Another baby sales catalogue has arrived in our letterbox. The range of baby gear is overwhelming to me, let alone new or prospective parents: what is necessary? What could we do without? What might be really helpful? If I buy this fabulous looking cradle/swing/babyseat/high-chair/play-gym/change-table/stroller/walker/playpen/portacot (whatever), will it turn out to be a waste of money?
A recent survey of parents showed that some are spending up to seven thousand dollars on nursery items for their newborn ” before it has even been born! If you don't believe that is possible, think again. There are prams that cost up to two thousand dollars and cots that are almost as expensive. Then there is the gorgeous linen to complement the swish nursery furniture and, of course, the impossibly irresistible baby outfits to fill the matching drawers and cupboards. Be warned, if this is your first baby, your nesting urge could rule your purse strings.
Preparing to welcome your baby is a rite of passage and, of course, it is your right to choose which equipment will best suit your needs. However, before you part with all that money, it might be worth considering how devastated you could feel if your little cherub doesn't share your enthusiasm for designer baby gear (the most expensive cot in the catalogue won't guarantee a better night's sleep). Or that, rather than make your baby feel loved and precious because he has the best gear money can buy, a lot of baby equipment is not only completely unnecessary but it could actually make your baby feel less loved: due to the pressure that goes with designer labels, you may feel you need to ‘get your money's worth' by making the most of your swish nursery furniture. Sadly, this can unintentionally separate your baby from you ” the person she most wants to be close to.
Few modern parents could bear to imagine living without a pram, flash or basic, but American psychologist and author of ‘The Vital Touch', Dr Sharon Heller reminds us that most of the world's babies receive much more sensory stimulation than our own as they are held and transported in a loving pair of arms rather than being wheeled at arm's length. Dr Heller says, “carried, infants experience body warmth, frequent position change, deep pressure touch, containment, and rocking, to say nothing of the opportunities to balance her head, upright her posture, or use her muscles for clinging.”
Consider also that, when you carry your baby, she hears your voice as you chatter to her; she feels your touch as you stroke her face and her delicious little body; she smells your familiar odours and feels the textures of your clothing or your bare skin and hair; her view of the world is the same as yours (not just bums and legs or the dark inside of a pram hood). Another concern is that few strollers or prams are designed so babies can see their mothers. According to Dr Heller, “if also unable to feel or hear her mother, the baby may lose sense of her mother altogether and feel alone and, if we can't see our baby's faces, we lose moment-to-moment awareness of our baby's well-being and cannot fine tune to her signals.”
Many baby products are very useful in small doses ” few isolated mums without other loving arms to share the load can manage to constantly carry their babies and nobody would argue that car seats are non essential or that a desperate mother should feel guilty when a few minutes in a swing can buy her a quick shower ” but overuse or inappropriate use of ‘baby containers' can hinder infant development as they restrict movement and sensory stimulation and some, such as baby walkers can be potentially dangerous as well.
So, rather than feel guilty if you haven't spent your entire baby bonus on nursery gear, hold your little one close, look into those dark grey eyes and remind yourself that the best baby play-gym is a clean floor and very best ‘product' for her well-being and development is ” you! As the Beatles sang, money can't buy love.