Ask Design Mom: Bed Rest Gifts

I have a friend who is 25 weeks pregnant and stuck in a hospital on bed-rest until her babies are born. I was able to visit her in the hospital last week and she had all of the magazines, books and snacks a girl could ask for. I won’t be able to visit her again but I’d like to send her something that would make her feel at home or help her pass the time, or both!  Do you have an ideas for great bed-rest gifts? Thank you — Jill

You’re a sweetheart to be thinking of your friend, Jill — bed rest can be so frustrating! Since she’s all stocked up on magazines and books, how about something to keep her hands busy? I like these Knifty Knitter Circle Looms (you can find the wood versions pictured above here). They’re easy peasy which makes them good for crafty or non-crafty people and you can use them to make really great scarves and winter hats. She could make some delicate little knit hats for the new babies! (I promise, they really are easy. Here’s a scarf my daughter Maude made with a circle loom when she was 8.)

What about you, Brilliant Readers? What do you suggest for good bed rest gifts?

38 thoughts on “Ask Design Mom: Bed Rest Gifts”

  1. My best friend was in the same predicament and another friend of ours had a mobile manicurist sent to her bedside to give her a mani/pedi. She absolutely loved the special beauty treatment.

  2. If there are other folks about often: board/card games (Sorry, Scrabble, Dominoes, Set, and Flux are my favorites). If she’s often alone, games like Sudoku are good, as are crosswords and word searches.

  3. Love the loom idea and being able to keep your hands busy while on bed rest (without thinking too hard about a pattern too). Thanks for the reminder about homemade sibling gifts. We’ve done it for 2 years now and I love it (but need to get planning).

    Another idea for Jill’s friend might be stuff to make her feel good…chapstick, cute hair bands, nail polish, small candies, a small journal, chick flick dvds.

  4. If she has the inclination material for a beginners crochet, knitting, or cross stitch project could be good. Learning a new skill takes time (of which she has plenty) and is stimulating.

    Other ideas: An oragami kit, a new cd (relaxing music or an audio book for when she’s tired of reading). Browse the kids’ craft kits at a book or craft store for small, fairly compact projects.

  5. i was on strict bed rest for the last 3 months of my pregnancy. besides visitors, some things i loved were meals from the outside (hospital food gets old fast!), my mom took a picture of my dog with a sign around her neck saying “i miss you!” and taped it up in my room, and my husband got me a gameboy with brain teaser games like tetris which helped keep my mind off things sometimes.

  6. I did 8 weeks of bedrest at home with I was pregnant with my son. My life savers were access to the internet and my DVR. I’d ask her if she has access to a DVD player (I had one in my maternity suite but not in my recovery room) and what her favorite show is. Get her set up with either DVDs to watch or maybe a portable DVD player?

    Food from outside the hospital sounds awesome and a mobile mani/pedi would be amazing too.

  7. Karen from Baltimore

    I was on bed rest in the hospital for 9 weeks with our twins. Many friends had similar ideas (magazines, crafts, etc.) to drop off as gifts. It was so thoughtful of them, but I was surprised at how little free time I had!? Between nurse visits, doctor visits, sonograms, blood tests, and meals…there was very little “down time.” After a while, the books and crafts just started piling up in my hospital room, which just left me feeling guilty.

    And honestly, there is an emotional side of bed rest that far outweighs the perceived boredom. It’s very stressful. You are living day-to-day worrying and praying that your sacrifice will save your babies.

    Here are a few things that REALLY brightened my day:

    1. Home-cooked meals or take-out! The hospital food gets old after a while. What about dropping off a meal (call first) or food from their favorite restaurant?

    2. Ice cream! It’s a triple whammy for moms on bed rest…calories, fat, and calcium for those babies! How about bringing a yummy milkshake along on your visit to the hospital room?

    3. Cards with pictures of families! I was on bed rest over Christmas. When the Christmas cards started rolling in…so many with pictures…we hung them up all over our hospital room (and left them far after Christmas over) it just always made me smile AND really brightened up the hospital room.

