What is a Push Present?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A push present is a gift given to a new mother shortly after she delivers a baby. Many people are not aware that gifts to newly delivered mothers are actually an ancient tradition, although the vulgar slang term “push present” is relatively new. These gifts are meant to commemorate the struggles of labor and delivery, and to celebrate the birthday of the new member of the family. They are typically given by the father.

Push presents are meant to commemorate the struggles of labor and delivery.
Push presents are meant to commemorate the struggles of labor and delivery.

Archaeological evidence suggests that men have been giving gifts to newly delivered mothers for thousands of years. Certainly such gifts were common in the Middle Ages, when mothers were given lying-in presents to commemorate the birth. These presents often took the form of jewelry, a tradition which has been retained to this day. In addition to jewelry, some mothers were given gifts of land and other useful presents, especially when they birthed an heir to the family name. Many of these historical lying in gifts were quite practical; they ensured that women had wealth of their own to support themselves if something happened to their spouses, since property in many cultures went directly to the oldest son, bypassing the wife altogether.

After giving birth, new mothers should be allowed plenty of time to rest.
After giving birth, new mothers should be allowed plenty of time to rest.

In Europe, the tradition of giving gifts to new mothers has persisted to the present day, but the popularity of such presents experienced a brief wane in American culture, except among very traditional families. In the 1990s, the lying-in gift was retooled, and turned into the push present, sometimes called the “baby bauble,” although the jewelry industry tends to prefer the more polite “birthing gift.”

The push present has been a topic of controversy in some circles. Many critics have noted that such gifts tend to be given primarily among wealthy families, and some people have suggested that there is an element of greed to the push present. In 2007, numerous publications featured scathing articles on the push present, criticizing women who “educated” their husbands and suggesting that the birth of a healthy child should be present enough.

There is a certain charm to this ancient tradition which has been overlooked by critics. The idea of thanking a woman for carrying and birthing a baby is not terribly scandalous, since it is, after all, a lot of work. Many women cherish their birthing gifts as heirlooms, and it is not uncommon to see them passed down between generations. A birthing gift also does not have to be jewelry; fathers with less expendable income can give presents like coupons for doing dishes, changing diapers, or babysitting for a girl's night out.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Coupons are what I got when we were dating. After the baby comes, my husband needs to carry his share of the load, as we are both working. However during my maternity leave, I let him sleep longer since he still had to go to work.

As for push presents, traditionally it's diamond studs but those are quite a large expense when you have to think about $100 a month in diapers. I ended up getting the mommy pendant, which has my daughter's birthstone so it's very sentimental and I love it!


I agree that a father does not "babysit" his own children. I also think coupons for doing dishes and changing diapers is bull. He should be doing those things as well.


Well said, sunsetsky! I'm always annoyed when people say "babysitting" for fathers. Regarding "push presents" (ugh, can we retire that phrase, please?), I'm from the South where "birthing gifts" are not a "new trend," but have been a tradition for generations.

My grandfather gave my grandmother birthing gifts, which have been passed down to the grandchildren and will continue to be heirlooms that hold special meaning for us. My father gave my mother a cameo ring to honor the birth of my brother. When my sister came along, he added a cameo to the ring, and when I came along, a third cameo was added. My mother wears this ring of three cameos, and it's like carrying us with her.

I received rings (not of high monetary value) to honor the births of each of my boys. I plan to pass these down to them and their children.

This morning, Good Morning America ran a piece on this practice and featured couples who are new to the idea and who seemed to focus solely on the monetary aspect of it. I think the GMA piece missed the point of the tradition, which is to honor and recognize a monumental event in your life.

Just because the nouveau riche adopted the tradition and turned it into another way to display their gaudy opulence doesn't mean it isn't a meaningful tradition—when kept in perspective—worth keeping.


Good article, just one thing, though, regarding low budget families and father's coupons: When the father stays home with the baby and mom is away, it's not babysitting, it is being a parent. Unless of courses, it is also true that when the mom is home with the baby, and dad is away, she is babysitting.

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