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The Best Baby-Shower Gifts, According to Experts

Photo-Illustration: Strategist. Photos: Retailers

So your best friend had a baby and you’re completely clueless about the whole enterprise. What do you bring to the shower? Do you go with something cute or useful? (Probably useful.) But what’s the most useful? To find out, we asked an array of baby experts — mostly new moms themselves, but also shop owners, medical professionals, and doulas — a simple question: What’s the best baby-shower gift? Below, their 85 very helpful responses, which range from a doula-approved baby carrier to a diaper rash cream applicator to customized book club subscriptions. (And if you want to start a registry on Amazon, where most of our items are available, it’s a cinch.) To make the list even easier to shop, we’ve arranged the items by category; if you know the type of gift you want to get, but still need specific ideas, you can click on any of the links below to jump to that group of products.

Clothing | Blankets, swaddles, and mats | Loungers, swings, and bassinets | Strollers and high chairs | Slings and carriers | Nursing and feeding | Books and toys | Pacifiers and teethers | Diapering, bathing, and grooming | Nursery and décor | Gifts for mom (or dad)


Dr. Frances Benedict, who works in pediatrics, told us that parents swear by Zutano booties for newborns because while “baby socks are notorious for not staying on, these booties will stay on.” They come in a bunch of colors and in various styles kids can graduate to as they grow, according to her. “They have ones with grips on the soles for older, more mobile children, so kids don’t slip on slippery floors,” she says. Moms Amelia Holowaty Krales, a senior staff photographer at our sister site the Verge, and Allie Gillebo, a designer at Vox Media, are two more fans. Says Gillebo: “These are the best! They’re the only bootie that ever stays on my babies.”

Here’s another pair of baby “shoes” that are sure to stay on tiny feet, according to Melissa Tortorella, the former communications manager at East Village gift shop Pink Olive. “These baby moccasins will not fall off your kid’s feet and be lost to the sidewalk forever,” she says, adding that they’re “durable, well-designed, and adorable.” They’re made of leather and are available in a range of colors, from white to powder blue to gold.

“This sounds so silly, but onesies that zip as opposed to snap are so helpful,” says mom Madeleine Fawcett, a co-founder of public relations firm Project MM. “Trying to button up on a squirmy babe is tough, especially after a middle-of-the-night diaper change, so we have a lot of these Hanna Andersson jammies. They are the best.” The pajamas range in sizes from infants to 3-year-olds and are available in practically every color and design that you can think of.

Mom Kelsey Keith told us her go-to baby-shower gift is this hadagi from Japanese brand Makié, which her own daughter “and all of her baby cohorts” received. “It’s a beautiful material and really easy to get a newborn into and out of,” she says, thanks to the ties at the waist and snaps on the pant legs. This writer (Lauren Ro) was also gifted several of these for her baby shower and even dressed her son in one for the ride home from the hospital.

Chantel Tattoli believes that terry cloth is a great fabric for newborns. “Snug as a bug, my kid spent much of her first three months snapped into jumpsuits fashioned out of beach-towel material, especially at night,” she says. She recommends terry cloth “because it’s super absorbent, and they’re always spitting up, and also because the looped cotton is so soft and thick and warm,” she says. One of the pieces she found in the material was this romper from Oliver & Rain, which she loves.

Blankets, swaddles, and mats

“Hands down, the gift we recommend to most expecting families are swaddles,” says mom Alex Ng, the owner of children’s boutique PiccoliNY. “But not just any swaddle: These, by Coveted Things, are extra special and truly set themselves apart because they’re so versatile — as a swaddle, of course, as a photo backdrop, as a burp cloth, as a nursing cover, as a blankie, as a carriage cover.” Ng adds that they come in beautiful designs with sweet (and cheeky) messages, including her personal favorite that says, “Shit just got real.”

Keith also likes to give swaddles, along with play mats and towels, from Kip&Co to new and expecting parents. Seeing as swaddles are generally muted in color, she loves how her favorites stand apart with their “really fun patterns that do not shy away from a bold look.” Keith’s go-to play mat to gift, meanwhile, is filled with cotton to give a bit of extra padding for wee ones.

While this can function as a play mat for a baby, teacher and mom Andrea Roberts explains how it can be a gift that does a lot more. She told us that, at some point, you’re going to have to take your baby grocery shopping with you. If they’re old enough, you can plop them in the grocery cart for a more convenient experience, but you might not love the idea of them touching a germy handlebar. That’s where the mat-slash-cover comes in. “I took this with me everywhere we went,” she says. “It was great to prevent germs in the grocery store or on high chairs in restaurants, and even better, my daughter loved playing with it.”

