A brilliant friend who’s not yet been blessed with having her nights, looks, vagina, stomach muscles, social life destroyed with a new baby asked me what she should buy for her sister who’s just popped out a glorious little cherub.

At the time of the request I myself was/am 6 weeks off the due date for baby number two, so I’m well-placed to be fantasising about all the gifts that I will never receive because it just never works like that I would like when darling angel number two arrives. These are the gifts that your work, your family and anyone else who knows what it’s like and/or cares about your sanity will give you in a fantasy because will they bollocks.

First up, no-one can really prepare for how completely flippin’ life-changing the new baby will be to your routine, eating habits, ability to cook and clean. And no NCT class I ever went to ran through these practicalities – it was all “don’t take the pethidine” (I took the pethidine, I took it all, and all the other drugs too and I loved it and my child is a genius).

So here’s what to gift a new mum to make the reality easier to deal with, with some pretty gifts to follow:

FRESH FOOD. Fresh, healthy, nutritious food is just what’s needed right now. Either make it or buy in a large supply of fresh delicious food that the mother actually likes, because no-ones has the stamina to stand in the kitchen and carefully cut up a buddha bowl with a limpet attached to the breast. Maybe do some salad jars like Anna Jones. Or a vegie lasagne and a tray-baked cake. Can’t cook, won’t cook? Cooked has high quality frozen food.

A CLEANER WHO KNOWS BABIES. Because as much as the husband/partner (if they have one) does this usually, the both of you have just had an earthquake of an experience and are totally focused on being in love with the little grub/dealing with your postnatal depression*. Send them someone who will clean around a sleeping baby and exhausted family.

LANSINOH CREAM and their icepacks for boobs. Waste no time, get this on the first hospital visit. Even some nipple shields which might not work can help psychologically by just being there.

NAPPIES. This does not sound romantic, but it is so necessary. Nappies are about to cost them every spare penny of their maternity pay and savings. Don’t worry with what kind, new babies are best trialled on a few different types anyhow. Of course if she has expressed a specific intent to go with cloth, get those. I liked Naty eco nappies.

BREASTFEEDING HELP. Get someone to tell them you can learn to feed lying down! So mum can save her upright energy for cutting up Buddha bowls/showering. You can feed lying on the couch, on the floor, on your bed, on a sun lounge. Salt-of-the-earth lactation consultants are around in either your local NHS, Sure Start or NCT. They help thousands of babies and mums work this out, so they know their stuff and the best ones will also say if breastfeeding does not work your child will not turn into a scrounging ne’er-do-well on the path to Pentonville. Formula is fine too. If she’s in south-east London, buy her a ticket to Hollie de Cruz’s breastfeeding workshop. Hollie runs London Hypnobirthing.

*not joking, this is very real and help is here at Tommy’s.

Here’s a list of lovely gifts that make you feel nice, but if you know your friend/sister well enough, just stock her up on the things that make her feel good. It’s a minor consolation for having your vagina/abdomen torn apart:

THIS WORKS SLEEP SPRAY. You’ll do anything to get some sleep, especially in the first three months of insanity. This works sleep spray for adults and the baby version might work, they might not, but they’re lovely.

MAGAZINES. There is going to be a lot of late night flicking and hours stuck on the couch feeding the new one or just holding it so it sleeps because it won’t sleep any other way (not all of them, just some). So any magazine she likes that’s easy to digest will be welcome.

PYJAMAS, SLIPPERS, A DRESSING GOWN. Choose some nice ones, because she’s going to be stuck in this new uniform for a while. Don’t go all cartoon-patterned polyester if she’s a black-wearing fashion head, but also, if she hasn’t been covered in milk, vomit, sweat and tears before, don’t make them all silk dry-clean only. Baby raising is a rapid path to destroying clothes. Also, make sure she can slide into those slippers, bending down is so 9 months ago.

DON’T BUY HER FLOWERS. Actually don’t buy her flowers because they don’t last and mainly you are so dazed you forget to put them in water anyway. But also, Steph Douglas’ site Don’t Buy Her Flowers has a solution to this – pre-made gift packs with all sorts of useful things (pictured above) like chocolate, magazines and muslins. Any one of these boxes is great.

And of course if you must buy something for the baby, my favourite childrenswear shop Cissywears has a pop-up on level 3 in Liberty until January,  pictured below. Of course you can visit Nicola’s store online or in Hither Green at 210 and 212a Hither Green Lane, London SE13 6RT.

Outside all of this, you could just very helpfully pay for something, anything that she gets regularly and is going to eat into her maternity leave budget, like her next MOT, her Sainsburys shop, her favourite skincare. It all helps and you’ll be in line to have sprog number two named after you. Happy gifting you kind-hearted person you!


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