9 Gifts You Wouldn’t Think of Giving a Couple Expecting Their First Child

As we’ve started out as new parents, these items made a big difference during long nights — and several weren’t even on our baby registry.

Baby Boy Shepherd pictured at two months old with his parents.

By Josh Shepherd Published on December 12, 2019

Months before our baby boy was born this past spring, glossy mailings and online ads started to show up. This latest dohickey is what you need to keep your baby safe and well!

As parents of a newborn who turns nine months this week, we’ve been greatly blessed by support from friends, family, and Junior’s wise grandparents. Their advice has helped us navigate today’s $74 billion-dollar baby products market.

Competition for our dollars has led to plenty of options when it comes to the basics, and even led to innovations that can make parenting simpler. Sources like Consumer Reports and the annual Trouble in Toyland report also help guide us to better decisions grounded in research.

Now we’re the first to recognize that all babies are different, and so are parenting styles. What worked for us may not for you or your loved ones. It’s always wise to ask expectant parents about what their needs are, and usually go for what’s on the baby registry.

In the daily routine of parenting, these are nine items we’ve found that have helped us along the way. Where it’s relevant, particular brands and models are listed though in many cases there are several quality options.

1. Bubzi Co Owl Sleep Aid and Soother

When a friend gave us this sleep aid, we didn’t know it would become a big part of our baby’s nighttime and nap routine. Available as an owl or other animals, it projects stars on the ceiling, provides soothing white noise, and (importantly) turns itself off after 30 minutes.

The Bubzi Co products, with just a few buttons, are simpler and easier to use than similar items from competitors. Get spare batteries because you’ll likely use this multiple times daily.

2. Portable Changing Pad

While only Mom can nurture the little one in certain ways, one thing Dad can do is handle stinky diapers. But it presents problems when few restaurants, rest stops, and the like include diaper-changing tables in men’s rooms. (A current global campaign is seeking to change this.)

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A portable changing pad comes in handy when out and about. Whether changing on a narrow countertop or vehicle back seat (or worse), it can help keep Junior a bit more clean and contained.

3. Pure Enrichment Small Humidifier

As seasons change, a humidifier is a must to prevent irritating symptoms like dry throat that can quickly get worse. Initially, we struck out. Another model had too many buttons to navigate it late at night. It was also too large; to avoid mildew, our constantly washing it made it break.

This compact model is exceedingly simple, with just one button. It runs for a few hours, then turns itself off once all the water is gone.

4. Glow-in-the-Dark Pacifiers 

A key parenting skill we’ve gradually acquired is keeping track of many small things … in the dark … when lacking sleep. When you’re looking under the crib for the third time in one night, a glow-in-the-dark pacifier can allow for a few more precious minutes of shut-eye.

5. Jogging Stroller And Car Seat Travel System

New parents can easily feel trapped inside, so walks are a welcome respite. A reliable and easy-to-use stroller/car seat combo runs more expensive than other items on this list, but the time savings and usefulness can make it worth it. Around Christmas, you can often find this combination from a quality brand for under $150 as we did.

6. Baby First Aid Kit 

Before a baby is born, you really have no awareness of how often things like baby-sized nail clippers and a nasal aspirator are needed. A standard first aid kit lacks infant-specific tools. Thankfully, several quality Baby First Aid Kits exist — including one from the Red Cross.

7. Noise Protection Earmuffs

With allergies and sniffles common in spring, we waited some weeks before going back to church with baby. When we did, one friend’s thoughtful gift of noise protection earmuffs helped. As we attend a contemporary worship service, certain songs can be a bit loud for newborns to hear. Concerns dispelled, we could join in worshipping God with our church family.

8. High-Contrast Books 

Initially, we thought it odd when parents we know gifted us a few board books in only black-and-white. But that’s how a newborn sees the world early in life, and high-contrast images can help them develop visual acuity.

He responded with smiles and coos only to those books at first. Before long, we introduced other favorites like My First Storybook Bible — perfectly short stories for bedtime — Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and lots of Spot the Dog.

9. Travel Toys

After some time in a car seat, baby often needs something simple to stay occupied. You never know what stuffed animal or squeaky toy a little one will enjoy most, so it’s great when friends and grandparents have your back. For our little guy, a small stuffed elephant and his squeaky giraffe teether provide hours of tactile fun.

Now that he’s standing up and trying to walk on his own, we’ve secured all the furniture and started to baby-proof the place. He’ll still get his share of bumps and bruises. We’re grateful for words, support, and more from caring friends and family who help us know we’re not alone.

What resources have you found helpful? Comment below to join the discussion.


A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream and The Federalist. This post was co-authored with his wife Terri, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Central Florida.

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