x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Baby blues begin with trying to buy the right blanket

Expectant mother Ola Salem didn't expect that shopping for her new arrival would be so difficult.

One of the things I love about the UAE is the abundance of shopping malls. Malls of all shapes and sizes, with stores I have yet to explore. When I found out I was expecting, there was no question about how easy baby shopping would be. But things quickly took a turn. 

Now that I am in my third trimester, I decided it was time to do the one thing I looked forward to the most: shop for the new arrival. With an empty car boot, puffy eyes from lack of sleep and fatigue, dragging my swollen feet, using my arm to support my sore back, I walked into the first baby store smiling. Little did I know that my baby haul would be one of the most frustrating experiences yet.

My first item on the list was baby blankets. Turns out it was not all that simple. For a good few minutes I was lost between aisles wondering if I needed the receiving blanket, the swaddle blanket, the plain blanket, the stroller blanket, or the crib blanket. The list went on.  

The shop next door had even more options. Even though I could not understand why a baby needed all these different types of blankets. I gave in to the nostalgic embroidery and marketing tools and ended up with four different types of blankets, including a “thumbie” blanket, the use for which still baffles me.

Going to pay for the items was no picnic either. After being slapped with a bigger bill than anticipated, I was asked what name I would like stitched on the blankets. After staring blankly at the salesperson, then my husband, and back at the salesperson again, I said “No name!” Judging by the look at the salesperson’s face, I am pretty sure I shouted it with a defensive tone. The last thing I wanted was to tell my future child that his parents were pressured into picking his name by a salesperson. 

The best part, as I later discovered, with the help of Google, was that none of these blankets could be used with a newborn during sleep time due to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids). A small but vital piece of information the shop assistant decided to leave out.

I also learnt that some of the heavier, fluffy blankets were unsafe since they run the risk of overheating the baby. Another marvellous piece of information left out. While I understand the need for stores to make a sale, it is unethical that they decide what information to disclose.

That is when I realised buying the more expensive fancier products (or in my case every item in the store) would not necessarily mean I was giving my child the best there was.

It was not just blankets though. I faced the same dilemma with almost every baby item.

Do I buy a baby bottle that reduces colic, or the one that reduces air bubbles, or the temperature-regulated one? What if I chose not to buy a machine that regulates the temperature of milk? Would it automatically mean I was a bad mother? What happened to the traditional method of testing milk on the inside of one’s arm instead of trusting a machine with the task? What if I did not get a bath thermometer? Will my baby get burnt from the water, as if I am incapable of checking it for myself? What if I don’t get the expensive crib? Would it, as the salesperson claimed, mean that the less expensive crib that the same shop happened to sell, is not safe for my baby?

There were just too many choices to make. If that was not enough, medical terms were thrown on product labels to confuse you further and guilt trip you into waddling to the cashier.

After blowing over a grand on baby items – and I am still unsure about what most of them are supposed to do – I decided to take a step back and start thinking of what my mother would say and do. Being an expatriate in the UAE can mean that you are on your own. Even if these products were time savers, I am sure there are effective conventional ways to achieve the same result. After all, how else did our parents and grandparents do it?

As great as these products and fancy gadgets are, they run the risk of robbing a mother of her motherhood. I’d rather learn on my own than let a machine do all the work for me.


On Twitter: @Ola_Salem