When it comes to baby showers, the shower games are easy to plan. The party — either an in-person affair or a virtual shower — is a snap. But the gift? Well, that’s something else entirely. The Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) can help. The parenting experts and engineers in the GHI Little Lab test baby gear throughout the year, so they know what items are worth the investment.
It’s a safe bet that the big-ticket products — the best car seats and strollers and cribs — will be spelled out on some sort of baby registry or list, since parents need to figure out what brands work best for them and what features they require based on their personal needs. But when it comes to the nice-to-haves as opposed to the need-to-haves, the sky’s the limit. Here is some of the GHI’s best-rated gear, along with fun best-sellers and little items you can add to a wishing well. Pick one up for your shower gift, and the parents will definitely thank you later. (And forgive them if they do so in a 5 am text, since they’ll be up for those early-morning feeds.) And, after the baby finally arrives, be sure to check back to see some of the Institute’s favorite baby gifts, too.
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Cozie Fleece Baby Booties
Baby shoes are adorable, but ultimately impractical. These booties keep tootsies warm, and snap on and off so they’re easy for parents to remove, but harder for babies to take off.
Neworn Side-Snap Shirts
So, some new parents (ahem) may not realize that newborns can’t really wear onesies until their umbilical cords fall off. Maybe throw a couple of these kimono-style shirts in with your gift, just in case? They even come with cuffs that can act as mittens, so the baby can’t scratch their skin.
Personalized Baby Lovey
If you know the baby’s name already, you can buy a snuggly friend that is uniquely his or hers. The blanket-style lovey doll comes in many different animals, and you can also specify the font and thread color.
Lots of gift-givers love giving receiving blankets as gifts, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies don’t use loose blankets in their cribs until they’re at least 1 year old. For nighttime snuggles, go for this wearable blanket instead. You can get it in a gender-neutral gray, or go for one of the colors or patterns.
Infantino Flip Advanced 4-in-1 Carrier
The Good Housekeeping Institute was wowed by how well this carrier performed in its tests, considering its price. The baby can be positioned in it forward or backward, and testers say it’s lightweight and comfy. No wonder it’s an Amazon best-seller.
RELATED: The Best Baby Carriers of 2021
Wooden Name Puzzle
These puzzles can sit on a shelf or dresser as a bit of nursery decor until kids are old enough to play with them. As the baby grows, they can use this to practice letters, colors and fine-motor coordination.
Anti-Scratch Newborn Baby Mittens
Baby nails are possibly the sharpest things on Earth, and they grow back faster that you can imagine. These soft, sweet mittens are just the thing to keep newborns from scratching themselves before they realize how to use their hands.
Pronto Changing Pad
Parents would be lucky to have these stashed everywhere: In the car, in the stroller basket, in the diaper bag, upstairs and downstairs. The slim clutch has everything needed for a quick diaper change, including space to store diapers and wipes and a built-in pad and pillow.
Baby Stroller Organizer
Parents can always use more space and more pockets for dropped pacifiers, snacks, wipes and all the other little things parents have to tote around when they have a baby in tow. This organizer can attach to almost any stroller, and provide some instant extra space.
Milk Snob Cover Milky Stripe
This nursing cover does ingenious double-duty: It can be worn for some privacy while breastfeeding, or placed over a car seat or stroller to give the baby extra shade. Plus, the fabric is super soft!
Once Upon a World Collection
It’s never too early to start building a baby’s library. This collection features board books with four favorite fairy tales — Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella and The Princess and the Pea — each drawn in a style from a different country, including Japan, Mexico, India and Russia.
Not only do these muslin blankets come in cute prints, they have many uses. They can be swaddles, burp cloths, nursing covers or something to spread out on the floor for tummy time. Parents can never have too many.
Mini Diaper Cake
This gift also doubles as party decor — fanciful and functional! It comes with 35 diapers, but you could always splurge on the larger version, which has 70 diapers for $100.
There are a ton of uses for a sturdy, moon-shaped pillow. It can help with breastfeeding, support older babies as they learn to sit up or even help with tummy time. Plus, you can get Boppy pillow covers in lots of fun prints and colors.
Postpartum Recovery Essentials Kit
Parents don’t always want to think about postpartum recovery (and brand-new parents might not know what they’re getting into). This kit comes with everything moms don’t want to dwell on but will need later, including postpartum underwear, ice maxi pads, cooling pad liners and healing foam.
Fast Baby Bottle Warmer
A bottle warmer is a parental luxury, not a pressing need, which is why it makes such a great shower gift. This one has temperature controls that warms up milk and baby food without overheating.
RELATED: The Best Bottle Warmers of 2021
This rainbow is made of platinum silicone, which means it can be used as a teether, or as a bath toy. As kids get older, they can practice stacking it together like a puzzle.
Moby Baby Bath Set
Make bath time fun time — for parents and babies — with this bath set, which includes a soft spout cover, a kneeler so parents can get comfy kneeling in front of the bath, a padded elbow rest (with a pocket!) and no-slip mat for inside the bath.
Step Diaper Pail
Fast Table Chair
Safari Fun Playard
This playard is great for parents who plan to use it a lot: It can handle kids up to 30 pounds, so the investment will last a while. The GHI Little Lab also found it easy to clean, fold up and put away.
RELATED: The Best Playards of 2021
Personalized Diaper Bag
Presidio Diaper Tote
Pottery Barn Kids
At first glance, this doesn’t even look like a diaper bag — it just looks like an everyday, (vegan) leather tote. But inside, it has all the space and pockets a parent needs, and it even comes with a changing pad. For an extra fee, you can have it monogrammed.
Great Group Baby Shower Gift
Baby Bee Box
This box has lots of the little supplies families need to get up and running for the first three months. It comes with five short-sleeve bodysuits, five burp cloths, four shoulder bibs, three washcloths, a crib sheet, a pair of footed pajamas, two hooded bath towels, a wearable blanket, shampoo, diaper ointment, lotions, wipes, a plush toy and a board book, with all the fabric items in Burt’s Bees Baby’s soft cotton fabric.
Balance Soft Bouncer
Parents love everything about this bouncer: It looks nice, it’s easy to clean and it even folds up flat so it can be stored out of sight. And babies are soothed by the gentle rocking, which is powered by the child’s motion and not a motor.
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