No more "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirts
When I first became a dad, I got a few gifts that were high on cuteness factor, but low on practicality. You know the kind - "World's Greatest Dad" shirts, or mugs with other trite sayings on them. The sort of gifts where you have to feign a smile.
Then there were the actually useful gifts, which made my life (and my wife's life) easier and more fun. Below are some products and ideas that have actually greatly helped me in my life as a father, and would make the perfect practical gift idea for the dad-to-be in your life.
There will be lots of short bursts of downtime in the father-to-be's life. Does he have a smart phone? If not, this is a practical -- though admittedly expensive -- gift to buy. If you don't want to foist a recurring monthly fee onto him -- and if he has WiFi at home -- I recommend the tablet option. Nothing fancy needed, nor too expensive -- I like the Nexus 7. It can browse the web, do email, read Kindle books, play videos, play games… it even takes reasonably OK pictures.
And, it gets even more useful as the child grows up. I'm not proud of it, but on the occasion when I haven't gotten enough sleep, it's 5 AM and my two-year-old son has woken up and is wired - I've let him watch Sesame Street or play some simple games. Think of it as buying the dad-to-be some sleep.
Speaking of smart phones and tablets, there are several terrific applications for new parents. One of my favorites is White Noise (and its free version, White Noise Lite). On nights when I just had a hard time putting my son to bed, the White Noise app saved the day and lulled him to sleep - to the sound of crickets, waves, or the tick tock of an antique clock - or several other sounds. Buy this app for him - or just get him to get the free version, which is what I use and it has worked out fine.
For the mobile dad, carriers can't be beat. I've used 3 different products, and they each have their pros and cons.
Although, frankly speaking, this is little more than a very long piece of fabric (and an expensive one at that!), the Moby Wrap will allow the new dad to carry the baby wherever he goes - whether that's a walk outside, a trip to the grocery store, or just doing some maintenance around the house. The baby will likely grow out of this soon - if I recall correctly, the Moby Wrap became uncomfortable after maybe 4-5 months - but there really is no substitute for this product, as it keeps the baby warm during the critical newborn phase, and it does a good job at securing the baby's head - also a must at this age.
In contrast to the Moby Wrap, the Baby Bjorn is more like a backpack for the baby - or, more accurately, a "frontpack." The baby must be able to hold up his own head to use this carrier, but it affords him the ability to look around and see what's going on better than the Moby Wrap does.
Once the baby graduates from the Baby Bjorn, in my opinion the best set of carrier products out there is one of the many Deuter Baby Backpacks. If the Baby Bjorn is like a baby backpack, consider the Deuter product the equivalent of a baby hiking backpack. And it is actually appropriate for hiking - my oldest son and I have logged literally hundreds of miles of trails in our Deuter bag - and we're still using it at the ripe old age of two and a half. It's still in awesome shape, too - and he loves this thing. Although it is a bit bulky for everyday use, I have used it successfully in stores and in the house - but you do have to make sure you don't knock things (or people!) over when turning around. It also doubles as a roomy diaper bag (or, it can hold nearly anything else you might need, including hiking gear). Rated for up to about 50 pounds of child.
Diaper Dude Diaper Bag
When my first son was born, my carrying around a diaper bag was… well, a bit of a sensitive topic. Call It the fragile male ego, but it seemed like any man who carried around a diaper bag didn't deserve to be called a man at all.
Stupid, isn't it?
To ease the transition into fatherhood, Diaper Dude has come out with a number of male-oriented, good-looking messenger-style bags to store the various accessories needed to change a child's diaper, store his or her food, etc. - and it doesn't even look like a diaper bag! You can specify designs such as camo, skulls, a dragon - and a few more.
To really rock the gift, stock it - for example, with diapers (Target or Costco will likely be the best price - go for size 1), baby wipes (I use Costco), a changing pad… and maybe a snack cup and some sippy cups for when the baby gets a little older.
We've used a number of kinds of pacifiers. Most have worked pretty well, but these Soothies - which my wife ordered recently - are awesome. Our little one has taken to them immediately. Translation: more sleep for mom and dad.
If you can cook, this is a great and much-appreciated option. New parents are tired and barely have enough energy to keep their eyes open, let alone cook. Our food-preparing friends certainly saved us when both of our boys were born.
The ideal food will be high-quantity (i.e. something that can feed the new family for 3 or more meals), high-calorie, and will freeze well and still taste good after thawing (for when there's too much food - but it will always come in handy). Macaroni & Cheese and Lasagna are two excellent choices.
If he's going to be an engaged father, and if he drinks it, he's going to need more of it. Get him some quality stuff.
Whatever you get for the dad-to-be in your life, wish him lots of luck - he will need it. But with a practical gift along the lines of the ideas above, his life will be just a little easier, and he - and his wife/SO - will thank you for it!