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Baby Shower Thank-You Notes: Better Late Than Never?

Baby Shower Thank-You Notes: Better Late Than Never?

By Amalah


I’ve been reading your page for while and never saw something that might answer my question.  My baby is 6 months old this week and I still haven’t sent out thank you cards for her baby shower gifts.  In my defense, we had a rough delivery and recovery included surgery as well as postpartum depression.  How late is too late and what do I say in those cards: “hey, she really enjoyed your gift of a blanket/rattle/book that you gave her more than 6 months ago, but because of some health issues these thank-yous have been delayed- thanks!”

Is is too late and can I even say anything to make it worth sending out those cards?

Thanks for helping out!

I believe the “usual” or “traditional” upper-time-limit on new-baby thank-you cards (HOLY HYPHENS BATMAN) is six months. However, most people aren’t exactly marking the days off on their calendars, and understand that hey, stuff happens. If they were kind enough to give you a gift, they are likely kind enough to give you a wide swath of leeway on getting cards out late, or even at all. Particularly if they know any specifics on what the past six months have been like for you.

Most people just want to know that their baby gift came in handy — so when sending belated cards, you actually have the advantage of being able to give specifics: “Thank you so much for the blanket — we use it whenever we take walks in the stroller now that the weather is cooler!” Or, “The baby LOVES the rattle you sent — now that she’s really playing with toys it’s one of her favorites!” Or, “We think of you every time we read Goodnight, Moon at bedtime. It’s become a regular part of our nightly routine. Thank you so much.”

Including an apology for the lateness and an oblique reference to your health problems (like the one you gave in your letter) is your call. You don’t want to sound like you’re making excuses, but you also might not want to completely ignore the six-month-old elephant in the room. I think your example would be appropriate if you think the individual in question doesn’t know the specifics of your delivery and stuff, but like I said, most people are willing to give new moms a break. A well-written, personalized-to-the-specific-gift thank-you note (OY WITH THE HYPHENS ALREADY), perhaps with a baby photo or two inside, would probably satisfy a lot of gift-givers. I’ve sent out very belated notes myself, and usually just…know whether the person is the type who would be happy with simply hearing how we used/are using the gift…or is someone I should probably apologize to, either because they’re just old-school about thank-you notes or just a bit…you know. LIKE THAT.

You can also simply acknowledge the timeframe without any personal details: “Just wanted to send a hugely overdue thank you for the set of baby shampoos and lotions! Even though she’s officially lost that ‘new baby’ smell, I just love bathing and lotioning her up in your wonderful gift.”

There ARE probably people who are wondering where their thank-you card is. There are also probably people who weren’t expecting one or understand why the notes got lost in the post-surgery/PPD/adjustment period shuffle. The important thing, though, is to just power through and send the dang notes already, without a lot of hand-wringing and guilt over the technical lateness. Better late than never is incredibly true here, so don’t feel the need to make a HUUUUGE production out of the notes if that will keep you from just sitting down this weekend and writing a few sentences on each. Including a photo would be a really, really nice touch, but again, if that’s going to entail a delay and more procrastinating, skip it and consider including a URL to a Flickr account or Facebook album where the gift-giver can see pictures themselves.

Just do it! You’ll feel better not having this task and the mild guilt/embarrassment of it hanging over your head. (And by the way, there’s NOTHING in the etiquette rules that precludes your significant other from pitching in and writing a few of the notes too.)


Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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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  • hp

    October 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I would send the notes with specific comments as to the gifts usage (and if I had a photo or two with the object in it–send that also). I am a knitter/sewer so I make a lot of baby gifts and love seeing pictures with “my” blanket, outfit, stuffed animal, item-that-took-forever-to-make in it. I totally don’t mind getting late thank you notes (or no note) for baby gifts. Wedding gifts are another story….

  • Therese

    October 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    I am usually a big stickler when it comes to thank you notes. I admit to a horrible weakness regarding holding grudges when people don’t send thank you notes (I’m working on this, I know it’s not good). All that to say, a close friend of mine went into pre-term labor and delivered twins the day after her baby shower. I never received a thank you note from her for that shower gift and it didn’t bother me one bit. If she had sent them 6 months later, she wouldn’t have needed to provide an explanation as to their lateness, I knew what was going on and completely understood the bigger issues of mama/baby health. Kudos to you for still thinking about formal thank you notes after a rough delivery/post-partum time. If you think there are people who don’t know you well enough to understand that, feel free to add in that qualifying info when you send your notes, otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Katie

    October 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I generally give a huge pass to any new mom with a baby on the thank you note issue (weddings, on the other hand, I expect a prompt thank you for that flatware 🙂 ).

    Also, whenever I’ve been incredibly late, it always makes me feel better if I can include a picture of baby with the item that was given–possibly impractical here for some of the smaller stuff, but maybe a possibility for the “bigger” gifts? Or, like Amy said, for those people who you know might be a little uppity about the whole lateness thing?

  • Aimee

    October 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Every single baby shower thank you I’ve ever gotten arrived after the baby was born & all of them included a baby photo. I really like this method as the vast majority of showers are for friends not in my town so I don’t get to see the babies very often.

  • HereWeGoAJen

    October 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I love getting notes that tell me how the gift was/is used. Huge giant bonus points if it includes a picture.

