America’s Billion Dollar Baby Scam (Infographic)

While I understand the impulse to invest in the highest quality products for your children, I think it’s important to meet your kid’s needs without going overboard. Marketing schemes can be very alluring, playing on parents’ eagerness to help foster their children’s physical and mental growth. It’s important to remember that what’s best is not simply what’s most expensive.

There are all kinds of amazing products out there to help new parents, and I am a strong proponent of using technology to assist with parenting. That being said, it’s interesting to know facts regarding the popularity of products that depart from expert recommendations. For instance, Disney’s series of “Baby Einstein” DVDs were owned by 1/3 of babies in the U.S in 2003 even though The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions against kids under two watching television. Without sounding overly sinister, I feel that there aren’t just financial concerns at play here.

Although it’s hard to always quantify the success of a given product, this infographic captures the trend of parental overspending, and the marketing ploys used to encourage it. It examines some of the most expensive products in terms of what the experts say, what the consumers say, and some general common sense observations. As a parent, it’s especially important to know what your money is buying, which products aren’t worth their cost, and which might be worth saving for.

Babies Infographic

Comments

  1. our family went the breast milk route. Little, if any TV and only when watching together, not as a babysitter. We did buy a very expensive stroller – the Stokke Xplory because we felt it was worth it’s value. We liked the height and the potential resale value. No regrets there. We didn’t opt for silly things like ‘wipe warmers’. Bought lots of clothing used since kids grow so quickly. Very few toys that we cycle through so there isn’t any toy boredom we see with other child that have 10x as many play things. We paid for items that would make our lives as parents a little easier. We will spoil our kids with books. Mainly library books, but a book is a book. A constant stream of new books weekly. Also with experiences. We find it more important to expose them to new places/people than have a few new toys each month. A trip to Europe will probably make a large impact than a plethora of branded toys that will end up sitting in a rubbermaid bin.

    It’s easy to dump on Disney but you don’t have to buy their DVDs. We didn’t. And comparing them to leapfrog is a bit of a joke. I was actually looking at Leapfrog this past holiday as a possible gift. 50% of the titles for Leapfrog are Disney property in my local store. I didn’t see one leapfrog cartridge (or whatever those things are) that wasn’t a branded character! We didn’t buy one.

    Isn’t Dr.Spock the guy that was paid off by diaper companies to write that it would stifle children to be forced into potty training early? Now in North America kids are in diapers till they start kindergarten whereas kids elsewhere are potty trained by 18 months. Those companies get at least an extra year of people buying their products.

    • my daughter potty trained herself. she knew how because she saw us bigger than her do our thing without diapers. age has nothing to do with it. just that drive for independence and selfgrown-maturity. we are all as different as snow flakes! i am a spock (when the aliens want it you know) baby myself and lots of babies back then just had cloth diapers. perhaps the soap and laundry people profited though. then again clean clothes happen every week whether there are diapers or not! take your time. life is for living not for competing over potty issues. imagine the world with fewer “potty” issues. (anonymous because of the diaper issue)

  2. As a nanny for the last 5 years, an Aunt to 5 children and a Doula in training, we as parents and family don’t need all the crazy toys and gadgets moms and dads are being marketed. Some toys are great, yet in my experience children model the behavior of the people around them. Many times the children I cared for were more interested in pots and pans, and items their parents used day to day, than the toys they had piled up. Granted, it’s great to let them have free time to build their curiosity and discover on their own. We are inundated with the next best toy, just as we are inundated with the next best gadget or clothing style…it just means we have to be really conscious of the items we choose to purchase and remember that a toy can never replace the individual attention children crave from their caregivers.

  3. Hi Matt, I didn’t know US toddlers are potty trained so late! In Singapore, it starts at 2 year old and my pre-school teaching her though I must say, I’ve been negligent in encouraging her to potty train. She has eczema and we’re only too happy when she’s not scratching.. no excess energy left for potty training!

    • Thanks. Our first son is very bright, but after trying again and again and again, we couldn’t get him to start potty training until he was 4. He was reading well before he started going potty!

      But as smart as he is, he’s also stubborn as a mule. Trying to get him to do *anything* he didn’t want to do (and really, this appears to be a hard-wired personality trait that continues to this day) is like pulling teeth with boxing gloves.

