Tech is supposed to make parenting easier, if you can fight your way through the myriad of choices


Luckily I lave been a technology journalist for 20 years – which only constituted practise before I had to make some of the hardest equipment decisions a grown man will in his life: which pram to buy for my new-born son.

Having a child is hard enough without the myriad of tech choices you’re forced to make with far-reaching consequences, as the technology revolution has had a profound impact on the baby care business as it has so much else in life.

Like all prospective (and naive) fathers I began my research – which wasn’t helped by the dazzling array of choices nor the lack of an easy way to compare apples with apples. Some 20 years of decoding the complexity of the computer, internet, telecoms and mobile industries gives you the skills to discern the chaff from the wheat, but you still have to consume a lot of information. And there is a lot of it.

The big ticket kids’ tech items obviously begin with the pram but also include the car seat and its base, a baby monitor (and/or baby cam), a breast pump, a thermometer, bottle steriliser and several other lesser necessities.

Each of these categories is like buying into a system – much like one does with choosing Apple vs Windows or iPhone vs Android. First you get the major hardware item (the pram) then the various accessories. The R4,500-ish Maxi-Cosi car seat requires a R4,000 base – if your car has the ISOFIX standard that allows a much more secure attachment.

We tried the three-wheeled Quinny pram before settling on the high-end Bugaboo Cameleon 3 whose four-wheels were much sturdier for the inevitable walks in the park. Both require you to buy adaptors for the car seat, which only works until the kid is about a year (or 12kgs) and then you need a new car seat. The new model from Maxi-Cosi comes with airbags. I kid you not. But that is next year’s homework.

Every choice includes this rider: it’s (sometimes) absurdly expensive, but who can put a price on your child’s safety?

Meanwhile, who knew there was such a range of bottles and teats? And that a choice of Pigeon vs Philips vs Nuk could be such a painful process? We tried them all, settling eventually on Nuk after weeks of experimenting which brand our son preferred.

The miracle of the human body is how babies handle two potentially dangerous scenarios. Because the flap at the top of our oesophagus doesn’t work perfectly at birth and can’t immediately tell which way to send liquid or air, babies default to letting air into their stomachs as opposed to the more life-threatening water into their lungs. Hence you spend the first few months involved in burping your child and clinging to the faint promise of bottles’ “colic” reduction technology (a conveniently placed hole in the teat). You know its marketing gumpf but you’ll do anything to reduce those 3am need-to-burp crying fits.

Part of the problem I have realised is the abundance of choice – a quirky side effect of our world of infinite options is getting lost in endless options. Like that now infamous comment “there’s nothing to watch on TV” with DStv’s hundreds of TV channels.

At least we’ve passed the first hurdle with the pram.

This column first appeared in Financial Mail


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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