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Gender-Neutral Baby Clothing War

How Can I Avoid Gendered Baby Gifts?

By Amalah

Hello! You’ve helped me before and I’m hoping you’ll help me again. I’m currently 15 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I are going to find out the sex of the baby around United States Thanksgiving. We’ve already decided to find out, and that we’ll just tell everyone. No “gender reveal” parties are in our future because with the holidays, we’re highly likely to be completely partied out, among other reasons.

The question is, is it possible to completely stop gendered clothing, toys, and so on if we do tell? Most of my family and most of his are on board with the non-gendered baby clothing objective, mainly because we may want to have more than one child, and it would be nice to be able to reuse SOME things.

Also, I don’t see colors as inherently gendered, but many gender-specific items have gross messages. Is it possible to specify on, for example, baby shower invites that we’d prefer non-gendered gifts?

Or am I doomed to “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Little Slugger” nonsense that pops up everywhere? Is it super gauche to state a distinct dislike for an entire class of clothing and other baby articles?

Help!!

Manage your own expectations re: others embracing your Gender Neutral Objectives

The short answer is no, it’s not really possible to completely stop gendered baby clothing, toys, etc. Particularly if you are announcing your baby’s biological sex before the birth — our society is still very much hard-wired to hear It’s a Boy/Girl! and run for the nearest gender stereotype on the clothing rack.

And while it’s a noble objective that I am 100% supportive of, it’s also one that will drive you 100% batty if you try to enforce it across the board. So it’s best to simply accept that you can’t really dictate other people’s generosity and you’re going to get some of that stuff, and that’s okay. That’s what gift receipts and the Goodwill are for.

(This also goes for parents hoping to avoid baby gifts with batteries or plastic, or would prefer all gifts be unpainted organic artisanal Montessori-approved items that match their living room decor: I get it. I really do get it. But Great Aunt Karen ain’t gonna get it, so…oh well. Smile and be gracious! Check the gift bag for a receipt later! Donate the offending item if you must! But send a thank-you note anyway!)

Baby shower invites and gift etiquette regarding requests

It’s considered rude and gauche to include ANY references to baby gifts on party and shower invites (and yes, I am going to die on this particular etiquette hill; feel free to give me a push and roll me off after my corpse is cold), so no, you should not explicitly put a request for non-gendered gifts on the invitation.

Ideas for how to suggest to guests your preference for gender-neutral baby items

What you CAN do, on the other hand, is:

1) opt for gender-neutral invitations that make no mention of the baby’s sex,
2) load up your baby registry to the brim with your preferred non-gendered items, and
3) have your shower host or hostess aware and informed of your preference, and then field any and all guest questions.

“Do they know what they’re having?”

“Yes! It’s a boy/girl. But we’re requesting guests bring all gender-neutral baby items anyway; they’d like to have things to reuse for future babies!!”

“Oh, okay. Do they have a baby gift registry?”

“Yes! Here’s the link. Can’t wait to see you at the baby shower!”

There will ALWAYS be someone who goes off-script and off-registry. There will ALWAYS be someone who thinks every baby girl must own a pink sequined tutu and matching tiara, or who just can’t bring themselves to buy the beautiful ecru swaddling blankets for a boy when there’s a package covered in various tacky blue sportsball graphics right there on the shelf. (Not that sports should be inherently viewed as gendered either, but you get my point.)

You could also opt to SELECTIVELY tell people the sex — close friends and family, who you say are already mostly onboard with your plan, get to know, while maybe you don’t tell…say, your coworkers. I’m not sure this would totally work if your shower(s) end up having a lot of guest crossover, though.

Big-ticket items like strollers and car seats and travel cribs and exersaucers, on the other hand, are definitely where you can more easily push for the gender-neutral options since those are built for re-use. Put what you want in the color scheme you want on your registry, and if asked about group gifts from shower attendees or coworkers or whatever, cheerfully and graciously offer them the link, along with an offhand comment about this being “baby number one,” so you’re hoping to keep things gender-free and neutral for the future. Most people “get” this, so it should be easier to have your preferences honored without a lot of WHAT ARE YOU, SOME KIND OF HIPPIE LIBERAL WEIRDO? judgment or eyerolls.

