Life is made just that bit easier with a full suite of these must-have parenting gadgets.
Necessity is the mother of invention. But sleep deprivation is the father of blankly staring at things, and PTSD is the firstborn child of too many Wiggles albums. New parenthood is a minefield of unforeseen situations. Luckily for us, capitalism is here to help.
Many of these inventions are the result of left-field genius. They’re often overpriced, because desperate people aren’t great with budgets. Others seem so blindingly obvious that Adam probably came up with his own version minutes after knocking up Eve.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll want to go without. Because they’re all great. Magical, even. Even the DIY-ish ones.
Behold: The Direct Advice for Dads Baby Invention Hall of Fame of Inventions (for babies).
Like platelets, Wi-Fi or grain alcohol, you can go without any or all of all of them, at least for a while. But life sure is easier if you don’t have to.
1. The snot sucker
It took my kid around 20 months to learn to blow his nose, and even now — four months on — he’s good at it like I’m good at rapping. Which is to say, he knows vaguely what he’s supposed to do, but it’s always embarrassing and he craps himself.
Also, my kid was at daycare from seven months onwards, from which point he carried home more exotic bugs than Charles Darwin. Kids have shitty immunity. Gluck flowed from him like a glucky, low-pressure snot hydrant.
Now imagine trying to lie down, let alone snooze, with your sinuses and nose solidly spac-filled with fudge — without knowing how to use your nose — and you’ll have some idea how tricky it was to get him to sleep through.
There are a couple of brands of snot sucker, also known as nasal aspirators. They include the cheap balloon ones (you squeeze a little pump bladder, put the tube into their nostril, then the bladder drags out your kid’s nose yoghurt as it ‘inflates’) and the ones like a glorified straw (aka the Nosefrida).
The latter, where you put the other end in your mouth and hoover away, are better, if three or four times more expensive and 1200 times more disgusting to think about. Just don’t sluck the snot all the way through.
2. Baby bath-temperature duck
“Eh, it’s just a thermometer,” some will say, and they’re right. You can easily tell whether bathwater is too hot by touch; it’s not like burning your mouth off on a microwave pie. But having one less thing to think about when you’re prepping the bath, even when the kid hasn’t been colic-shouting like a 6kg hate banshee for 24 hours, just makes things easier.
Pro tip: Get one with a digital display if you can. The one with the strip that displays temperature by changing colour is confusing when the water’s hotter than the strip’s hottest rating.
3. Hands-free breast pump
Some men envy women for the bond they form with your baby over nine months of gestation. And then the baby comes out, treating her vagina like the Hulk’s calves treat Bruce Banner’s lower pant legs, and it turns out again that the patriarchy is a pretty sweet deal.
Once the kid’s born, though, you’ll split the work, and the (potentially ages) Mum has to spend sitting, bored out of her mind, while one or two tiny robots suck milk from her shirt potatoes is time wasted. A hands-free pump let’s her up to play PlayStation, or practice juggling, or just calm the bub. Ours is a Medela one, and it’s great. And, as a bonus, she looks super weird when using it.
4. Furniture sliders
Prior to the birth of my boy, my wife stumped up $800 for a flash, alabaster bassinet fit for a Kardashian sprog. And it sits flat, which sucks, because at the maternity ward you can rock the kid’s plastic crib thing to comfort him — because it’s on casters. At home, your (possibly posh, white) bassinet may not, and if it’s like mine, you know that Frank Gehry project ain’t going to the shed. No fear: you can sort this for like $6.50 at Bunnings, for slidey things that go on the feet and ziff across our cropped carpet like a Russian drunk on a frozen footpath.
5. An electric baby-rocking device
I can’t believe I spent a year rocking my son to sleep like a pleb, in my stupid arms, when I could have outsourced that shit to a (non-Terminator) robot. Then one day we visited friends interstate and they had one of these things.
It was sitting among the melange of classic, once-carefully-assembled suite of furniture and hastily collected baby crap that is the hallmark of neu-parental interior design.
It looks like a cryogenic pod for space travel, but man, it soothed our child under almost all circumstances. Pricey, sort of, but great. This time around, expecting our second child, we got our own. You can also get bassinets that jiggle gently.
6. An iPad headrest holder insert
Your kid is safest in a rear-facing car seat for as long as they’ll fit into one (and legally required to be in one). But once they switch around, a holder that clips an iPad (or other tablet) to the back of the front seat headrest is a godsend so sent-by-God that you’d be forgiven for thinking Steve Jobs was a deity and not just a world-class arsehole.
