Buggies are ideal for short distances. They are small, light, have small swivel casters and are compact foldable. Besides functional models there are nowadays buggies on the market which, given their many extras, have evolved into mini strollers! As soon as children can sit up a bit and don’t want to miss out on anything in their surroundings, a buggy is a very convenient and additional option for them. In folded state, a buggy hardly takes up any space, which is convenient in public transport, airplanes and even on bicycles with special buggy carriers. The latest models can be folded into such a small package with their 3D folding technique that they even fit in a backpack!
The catch-up process of buggies
Functional buggies are inferior to full-fledged strollers because of the stiffer springing, narrower seat, less comfort, lack of a carrycot, reducer, foldable seat and fewer reclining or sleeping positions. For long walks in the forest or park, a stroller is usually a more comfortable alternative, especially if the baby is still very small. Buggies are significantly affected, because of a first, second and sometimes third child climbing in and out, groceries you can hang in and on the buggy and riding through sand and pebbles. Reasons enough for parents to make the choice for a little quality!
The latest buggies have really been catching up in luxury and comfort and approach the quality of a stroller. They can be set in different positions in no time, including a sleeping position, have a sunroof and place for small groceries. Most buggies can be folded with one hand and there are already buggies on the market with an automatic folding system.
Buggy designers speak
Lead designer and sustainability expert Aernout Dijkstra-Hellinga of bugaboo confirms that buggies have changed a lot in the last five years.
‘Where in the past the buggy was only bought as a second stroller, where the lack of comfort, ergonomics and ease of riding was taken for granted in favour of compactness, I see that nowadays people expect a lot more from a buggy. The trend is that people also want a buggy that steers and rides well, with good suspension, good ergonomics for the child, sufficient storage space, sufficient adjustment possibilities for the parent and a good building quality. A buggy can also be the first and only vehicle for many people living in larger cities. People also want a buggy that fits the style of the parent / carer, design has become much more important’.
According to Benoît Guillet, category manager at Dorel, the buggies are mainly lighter in weight (6 to 7 kilos), but also more compact and easier to fold into a package that can stand upright and be taken on the plane as hand luggage. ‘A buggy has to be versatile, which means: use from birth up to four years of age, on which a child safety seat or soft carrycot can be secured, good suspension and larger wheels’.
Easywalker’s design team also noticed the change that the two handles have been exchanged for a single push bar so that the buggy can also be controlled with one hand, and many folding methods have been developed for compact-fold buggies. ‘We see that with several buggies on the market, a number of features have been taken out of the design in favour of weight and compactness. For example, most buggies now have 4 wheels instead of 8’.
What are important principles for making a good buggy?
Easywalker design team: ‘With all of our products, the most important principle is that they are great to ride, even after prolonged use. Compactness, comfort and ease of use are also important principles. The buggy must be easy to fold in and out into a hand luggage size package that is easy to store both when travelling and at home. All our buggies offer the possibility to bring the seat into a full reclining position, so that the child can sleep comfortably in it and the buggy can in principle be used from birth’.
Aernout: ‘We always go for the best quality, both in construction and in materials, so the buggy can last at least 10 years. We are also thinking about how the buggy can be recycled . Partly because of this, we recently won the prestigious Baby Innovation Green Award. Ergonomics for parent and child is very important, we think carefully about where and how the child is positioned in the buggy. For example, a good back support and a correct upright sitting position develops good ‘core’ stability. It must also be possible to adjust the handlebar to the correct height for perfect riding behaviour, in combination with sufficient walking space. Because we want to give as much value as possible to the user, our buggies are usable from birth. The seat can also always be used towards the parent because contact between parent and child is essential. Finally, we pay a lot of attention to the appearance of the vehicle, looking at the smallest details such as the connections of the screws, but also what the vehicle looks like when folded up. A bugaboo product should look perfect in all positions!’
Are there any new materials and techniques you use?
Aernout: ‘For almost every stroller we design, we have to come up with a new way of setting and folding. Each stroller has a unique set of features in terms of functionality and appearance, so we have to brainstorm our ideas every time to make this combination perfect. We are always looking for materials that have less impact on the environment. We look at how we can execute our parts with less stressful materials, this requires a different way of engineering and construction. We are also looking at how we can use as many recycled materials as possible’.
