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The family way
6:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Lifestyle
New and expectant parents in the UK are forking out £239 million a year on high-tech nursery gadgets - but is it really necessary, asks Lisa Salmon.
By Lisa Salmon
Bringing a new baby home is an anxious time, and it's only natural parents want to stock the nursery with everything they might possibly need.
While once this meant cots, blankets, nappies, rattles and a few toys though, today's parents have slightly different ideas, following a growing trend for 'baby tech' - think digital thermometers, LCD video baby monitors, self-warming baby bottles, touch control lamps, baby crying analysers and iPotties (a potty with an iPod doc).
Needless to say, such gadgetry doesn't come cheap, and a recent survey by VoucherCodes.co.uk found that modern mums and dads now spend an average £330 on these items, with 1 in 10 splashing out over £500 - this all adds up to a staggering annual national total of £239 million.
Many of those questioned (1000 expectant parents and parents with children under two) said they were willing to fork out on these high-tech and high-price nursery gadgets because it made them feel like they were better parents, and better prepared. But baby experts suggest it may all be a very unnecessary expense.
Sarah Barrett, managing editor of BabyCentre UK, a website for new and expectant parents, says it's understandable that all parents want the best for their children, so it's tempting for them to splash out on nursery tech, especially for a first baby.
But she stresses: "Technology is no replacement for a mother's, or father's, instinct.
"While some tech is helpful, other things can be a waste of money. We find that parents are so in tune with their babies, they are actually the best judge of their health and wellbeing."
Siobhan Freegard, founder of the parenting site Netmums.com also points out: "Babies have thrived for thousands of years without any form of electronic gadget, but nowadays parents are made to feel they must kit out their nursery like a branch of an electronics shop to be a good parent.
"While some items undoubtedly make parents' lives easier, others are simply unnecessary and are marketed to prey on mum's and dad's fears their child won't be safe without it."
Freegard observes it's almost always first-time parents who lavish cash on nursery tech, and adds: "Second-time-around parents realise babies can do very well with simply the most basic of items."
Annie Ashworth, co-author of The Madness of Modern Parenting (Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99), agrees that parents could happily raise a healthy, well-adjusted baby without any of the gadgets - as people have for generations.
"Let's face it, Nobel Prize winners haven't achieved great things as a result of being spied on by their parents through an LCD video baby monitor," she says.
"The generation producing babies now are programmed to believe gadgets are the answer to everything because we're surrounded by them, and all our advice comes from Google.
"That said, life is tough enough at the best of times, and parenting a new baby is exhausting and confusing, so here's to anything that makes things easier."
Ashworth says she thinks a digital thermometer can provide quick reassurance, and a baby bouncer can be safe and entertaining for baby.
But, she declares, "the rest can stay on the shelves," and suggests, for example, that parents could simply use a very low voltage bulb instead of a touch control lamp.
"Take the advice of a sensible sister, mother or friend for the best of the basics," she advises,
"Ask them what worked for them and what they couldn't live without. Was it a good changing mat, easy-to-manoeuvre buggy, easy-to-wash babygros, and lots and lots of muslin cloths?"
She stresses that what works for one baby doesn't necessarily work for another, but concludes that a lot of baby gadgets simply aren't necessary.
"Put the money you save from ignoring these gadgets into an account to cover the cost of a weekend away somewhere wonderful which you'll all deserve."
Ask the expert
Q: "I'm four months pregnant with my first child and I'd like to know what midwife-led care means and whether it's the best, and safest, option for my pregnancy?"
A: Jane Munro, Royal College of Midwives' midwifery advisor, says: "Midwife-led care means that midwives will be the lead health professionals for your care, with responsibility for assessment of your needs, planning your care, and can refer a woman to other professionals or specialists, if necessary. It's different from medical-led models of care, where an obstetrician would have that responsibility.
"Its philosophy has an emphasis on women's natural ability to experience birth with minimal medical intervention. If any complications arise during your pregnancy or labour, you will be referred to the multi-professional team.
"A woman being cared for by a midwife she has got to know is a significant factor in her having a positive pregnancy and childbirth experience. Midwifery-led care has been shown to be a very safe option for low-risk women."
Nice for nursery
:: Baroo Abc Dark Wicker Moses Basket
A portable and foldable Moses basket which comes with a foam mattress, hood and quilt. Stand not included. Suitable from birth, available from Amazon, £69.85.
:: Mothercare Universal Cot-Top Changer
Space-saving, padded changing mat that sits over the cot and has raised sides to keep baby secure during changing. Remove when cot is in use. Suitable from birth, available from Mothercare stores and Mothercare.com, £24.99.
:: Bubbaroo Blankie
Super-soft, generously sized striped baby blanket made from 100% knitted cotton. Suitable from birth, available from www.bubbaroo.co.uk in pink, blue or mocha, £29.95.
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