What is a Baby Shower? Background, Planning, and Etiquette

    Updated 25 November 2021 |
    Published 17 January 2019
    Fact Checked
    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK
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    When a baby is on the way, the parents aren’t the only ones that get excited. Odds are that the future grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, and other loved ones will also be eager to welcome the newest member of the family. A baby shower is one of the most traditional ways in which your loved ones come together to express their joy at your pregnancy. It’s a time for friends and family to share time with the expectant parents and to “shower” them with gifts, love, and good wishes before the birth. Read on to discover baby shower planning ideas that will help you create an unforgettable day!

    What is a baby shower?

    A baby shower is basically a party which is thrown to celebrate the impending birth of a new baby. It’s also a way for friends and family to help the new parents get everything they need. After all, babies need tons of stuff, and the list can get quite expensive!

    Baby shower background

    You might not know this, but the baby showers we know are a relatively new invention. But that doesn’t mean that giving gifts to expectant parents wasn’t done before baby showers became popular. New babies have always been a source of joy and celebration — but in past times, these celebrations were very different from what we know today.

    Ancient Greeks and Egyptians held rituals to celebrate the new baby and its mother. During these rituals, they also offered gifs and good wishes to different gods and goddesses. During the Middle Ages, the baby’s baptism served as an opportunity to give gifts to the new parents. It was common for gifts to have religious significance, and godparents were usually the ones who gave them.

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    Later, during the Renaissance, mothers were given lavish gifts upon the birth of a baby. It was during the Victorian era that baby showers started to take shape. Back then, pregnancy and childbirth weren’t discussed publicly, so these celebrations took place after the baby was born.

    Victorian baby showers were tea parties that included games and gifts for the new mother. They became more popular over the following decades, and they were known as “stork parties”. Baby showers became widespread — especially in the US — during and after both World Wars; they provided an opportunity for loved ones to help new parents financially after the economic hardship caused by the wars.

    When should you have a baby shower?

    There’s no hard and fast rule that dictates when you should have a baby shower. Most baby showers are thrown approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the baby is born. That way, guests can have the baby’s gender in mind when choosing gifts and decorations. 

    Many mothers choose to have their baby shower later in their pregnancy because the risk of miscarriage decreases with each passing week. It also means that you’ll have a clearer picture of the things you’re still missing and that your loved ones could help you with.

    Baby shower planning

    Traditionally, planning a baby shower isn’t done by the expectant mother herself. Instead, friends and family members come together to plan the celebration. After all, the meaning of a baby shower is to “shower” mom and baby with gifts and love!

    If you’re an expectant mother and no one has come forward to plan your baby shower, it’s perfectly acceptable to approach a close friend or family member and ask if they could do it. And even though most moms choose to relax and let others plan the shower for them, you can always help your loved ones with the planning if you desire. But if they insist on taking care of everything without your help, let them! This is an opportunity for them to show you and the baby love and affection.

    It’s also okay to put together a gift registry. A registry can be very helpful for guests who aren’t sure what to give you. It can also help avoid duplicate gifts from different guests. 

    Who to invite to a baby shower

    The guest list for every baby shower is different. Usually, the expectant parents’ close family members and friends are invited. But the planners should keep in mind that mom could prefer to keep some people off the guest list. It’s always a good idea to ask the mother about the guest list before sending out any invitations.

    For a long time, baby showers were an all-female affair. However, co-ed baby showers have gained popularity in recent decades. Before, pregnancy and birth were taboo topics that were only meant to be discussed amongst women. But it has become increasingly acceptable - and expected - for dads to be more involved. If you’re planning a baby shower, ask the parents if they’d like an all-female or co-ed baby shower before putting together the guest list.

    Places to have a baby shower

    Selecting the right venue for your baby shower will depend on how many people are invited. If you’re having a small baby shower, it’s possible to hold it in a home. This could be the home of one of the planners, or even the new parents’ house. However, planners should keep in mind that if the shower is held at mom’s house, someone should stay behind to help with the cleanup. No one wants to have to clean after a party during their third trimester!

    There are many other places to have a baby shower. You can do a quick Google search to look for popular baby shower venues near you. These could include community centers, tea rooms, restaurants, parks, hotels, or clubhouses. 

    The most important thing is to keep mom and dad’s preferences in mind and to select a place that will accommodate the type of activities that you’re planning for the big day. So a park or clubhouse could be ideal if you’re planning lots of fun games. A restaurant or tea room, on the other hand, could be more appropriate for a calm, classy baby shower.

    Or you might opt for a virtual baby shower hosted completely online, which became a popular socially distant alternative during the COVID pandemic. It’s also a great option when you, your friends, and your family live in different locations.

    How to throw a baby shower

    Baby showers can be playful and fun, or relaxed and elegant. It really depends on what mom wants and what she’s feeling up to. Even though mom doesn’t usually plan her own baby shower, it’s always good to ask for her thoughts on the activities that are being planned.

    These are some of the most important things to keep in mind while planning a baby shower:

    • Games: from guessing how big mom’s belly is to “Guess the Baby Food”, there are plenty of games to keep guests entertained. Google can help you come up with a list of fun baby shower games.
    • Food: you can choose to have a buffet or spread to which everyone can contribute. You can also ask guests to pitch in to buy everything before the day. Or if you’re having the baby shower at a restaurant or tea room, you can request a budget from the venue itself. And you can always have a baby shower cake!
    • Favors: baby shower favors don’t have to be extravagant. Small bags with candies, cookies, or other small items are a lovely way to thank each guest for coming.
    • Gifts: if the parents have created a gift registry, each guest can choose to bring their own present - baby clothes, toys, and diapers are popular gifts. You can also give mom something to pamper herself with, such as face masks, scented candles, or even some nice makeup. Or if mom and dad need help with one of the costlier items, you can talk to guests and try to raise the money to give a bigger gift together.
    • Decorations or theme: use sites like Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook to come up with decoration ideas. Many lovely themes can be created using simple supplies and DIY crafts.

    Baby shower etiquette

    Baby shower etiquette used to include a lot of rules, but you’re not expected to follow them if you don’t want to. For example, a single baby shower used to be held, and it was meant only for the first baby. Nowadays, expectant moms can be showered on different occasions if there are different groups who’d like to throw their own celebrations. 

    It’s also become acceptable to have a baby shower for each pregnancy. Of course, gifts won’t usually be as grand for second or third pregnancies. But the expectant parents can still enjoy a fun day surrounded by loved ones!

    At the end of the day, the most important thing is for mom — and dad, if it’s a co-ed baby shower — to enjoy the day and to receive lots of love, gifts, and good wishes. After all, the new baby will be here in no time, and a baby shower is a wonderful way to spend some time surrounded by loved ones before the big day is here!

    History of updates

    Current version (25 November 2021)

    Reviewed by Dr. Anna Klepchukova, Intensive care medicine specialist, chief medical officer, Flo Health Inc., UK

    Published (17 January 2019)

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