Fatherhood²: Baby gadgets aren’t always baby good-gets

February 24, 2011 at 9:33 pm

As a total gadget-loving dad, I relished parenthood as a good opportunity to stock up on new gadgets, tools, widgets and generally things with plugs on them. One of the few books I bought on the subject of parenthood was The Bloke’s Guide To Baby Gadgets – a fun read, though possibly not one I’d recommend in perspective; you can find most of the info on baby sites these days, with the benefit of comparison engines clinching it for me! But anyway, the gadgets were an exciting prospect to me.

Almost three years on, and facing the prospect of revisiting some of those purchases for a second time, I wanted to reflect on a couple of items which I now consider to be a complete waste of time. Some lovely folk on Twitter and a couple of boards I frequent also helped with some suggestions, so a big ‘thank you’ to them as well.

Obviously these opinions are all just that – opinions. You may well and possibly will disagree, but if I can save even ONE wasted purchase, it’ll have been worth it… I’m also planning to do a companion post with my “must have” purchases at a later date, but for now, here’s the no-nos… Here goes!

Bottle sterilisers

Thankfully, we didn’t pay money for this, instead inheriting one from my brother and his wife. It was a complex little thing – place some water in the base, stick all your bottles in it and it’ll steam-sterilise them, making them safe for baby. Sounds reasonably smart, right? Wrong.

Maybe it was the circumstances I was using it in, but due to Robert’s ‘latching issues’, we were bottle feeding (expressed milk) at all feeds – including the middle of the night. Sterilised bottles using these machines have to be sterilised fresh every time – the amount of times I got 3rd-degree burns whilst taking freshly-sterilised bottles out of it in the middle of the night was scary. And too much for my bleary-eyed self to cope with.

As soon as somebody told us sterilising tablets, we ditched the machine and swapped to a 10-liter plastic box, filled with water and a sterilising tablet. You can leave bottles in it for 24 hours before having to change the water, and it’s super-easy to travel with too. My top tip, definitely.

Baby changing tables

I know it’s not technically a gadget, but it was definitely something you could easily live without – unless of course you have a physical limitation which makes it necessary. I should point out that we happily used ours for a good few months – it *was* especially useful for Sara in the post-caesarian days after birth. But as soon as we got rid of it (due to space-saving) I realised it had been a complete waste of space – changing baby on a changing-mat on the floor is WAY easier, and something you’ll have to get used to out in the real-world anyway. Save the hassle and don’t bother, or at the very least ditch it as soon as it becomes anything but a necessity…

Diaper Genie / Nappy Disposal Units

I’ve not experienced this one personally, but a LOT of people told me they found these to be a complete waste of space. I actually wanted to buy one, but Sara (very sensibly) persuaded me against it – people tell me they are VERY clumsy to use, usually result in a pooy-hand problem as you try to wrangle the nappy in to the opening and generally don’t work. And let’s face it, how hard is it to drop a used nappy in to a nappy-bag and chuck it in the bin?! The little bin they give you under the disposal unit only holds about 5 or 6 nappies before you need to demolish it and empty the thing, so I say why bother!

Baby Slings / Snuggies

You see people walking around with these in ‘bohemian’ areas of London – baby wrapped round your body, just like you see in those documentaries about tribes people, don’t you know. In reality, they’re a total pain in the arse – tough to wrangle on to anything but the lithest of bodies, and very un-nerving for the mother – I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t be confident enough in my abilities not to risk the baby dropping out of it when you bend over.

Wake-up glow clock

This probably isn’t the correct name for it, but the concept is fairly straight-forward, with a selection of variations on one theme – it’s a clock, with one method or other to tell your child when it’s “getting up time”, and when they should be asleep. Ours was electonic, my brother’s was a wall-mounted clock with a rabbit on. Both, to my knowledge, failed miserably.

Unless your child is old enough to “get” the concept – which I’d argue they’re not going to be until at least 6 or 7 – they’re just going to ignore it. Robert can’t have looked at his more than once, and unless we’d have popped it on the pillow next to him, it’s never going to make a jot of difference to when he decides to wake up / get up / call out for a drink. Rubbish!

Weighted blankets

Another one I’ve not experience personally, but I’m reliably informed by other parents that these blankets – supposedly weighted in a clever way to resemble a ‘hug’ – are totally pointless. Children kick them straight off and they sit their on the floor, reminding them of the £25 you wasted on them.

Cat nets

This is probably a fairly ‘niche’ baby product, but as cat owners we were told horror stories about how cats could jump in to the cot/moses basket with your baby, and suffocate them in their sleep. Obviously this is probably based on true stories, but from personal experience, the cat net was a complete waste of time. Both of our cats were completely uninterested in Robert, especially when he screamed.

I wouldn’t want to risk being the person that says “Don’t buy it” and then find out that a baby suffocated as a result, but I’ll say this – don’t waste too much money on them!

So, those are my tips – take them or leave them, but either way, let me know your thoughts. Did I miss something? Did you find bottle warmers to be the best thing since sliced bread? Let me know!