|Baby Gear Economics
(You don't need most of that stuff from the Baby Products Industry - how about a Doula instead?)
by Jan Hunt, M.Sc
(The Director of The Natural Child Project Society. Jan has degree in psychology and a Masters degree in
child psychology and counseling. She has over 20 years of experience as a personal and family counselor,
and as a writer on parenting issues. Jan is a consultant to Attachment Parenting International, Northwest
Attachment Parenting, and Child Friendly Initiative. She is the author of The Natural Child: Parenting
from the Heart (New Society, 2001).
Parents-to-be are confronted with many items of baby gear that are presented by the industry and our
culture as "must-have" items: cribs, baby swings and bouncers, playpens, strollers, bottles and bottle-
warmers, pacifiers, mobiles, and more. It can be a daunting task to decide whether each of these items is
truly necessary and useful, especially for a new or expectant parent with little experience in the care of
an infant. Yet most of the baby items sold today are not only unnecessary and expensive, but harmful.
They are all substitutes for the more natural and beneficial things that only parents can give.
Such items as swings and bouncers take the place of parent-and-baby play. Formula, bottles, and bottle
warmers substitute for breastfeeding. Pacifiers take the place of nursing for comfort. Cribs take the place
of co-sleeping, playpens take the place of holding, and strollers substitute for carrying. Many of these
items came about during the 1940’s and 1950’s, when our culture, focusing on post-war "modernization"
saw mothering as yet another occupation that could benefit from modern inventions. While new
household gadgets, such as dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines have made housework
easier, parenting-related items have only made life more difficult for both parents and children.
It’s far more likely that a child will look forward to sleeping next to a parent than sleeping alone in a crib,
making bedtime a pleasure for everyone, instead of the most dreaded time of day. Because our Stone Age
babies with instinctual knowledge of their true needs expect natural, age-old approaches, substitute
approaches will inevitably be resisted, leading to repeated conflicts. Such conflicts endanger the parent-
baby relationship, and to what purpose? I feel deep sadness when I read about well-meaning but
misinformed parents letting their baby "cry it out" in a crib. Not only is this process painful for all
concerned, it accomplishes nothing worthwhile, and gives many harmful messages to the baby: that no
one can be counted on in times of need, that they are not worth caring about, and - worst of all - that it’s
OK to disregard another person’s needs and feelings as long as one holds the power in that relationship.
These harmful messages can remain within the child as a general life philosophy long after the specific
experiences have been forgotten.
Which items are truly useful and beneficial for new parents? Not very many: a king-size bed (or futons
covering the bedroom floor), a comfortable sling, a breastfeeding pillow and footstool, a nursing necklace
(if needed), and, especially, heartfelt books, magazines, and articles on attachment parenting. As Marilyn
Hogan wrote, "Baby equipment should only be used to enhance the bond between parents and baby."
Unfortunately, many items on the market today can only damage that relationship.
Babies who are simply trying hard to have their legitimate needs met deserve much more. Fortunately,
those needs – loving attention, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and carrying, cost nothing at all to give, yet
are the most important gifts of all.
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