When I was planning for my wedding (what seems like many moons ago), I was told that as soon as you utter the word wedding to any product or service provider, the price multiplies.
'Oh, you need bridal makeup, well we've got a special package for that'.
'Are these flowers for a wedding? Well let me show you our special (read: overpriced) selection.'
'Oh you want a cab to ferry your wedding guests around? Well in that case, you don't want a regular taxi, you need our deluxe concierge service. You'll get the same car, except there will be a ribbon around it, and our driver will wear gloves.'
OK, so the last one was a pinch exaggerated, but you get my drift. My point is the wedding market plays on your desire for a perfect day. The bridal makeup will stay put longer. The bridal flowers will be fresher. As for that taxi, it damn well needs a bow on the bonnet. And like any other bridezilla, I forked out that extra because I felt I should, and anything less wouldn't do.
Anyway, fast forward to now, and baby shopping is a whole other marketing minefield. While my maternity shopping was a breeze, buying for a newborn is bewildering. You're not just paying for the perfect things, but you're throwing in the safety and reassurance element. And that means what should be the most enjoyable aspects of pregnancy an emotionally-charged decision.
Baby shopping - what do I really need?
Take a recent browse around the shops for a pram. In theory, a straightforward purchase. In practice, a lesson in ergonomics. I kind of know what I'd like... a lightweight nippy model that can cope with often uneven paving and be able to occasionally mount public transport without much trouble.
But that would be far too easy. There's travel systems which offer a pram, convert to a pushchair, have separate clip-on car seats, and a changing bag to boot. However, I've heard that these bundles can be jack-of-all and master of none.
Then you need something that lays flat for newborns. And of course, no two-lay flat prams are the same. Each pram comes with its own pros and cons. Some look great and sturdy but weigh more than me. Others are lighter, but are a pain to dismantle with one hand. Of course the price points range from £200 to over a thousand. So knowing what is good value, too cheap and cheerful or just plain marketing BS isn't easy. Also, I'm quite a sucker for a pretty looking pram (yes, I know it's a status thing), so I'm really struggling on this one.
Baby shopping - too many options?
And then there's the car seat. ISOFIX, a new internationally-standardised car seat fitting base promises a much safer and convenient journey than simply using a seatbelt for security. This to me is slightly non-negotiable, the fact that it might be safer makes me think it's worth the investment, even if the ISOFIX (essentially a clever bar of metal) is the same price as the car seat itself.
Of course, the car seat isn't a simple purchase either. You get different sizes for different ages, some offer lay-flat, others not so much. Essentially, a child could go through potentially five different car seats before they reach the age of 12. It's a far cry from the days of sitting on your mum's lap for a long distance journey.
The safety guilt trip
On the nursery front, I'm looking into safe sleeping, and am slightly dizzy with what's out there. There's baby monitors, video baby monitors, moses baskets, cots, Next to Me's and snuzzpods.
I've already got the cot bed (that's for another article), but figuring out how to make it accommodating for a very little one is bewildering. And that's where the safety aspect - which plays on every expectant mums mind - really manifests. While there's no prescribed solution, it's natural to want to find an 'answer', in order to take every precaution possible.
So after much fretting, I have come to some conclusions:
There is no 'perfect' solution, and every baby, parent and situation is different. Other mums are the best advisors. While their opinions may differ wildly, I can take the information to help form my own conclusions.
Speaking to my mum and other non-generation X mums is a huge reassurance. They had none of this brand spanking gadgetry, and I, along with my peers, turned out just fine. Speaking to my midwife. She's pretty good with a no-nonsense approach and will help me suss out the necessities from the marketing BS.
So rather than obsession over details, I've recently started reading reviews from other mums. As a bloggers, I always trial and vouch for products myself. I offer my warts-and-all opinion, regardless of whether it's something I was sent, or I bought myself. And this is something I will continue to do on this exciting new life chapter, to help others feeling equally bewildered. As many mum bloggers have the same modus operandi, I'll be scouring different sites to see what other mums bought and why.
Keeping it simple
I'm going to have a basic list of baby shopping essentials, and top up with optional niceties (we recently bought a Ralph Lauren baby-gro, just because it was cute).
But most of all, I'm going to take a chill pill. All this stuff is exhausting, when shopping for a small person should be the most fun. I'm learning to remind myself that every product out there has its pros and cons. And ultimately, it's just stuff.
This article first appeared on http://halimabobs.com/