According to mom Carrie Naas, the owner of vintage rug shop Floored, parents who balk at the idea of wrapping up their little one themselves will appreciate this swaddle, which she says helps do the work for you. “This swaddling blanket was the hardest for my daughters to break out of,” Naas promises. “It helped them sleep like a dream.”

This swaddle is a favorite of Strategist writer Lauren Ro. Her son is now 2, but as an infant she says “it kept Augie so calm and chill the first few weeks of his life that we were actually a little concerned about his inactivity (turns out all newborns sleep most of the day).” What sets it apart is that it accommodates what they say is infants’ preferred position of having their arms up by their heads. And it’s not only good for kids but parents too. “What I loved about it the most was how easy it was to use,” Ro says. “I could never get the hang of regular swaddles, even the ones that were supposed to be foolproof. You didn’t have to wrap or tuck or Velcro anything — just zip it right up.”

If you’re looking for a heftier blanket, event planner and mom Elizabeth Verrelli says to consider this one made from muslin. “Aden + Anais products are pretty ubiquitous, but this blanket in particular is a tactile paradise,” she says. “It’s heavier, it washes well, it holds up. My daughter barfed all over this blanket once, like an adult-size power puke. I thought it was a goner. And it came out of the wash looking like new.”

This writer (Ro) received this faux-fur blanket from Little Giraffe as a gift when her now-toddler was just born and simply adores it. The blanket is incredibly soft and cozy and has a tiny bit of weight to it that (she imagines) makes it so comforting to a newborn. A silky satin trim adds a luxe touch, and it’s also easy to wash. For these reasons, it’s become a go-to baby-shower gift.

Loungers, swings, and bassinets

Help your friend with the Hamptons house take their baby to the beach. Jason Morrison got this with the intention of taking his daughter to Greece to keep her protected while at the beach. It’s UV-protected from the sun, and it’s large enough to accommodate babies and toddlers, and can even fit in a suitcase. It has use beyond the beach too, he says. “It really performs as a portable play space now — she sits in it and watches TV or sticks her animals in or whatever,” Morrison adds. “She can even sleep in it. It’s basically a fort.”

From $195

“Hands down, the most useful thing we have is the DockATot,” says mom Erin Crawford, who works in financial services. “It looks like a baby life raft and has magical sleep-inducing powers over our son.” As its name suggests, the contraption is a “dock” with cushy sides that you can park your baby in for lounging, napping, playing, and co-sleeping. “I bought it based purely on Amazon reviews and celebrity endorsements, and I reckon I’d be a zombie without it,” she adds. Mom Allie Lindenmuth, the founder of maternity-fitness brand Anook Athletics, also says one of these would make a great gift, telling us a DockATot is “not only fashionable, but functional” and that it helps “to keep your little one safe while sleeping.”

The (far less expensive) Boppy lounger is another must-have among parents (and one of the most-registered-for newborn items, according to baby-registry website Babylist). Jennifer Saxton, the founder and CEO of the Tot Squad, is one mom who swears by it. “We used it in every room of the house,” she says. Another is this writer (Ro), who has described it as “an overstuffed pillow with a scooped-out section for your baby” that acts like a chair of sorts. Like the DockATot, it’s great for plopping your baby in when you need a personal moment. The sturdy lounger can also be easily thrown into the washing machine when it gets a little dirty.

“This chair thing looks so weird, but it’s truly a godsend,” promises Fawcett. “It sets babies up to eventually sit on their own and it’s the perfect thing to throw them in while cooking or sending emails.” Something any new parents who are now working from home would particularly appreciate.

Mom Emily Ross, the associate provost at the School of Visual Arts, says “the most useful gift we received was this swing: We used it constantly for about four months.” She admits it’s expensive, but explains that the swing bought her priceless minutes of me time in her early days with her baby girl. “My daughter insisted on being held at all times, unless I put her in this swing. Without it, I never would have been able to eat or pee.” The plush seat has four bouncing and swaying modes (they simulate movement like a car ride or tree swing) and comes with built-in music and toys and even Bluetooth compatibility.

Another seat that moves, this BabyBjörn bouncer is not powered by electricity, but simply the kicking legs of a newborn. It comes recommended by mom Domino Kirke-Badgley, a certified birth doula and educator at Carriage House Birth. “The bouncer leans all the way back, which is essential for newborns, plus older babies can bounce themselves to self-soothe,” she says. “Maybe most importantly, it fits easily through doorways — so new parents can bring it into the bathroom when they need a shower.”

