Excited young female friends touching pregnant woman's belly at baby shower party. Laughing pregnant woman sitting with friends touching her tummy.

Planning the Modern Baby Shower

Similar to bridal showers, the intent of a baby shower is to “shower” the expectant mother with gifts for the baby. Events that marked oncoming motherhood have existed for thousands of years, but they often involved baptisms and other post-birth rituals. The modern baby shower as we know it only came to be around the ‘50s and ‘60s after the post-war baby boom. It was at this point that showers were thrown with a gift-giving dimension before the baby’s birth.

Most women prefer to have the shower beforehand—so that they can still go out and buy any missing items that weren’t gifted before the arrival of a kicking and screaming newborn. But it isn’t unheard of to have a baby shower after birth—especially since it can coincide with a nice meet-and-greet for family and friends to meet the baby for the first time.

group of women gathered for a baby shower for their friend who's pregnant

Traditionally, baby showers are thrown for a mother who’s having a child for the first time. This makes sense, but it’s not a hard and fast rule these days. When you’re on your second and third child, some of the baby supplies that you’ve received from the initial shower can be reused! If the gender of subsequent babies are different from the first, or if there is a large age gap between the kids, a smaller-scale “baby sprinkle” is often thrown instead.

Throwing a shower but don’t know where to start? Here’s our crash course on planning the modern baby shower.

When should you throw it?

Scheduling a baby shower should depend most importantly on when the expectant couple are free. You don’t want to put together a party just to find out that the most important guests aren’t able to make it!

Planning ahead of time is key. Relatives have a chance to book travel arrangements if they don’t reside close-by, and it gives everyone time to shop for a gift. A month’s notice is ideal, so that the party-planning process isn’t rushed and it leaves time for any unforeseen issues to be resolved.

baby shower written out in decorative toddler-friendly blocks

Normally the shower should be thrown well into the pregnancy. When the mom-to-be has a visible bump, it makes everything more exciting, Usually the shower happens around 4-6 weeks or so before the planned arrival of the baby—the baby might want to come into the world early, so it’s best not to throw a shower too close to the due date. Plus, it gives a chance for the parents-to-be to get settled before the baby’s arrival.

Surprise Surprise

If you are sure that the expectant mother wants or would enjoy a baby shower, then go full speed ahead! As with regular surprise parties, you need to make sure that the mom-to-be is available during the event. The best thing to do when planning a surprise shower is to have the father-to-be or another close friend or relative help out. They’ll know all the little details like her favorite color, what theme to use, and so on. Knowing all of this will make sure that the surprise won’t turn into a dud. Remember to let everyone know it’s a surprise in the invitations so the guests don’t spoil it for the expectant mother!

The guest list

pink decorative cupcakes that say baby

Guests of honor:

Traditionally a baby shower was a females-only celebration. Nowadays, it’s common for the father-to-be to make an appearance or even stay for the whole shower. In fact, the dad might receive his own rendition of a baby shower involving beer and diaper gifting.

Who else?

Usually it’s a close friend or relative who throws the shower for the mom-to-be. Chances are, they will probably already have a good idea of who to invite. Usually there are a few types of guests at a shower: the family members on both sides of the soon-to-be parents, close friends, and coworkers. It might be a good idea to have a varied guest list, but it’s still important to get input from the mom-to-be herself.


Ideally plan the party to be held at a friend or relative’s house. If you hold it at the mom-to-be’s house, she’ll end up having to clean up after everyone leaves—that’s not cool! Because the goal of the shower is to make the expectant mother feel loved and supported and not exhausted and stressed out, keep the event relatively short. The average baby shower lasts about 2-3 hours. If you decide to serve a full meal as part of the event, it might go a bit longer. Just make sure to take cues from the mom-to-be instead of diligently sticking to the schedule—after all, this shower is for her!

Getting to the grub

baby shower food that you can serve with a pregnant mother to be

Having alcohol at the party can be tricky. Whether it’s before or after the birth of the baby, the mom has to avoid alcoholic drinks. If she’s fine with others having a drink in her honor, then by all means—just make sure that she has her own non-alcoholic option!

A table full of drinks and appetizers is a sure-fire way to encourage mingling as the smaller portions won’t impede the guests’ ability to hold a conversation. Finger foods will also be handy if guests get hungry during the games and activities, and it might be easier on the wallet than catering a full meal for every person.

Some soon-to-be-moms might have dietary restrictions that can be hard to predict. It’s best to make sure that most (if not all) the food is approved by her.

Fun and games

Activities can be a fun way to spice up any baby shower, but they’re not for everyone. Especially when baby showers are held close to the baby’s due date, the expectant mother might be too exhausted to be able to play any intensive games and may just want to relax and socialize with loved ones.

Playing around 2-3 games works well, especially if the shower has a larger guest list. That way each game will have enough time to run its course and no one will be too partied-out. For some out-of-the-box silly activities, check out these baby shower games.

Does gender matter?

girl boy gender dice

Knowing the sex of the baby might influence the themes of the shower if you choose to incorporate one. It can affect the décor, food, invitations, etc., but it doesn’t have to! Some showers don’t even have a theme, so a gender-neutral party is also common. You can’t go wrong when using neutral colors in the décor or using the mother-to-be’s favorite colors.

Gift-wise, it may be a good idea to let the guests know if the mom-to-be wants to keep the sex of the baby a surprise, so the gifts aren’t catered to one sex or the other.

Just as modern baby showers are breaking all the rules, so are bridal showers. Check out this post on planning the modern bridal shower.

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