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Planning a Baby Shower
The importance of the baby shower cannot be stressed too much. It's much more than an excuse to get presents; it's a show of support, a rite of passage for the new family similar to a christening or bris. Take advantage of this opportunity to be on the welcome wagon for your grandchild. Sharing these happy events will build a lasting bond with the expanding family.

In the past, it was a no-no for the new mom's family members to host her baby shower. But etiquette rules have changed with the times. These days, good friends and relatives often lead hectic lives and live in far-flung locations, making it difficult for one friend to coordinate the event. If a mother or mother-in-law wants to anoint herself chief shower planner, it's no longer considered rude - just practical. So if the new mother's friends haven't made solid plans for a baby shower by the fifth month, step right up!

Your participation in the shower is even more important if it's your daughter-in-law who's having the baby. Since bonding with her may not be your natural inclination, it will mean a great deal more in the long run. By having the shower, you might forge a real relationship between the two of you. If someone else has the shower, your enthusiastic attendance will reflect your good intentions and help you become friends in the interest of the baby.

When planning the event, consider the needs of your daughter or daughter-in-law every step of the way. Ask her whether she wants you to throw her a shower; if so, find out when and where she'd like to have it and whom she'd like you to invite. The shower can be a potluck picnic, a formal tea, or a buffet brunch. It can be in your home, at a restaurant, or at the guest-of-honor's house. If need be, you can plan it from across the country: request a list of names and addresses, mail the invitations, pick up party supplies, and be there a day ahead to prepare. Some baby showers are thrown as couples parties - barbecues, brunches, or even cocktail soirees - so don't be surprised to see male names on the guest list. If your son is the new father, having the men present may make participation easier.

If you choose to have the shower at a restaurant or outside location, make sure the mom-to-be has a comfortable place to sit and that you avoid serving foods that are off-limits to expectant women. Other things to keep in mind: offer plenty of liquids to keep her hydrated; make sure she doesn't have to wait long to eat; and go light on the activities if she's not feeling well.

One final bit of advice: avoid a surprise shower at all costs! Your pregnant daughter or daughter-in-law will want to be prepared for the event - looking, and hopefully feeling, her best!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education