8 Things New Parents Secretly Wish You’d Bring Them

published Oct 11, 2021
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Robin holds newborn baby, Eliot, while she and Jodi smile from their window.
Credit: Jodi Miller

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Whether you’re a first time parent or not, most of us can agree that the postpartum period is a blur. You’re trying to get used to an extra member of your family and the family dynamics that go along with it, all while getting less sleep and having less time than you did before. As ready as we all think we are, it seems like nothing can quite prepare us for those first few weeks and months with a newborn. 

With any luck, we’ll have a village around us — friends who have been in the trenches (or haven’t) and family wanting to pitch in where they can. This often takes the form of a care package or a hot meal, which is always a safe bet. But beyond a casserole, it can be tough to figure out just what to take along. I drew from my own experience postpartum and that of many other parents just what the stand-out gifts were in this tender period — food, drinks, and everything else. 

Whether you’re adding to your family soon and planning to send this to everyone you know, or looking for inspiration as you put together a care package, we’ve got you covered. 

No matter the time of year, many parents like to spend the postpartum period as comfortably as possible (especially if physical birth was in the recent past for one of them). This is also a time when many people are getting lots of cute clothes for the baby but might not have anything new and nice for themselves. I lived in these pjs (and will keep using them much longer). The color and button down style meant that they would work well for nursing, or other baby spills, and they come in pants and shorts styles for whatever season or climate you might need. 

Tip: Ask about sizing before baby comes. If you want to keep it a surprise, ask their partner. 

A nourishing breakfast to jump-start the morning

A hot dinner is a wonderful gift to new parents, but the people that had my heart were the ones that brought dinner but also thought about the most important meal of the day — breakfast, which was often eaten either in the middle of the night or as early as I could find a free hand after I woke up. If you’re bringing a meal, consider making a double portion and including it with a freezer-safe container so that your gift will go on to make a future day easier. 

You can keep it simple here with some yogurt, berries, and granola, or make a batch of muffins, breakfast cookies, or egg bites. If you’re gifting a nursing parent, you might want to lean towards foods with lactation benefits like oats, or slip in a lactation tea. One thing that works really well for busy mornings? Premade breakfast burritos that can be reheated in the microwave or toaster oven right from the freezer.

Tip: Pick up inexpensive casserole dishes for this purpose and make sure your giftees know you don’t need them back. When making a soup to freeze, try putting it in a freezer bag so that it will be flat and fit easily into most freezers. Don’t forget to write the contents and date on the bag. 

Get some inspiration:

A water bottle that always keeps drinks the right temperature 

Caring for an infant is thirsty work. Why not bring an insulated cup or mug to keep cold drinks cold or hot drinks hot? When my daughter was very young, I might have wept at the thought of having a cup of tea at optimal temperature, something I’d always taken for granted before. An insulated cup made that a reality. Also, she was a summer baby, and I loved drinking ice cold water, still cold even in the middle of the night. I had separate ones for hot and cold, but many do both. 

Tip: Cups with straws help many people to drink more water. Look for a cup with some dishwasher safe components for easy cleaning. 

A celebratory drink or six 

Speaking of beverages, this is another often forgotten element that is majorly appreciated. Stay classy and streamlined with a bottle of sparkling water. Pick up some local apple cider or make a jug of lemonade from scratch. Throw in a box of their favorite tea or a pound of coffee (you could even do a coffee or tea subscription box to keep the love coming longer!). If they are okay with alcohol, consider a bottle of wine or a 6-pack of beer, or premix their favorite cocktail with instructions to pour it into an ice-filled glass. 

Get some inspiration:

Un-glamorous self care products they may not buy themselves

Giving birth is an act of extreme strength and it can take a toll on our bodies. Consider adding something especially to aid in recovery for a birthing parent. Go for nipple cream, epsom salts, or a fancy peri bottle

A gift for the rest of the family members 

There’s always a lot of focus on the new addition, which is great, but it can be nice to include a touch or two for the other people in the house. Besides the birthing parent, think about siblings or the non-birthing parent. This can be as easy as a coloring book and some new crayons or an age-appropriate book, a favorite beverage or food item. 

Hand-held snacks

In the early days with a baby, it can be hard to sit down for a full meal and there are rarely enough hands to go around. If you’re taking a meal, why not add in a few snacks to help make staying fueled easier? You can do shelf stable things like bars or dried fruit and nuts (peanut butter filled pretzels were a go-to for me) or stock the fridge with hummus and veggies or spinach artichoke dip and pita chips. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even use Instacart or another grocery service to deliver some fresh milk, eggs, and snack staples to their front door.

Tip: Ask about favorite snacks early in the pregnancy and stock up on the shelf stable items when they go on sale. 

Get some inspiration: 

A willing pair of hands to tackle chores 

COVID has certainly changed a lot for new parents. Most notably, it doesn’t always feel safe to offer to hold the baby for an hour so mom can shower, or come over and do laundry and a load of dishes. Hopefully, it won’t always be this way. But for now, if you’re particularly close with the new parents in your life, and you’re both comfortable, one of the best gifts can be time — whether you offer to clean or pay for a couple of cleaning hours, hold the baby so the parents can rest, play with the siblings, or offer some adult conversation they might be sorely missing. Ask frank questions about what they need from you and then show up for those needs if you can. 

Tip: Sometimes time can be an amazing gift before baby comes, especially when nesting requires a little more than an expectant parent can do on their own. Ask if you can help put together the crib, organize their silverware drawer, or wash the baby clothes.