The best baby shower gifts of 2021 – NBC News

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When shopping for baby shower gifts, it’s easy to get lost in the tiny newborn outfits and itsy bitsy socks. But as adorable as those pieces are, they might not be the most useful gifts to shower new parents with.

“My favorite baby shower gift is something small and sentimental, paired with something practical from the registry,” explained parenting blogger Jaymi Torrez of The Salty Mamas. “A pack of diapers with a teething necklace that's just mom's style, for example, or a set of bottles with a Starbucks card is the perfect compromise to give parents what they need and to make them feel seen.”

If you don’t know where to start, that’s typically where a mom- or dad-to-be’s baby registry comes in. However, despite this curated wish list, some are still torn on whether it’s best to shop the registry or skip it for something “more personal.” If you prefer to surprise them with something that’s not on their list, we spoke to parenting experts about some of the best baby shower gifts any parent-to-be will appreciate.

SKIP AHEAD Essential baby shower gifts | Personalized gifts | Unique gifts | Registry and shopping tips

Best baby shower gift ideas to shop

As our experts explained, no two parents are the same — and neither is their exact wants or needs. To help navigate shopping for baby gifts, we broke ideas down into three main categories: essential gifts, personalized gifts and unique gifts.

Essential baby shower gifts

Hatch Rest+

With 11 relaxing sounds from rain to lullabies, this multi-functional white noise machine grows with the baby by working as a customizable nightlight and sound machine. It also has a time-to-rise feature that parents will come to appreciate — you can set a time for it to turn a certain color, letting little ones know “it’s not time to get out of bed until it turns blue.” It can also be controlled from mom or dad’s phone or manually tapped.

4moms high chair

Moms- and dads-to-be will quickly learn just how messy mealtime can be — especially as they start introducing solids to little hands and mouths. No highchair can completely stop the mess, but this model helps make the rest of mealtime easier with a magnet tray top you can snap in or remove with one hand as well as a tray liner that’s dishwasher-safe. It also keeps magnetic bowls and plates in place and since it isn’t covered with fabric, the seat can easily be wiped down between meals.

Hello Bello Diaper Cake

This diaper gift set from Hello Bello comes in an adorable diaper cake design — no craftiness required. In addition to 35 of the brand’s absorbent size 1 diapers in a gender-neutral ABC print, there’s also other baby essentials tucked inside: plant-based wipes, shampoo and body wash as well as bubble bath.

Comotomo Baby Bottle Bundle

These bottles are made from soft hygienic silicone that’s PA-, PVC- and phthalate-free and designed to mimic breastfeeding for a smooth introduction to the bottle, whether a little one is being fed with breast milk or formula. The set includes two 5-ounce bottles, two 8-ounce bottles and slow flow, medium flow and fast flow replacement nipples.

Little Sleepies Grow With Me Gift Set

This thoughtful gift box comes with pajamas in three different sizes so you don’t have to worry about which size mom or dad needs most. The double-zipper pajamas are made from soothing bamboo viscose for sensitive skin that keeps little ones cool in the summer and cozy in the winter and features fold-over mittens and footies to grow with the baby and his or her preferences. It’s also available in a blue theme as well as a pink pastel version.

Manhattan Toy Winkel

Parents will quickly see that there’s just something about this rattle and sensory teether that keeps little ones stimulated and engaged. Little hands can easily grasp the colorful loops, which are BPA- and PVC-free, and it can be refrigerated for extra soothing come teething time. It also comes in a boxed version for gifting.

Lovevery The Play Gym

This beloved play mat isn’t one that a baby will quickly outgrow — instead, the thoughtful design transforms as little ones age to keep them engaged throughout their first year. The colorful mat has five development zones with tabs that help promote eye development and teach children colors, how things feel and different sounds. It also comes with interchangeable cards, playful accessories and the ability to convert into a fort.

White Hot Duck Tub Gift Basket

This curated Munchkin gift set also takes the work out of gift-giving and wrapping — it comes with an array of essentials for parents-to-be in an adorable duck tub that protects sensitive skin by telling parents if the water is too warm. Within the inflatable tub, you’ll find must-haves for feeding, cleaning, health and more. Some highlights include a baby car mirror, suction bowls, a snack catcher and a nasal aspirator. There’s also an even more robust option, the VIB Gift Basket, which comes filled with 20 Munchkin products in a non-slip tub for up to 12 months old.

Inter-mix Backpack

This Petunia Pickle Bottom gender-neutral backpack is stain-resistant in black neoprene and can hold more than just the baby essentials — it can also handle laptops for multitasking parents. In addition to the water-resistant interior and easy-to-clean exterior, this thoughtful bag was also designed with multiple interior and exterior pockets, side rings that can attach to stroller clips and back padding. The lightweight bag’s main opening is also compatible with the Inter-mix System’s packing pods to help keep everything organized instead of lost in a chaotic diaper bag.

