Like many new mothers, I was seriously overwhelmed by the dazzling array of gifts we received in the run-up to – and the weeks following – the birth of my twin daughters.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with ideas for unique gifts to welcome little ones into the world.
I’m always on the look-out for something special, which reflects my values
, will bring joy to its recipient and his or her household – and is actually useful!
So I thought it would be helpful to pull together some of my favourite ethical and sustainable baby gifts – and I’m always open to further inspiration, so please add your suggestions in the comments…
Handmade with love
Nearly everyone I spoke to when I embarked on a spot of target customer research highlighted that the most cherished baby gifts they received were handmade – whether by someone special in their lives, or a small business creating magical things.
For my girls’ first birthday, my sister spent hours hand-stitching them ‘busy books’ (also known as ‘quiet books’) – brilliant for keeping them occupied on train journeys now we’re finally allowed out and about, and such meaningful gifts that we’ll always treasure.
Check out this link
to see the options available on Etsy if you don’t have a sister who’s handy with a needle and thread 😉
Did you know that we’re developing an online course, so you can learn to hand-stitch your own Happy Blanket, using fabric with sentimental value?
On the small business front, handmade bunting and hand-painted prints are always popular choices – but on a perhaps slightly less conventional note, I’m a massive fan of Love Kitsch by Nancy – one of her spectacular wreaths, which are hand-crafted from upcycled toys and other bits and bobs, takes pride of place in Opi and Mahi’s nursery!
If (like me!) you don’t have the time or the skills to handmake a gift yourself, it’s always lovely to choose something with a personal connection.
I was so touched to receive some gorgeous fruit-themed rattles
from a childhood friend. PebbleChild
is an ethical business creating opportunities for female artisans in Bangladesh – so the gift was not only perfect for my half-Bangladeshi daughter, but the initiative behind it serves as an incredible source of inspiration for my own social enterprise journey!
Can you spot the pineapple rattles from PebbleChild in these milestone photos of Opi and Mahi, alongside some handmade, personalised unicorns from another lovely family member, a teething toy passed down from a friend, and a gorgeous doll from Lanka Kade, one of my other favourite South-Asia based ethical businesses?
To personalise – or not to personalise?
I have to confess that I love a spot of personalisation!
95% of my daughters’ wardrobe is secondhand – or ‘preloved’, to use a trendier term – but there’s something magical about items with your child’s name – or initials on them.
My sister came up trumps yet again with these jumpers, which she hand-stitched the letters onto – they go particularly well with their tutus from our magical local charity shop, and some glittery wellies handed down from a fellow twin mama (we’re not always great at gender neutral in our house!)
I’ve thought long and hard about whether to offer personalised blankets.
On one hand, it seems like the antithesis of sustainability!
But at the same time, sustainability is a multi-dimensional concept – and if I can’t make Khushi Kantha into a financially sustainable social enterprise, thinking about environmental sustainability and creating opportunities for the mothers I’m partnering with to earn sustainable incomes become a bit redundant. So I ultimately decided to go for it!
As one of the mums who kindly completed one of my target customer surveys put it, ‘the option to personalise baby gifts is something I’ve come to expect, to be honest!’
And it’s so easy for prospective customers to head elsewhere at the click of a button that I feel a bit of a need to ‘give the people what they want’ (check out this blogpost
for more on that topic!)
Unfortunately I can’t share any images of what a personalised Happy Blanket looks like – because we haven’t created any yet – but watch this space, because we’ve had a few pre-orders 😊
And I very much hope that our blankets will be treasured from child to child, so I’ll be offering all our customers who go for personalised blankets the chance to send them back to us so we can stitch in the name of the next child to inherit the blanket for free. I love the idea of our blankets ultimately ended up covered in the names of all the little ones who have enjoyed them over the years!
Reclaim, repurpose, reuse
While I can’t claim never to have used a disposable nappy with my girls, I’ve tried my best to be a ‘cloth bum mum’ as far as possible!
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying re-usable nappies as a newborn gift, unless the parents have explicitly expressed an interest in them, as it could seem a bit overwhelming and feel like added pressure at a time when life feels hard enough!