Creative ideas for when you do receive gendered baby items

Here’s another thing: Newborn clothes already have a low chance at reuse, to be honest. Diaper blowouts and spit-up and all other unholy bodily fluid messes will render a LOT of your baby’s wardrobe a one-and-done kind of thing. So if you can’t return or donate something you find to be ridiculously and needlessly gendered or annoying, relegate to at-home/pajamas/literally-everything-else-is-in-the-laundry wear. Use the princess onesies as a protective inner layer for your favorite neutral footie romper. Send Great Aunt Karen a photo of whatever ridiculous thing she sent, then cut it up for burp rags.

(xoxo and congratulations from a fellow hippie liberal weirdo)

More articles on Gendered Neutral Baby Items at Alpha Mom

1. Boys Will Be (Feminist) Boys
2. How to Gender-Neutral Parent in a Family of Bias
3. The Gender-Neutral Clothing War

 

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Timba
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Timba

The only way to have totally gender-neutral gifts is to not tell anyone the gender.

Or, you can do what WE did and tell people that it’s ‘probably’ on gender or the other, but that the techs weren’t certain. We’ve done that with all four. (That allowed us to share our name and refer to bebe that way, but because there was some ‘doubt’, most folks bough us gender neutral things. There were some folks that waited until the birth for gifts, but mostly we got green and yellow and grey and what we registered for.

Music with Rocks In
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Music with Rocks In

By pure accident we ended up with pink shower favors for my son’s shower. No one even commented. And I only got one set of onesies with slogans that made me wrinkle my nose! Honestly I think girls are in a touch more danger of gross ‘heartbreaker’ shirts though. A good friend of my did make me a ‘Gender is a social construct’ onesie though, and I was so sad when he grew out of it. Clothing is so temporary though, you will have things the baby will never wear because the seasons don’t match up quite right.

Kay
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Kay

We loaded up our registry with gender-neutral items and also tried to support businesses that don’t advertise their items along gender lines. For babies, gendered clothes is the big thing. Later on, it’s toys. Put more gear than clothing on the registry. Figure out what your line in the sand is. I didn’t really care about pink or blue but anything that said “Mommy’s Main Man” or “Daddy’s Princess” left my house immediately. Most anything with tags can be consigned, or easily donated. One truly horrifying onesie, a cartoon sperm that read “Daddy’s Little Squirt”, was too terrible to pass… Read more »

Sarah
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Sarah

Also to add – I TOTALLY get the desire for non-gendered clothes. That said, I found myself less repulsed by some of it than I thought I would, and also – free clothes are free clothes. We relegated most of the super terrible messages (like “daddy’s little cupcake/princess/etc”) to undershirts or hand me downs. My first was a girl and my second is a boy. Admittedly, I put him in the more “gender neutral” clothes (and hate myself a little bit that I shy away from all the lace and bows, but alas, I do), but he wears plenty of… Read more »

Laura
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Laura

We didn’t find out, and our daughter still got inundated with stupid gendered crap. And wayyyyy too much pink. I just pass on the stuff I don’t like now. Took a long time to not feel guilty about it. Books, clothes, whatever. If the message isn’t right, we don’t use it. If I buy clothes for her it’s almost always from the “boys” side. The colours are better.

Also, guess what her younger brother is wearing today? A nice pink sleeper. One of his current favourite toys is one of her dolls.

LMo
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LMo

Another useful tip–if you plan to use daycare, you’ll need spare clothes in case of blowouts and other accidents. I keep all of the clothes I love at home, and send the ridiculous stuff to daycare as backups. That way I never have to look at it, and I don’t have to take any of the cute things out of rotation!