      The problem in part was when we tried to start potty training at around 18 months, sitting on something with a hole in it scared the bejezus out of him. He was utterly afraid of it right up to when we put our foot down (with an iron boot, repeatedly, I might add!) after his 4th birthday.

      His little brother on the other hand, was quite enthusiastic to start at 18 months or even a little sooner, probably because his big brother was doing it. However, starting and actually succeeding have not yet really gone hand in hand. Now that he’s turned 2, he still hasn’t been able to use the potty in any consistent or meaningful way.

  4. I’m having a baby in May. We made an extremely thorough list of everything we’d need down to bottles, Jolly Jumper, food processor/containers, etc. We’ve gotten everything knocked off the list except about $100 worth of stuff. We haven’t yet spent a dime. People can be snooty and they’ll pay the price. So long as it’s currently deemed safe by the relevant safety agency, I’m fine using it.

  5. As someone who has no kids, I can’t believe how much money parents spend on the non essentials. Maybe it’s just an outsider’s perspective but I wonder if we’re simply grooming our youth to want more than they need before they even realize it?

  6. For some people it’s about status. If they buy designer clothes for themselves and have to have all the latest electronic gadgets, they probably want to impress with their baby gear too. Not only did I breastfeed our 4 kids, but I bought used baby clothes. (The horror.) We never bought the most expensive strollers, etc. We did save money for their college educations. That was a much better investment in my humble opinion.

  7. Interesting infographic, but I do feel that some of your statistics were misleading. Nutramigen is different from standard baby formulas and shouldn’t be compared to the standard parent’s choice variety. It’s designed for babies with allergies to cow’s milk. My son was diagnosed with failure to thrive at five months and this was part of his treatment. It made a world of difference. I completely agree with you about the point of your post; I just feel that perhaps you were cherry-picking your data without regards to whether or not it’s actually relevant to the point you were making.

    • Thank you for posting that. While I agree with the overall message presented here, I did want to point out that comparing Nutramigen (sp?) to standard formula is like comparing apples to oranges. I breastfed and we chose to do a fairly extreme elimination diet to deal with my son’s multiple food protein intolerances, but that’s not always an option for everyone and formulas like these can be a lifesaver for some babies.

  8. ON the guilt over affording a baby product =
    I felt my first son had to have all the best toys but then somewhere along the line, I realized there’s always going to be a newest & greatest toy… also, I realized that I & my friends were playing with his nifty toys more then him… :) The toys are all sealed in a plastic tub now & once in a while we’ll get them out & my oldest plays with those toys like my friends & I used to… ok, still do…. funny! The toys don’t do much for the babes in the end but man are those flashing lights neat.

    On formula – it’s the additives in the cheap ones & also, there’s no requirement that the vitamins & minerals be bio-available. Iron shavings still count as iron content even though your body can’t use it.

  9. I love this post. It is so true! When I was pregnant with my first child I actually looked at every tab on every website I could find selling baby products and spent hours agonising over buggies, cots and so on. It can feel like there is a lot of pressure to buy stuff for your unborn child. I didn’t go overboard though, I created a budget, worked out what we really did and didn’t need and stuck to the budget. I shopped around for bargains and got an ex-display previous seasons buggy at a good discount. I have always bought the kids clothes second hand and have now started buying toys and books second hand as well, which has saved a lot of money.

  10. My daughter is 26 now. Recently my doctor’s office put me on the list to receive baby information by mistake – another patient with the same first and last name as mine was pregnant. It took forever to stop all the advertisements! I couldn’t believe all the gadgets, gizmos, toys, etc. they were trying to sell. At one point, I felt a little guilty. I bought used clothes at the thrift shop and yard sales, and the her stroller was like comparing a model T to a Cadillac Escalade! I didn’t buy special toddler food, I just cut up the regular table food into little bites for her.

    I hope young couples today realize you can raise a child with simple things and you don’t need every new thing that comes along to make children thrive.