If the new parent you’re shopping for is also concerned about the aesthetic of their house changing with the addition of a baby, you can get this much more stylish bouncer for a dollar less. Keith, who is also the editorial director of Herman Miller, owns this, and she knows a thing or two about interior design. “Most baby stuff isn’t so nice looking, and you just have to get over yourself,” she says. “But I think this bouncer is beautiful; it’s nice to look at them in something that looks so cozy and something you don’t hate.”

Product designer and mom Rebecca Schultz told us that, after she had C-section, receiving this co-sleeper as a gift was a very welcome surprise. “Using the co-sleeper with the drop-down side means I don’t have to lift the baby up so much in the night,” she explains. The drop-down panel allows for the bassinet to get right up to the side of your bed, so you can simply reach over to the baby instead of lifting it up and out as with a regular bassinet. “It also looks, and I’m assuming feels, more like a crib,” Schultz adds, “so I hope our crib transition is easier.”

This slightly less expensive bassinet also has a drop-down side and it swivels, making it that much easier to position. Saxton told us about it, calling the Halo “an amazing bedside sleeper that swivels over the bed to provide a safe, separate sleep surface for a baby that’s still within arms reach.” Echoing Schultz, she says it would be a thoughtful gift for anyone who underwent a C-section because “it can be really hard to twist or get in and out of bed, so having easy access for middle-of-the-night nursing is clutch while maintaining peace of mind about safe sleep.”

Perhaps a gift you’d have to chip in with a few others on, the Snoo is another of those pricey pieces that can be priceless for new parents. The “smart” bassinet was invented by none other than pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp himself, and responds to a baby’s crying with motion and white noise to calm it back to sleep so that you don’t have to get up and do it yourself. Says Strategist contributor Chrstina Ladd, “You have no idea how grateful I was to have those extra, precious minutes of sleep for myself.” (If you want to read more about how it works, we recommend her full review.)

Samantha Shipp Warrick has a SNOO at home but found herself with a screaming 2-month-old when they went out of town. At a very small fraction of the cost of a SNOO, this vibrating paddle can be placed under your travel mattress (or one at home) to help gently rock the baby to sleep.

Strollers and high chairs

Mom Rachael Martelle, a home stylist, raves about this jogging stroller from BOB (it’s expert-recommended, too). “I have three boys, and I basically only used this stroller all the way through,” she told us. “The car-seat attachment allowed me to use it from day one, and I still use it today with my 4-year-old.” She said that it’s “so tough” even after “so much use,” but it’s also not too big, and a swivel wheel makes it easy to use indoors, too.

Babyzen YOYO 2 Stroller

For something much more compact, you can’t go wrong with the Babyzen YOYO 2, which you’ll see all over city streets because of its convenience and maneuverability. Catbird co-creative director Leigh Plessner swears by it: “I just wanted the lightest, smallest thing I could find, and this is the perfect stroller for New York vestibules and stairs.”

It’s definitely pricey, but this high chair truly grows with a child, according to dad Dave Jacobs, the owner of Mini Jake, a children’s store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “The convertible Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair provides modern seating for an infant but also can turn into a chair that suits a teenager (it can hold up to 300 pounds),” he explains of its versatility. For the youngest of users (babies 6 months old and up), it comes with an insert that helps keep little bodies propped up a bit more.

This less expensive and more compact high chair comes recommended by real-estate agent and mother of two Amanda Olsen. She calls it “perfect for small-space living, or visiting somewhere without a seat for your kid,” as it simply slides onto a tabletop or counter. Plus, she adds, cleanup is a cinch: “You can toss the cloth part in the washing machine.”

Slings and carriers

“A baby carrier is a must for city families,” says Jacobs, who recommends the Ergobaby Omni 360 carrier. “It provides hands-free snuggles for fussy babies, which allows parents to wrangle older siblings and navigate subway excursions.” The Omni offers four carry positions and can accommodate newborns as well as toddlers (its max weight is 45 pounds), making the price a bit more reasonable. This writer (Ro) is another fan and can attest that the carrier is super easy to put on and very comfortable to wear, thanks to its padded straps and lumbar support.

Mom and operating-room nurse Maggie Caron says this more flexible (and affordable) wrap-style carrier would also be a thoughtful choice. “My baby did not want to be put down — she would’ve crawled back in the womb if she could,” Caron says. “Both my husband and I used this 24/7 during the ‘fourth trimester.’” She says it’s “easy to put on, breathable, and the best part: waterproof,” which theoretically means you could even take your baby swimming in it.