Check out Instagram for inspiration – new cloth nappy brands seem to be launching pretty much every day…..
An initiative that is very close to my heart is Kameng Sabai
, which has recently been set up by my incredible friend (and guest blogger for Khushi Kantha
) Shazia – a British Bangladeshi social entrepreneur and all-round super mama. She’s pioneering the concept of reusable nappies in Cambodia (where she and her gorgeous family are based) but her nappies also ship worldwide – and Opi and Mahi are big fans!
Cheekywipes are a super popular choice for re-usable baby wipes (they have great kits that include everything you need
), while Whale and Me
is a lovely small business run by two mums, who handmake r
e-usable breast pads and baby wipes
– and all sorts of other useful products for the home – from their kitchen table in Brighton.
And a good friend of mine raves about these gorgeous wipeable bibs
made from recycled materials.
If you’re looking for something for when the baby is a little bit older, my ‘go-to’ birthday present for toddlers at the moment is a ‘babycino keepcup’
. They are ridiculously cute, and we use ours on a pretty much daily basis – the girls love getting involved in my morning coffee!
Check out this blogpost to learn more about how Khushi Kantha is regenerating the kantha tradition to meet global hygiene and safety standards, while retaining its circular production principles.
As a mother of mixed-race daughters, it’s particularly important to me that my girls get to meet a diverse range of characters in their bedtime stories.
So I was thrilled to meet Lindsay Pollard of Little Box of Books through an incredible social enterprise incubator I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of – and sign up one of her brilliant book subscriptions. Books like 'Feelings' and Kindness Makes us Strong have become firm favourites in our house!
Another lovely idea is to gift a newborn a favourite book from your own childhood. I recently went with Hairy McClairy, which my mum informs me I used to proudly recite, word for word, to anyone who would listen, when I was a toddler!)
Continuing with the ‘story’ theme, each of our baby blankets
comes with a unique number, as well as the name of the mother who made it, embroidered into the label, along with the longtitude and latitude of the village where the blanket was made, and our packaging inserts feature the photo and story of the mother who made the blanket the recipient is gifted.
What about the parents?
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a coffee subscription from Blue Coffee Box
! Each month they send you a lovely new blend to try, along with information about the farmers who grew it (who earn an average of 30% more than Fairtrade prices), in fully compostable packaging. My girls were nearly 18 months old by the time I received the subscription as a ‘Secret Santa’ present, but they were still up SO many times in the night (and indeed I think I’m still yet to have had a single night when both of them have slept through!) that it was the perfect treat.
On the subject of subscriptions, my dream present has always been a hand-picked book subscription
from my favourite Daunt Books
I think this would make a lovely gift for a new parent! I ended up getting through loads of books in those blurry first few months of endless night-feeds. I’ve always struggled with insomnia, and I tried to keep off screens, so I’d be able to drift back to sleep as quickly as I could in those precious chunks of time when neither of my girls were awake! And as enchanted as I was with my two gorgeous newborns, sometimes I needed some stimulation beyond simply staring at their little faces 😊
Like the rest of the world, I’ve barely left the house for the past year. I’ve answered the door to the postman in all sorts of random get-ups…so for Mothers’ Day this year, I was super chuffed to receive this gorgeous cotton kimono dressing gown
, handprinted by artisans in India, which I am proudly rocking on Zoom, day and night!
Did you know that we offered ‘grown-up sized’ Khushi Kanthas as one of the ‘rewards’ you could purchase through our recent crowdfunding campaign – and it was brilliant to receive a few orders 😊
And like many other special occasions in life, sometimes a kind, thoughtful gesture is the most meaningful gift of all – like batch-cooking nutritious meals to stock the freezer with, so there’s one less thing for new parents to worry about.
In a slight twist on this idea, my brother’s incredible response to spending a weekend away with my girls in the early days of our weaning journey (and experiencing the full-on reality of everyday life with baby twins!) was to drop me off dozens individually-portioned meals for the girls, from ‘baby classics’ like shepherds pie, to the slightly more unusual pheasant casserole.
He just happens to be a professional chef, so the girls dined in style for at least a month!
What’s your favourite ethical and sustainable baby gift, and why?