Live in the UK and wondering whether to have a baby shower? What will your friends think? Will they be comfortable with it or will they see it as a blatant request for presents?
Originating in the USA in the post WWII baby boom period , baby showers are becoming ever more popular in the UK. However many are still not comfortable with the idea. Much like Halloween, they resist it as a materialistic American custom. So new Mums have a bit of a dilemma. To hold a baby shower or not is just one question. When to have it? Who to invite? This article sets out to help with these decisions.
Are baby showers an imported American custom?
The name is certainly a product of the USA as is the current popular format. However it has always been the custom in the UK to celebrate the arrival of a new baby. In the past this was informally fulfilled by the mostly male ceremony of ‘wetting the baby’s head’ and a continuous flow of female visitors bearing gifts in exchange for a cup of tea and, if lucky, a biscuit or a piece of cake.
The ceremony of Baptism or Christening was the more formal way of welcoming a new born, which until recent times was performed soon after the birth as infant mortality was high. However in this increasingly secular society, baptism is no longer relevant to many. (See also Naming Ceremonies)
Are baby showers simply a way of asking for presents?
Certainly presents are expected (the term ‘shower’ possibly refers to being ‘showered’ with gifts) but are they not in any case? Do we not all rush out to buy our friends and relatives baby presents when they are born? Holding a baby shower gives the opportunity to give something back in return, . I.e. food, drink and fun!
Should it be before the birth or after?
For obvious reasons it seems tempting fate to have a celebration before the birth. However childbirth is a much safer event now, for Mother and child, and there are advantages to a pre-birth shower. Mum-to-be has more time and energy to plan and enjoy the party. If you have a starter set of goodies for baby then you know what you need to buy to fill the gaps.
Having it after the birth, however, has the advantage of controlling the flow of visitors. They can all come at once to see the baby! The downside of course is that you are too knackered to appreciate it!
Who to invite?
In the USA it is common to have more than one baby shower for different groups of people. In the UK it is probably best to keep to one for close family and friends, i.e. people who would normally buy you a gift at the birth anyway. By all means if you are working have a ‘leaving party’ down the pub for colleagues. They will no doubt club together for a present and it will be a bit like an informal baby shower anyway.
By the way, a Nappy Cake like this one is a great joint gift. Its got all the basics in a beautifully presented gift set.
If it’s a pre-birth baby shower then it is best if it’s a girls’ only occasion. Men tend not to get too excited about the birthing process while women like the opportunity to give the benefit of their experiences (sometimes too graphically for mixed company!) Women also are more comfortable with joining in silly games so these pre-baby parties can be lively and fun.
Post- birth baby showers can be for couples as everyone likes to see the baby. Here the baby is the entertainment so there is less need for fun and games!
How to invite people to your baby shower without putting people off?
- Ask a close friend to do the inviting and hosting
- Make it clear that this is a party and a celebration and that there will be drinks and food
- Suggest that, if they would like to bring a present, that every day items like nappies and baby vests would be most welcome.
- Prepare them for the games.
Some of the games suggested on American baby shower sites would have us reserved Brits running for cover so keep them simple and non-threatening. At a friend’s baby shower we asked people to bring a baby picture of their own so we could match baby to adult. You can have other games to bring out once the fizz has done it’s work!
Have a gift wish list handy as most friends and family will want to buy you something you want. Remember babies grow quickly so pick some things for older babies too? See our New Born Gifts and Gifts for Toddlers sections for ideas