#financefriday Baby Shower Essentials: Gifts That Won’t Break the Bank

Gift on wooden background with the text

Gift on wooden background with the text "Baby Shower Essentials: Gifts that Won't Break the Bank"

Headed to a baby shower this spring? In today’s #financefriday post, we’ll give you some ideas for baby shower essentials that won’t break the bank.

Have you ever seen one of those store generated “suggested registry items” lists? The ones with 500 items on the, most of which are totally unnecessary buys… 

Baby registry checklist with many items
EVERYTHING your baby needs (and doesn’t need)

Today we’ll trim the list and help you decide what mom-to-be really needs for baby, and what you can buy without breaking the bank. 

The “Core 4”

This is my list of absolute must-haves when bringing baby home from the hospital. Everything else is extra in the beginning weeks.

Four pane graphic with a gift in the center. Includes a baby bottle, crib, onesie, and disposable diapers. Titled "The Core 4."

A travel crib (Pack and Play), inclined bassinet (Rock and Play), a co-sleeping bassinet, or crib

More than likely the mom-to-be will have selected at least one of these items on her registry. The first three are typically the most useful in the early weeks and months at home with baby. I suggest purchasing an inclined sleeper, bassinet, or a travel crib that includes the bassinet attachment. Most small babies like to feel as though they are being held all the time. I mean, they did just spend nine months cooped up inside a belly with a constant heartbeat for sound. Go for the sleeping item that offers baby the most support and comfort. This will hopefully help mom get more sleep in the early weeks at home. 

Clothing: 10 onesies, 10 pairs of pants, 7 sleepers, and 6-12 pairs of socks

Listen up – baby doesn’t need a walk-in closet full of clothing. They eat, they sleep, and they poop. They also really aren’t supposed to go out and be social during the first 6-10 weeks of life, so they don’t need a ton a “cute little outfits.” Be practical. Buy mom lots of sleepers that are seasonally appropriate. Winter baby? Warm fleece. Summer baby? Light cotton. My kids rarely ever wore socks and pants, but instead lounged in their sleepers during their first weeks of life. Comfort is key.

Diapers, lots of diapers.

If mom is going to use disposables, buy a giant box of her preferred brand. GIANT, because, well, babies go to the bathroom a lot. Remember to save the receipt in case mom receives too many diapers in the same size. This will allow her to take them to the store and exchange for the next size up. Also remember, most babies can wear a size 1 diaper immediately at birth, so the cute little newborn diapers probably aren’t as necessary as a big box of size 1’s. 

If mom has chosen to do cloth, please, please, please, buy the diapers she has selected on her registry, especially if you don’t have experience cloth diapering. Cloth diapers come in tons of different sizes and styles and are a very personal choice for ease-of-use and fit. Mom has probably selected these diapers because she’s spent some time doing her homework.

A nursing pillow, like the Ergo or Boppy pillow, or bottles

If mom is breastfeeding, she NEEDS a nursing pillow and several covers for it, because, yes, babies spit up on them, and mom’s boobs will leak on them, and it’s just easier to have a spare cover or two to swap out when your pillow gets gross. If mom isn’t breatsfeeding, she’ll need tons of bottles. Sometimes you just don’t have time to wash them after every use, so it’s always nice to have a ton of backups, and with 8-12 feeds a day – that means she’ll need a TON of bottles the first couple weeks. Also remember that breastfeeding moms will still need a few bottles for their time away from baby.

The Babylist bottle box that contains 5 different brands of baby bottles for new moms to try

The Babylist Bottle Box popped up in my Facebook feed the other day and I have to say, it’s pretty brilliant. Five of the most popular baby bottles in one little kit, because you never know what baby will like best. 

Unique Gifts

Want to do something fun and unique? When my sister-in-law had her little girl, I bought a large glass canister and filled it with girly hair bows and barrettes. Do you have a special talent, like knitting or crocheting? Knit the baby a custom hat, blanket, or lovey that will hold up to the test of time. For my baby shower for baby #1, we asked each guest to bring a book with a special note written inside to fill baby’s library. We still have at least 50 books at my house with personalized messages to my oldest that he’ll soon be able to read all by himself. Consider creating a book basket of your favorite children’s books and writing a message inside each about why you love the book and what special memories it holds for you. 

Close-up photo of three Dr. Suess books
Everybody loves a good Dr. Suess book

Another gift I love to give friends is a “nursing basket” or “hospital needs basket” full of all the items that they’re too embarrassed to ask for or don’t know they need. Typically I wrap this gift in a way that the majority of the items will be hidden when opened in a shower setting and add a note on top that explains the contents – in case they choose not to show everything to their guests. I would only recommend this for a very close friend, since many of the items can be very personal.

Creating a “nursing basket?” Add disposable and reusable breast pads, natural nipple cream, Mother’s Milk tea, a nursing scarf or cover, pumping storage bags, and hot/cold packs for those first few days home. Want to make a “hospital needs basket?” Add some heavy flow pads, a box of the “pretty” adult diapers (these are great in the days just after baby and do come in cute colors), chapstick, mini hygiene items like shampoo, conditioner, facial wash, baby wipes, and toothpaste to make mom more comfortable during her hospital stay.

Group gifting

Are any of your friends or co-workers attending the shower? Remember, the mom-to-be doesn’t expect you to refinance your home to buy a gift, but if you’d like to buy one of the larger items from the registry, consider asking your friends or co-workers to split the cost. Big items like the crib, stroller, pack and play, and car seats can be a hefty purchase for one, but split up among friends, become an affordable choice. Black and blue single jogging strollerOne of my favorite shower gifts from baby #1 came from my very close friends and their mother and was a single jogging stroller that allowed you to easily place the car seat inside or take baby out and put them straight in the seat. I still have that stroller after three children and do use it for #3 while big brothers walk beside us. 

Gift Cards are always welcome

So if you’re shopping for a new mom, just remember, don’t go overboard, and if you can’t decide – go for a gift card. Many new moms realize they need items they didn’t even add to their registry once baby arrives. If you can’t decide, know that choosing a gift card or cash will help mom buy diapers or other necessities later. Those gift cards offer great peace of mind when you’re off work for 6-12 weeks with a new tiny human learning their individual needs.


Looking for more gift ideas? Check out my post Baby on a Budget. Are you a new mom getting ready for baby? Click the links to learn more about Breastfeeding, Cloth Diapering, and Natural Labor techniques

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Teresa Glasgow
Teresa G is a work at home mom of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 2 months. She has been happily married to her husband Gus for 7 years. She and her family currently reside in the Slippery Rock area, where she has been a longtime resident. Teresa has bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Professional writing from Slippery Rock University. She has worked in many different fields over the years - dance teacher, aerobics instructor, swim teacher, and most recently, documentation specialist and content manager for a local software company. Currently, she works for The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy, and as a freelance writing professional and content manager for a variety of clients in several different industries. Teresa and her family spend much of their time outdoors, being active, and you can often find them in their “Little Boat” on Lake Arthur, or in the “Big Bass Boat” at Lake Erie. In her spare time, Teresa loves to practice yoga, run, and read anything she can get her hands on.