|Is All That Baby Gear
by Jan Hunt
|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) for
cosleeping, a comfortable sling for carrying your baby, a breastfeeding
pillow and footstool to make nursing easier, 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.
Adapted from Jan
Hunt's column in the Mothering website "Ask
the Experts" section.
Jan Hunt, M.Sc., offers phone counseling
worldwide, with a focus on parenting and unschooling. She is the Director of The
Natural Child Project and author of The Natural
Child: Parenting from the Heart and A
Gift for Baby.
|More articles by Jan Hunt