Before I had kids, I didn’t have the first clue what a new mother would want or need. Around here, everyone has become an expert in new-mama gifts, but perhaps where you are, babies are not seeping out of the woodwork, but the first pregnant lady in your entourage is about to pop and you are stressed about what to give her once she has been “relieved of her burden”, ha ha. Well. Let’s start with a few “what not to do”s and thence proceed to the winners.
What not to give to a new mama:
1. A cute bracelet that you switch from arm to arm to remind you which boob you are supposed to feed from next. Despite Dana from New Mexico’s gushing claim that one of these “made my breastfeeding experience so pleasant”, this is a prime example of useless junk that one just does not need cluttering up her arm. “Oh, god, did I switch the bracelet, or did I forget? If I forgot, then I feed from this side… But I can’t remember if I forgot or not. Shit, which side do I feed from? Help me, magic bracelet!” Those of you who have breastfed, you know which boob is full and which one is re-filling. Or maybe you don’t, but the baby doesn’t care. She chooses anyway, often eschewing one perfectly good, full, due-for-a-feed boob for the other one for no apparent reason. And sleep-deprived, barf-covered, un-showered mamas have more to worry about than remembering to switch the damn bracelet to the other side. Here’s a tip: Which side of your nursing bra is still unclipped, 3 hours later? That’s the side you fed from last. Unless they’re both unclipped…
2. A cute brooch that you switch from boob to boob to remind you which boob you are supposed to feed from next. see #1. Who designs this shit? Check this out: you can do one of these as a craft! No!!! don’t do it!!!
3. A breastfeeding shirt with a cute pun on it like “Boobalicious” or “Weapons of Mass Lactation”. If you are breastfeeding in public, chances are people will know without having to read your t-shirt. The suckling
piggy baby is usually a good indication to others that your “boobs were made for milkin’ “.
4. And speaking of t-shirts, let’s stay away from the ones for Dad too. Dad can wear breastfeeding t-shirts the day he breastfeeds. And this is apparently biologically possible, so Dads, quit tooting your sanctimonious “I support breastfeeding in public” horns and learn how to lactate. When you start pulling your own boobs out in public because “breast is best”, then please, feel free to sport a “Proud daddy of a breastfed baby” t-shirt.
5. Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Sleep Solution. Babies cry. Some sleep. Save that poor, baggy-eyed mama the guilt trip and gently suggest she Ferberize the little screamer. Pantley’s book has been dubbed The No-Sleep Cry Solution in our house.
6. A baby monitor. Who wants to hear her cry from her room AND from a transmitter in your living room? Don’t you feel guilty enough letting her cry without having it in stereo? You do if you read Pantley’s book, or anything by Dr. Sears.
Fortunately none of my friends or family have given me any of these atrocities. What they have given me, I will hereby include in the list of what you SHOULD get for a new mama. So many people are having babies these days, I get lots of practice figuring out what to give them. Flowers are nice, but not very useful, and the new mama has to do all kinds of things to support the gift like find a vase, put water in it, find a place to put the flowers, notice them when they wilt, vaccuum up the petals when they fall off, throw out the dessicated stems 6 months later when she finally has time to do something beyond feed her kid and clean up, and scour the crusted minerals off the long dried-up vase. Perhaps Lisa Brown could come up with Baby Deal With The Flowers in her collection of very useful baby books, but until then, here are some other suggestions of what to get for that brand-new mama.
1. Food. Not groceries; ready-made, pop-in-the-oven food. Lasagne, mac n cheese, quiche, shepherd’s pie, spanakopita. Soup. A roast chicken with all the trimmings, and take the roasting pan home with you to wash.
1.a) Calorie-laden snacks that can be eaten with one hand at 3 in the morning. Ice cream sandwiches, for example.
2. A massage gift certificate, along with babysitting service for the duration of the massage.
3. Reading material that requires little brain power and even less time. Think bathroom reading material. Magazines (not parenting magazines, for christ’s sake), comic books, compendia, and lists all fit nicely into this category. P got me a subscription to The Guardian which really helped to keep my head poking out of my bell-jar. I could just about manage to get through one issue a week.
4. Chocolate, tea, coffee. Yes, she’s allowed.
5. Barf cloths. Oh wait, I think they’re called “burp cloths” but why would you need a cloth for a burp? Yeah, just another euphemism that’s supposed to trick us into believing that having babies is all coos ‘n’ giggles. The new mama should know that she is going to smell like curdled milk for approximately 6 months, no matter what, but that having 20-30 barf cloths strewn all over the house will help her to mop the slime up out of her cleavage before it trickles all the way down to her bra, which she will then have to go and change, thereby adding to the laundry pile, unless she just decides to embrace her new scent, ”Lait Caillé“. Chez nous, the alarm call of “Pass me a cloth! A CLOTH!!!! Right there beside you! AAAHhh!!” is followed by a barf cloth sailing across the room to the person holding the dripping baby at arm’s length. Once in a while the cloths make it to the laundry room. The more you have, the less you need. You know?
I hope that you feel more empowered and confident now to go out and get or make that perfect new-mama gift that she will fully appreciate while she’s scarfing it down, mopping it up or hurriedly trying to read it while hiding in the bathroom with the shower running. And don’t worry, if it’s a bust, she won’t remember anyway.