My sprog gets zero tablet/phone screen time at home, so that maybe helps keep him rapt on long trips, but — three hours of Baby Jake singing Yacki Yacki Yoggi on loop aside — it’s the first thing I’d pull from the burning car. Er, except the kid. I stole mine from a pal’s Škoda Karoq. But there are many others.
7. Baby bath support
You can’t leave your kid alone in the bath until they’re much bigger, but that doesn’t mean you need to do everything awkwardly, one handed, until that time. And while you can shell out a lot for a foam cradle for your sprog at bathtime, you don’t have to.
Bare plastic ones from K-Mart are like $9, their fabric ones (which I liked better for a super-young nipper) are just $10. Which is about a third of the price of the big baby stores.
8. Strap-on baby carrier
Quick quiz: are you a #bestlife Instagram mum who’s always holding her hat on just-so in NOT AT ALL STAGED photos with your acai bowl? If so, you legally must secure your infant with one of those simple fabric wraps that goes across your front like all the other Instagram mums.
Otherwise, just shell out for a one of the stupidly over-designed Baby Bjorn/Ergo/etc ones and walk about the neighbourhood in your Crocs with all the other dads. Babies get heavy.
9. Fold-up prams
If you are a person who likes cars, there is a chance you had a picture of your dream car on the wall as a youngster. But unless you are a person who likes cars, who has also suffered a significant head injury, that car was probably not a soft-roader SUV that you bid farewell to a chunk of your self-respect to buy — or worse, a minivan.
An avalanche of new clutter is inevitable with a new kid, as is a tripling of the time and effort it takes to travel anywhere. So unless you are planning to jog the Finke Desert Race with your pram, I recommend not buying one of those ones with BMX-sized wheels.
Instead, get a fold-up one that stores anywhere — even in the overhead locker on a plane — which means you can wheel it all the way through and have it straight away when you deplane. The BabyZen Yoyo is a fine example, although so expensive it might be cheaper to smuggle your child about in the carry-on.
10. A rocking chair
Aldi has a carefully groomed left-of-centre reputation for doing must-have bait advertising specials on stuff you didn’t know you needed until they told you. Marketing!
Last year is was Dyson vacuums. In July, this included an unassuming-looking great rocking chair (just $199) that catered to new, breastfeeding mums and dads tasked with rocking their offspring to the land of nod.
Fighty, Black Friday-style chaos ensued — not just because they were a fifth the price of the big-name ones, but because sweet colicky baby Jesus you need a rocking chair with a new kid.
IKEA ones work just as well (and the ones with a ‘bouncing mechanism’ work best of all.
11. A baby monitor … for barbecues and parties
Generally speaking, unless you live in a manor house with substantial wings, you’ll usually hear the baby cry at night even without a monitor. This is because a. Bub is in your room for a few months when you bring them home, or b. They’re nearby, in an adjacent room, with the doors open in between.
You’re hyper-alert for that sound. But if you’re having a raucous Christmas barbeque downstairs, for example, baby monitors really come into their own.
Just because you can check, instantly, if junior has stirred while you’re all belting out a traditional ballad like Jerusalem, Silent Night or Khe Sanh. In a pinch, you can also just download one via app to your phone and use a laptop.
12. A cardboard, anti-digging pot-plant collar
Look I’m no MacGyver but after six months of my son obsessively digging all the dirt out of the kitchen pot plant I fashioned this thing out of a thick piece of cardboard. And unless you’re going to get all Shayna-from-The Block about it, it’s great.
There’s a flap for watering, and it’s held in place with tape, and sometimes weird fungus grows in the soil now. But the collar stops Junior from getting to the fungus! Win-win!
… and one we’re waiting on:
Stain-resistant baby clothes
Melbourne technical apparel startup Threadsmiths invented a sort of dream creation of stain-haters: a water-repelling tee.
“The stain-proof t-shirt is now a reality,” declared the sartorialists at GQ, immediately upon testing.
So why does this not yet exist for babies — the world’s pre-eminent filth merchants? It’s got almost as much potential as the real Holy Grail of the activewear industry: clean dirt.
READ MORE FROM BEN SMITHURST:
- 8 ludicrous baby inventions we didn’t need (and one we did)
- You’re becoming a dad? 10 unexpected ways you’re about to change
- Seven things expecting dads can do to keep their partner happy