Mass Consumerism and the Endless Quest for the New

Mass Consumerism: New and Shiny!

New and Shiny!

I’m drafting this at 3.30am in the morning. I’m sitting in pyjamas with my daughter curled up next to me, laptop on my knees, lamplight casting a low glow to contrast the light of the tv; ‘Magic School Bus‘ is teaching us about viral invaders. It sounds all warm and cosy; it is…. except it’s 3.30am in the morning!

Don’t get me wrong, Miss 3 is a crap sleeper but tonight (and the night before) isn’t because of her health concerns. We’re awake because yet another nappy company decided to get on the train of ‘New and Improved!’, ‘All New Look!’, ‘Amazing New Technology!’. I could give two shakes of a rat’s tail for their heavy use of the word ‘new’; what I want in nappies is a reliable steadfast product that works. I have enough sleep deprivation in my life without needing to spend time in the supermarket re-evaluating nappy brands.

It’s not that long since popular nappy company Treasures changed their design causing an uproar amongst parents that eventually moved from social media parenting platforms to the mainstream news. I watched with interest (and respect) as one determined mother took our concerns to the news outlets and with our permission shared our crappy experiences (pun intended).

Now another nappy company, Kiddicare, has decided to follow suit and change their design to a dramatically new look that is eerily similar in look to the new design Treasures nappies. Their website claims “Our new five layer ultra-thin absorbent inner core made from hi-tech fibre makes for a better performing nappy.” Their ‘breakthrough technology’ and ‘non traditional materials’ are presumably meant to attract additional customers and justify a price increase.

The reality is that their old nappies worked. They were well priced and effective which is all I actually want in a nappy. I have had countless leaks from the new ultra-thin nappies during both day and night. Tonight I tried double layering the nappies and her pants; they still leaked (despite her only having a few sips of water before bed!) and I was woken yet again by her feeling cold and chilled in the middle of the night. I’ve already complained to the company (firing off an email at 2.30am yesterday) but that still leaves me having paid for a large box of nappies that have no functional purpose.

I’m frustrated and tired (and regretting that mug of coffee now) by lack of sleep and needing to strip bed sheets in the middle of the night. My ASD daughter does not sleep easily and is very routine focused. To her wake up time means a bottle of formula and cartoons; I know from experience that she will be awake for several hours before I have a chance of easing her into a nap. If I’m super lucky I can sometimes get her back to sleep when she wakes during the night but not once I’ve had to change clothes and sheets.

The question arises why multiple nappy companies are feeling the need to change their design in the first place (and why they haven’t done more product testing before release!). One can only assume it’s because they feel the need to dangle something new and shiny in front of consumers to attract their attention (like we’re nothing more than magpies indiscriminately collecting anything from tinfoil to gold watches) and have forgotten that their core purpose should be deliver something that works. I wish they would instead go with the maxim of ‘If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it’ and instead focus on aesthetics. Why can’t they just release limited edition runs of new prints with collectible cards inside the packs? Tell me all about the wonders of pandas and leopards with accompanying cute prints but have the nappies actually work!

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Customised Allergy t-shirts

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Custom allergy t-shirts for kids

I had the pleasure this summer of talking with Hayley, the awesome graphic designer at Little Red Inspired, who has a fantastic range of t-shirts for kids with allergies. As well as ordering from her direct they can also be purchased from Willow Boutique; personally I think the flying cow for the dairy-free t-shirt is super cute!

As well as having a range of ready made t-shirts, Hayley can also customise them for only a couple of dollars more. Once I’d settled on a general design and wording that I liked, she mocked up 3 different designs for me to choose from – what great service!

She also does stick-on washable labels for lunchboxes which is super handy!

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Custom allergy t-shirt

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Food allergy label for lunchbox

 

Is it worth spending lots of money on a dermal thermometer?

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I don’t know about your kids but my Miss 2 is as spirited and headstrong as she is lovely and loving. She does not like thermometers. Even in her sleep she will fight and push me away rather than having a digital thermometer stuck in her armpit and I can forget trying to take her thermometer orally.

