A third of parents waste more than pounds 200 on useless baby gadgets in their child's first year of life and one in 10 spends more than pounds 500 trying to speed up their child's development, according to research.
In a survey of more than 1,000 parents by Topcashback.co.uk for the Observer, 92% said they had spent money on so-called baby "essentials" which turned out to be useless, and 69% admitted that to help get their child to go to sleep they had spent more than pounds 50 on gadgets, health remedies and advice from so-called "sleep experts".
The baby goods market (equipment, safety, transport, furniture and feeding products) is worth pounds 900m a year, research by market intelligence GfK suggests, with the typical mother spending at least pounds 1,000 on baby products before her child is even born, according to a recent survey by Netmums.
So what do parents most regret buying? We asked five parents what they think they wasted money on in their baby's first year.
Paying an expert to tell her what to do made her feel like she was taking positive action. But following the consultant's advice - to sleep in her child's bedroom - made the situation even worse. "We did it for seven nights and Eva started sleeping for only 40 minutes at a time. She was so exhausted in the morning that she'd just wake up and cry for 20 minutes."
She also spent pounds 30 on "Ewan the dream sheep" - an award-winning toy that promises to "settle babies into a peaceful sleep" using a heartbeat and womb recording. "It drove us bonkers. It would put her to sleep but switch itself off after 20 minutes, at which point she'd wake up and cry."
Other parents, however, say that such toys are "an absolute godsend". "We bought Henry a 'Slumber Bear' for pounds 30 and I remember vividly the first time we used it, he went from screaming to fast asleep in seconds," says
Similar anecdotes abound online, but Netmums spokeswoman
"The problem with buying products and gadgets that promise a quick fix is that, if it isn't the answer, then it's tempting to keep on throwing money at other 'solutions'. It can very quickly add up."
It is estimated that breastfeeding mothers save at least pounds 550 on the cost of formula every year. Yet the pressure to breastfeed means that for some, these savings are lost on expensive gadgets and lactation consultations. For example,
She spent another pounds 30 on a supplemental nursing system, taping the end of a tube of formula to her nipple so that her baby had to suck on her nipple to get the formula milk.
"It may help other women but personally, I felt ridiculous," says Rowan. "Then again, I desperately wanted to maintain the amazing bond of breastfeeding."
She also paid pounds 50 for baby Lily to have a craniosacral massage to improve her latching on to the breast. This alternative therapy, which is also popular with parents of colicky babies, involves placing a hand on different parts of the body and "feeling for a very subtle movement".
"It can look like you're just sitting there lightly touching a baby, but the therapist is actually communicating with the baby's body," says
"It felt like paying a witch doctor," says Rowan. "I suspect it didn't make any difference at all."
Poston agrees the practice won't work for every baby, but argues that "if it didn't work, people wouldn't keep coming". He also says that midwives regularly recommend the therapy to parents.
Ever seen a drooling baby wearing a necklace of amber beads? It's not a fashion statement - it's "stone therapy" for teething. "Amber is a natural analgesic and will help to calm a baby without resorting to drugs," says necklace retailer amberbaby.co.uk.
These claims are often repeated online, and convinced 34-year-old artist
In addition, Bowyer also gives her daughter almost 100 sachets of homeopathic teething granules over the course of each year, at a cost of around pounds 20. "I sprinkle the granules in her mouth, and it calms her down and relieves her pain."
Rolf, who at one point was spending pounds 5 a week on teething granules, disagrees. "I think the granules provide a distracting sensation, which was useful when Eva was screaming in public, but it didn't actually ease her pain. Inevitably, she'd start crying again."
However, Trading Standards has warned about the potential choking hazards of amber teething necklaces.
"A normal bin would have been fine. I bought it before
THE 'MUST HAVES'
The latest "must have" gadget (according to its manufacturers, the
It transmits soothing "white noise" directly at a subtle volume only the baby can hear and promises to "keep your baby relaxed and happy" without disturbing any nearby adults. It launches in September at an RRP of pounds 34.99. Meanwhile, the latest baby monitor innovation is the Sproutling, (2) which involves putting a tag around your child's ankle. The tag transmits data to an iPhone and aims to predict how long your child will sleep, based on, for example, the baby's heart rate and the light and temperature of the room. What's more, the device claims to be able to learn from the data it has registered so it can make more accurate predictions in the future.
It's due to launch in the US in 2015 for
For teething babies, there's also a new "hi-tech" solution: a vibrating teether from
Finally, a new product is out that demonstrates that all parents and their offspring have - so far - been living in the dark ages: a potty with an automatic movement sensitive night light. Designed for night-time toilet training, the Lumipotti (3) promises to "help children get a good night's rest". It launched in February and costs pounds 20.
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