What will the baby marketers think of next?

By Sara Trappler-Spielman

Before I became a member of the ever-growing baby market, I had no idea how many products are continuously created for babies and marketed to their parents. Sure, I saw my share of commercials for diapers, baby lotions, and wipes. Since I wasn’t someone being targeted, though, I wasn’t aware of the hundreds of products out there. After all, what would a baby need other than diapers, some clothing, a crib, and a stroller? That’s a lot more than what mothers had for their babies years ago.

Today, however, men and woman are at work inventing products that even parents of the past generation never had available to them, and therefore probably never thought necessary. The little person who innocently enters today’s world is greeted by an endless array of baby items designed to make its world better. And as a new consumer of these items I at first wondered how mothers managed without them for so long.

Anyone who strolls Downtown looking for children’s stores will have a vast selection from which to choose. Gone are my days of being drawn to windows displaying women’s apparel. Now when I go window-shopping, I find myself attracted to the storefronts featuring baby items. And my head begins to spin inside a children’s store more than it ever did in Macy’s.

First let’s talk transportation for baby. From carriages, to strollers, to travel systems, there’s so much to choose from it’s like shopping for a family car. Many brands, tons of models, all sorts of styles and colors suiting different lifestyles and personalities. Then there are baby carriers and car seats for times when a stroller isn’t enough to get around.

As far as where she should sleep, this also requires some decision-making. Bassinettes, cradles, portable cribs, pack-n-plays, and good old-fashioned cribs exist. They all come with a large selection of charming bedding and matching furniture.

When it comes to pacifying a baby, there are numerous inventions created for that purpose. From all types of pacifiers, to infant swings, to rockers and bouncers, you’d think a baby would never have to be held (I soon learned otherwise.)

My baby is five months and already there are an endless amount of toys for those curious little hands and legs that are beginning to discover their usefulness. To name a few: Activity gyms and play mats for fun on the floor, mobiles for the crib, toy arches for the stroller and car seat, all sorts of toys to chew and teethe on, rattles, little dolls and plush toys that squeak and somehow move very quickly from one side of the room to the other.

There are even videos, CDs, and books made especially for newborns in order to provide lots of mental stimulation (as if she doesn’t get enough from her grandparents’ house.)

I’ve tried almost everything.

The other day, my baby was being a bit cranky. So, I decided to hold her as I went about preparing supper. She instantly calmed down and became happy watching me pour rice in a measuring cup that spilled everywhere, tear aluminum foil and turn on the tap water.

It then hit me. Babies don’t want toys for entertainment. They want the stuff adults use. She wants to grab my fork and spoon while I eat more than the rattle I offer her. She likes to watch the fire burn on the stove and the water run from the sink more than any video made for babies her age. And like a real girl, my baby is already obsessed with the telephone. Nothing stirs up as much excitement in her as watching me make phone calls with the speakerphone turned on for her to hear.

As far as strollers and other gear for her, sure they’re necessary. But, I often end up holding her with one arm and wheeling an empty stroller through the store or folding it up to get on a bus.

And for all the fancy cribs and bassinettes I’ve brought home, there’s one place where she loves sleeping most: mom’s bed.

My husband and I try to pacify her with all those products created to keep her content. However, she prefers our fingers over pacifiers, our laps over swings and bouncers, and the wooden floor over activity mats.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think most of the baby products out there are great ideas. When I walk into stores selling baby items I have to control myself from buying everything, since I suddenly realize I need so many things I didn’t think of before. People (parents, I wonder?) with very creative minds created some really great things for small children. They’re imaginative, colorful, fun and stimulating inventions. I only wish my baby thought so too.

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