friends, with babies

I am of that age (actually, does that age really exist anymore?) when people are starting to have children (either their first or second). I currently know at least 5 people who are pregnant (two are some of my closest friends from college, one a dear friend from NC), and know of at least three who have kids that are a few months old or younger. With my own birth of #2 (who we have affectionately started calling Crabby Pants) just a few short months away, I have begun nesting. Mostly this means cleaning (to make room in our 1000 sq.ft. home) and organizing- taking stock of what we have and what we might need. I’ve also started getting invitations to baby showers, which has gotten me thinking…
Maybe some of you are in the same situation- lots of pregnant ladies in your life- and you’re looking for something special, or something completely practical, to give them. With all the wisdom I’ve gathered from having baby #1 (ha!), here are a few of my suggestions.

Blabla Kids: I recently discovered this site, which carries beautiful handmade Peruvian rattles, pillows, clothing, and dolls. These items are sure to be as fun for you as they are for the baby!

These blankets, from Aden & Anais, are FAB.U.LOUS. We had nine (yes, 9) of them when Eleanor was little and will probably purchase a few more for when our little man arrives. And with such fantastic characters and colors to choose from, there’s certainly something in here to suit everyone’s tastes.

I love the idea of mobiles, and there are some damn cute ones out there, but the problem with them is that they are generally made for parents not kids. What I mean is that they are oriented wrong (the animals face sideways giving dad a great view of the full giraffe and baby a great view of the giraffe’s belly and feet) or they are made of shapes and with colors that the infant cannot really see. So, if a mobile is something that you simply must give (or have) get this one, the Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile. It might not be the prettiest mobile you’ve ever seen, but your (or your friend’s) infant will love it.

As an alternative, you could give these black & white animal image cards from Wee Gallery. We hung a set on the wall next to Eleanor’s changing table. A few pieces of velcro on the back (and on the wall) was all we needed for her to have a rotating gallery all her own.

Books always topped (top) our list of gifts to give and receive. While there are simply too many good ones to begin to list them here (you might see some of the books I’ve posted about for older children here, here, here, or here), I believe that young kids (even infants) can never have too many sturdy board books lying around.

And to go in those books, why not a personalized book plate, like this one from Sarah + Abraham (or these [which are not personalize, but which are super cute] illustrated by Kate Sutton and offered from Galison of New York).While we’re talking about personalized gifts, you might be interested in one of these alphabet prints from Hoot Design Co. For someone {extra} special you can customize an alphabet print like this one, starting with 4 customizable letters (for $125) all the way up to an entire alphabet with letters and phrases just the way YOU want them ($325).

For a little less dough ($40), you could opt for this equally special customized name square, also from Hoot Design Co.

Another gift that is a bit on the pricy side (hint, hint grandma and grandpa) but has become a beloved piece of furniture in our own home is this high chair, from Svan. Based on classic Scandinavian design, Svan’s beautiful children’s pieces are crafted with a parents’ standard of style in mind. These products are made from real wood, and other sustainable and durable materials, a nice alternative to cheap, throw-away plastic. The best part, however, is that the chair grows with the child and will fit them from infancy all the way to adulthood. Svan also makes a beautiful bouncer, which I love but have not personally used.

Toys, oh toys. I’m not sure where to begin…or where to stop. Here are a couple toys, or toy sites, that I really liked. Sophie, is a classic; made by Vulli from natural rubber in France the same way, by the same family for the last 50 years. Oompa is a great site for educational and natural toys. I particularly loved this and this (versions of which her grandfather actually made for her), and Eleanor has made great use (of the version we have) of this. (There are some excellent Waldorf inspired toys here and here).

With all that said, I have been reading about educating young children based on the RIE philosophy. What I’ve been reading suggests that infants actually don’t need anything special- that is to say they don’t need fancy rattles, squeakers, movers and shakers. What they need are everyday items that don’t DO anything; that they actually learn more when their toys are doing less. Balls, curlers, cardboard tubes, sturdy cotton scarves (like a napkin), simple wooden toys. (for those interested, there’s a nice video of an RIE (pronounced RYE) playroom here, and an excellent post from Janet Lansbury, a parent educator, about Infant Learning here). So, what does this all mean, a great gift would be a recycled shoe box with a bunch of items found around the house, with a little description about why all the “junk”!

For mom, I recommend two things: (1) if you have a friend who is planning on breastfeeding (or trying to breastfeed) give them this, Nipple Heal Cream prepared an herbalist here in NC (this stuff is a-MAZING. Truly. You can find out how to get it here. Do not breastfeed without it) and (2) a massage.

And my last piece of {unsolicited} advice, don’t forget about dad. The next time you see the soon-to-be father, at the very least ask him how he’s feeling. So often the man is forgotten in this whole “she’s having a baby” process and they (often) have just as many complex thoughts and emotions raging around inside their heads and bodies as their wives/partners. The Expectant Father, by Armin A. Brott, was a book that Tim liked reading, and The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin is an excellent (albeit frighteningly detailed and long) book for a birth companion to at least have as a reference (even if they don’t read and memorize the whole thing). So ask him how he’s feeling. And maybe you consider getting him a massage as well. I’m sure he’ll thank you for it.

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