Monday 18 July 2016

An Open Letter To Next About Baby Clothes

Dear Next,

We need to talk about your new season’s baby clothes. They’re great and all, but I think you might be exploiting new parents, just a little bit.

Now, I’ll be honest here, it’s been a while since I cradled my newborn baby in my arms. My daughter is now four so the sleepless nights and chapped nipples of the newborn days are behind me. But in a few weeks, I will be going through it all again. The baby that now punches me in the fanny will soon be punching me in the REM cycle and I’ll be reliving those exhausting first few weeks as a parent. And, because of that, I've been thinking a lot about sleep deprivation lately.

This time, of course, will be different. I am entering the newborn days with the benefit of experience. I’ve done it before, I know what to expect. I know that all of those painfully frustrating phases (sleep regressions, wonder weeks, teething pains) don’t last forever. I know that the years pass quickly even when the hours seem to crawl by. Most importantly, I know I can do this. After all, I’ve done it before. No matter how tired I am, no matter how much my nipples hurt, no matter how much baby poo gets on my jeans, I know I can get through it.

I’m lucky to have that hindsight. I’m also lucky enough to know that, though I will one day sleep again, it probably won’t be soon. I can’t tell you how many times exhausted new parents have asked me when their baby might sleep through the night and how hard it has been not to laugh in their faces. I’m pretty sure my daughter was nearly three by the time she slept all the way through till morning. Three years old, that is. But new parents don’t want to hear that, do they? They want to believe that the end is in sight. They want to believe they will be getting their full eight hours in only a matter of weeks. They need to believe it to survive.

And they’ll spend any amount of money trying to guarantee that. A lot of people have gotten very rich by selling products to sleep-deprived new parents. Soft toys that emit white noise, portable beds that promise to help babies sleep through the night, books written by so-called sleep experts (many of whom don’t actually have kids of their own). Exhausted parents will happily part with cash in the hope it will get them a decent night’s sleep. After all, it is pretty much impossible to make good budgeting decisions when you have managed just four hour's sleep in the past eight weeks.

Now, Next, I can only assume you are childless because why else would you bring this misleading product to market? This is not a product designed by parents in the know, it is attire designed to mock exhausted parents. The smug unisex bodysuit says “I slept through the night”. It’s taken those baby milestone cards to the next level, now you can buy your very own baby milestone wardrobe. And what size do those adorable baby milestone bodysuits come in? First size. Up to 1 month. Newborn. Yeah, Next, you hilarious jokers, because newborn babies are famed for sleeping through the night. That’s why, when you have a baby, old ladies stop you in the street to ask how the baby sleeps, it’s to give you the chance to show off about how your baby fell asleep as soon as he’d forced his way out of the birth canal and enjoyed a solid eight hours of kip.

In fact, the bodysuit is available in all sizes from 0-18 months. And this is the problem. You see, with a baby milestone card, it doesn’t matter how old your baby is when he reaches the milestone. But with a sized bodysuit, it’s going to need replacing. As the mother of a baby who loved nothing more than feeding during the night, I can tell you that it’s not easy dealing with months of sleep deprivation. But you know what would make it worse? Packing away yet another unworn smug milestone bodysuit into the loft after your baby outgrew yet another size without managing to sleep through the night.

The bodysuits are only £5 each which is, admittedly, pretty cheap for a Next baby item. But, by the time you’ve bought (and packed into the loft) all seven sizes, we’re talking £35. £35 to be constantly reminded that your baby is not yet sleeping through the night. As if you would need a reminder. The fact you just showed up to your dentist appointment three weeks early is reminder enough, thank you very much.

When I think of all those glossy-haired expectant couples excitedly choosing this bodysuit for their soon-to-be-born baby, I want to weep. Because I know that what follows will be months of frustration, disappointment and aching teeth (why does sleep deprivation make your teeth hurt? Answers on a postcard please). If you’re going to sell these cruel, exploitative and unethical baby clothes, I think you should at least offer free returns to the exhausted parents unlucky enough to have a non-sleeper. Parents should be able to swap the bodysuit for a larger size each time their baby grows out of it. Those parents need every penny they can get. To spend on coffee. Those parents who will never get to upload that smug ‘I slept through the night’ photo to Facebook because their baby won’t sleep through until long after that 12-18 month bodysuit has been outgrown.

I trust you will take this matter seriously.



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