Late to the party here at the Lori and the Caravan blog, but I thought I'd add my two pence to this debate, which in actual fact has probably already raged itself out in social media land, but whatever. For the last few days I've seen a lot of comment, and general disbelief aimed at a report by Which? magazine on Parents' 10 least useful baby products.
The level of debate seems indicative to me of why lists like these should be taken with a pinch of salt, although I wasn't immune to a bit of eyebrow-raising at some of the items on the list - but that just proves my point (which I'm getting to, honest). Parenting is an incredibly personal experience, and is full of choices and decisions that you take and make because they're right for you. All this list really does is show the products least useful to the people who responded to Which?, and I worry that expectant parents taking such advice at face value might miss out on something that could have proven really useful to them.
For example, the item at pole position is the sometimes controversial door bouncer. Now I know there is a bit of debate about these contraptions, and it's true that they don't hold baby's hips in an ideal position, but as long as baby isn't dangling in it for hours at a time, it shouldn't really be a problem. We borrowed a door bouncer from family, and for about a month the boy thought it was the bee's knees. And then suddenly, he didn't want anything to do with it. Now, a month isn't a long time at all, so perhaps it doesn't qualify as 'useful', and I'm sure lot's parents find their little ones won't have anything to do with door bouncers, which makes them seem like a completely pointless purchase, but I have to say the month it which it was in favour was BLISS. The bouncer really helped us bridge the awkward period between the boy getting easily fed up lying on his mat, and being able to sit up. And the fifteen-twenty minutes he was in it was just long enough to achieve one of those suddenly impossible-seeming household chores, like washing up, or whizzing the hoover around.
Same goes for number five on the list - the baby carrier/fabric sling. Now I should issue a disclaimer here, because I'm a big advocate of baby wearing. But I can easily see how many people find it a pain/don't understand how carriers/slings work, and thus they end up on the list. Like anything to do with babies, it's best to do a bit of research before you buy. We started with a baby bjorn type narrow-based carrier, borrowed from family, and although I thought it was great at first, as soon as the boy started to gain weight it began to cripple my back. I moved onto wraps, and now I'm a total convert. But it takes practice, and learning the carries (particularly when it's time to hitch baby onto your back) isn't always easy, so I can completely understand that baby-wearing is not for everybody. But with a tiny baby who absolutely refused to sleep in his pram from pretty early on, but would happily nap for two hours at a time in a wrap, it was a no-brainer for me.
There are an absolute ton of different carriers on the market, so if baby-wearing is something that interests you then make sure to do a bit of research (look out for a local sling library, where you can try out different styles), try and get a carrier that holds baby in a knee-to-knee position, which will be comfier for them, and much better for your back, and always follow the TICKS guidelines.
And the same goes for other items on the list. Sure, the baby market is huge and hugely profitable, and some of what is out there does veer towards the stupid (top and tail bowls, I'm looking at you...) But just because something doesn't work for one person, doesn't mean it won't work for you. Manual breast pumps can be an utter pain in the backside, but if you're lucky enough to have a fast let-down, or you need to pump at work then they can be a godsend, (they fit in a handbag, I repeat, they fit in a handbag). Nappy bins are a bit silly if you can just pop a nappy in a bin just outside your front door, but I used to live in a top floor flat in London - there's no way I would have wanted to rush down six flights of stairs to the bins every time baby did a stinker.
Which? claims that avoiding the items on the list will save new parents £275, but there's a easy way to do this and experiment with different baby products to find out what works for you - don't buy new, (have I mentioned that I'm into second-hand goods? Oh look, here's my children's vintage shop.) The thing about anything baby, and particularly little babies, is that you don't tend to use anything for long, so second-hand items tend to be in pretty amazing condition. Jumble sales, Gumtree, ebay, and freecycle are your best friends when you're expecting. Friend's with older kids will be falling over themselves to pass on the bags of baby clothes gathering dust in their attics. NCT Nearly New Sales are a goldmine of barely used baby product treasure. Use them, use them all. You won't regret it.
Be aware that you will have a lot of nonsense marketed at you as new parents, but don't be afraid to try out lot's of products as you find your way on the heady but sometimes terrifying adventure that is parenthood. All that matters, whether it's the products you use, or the decisions you make as parents, is that it's what works for you.