Easywalker design team: ‘The fabrics of the Easywalker Miley are made of recycled plastic (including PET bottles). A small modification with great impact on the sustainability of the product. Also, the Easywalker Miley is our first vehicle with the ‘Unique Accessory System’. By means of a unique click system, accessories can easily be attached to the push bar and the bumper bar. The accessories we release for this purpose are a handlebar for the child, a cup-holder, an LED light for good lighting in the dark and a telephone holder’.
Buggy wishes for the modern parent according designers:
– riding nicely even after prolonged use
– good suspension
– easy compact folding, hand luggage size
– preferably with lying position
– good quality materials
– storage options
– nice design
– thinking about recycling materials
Do you want to read this article in Dutch? please see BabyWereld.nl
Disposable diapers are easy to buy and parents do not need to wash and dry anything. They offer a solution when children are raised by more than one person. But they are also enormously polluting and cause children to become toilet trained later on. Reasons enough to look at alternatives.
Disposable diapers absorb better and better, but due to suberabsorbers, children do not feel wetness and therefore less likely the need to sit on the potty. As a result, children in our western society are only becoming toilet trained increasingly later. Globally, sales of disposable diapers has grown from less than $20 billion in 2004 to more than $50 billion in 2017.
Children toilet trained at a a later age
In concrete terms, children are now toilet trained seven to twelve months later than about 30 years ago. A survey in 2017 among primary school pupils shows that 4% of the children who go to year 1, are not toilet trained. That’s one child per kindergarten class. Teachers don’t like this, of course. In addition, two children aged four to seven regularly have a ‘little accident’ in class. (Source: Nederland Centrum Jeugdgezondheid (Netherlands Youth Health Centre))
Psychological cause toilet training
In addition to the pleasant sensation of a soft disposable diaper, there may also be a psychological cause, causing children to have problems becoming toilet trained. Think of a divorce, the birth of a new baby in the family, fear, etc. But this is only a very small percentage. In 97 percent of the cases no physical cause is found, in other words it is a change in behaviour. If children are not yet toilet trained before they go to school, the Baby clinic offers help. It is also possible to make an appointment with the pediatric gastrointestinal clinic.
When to start toilet training
Due to the disposable diaper industry, many toilet training tips are lost while it is possible to toilet train children from the age of nine months! This is substantiated by a Swedish study by the Sahlgrenska Academy that followed mothers and their babies in Vietnam for two years. There they start much earlier with the toilet training, namely right from birth, where they work with a certain flute technique.
It is important to know that children need to learn that they experience their toilet routine as something normal and positive without developing fears. During this process, a good, relaxed sitting posture is important. In addition to the potties, there are useful aids: toilet seat reducers, regular toilet seats with integrated children’s seats and toilet trainers with a 3-in-1 function: potty, toilet trainer and a toilet seat reducer.
Durability of diapers
Children are now changed five to six times a day. This is far too often according to sustainability manager Bart Waterschoot. With today’s good diapers, changing them three times a day should be enough, he says. This also ensures a lot less waste. To study the sustainability of diapers, the science magazine Eos went looking for the most sustainable diapers. It considered the transparency of the manufacturers, the results and efforts in terms of sustainability. The private label diapers of Jumbo, Kruidvat, Etos and Albert Heijn came out best from the test. These manufacturers are actively committed to human rights and the environment, Eos reports. Other major brands and supermarkets did not want to cooperate in this study.
What about diaper recycling?
Ecological diapers with biodegradable materials are on the rise. Yet no diaper can really be called durable. This is because used diapers are difficult to recycle due to the plastics they contain. After two years of testing, there is a diaper recycling plant at waste processing company ARN in Nijmegen. Diapers and contents are heated after which the substances can be separated into four new raw materials: green gas, plastic, biomass and fertilizer. It is the second time they have tried to recycle diapers. About ten years ago, the first diapers were collected and processed at Knowaste in Arnhem from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, but the project had to be stopped. The plant suffered from rising energy prices and falling prices for the incineration of waste on which American shareholders pulled the plug on the project. The big problem with diaper recycling is to make it profitable. The technical process in the plant costs more energy than it generates and the costs do not outweigh the revenues.