I’ve become rather adept at estimating her temperature (with surprising accuracy) but it’s maddening when it’s diagnostically useful to know if her temperature is elevated. I decided that the solution was to try and buy a dermal thermometer like the doctor’s have.  There seem to be two types of these, ones that go in the ear (and often require ongoing purchase of disposable covers) and ones that can read from the forehead. The other issue with an aural (ear) thermometer is that its reading can be impacted if there’s a build-up of wax (so not necessarily that useful if they’re prone to frequent ear infections).

A brand name dermal thermometer like Braun can potentially cost USD$60 (NZD$90-150). I went searching online for reviews of several brands and the recurrent problem was that some people would be delighted and others would find that it just didn’t seem to be accurate. It seemed like a lot of money (on a very limited budget) to gamble on something that might not work so instead I decided to make a slightly riskier (but definitely cheaper) gamble on buying a generic one straight from China.

I have seen these listed by various online retailers and trading sites for anywhere for USD$30 (Amazon) and NZD$30 (TradeMe). Buying it direct from AliExpress cost USD$10 and included free international shipping. Ther are heaps of vendors on AliExpress so take the time to check quantities of sale and their feedback. Mine showed up very quickly and so far seems to be giving the same reading as the digital thermometer so I guess it’s working fine.

Great gift ideas for Baby Showers and expectant mothers

I promised a friend of mine (weeks ago – sorry!) that I would send her the links to some things I’d purchased off AliExpress and musing on that led to this expanded list. They’re numbered for sake of ease but not in order of importance 🙂

  1. Washable bamboo wipes
  2. Washable maternity pads
  3. Washable breast pads
  4. Wet/dry bags
  5. Bibs
  6. Soft toy
  7. Muslin Cloths
  8. Soft blanket
  9. Diapers
  10. Clothes

Note: A number of items on this list are available on AliExpress. I’ve written previously about how AliExpress is awesome. You can find some great bargains for a fraction of retail price, and free international shipping!, if you take the time to search. Keep in mind that delivery can take 2-6 weeks so if you’re ordering them as a gift (or to have before baby arrives) then order in advance.

Scroll down for details and links 🙂

Washable bamboo wipes

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I adore my double layer bamboo wipes. They are soft, durable, and have lasted over two years! These are much better quality than the really thin cotton cloths that often sold in shops (and fray easily).

These can be used from baby right up to toddler and beyond. They’re great for wiping up baby spit, baby food, snotty noses, grubby hands, and toddler faces. All you need is a little water to damp them and throw them into the soak bucket afterwards.

These could also be used as washable bottom wipes – just make sure that you choose an area of the body and stick with it!

These sell for around US$1.30 / item (with free shipping). Click here to see one supplier but there are plenty more to choose from.

Washable Maternity Pads

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One of the less glamorous aspects of childbirth is six weeks or so of post-partum bleeding after a vaginal birth. There are disposable pads that you can buy from the store but the costs mounts up as you run through them and bamboo pads are so much softer on one’s bruised and battered nether regions (especially if stitches have been required!). If you want to use these exclusively then you probably want six to nine (the reality is that you’ll probably be doing daily washing anyway once the baby is born) with some disposables as back up.

The other nice thing about these is being able to choose pretty patterns! They sell for around US$6.29 / item (with free shipping). Click here to see one supplier but there are plenty more to choose from.

Washable Breast Pads

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Not everyone leaks but an unexpected let-down of milk can definitely soak through a shirt. A nice and colourful gift can be washable breast pads. The other advantage of natural fibres is that they can be cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Bamboo, again, makes for a soft and durable option. There are lots of options for colours/pattern and they sell for around US$0.67 / item (with free shipping); just keep an eye when looking on minimum numbers for the order. For example, you might pay a little more to get just one pair sent to you, or click here to see an example of a 24 piece lot (so 12 pairs).

Wet/Dry Bags

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These are often sold as double zippered (two compartment) bags with a decorated outer and a water-resistant inner coating. The default size is around 30 x 40cm but smaller ones are available as well (at point I was able to find the perfect size small ones for a single formula bottle).

These have so many uses! They are ideal for nappies. For instance, use the front compartment for a plastic case of wet wipes, a tube of nappy cream, and a couple of disposable diapers (or 1 cloth nappy); a used wet nappy can then be rolled up and put in the back pocket till you can dispose of it at home. They’re also great for baby/toddler clothes that have become wet/dirty while out, or for snacks, or for the (mostly) empty formula bottle. They also make really handy bags for jigsaw puzzles!

These simply get thrown in the washing machine and hung out to dry. They’re good for about a year or two before zips start to break or they aren’t as water resistant anymore.

(Note: these are water resistant, not water proof. They’re great for damp clothing or a formula bottle that might leak a little bit but aren’t designed for an upside-down open water bottle!).

There are lots of options for colours/pattern and they sell for around US$3.95 / item (with free shipping); just keep an eye when looking on minimum numbers for the order. For example, you might pay a little more to get just one pair sent to you, or click here to see an example of a 3 piece lot.

Bibs

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Babies go through so many of these! Even before they’re eating, there’s drool. There are lots of options for bibs in stores. My preference ended up being for ones that have a cotton front/back but a waterproof layer in the middle – that way the drool isn’t soaking into the clothes underneath.

The fun thing with bibs is that you can choose some super cute designs. If you decide to go with AliExpress then you’re looking at around US$1.49 / bib  (with free shipping). Click here to see an example with lots of patterns to choose from.

Soft Toy

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As they get older, their soft toy collection will grow and these may no longer be a welcome gift; as babies you can get in right at the start! Aim for something in the 20-30cm range (rather than a 1m tall giant bear) as bubs isn’t going to be too big to start with! Soft and cuddly is also important.

As a parent, when the later winnowing of soft toys may need to occur it’s the ones they’ve had since they were a baby that you often find yourself wanting to nostalgically hold onto.

Muslin Cloth

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Although these are often still referred to as muslin cloths, you’re more likely to find ones made out of cotton now rather than actual muslin.

These are great for babies. They can be used for swaddling, to lie on, as a shade cloth over the pram, and even as an emergency diaper if you get desperate.

Soft Blanket

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A soft fluffy blanket can be a great gift – especially since it’s often to find them in gender neutral colours and patterns. They can last much longer than you’d think. I still have a fluffy baby blanket that was a baby shower gift. My toddler is far too big to sleep under it but she still loves to cuddle it and it makes a great car blanket for her.

Diapers

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Look for disposable diapers (or nappies) that are Newborn size. Aim to buy the smallest (quantity) pack available of a couple of different brands rather than a jumbo box. It’s not just that diapers differ across brands in terms of cost and absorbency, it’s also that they’re all slightly different in terms of cut and size. Some diapers are ideal for chubby thighs, some are ideal for super skinny legs. Every baby is different and it’s a nightmare to come from the hospital only to find out that you’ve stocked up exclusively on a single brand and your baby leaks out the side every single time! I went through several brands with my daughter before working out which brand fitted her best.

Clothing (or clothing vouchers)

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Baby clothes are super cute and so much fun to shop for! Sizing can be tricky though; (here’s a handy sizing chart). The default size for a newborn is: NB / Newborn / 0000. Some babies, like my daughter, will be smaller babies and start off wearing Prem (premature) sizes and others will be bigger babies and start off wearing 0-3 months.

Babies can vary a lot as to how quickly they move sizes (and they do go through a lot of different sized clothes in the first year!) and brands will also vary with their sizing. Sometimes a Size 1 will mean that it will only fit until the child is (approx.) 1 year old and for other brands a Size 1 means that they will only fit after they turn 1 year. Because babies often change a clothing size every 2-3 months it means that their clothes are also very season specific .

If you want to buy clothes then you may want to wait until the baby is born (so you know gender and weight) or buy something that they’ll grow into (just keep seasons in mind). For instance, you might want to buy something super cute that’s size 1 (i.e. like pyjamas) because they’ll be able to wear them approaching their first birthday.

Gift cards for baby clothing stores are also a great idea because that way the parents can pick out something they really need in a suitable size.

Keep in mind that babies will go through a lot of clothes,very quickly, and don’t recognise designer brands. For example, you might get a single item of clothing for $20 at one store and four items of clothing for $20 at another store. If you’re in New Zealand, Baby Factory and T&T have lovely clothes for much cheaper than places like Farmers, Pumpkin Patch, and Cotton On.