Parents under too much pressure to ‘perform’ – comments on Unicef report findings

A recent report from Unicef has found that British parents place more value on material goods than spending time as a family.

The research, which compares parenting in our country to other countries across the Europe, suggests that that shelves stacked high with the latest toys and gadgets is one of the most important things to parents in this country – not their child’s happiness. As a consequence, poorer families feel they have to struggle even harder to get their children the stuff that is equated to status. But has anyone stopped to think about the most vulnerable parents of all; the first-time parent? Baby expert Caroline Cosgrove comments on Unicef findings.

Here, Caroline Cosgrove, a leading authority on baby products and author of best-selling book What to Buy For Your Baby, shares her thoughts on how to relieve some of the pressure that British parents face when it comes to buying for their baby.

“From the moment they announce their pregnancy, some new parents feel they are under enormous pressure to perform. They are overwhelmed with choice and bombarded with advice and suggestions from friends, family, colleagues and well-meaning shop workers. In an arena that is dominated by the latest ‘must haves’ they could be forgiven for thinking that there’s a tonne of stuff you need for a newborn. The truth is that all the ‘must have’ purchases out there aren’t necessarily essentials after all.

“Babies have become the ultimate ‘must have’ designer accessory and, as we know, designer accessories don’t come cheap. Try telling any first time mum that all she really needs is a basic cot, a handful of nappies and either a pushchair or a baby sling – yes, that’s right, either/or – and she’ll never believe you.

“Breastfeed and you don’t need any feeding equipment; bath time is possible without a baby bath, a bath support or a hooded towel; a towel on the floor will work perfectly as a changing mat; you can sleep your baby in a cot from day one so no need for that gorgeous Moses basket you had your eye on; if your hearing’s OK and your house not too enormous you can manage without a baby monitor and your legs can save you money on a nappy disposal system if venturing out to a bin a few times a day isn’t inconceivable.

“That being said, the advances and changes in the baby shopping world are phenomenal and just when you think there are no more products that anyone can come up with, another really obvious one, one that immediately assumes ‘must have’ status (either by clever marketing or ‘the makes life easier’ element), suddenly makes an appearance. When it comes to baby gear in 2011 deciphering what you really need is not as simple as it used to be.

“For example, fashion and celebrity now influences baby gear like never before. You only have to see the enormous choice of baby changing bags available, some costing hundreds of pounds, to understand that the nursery word is no longer immune to style – or celebrity influence.

“Take your basic bouncy chair. A piece of stretchy fabric (albeit in fluorescent shades) pulled over a wire seat frame will set you back about £25; Baby Bjorn’s more designer interpretation of this in neutral black or beige shades with the addition of a recline feature and the option to use for longer than the otherwise six months norm rings in at £100 and Bloom’s ultra fashionable perspex and leatherette bouncer chair will set you back hundreds of pounds. There are, of course, plenty of choices in between. And it’s not just about style, it’s also about features… ones that vibrate, play music, recline, rock, have different height settings…the choice is vast.

“Our own parents look on, some in awe and some in irritation. There are those who delight in the availability and choice of equipment today and think how easy life would have been if such luxuries were available in their day, and others who preach how they got by without all these mod cons.

“Baby shopping is much more fun than it used to be, but it’s also much more complicated. Don’t get bogged down – this should be the most exciting and enjoyable time of your life, so make sure you feel just like that. Set a budget, get good advice, and indulge yourself… just a little.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caroline is the founder of bespoke baby shopping service Baby Concierge, offering parents tailored, unbiased advice on what to buy for their baby. Log on to www.babyconcierge.co.uk for more.

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