Babies don’t care how much you spend on them
Do you really need that sunflower-shaped bath or those baby knee-pads?
How many babies do you know who can walk?
Having just delivered my third baby, you would think I’d have learned the first immutable law of parenthood: babies really don’t care how much you spend on them. Children’s future happiness does not depend on whether their first babygro was made in a cottage in Tahiti using cotton spun from freshly harvested angels’ wings or came from Tesco’s value range.
We all make expensive mistakes in the first, heady rush of new parenthood. By the time the next child comes along, you are expected to have grasped a few essential truths: nappy wipe warmers are a nonsense, and a parent’s saliva does as good a job as any anti-bacterial detergent. But given that I recently found myself spending €40 on two muslin cloths, it seems some of us still have things to learn.
Which brings me to the second law of parenthood: just because something exists does not mean you have to buy it.
UK consumer body Which? recently came up with the 10 most useless baby products – including baby bouncers, manual breast pumps and fabric slings – but it missed some of the more spectacular ways to waste money on your newborn. Here are 15 other products no parent really needs:
1 An intelligent baby monitor. No, not even the ones equipped with data encryption (presumably in case the CIA decides to eavesdrop on your baby sleeping) or a humidity sensor. Whether you need a baby monitor at all is up to you, but you definitely don’t need one that is better equipped than a US military helicopter.
2 The Baby Sound Cry Baby Analyzer app. It claims to interpret the various reasons your baby is crying. All you have to do is stand over the tiny, screaming infant, waving your phone, until the screen reads “bored”, “hungry”, “stressed” or “wondering what my parents are doing playing with their phone when they could just pick me up”. Great for bonding, then.
3 Anti-bacterial wipes. I went through so many of these during the early weeks of my first child’s life, I briefly considered taking out shares in Milton. I’ve since discovered that all the research suggests I should have been sending her out to play in the dirt.
4 Real clothes. For at least the first six months, there’s no point dressing them in anything other than a babygro. Miniature versions of what a hipster teen would wear are especially ridiculous on a small, scrunched-up person.
5 Cot bumpers. The American Academy of Paediatrics warns that, not only do cot bumpers not protect from injuries, “they carry a potential risk of suffocation, strangulation or entrapment”.
6 Baby shoes. How many babies do you know who can walk?
7 Baby hairbrushes. See above.
8 Bottle warmers. A kettle or microwave is just as quick, and less likely to accidentally maim you.
9 Pre-sterilised bottle liners. These are disposable plastic liners – a bit like bin bags – that you insert into the baby’s bottle before adding milk, so you don’t have to sterilise it between uses. If you’re really that anxious to avoid sterilising, use the dishwasher.
10 Baby knee pads. To protect the baby from “needless injury” when crawling, and to ensure a “seamless glide” across the floor. Unless they like rollerblading, don’t bother.
11 Elaborate baby baths. I recently came across one shaped like a flower and made of soft, plush fabric. You say: “But who doesn’t want to wash their baby in a giant sunflower?” I say: “After every use, it needs to go in the washing machine – and, of course, more laundry is just what every new parent needs.”
12 Baby toiletries. Babies don’t really need anything but plain water and a slick of Sudocrem.
13 Baby cologne. Because the newborn baby smell is so offensive?
14 Toys that claim to help baby sleep. There are a variety of these on the market, from cuddly seahorses to bears that play womb sounds. But unless it’s a battery-operated parent willing to rock, sing, pat or breastfeed as necessary, it’s probably a waste of money.
15 The Peepee Teepee. A disposable miniature tent you put over your baby son’s penis if you (a) don’t want him to urinate on you during nappy changes, and (b) can afford to pay for the subsequent lifetime of therapy he will need.
This is Jennifer O’Connell's final column before she goes on leave. She will return in September