    4. Reality shows! Maybe you could lend (or rent) a copy for your friend on bed rest. There was something about the progressive nature of it — the passage of time and watching the contestants move toward a goal, that I could relate to.

    5. Laundry! This obviously depends on the nature of your relationship…but offering to do chores, or yardwork at the house, or running errands can be a HUGE help! These are all the little things that add to the stress of being on bed rest…because life outside the hospital goes on. No person would ever ask you to do something like this…but if you genuinely offered, it could be a big relief!

    Can you tell I’m passionate about this subject? :) For my husband and I, the time I spent on the bed rest, and the following months our boys spent in the NICU, were some of the darkest days of our lives. The generosity and thoughtfuless of our friends is what made that experience, now after the fact, one of the sweetest times we can remember.

    1. Heather Buckman

      Karen, this is a great list!!!! I was in the hospital on bed rest with my twins for 1 week and about went crazy. I saw my first and last episodes of Honey Boo Boo. ;) You are an amazing momma for doing 9 weeks!

  8. I had a friend on hospital bedrest and I gave her an assortment of things I thought would help pass the time but the one she raved about was a gift of Mandala coloring books and good quality markers. She said she appreciate the mix of brainless and creative at the same time and one of her creations now hangs in her daughter’s bedroom. You can find both at Amazon.

  9. This is very silly, but I find coloring incredibly relaxing. There are some pretty artsy coloring books out there. I would have loved that when I was on bed rest, and a big box of coloring pencils.

  10. As a survivor of 12 weeks of bed rest at home and another 6+ in the hospital I have to agree with Karen from Baltimore on the emotional side being the toughest part.

    The things/small comforts that got me through were:
    DVDs of TV series and girlie movies (the ones the DH would never sit through)
    Home cooked meals for lunch and dinner. You can work with the hospital breakfast but I never even had them bring me anything for lunch or dinner as just the smell killed me.
    Pictures of friends and family and drawing from the kiddos. I had them pasted up everywhere!
    A mobile mani/pedi is great, but so is a good leg wax. (I did not bother with the bikini, ha!) There was no way to shave my legs in the 3 minutes I was allowed to be up for a shower so the leg wax was perfect.
    Maybe see if she is paying for tv & phone and take up a collection to help with that? Living in NYC nothing is free…I had to pay $12.95 a day to have basic tv and phone. Yeah, I know…
    Audio books are great, because some days reading is too much to ask…
    A comfy nightgown and slippers/socks to cover up the lovely compression socks they make you wear

    What not to send/do:
    Flowers. Nice gesture but there is nowhere to put them with all the other medical equipment that comes and goes. And sometimes the smell is too much for the pregnant nose.
    Too many phone calls. Some days I just felt DOWN and didn’t feel like talking to anyone. But if I didn’t answer my phone people started freaking out that something was wrong. Send a text or an email, but have no expectations of a response, maybe even say that so your friend knows that you KNOW. My DH ended up sending out a mass email asking our friends and family to check in with me, but if they had any questions or things that needed a response to call him so the stress was not on me.

    Oh and please don’t forget about the husband! Someone should be offering him support too. I know everyone is focused on the woman as she is in the midst of all the obvious physical side of things. But the stress of having a wife on bed rest is unbelievable.

    Good luck to your friend and I hope the next 15 weeks pass quickly for her.

    1. Karen from Baltimore


      Great points about the t.v. and phone charge. We didn’t even realize we were being charged for those things until we were discharged from the hospital. The staff waived our fees because they felt so bad for us, being one of the longest running patient (families) they’d ever had. But taking up a collection is a GREAT idea!

      You are completely right about the husband! They end up being a full-time nurse by the end. And so much attention is given to the mom, that he is easily overlooked. I tried a few times to arrange things with my husband’s friends, just to give him a break, but he said it was actually harder for him to be away from the hospital…because he was worried or didn’t want to miss anything, or worse, not be there if something happened.

      I think your overall theme was the best…be sensitive and don’t expect anything. These are unchartered waters for most people…they have no idea how they will react or what they’ll feel up to. Being a sensitive and understanding friend can be the greatest gift of all!

