Friday 6 December 2019

The most and least used baby products revealed

Before the arrival of a baby we often purchase in panic. Ed Power reveals what you really need when a baby is incoming.

Family values: Ed Power and his wife, Mary, twins Fiona and Cathal, and Niall
Family values: Ed Power and his wife, Mary, twins Fiona and Cathal, and Niall

Ed Power

A survey conducted in UK's Which? magazine revealed which baby products are the most utilised and which ones are most commonly abandoned.

Least Useful Baby Purchases

Door baby bouncer

Baby washing bowls

Manual breast pump

Baby hammock

Fabric sling

Nappy stacker

Bumbo seat

Cot mobile

Swaddling blanket

Nappy disposal bin


Most Useful Baby Purchases

Stair gate

Baby change bag

Audio baby monitor

Electric steam steriliser kit

Microwave steam steriliser kit

Video baby monitor

Baby sleeping bag

Digital ear thermometer

Baby bouncer or rocker

Travel cot


Family values: Ed Power and his wife, Mary, twins Fiona and Cathal, and Niall


The first time I visited the Mamas & Papas megastore at Blanchardstown, north Dublin, I conducted myself like a competition winner on a supermarket spending spree. Up and down I dashed, eyeballs swivelling in 10 directions at once.

A nursery rhyme mobile? Yes, please. Matching lampshade? Got to have that. Block-mounted friezes depicting heartwarming scenes from beloved fairy tales? Who cares what they cost, we were having them.

It was several weeks from the birth of our eldest child, and my wife and I were here for the barest essentials: a cot, blankets . . . the stuff you actually require if about to welcome a tiny, helpless person into the world. Alas, the road to parenthood is cratered with unnecessary purchases and we'd fallen into a king-size pothole.

The suspicion that imminent parenthood lowers our gullibility threshold was confirmed by a recent survey, which found that first-time parents tend to make the same wildly pointless purchases. In the UK Which? magazine study, parents voted the baby door bouncer the number one needless item acquired, followed by the 'top and tail' bowl, manual breast pump (if you need to ask, don't), and Baby Bjorn-style sling (works best with 'hipster dad' accessory).

Not every purchase represented a flagrant frittering of lucre: parents agreed a stair gate was useful, as were a changing bag, baby monitor, plug-in bottle sterilizer, baby sleeping bag and a digital ear thermometer.

With three kids, between the ages of one and four (two of whom are twins), perusing the study triggered a stampede of memories: some positive, others cold-sweat inducing. It also pointed up, to my mind, one of the flaws in the methodology: just because something doesn't work for one child, it is no guarantee that it will not be a success with your second or third (assuming you fancy returning for seconds).

Take the greatly-maligned baby door bouncer: we dismissed out of hand purchasing one for our eldest because he simply isn't that kind of kid. Even as a mewling infant, he would have considered wobbling in a doorway in a pretend car ridiculous.

Nor did we contemplate buying a set for the twins after they gatecrashed our lives in 2013. But when someone gave us two as a temporary gift, we thought 'why not?', and were surprised to discover that, actually, they adored bouncing up and down. Of all the items my wife and I splurged on in our final, frenzied weeks, of non-parenthood, surely the least essential was a 'breathing effort monitor', which tracks changes in a little one's inhalations and exhalations.

We never actually used it. You can hear your infant breathing on a conventional baby monitor – and, besides, after a few weeks, the dread that your child might suffer some horrible fate due to your Olympic-class uselessness dissipates.

Likewise, the top and tail bowl seems a winning idea, until you end up holding an actual baby – by which time you have realised that a) babies don't come with tails b) you can wash them with a quick dip in the sink/bath, no extraneous paraphernalia required. I might argue that the survey's true achievement is to highlight the uptightness of first-time parents, and the degree to which delusions of incompetence fade as you get around to child number two (or, in my case, child number two and three).

It was particularly amusing to see the Baby Bjorn name-checked as a pointless purchase on the Which? list. With our first kid, I left the sling to my wife, so terrified was I of hurting the child as I tried to wedge him into the contraption. Flick forward three years and I found myself with a shrieking baby in one hand, a sling in the other, none-too-subtley stuffing the former into the latter.

It's easy to call out the manufacturers of baby products for exploiting our stone-cold terror as we prepare to welcome our children into the world. Then, whose fault is it really?

In our parents' day, people had their children and got on with it. Maybe the fault is with us – a generation for whom something as natural as parenthood becomes yet another excuse for internal monologuing, navel-staring, stoic contemplation about the direction our life is taking.

The good news is that this tendency towards self-obsession recedes as your kids grow a little and you no longer have the luxury of sitting around thinking about 'what it all means'.

Children force you to at last grow up – good for them, even better for you.

'In our parents' day, people had their children and got on with it. Maybe the fault is with us'

Irish Independent

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