Zutano Cozie Fleece Baby Booties

Keeping a baby’s feet warm and protected isn’t always easy — unless mom or dad has booties like these that actually stay on. Available in the cozie fleece and organic cotton with gripper soles styles, these booties come in a range of colors and patterns — but the best part is how secure they are on little feet due to elastic at the ankle and a two-snap design for a custom fit.

Personalized baby shower gift ideas

Personalized Denim Baby Jacket

If you’re looking for a gift with the maximum cuteness factor, these mini personalized denim jackets nail it. You can choose between five washes, 46 thread colors, nine fonts and 10 sizes for a custom jacket they can rock from birth or grow into.

Welcome to The World

For parents who love to read, contribute to their little one’s library with a custom book that also serves as a meaningful keepsake. In addition to baby’s name, this book’s dedication page can be personalized with a meaningful message as well as their birthdate, weight, height, parents’ names and city of birth. The 20-page board book also comes in pink and arrives quickly in just six to eight days.

Personalized Name Original Rainbow Crayons

Celebrate baby’s moniker with these festive personalized rainbow crayons. Made from recycled crayons, this adorable gift set wows from the start with its custom packaging and can serve as nursery or playroom decor until the little one is old enough to use them — although they may end up being just too pretty for little artists to use until they get older.

Minted Custom Footprints Letterpress Art

If you're giving a gift after baby makes his or her arrival, this custom letterpress print will be a treasured piece of art for mom or dad. Simply upload a photo of baby’s feet and Minted’s design team then turns it into an art print. From there, you can pick the frame, color and personal details to match the little one’s nursery or the parents’ home decor.

Baby Board Book

Create a cherished board book that highlights everyone who loves baby near and far. The thick pages and durable construction are made to last as little hands flip through photos of some of their favorite people who are thrilled to meet them. You can pick from 20, 30 or 40 pages and customize the theme.

Unicorn Rainbow Baby Hooded Towel

Made from 100 percent cotton terry velour, little ones can use this adorable hooded towel after bath or pool time. The wrap is machine-washable and ideal for ages 0-24 months. It can be personalized with baby’s name or a monogram, and if unicorns aren’t their thing, there’s a range of other cuddly animals to choose from — from alligator to bunny — that are equally as adorable.

Glad Dreams Gift Set

This gender-neutral Bunnies By the Bay gift set comes packaged with a refined presentation that’s almost too pretty to open. But once mom or dad does, they'll find a machine-washable receiving blanket that can be personalized, 100-percent cotton knit kimono and hat set, board book, Bloom Buddy Blanket, booties, rattle and stuffed bunny that can also be embroidered.

My First Anywhere Chair

Potter Barn Kids’ Anywhere Chair serves as the perfect backdrop for monthly milestone photos, a nursery reading nook or a family room snuggle spot. The removable, machine-washable slip cover can be personalized and comes in an array of colors and styles including cozy Sherpa, ruffle, white piping and unicorn, while the Standard Anywhere chair, which is a size bigger, also has Hot Wheels and Disney princess options.

Unique baby shower gift ideas

The Play Kit

This is another useful gift that little ones won’t outgrow — or ruin — anytime soon. Although this table comes in a pleasing shade of coconut, the light color holds up against little hands and their typically destructive art projects. Messes easily wipe away, leaving the table’s clean look waiting for the next craft. Each set comes with two sleek chairs and you can mix and match from five different colors.

Deluxe Baby Edition Keepsake Box

This thoughtful gift is something that both parents and little ones will treasure over the years, especially decades from now. Not only will it help busy parents keep track of priceless milestones and mementos, but if you know the little one’s name, you can also opt for the personalized version with handwritten calligraphy.

Deep Space Baby Activity Chair

It’s never too early to start teaching kids about space, and Crate and Kids Deep Space Activity Chair makes for the perfect introduction. For ages three to six months old, this chair has a waist harness to secure little ones as well as a removable tray with hand-embroidered planets and stars. Continue the tiny astronaut’s education with a matching tummy time toy that keeps them stimulated while working on developing strong muscles and motor skills.

Finn and Emma Macrame Swing

Handmade by artisans in India from 100-percent organic cotton thread, this macrame swing can seat little ones up to 40 pounds and adds a chic vibe whether it’s hung indoors or outdoors. There’s also a boho bundle that comes with a matching hanging toy basket that complements any laid-back and free-spirited decor as baby gets older.

Slumberkins Alpaca Snuggler and Book

Created by two moms — one who is a family therapist and one who is an educator — Slumberkins’ mission is to to promote early emotional learning. There are three “creature collections” — each with a different theme of promoting caring, confidence or silence — and within these crews, there are different snuggly friends with matching books that aim to teach these life skills. The Alpaca Snuggler and book, which focuses on stress relief, is just one of 14 creatures to choose from. You can also opt for a larger gift bundle or newborn set.

Musical Lili Llama

Manhattan Toy’s Lili Llama is a gift that will bring both color and music into baby’s nursery or playroom. This wood toy is decorated with cheerful non-toxic, water-based designs and features four spinners, two gears, a maraca tail, a five-bar xylophone, a washboard to create ratchet sounds, two clacking saddle blankets and two mallets that store in Lili’s head after he or she is done with their jam session.

