There is almost nothing sweeter than the tiny, soft-to-touch toys often given as gifts to newborn babies. It is a natural gift to gravitate towards, but what can we give babies that is a little more original, and a little more relevant to their needs and interests?
Often these gifts are more about the adults than the baby, who will not develop the interest or ability to play with toys for several weeks, and even then will be far more interesting in brightly coloured, noisy, chewable items than pastel teddy bears.
What a newborn baby does need however, is its mother. I shall explain why.
Human babies are, compared to other primates, born quite prematurely. Our enormous brains mean we have to escape the womb while we still can, and newborn babies are really not developmentally ready for the world. In fact, they are more like kangaroo babies, like kangaroos, humans practice "exogestation", we finish growing our foetuses, outside the body.
For this reason newborns instinctively know that they are safest when they can feel, smell and hear their mother close by. Their physiological and psychological development is centred around gazing at her face, feeling her heartbeat and breathing, and suckling.
So how can we use this information to help us choose gifts for a newborn?
A good baby carrier allows the baby to be close to the comforting warmth, sounds and smells of their mother's body. The best ones have no fabric between the mother and baby, so allow skin to skin contact. They should support the baby's bottom and hips, facing in towards the mother's body. A stretchy soft wrap carrier is an affordable option. The baby, positioned on the mother's chest, is the ideal focal distance to gaze at her face, which is all the entertainment baby needs between naps in the early days.
A plump nursing cushion. Whether the baby is breastfed or formula fed, a comfortable nursing cushion will support them at the best position for watching their mother as they feed, close to her body.
Sometimes a new mum needs to spend a little time away from her newborn. During these times a cloth comforter can be very helpful. There are a wide range of these on the market, including ones with built in music and heartbeat sounds! A soft cloth, perhaps with tags or different textures is great, but most important is that it smells like mum.
What a newborn wants most in the world is time in their mother's arms, but there are so many things that pull new mothers away from spending time with their babies. To give the gift of time with their mother, we can relieve the mother of some of her responsibilities.
A postnatal doula is a professional, who is usually a mother herself, and will support families through the newborn period. Most will prepare meals, help care for other children and do a little housework or laundry. All of this means that the new mother can spend time with her child, guilt and stress free. Many doulas offer gift vouchers which make an excellent newborn present.
All of these gifts will keep a newborn happy, secure and entertained, they might not be the most typical baby shower gifts, but I know they will be appreciated by mother and baby.