[Editor’s note: Wrapsody is not currently taking orders, but they will open again on September 1.]


Another structured carrier that’s slightly more affordable than the Ergobaby is the Becco Gemini, which comes recommended by Lindsey Bliss, a certified birth doula and educator with Carriage House Birth. She likes how “you can put your newborn right in, thanks to the buckles and the structure,” and notes that structured carriers can accommodate younger babies earlier than wraps can. (Like the Ergobaby, it has four carry positions and can grow with your child until they’re a toddler.) Bliss adds that “men tend to love these because they’re sleek and easier to use” than a wrap. “It gives you hands-free time and it’s a little less fuss,” Bliss concludes.

Nursing and feeding

According to two moms — Gretchen Radzik, an art teacher at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, and Courtney Klein, the CEO of maternity brand Storq — these bottles from Comotomo would make for an inexpensive but useful gift. “They’re a green product,” Radzik explains, “and older babies can learn to hold these bottles more easily than others,” thanks to the bottle’s grippy silicone body. Klein agrees, adding that both of her kids “took to these bottles right away” and that “the wide mouth makes them easy to clean.”

Eventually they’ll transition from bottles to sippy cups and they’ll need these. Journalist and mom of two Hannah Selinger, recommends these sippy cups that are actually spill proof. After ending up with one too many spilled drinks in the bottom of her diaper bag she found these which not only don’t leak, but “can withstand my children’s gnawing,” she says. “Rubber valves — which you can buy separately in bulk — can be flipped to the inside of the cup to make the thing truly spillproof. Flip it in the opposite direction and the cup metes out liquid at a measured pace.”

Milkies Freeze Organizer

Moms who pump (or are planning to pump) will likely appreciate any gifts that help get their freezer in order, like this organizer recommended by naturopathic doctor Alicia Birr. “This contraption for the freezer helps keep the freezer organized and makes sure you use your oldest milk first,” she explains.

Another thoughtful idea for moms who pump, according to Birr, is this “totally important” cup used for passively collecting breastmilk that may otherwise go to waste. Use is as simple as “placing the collector into the bra-cup on your non-nursing side,” she explains. “It’s unreal how much milk I save.”

The new mom on your list will also benefit from some nursing bras. One of our favorite everyday underwear brands, Negative Underwear, also makes a beloved clip-down nursing bra. “True to form for the brand, it’s not armored with padding or underwire, but it still works for a larger bust. I had such a hard time with bras, between cup-size changes and nursing needs. No one tells you you have to buy and try like a dozen to find the ones that work for you,” says Keith. “It was a very tasteful friend who first recommended it to me, and the bra — it gets the job done.”

According to Benedict, Medela’s lanolin ointment is a must for breastfeeding moms. “Other brands are too thick to apply,” she says, but this one “lends itself to easy and painless application.” If the ointment alone doesn’t feel giftable enough, she says to bundle it with these nursing pads from Lansinoh. “The Lansinoh brand is the most comfortable and least abrasive,” she promises.

While new parents may not be able to use this right away, it’ll come in handy once the babe is ready to tackle solids, according to Olsen. “It’s really unbelievable how many hours of my current life are spent planning, purchasing, prepping, feeding, and cleaning up food, so anything that helps in that department is vital to me,” she says. “These little mesh feeders enabled me to give my daughter fresh fruit and veggies without worrying about her choking.” They’re also great to put ice in for teething, she adds.

Olsen also swears by this silicone placemat, which she uses at home and takes everywhere, including to restaurants and friends’ houses. “It helps me avoid the kids’ food being on dirty, germ-filled tables, plus cleanup is easy: You just move the mess from table to sink.” It’s versatile, too, because it can be used for playing with Play-Doh and other arts and crafts when the kids get older, she adds.

Forget about trying to feed a baby without a bib. If you want to give one that’s truly a workhorse, Verrelli says you can’t do much better than this plastic one from BabyBjörn. “My husband thought they were weird because they are kind of stiff, but that’s a good thing,” she says. “When you see how much food collects in the bottom, you will understand the logic of choosing that particular material.” The plastic makes them especially easy to clean with just some soap and a sponge, she adds. “Anything that you don’t have to launder is great, bibs especially, as they get very soiled and stained.”

