Five months in and I’ve realised it’s an industry – a big creaking shameless guilt-inducing machine that will literally tear the babe from your breast in order to get your dollar.
Alongside death, birth is the great leveller, a mystery and a miracle, yet our neo-liberal, capitalist, free market society (call it what you will) peopled by Trumps and Johnsons (the one with the hair not the baby products) has succeeded in monetising the foetus from womb until early adulthood. Having a baby is big business.
The beauty of new parents is that they operate on fear and guilt, the holy grail of the advertising industry. As consumers have become more savvy to the ‘hard sell’, green mums and dads who are suffering from a lack of sleep and an absence of the social life they used to lead, will be far more susceptible to handing over money for peace of mind and a peaceful night.
There is no baby problem that can’t be solved by coins. Your baby doesn’t sleep? Then squash her into a cocoon-shaped pod for just under £100, oh and with that, you’ll need to spend £30 – £40 on specially fitted sheets for the cutesy lifeboat-shaped bed. We bought one, he didn’t even fit in it and it made no difference to our lives. It went back. He sleeps fine in a secondhand Moses basket that cost £25 from Gumtree. Sheets included.
Need to prove just how responsible a parent you are by buying the best car seat you possibly can? Then the seat and the fitting will cost you over £300 from John Lewis. We drove to Bristol especially to do this. So giddying were the prices and the choice of seats that both of us were reduced to a catatonic state, resolved only by coffee and cake. No sooner did we get home than some friends offered us their car seat and the new stuff was returned. We paid £100 for the seat and a secondhand travel system which included pram, cot and stroller. Don’t even get me started on pram options, there is not enough cake in the world to rescue me.
Think you don’t know anything about birth? A little nervous about pushing out a large head through a small hole for the first time? Then join the NCT for nearly £300 so they can traumatise you over a series of classes with step by step pictures of how your baby enters the world as well as providing you with anecdotal chat about the best pain relief and the colour of baby poo. A waste of money.
And so it continues. But there is another way. We have discovered that friends, family and especially parents of older children have donated most of what we use for our little one. Kingsley Village’s nearly new baby sales, roughly every month, also offer a stack of stuff for bargain prices and obviously Gumtree and Ebay are a tin mine of baby paraphernalia which makes gracing the steps of the likes of Mothercare and JojoMamaBebe a rare occurrence. Bodmin even recently hosted an event for mums at which baby stuff was entirely free. Yup, no money. Older relatives, in particular my mum, have also proved to be some of the best baby experts, you don’t have to pay to listen to tried and tested methods, even if they are not for you.
Am I a worse parent for it? Is he an unhappier child for it? Certainly not, I’m just a bit smugger and, I hope, a couple of steps ahead of the baby industry. I can’t wait until he’s old enough to shake a plastic bottle filled with dry pasta and for those first tottering steps. Priceless.