  11. I echo Karen from Baltimore’s thoughts–especially regarding the emotional side of bedrest. I spent 5 months on strict bedrest with my last baby (3 months in various hospitals). Here are things that helped make that dark time a little brighter:

    * Gifts of time and self. I really enjoyed visits from friends who came just to spend time with me, not in an effort to “cheer me up” but just to sit and chat with me. It was an added bonus when they showed up with a fancy coffee drink or hot tea.
    * Food. Yes.
    * Chocolate. Definitely.
    * Knitting projects. Fortunately, I was already a knitter. I had two friends who would come bearing projects for me (pattern, needles, yarn and all accessories) Knitting felt like the one constructive use of my time.
    * Mindless television. I watched a lot on Hulu at the time, but now know that Netflix is the way to go. Buy your friend a month subscription to Netflix and she can watch as much trashy television as she wants to by downloading it for free (and an occasional good movie through the mail).
    * An interesting coloring book (I like the Dover ones) and nice coloring pencils. This is the one request that I never got (I think no one took me seriously!), but it always sounded like a good way to pass the time.
    * Chauffer services for my kids. I had three other kids at home while I was in the hospital. I loved it when a friend would offer to bring one or all of the kids to visit me.
    * Flowers and plants. I love my garden and missed it a lot. Having something to “tend” felt comfortable and familiar.

    The most incredible gift I was given was a live performance in my room from my good friend who is an accomplished cellist and the violinist she performs with. I know not everyone could be so fortunate to have such skilled friends, but I mention it just to encourage thinking about what you have to offer to your friend that no one else can give, and to find a way to give it to her. It will mean the world to her.

  12. I was on bedrest for a few weeks at home, then 6+ at the hospital… It was the hardest 6 weeks EVER! I have to agree with others that recommended ANY outside food. The hospital food I had was so awful! It only took one Tuesday night with options of meatloaf or fish (hospital meatloaf or fish?!? EWWWWW!!!!) before I realized I needed to enlist for some help with food on Tuesday nights!! I’d usually call my father-in-law to rescue me. Thank goodness he was willing!!! We’d eat dinner & watch American Idol. It was great!!

    I had 3 kids & my husband at home, so any time I could spend with THEM was a huge blessing. A neighbor asked if she could bring my 3 kids to see me at the hospital! She picked them all up from school & babysitters & brought them over for a visit!! It was really great!!!

    I appreciated ANYTHING done for my husband, too. He was such a trooper handling EVERYTHING. A couple people brought over dinners for him & it was greatly appreciated!!

    One thing I spent a lot of my time on was Thank You cards… I didn’t want to come home to a huge pile of cards I needed to write. Giving some cute note cards would be a great gift. I loved having all my thank you notes done & handed out ahead of time. (I gave out notes to my nurses/cleaning ladies a couple days before I went home!)

    The last thing I wanted to share is blogging/journaling. My sister helped me set up a blog only a couple of weeks before I was put on bedrest. I didn’t have internet access at first, so I would just make little notes in my planner about what happened each day. Once I got internet access I went back & blogged about everything that had happened while I was in the hospital. I would type what happened each day (or if I didn’t feel up to it everyday, I’d do a BIG, LONG post on what happened that week, or whatever.) Now I can look back & read about everything I went through & how hard it was & see that I MADE IT THROUGH!!! I am so thankful for those posts!! When my baby girl (who is now TWO!) is old enough it’ll be great for her to see what I was able to do for her! It was such a hard time, but it felt so great to be doing what I could to help my baby girl have time to grow!

  13. This is a great question. As someone who was on hospital bedrest from week 24-34 of my pregnancy, and then at home on ‘take it easy rest’ for 3 weeks, I can speak from experience as to what was most useful.

    An ipod touch was my lifesaver, as it allowed me to watch movies and TV shows while laying down, and without straining my neck – the ipod was so small that it was comfortable to hold at any angle, unlike a more awkward laptop. I also used it to do quick email checks and to play online games like scrabble. I couldn’t play actual scrabble with my husband, because I could not sit up, so we played each other online! I also downloaded headlines from news sites and could read blogs. In addition, I downloaded a number of daily radio programs like Radio Lab and This American Life, which were great, and kept my mind off things when I was too distracted to focus on books. Many friends gave me gift certificates to i-tunes, and this was fabulous because I could use them for movies, TV series and radio programs.

