Want to know about the sheer breadth of human inventiveness and ingenuity? Head to the baby department in your local shop.
These people have thought of everything. There are a thousand ways to be parted from your cash, between gadgets, gizmos and other cute things. It’s thought that the baby products market is expected to be worth about €100 billion by the year 2025. And no wonder: many parents will throw whatever money there is at whatever problem they have.
White noise machine that will “encourage” a child to go to sleep?
Shut up and take my money.
Great, who do I make the cheque out to?
Bottles of gripe water that will supposedly stop babies crying?
I’ll take two.
New parents are usually in a fog of vulnerability, sleeplessness and confusion, and are happy to buy all kinds of newfangled baby products. They just want to do their best, and retailers know it. There’s a weird belief that if you’re sufficiently kitted out with enough baby accoutrements, it will somehow make you a more prepared, and therefore better, parent.
I fell into this trap countless times. Organic babygros, sensory toys, a bath seat, bottle sterilising tablets, baby toothpaste, baby food steamers, bath thermometers, soother cases, footmuffs – I’ve been well and truly had. Seriously, there are Asian emperors who didn’t get it this good. You can probably tell a new parent because they’re laden down with All the Gear.
I’m also guilty of the odd retail blackout in baby clothes stores. I see a dress or playsuit or outfit embroidered with cherries or unicorns, and lament why they don’t make these cute items in my size. Next thing I know, I’m out the door, €12 lighter but with a set of tiny dungarees on my person.
Now, some people swear by these relatively new inventions. I have one friend who credits her sanity to Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit. Another reckons the Buggy Board helps her get her two little ones out of the house. I would have been sunk without my bottle prep machine, which makes a room temperature bottle in under two minutes.
It did get me thinking about how, amid all this inventiveness and convenience, the baby stuff makers have thought of nearly everything. Except, well, these items.
It’s too late for me, of course, but I dream of the day when someone will appear on Dragons’ Den with the following items that would truly make life easier (and apologies if these already exist, but I have searched in vain for them):
1) A remote control for the TV that a parent can switch immediately to "baby mode" with one simple hand swipe. This will (a) allow a baby to bang away on it to her heart's content, without it affecting what's on the TV; and (b) save a parent the hassle of removing one battery from said remote control, then spending much of the evening trying to locate it between the sofa cushions.
2) Anti-gravity plates/bowls/spoons. Forget your suction cup or plate: babies thrill in figuring out how to unstick the plate from their tray and sending it flying to the floor. Half of the job spec of a parent of a 12-month-old is picking up toys, food and cutlery from the floor around a high chair. Mess catchers and nets exist, fine, but then you've a job on your hands cleaning that, too.
3) A car seat that you can detach from the car and stick on to your buggy/pram wheels for older babies. Yes, the newborn car seats came with adapters so you can put them on your buggy, but once that precious cargo of yours hits 15kg, that all changes.
4) A cot that automatically raises and lowers mechanically, meaning that you can put your sleeping baby down to sleep without having to lean right on in there, catching yourself in the ribs (or worse, C-section scar) as you gently lower her in.
5) A car seat with easy-to-use, or even automatic, straps. People, is it really that hard to invent this?
6) A toothbrush that babies actually won't mind using on their teeth, instead of one that they just suck the toothpaste off.
7) A device that will hold a baby down while getting nappies changed, so as to tackle that whole squirming problem.
8) Nappies with built-in nappy rash cream.
9) A dirty nappy monitor, not unlike the blue stripe that appears on certain brands of nappies when wet. There has to be an easier way than lifting a baby up in public and doing the sniff test.
10) Something, anything, that finds matching socks. The disappearing sock supply is the great mystery of motherhood.
11) A nappy bag that will automatically tell you when it is running low on rash cream, wipes or nappies.
Maybe I’m just particularly lazy, but I daydream of a life where some of these exist. Necessity is the mother of invention for sure.