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What is a Baby Shower?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A baby shower is a party held to celebrate a woman's impending motherhood. It is typically thrown by her friends, and guests include other friends, family, and co-workers, if the woman is close to them. In addition to being a good excuse for a party, it's also a great way to make sure that a new mom gets the supplies she needs, especially if the baby is her first child.

Typically, a shower features an assortment of baby-related games, as well as the opening of presents. Food may be served as well. Guests are invited by the person who hosts the baby shower, and in some cases, the party is a surprise for the new mother. In the case of a surprise party, the cooperation of the father or a family member is usually enlisted.

When purchasing gifts for a baby shower, most people try to get things that they think are practical or useful. In many cases, these gifts are products that people have used themselves. In some instances, parents with older children may offer old changing tables, cribs, car seats, and other potentially expensive baby equipment. As well as being a good use of otherwise idle equipment, these gifts are often greatly appreciated by lower income mothers who might not be able to readily afford them otherwise.

Common gifts include things like baby clothes in an assortment of sizes, toys, books, and baby supplies like diaper bags, changing tables, blankets, and monitors. Gift certificates for diaper laundering companies, nannies, and housekeeping services are also appreciated. Since some of these gifts can be redundant, it is an excellent idea to coordinate gifts with the attendees, to ensure that a mother does not receive unnecessary multiples. Coordinating also guarantees that a mother receives vitally useful items, like an infant car seat to take a child home from the hospital in.

In addition to practical gifts for mothers, a baby shower is also an opportunity to pamper the new mother. Gift certificates for spa visits, massage, and hair cuts are fun ways to celebrate a mother and to encourage her to take good care of herself after the birth. Other gifts, such as yard care, use of a car service, or meal delivery in the weeks following delivery, are also great practical gifts for both parents. Sometimes, thinking outside the box for presents can yield a very gratefully received gift.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By indemnifyme — On Aug 29, 2012

@Azuza - I'm sorry, but I don't think ease of purchasing baby shower supplies is a very good reason not to invite men to a baby shower. My step-sister just had a baby, and her husband was so excited about it, he was the one that put the baby shower together!

Also, there were a lot of other male family members there, and it was really nice. It was fun to celebrate the impending arrival of the new baby with the whole family, not just the women.

By Azuza — On Aug 28, 2012

@John57 - I've heard of people doing co-ed baby showers. I think the idea is a lot more popular among younger people.

I personally like the idea of a women-only baby shower a lot better. Most baby shower favors are geared towards women, and, as you said, women tend to be a lot more interested in babies than men. And I think a lot of women would feel more comfortable playing silly baby shower games if there weren't any men around!

By sunnySkys — On Aug 28, 2012

@Pharoah - I don't know how many baby showers you've been too, but in my experience, giving used items at baby showers is fairly common. As the article said, usually the used item is something expensive, like a crib or a fancy stroller.

I can imagine getting offended if someone gave you, say, a used bib at a baby shower. But I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at a used stroller. Those things are expensive, and I would just be grateful to have one!

By Pharoah — On Aug 27, 2012

I have never heard of people giving gifts at a baby shower that were already used! This sounds extremely tacky to me, and I would be really upset if someone gave me a gift that was used, unless we had talked about it beforehand.

By donasmrs — On Aug 27, 2012

@LisaLou-- Is there going to be a scrapbook?

If there is, I saw a great scrapbook idea at a baby shower I went to recently. I went to my coworker's baby shower and she had this scrapbook where the pages could be taken out and placed back. She basically gave each guest one page and asked them to write advice for her and her future child on the page.

It was such a great idea because both my coworker and the child can go back and read the advice in the future when they remember the baby shower. It's one of the most unique ideas I've heard lately. You could even make the scrapbook pages part of the baby shower invitations.

By fify — On Aug 26, 2012

@LisaLou-- Well, the theme can be anything you want. It would be good to incorporate your sister's interests and hobbies into the baby shower decoration ideas if you can. For my daughter, we actually had a cat theme because she adores cats.

I agree with you that many of the games at baby showers are similar and they do get boring after a while. I've been to so many baby showers where the game involved being blindfolded and trying to find stuff in a bowl. It's not a very unique or fun idea anymore because it has been utilized so much. Baby shower themed word games can be a little more interesting and keep people on their toes.

By turquoise — On Aug 25, 2012

I love this American tradition. I'm originally from India and friends and family in India do purchase gifts when someone is pregnant, but it's usually not as much as it is here. I think it's great because expenses go up so much when there is a baby. There are so many things to buy and it can get very expensive, especially with the clothes since babies grow out of them so quickly.