Meanwhile, experts wonder to what extent toxic substances and disease processors such as bacteria, viruses and drug residues including antibiotics, hormones and radioactive iodine are actually broken down during the recycling of regular and incontinence diapers. The National Institute for Public Health and Environmental Protection (RIVM) has been researching this since 2017.
Washable diapers: the alternative
Parents that are even slightly environmentally conscious, consider whether or not to use washable diapers. Washable diapers are soft, they breathe and are comfortable. The materials of which the diapers are made, are according to the current environmental standards. There are diapers made of bamboo, synthetic fibre and ecological cotton. Handy, biodegradable wipes collect stools and, depending on the brand, may be flushed down the toilet. A washable diaper is durable, it reduces the diaper pile and ensures that children become toilet-trained at an earlier stage, because they feel ‘wetness’ sooner. Milieu Centraal calculated that the average cost of a disposable diaper is 1310 euros, while the cost of a washable diaper is 830 euros (with an initial investment of 400 euros). These amounts are calculated taking into account that the disposable diaper and the washable diaper are used an equally long period of time. Children are more likely to be toilet trained with washable diapers, so the benefit can be even greater.
Are washable diapers really better for the environment?
Milieu Centraal investigated the extent to which washable diapers are now better for the environment than disposable diapers. The use of water, air and water pollution, greenhouse gases and land use were taken into account. Cotton plantations take up seven times more land for disposable diapers than the land for washable diapers. Both the washable and disposable diaper cost a lot of water to produce. Even organic cotton needs a lot of water to grow and this also goes for making wood pulp and plastic from petroleum for the disposable diaper. In addition, washable diapers still need to be washed. And then there is the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides in the cultivation of cotton. So far the diapers don’t differ that much. Only with diapers made of organic cotton and the EKO and GOTS quality mark, you can be sure that no chemicals and artificial fertilizer have been used.
But if you look at energy consumption and greenhouse gases, there are big differences. Producing disposable diapers costs more energy. Even without using the dryer it takes 2.5 times more energy. It is also possible to save energy by washing at 40 degrees instead of 60. And the environmental benefits continue to grow as more children in a family use washable diapers.
Washable diapers tested by municipalities
The use of disposable diapers generates 140 million kilos of dirty diapers annually. That’s about 260 kilos a year per child with five diapers a day. So it’s not surprising that municipalities are looking for alternatives. In 2015, the municipality of Hengelo conducted a research into the matter and made washable diapers available to 50 parents; the parents had to do the washing themselves. The results were positive: 67% of the users thought it was a positive experience, 14% wanted to go all the way and 53% wanted to participate only part-time. One third (33%) of the participants decided to quit. Parents see the potential savings (500 to 700 euros), but more can be done to improve the image of the washable diaper, this research showed. In the meantime, trials have been carried out in Heerenveen, Rotterdam, Schiedam and Hoogeveen.
Turning the tide
Melanie Weidner of Kaatje Katoen reports the following about the experience with washable diapers: We notice more and more that people have heard of washable diapers or know someone who uses them. However, there are still a lot of people with a lot of prejudices who don’t want to have anything to do with it. The main reason parents state why they want to use washable diapers is because it saves waste. The cost will be taken into account but is not actively mentioned as a reason. Maybe this is related to the large investment made at the beginning of the baby’s life’? To really turn the tide so that people become enthusiastic about the use of washable diapers, we still have a few things to do according to Kaatje Katoen: We think that politicians should actually take measures and do something about waste and the use of disposables. Now people aren’t stimulated enough to try something different. In addition, we believe that municipalities should also provide subsidies, because the waste problem is also their problem and even set an objective for municipalities in 2020. We are happy to enter into discussions with municipalities to help them think of solutions to the waste problem. Where waste tax is introduced, we see that residents also start thinking about alternatives themselves’.
