Is baby gear not made to last?
A few years back I read and blogged about a 1945 Plunket book called Modern Mothercraft . This book includes a number of suggestions about what baby gear you should acquire, such as the fancy schmancy draft-preventing screen I added a photo of here, the enamel chamber pot, and this very heavy looking pram. It also has the following recommendations for a bassinet:
My first thought on reading this was how much the top picture looks like a cross between a laundry basket on wheels and a shopping trolley. My second was realising that I actually own the bassinet in the bottom picture. Alas, it was not sitting in my children's bedroom behind one of those screens as per Plunket's 1945 recommendations. No, it was in my garage, on top of a pile of boxes and underneath a bizarre orange inflatable contraption filled with jingly beads. Thing is, the bassinet was mine when I was a baby. My parents kept it, then it sat in various garages until eventually coming into my possession a few years ago. I'd entertained vague notions of using it for my children, but was seduced by the marketing gods instead, in the form of a super-cute Moses basket with a giraffe on the side. When someone offered to buy me the Moses basket, I jumped for pregnancy-hormone filled joy. So, in the garage the old bassinet sat. Until I retrieved it for a closer look last week.
At first, I was overwhelmed by its size. The Moses basket may have been cute, but neither of my children fitted in it past three months. The old-school bassinet is much bigger. Given it was used for four children in my family, and many people before me, it was also in pretty good shape. The 2011 Moses basket still looks good, but based on its slight creakiness and some straw bits protruding from its side, by my reckoning the weave will only last one more baby.
This raises the question: have I had bad luck with my Moses basket, or were things made to last much longer back in the 1940s? If it's the former, lame for me. I suspect, though, that it's more likely to be part of the trend toward planned obsolescence, combined with people of my generation being more accustomed to buying thing new rather than second hand. We Gen-X's and Gen-Y's would probably also be much more forgiving of a product breaking than our grandparents who lived through the Depression. It could also be that our standards are higher as well, and that many parents today are scared to put their babies in old cots and bassinets for fear that the babies will get hurt in some way. It could be part of what some commentators have dubbed 'Kiddy Consumerism'. The poorer-quality product could also be a recognition of the fact we are having smaller families now, so on average a new bassinet need only last for 1.9 children. That's far fewer than in the mid-1940s when the Baby Boomers were booming their way into existence.
Either way, I don't expect that my 2011 Moses basket will be sitting in anyone's garage in almost 70 years, having been used by many babies. It will probably be somewhere in a landfill.
Possibly even under that bizarre orange inflatable contraption filled with jingly beads.