From Showers to Sprinkles
This past weekend, I attended two different baby showers, a wonderful tradition of celebrating a soon-to-be-born baby and their parents. I caught up with old friends, ate delicious food, played games and watched the moms-to-be open gifts from car seats to onesies.
Mothers and new babies have been honored by a multitude of cultures throughout history, like in ancient India, where mothers were given foods to help the baby’s development and music was played to make the baby happy. The event also included ritual prayers to ensure for a healthy labor and delivery.
In the Victorian era, tea parties were held after the baby was born as the culture demanded that women hide their pregnancies. Mothers were typically given handmade gifts.
It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that the modern baby shower began to take shape. During the baby boom, showers began to include gifts of items that the mother needed for the baby. This has continued to evolve to our current celebrations where parents-to-be typically register for the things they need for their first baby and usually female friends and family-members gather together over a meal to celebrate the impending birth of the baby with gifts.
Recently, I asked two friends what happens when a second (or subsequent) baby is born. One is expecting her second and her husband wondered when there would be a party for his family and friends. Another has a friend expecting a second and was unsure about etiquette.
Traditionally, there is only a shower for the first baby, with the assumption that by a second, parents already have everything they need for a baby.
Of course, now with car seat rules being so strict, an older child is likely going to still use their car seat and so a new one is needed. Additionally, if children are close together in age, a second crib might be necessary.
With all the bells and whistles that babies need now (think sound machines and humidifiers), it isn’t surprising that there is a growing trend towards showers for subsequent births.
Typically, though, a second celebration is not as big of a deal as the first. There is a growing tradition of a “sprinkle”. The etiquette for a sprinkle is continuing to evolve, but essentially it is a smaller party, sometimes organized by close friends or co-workers. Typically, a sprinkle happens when children are born far apart in age or are a different gender. Often, gifts include diapers and new clothes, rather than big ticket items like strollers.
Is it really necessary to celebrate the first of a second (or third or fourth) baby?
When I first heard about sprinkles, I thought they were sort of tacky. I explained them to my mom when I was pregnant the second time and we rolled our eyes at each other. It seemed like an excuse to make people buy you more gifts. Plus I was having a second girl and they would only be 20 months apart, so I didn’t think it was necessary to have one.
When my sister-in-laws were pregnant the second time, neither chose to learn the baby’s sex ahead of time. We surprised the first sister-in-law who was pregnant with a luncheon made up of her closest friends and her mom and aunt. It was a lovely little gathering that she did not expect at all.
The surprise on her face was well worth the event. Since no one knew the gender, she was given diapers and some clothes. I went with a book and gender neutral bibs, figuring those were always necessary.
A year later, she threw a lunch for her sister. This was at her house and again was just a small gathering of very close family and friends.
Even though I did not have a sprinkle, I started to be won over by the idea. After all, doesn’t every new baby deserve to be celebrated by their parents’ closest friends and family?
A 2016 “Vogue” article examined the sprinkle phenomenon, wondering if these parties were tacky.
Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter says a second shower is appropriate if babies are born close in age (since the older child would not have outgrown their baby items) or if they are different genders.
Still, these events are considered controversial, likely because they are so new and not fully socially acceptable yet. I would never have asked anyone to throw me a sprinkle, but I also would not have said no or been upset if friends had decided to throw me one. Of course, my closest friends live hours away, so for me it just didn’t make sense.
Celebrations for babies are constantly evolving. These days, mixed gender showers are increasingly common. Sprinkles or diaper parties are not unusual. Other events include a gender reveal party, typically halfway through the pregnancy where family and friends gather together to learn what sex the new baby will be.
Another option is a “sip and see”, which takes place a couple of months after the baby is born. This is a Southern tradition where new parents open their homes to family and friends to meet the baby. It is an intimate gathering for family and close friends where gifts are not expected (but surely welcome).
Showers for a first baby are an expected ritual of impending parenthood. At my stage of life, bridal showers and bachelorette parties are long over and replaced by baby-related celebrations.
I have been thrilled when any of my friends in New York have had a shower because it gives me a wonderful excuse to go visit. I was so happy that all of my close friends came down to Pennsylvania for my baby shower. I would not have expected them to make the same trip a second time.
At this point, I have attended two gender reveal parties and two sprinkles. All of them were intimate events attended by close family and friends. I brought small gifts to each. The parents-to-be were touched by the love poured on them for their new children.
One of the showers I attended this past weekend was in honor of the last of my college friends to have a baby. As I sat at a table with some of my closest friends, I felt a pang of sadness. Who knows when we will next have an excuse to gather together like this. Everyone was married and had babies.
It is hard to break away from my own children at this stage and plan time away with our friends without the excuse of a formal event like a wedding or shower.
Whether sprinkles or second showers will continue to be popular is impossible to predict, but any excuse to gather your favorite people in one place is a good one in my book.