Are Baby Products Becoming Insanely Complicated?

Readers tsebyanzit
— My kids are far from babies, so I don’ t know if the following comment is true across the board. Is it?  Sounds quite likely. It came in response to my post about the Owlet device that measures your baby’s blood pressure, movements, oxygen level, etc.  – L.

On a related note, is it just me, or have baby products become more of a pain to use in the last few years?  It is almost as though the product designers said. “If our product isn’t a huge inconvenience to use, parents won’t believe that they are suffering enough for their children, and they won’t buy it!”

Our new high chair requires two hands to release the tray–almost no way to do it one-handed.  Two hands to release the tray, one to keep the baby from knocking the bowl off the tray, and one to keep the baby from leaning forward out of the chair = 4 hands.

Our new car seat requires you to press two buttons, one on each side of the seat, simultaneously, just to adjust the car seat handle (like parents are some kind of submarine captains trying to initiate the launch codes).  So you either have to bonk the baby’s head on the car seat to set him in it, or set him down, adjust the handle, and then pick him up to get him in.  Argghhh!!!

They probably had easier-to-use versions at first, but the focus group when all hay-wire.  “It’s too easy to use!  If it is easy for me, it can’t be safe for the baby,” cried one concerned parent.  The others concurred.  Product designers took notes.  Changes were made. – Chicago Dad

I've activated the rear seat auto-correct defibrillating cup holder.

I’ve activated the rear seat auto-correct defibrillating cup holder.

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26 Responses to Are Baby Products Becoming Insanely Complicated?

  1. Harrow November 28, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Is that Batman safety seat a real product? Being jammed into that terrifying embrace a couple times a day will give the average toddler a nervous breakdown.

  2. Jenna K. November 28, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

    Yes, Harrow, that is a real seat. They have Ninja Turtle ones and Spider-man ones–a whole slew of them. My cousin is car seat certified and always posting how to win free ones of all those seats.

  3. Andrew November 28, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    Completely unrelated, but see this story about a mother who refuses to be her daughter’s diary: the mother asks her daugher to take responsibility for forgetting her school homework, to encourage her to become more proactive rather that waiting for someone else to tell her what to do or clean up after her.

  4. Powers November 28, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    I don’t know if Chicago Dad is being sarcastic or not, but I’m fairly certain this trend has nothing to do with parents believing a product to be unsafe if it’s not hard to use. More likely, it’s an intentional safety feature intended to actually decrease the likelihood of someone unintentionally releasing the mechanism.

  5. Michelle November 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I honestly haven’t noticed baby products getting harder to use. I had 5 babies from 2002-2008, then had another last year. Because of the gap, I had to buy all new baby stuff for the youngest. It’s mostly all exactly the same, if not more convenient. Of course, I have as few baby products as possible, since I think a lot of that stuff is easier to do without anyway.

  6. MNmama November 28, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    My oldest child is 28. When she was a baby, high chairs came in both 1- and 2-hands-required styles, and I’ve seen 2-handed models that were MUCH older than that. I shopped around until I found a 1 handed model that I liked.

    Infant car seats then were nothing like we have now, and we didn’t have the carry-around kind until my second child, who is now 20. I’ve never seen one that didn’t require 2 hands to adjust. Considering how a car seat handle is made, a one-handed adjustment would require much more complicated design and therefore more opportunity for the mechanism to break.

    Sounds to me like that commenter just needs to a) shop around and pay attention, and b)learn a little about engineering. Just because she is annoyed by how something functions doesn’t mean someone is trying to make life difficult for her.

  7. Nicole 2 November 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Car seats are getting somewhat easier to use properly (with some exceptions!). Especially when it comes to installation. Unfortunately the failure of NHTSA to provide adequate standardization of LATCH has made it needless complicated.

    My favorite high chair is the plastic Ikea chair. It’s simple, well designed, and easy to wipe down. Taking off the tray isn’t that easy, though you can get the kid out without taking off the tray.

  8. Donald November 28, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    My work is manufacturing engineering. How well an item functions WAS no 1 on the list on what you design to. Things have changed over a few decades. How well it functions is going further and further down the list. This 50 year trend is steady and consistent. The no 1 on the list is to make the item sold. This can be enhanced a number of ways. This describes one of them.

    Intentionally make it annoying. This makes people remember your product. If the competition is doing this as well, then the negative feeling is null and doesn’t reduce sales. That’s because the consumer has no other choice. This is a simplistic and cynical way of describing this concept. However it still holds true. Child products revolve around safety. It can ‘feel’ safer if it’s annoying.