    Now, that being said, new babies take up an incredible amount of time and energy, so when I send a new baby present, I always put a delivery confirmation on it so that I know it got there and the recipient doesn’t have to send a card if they are too busy. Because I do admit to feeling worry if I am not sure the present ever arrived.

  • cutegirl

    October 7, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    I just got a thank you note from a shower I went to over a year ago. And then the next week I got an invitation for the one year old’s birthday party. I never noticed the missing thank you note 🙂 I mailed a gift to another friend whose shower I couldn’t attend and never heard anything about it so I kept wondering if she got the gift or if it got sent to the right place. Finally she mentioned in an email that her son loved the toys.  So I would make it a priority to send out anything where the recipient didn’t see you open it. But I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Better late than never. Plus, at least now you have used a bunch of the stuff so you can say specific things about how much you love it.

  • Crabby Apple Seed

    October 7, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Just wanted to add a “me too” to all the previous responses about late baby thank-yous being totally and completely understandable (but late/absent wedding thank yous? Ohhh, I can’t help but file that away in my brain. I am petty and small. I try not to be, I KNOW it’s not very gracious, but sheesh.) If I never get a thank you for a baby gift, it honestly never gets another thought from me. if I get a note late, I’m actually quite impressed that the person has taken the pains to remember who gave them what, and send a note when they have the time.

  • leanne

    October 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I echo the “just go for it” sentiment – no guilt, no shame, just acknowledging that you’re thankful and sometimes circumstances don’t happen perfectly in the way that people expect.
    I was married at a ridiculously young age and had a monstrous wedding with five different bridal showers.  I had over 400 thank you cards to write and I missed one whole section of people on my list because of oversight? Or perhaps just being overwhelmed and inexperienced (I was still practically a teenager!!) and just tired of writing the things.  I realized my mistake about 9 months after the wedding, never sent the cards and now – 10 YEARS later!! – I still feel embarrassed because of that.  
    So… go for it!  

  • Lesley

    October 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I also want to add that not only do people want to know that their gift came in handy, they also like to know that the recipient actually RECEIVED the gift, if they sent it through the mail or with another person or was not in attendance at the shower. It would be extremely awkward for them to ask you “Hey, did you get my shower gift? Because I never got a thank-you note from you!” It would seem like they were just fishing for a thank-you, when really, they just want to know that the money and time they spent sending you a gift did not go to waste. A thank you note verifies that the gift was, in fact, received.

  • Julie

    October 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    If it makes you feel better, I was sorting through a ox of unused Christmas cards and found a thank you note in it – written and signed, but not addressed. I opened it, and it was a thank you for a graduation present – 10 years ago! I laughed, put in a note, and sent it! 🙂 Must have set it aside to look up an address and lost it. 🙂

  • tasterspoon

    October 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Agree with previous commenters that the only times I’ve cared about thank yous was just when I wanted to know that something was received, like if I left a present on a doorstep or sent it through the mail.
    It sounds like the OP had extenuating circumstances, but it looks like we’re also sharing tips for dealing.
    I’m a horrible thank youer and I’m not proud of it so I delegate whenever possible. My husband would rather email than sit down with a pen and lick a stamp, but it gets the job done, you know?
    Depends on the gifter, but you also may be able to use technology to lighten your load. My husband snaps a photo on his phone of the baby in or using the gift right away and emails it to the giver with a short thank you. I have a friend who uploads a picture to Facebook and ‘tags’ the item with the giver’s name. I find it charming and ingenious.

  • Heather

    October 24, 2011 at 12:21 am

    I haven’t written a thank you note since I was 5. I don’t send birthday cards*, and I only just sent my first get-well card last week–2 months later than intended, but she’s still sickly and recovering so I figured better late than never.

    * My mom’s 50th birthday I showed up with a card and some flowers. The flowers made her smile but the card made her cry because she KNEW how important that was coming from me!

    All this to say… I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to be good at this! I have a wedding in the not-so-distant future and hopefully baby showers coming after that, and I don’t enjoy thinking that my family could consider me ungrateful. A lot of my family is online and I could get away with using e-cards so they’re cutesy and personalized. But this Giftmas I am committed to getting better at thank you notes so that I can practice for all those future occasions. I’d like it to be a natural-feeling thing for my kids to grow into.

  • class factotum

    October 30, 2011 at 9:46 am

    I, too, am unforgiving about thank you notes. If I don’t get a note for a present I have mailed, then there are no more presents. Period. Yes, I am mean. And yes, I wouldn’t mind a late thank you for a baby present.

  • Lydia

    January 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I also had a rough delivery and csection… and got wrapped up in my son… when I got around to remembering I’d lost the guest/gift list from my shower… my son is 11 months now… have I missed my window for politeness?

    Also is it okay to send a generic: thanks for coming and your gift, we were overwhelmed by the love and support?

  • Sandie

    January 15, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    It’s extremely rude to not thank the hosts of the expensive shower (the host paid), especially when they also purchased you a high dollar gift. It makes me feel used and stupid. Just my opinion.

  • Maribeth Fullerton

    April 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    So the general consensus here is that the text message I received from one of my employees thanking me for a shower gift was probably not sufficient?  I admit to being somewhat old-fashioned where etiquette is concerned but this was a shock.   I actually did this search to see if I was expecting something that had become passé..  Thanks for the reassurance that manners haven’t gone out of style!