I got a ton of great gifts, but the best thing is what I bought for us afterward (and what I now buy for new parents): a set of burp cloths. With our 5-month-old, our motto is "you never can have enough burp bloths." You can buy a set of really good ones on Baby Center. It sounds really dull, and it won't get the ooohs and ahs at the party. But later your friends will thank you and remember you. And the burp cloths will still be in use long after Baby has outgrown the clothes.
My favorite gift is packages of flannel, receiving blankets from Target. I used them all the time for my newborn, and they made great (heavy duty) spit-up cloths too.
Two Very good baby gifts were: a very large, colorful, translucent scarf. This was actually the wrapping for a tiny pair of booties which my son never wore. But I got more use out of that scarf that you would believe. I used it to shield me when we were breastfeeding in public, as a blanket, as an emergency changing or napping surface, tocarry things in, to play peek-a-boo with, the list goes on an on. Second was a baby tylenol, pediatric drink, and various things of that nature such as a dropper, and medicine measuring spoon. It's just the kind of thing that one, in the happy euphoria of having a baby, doesn't think of needing, and just the kind of thing you will need some morning at 2 am. Perhaps this last present is best coming from a close friend or relative, though.
I felt we got the most use out of bath toys. Two, three years later, we were still playing with bath toys we got
as a baby gift. Another gift that was billed to me as "guaranteed to put your baby to sleep" was a "Lullaby Light Show." It's a wind up musical light you won?t need to really use it until your baby was closer to one year old, but then it became part of our bedtime routine until she /he was about 3.
After the baby was born, my view of shower gifts changed quite a bit. I had always gone for cuteness when giving baby shower gifts, but after my daughter arrived, I found myself returning gifts we'd received. I exchanged several adorable but impractical outfits from and gave away a number of gadgets that went unused, and I decided then that when my next pregnant friend had her shower, I was going to do something based on actual, real maternal experience. So I put together an assortment of little things that had each turned out to be perfect for their purposes -- the perfect teething ring, for example, was one that could be frozen but that had a small nonfreezing handle so the baby wouldn't have to grip ice. The perfect car seat toy was three plastic fish that hooked together and hung from the car seat handle. (They could be unobtrusively nudged to one end of the handle when not in use.) The perfect burp cloths were a dozen cloth diapers. The perfect newborn t-shirt was the type that snapped or tied on one side instead of directly over the umbilical cord. And the perfect baby toy (which was also good for a knowing laugh from the experienced moms when it was opened) was an empty paper towel roll. I popped in a board book because I always like to give kids books, and I wrapped each item individually and then placed them all in a cute gift bag. I've given these bags to perhaps half a dozen expectant parents now -- they're always a source of fun and, well, people seem to appreciate them. This is a gift that can be tailored to any budget -- how thoughtful the choice of items is will make or break the gift's real value.
A gift of a full dinner to be delivered on a evening sometime (first week or two) after baby is born. You
can get both the take-out pizza and chinese on paper plate variety as well as the full home cooked chicken dinner with homemade apple pie on nice dishes variety. Both types were wonderful. The meals were delivered on a previously agreed upon evening and then the generous givers promptly left the couple to themselves. In the case of the chicken dinner, the whole meal was delivered in an ice chest with instructions to return dishes to chest UNWASHED for pick up the next day. A coupon from a local restaurant that delivers would be good too. Although I didn't fully appreciate these gifts until after the birth of my daughter, these were by far the best!
You can generally give a toiletries kit, you can get the teeny finger nail clippers, shampoo, cheap washcloths, mild soap, A&D, tylenol, a little tiny hairbrush. I expand the gift for closer friends to include a cute hooded towel, a bathtub and some tub toys.
The best shower gift I got was a sort of receiving blanket with feet. it's truly great! Imagine a five-point star. The baby's head goes at the top point, the two side points fold across her/his body, and the little feet go in "pockets" at the two bottom points. It's perfect because it doesn't get all bunched up in the car seat and baby born-type things since it sort of has legs. Hard to explain, you can get in long-john fabric but also them in flannel too. Oh, and it comes with a little cap too.
There are tons of other shower gifts but one which is not glamorous but is still useful that is Diaper Genie. If you have a "very sensitive" sense of smell and often gag while changing poopy diapers, Many houses reeked of diaper pail and could smell it as soon as you cross the threshold. I know that this is not a very "Berkeley" type gift, but I highly recommend it.