NOVELTY balloons, ‘pregnant belly’ cakes and Sweet Trees — once the preserve of celebrities and American mums-to-be, it seems the baby shower has successfully crossed the Atlantic.
Increasing numbers of trendy Irish mums-to-be are hosting parties to celebrate the imminent arrival of their new-born.
The parties, which are usually all-female and held in the last eight to 10 weeks of pregnancy, often feature a colour or subject theme.
Guests ‘shower’ the mum-to-be with gifts — anything from baby changing units to baby-gros — and enjoy a range of baby-related games such as predicting the infant’s weight, length and eye-colour.
Irish model Pippa O’Connor, above, and reality TV star Kim Kardashian recently hosted baby showers — although Kardashian asked for donations to charity from her guests, entrepreneur Laura O’Mahony says Irish guests generally spend between €20 and €30 on gifts.
O’Mahony, a former marketing manager with Waterford Institute of Technology and founder of Happy in Your Nappy, a baby gift boutique, has seen a big boom in demand for baby showers in this country in recent years.
Baby showers now make up 40% of her business compared to about 10% when she first started her business in 2009.
Artfully constructed from such necessities as fleece blankets, baby hats and booties, O’Mahony’s colourful Nappy Cakes have become very popular: “In the last three years the trend has really grown,” she says, adding that these days up to 50% of mums-to-be hold one. Other times they’re thrown by relatives or friends or work colleagues, sometimes, even, by the couple themselves with the dad attending the party.
Although Irish baby showers are usually thrown for a first baby, O’Mahony, who is expecting her second baby in September, is planning an afternoon tea-style baby shower for the new arrival.
“Baby showers started in the States where the original idea was to ‘shower’ first-time pregnant women with gifts for their new baby. “Now it’s a way to get together and celebrate the forthcoming birth. Mostly people bring presents for the baby but usually it’s something small.”
Accountant and mum-to-be Tracey O’Sullivan, 30, whose baby is due in early August, recently invited 15 guests to her ‘ready to pop’ themed baby shower.
The party was organised in conjunction with Tracey’s cousin Kirstie, who is set to be the baby’s godmother.
“We had pink baby shower banners and pink balloons in the shape of baby carriages and a baby’s head — because I’m having a baby girl, everything was pink,” says the Carlow woman.
The centre of attention was a special pink ‘pregnant belly’ cake created by local pastry chef Paul Fleming from Carlow.
This theme was repeated in the Nappy Cake, which had a little picture of a girl holding her bump.
“We had pink tablecloths and extra-large pink safety pins scattered around the tables and baby shower banners. I got a best wishes picture frame in pink and white — people write their wishes on the frame.
“For all the world it was like a tea party with gifts for the baby. It was a really nice get-together and my aunts were giving me lots of tips and advice about labour and issues that I might face as a mother. I really enjoyed it.
“Baby showers are really popular now — everyone has them,” says the 30-year-old accountant, who said she received a blinding array of gifts from baby changing units and baby monitors to specially embroidered blankets and baby clothes.
“She will be the first grandchild on our side of the family and the first girl grandchild on my partner’s side so there will be a great deal of excitement.
Stacie O’Dwyer’s mother and two sisters got together to throw a baby shower for the 28-year-old from Ballybunion. A deputy manager with Boylesports, her first child is due on September 1.
Family members decorated the house — banners, baby shower balloons and a big ‘Sweet Tree’ — as Stacie got her hair done and enjoyed a leisurely lunch out.
The party started with a shower of gifts — everything from a cake to baby clothes and toys — and guests played games and enjoyed food and drink.
Initially, she confesses, she wasn’t too keen on the idea of the party but in the end she really enjoyed it.
“It was a fabulous day and I had a ball. It’s a lovely idea. I got really practical gifts which will come in very handy and which, as a first- time mum, I mightn’t have thought about getting in time.
“It’s a nice idea for your friends and family to get together and talk babies. I found it very reassuring to hear other people’s stories,” she says.
“We all had a wonderful night. For many of my guests it was their first time at a baby shower, and they really enjoyed it.”
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