In recent months S has become quite the fan of Which? magazine. It’s got to the point where it seems we can’t do anything without him consulting them – ovens, washing powder, PCs, you name it. He has suddenly become a doubter of his own instincts. Anyway, the folk at Which? return to goad me with their latest findings – a survey of parents to find out their most and least useful pieces of baby equipment.
1 Door baby bouncer
2 Baby washing bowls
3 Manual breast pump
4 Baby hammock
5 Fabric sling
6 Nappy stacker
7 Bumbo seat
8 Cot mobile
9 Swaddling blanket
10 Nappy disposal bin
1 Stair gate
2 Baby change bag
3 Audio baby monitor
4 Electric steam steriliser kit
5 Microwave steam steriliser kit
6 Video baby monitor
7 Baby sleeping bag
8 Digital ear thermometer
9 Baby bouncer or rocker
10 Travel cot
The video baby monitor is on the most useful list. Yes really. And so I feel the need to take these lists to task in a blog post.
The thing is, with many of the least useful items, they’re really only good for a short amount of time so it’s not that they’re not useful, they’re just expensive for the amount of time you’re going to use them. The trick is therefore to take advantage of helpful friends and second hand equipment. E loved her door bouncer (item number one on the least useful list) but we couldn’t use it as often as we liked. I would have preferred it if I could have hung it in the kitchen doorway but we don’t have the right kind of doorway there and it wouldn’t stay up. So in the living room doorway it didn’t get used as much. But it was a hand me down from a friend so cost nothing. (I still have it – if anyone wants it, let me know.) For the times when I needed to be in the kitchen I put E in the Bumbo (see item seven on the least useful list). Again, this cost us nothing as we borrowed it from a friend. It was great to put E in while I made dinner and she entertained herself banging wooden spoons and measuring jugs together.
Manual breast pumps (item three on least useful) are getting a bad press here. Yes, perhaps they’re not as good as electric ones but here’s the thing – you buy them because they’re cheaper. You don’t know how much you’ll be able to express, you don’t know if you’ll be able to breastfeed at all and if, like me, you’re going to use them for only one baby before packing up your womb for good then you don’t spend £65+ on an electric pump. And don’t give me this ‘hand expressing is fine’ nonsense – I’m not a bloody cow, stop being a hippy.
We liked the swaddling blanket but I made ours from a piece of material lying around the house. You don’t need to spend money on it. You can just use a large muslin or a cotton blanket. We also very much appreciate the nappy disposal bin but again, you don’t have to buy a special one! Are people so addled that they think this is all necessary? And speaking of insanity, I’m with them on the baby washing bowl. This I think refers to the top and tailing bowls you can buy (cheapest £15) The once or twice we did this with E, we either held her over the bathroom sink or used an old Carte D’Or bowl.
On the most useful list you find changing bag is right up there. You can just use a normal bag! Or use the free one you get with Boots Parenting club – I think it was the only reason I joined Boots parenting club. The bag’s zip has broken, we’ve thrown away the changing mat that came with it but we still use the bag. Point is, it cost nothing and if it had, I’d have dug out an old handbag.
My beef with the video baby monitor doesn’t come from our own experience but from my sister’s. She came to stay with us, bringing my nephew with her, and was visibly shattered. The video monitor was set up and I watched her in the evening as he slept. Her eyes kept flicking to the monitor screen. She couldn’t help herself – and it seemed that she couldn’t completely relax either. I swore when E was born we wouldn’t get one.
So here are my lists:
Most shortlived items and therefore best to make, borrow or get second hand:
- Door bouncer
- Bouncy chair – useful only for keeping her safe while I had a shower. Otherwise she wanted contact.
- Swaddling cloth
Most pointless items when you think about them logically:
- Sterilisers of any kind. We didn’t sterilise anything except bottles and then bunged them quite happily in the changing bag with other stuff. What was the point? This didn’t occur to us till later.
Most useless items altogether:
- Baby hair brushes. Just don’t.
- Bath chair. We had a plastic one I bought with Boots points. A friend said ‘you’ll never use that’ but it was really helpful for us to get the hang of bathing E and get her used to the water before she could sit up.
- Wipes and bibs. This was S’s contribution when I asked him what he thought was helpful.
- Sleeping bags.
- Hooded towels. Ikea do nice big ones.