    Another wonderful gift that one friend gave me was a gift bag with small gifts that I could open every day. This gave me something to look forward to, and the items were fun like nice smelling lotions, DVDs, books, note cards, a book of sudoko games, etc. The sudoko games were especially good to work on while I was hooked up 3 times daily to the fetal heart monitor.

    I can’t say enough about giving food. After 10 weeks of hospital food, any homemade meals and healthy snacks were welcome for both me and my husband, who spent a large amount of his time traveling back and forth to the hospital.

    Finally, while visits were most welcome and lifted my spirits, you should be sure to call in advance, as some days were difficult, and having visitors or a phone call was stressful. My advice — keep it short and sweet.

    I hope that all goes well for your friend and her babies.

  14. I spent 8 weeks on bedrest in the hospital (and 4 at home) with my twins
    My mother sent a manicurist to give ms a pedicure–it took her a few phone calls to find a salon that would do that
    My bff baked every Sunday and sent it on Monday via priority mail. Wednesday I had a suprise home baked treat
    Netflix was a god-send
    Good smelling lotions and shower gel really helped to lift my spirits
    And phone calls–just to say hello
    My husband threw me a suprise 33rd birthday party
    I’m sure you’ll find a way to make her feel loved

  15. I also did a lot of knitting! When friends would visit I had them help me roll hanks of yarn into balls! It was like slave labor!

  16. The loom is cute but it’s not taking one thing into account. When you’re on strict bed rest they don’t like you to sit upright. It puts pressure on the cervix and can help along dilation. I went on bedrest at the end of my first trimester with my last pregnancy. I would have loved a Chillow (I think that’s what they are called.)because the magnesium sulfate they use to stop contractions makes you hot. DVDs are another good idea.

  17. I too was on bed rest with twins – for four weeks in the hospital. One of my nurses brought me a small knitting loom and I made myself some leg warmers and many baby hats – for my boys, other NICU babies, and had some in reserve for future baby gifts. Definitely good for passing the time!

  18. As someone relatively new to bedrest (my “incarceration” began 10 days ago but stands to last for another 4 months or so), I can echo the above and emphasize how nice it is to receive homemade food! In particular, this gift takes the load off of your spouse or primary caregiver, at least for a meal or two!

  19. I’ve been enjoying something called “Zentangle.” You a create little piece of artwork using repeating patterns. It’s fun, meditative, portable and easy. Unlike board games, you can do it without another player. And I’ve done so many Sudoku puzzles that I’m ready for something new!

  20. Almost everything I did/appreciated while on bed rest is listed above: home made food for you and partner, knitting (co-workers gave me a kit to make a baby sweater and hat…this was great and I worked on it when baby was in the NICU too), I watched season one of 24, read countless books and magazines, had a manicure kit given to me with nice lotion, visits, notebook and gel pens, sodoku. I wish I had a book about premature babies/ life in the NICU to read while on bedrest, but check with your friend first. Only thing that no one has mentioned is prayer. I spent a lot of my time in prayer and always appreciated the prayers that I know friends were offering to me and my family.

  21. After reading this I went out and bought a loom for my 9 year old daughter, thinking it would be fun to make some handmade Christmas gifts. She lasted 10 minutes but my 8 year old son has found his calling as a master loom knitter. The only time I can pry it out of his hands is for football practice or drum lessons. Thanks for the idea.

  22. I was on be rest too, and man it’s not fun. I most enjoyed watching tv series (old ones that I missed like Friends and Seinfeld to keep me laughing), reading of course. What I really wish I would have done though was catch up on my photo organization/editing ect. Even though you’re SO bored, you have so much time to catch up on things like that. Maybe give her a jump start on that- if she blogs, a gift certificate to print her blog out would be cool. I wish I would have done that.

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