When Tori Males was pregnant with her first child more than three years ago, friends and family helped her celebrate the impending arrival with three elaborate baby showers. So when Males, a 31-year-old loan administrator from Woodstock, Ill., was due again earlier this year, she didn’t want or expect another fete.
“I always thought that a shower was something you did for your first child and that’s it," she said. “Mine was an especially big deal because my daughter was the first grandchild on both sides of the family."
But despite having no expectations, Males’ sister-in-law surprised her with yet another party — a low-key one. The guest list was kept to 12 women instead of the 25-plus who had attended each of the first three bashes; minimal decorations replaced lavish adornments such as balloons and streamers; and gifts weren’t pricey car seats and strollers but affordable essentials like wipes and diapers.
Males learned later that this second-time event was called a sprinkle, which takes its name from the less-than-a-shower weather event.
“I had never heard of the term before," she said.
A sprinkle, as it turns out, is a smaller party to celebrate second, third or fourth pregnancies. According to Shannon Guyton, site editor of TheBump.com, which focuses on pregnancy and parenting advice, such parties are on the rise.
“There is this growing mentality of wanting to celebrate every second of parenthood, and sprinkles fit with that trend," she said.
In general, baby showers are still all-girl get-togethers spent sipping tea and playing games, like guessing the circumference of the expecting mother’s abdomen or designing a diaper. But it’s become more common to celebrate new parenthood with more casual, often coed soirees, like the gender-reveal parties now popular on YouTube or even boozy evenings in bars, where some couples celebrate their last gasp of freedom before 2 a.m. feedings replace last call. With their implication that a community should chip in with baby staples during a queasy economy, sprinkles fit into this more relaxed trend.
But as charming and supportive as the idea might seem, sprinkles are not without controversy: As commenters on TheBump.com quickly and heatedly pointed out, guests directed to spend money on gifts yet again might feel resentful, and, on the other side, moms-to-be can feel uncomfortable with the expectation that they do so.
“Many people said they felt that it’s tacky and greedy to ask for gifts over and over again," Guyton said.
It’s more socially acceptable to celebrate the birth of children beyond your first if there is more than four years between pregnancies or if the gender is different, she suggested.
Anita Lalani, 38, who has three children and lives in San Diego, can relate to feeling awkward about her loved ones opening their wallets one too many times. She was given showers for each pregnancy and said that even the first one, given by three friends at a Brooklyn restaurant, left her uneasy.
“I felt bad about the cost, which was high, because there were more than 30 girls there," she said.
Lalani was less than thrilled about the shower for her second child for the same reason, but warmed to it when she learned that it would be only eight friends at a casual brunch.
Some sprinkles, however, are more lavish than the average shower. Amee Bhatia, 35, a physical therapist living in Millstone Township, N.J., with a 20-month-old daughter, had a sprinkle in November to welcome her second child, who is due in January. Bhatia described her first shower as a grand affair of more than 100 people that culminated with her cutting a three-tiered crystal-encrusted cake. The second had half the number of guests, invited by Evite rather than a printed card, and a one-layer cake.
“I have a nice scrapbook from the first shower for my daughter, and I want to capture the same memories to give to this child," she said.
Dimpy Bakshi, 38, a pharmacist from Potomac, Md., was recently given a sprinkle by two friends to celebrate the imminent birth of her third child, a boy after two girls. She also had a sprinkle for her second daughter, but said that each affair has been subsequently smaller.
“The first one was 120 people, the second was half that number, and this one was 40 girls," she said. Although it was a tea at the elite Willard hotel in Washington, the event was completed in two hours compared with more than four hours for the first two, and cupcakes and mini-desserts replaced an extravagant sheet cake with intricate hand decorations of baby bottles and strollers.
Neither woman felt guilty accepting bounty for their babies; they said friends would have been generous even without a formal event.
But Guyton suggested that parents uncomfortable with appearing to solicit gifts hold post-birth parties. Two rising trends, she said, are “diaper dinners," to which guests are requested to bring a packet of diapers in lieu of a hostess gift (call it a “drip"); and “sip-and-see" lunches or dinners where new parents invite friends over for drinks, specifying “no gifts" on the invitation.
Celebrating after the arrival of a baby, however, may not be as satisfying for some.
Melissa Gerstein, 40, a mother of three living on the Upper West Side and a founder of the Moms, a multimedia company focused on child-raising, said that despite hinting to friends and family that she would be up for a shower when she was pregnant with her second child, a party never came to fruition.
“I was disappointed," she said. “I think every birth should be celebrated. You wouldn’t give your first child a bar or bat mitzvah and not your second or third, so why is a shower any different?"