One non-traditional baby shower is a coed baby party.

It was just like any other open house: A couple dozen men and women popping in and out, snacking on sandwiches and sipping beer and wine. But something besides pita and pulled chicken was being passed around during Jackie Scott’s get-together last fall: Her 2-week-old daughter, Ella, the star of the party.


Known as meet-the-baby bashes, welcome-to-the-world parties or sip-and-sees — as in, sip some Champagne, see what the stork brought — this newfangled way of celebrating a new arrival is just one example of how the traditional, ladies-and-onesies baby shower is getting a makeover.

There are coed “pregnancy parties” that take place in dark hipster bars. There are necessities-only “sprinkles” (vs. showers) in which parents-to-be request diapers and wipes as opposed to rompers and rattles. There are “favorite book-showers” that have guests springing for copies of Goodnight Moon. And there are casual Sunday afternoon, watch-some-football-and-play-some-pool couples’ affairs where the guest of honor just happens to be a woman with a swollen belly.

“There’s nobody on the planet that’s like, ‘I’m so excited! I get to go to a baby shower today,’ ” says Carley Roney, editor in chief of baby website TheBump. “For years, they’ve had a reputation for being sweet for the family but boring” for everyone else who has to sacrifice their Saturday. “They’ve been ripe for a change for a while.”

Especially after, like their wedding cousins, baby showers reached bloated, pre-recession proportions. Roney remembers professionally planned, $100-a-head affairs at four-star restaurants, complete with goody bags, thanks in part to the rise of the highly publicized celebrity baby extravaganza. Moms-to-be were having multiple, bottles-to-bassinets showers thrown for them — for multiple babies, not just their first. “It all got kind of out of control,” Roney says.

Second- — and third- and fourth- — baby showers seem especially unseemly nowadays, say moms and motherhood experts. Even if baby No. 2 is a different gender, “you would use the same gear,” says Amy Tara Koch, a mother of two daughters and the author of Bump It Up: Transform Your Pregnancy Into the Ultimate Style Statement.

Maturity takes over

Credit not only the downsized economy but also the increased age of parenthood for the shift toward scaling back. The proportion of first births to women 35 and older has increased nearly eight-fold since 1970, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and “the older you get, the less comfortable you feel with people buying you gifts in the first place,” Roney says — and with being the center of attention. By your mid-30s, you’re more secure in your style, you know what you want and you have your own income — and these days, “it seems too obnoxious to put a $750 stroller on your registry,” Roney says. Between the awkwardness and pickiness, “there’s just general discomfort anyway, and with the recession, there’s triple discomfort, which is really instigating this backlash.”

So now there’s an emphasis on no gifts, group gifts, generic-brand gifts and gifts that are gently used or creative (handmade quilts and blankets, IOUs for babysitting or a tray of lasagna), not to mention dollar-store decorations and electronic invitations — and a resolutely relaxed feel.

Su-Lauren Wilson did register for her pre-baby couples’ shower last month, but “we didn’t want to make anyone feel obligated to come or bring presents,” says Wilson, CFO of a medical supply company. The goal was to make it “as informal as possible — a more drop-in, drop-out feel” with nary a baby bingo board in sight, says Wilson, 30, of Little Rock, who’s expecting a boy in December.

In a recent poll of TheBump members, 69% said they would opt for a toned-down shower to accommodate friends and family affected by the downturn, and 64% said they would choose a sip-and-see or meet-and-greet instead of a typical, pre-birth party.

Scott has “always hated” standard showers, especially after she attended one two years ago that required her to put on a cocktail dress and shell out $130 for a present for a relative acquaintance. The 80 or 90 guests clustered into a banquet hall on a weekend, sat for three hours around floral centerpieces at tables of 10 and dined on chicken or fish.

When Scott, 25, a stay-at-home mom in Sterling Heights, Mich., got pregnant and entertained the idea of having a traditional shower, she looked into a couple of local golf clubs, but they were quoting wedding-level prices. So she went the anti-shower route, going so far as to indicate “please don’t bring gifts” on the invitations for her get-together. Otherwise, “it makes it seem like you’re having a child and now you’re begging people to come and buy you gifts for your child,” Scott says. “It’s not for me.”

Health concerns

Abby Schiller also was turned off by the “huge ordeal” she partook in last year, aka her sister-in-law’s restaurant baby shower. There were white tablecloths, seating cards, passed hors d’oeuvres, printed, personalized menus and 40 blue “Oh, boy”-emblazoned take-home tote bags. Opening gifts “took hours,” says Schiller, 33, a Manhattan attorney. “But not everybody’s enthused to see, ‘Oh look, another onesie.’ ”

So with her first child, who’s due in April, Schiller is going for “more of a hangout session” at a friend’s or relative’s house, where male and female guests will cradle margaritas and gaze at her baby. She doesn’t intend to put gift-unwrapping on the agenda. “I’ll want to enjoy my time after being cloistered.”

Melisa Coburn was able to bundle in other excuses for celebrating Magnolia, her latest bundle of joy: big brother Jasper’s second birthday and the end of a major house renovation. So on a Saturday afternoon in September 2006, about two dozen guests came by for a gander at her new Brooklyn backyard and 8-week-old baby. “It just seemed like a nice confluence of events,” says Coburn, 43, a parenting lifestyle blogger and stay-at-home mom.

But there’s another basis for the increasing popularity of the post-birth party: Parents are getting the memo that dealing with a wellspring of well-wishers can be just as much of a headache as dealing with a colicky newborn. And that, really, it’s all about the baby, not the mom.

“Everyone’s like, ‘I want to come see!’ ” says Ruthie Manna, who threw a sparkling wine-and-antipasto meet-the-baby party for daughter Eva in December, when she was about a month old. “But it’s impossible when the baby’s born to appease everybody” and prevent random drop-ins. “Plus, I’m not always presentable,” jokes Manna, 27, who works in health behavioral research and lives in Glen Ridge, N.J.

Babytalk magazine executive editor Megan Padilla, who has seen the trend toward couples’ cocktail parties-cum-pre-birth showers grow over the past two years, has reservations about sip- and-sees. “It’s a lot of people to expose your baby to,” she says. And guests “don’t fess up that they have runny noses or diarrhea. They don’t really think about the impact their health could have on this baby,” whose immune system is still developing.

Schiller isn’t worried. If one of her invitees comes down with, say, the flu, she’ll politely ask them to stay home. And for everyone else, “I have no problem saying, ‘Hey, welcome. Let me squirt your palms with Purell.’ ”

Via USA Today