PARENTS

Help! I'm A Victim Of Baby Buying Syndrome

19/07/2012 16:48 | Updated 22 May 2015
Help! I'm a victim of baby buying syndromeRex

I'm a new mum with a confession to make. I've been sucked in and spat out by that most dreaded and costly condition – Baby Buying Syndrome (or BBS as we'll call it).

Having always been a shopaholic I should have known that adding a bump to the equation was asking for trouble. But in my defence I had no idea how powerful the lure of BBS was going to prove.

Neither did my thrifty other half, poor thing.

I've always been the kind of girl who covets 'must-have' items owned by friends, colleagues or that woman on the commute home with the gorgeous designer handbag.

And as it turns out 'educational' singing duck toys, musical bouncy chairs and caterpillar-shaped rattles also bring out the same instinct.

It might be shallow, but jealousy is a natural, if often unhealthy, part of being human. And when you want the best for your child too, it's not that surprising that BBS can rapidly destroy your bank balance.

The moment I realised I'd been well and truly sucked in was at Christmas while watching our then six-month-old daughter Imogen sleeping soundly in the basic cot my in-laws had kindly invested in for her. It looked lovely and she was very happy in it. Quite a costly way to learn that your baby really doesn't want or need a £700 'golden oak' cot-bed when a £100 pine-effect one from Mothercare will do.

At least I'm not alone. New research shows that first-time parents are splashing out on average £1,800 before their baby even arrives, with two thirds turning to credit cards and loans to cover the cost.

Let's face it, life with a newborn is hard enough without factoring in financial worries – so just why do we feel the pressure to shell out so much as new parents?

Parenting coach and mum of three Judy Reith, says falling victim to Baby Buying Syndrome is just part of the pressure we feel as parents to try and be perfect. "Parents constantly feel the need to get it right, from buying the right pushchair to cooking healthy meals or dealing with discipline.

"But the reality is that when we put pressure on ourselves to reach this impossible target we lose sight of what really matters when it comes to parenting.

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It's all about having the confidence to be the kind of parent you want to and not being dependent on other's opinions. Sadly, our society values the status that comes from designer brands but your baby will have no idea about what you've bought them.

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"What they will pick up on is if you are anxious, fed up, depressed or exhausted from feeling like you have to keep up with buying all the latest stuff."

In our case we had friends and family queuing up to loan us things before Immy even made an appearance, and also to give us the benefit of their experience when it came to useless pieces of kit.

I'm still grateful to one close friend in Cardiff who said buying a top n' tail bowl was her worst ever purchase, but that didn't mean I listened to her when it came to the expensive baby bath we did buy – and used once. It's now to be found gathering dust in the loft.

There's some comfort in knowing I'm not the only mum who comes home from an NCT coffee morning with a hankering to get online and order the latest toys and gadgets.

Michelle, whose son Josh is seven months old, says she doesn't resort to BBS to keep up with other people but because when you see a friend's latest child-centred purchase the first though that naturally springs to mind is: 'Shouldn't we have that?'

"Being a new mum you doubt yourself all the time," she explains. "One thing I convinced myself I must have for Josh was this bed nest crib that attaches to your own bed. My friend told me it was the best thing she ever bought, plus when you look at the website there are quotes from people like Jools Oliver saying how wonderful it is.

"So we bought this 'marvellous' bed and Josh hated it! We ended up borrowing the Moses basket my nephews had slept in."

Another friend Rachel seems to have escaped the lure of BBS when it comes to shopping for her eight-month-old daughter Holly. Although she's not immune to being 'sucked into' gimmicks that promise to help Holly sleep or eat better, or that make her own life a little easier, her approach to baby buying is generally more practical.

"I'm more than happy to clothe Holly in supermarket brands or hand me downs," she explains. "What we have spent more money on is things we believe we should invest in like car seats and a good quality mattress.

"I don't feel like I have to battle any guilt at the moment when it comes to kitting out nurseries or buying toys. I know that Holly's a happy baby and as long as I can see that then I know she's not missing out on any expensive gadgets."

As far I can see the key to breaking the Baby Buying Syndrome cycle is just time, the confidence it brings when it comes to knowing your child and the realisation that not buying everything new doesn't make you a bad parent.

That and the fact the most fun Immy has had recently was with a Chocolate Orange box my almost-bankrupt other half handed her in desperation when she wouldn't stop grumbling.

"Look at that," he said two hours later as we stared at her laughing at us through the box.

Cardboard's cheap, and plentiful – it's got to be the way forward.

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