    There are a few other techniques of enhancing the items sale-ability. This is getting of the topic a little. However I love to vent. With electronic gear, (computers, phones, etc) the number 1 priority is to change often as you can get away with. Although many of us hate this, electronic gear has become a fashion item. Being seen with an old phone is the same as going out in public with a 1970’s haircut! The more features your electronic device has the more manhood (or womanhood) you have. It’s irrelevant if you know how to use only 1/10th of these features or if 95% of them are useless gadgets.

    You can sell more phones if you bring out another phone each year with more features. (I can’t wait until the new phone comes out that will do a PH test my baby’s poop!)

    Come to think of it, I might patent that idea.

  9. Donald November 28, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    and the year after the phone that dose ph test on poop come out, another phone will overshadow it because it will monitor the viscosity of baby vomit.

  10. Jennifer November 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    I think part of it is the increased complexity of what modern devices do in the first place.

    When I was a kid, the high chair was wooden, handed down from a previous generation, and the wood tray folded down over the child, and couldn’t be removed. Now, you have foldable high chairs with adjustable trays that can be removed, moulded plastic seats with removable, washable, padding, restraining straps.

    Carseats can be snapped out of holders and dropped into strollers. They can be adjusted as your kid grows, have removable padding, zip out canopies, level indicators.

    Or think of strollers. A simple folding umbrella stroller has four features (a seat, wheels, handles to push it, and straps to hold the kid in). A high end modern stroller has multiple adjustments for comfort of the baby and parent (height, reclining), is compatible with your carseat, has shock absorbers, brakes, a place to put put packages, cup holders (two for the parent, a juice box compatible one for the kid), a rain/sun canopy with adjustable ventilation. The latter will be, by necessity, a lot more complicated to use than the former.

  11. Andrew_M_Garland November 28, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    It seems that the designers made it impossible for a child to unlock or adjust these things. The child doesn’t have the reach or strength to push both buttons at once.

    Of course, they didn’t test the mechanism with a child in the seat. Too much risk.

  12. SOA November 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    the Batman seat is real. Its a booster for an older kid and my friend has it for her little Batman obsessed little boy. I like the Batman one but the Dora and Spongebob one freak me out.

    They are complicated because of lawsuits. If a baby figures out how to undo his straps or unlatch the tray on the highchair and gets injured then the company is liable. So they make them very hard for any kid to figure out. Which in theory is a good idea. I don’t want my kids getting out of things when they are not supposed to.

    But making them easier to use is nice too. Installing car seats takes an engineer they are so difficult. They are also getting so big that you cannot even fit car seats in smaller cars and definitely not more than two car seats.

    I am not going to complain too much though because I remember some of the more unsafe child products out there in the past like when one of my mom’s daycare kids managed to stick his chubby little hand down into a hole in the playpen that was there for some reason. He was stuck and crying and I actually found him and by the time we got his hand out it was turning blue. That could have ended very very badly.

    So I am okay with them making things safer as long as they are still usable.

  13. Josh S November 28, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

    Protip for the car seat that requires 2 hands to move the carry bar:
    Take some string and tie it tight around ONE side/one of the buttons. You can slide the string up/off the car seat if you really care about uber-safety and want it to lock on both sides, but it allows you to push the button and have it held in place with just one hand, then go to the other side with the same (one) hand, and push that button. Viola!

  14. CrazyCatLady November 29, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Donald…you beat me to it. But it is nice to know that my cynicism is correct. I was going to say, yes, they make it annoying so that people think it is harder for baby to get out of…therefore, safer.

    And your comment about electronics…I understand that SOME people want that….but golly, I was happy with my Nexus 7 with Kit Kat. I really DID NOT need that update to Lollipop. Now I crash a lot more, my GPS program doesn’t work, and I am having to figure out all over again how to use gmail and Google Calendar. And I count myself lucky….because it still works….mostly. I kick myself for not realizing that it was not a “regular” update but rather a whole redo of the Android operating system. But that is why I am not one of those who needs the latest and greatest…I really don’t care. At least, until it doesn’t work at all.

  15. Puzzled November 29, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    I don’t think it’s just child products. Everything seems to be getting harder. Just go to someone else’s house and try to turn on their tv. I just visited my parents for 4 days and couldn’t figure out how to turn theirs on, despite them showing me many times. I’m sure they’d have the same problem at my house.

