This week I have officially had a New Experience. I went to my very first Baby Show. Yes I know, it is a bit late considering my children are now seven and fourteen, but I was working, not buying.
When my children I were babies I never really went in for Having To Have Lots Of Equipment. Pretty much everything I had for them was bought second hand or handed down from relatives who had boys. I liked to think I was challenging gender stereotypes by dressing them in a lot of blue, but basically I was just a bit poor. Or maybe mean. My two days spent at the ExCeL Baby Show though have made me realise I was right all along, and reinforced by long-held belief that babies really don’t need much more than a boob.
If you have never been to a Baby Show before, let me paint a picture for you…
Imagine yourself in a giant warehouse, an aircraft hanger, the air thick with pregnancy hormones and the cries of bored babies. The space is set out to keep you circling, wandering between stand after stand of colourful equipment you’ll never need, a never-ending maze of muslin from which there is no escape.
Ok, it isn’t really that bad, but you get the idea. Goodness knows how much the average new parent spends on ‘essentials’ for their baby, but judging from the prams piled high with goodies, it is quite a lot. And all the exhibitors are jostling for a slice, trying their damnedest to come up with the must-have product, the one thing that your baby really can’t do without. And the truth is that most babies can really do without most of it.
Of course there are a few things that really are simple, elegant solutions to real problems. The Cuddledry towel for instance, that simply fastens around your neck like an apron, leaving you two hands free to lift your wet, wriggly baby from the bath. Not that I’m at all biased – although I possibly should mention at this point that I was at the show working with Cuddledry…
Some things though are just making problems where there aren’t any, or trying to make a product out of nothing. I had a lovely demo from a woman selling what she maintained was a revolutionary cover up solution for breastfeeding women, allowing them to feed easily in public. As a breastfeeding counsellor, I was drawn in by the concept – anything that helps more women breastfeed is obviously great – and it wasn’t until I was walking away that I realised what she was actually selling. It was just a scarf, tied around your neck. A fairly thin, plain scarf at that. For sixteen quid. But even cynical old me had been temporarily ‘sold’ on the amazing, revolutionary, must-have breastfeeding scarf.
So the whole experience got me thinking, if you really break it down, what do babies and toddlers actually NEED? Are there any products at all that they simply can’t do without? Or is the whole industry built on fear and guilt, making women believe they will be bad parents if they don’t get a scary 3D scan, have their babies feet cast in coloured glass, or buy some kind of complicated pram system that they won’t even be able to get in the boot on their own?
Did you buy anything for your babies that you really loved and used? My one thing would probably be the hip seat from Hippychick – indispensable with Belle, who refused to leave my side for about two and a half years. Or maybe you were seduced into buying an ‘essential’ that turned out to be utter crap? I’d love to know what terrible products your baby-addled brain let you part with cash for…
Photo credit: maessive