Buy, Buy Baby

Friday, November 28, 2008

If you're a parent, you're probably no stranger to getting suckered by your kids. But according to Pamela Paul, author of Parenting, Inc. How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture and Diaper Wipe Warmers -- and What It Means for Our Children, the billion-dollar baby industry also has your number. She joins us to talk about the commercialization of childhood and parenting.


Pamela Paul

Comments [10]

Gia from Long Island

I am a working mom with a background in childhood development with a minor in child psychology, and I have three children of my own (17, 14 and 4). Here's what I've learned:

1. The fact that children can be taught to sign, speak or urinate in a toilet earlier than their peers (a cause of great pride in many a parent) does not necessarily mean it is positive or beneficial in the long term. For example, children in Head Start and similar programs manifest a higher rate of burn out by the time they get to high school.

2. The "family's" shrinking from extended to nuclear, and almost sub-nuclear in many cases, coupled with the consequences of women having to compete in the professional world, is leaving mothers devoid of exposure to the types of experiences that generate familiarity, confidence, and basic knowledge of parenting matters. This type of mother is uncomfortable trusting her own instincts, and is easily convinced/pressured/brainwashed by marketers and society in general.

3. My children continue to thrive despite having been raised without baby monitors, wipe warmers, TV (yes, we have no TV), high tech toys and designer couture. The two teenagers have not once show any sign of being distressed or ostracized by their peers. And the four year old is amazingly well adjusted; and

Nov. 28 2008 05:56 PM
mel from UWS

I agree with you both Karen and David. Why be so incredibly judgmental? And it isn't very insightful to point out that baby goods is an incredibly profitable industry intended to make parents feel they need things that they don't. That's the consumer culture we live in with respect to every industry. These critiques were made over a hundred years ago. You could replace any of the goods in her title with other consumer goods and apply the same critique, giant tv, suv, ipod. So do we say about all of those, "Ben Franklin didn't have an ipod and did fine so no one needs an ipod"?? Ridiculous.

Nov. 28 2008 11:07 AM
Richard from Summit NJ

I have to disagree with the argument against sign language. First of all, it's free, second, in our case, anyway, it seemed to eliminate much of the frustration of "the two's," third, our baby made up her own sign for "potty". Toilet training happened by itself, painlessly. I realize a single data point can not support a wider argument, but.....

Teaching a baby to sign carries no lost opportunity cost, any more than teaching a child to talk deprives that child of other activities he or she could be enjoying.

I concur that babies and young children need far, far less than the baby industry teaches us. A newborn needs a car seat to get home, comfortable clothing (including diapers of some sort and wipes to clean up), a cozy sleeping place, a warm, human, milk-producing female breast, and an engaged and caring parent. Everything else is superfluous.

Nov. 28 2008 10:58 AM
David from Stuyvesant Town

Your guest has a lot of good points, but is coming across as a reactionary who simply says "no" to every parenting technology newer than some specific date.

For one example, we use baby signs and no one could have ever persuaded me that our 1.5 year old would grow 12 extra IQ points from it, but his signing skill has certainly reduced some frustration in our home. And he knows cups don't sink through tables.

Nov. 28 2008 10:56 AM
Karen from Larchmont, NY

Self-righteous, indeed. Pamela Paul is being just as bossy and prescriptive as the marketers pressuring parents to buy stuff they don't need. No harm in baby wipe warmers if you're silly enough to buy them, and no harm in Baby Einstein either! Give parents a break!

Nov. 28 2008 10:54 AM
O from Forest Hills

I think this is a previous broadcast.

My friend has a one year old and she tells me she is already potty training by holding the baby over the toilet to urinate. They are using the baby sign language to train her.

Nov. 28 2008 10:52 AM
Karen from Larchmont, NY

Be careful Pamela Paul -- you risk preying on parents' anxiety and insecurity, too, by making parents feel they are harming their children by indulging in some admittedly useless items. Maybe Baby Einstein and vocabulary drills at a young, young age are a waste of time and money, but let's not make parents feel anxious that they've irreparably damaged their children by trying them. There are just way too many parenting "experts" out there telling parents what to do and not do -- it's enough to drive any parent crazy!

Nov. 28 2008 10:52 AM
mel from UWS

Also, a lot of these women sound like highschool students, i.e., they feel "pressured" to buy particular baby goods?? That's pathetic. If they are still vulnerable to peer pressure, maybe they aren't emotionally ready to have a child to begin with.

Nov. 28 2008 10:51 AM
mel from UWS

There is such a self-righteous, holier-than-thou tone to this discussion. It just seems like another way to compete in who is truly the best parent contest.

Nov. 28 2008 10:49 AM
Robert from NYC

Uh, isn't it time we realized that everything is "marketed" to us to keep us safe, alive, healthy, sane, protected, go ahead you add some yourself. I'm sure if you think about it you will see the pharmas, the defense dept, the baby marketeers, the financial institutions, the government in general, and, well, again, you add some institutions and corporations that are selling us everything to avoid all the "horrors" of life. It's all business and that's all it is for the most part. Not to say some "products" aren't sincere and honest but not most of it. Yes, that toilet safty whatever is itself crap. I survived without it as did my brother, my cousins, my friends and adult my age (62) walking around town. lol with giddiness.

Nov. 28 2008 10:46 AM

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