The Business of Babies.
After recently discovering that we are expecting our 3rd baby later in the year, I’ve started looking around the house in total dismay at all of the STUFF we’ve accumulated since becoming parents to our first child almost 3 years ago. It is everywhere. And that’s only the stuff you can see. Then there’s the baby clothes, prams, bouncers, jumperoos, gadgets, contraptions, bedding, toys, bottles, maternity wear, equipment (the list goes on) occupying every spare orifice/crevice of my humble home. We are full to bursting. If only I had a spare moment to list it all on selling sites, I’d be a millionaire (well, almost).
It’s got me thinking about how and why so much money is spent on the material things in the lead up to becoming parents, as well as after we welcome our children into the world. As soon as we fall pregnant it seems we are bombarded with messages left, right and centre of things we ‘absolutely need for our bundle of joy’ everywhere we turn. Whether that be the Baby Shows we feel obligated to attend, or advice from Barbara down the road, an expectant mother is a marketeer’s dream. As a Mum of two already (with an 18-month age gap), over the past few years I have been guilty of spending an extortionate amount of money on ALL THE THINGS, mostly during endless night feeds when at my most vulnerable, all of which was barely touched or used at all.
It is unsurprising, that the baby products’ market is valued at around $158bn worldwide. In the UK, baby clothing and footwear alone is worth around £7.3bn and between now and 2021 is expected to more than double the rate of growth than between 2007 and 2016. These statistics make encouraging reading for the UK baby products’ market, but if we know that the overall cost of raising a child to its 18th birthday (including rent, childcare & basic goods and services a family would need in order to reach a minimum acceptable standard of living) is £150,753 for a couple and £183,335 for a lone parent, these are alarming statistics. We are spending SO MUCH MONEY on stuff we and our children simply do not need.
When we fall pregnant we are surrounded by noise telling us the tangible, material ‘things’ that we need to buy, often luring us in with a clever tagline such as ‘Happy baby, happy Mum’ but the real key is not just surviving, but thriving during those first few months and years of parenthood; a top of the range plastic toy isn’t going to make a significant impact in the long term. Of course, happiness is a subjective feeling that can span a broad spectrum for different people, but I believe that contentment in the early months of motherhood can be achieved if we start preparing parents for the huge emotional, hormonal and identity changing rollercoaster ride of parenthood even beforeconception. With huge retailers banging their drums the loudest in the baby prep market it’s no wonder parents just don’t hear about the pre and postnatal support available to them and that reported post-natal mental health statistics are on the rise.
Why are we spending money on stuff and not on ourselves? It’s a vicious cycle. Many purchases are often made during our times of need when we are trying to look for a quick fix solution to colic, not sleeping, wind, crying etc. etc. Rather than knowing that many ‘problems’ aren’t going to be fixed by a physical ‘thing’, but by a deeper understanding of newborn behaviour and access to information and support form experts in the field rather than googling things in the dead of night, we press ‘purchase’ on the highest rated gadget on Amazon Prime.
Perinatal mental health issues are on the increase and are those which occur during pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of a child; it affects up to 20% of women and covers a wide range of conditions. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), around10-15 in every 100 women are affected by depression and anxiety during pregnancy, with the same prevalence of women experiencing postnatal depression. Around 1 in every 1,000 women experiences postpartum psychosis, described by RCPsych as the most serious type of mental illness experienced post childbirth. In the UK alone, around 30,000 women a year experience birth trauma, a shorthand term for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth. If left untreated, perinatal mental illness and birth trauma can have significant and long-lasting effects on the mother and her family. Surely, if more families had early access to support networks, resources and pre & post-natal education, it would go some way to reducing these upsetting statistics? After all, each of those numbers is a mother at home with her baby, feeling frightened, alone and in desperate need of help or support.
What should we be spending our money on when we are preparing for parenthood? My view is that money, research, time and energy is better spent on decent birth education & postnatal support for new parents. Thankfully, when I was pregnant with my first child, I stumbled upon hypnobirthing, which is really just a fancy word for birth education and preparation. Since having my children and becoming a hypnobirthing teacher myself, my eyes have been opened to the amount of incredible resources there are available to a pregnant or new parent. Hypnobirthing teachers, lactation consultants, independent midwives, osteopaths, reflexologists, sleep nannies, birth and post-natal doulas, you name it, there is somebody highly qualified who can truly help you in times of need, if you know where to find them. It’s like this underground network of birth experts that only people within the birth industry or second time parents really know about! Unfortunately, the people working within this industry aren’t marketing, website or social media experts, therefore rely on word of mouth for the value of their services to permeate the communities around them. Perhaps the reason for this is the Ostrich Approach that new parents to be often take when it comes to birth preparation. You don’t know you need something until you need it…and instead of reaching out to experts who can offer you real advice and support, we turn to Google or Mum forums which only serve to worsen the situation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If parents to be took a fraction of the time and money they spend on planning a wedding on birth education, we’d be in a very different place both physically and emotionally when it comes to positive expectations of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood.
So, what’s my point? I guess it’s that we should be putting a higher value on a mother’s mental and emotional wellbeing and a bit less emphasis on increasing the profit margins of companies making money out of new parents by selling them stuff they just don’t need. As humans, we have become preconditioned to put such a high value on material things. The value we place on them isn’t just on the purpose it serves, but whether or not it’s the new must have item used by our favourite influencers on social media Let’s take a moment to pause, breathe and remember that we are human ‘beings’ not human ‘havings’ - will that latest gadget really help you or will you be cursing having spent a small fortune on it when you discover it in the back of a drawer in a few months’ time? If you are struggling with any aspect of parenthood, then TALK to someone - be that another new mum you come across on Instagram or a random person you meet in a cafe, don’t ever be frightened to seek and reach out to local services and experts who will be able to support you. Invest in yourself physically, mentally and emotionally because really, at the end of the day, all your baby really needs is you.
For more information, advice and support for postnatal depression and perinatal mental health issuesplease visit Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health
I am Katy Baker, a certified KGHypnobirthing teacher, founder of The Birth Thing® & most recently, trained with Hollie de Cruz aka @theyesmummum to enable me to teach the yesmum® birth project syllabus; the exact same course I used to welcome my children into the world. I feel strongly that we aren’t taught enough about birth and how our bodies work from a young age and I want to be a part of the movement to help change that.
Hypnobirthing is a complete birth education; the tools and techniques I teach for deep relaxation are just a small (but very important) part of the course. It's about framing realistic, positive expectations of birth from an informed perspective. Knowledge is power after all! If we know how our bodies are designed to give birth including all the hormones we need (and don't need) for the uterus to function effectively and efficiently, that can all help towards breaking down the fear - tension - pain cycle for a more comfortable birth. It's totally logical with a bit of magic sprinkled in.
I offer courses for every birth, however and wherever you intend to birth your baby. You can choose a private course where I can teach you in the comfort of your own home, a 1-2-1 refresher course via video conference to fit in with your family life or you can attend one of my group Hypnobirthing courses with other like-minded parents to be. My next group course takes place in Tunbridge Wells on Sunday 28th April and I am delighted to offer £20 off the course for Support Local’s followers. Use code Support20 on my website www.thebirththing.com when booking or contact me for more info.