    That said, I have no idea about car seats, but I doubt a few decades ago there were certified car seat technicians to teach parents how to use the darn thing. I don’t know if that means they’re more complicated, or we’re dumber, or something else.

    I do know my fire department offered to send me to car seat training – it was 4 days long! I declined after I stopped laughing.

  16. Bob Davis November 29, 2014 at 4:53 am #

    Back in 1952, Alan B. DuMont, a forgotten pioneer in the television industry commented that in many households, the children were better at adjusting the finicky tube-type analog TV sets of that era than the parents were. So the older folks having trouble with new household equipment is nothing new.

    And a lot of these new child-care devices are in the “Just because something CAN be done, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done category.”

  17. librarian November 29, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    offtop in this thread but – check out the story about 2 boys rescued after being buried in snow for several hours. The fb comment thread on this story is fascinating by containing about even numbers of “blame the parents” crowd and “freerange” crowd.

  18. lollipoplover November 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    What I still don’t get is the amount of recalls involved with baby gear. The most recent recall of Graco strollers for amputations caught my eye. That sure sounds scary and unsafe.

    “The folding hinge on the sides of the stroller can pinch a child’s finger, posing a laceration or amputation hazard.”

    So my question is: Who is folding up their strollers with the baby still in it?! Wouldn’t the baby be removed first and fingers safely somewhere else? I really don’t get it. And shouldn’t we teach young children (and apparently parents) to keep their little fingers away from any type of hinge (like doors) or are we going to recall those too?

  19. Donald November 29, 2014 at 3:14 pm #


    “I understand that SOME people want that….but golly, I was happy with my Nexus 7 with Kit Kat. I really DID NOT need that update to Lollipop. Now I crash a lot more, my GPS program doesn’t work, and I am having to figure out all over again how to use gmail and Google Calendar”.

    You’re not happy with it. Buy another and perhaps you’ll like that one. That’s the point! The objective is to sell phones not to make people happy. I was being cynical and exaggerating before but not this time. Seriously! The no. objective is to sell more products regardless if you annoy, piss people off, or con them into buying another.

  20. Donald November 29, 2014 at 3:26 pm #


    “What I still don’t get is the amount of recalls involved with baby gear. The most recent recall of Graco strollers for amputations caught my eye. That sure sounds scary and unsafe”.

    As with all business, sales go up and sales go down. Today when sales go down you can get a tax write off by fabricating the story that your product is unsafe

  21. Jill November 29, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    Here’s what’s wrong: Unlike horses and other mammals that can run around shortly after birth, and are pretty much done developing in under a year, human infants are at a disadvantage, taking up to twenty years to fully mature, and even then it’s debatable that they’ve got any sense.
    We need to find a way to fix this.

  22. Donald November 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    All products have a sales life. At the end of that life it is no longer viable to continue to manufacture that model. It has become financially beneficial to discontinue that item. As you exit the product, you are entitled to a government hand out (tax write off) if that YOU decide that product is unsafe and recall it.

    You also get good marks in the public’s eye because you are being so vigilant. You put on a show that you would rather lose money by discontinuing a baby product than to have a possibility that your product may harm a child.

    “folding hinges on a stroller a possible amputation hazard”


  23. Andrew_M_Garland November 30, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Companies get no benefit from recalls. They don’t want the bad publicity from defective or dangerous products.

    Companies spend money to manufacture and store product. This expense cannot be claimed at the time of manufacture, but is subtracted from what they receive when the items are sold. Income – Expenses = Net Income (profit). They are taxed on profits.

    If they have unsaleable items for any reason, they can account for the expenses when the items are sold at discount, given away, or trashed. The items do not have to be recalled.

    Hinges can amputate the fingers of parents.

  24. I don't even December 1, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    I wonder if it has to do with treating older children like infants, in part?

    I mean, you need a more complicated latch to hold a 5-year-old there, vs a 5-month-old.

  25. Richard December 1, 2014 at 10:55 am #

    I just wanted to chime in to second the IKEA highchair suggestion. All of the fancy ones appear to be expensive and hard to clean (we started with one of them when our firstborn was young). The IKEA chair, on the other hand, is cheap (~$27 with the tray), easy to clean, transportable, even dishwasher safe if you really want to go there – and you can operate it with one hand.

  26. lollipoplover December 1, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    “I wonder if it has to do with treating older children like infants, in part?”

    Great point.
    At age 5, I expected my kids to be able to buckle themselves in to their booster seats and not lock them into a Houdini-proof chair (that Batman seat IS really scary) they would try to escape from.