When Julie Barrow learned she was expecting her second child, her friends decided to throw her a baby shower. But Barrow, already mom to a toddler son, Austin, said she didn’t want friends shelling out big bucks for baby necessities she already had. So Barrow suggested a secondhand shower, where her mom friends could pass on goodies their own babies had outgrown.
“I hated for anybody to spend money when they had the resources at home,” says Barrow. “So I suggested a hand-me-down shower.” Secondhand baby showers are an emerging trend among ‘green-thinking’ moms who get joy from passing on their precious baby items to other families. Moms who give items, like the idea of extending the life of gently-used goods, while moms on the receiving end are grateful to save money on big-ticket necessities.
“This is all in the age of going ‘green’, and it saves you a bundle,” says Kimberly Hayes, a mom of two. “Kids are really expensive, and you need lots of things for them when they’re really young. Between car seats, high chairs and ‘pack and plays,’ you can spend thousands of dollars, and within a year you don’t even use them anymore.”
Here are tips for a successful secondhand shower:
Make sure the new mom is receptive – “I know some people who have hang-ups about using secondhand things for their baby, but I’m not one of them,” Barrow says. Float the idea by the mom-to-be, to see how she feels. While you’re at it, make sure dad-to-be and grandma are on board. “Some dads might not want used things for their little princess and some grandmas might feel insulted by the idea,” Barrow says, so it’s best to check.
Even for a first shower for a first baby, you can ask the mom if they are open to gently-used items, says Hayes. “Ask, because you don’t want to insult somebody – you want them to use the items and not just give them away.”
Make the invite ‘green’ – Barrow’s friends used Facebook and word-of-mouth to invite others. “Not a piece of paper was used,” she says.
Decorate simply – Hang fishing line on the walls and suspend baby outfits on tiny hangers. “The best part was I got to pluck all these little outfits and take them with me,” Barrow says.
Share cooking duties – Have each guest bring an appetizer or homemade dessert to share. Instead of favors, split up the leftovers and have everyone take home a plate of goodies.
Think about the mom’s biggest needs – “Those showers are really great for moms who are having second babies of the opposite sex,” says Hayes, who attended Barrow’s shower in January. Hayes, mom to Conner, three-and-a-half, and Rebecca, 20 months, says she was happy to pass outfits to her friend, who is expecting a girl in March. “Kids go through clothes so quickly, and sometimes you have outfits that have never been worn,” Hayes says. “I can give it to the Salvation Army, but if I know of a mom who can use it, then why not?” Barrow says she also appreciated gender-neutral gifts like a swing, vitamins and a high chair mat.
What to give – Clothing, toys and accessories like strollers and high chairs. Even a high-priced item like an electric breast pump can be a lifesaver, with the new mom only having to buy new attachments. You may also want to check before passing on ornate furnishings or bedding that may not mesh with the new mom’s decorating style.
Don’t forget the best gift of all – “All my gifts came with advice,” Barrow says. “I would open a gift and they would say, ‘And this is how you use it,’ because it had already been enjoyed by their children.”
It’s okay to re-gift – Memory books, picture frames and other gifts that new moms get in bulk are perfect to re-gift to another new mom.
Wrap a used gift simply – Hayes suggests proper etiquette is to wrap new gifts, but present used gifts in a simpler fashion, perhaps stacked neatly in a gift bag or shopping bag. “Most of my gifts were in gift bags with tissue paper, which of course I reused,” Barrow says.
Don’t feel cheap – “I got about three times as many gifts as I would have at a regular shower, and people didn’t have to spend any money,” Barrow says. “The gift bags were ridiculous. I was pulling 15 to 20 outfits out of a bag.”
Enjoy passing the torch – “It brought such joy to my heart to see friends with clothes on their baby that my son had worn,” Hayes says. “When I first had Conner, friends gave us bags of clothes. We thought it was the coolest thing in the world, so we wanted to bring that same feeling to other moms.”
Julie is the founder of Story Bayou (www.storybayou.com), which makes interactive storybook apps for kids aged eight to 12.
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