Books and toys

Beyond the very practical clothes and gear new parents will need, the folks we talked to mentioned some more entertaining — but no less functional — baby-shower gifts to consider. A good board book, according to two people we talked to, is one of those gifts. In fact, those two people say you could throw a whole baby shower around the theme of board books as gifts. “If all guests participate, you leave with a starter library,” explains mom Jen Trolio, a culture editor at Vox, who adds that you can instruct guests to sign those books instead of giving cards. “They are really special if they are all signed by the person who gifted them.” Halle Tecco, the CEO of fertility startup Natalist, also had a book-themed baby shower. “Not only did we seed our son’s library collection, but we get to read a note from a loved one every time we open a book,” she explains. As for what board book to give, Tecco says you can never go wrong with her (and lots of others’) favorite, Goodnight Moon. “This sweet book is a classic and so comforting to little ones; if you start reading it at a young age, they’ll have it memorized by the time they’re a toddler,” she says. (For more board books to give, head here.)

For a less expensive gift approved by Snoo creator Dr. Harvey Karp, Ross suggests this DVD that teaches new parents his raved-about method for quieting a crying baby. (If you’re not familiar, it involves something called the five S’s.) Her “very kind neighbors lent us the DVD, which taught us how to get our newborn to stop screaming bloody murder in the first few weeks,” Ross explains. “I can’t tell you the difference it made.” For those who maybe haven’t held onto their DVD player, the lesson can be streamed via Amazon video and also comes in the form of a (just-as-giftable) book.

Another way to grow new parents’ baby-book library is to give them a subscription to a book club. Saxton recommends this one to the Little Feminist Book Club, telling us its something her whole family loves. The books they receive “feature diverse families, cultures, dis/abilities, hair textures, emotions and more,” according to her. “We’re raising a 21st-century babe, and each month the subscription includes tips, activities, and discussion topics for the age-appropriate selection we received.”

Contributor Stephen Haskell told us about this book subscription way back in 2016, calling it no less than the best gift he ever gave. The Picture Book Club, he explains, offers custom and themed subscriptions (a My First Library Bundle and a 1970s Bundle are just two of its packages), but what sets this book club apart is the care that goes into each installment. “First, books are actually useful — especially the unexpected, fantastic ones beyond the classics,” he says. “Second, the packaging is gorgeous and personal. From the illustrated logo to craft-paper wrapping to personalized book plates and handwritten note cards, the presentation is not just attractive but also thoughtful.”

A cross between educational toy and décor, author Doree Shafrir wished she had put this playpen, meant for toddlers, on her registry, which she says helped with her baby’s independence. “I did see him, even at a very young age, start to explore his toys and try to roll and do all these things I wasn’t necessarily expecting him to do yet,” she says.

Tortorella loves these dolls from Blabla, which also appear on our list of the best gifts for 1-year-olds, where they were recommended by a doula who says she gives them to most every little one she knows. “An Atlanta-based team has collaborated with Peruvian artisans for the past 15 years to bring these delightful, hand-knitted dolls to children worldwide,” Tortorella says. “They’re so soft and cuddly.”

While these stacking cups don’t look like much, Verrelli says she “cannot believe how much mileage we’ve gotten out of them.” She basically calls the simple toys a baby-shower gift that will keep on giving. “They can be incorporated into almost any level of developmental play. At first, my daughter used to just gum on them. Then we stacked them as intended. Then we brought them into the bath for water play. Now, she will put a spoon in one and bring me a ‘cup of coffee.’”

If you’d rather gift a plaything a baby can use when they’re a bit older, consider this roaming toy that Strategist contributing editor Jessica Silvester bought (after seeing it on Eva Chen’s baby list) to help encourage her 8-month-old to start crawling. Designed to grow with a child, it includes a graspable bee rattle that wobbles (for babies who aren’t quite ready to crawl), as well as a motorized cloud base that moves in two different patterns: circles (for beginner crawlers) and more random movements (for more advanced crawlers). “After a few tries, my son started going right after it,” Silvester says. “Now he’s shimmying his roly-poly little body all over the house.”

Pacifiers and teethers

When a baby is cutting their first teeth and a pacifier won’t, well, cut it (at least when it comes to soothing), a teether will do the trick. Stowaway Cosmetics founder Chelsa Crowley says that her daughter loves the Nuby. “It’s the perfect size for her to hold, soothes her gums when she’s teething, plus the nubs clean milk and food residue from gums and teeth,” she says. It even comes with a convenient carrying case.

This charming doughnut-shaped teether is made of wood, giving it a more artisanal look than the various rubber and silicone ones you see everywhere. Tortorella recommends it, telling us the maple-wood plaything is “naturally antibacterial, nontoxic, nonallergenic, non-splintering — and handmade with love.” (All things that make it quite giftable, we add.)