Milestone blankets are quick and easy for parents to set up and snap that photo, especially when they have a newborn who can’t sit up yet. They are usually light and soft muslin material and comes with a set of milestone cards that mark baby’s age by weeks or months.
I haven’t seen many mums with these, but I reckon milestone blocks are the ultimate value for money. They can be used as pregnancy milestones too, and function as play-based learning toys for the baby.
Also known as a baby journal, or baby milestone book, memory books are wonderful presents for mums who love scrapbooking or writing journals. They usually have writing prompts as well as pages for creative freedom.
One of the safest and least expensive baby gifts, bibs are something parents can never have too many, so you won’t need to worry about doubling up with others. From stylish bandana bibs for drooling babies to silicone and waterproof bibs for feeding and messy play, bibs are what define babyhood.
Both my boys started teething at three months old and were extremely heavy droolers, so I easily went through at least two bibs per day, which meant I had a stash of at least two dozen bibs at any given time.
If you’re looking for a non-pricey, practical and fun baby shower gift, consider getting a set like this one which includes 7 bandana bibs with snap buttons, which are more durable than velcro bibs.
Babies are very sensitive to room temperatures and can wake easily from either being too hot or too cold. Sleep bags are safe wearable sleep blankets that ensure their body is kept at the optimum temperature so they sleep (hopefully) better and longer.
Like baby bibs, sleep bags are something that parents will often have more than one. This is because there are thin lightweight summer sleep bags, as well as thick winter sleep bags for frosty nights. And for each seasonal sleep bag, some parents like myself may have more than one, keeping a spare clean one just in case of a leaky poo.
Things to bear in mind when buying a baby sleep bag:
- Choose pure cotton or muslin materials – There are many cheap sleep bags available from places like Best & Less and Kmart, but these often use polyester or other synthetic materials, which are non-breathable and very bad for regulating body temperature.
- Know which size to buy – Every brand has its own sizing guide, but I highly recommend buying for age 6m+, because newborns and babies under 6 months are usually swaddled with a single piece of muslin wrap for sleep.
- Check the TOG rating – TOG ratings are essentially a set of universal measurement for a sleep bag’s warmth. 0.5 and 1.0 TOG ones are suitable for summer, while 2.0 and above ratings are great for winter. These TOG ratings are usually accompanied by a guide for room temperature and suitable sleepwear. Make sure you’re getting the correct TOG rating for the season that matches the size you’re getting, relative to baby’s age.
- Take note how the zippers work – There are sleep bags with one-way and two-way front zippers, as well as bottom horizontal zippers. The two-way zippers are great for when parents need to quickly and quietly do a nappy change at night without waking the baby as they can just unzip it from the bottom.
Most popular baby sleep bag brands in Australia:
- The Gro Company – A large UK-based international brand, they have the biggest range of fun, colourful designs I’ve ever seen.
- ergoPouch – A true local Australian brand, not to be confused with the American brand ergobaby (the baby carrier company), ergoPouch is famous for its 2-in-1 design that functions both as a swaddle and sleep bag.
- Aden+Anais – Another true blue Aussie brand, their sleep bags are more affordable compared to others on the market.
From birth till about 4 months old, babies can only see in black and white, and their field of vision is only about 20-30cm. Black and white board books are great visual sensory stimulation for young babies and can more easily capture their attention.
Board books are longlasting gifts because they are durable and grow with babies. At each stage of their development, children will find new joy and interest in their books as they learn and start comprehending more of its content.
The ones shown above have the added bonus of shiny foiled pages, which add to their visual interest and some babies enjoy looking at the glittery spots.
This bestseller has 200+ five-star reviews and seems to work wonders in capturing babies’ attention.
“This was the first book that really captured my baby’s attention, and she still enjoys it at 16 months. The board book pages are thick and sturdy and the book has held up really well. This is now a standard gift I tuck into gifts for new parents.”
Last but not least, this little gadget is an essential household item as soon as you have kids. No one uses their hands to “feel” for a fever on a baby or toddler these days.
BUT, I’m not just talking about any thermometer. Those designed specifically for babies use infrared technology, which means they can read temperatures within seconds without even touching the baby, usually by placing the sensor against the forehead, or a probe into the ear.
Infrared thermometers allow parents to take temperature readings quickly and easily while their babies are sleeping, or even when they up and fussing.
Forehead vs Ear Digital Thermometers:
While there is not much difference in terms of pricing, I’ve personally found forehead ones to be quicker in displaying readings than ear thermometers. The ear thermometers also require dispensible probe covers (little plastic caps) that you have to change each time you take a reading for hygiene purposes.
That said, ear thermometers tend to have more accurate readings than forehead ones, simply because they make skin contact inside the ear, whereas forehead thermometers are usually contactless.
These are the most popular infrared digital thermometers for babies in Australia:
- Oricom Forehead Thermometer – One of the cheapest options available, it is also registered as a medical device by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.
- Cherub Baby Thermometer – Combined forehead + ear thermometer, both ways work without probe covers.
- Braun Touchless Forehead Thermometer – Braun also has an ear thermometer, which is slightly more expensive but which I find provides more accurate readings than forehead thermometers.