  11. You are a breath of fresh air. I have written a child development program saying this very thing. I have worked as a Speech Pathologist for 35 years and I was so frustrated by how “commercialized” the parenting industry is. I am having a hard time getting the word out about my inespensive program that empowers parents and sets them up to be the “best teachers.”
    I am glad you have written this column

  12. I think it’s a shame that retailers use parents’ good intentions to sell their overpriced products that often times have little use.

  13. i raised my baby with a simple safe and inexpensive crib clothing and a few toys and cleanliness. i was also given hand me downs (from a major expensive department store) in a box from a neighbor as soon as their kids grew out of them again. we were well padded! breast milk (drink lots of water! and i don’t have trouble eating) is really nutritious and basically free. then soy and goats milk though we have always had a cow in my family we just digested the soy and goats milk, and these days almond milk, better. we read books from the library – sometimes 20 or 30 books a day, getting new ones (10 or more) every week and then reading them over and over and we had lots of those grocery store books. my mom used to buy my brother and i a new book every week when we were growing up. books will change your life. the parks were a wonder of flowers, butterflies and trees, waters and a tiny choo choo train which cost a buck however made us feel mighty important! my daughter had everything the “free” world (if you understand what that means) had to offer. she made A’s and B’s in school, played hard and these days loves to travel and be with her same type of “free” friends and acquaintences. work some and easy (is that work at all?) and then play alot and live and sleep and dream good dreams. more money never makes up for lost time or lost love. barefoot is genious and water is free.

  14. When my son was a baby, the only video that could calm him when he was inconsolable was the Baby Einstein “Baby Mozart” DVD. It was worth its weight in gold because of that. However, with the exception of a few of the titles they offer, there is not much learning going on.

    If parents allow their babies and young children to watch any television at all, it should be carefully controlled, and if parents use such videos as Baby Signing Time, Little Pim, MonkiSee and others, their children would learn so many things before they even turn 3 years old.

    I love being able to pop in something that is good for my babies to watch while I tend to things that need to be done. My children have learned sign language and how to read as babies with the help of just such videos. I would classify great educational videos as a must have on my baby products wish list.

  15. Great article. My first baby is 10 months old – and yes, I registered for a lot of “stuff” and received a lot of “stuff.” A lot of it still has the tags on it and will be repurposed as baby gifts for others. I try to buy her toys that are educational – at this stage that is learning cause and effect, etc. I DO purchase Disney DVDs – but that’s a personal thing. I’ve been collecting Disney movies since I was young – I love them! My baby girl, however, doesn’t watch them – at least not yet. We don’t watch TV during the day, only when Daddy gets home so he can wind down. Some things are life-savers though! My baby girl LOVES her Jeep walker. I know, I know – everyone says they are SO bad now…I had no idea why. Well, we don’t have stairs, so maybe that’s it. She’s been using it for months and just started walking a few weeks ago on her own. It gives me time to make dinner, fold laundry, etc and gives her fun playtime. What’s wrong with that? I also fed my child Enfamil formula. I tried the off-brand and it was horrible. It gave my baby girl the WORST gas ever and it was the kind to reduce gas and fussiness. The extra expense was worth the fewer hours of fussing. I tried breastfeeding but my girl had acid reflux (almost died from it the day she came home), and the best way to conrol it was formula mixed with rice cereal. I do the best for my child – if that means expensive formula so she doesn’t hurt so much, then expensive formula it is. I think if we all focus on providing the BEST for our child – the rest doesn’t matter.

  16. The human race managed for milllenia without the wheel either. That doesn’t mean that there are real and practical inventions that genuinely help with child rearing.

    Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. For example, we learned our lesson the hard way that while you *can* buy a stroller for less than $100, no stroller that cheap is worth it, especially if you use it a lot. Our first stroller only lasted about 9 months (and it wasn’t even that cheap, it was just crap). You can expect to need a stroller for about 4 years *if* you have only one child; longer if you have more. As a result, quality really matters!

    In the end, we bought a Phil and Ted’s stroller (no, I don’t profit from this advice) in no small part because it’s the only double stroller that will actually fit on a bus. We also have a bike trailer (from Chariot) that converts to a stroller that we use for shopping trips. Both of these were quite expensive, but worth every penny. It took several tries before we finally got this right, so my advice is to seek out quality in your purchases and do your research! Failure to do so can result in more expense than you realize.

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