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We Have To Talk About Making Gift Baskets For L&D Nurses

It’s a nice gesture, but is it too much pressure?

In every pregnancy Reddit group, every text message thread for expectant mothers, every Facebook bump club, you’ll find the same questions: What are you all taking for heartburn? Are you springing for the organic crib mattress? What does everyone really think about epidurals? And then there’s this one: What are you all putting in the gift baskets for your labor and delivery nurses?

The... the what? For whom?

The question of bringing a token of appreciation for your nurse has been popping a lot on TikTok lately, but this isn’t a new thing. Any Pinterest or Google search will yield you thousands of results of people making gift baskets for their labor and delivery nurses. They make them while they’re still pregnant — usually as they near the end of the third trimester when they’re finalizing nusery decor and packing hospital bags — and they fill them with all kinds of things. “Granola bars, pens, hair ties, coffee and energy drinks, Chapsticks — just anything I thought they’d might appreciate when they’re working a 12-hour shift,” says Jocelyn Banks, a mom of two in Georgia who made them for her two births five and three years ago. “Like a teacher appreciation basket, just a little extra thank you for everything they do.” Banks says she heard about the idea from a Facebook group she was in for moms who were due in February 2018. “Someone mentioned that she was going to make a basket of snacks and Gatorades — sort of like how people do for their delivery drivers around the holidays. I hadn’t heard of it before, but thought it sounded like a nice gesture to do. I was already making myself little snack baskets so I’d have granola bars on hand while breastfeeding a newborn, so it felt easy and sweet to pull off.”

It’s a lovely idea. I mean, these nurses are changing bloody pads out from under your body; they’re holding your arms up to help you into the shower after pushing another human from your body. They are (in my case) finding you naked and sobbing as you attach yourself to a breast pump because your baby’s in the NICU; they are hugging you while wiping their own tears. They are angels. They love their job. They care for you and your baby and they just want all of you safe and happy.

But the idea of making a gift basket for your labor and delivery nurses? We should all be wary of adding to the list of expectations we heap on new mothers. It already feels to too many of us like everyone else in our mom group or your TikTok feed has the time and wherewithal to film a GRWM video while in labor and on the way to the hospital, that they’ve packed the perfect Instagrammable swaddle for their baby.

I spoke with several labor and delivery nurses and they all had the same resounding plea: Do not feel any pressure to do this. Gift baskets are so nice! So appreciated! But not one nurse — literally, not a single one — would judging you for walking in the doors of the hospital without a thoughtfully assembled clutch of snacks and comfort items. “We don’t think about it. Ever,” says Phoebe Ross, a labor and delivery nurse in Georgia, and many nurses agreed with her. “It never crosses my mind when someone comes into the hospital without them,” one said. Another nurse suggested that — much like a pain-free “natural” birth and a baby who is only dressed in beige — social media might make these gift baskets look more commonplace than they actually are.

“People aren’t expected to make gift baskets for their wedding vendors, so why should they for their hospital staff?” says Monica Green, another labor and delivery nurse in Georgia. “Families should not feel any pressure to stretch themselves to put one together! We know you have way more important than things to focus on those last few weeks of pregnancy. I do not even think about the fact that my patient didn’t bring a basket.”

Ross and Green both suggest that if you want to do something nice for your labor and delivery nurse, consider leaving them a review or figuring out how the hospital recognizes exceptional staff. “I’d rather have people write specific notes/cards to the nurses, or nominate their care team for a Daisy award if they want to do something,” Ross says. “That helps us so much when it comes to raises and our ‘clinical ladder.’ We don’t have our patients for very long, so it is hard to form a rapport sometimes, unlike floors where patients stay for a few days. Notes and noms are few and far between because the relationship is fast and brief — and an emotional whirlwind — but they are a big part of the calculation for our raises.”

Green agrees. “We are there to help our patients transition through a very important time in their lives, and that is why we do our job! It means so much more to me when a patient leaves a personal note or review letting me know how I’ve helped them.”

(Many of the nurses I spoke to did recommend that if you want to bring a gift basket, you should just leave it at the station up front so they can take items from it without awkwardly entering your room for a granola bar.)

When I had my first daughter — via C-section after developing pre-eclampsia — my night nurse told my morning nurse that “this girl will thank you for literally everything you do” and gave me a hug. My second birth included a NICU stay, and one of the nurses offered to walk the breast milk down to the NICU at 3 a.m. so that I could sleep a little longer — and promised me it didn’t make me a bad mom. With my third baby, my nurse stayed an hour past her shift because I started to push right when she was about to swap out for the night. “I’ve got to stay and meet your beautiful girl,” she told me.

At every point in becoming a mother, a labor and delivery nurse has been there to remind me that I’m not alone. I have such distinct, lovely memories of being cared for by each of them, and I am so grateful that they are part of my birth stories. I may not have made them gift baskets, but I hope they knew just how appreciative I was (and still am!) of their care and grace and expertise.

And how grateful I am that they don’t judge a mom for not coming in with a basket full of Lindt truffles.