Babies bring a lot into your life. Joy. Stress. Laughter. Tears. Logistically speaking, however, the most significant thing they bring with them is stuff. Lots and lots of gifted stuff. At first you think, "OMG, I will not be able to raise this child without this and at least five more metric tons of stuff." Most of it, you will discover, is not essential. Still, every now and then a product shines through, or something so thoughtful you cherish it always. I asked moms to share the best gift they received before their baby was born — sentimental, practical, or whatever — and they came up with some great ideas for the next time you go to (or are having) a shower.
Whenever someone I know has a baby, I go through the same schpeil. I congratulate them, I welcome them to Parent Club (the first rule of Parent Club is you always talk about parent club), I assure them that they are in for some really fun times and that I'm there if they're ever having not fun times (since those times can be plentiful), and then I offer an unsolicited list of about five products that have proven themselves game changers: a baby wearing wrap, a diaper rash ointment that I order from an apothecary in the Midwest, a rocker, a nursing pillow (whether or not they plan on nursing; it's also great for taking naps with as an adult), and the stroller I have.
With few exceptions, most of those things are gifts I had been given (because my friends and family are awesome), and they were game changers. Other gifts I received, such as the hand-woven cotton blankets my mother's friend gave each of my children, while not necessary, were so lovely and thoughtful that they came to be important totems of their infancy. What will be seen as "necessary" or meaningful will vary from family to family, but these are the items the moms I talked to thought were the cream of the crop: