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Tee Hun Ching
Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

Is technology killing maternal instincts

The Straits Times | Tee Hun Ching | Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

While I was gearing up to move house recently, my sister prepared to deliver her first child. Perfect timing, I thought. As I packed and purged, I set aside clothes, toys and assorted things my two kids have outgrown, which might come in handy for her.

In the process, I marvelled at the amount of money we have wasted on items which we have never used.

There was a nail clipper for babies with a built-in magnifying glass.

There was a nipple guard with perforations which enabled mums to breastfeed without feeling the pain from baby's endless suckling.

There were several boxes of bottle teats - approved by orthodontists, no less - which claimed to prevent colic.

I can now laugh at our naivete. When you are new to parenthood, you are game - no, desperate - to try anything which promises to make life easier.

Canny retailers are only too happy to cash in on this vulnerability with ever more inventions.

Last month, British consumer watchdog Which? released a list of 10 least useful baby products after polling 2,005 parents with children under the age of five.

Money suckers which made the list include the swaddling blanket, nappy disposal bin, diaper stacker and baby hammock.

These are souped-up designs that purport to specialise in a function which can be performed just as well by a simpler (and often cheaper) substitute. They are, in a word, redundant.

For example, a nappy disposal bin, which promises to wrap each diaper to lock away germs and odours, can cost more than $50. The cheaper alternative is to simply plonk soiled nappies into disposable bags or a common step-bin.

But wait, there are far more ridiculous kiddy products out there.

The Huffington Post drew up its own list last year and mocked, among other things, a baby poop alarm - "Right, because you might miss the smell", read its sarcastic caption.

There are plenty of practical things which parents can't live without, of course. Baby monitors - both the audio and video versions - were among the list of 10 most useful items compiled by Which? magazine.

Several years ago, I read with amazement reports about a new gadget which claimed to be able to answer the question that has stumped parents since Adam and Eve: "Why is my baby crying?"

By analysing the energy, frequency, pitch, breathing and cycle of a baby's cry, the Why Cry baby monitor can supposedly tell whether he is stressed, annoyed, bored, sleepy or hungry. Wow.

Parenting experts were not too impressed, though. British social anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger said then: "It may provide some answers and some immediate observations that are useful, but it would be an awful thing to depend on.

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