Dos and don’ts for shopping the baby registry

Although the ultimate decision whether or not to buy present from the baby registry is up to you, the parenting experts we consulted shared their take on gifting off the registry and what to keep in mind while shopping:

  1. Don’t be afraid of the registry. Parents put time into making these lists for a reason, so don’t be afraid to stick to it and keep their wants — and not your personal taste — in mind. “If they ask for a floral crib mobile for the nursery, don't sub in black and white decor because you know it's good for babies' development,” Torrez said. “Buy the mobile they wanted, and maybe throw in a black-and-white board book to go with it.”
  2. Don’t “upgrade” their registry picks. If you’re going to buy a type of item that they registered for, Torrez advised against straying too far from the particular model or brand they picked, even if you have the best of intentions. “For example, don't get them a ‘better’ stroller than what they've asked for,” she said. “They've probably spent a lot of time researching the one on their registry, and there may be specific reasons why it's best for them.”
  3. Remember, group gifts are great. Some of the pricier items can be the most useful, so don’t immediately shy away from them even if they aren’t in your budget. Instead, try to get a group of people together to get these larger items that parents need, explained Marissa LaBuz, a pediatric occupational therapist and parenting blogger behind Just Simply Mom.
  4. If you are going to get it, buy it directly from the registry. If you’re going to gift them the swaddles or bottles they registered for, buy it straight off of the registry, LaBuz recommended, so the recipient doesn’t get duplicate gifts.

Other baby shower shopping tips

No matter what, the registry isn’t going to have everything parents want or need, especially if they are first-time parents who may not even know themselves what will be most useful. So if you’re shopping outside the registry, consider these tips:

  • Don’t forget about mom or dad. Whenever you can, try to make sure the parents feel "seen,” suggested Torrez. “Welcoming a child is a huge life change, and you want them to know that you support them too, not just the life they are bringing into the world,” she said.
  • Leave your opinion at the store. Again, even if you have the best of intentions, avoid items that imply there is a "right" way to do things. “Breastfeeding basics for a mom who plans to formula feed, for example, will never be welcome,” said Torrez. “Avoid somewhat controversial items, like sleep positioning devices or parenting books that teach methods that families may not agree with.”
  • Shop with long-term in mind. Don't forget to include things beyond the newborn days. “Little plates, cups and cutlery come up sooner than you know it, as well as seasonal essentials — think bathing suits or snow clothes — in a size the baby is projected to be,” added Torrez. “Parents also often overlook things like toys in the 9+ month range, baby proofing essentials and necessities like sunscreen or toddler-sized pajamas.” Julie Cole, a mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels, agreed that although new parents don’t always think beyond the baby phase, it’s essential that some gift-givers do. “The babies are tiny for about five minutes — think about what products and clothing items you might want when they are 18 months old,” she said. “Investigate what friends with older babies and children are using. I recently purchased a Stokke Tripp Trapp Chair for a new mom. My kids STILL use theirs as tweens and teens.”
  • Don’t get baby gear in gender-specific colors. When it comes to items like bouncers, swings and activity centers, LaBuz recommended always sticking to gender-neutral colors, even if a parent knows the gender. “This way, if they have another baby that’s a different gender, they can use it again,” she said.
  • Think twice with clothes. If you can avoid buying baby clothes, LaBuz said you should, as sizes in her experience are so unpredictable. “Since they’re only in a size range for about three months, you may end up getting something that won’t fit them for the appropriate season,” she said. “So many baby clothes don’t get worn because they’ll stay in pajamas most of the time, so if you end up getting baby clothes, opt for larger sizes like 9 or 12 months.”
  • Don’t get caught up in the “cuteness.” Things like clothes and stuffed animals are just “so cute,” said LaBuz, but don’t let this completely sway you. “There are many practical items that parents will need so choose to buy them instead,” she said.

Baby shower gift misconceptions

Some friends and loved ones feel pressure when picking out baby shower gifts — but according to Torrez, the biggest thing that shoppers get wrong is assuming it has to be “over-the-top thoughtful.” “You can buy straight off the registry. I promise it's okay,” she said. “The parents put those items on the registry for a reason, and giving them exactly what they say they need is never a mistake. It'll alleviate stress for them, both financially and for security and preparation purposes.” LaBuz agreed that practical items are the way to go for a first-time parent, especially if you can snatch them off of their registry. “There is so much that you need for a baby so help the new parents out by getting them items that they will definitely use,” she said.

The other biggest misconception is assuming that all moms or dads want the same things — especially new versus more experienced parents. “If she’s the sentimental type, maybe get her something traditional, or if she’s a fashionista mom, cute outfits will be loved,” said Cole. “As a mom of six, the more children I had, the less actual ‘gifts’ I wanted. The best presents were people taking my toddlers and pre-schoolers to the park to let me have some time with just the baby.”

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