Everyone in north London has the same pushchair. I exaggerate slightly, but not by much: the Babyzen YoYo, a compact stroller that folds down small enough to go in a plane’s overhead compartment, is a phenomenon. On the pavements, at the library, outside the children’s centre – they are ubiquitous.
At about £400, they are not the cheapest, but I have observed that their ownership transcends the sort of rich millennial parents who work at Google and own large townhouses around these parts. They are used by all kinds of families. If you were to nominate a bit of parenting kit that defines my generation of parents – at least those who live in cities, though friends from the countryside have hired them to go on holiday – this would probably be a good example, designed as it is with travel, flexibility and mobility in mind.
Although an earth (grand)mother type might say that all you need for a baby is a sling, a pair of breasts and a drawer, baby products are big business. The average amount that new parents spend on baby equipment, according to a 2022 report, is £6,000. A 2019 study found that 90% of parents felt they’d overspent on baby gear. And you can understand why: not only is the social media marketing relentless, but many companies make big promises, usually to do with sleep.
The guilt-tripping and fearmongering can be intense, and, as a recent feature in this newspaper highlighted, could even be making us more paranoid. Like the mother in that article who threw money at trying to solve her baby’s wind problem, I’ve sometimes been taken in by claims that purport to be the solution to whatever stage the baby is at, with mixed results.
On the other hand, never has product design felt more important than it has in parenthood. The book and social media account Designing Motherhood (the former published by MIT with the subtitle Things that Make and Break Our Births) highlights the designs that have helped define the relationship between parents and their babies over the past century, from the BabyBjörn sling (of which I’m a huge fan), to the incubator (likewise: I had a premature baby), to the breast pump.
The strides made in breast-pump design alone have been transformative and liberating. The Elvie wearable breast pump is such a far cry from the industrial-feeling milking machines of the past, and I’ll never forget how it helped me establish breastfeeding after my son was in intensive care. Similarly, I could weep in gratitude at the genius of Ewan the Dream Sheep, who helped him learn to sleep through the night (listening to an old episode of Parenting Hell, I discovered that Josh Widdicombe is also among Ewan’s legions of fans).
Of course, all babies are different, and there’s no guarantee that what will work for one parent will work for another, but some design classics have stood the test of time. The Stokke Tripp Trapp high chair, for example, turns 50 this year and has revolutionised how generations of children eat – a friend of mine says her family still sit on the ones she and her siblings had as babies. Perhaps that’s why we are liable to be a bit sentimental about some baby gear: the best examples become part of family life, making it all just that little bit easier.
When I realised that my son was frustrated by how constrained he felt by his baby sleeping bag, a late-night Google search turned up the BugBag, which has split legs and allows him to sleep in his favoured starfish position. The Little Sock Company makes miraculous socks that don’t come off even when he rubs his feet together in the pram. The Rockit pram rocker does exactly what it says on the tin, freeing your hands so that you can eat lunch. Often these small businesses have been founded by parents who have spotted a gap in a market, because nothing gets you thinking about what would make your life easier than tending a newborn 24/7.
For example: I loved the bassinet of our Ark pushchair, but as I pounded the pavements I used to wish for one that had built-in speakers that played white noise and a selection of classical music so that I didn’t have to put my phone in with him. One dad I know fantasised about some sort of device that could take you from a standing to a lying down position without disturbing the baby on your chest.
When I asked parents on Twitter, a whole range of weird and wonderful ideas were put forward, from a Wrong Trousers-style dressing machine for active toddlers to earplugs that cut out your partner’s snoring but are still linked to the baby monitor. One mum’s dream is “a replica of my hand that would automatically pat the bottom of a sleeping baby. A washing-up glove full of uncooked rice on some sort of pendulum, perhaps”, while another wishes for a product that can automatically return a dummy to a baby’s mouth.
These may be fanciful, but who knows what the future holds? What I do know is that psychologically and emotionally, the right baby gear can make a dramatic difference to your everyday life. The Babyzen YoYo is proof of that. Yes, reader, I have one. Having decided that pushing heavy, cumbersome pushchairs up various local hills was actually making me feel exhausted and downtrodden, it has come as a surprise just how altered my psyche has been by this change. I feel lighter, freer. More like my pre-baby self. The city streets feel less like an army assault course to be navigated.
It’s totally liberating: the best design always is.
I’m so grateful to all the readers who recommended which baby books to get with his Christmas vouchers. Peck Peck Peck, I Want My Hat Back and Little Owl’s Bedtime are already firm favourites, but Emma Dodd’s Me is the one winning the biggest smiles. This kid just loves a baby penguin.
I won’t go into what we’ve been dealing with this week as you may be eating breakfast, but let’s just say that infant antibiotics, necessary though they are, have had some rather dramatic side-effects the likes of which my traumatised mind hopes never to see again.
#dont #pricey #gear #high #design #good #parent #decent #pair #socks #helps #Rhiannon #Lucy #Cosslett