When I had my first child here in the States, we had a baby shower at our home and received so many gifts and gift cards from friends and coworkers. Even though we don't have family here, they literally covered half of the things we were planning to buy for the baby. I wasn't working then, so I cannot tell you how much we appreciated this. It really made things a lot easier for us financially.

By LisaLou — On Aug 25, 2012

I am going to be giving a baby shower for my sister and have been looking for some different baby shower ideas.

The baby showers I have gone to lately have all been about the same, and I have been looking for some different baby shower ideas. Does anyone have any suggestions where I can find some different baby shower games to play?

By SarahSon — On Aug 24, 2012

When I had my first baby, my friends threw me an awesome baby shower. I ended up going into labor the following night, so I was so glad I received many of the gifts when I did.

One gift I will always remember was an offer to watch the baby and a gift certificate for a manicure. After a few weeks, I took her up on her offer, and it was a great time to get away for a bit and pamper myself. I always remember this as being a very thoughtful, and unique baby shower gift.

By John57 — On Aug 24, 2012

Most baby showers I have gone to are for the mother and her close friends and family. I recently went to a baby shower where the husband was there and other couples were invited.

I'm not sure if this was that successful or not. Sure the guys are excited about the baby, but they just don't react like most women do. I think most of the men were wishing they were somewhere else.

I also thought it was a bit awkward for those who were there alone. It's always exciting and fun to go to a baby shower, but I really liked it a lot better when it was just the women getting together.

By sunshined — On Aug 23, 2012

When I am buying a gift for a baby shower, many times I find it helpful to know the sex of the baby. This just makes it a lot easier if you are shopping for clothing items.

Not everybody wants to know if they are having a boy or a girl, so that is not always an option. My daughter-in-law just had a baby girl, and she didn't want to know what she was having ahead of time.

At her shower many of the gifts she received were gender neutral or colors that would work for either a boy or a girl.

By wavy58 — On Aug 23, 2012

Baby shower decorations are normally either based around pink or blue, depending on whether you are having a girl or a boy. However, if you have chosen to keep it a secret, a nice mix of pastel colors can be used.

My friend didn't want to know the gender of her baby ahead of time, so she had a shower decked out with every color of the pastel rainbow. This gave the room the feel of a nursery without pointing toward a boy or a girl.

By lighth0se33 — On Aug 22, 2012

@JackWhack – Baby registries are good, but sometimes, people feel guilty about scanning items that cost a lot. That's why I think it's good for people who are really close to the guest of honor, like her parents or grandparents, to buy her something more expensive that might not be on the list.

It's not typical for guests who are just coworkers or friends to show up at a shower bearing something big, like a car seat or a crib, unless they are giving away a used one. I think it is always nice to get at least one large gift that you might not be able to afford on your own.

By seag47 — On Aug 21, 2012

I let my sister have a lot of input when I was planning a baby shower for her. I wanted her to be happy with it, and I knew that she had particular and sometimes peculiar tastes.

She requested that I not plan any silly games. She has always hated the games at showers, and she told me that she wanted to keep things simple. Basically, she wanted food and presents, and that was it.

I made sure to keep a list of who got her what gift. I knew that she would want to write thank-you notes later and mail them out, so I also got everyone at the shower to write down their mailing addresses.

By JackWhack — On Aug 21, 2012

My best friend told me she would be throwing me a baby shower about two months before the date of the party, because she wanted me to have time to register for gifts. I went to a couple of stores that had baby related items and I got the handheld scanner from the cashier so that I could scan the bar codes of everything in the store that I wanted.

That way, my guests could get me the perfect gifts. As long as everyone stuck to the baby registry, there wouldn't be any redundant gifts, because once someone buys an item on the registry, the cashier checks it off of the list, so no other shoppers will be able to see it.

This was a great method, because I ended up getting only stuff that I had picked out. I didn't have to return anything, and I didn't have stuff that I would never use taking up space in my house.

By icecream17 — On Jul 23, 2010

BrickBack- I love those games. I just want to say that the baby shower theme should really mirror the theme that the expectant mother has for the baby.

For example,if her theme for the baby’s room is teddy bears than it would be nice to have different teddy bears as centerpieces. Small teddy bears can also be given away as party favors as well.

By BrickBack — On Jul 23, 2010

I want to add that at my baby shower the games were the most fun. We had one game where everyone had to estimate my waist size with a ribbon. They had to say when they felt the ribbon would completely go around by stomach and the ribbon would be cut. All of the ribbons were compared to see which fit best. The winner was the one that came closet to my actual size.

We also played the game where you had to write down the most baby related items within 10 minutes. We had so much fun that day.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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