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
Looking at the clothing label to see if its origin is stated, doing the shopping with as little packaging as possible, looking for alternatives for energy, using washable diapers. More and more consumers are concerned with sustainability and buying green products. Is the trade responding sufficiently to this?
Sustainability: more than sustainable materials
Sustainability goes far beyond the use of sustainable materials such as PET bottles and organic cotton that are used in fabrics, or planting a tree at the birth of a child and reusing packaging material. We are increasingly seeing new initiatives coming onto the market that relate to second-hand trading, leasing or exchanging. Instead of buying and owning products, a sharing economy is gradually emerging. Certain categories of baby articles, with their short use time, are also very suitable for leasing and reuse. Therefore, below, to inspire sustainable initiatives and interviews with sustainable entrepreneurs in our market.
Second hand fairs in Belgium
Second-hand trade fairs, such as those held in Belgium by the Gezinsbond (organisation representing families), are held on a regular basis. Volunteers from almost 900 local groups annually organise 850 family fairs in Flanders and Brussels, says Kurt Jacobs of the Gezinsbond.be. Not only are families being helped to save on their family budget and is it a meeting place between families and generations, but one of the goals is also to work towards a more sustainable world.
Get some children’s clothes
Outgrown children’s clothing? Since 2012, consumers have been able to use this site to exchange children’s items that are too small for a package that suits the current age of their children. From children’s clothing, toys, books, accessories for the children’s room, but also strollers, car seats and playpens.
Because the voluntary organisation noticed that consumers would like to see the products for a moment, it was decided in 2014 to organise various exchange points in the country. Krijgdekleertjes.nl
Babytheek (Babytheque): making sustainable baby equipment accessible to the general public
Another good example of a sustainable economy is the Babytheque in Belgium. Used baby equipment is not thrown away but given a new lease of life. A membership is not only reserved for those on a tight budget, but the Babytheque is open to all young parents, grandparents and grandmothers, compound families, single people, rich or poor. Anyone can become a member of this library for baby equipment. The organization wants to offer a solution for people who live small. You borrow what you need and what is no longer needed can be returned. At the same time, people learn more about sharing products instead of owning things. And it’s a meeting place for young parents. babytheek.be
A little shocked by all the stuff you have to buy when a child is born and the space it takes up, Piet Huige set up Wheely. You can conclude a lease contract with Wheely for a new or second-hand stroller. So far, that’s only possible for Greentom. Initially, only the frame with carrycot is sent, after six months the seat is sent free of charge and the customer can return the carrycot in the same packaging. gowheely.com
Leasing children’s furniture and wooden toys via Mr Beetle
Astrid Oversier is the founder of the rental platform Mr Beetle. Parents can rent children’s furniture and wooden toys here. The idea for this platform was born five years ago after the birth of her eldest son. ‘After 4 months my son slept in his own room and we put his cradle away. After six months, he didn’t fit into the Tummy Tub anymore. And after his first birthday we bought a child safety seat and the Maxi-Cosi was no longer needed. We put the Maxi-Cosi away and it was placed next to the box, the camp bed and the rocker because we didn’t need it anymore either. I didn’t realize during my pregnancy that we would only use a lot of these children’s items for such a short time “And certainly not that this stuff would be in my shed longer than it was being used.’
She’ll tell you how Mr. Beetle works. ‘Mr Beetle is an online rental platform where parents can rent children’s furniture and wooden toys. As soon as a child loses interest in the toy or the toy is no longer in line with his or her development, the articles can be sent back to Mr. Beetle. “All products are neatly cleaned and are returned to the assortment. She’s continues: In addition to the fact that renting is much more sustainable, it also offers other advantages. As a parent, you don’t have to spend any more time selling, giving away or taking away the old children’s items. It’s also nice and easy that you can return the stuff, so you have more (storage) space.’
Leasing baby equipment at BabyLoop
Ilse Habraken, founder of BabyLoop, investigated the concept of leasing baby equipment during her son’s leave. ‘Since you only need a large part of the baby equipment such as co-sleeper, baby’s nest, etc. for a short period of time, you can easily use your products several times, it costs a lot of money and we live in our Amsterdam apartment of 80m2 without any storage space for all the baby equipment, I knew that there had to be a smarter way to deal with this problem! And BabyLoop – the sustainable initiative to reuse baby products – was born. What I really like is that in BabyLoop I can express my passion for sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship!’, says Ilse.