What will the future bring us when it comes to mobility and caring for babies and children? I’m a fan of ‘science fiction’, so don’t be surprised if we move in a completely different way than we do now. Tests are already being done with sending packages via drones and there are cars that you don’t have to drive yourself. The time we will start moving ourselves by floating in small units or in a hyper loop through tubes may not be as far away as we think. Developments are going fast, but what about the transport of small children? And what else awaits us with the layette product development? Below I will set out a number of trends for families of the future:
Electric and recyclable buggies
A recyclable buggy or an electrically powered stroller? That’s not rocket science anymore, they’re already here. A forward-looking designer came up with a stroller made entirely of recyclable plastics. This stroller is also easy to assemble and can be assembled locally. There is a stroller whose parts are 80% recyclable and screws have been used instead of rivets, so parents can easily replace a part themselves. And now the first electrically powered stroller has been launched to help parents when you need to walk up or down a slope. Smart sensors in the push bar help to push or stop and provide the right support. Today’s strollers have large integrated sunshades, subdued colours, black frames and offer the possibility to personalise your stroller.
Maybe in 2050, a stroller won’t be as convenient anymore if we transport ourselves floating in units or in tubes, except if there’s a shell floating behind you like baby Yoda in the Mandalorian. In that case, a hightech baby carrier might be a lot more convenient!
Modular car seats
In the car seat industry, safety, functionality and comfort are the keywords. The latest car seats comply with the latest EU guidelines and are i-Size proof, that means based on the height of the child instead of weight, using Isofix to secure and transport the child backwards for as long as possible, which is the safest way. But more and more rotating car seats are also appearing, which is useful when taking your child in and out. Everyone knows the problem of heavy car seats. One solution are the modular car seats with a removable reducer that makes it easy to lift the baby out of the car and carry it close to you. The scale and chassis remain in the car.
Digi baby and smart nurseries: is technology taking over?
We also find more and more technology in the baby’s room. Think of scales, night lights with a sleep programme, ultrasound devices that you can use at home, socks that measure the heart rate and watch over the baby as well as smart nurseries, baby monitors with various functions such as camera, lullabies and room temperature meter that can be connected to smartphone, tablet or computer. The newest of the new are baby monitors that follow the baby’s development. These data can be shared with family and maternity care as desired. And for parents who have a crying baby and are tired of lulling, a cradle with 5 built-in cradle movements might be the solution!
The function of the baby clinics of measuring and weighing is therefore increasingly being taken over by technology that parents bring in themselves. How do we deal with this? And to what extent do parents learn to trust their own intuition? Given the risk of hacking products, the privacy of data is another point of attention.
Mimicking the mother breast
Breastfeeding is ‘fine’, but there are increasingly better feeding bottles on the market that resemble the mother’s breast in shape, length and feel. This means that these bottles are anatomically formed and therefore the risk of nipple confusion is becoming smaller and smaller. In order not to keep children waiting too long for their bottle, there are devices with which you can make a bottle of milk like a cup of coffee at the push of a button. There are also flasks that work with pressure and massage to imitate the baby’s sucking technique. Rotating breast shields with a wider opening angle provide extra comfort and more milk yield, Instead of sterilising the flasks in the microwave or with hot water or steam, flasks, dummy teats and other articles can now be sterilised at lightning speed with UVC LED, a completely new technique.
Sharing a layette instead of buying one?
Possessions becomes less important, so we don’t want to stuff our house with products anymore. Especially young parents think more about the earth we leave to our children and grandchildren. Why does every parent have to buy a complete, expensive layette that is only used for such a short period of time? Sharing products or leasing together is already done for cars and bicycles. It saves money, is good for the environment and this development will take off. Certain baby products lend themselves well to the sharing economy, such as a playpen, bedstead, high chair, buggy and toys. That explains the rise of babytheques; a library for baby equipment and organisations where you can lease baby products, such as Wheely, Mr Beetle and BabyLoop.
In our baby market, however, there are products that are not so easy to share from a hygienic point of view, such as baby bottles, teats, tubes and breast shields of flasks and mattresses. Safety is also an issue, because it is difficult to assess whether a car seat was previously involved in an accident and is therefore no longer safe…
Sustainability in the baby market
It’s great to see more and more thought being given to the use of sustainable materials and designs. It is a great thing to breathe new life into baby products. I already mentioned the recyclable buggy above, but there are now nursery bags as well that you can use for a long time, from diaper bag to school and work bag, made from eco leather and recycled PET bottles. Another example are building blocks made of durable material that can be used by children from 0 to 6 years old!
If you want to read this in Dutch, please see BabyWereld.nl