How BabyLoop works
She explains how her concept works: ‘BabyLoop leases baby products to families. By giving our products multiple lives, we ensure that our baby products are used optimally. If one item is used by more than one child, we believe we are contributing to a better world! If a product is no longer suitable for leasing, we will give it to a charity such as BecauseWeCarry or Stichting Bullenbank. The assortment consists of baby equipment that you use during the first year of your life and that takes up a lot of space (such as a playpen or bath) or is expensive to buy (co-sleeper and bouncer). We select products on the basis of quality and the use of sustainable materials.
It works as follows: Consumers select products they want to receive, new or refurbished, then schedule the delivery and receive it at home. After use, the products can be sent back to us. The products are thoroughly cleaned and checked and redirected to other families. Our revenue model is very simple: p (price) x q (quantity). The lease price for the baby products x the number of months you lease our products. The turnover covers the costs.’
Circle of Parents makes second-hand children’s clothing the standard
A year ago, three students David Soester, Julius van Dijk and Lucas van Straalen met in a study programme at the University of Amsterdam. ‘We talked about the idea of renting out football boots to children. We all played soccer and remembered very well that our parents always had to buy expensive, new soccer shoes because we had already grown out of our shoes. This could be a lot more durable and cheaper, we thought. But we discovered that the problem was much bigger, we kept hearing that parents were not satisfied with the current alternatives to buying or selling second-hand children’s clothing. More than a hundred interviews with parents later, we decided to create an online platform where parents can easily, quickly and safely buy and sell second-hand children’s clothing.’
Online platform for used clothing
Selling is easy, says David. ‘You can upload an item of clothing within one minute, take a picture, fill in information about the item and you’re done. Once another parent has decided to order your clothes, all you have to do is print out the shipping label and take the package to the post office.
Buying works exactly the way that parents are used to in a first-class webshop,’ says David. ‘Parents quickly find what they’re looking for through the filter system. In addition, a buyer is always sure of the quality of clothing on the platform. Partly because of the review system and our check, there is always a good offer on the website. Should something go wrong, the buyer will get his or her money back. Circle of Parents works with a commission model, which means that sellers give up 10% of the sales amount and buyers pay €2 service costs.’
We know the horror stories and yet it happens every year: children who do not die from an accident but from overheating because they have been left in the car. How can we stop these fatalities? Italy is the first country to take preventive measures.
Why is leaving a child in the car so dangerous?
Leaving a child in a car is extremely dangerous; the temperature in the car can rise 10 to 15 degrees every 15 minutes. Opening a window helps a little, but has little effect on lowering the temperature. In addition, a child’s body reacts very differently to heat than an adult body. As a result of water reserves, the temperature of a child’s body rises 3 to 5 times faster. And what many people don’t know: overheating can occur within minutes, and the consequences of dying as a result of this in 2 hours.
Another misunderstanding is that accidents of this kind only happen in southern countries. Overheating may just as well happen on days when it’s 22 degrees Celsius outside. Even at this temperature, the inside of a car can quickly rise to 47 degrees Celsius! Especially with our rising temperatures in Northern Europe, we have to be careful.
Figures leaving children alone in a car
Between 2007 and 2009, 26 such cases were known in France and Belgium in Europe, including 7 fatal accidents. Of these, 54% had deliberately left their child in the car, while 46% had forgotten to drop off their child at the agreed location.
Since 1998, it has been recorded in the United States how often children are left behind in cars that are too hot. There have been 800 cases since 1998. Last summer a twin died; their father, who wanted to drive home at the end of the working day, noticed that both of his one-year-old children were still in the back seat. Striking detail: since children have to be transported in the back seat as a result of the front airbag, the number of children who die from overheating has only increased!
The reason parents leave their child in the car
Safety authorities in the United States have tried to make parents and carers more aware of the risks of leaving a child in the car through TV, advertising campaigns, leaflets, etc., but with little result. In 2010, 49 children died after being left in the car and in 2018 this rose to 52 cases, according to KidsAndCars.org.
Tips given to parents
What tips are given to parents now?
- Closing your car door with a remote control is not the same as putting your key in the lock. Get used to looking inside the car before you lock up. Check if all family members are out of the car, even if you think you’re driving alone.
- Put whatever you need on the back seat, such as your smartphone, handbag, a shoe or your lunchbox.
- Put a cuddly toy in the baby car seat, and put it on the co-driver’s seat when your baby is sitting in the car seat as a reminder.
- Provide a daily reminder on your computer or phone to make sure you have dropped your child off.
- Agree with the daycare centre that they will call you if your child has not been dropped off.
- And finally, call the emergency number immediately if you see a child sitting in a locked car.
Leaving a child in the car can happen to anyone
Accidents happen, especially when parents and carers are involved in routine activities. For example when they are on their way from work and to the shelter and back again. Parents who have suffered this can count on criticism. How can you, as a parent, forget your child? Yet it is something that can happen to anyone, specialists say. The VPRO (Dutch broadcasting organisation) broadcast a documentary some time ago: Death of a Child in which fathers and mothers who had been affected by this were followed. An expert explains that it has to do with our memories. We have a memory to plan and a memory to do things on autopilot, such as grabbing keys, opening the door and driving. Who amongst us hasn’t (almost) left his cup of coffee on the car roof at some point of time? When a child is sleeping in his car seat and the parent does everything on autopilot, such as driving to work, it can happen that a child is forgotten. The memory of the autopilot (the basal ganglia) suppresses all other memories, even when it comes to something as important as your child in the back seat.
What can the car seat industry do?
An alarm system offers a solution and initiatives are already in place. This varies from mats with sensors under the seat or sensors in the seat belt. Combined with an alarm and/or push message on your smartphone if you are too far away from the car seat while there is still a child in it. But not all technology works flawlessly and not all systems work on both Apple and Android.
Examples of Car Alert systems:
Cybex/goodbaby introduced the Cybex SensorSafe which consists of a clip that can be attached to the child harness belt. Suitable for Cloud, Aton and Sirona. It gives a signal to the smartphone if it is removed from the car and the device is not turned off.
The Evenflo SensorSafe clip is a similar system.
Chicco has an integrated system of sensors that are processed on the inside of some of their car seats.
Separate systems have the advantage that they are not dependent on any type of car seat. Like BlueBeep that took a first step on the market with the Car Seat Guardian. It is attached to the inside of the harness’s soft shoulder pad and triggers an alarm if the child is not (properly) locked in the car seat, if the child tries to get out of the harness straps, and if parents are too far away from the car.
Remmy is an Italian brand that emits an audible signal when the car’s engine stops and the weight of the car seat does not change.
And the Tippy Smart Pad works with a mat and sensors. An alarm sounds if you are too far away from the car and the weight on the pad does not change.
The iRemind Car Seat Alarm uses a pad with sensors under the seat and an iPhone app to help parents remember.
However, car manufacturers must also take responsibility. We only know two: Nissan Pathfinder and the Hyndai’Santa Fe have a Rear Door Alert system (RDA). If a back door is opened at the beginning of the trip, the car will signal that you should also check the back door when you are in the parking lot.
Italian anti-abandon law enters into force in 2020
Italy is the first government to take action against such accidents. The ‘anti-abandon’ law will enter into force on 6 November 2019. The industry will, of course, need time to produce car seats or equipment that meet these requirements. That is why 120 more days will be given until it becomes a legal obligation, at the end of February 2020.
Content of the anti-abandon law for car seats
The content of the anti-abandon law is as follows:
The driver of M1, N1, N2 and N3 vehicles, registered in Italy or abroad and driven by Italian nationals, when transporting a child under four years of age who is restrained in a car seat in accordance with paragraph 1, shall be required to use a special alarm system to prevent abandonment of children in the car, in accordance with the technical construction and functional specifications laid down by decision of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. (Article 1a of Article 172 of the amended Road Code). The article in Il Sole 24 Ore gives a good overview of the mainly technical content of the decree. For example, parents get 30 euros back from the government if they buy such a proven alarm system. This can be integrated in the car seat, but also in the base of the car alarm such as the alarm if the car belts are not used, or it can be an independent system or device.
Requirements for the Car Alert systems
The current prices of independent systems range from 40 to 75 euros. There are various requirements for these devices. For example, they may only be sold with a declaration of agreement from the manufacturer or authorised representative established in the European Union. Other requirements include, but are not limited to: The devices must be switched on automatically without any additional action on the part of the parent and must be equipped with sensors that recognise the child’s presence. It needs to send a signal to the driver that the device has been activated and the alarm shall be set so as to draw the driver’s attention immediately, by visual and acoustic or physical signals inside and outside the vehicle.
Sources: childsafetyeurope.org, Kidsandcars.org, ENPC