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Parenthood comes with a certain inherent loss of dignity. Anyone who’s had their kid stick a hand down their shirt in public or watched their own baseline personal hygiene sink to unanticipated lows can tell you that. But there’s the loss of dignity stemming from the everyday vagaries of raising a small human, and then there’s the loss of dignity inflicted upon us by others.
Product namers. Listen up. I am talking to you.
How could you make a grown adult speak aloud any of the following words?
In case you don’t already know — and if you do, just skip this paragraph of momsplaining — these are all brand names for variations on the sleep sack, a garment in which you wrap your baby for bedtime instead of a blanket. (It’s not safe to put a small baby to bed with a blanket.) As a plus, it’s great for tinies dealing with the unmoored feeling of no longer being held cozily in utero who have yet to master the fine art of rolling over. It keeps them feeling secure and sleeping safely on their backs. Sleep sacks are a freaking lifesaver for anyone who’s ever tried to swaddle an infant with a regular square-shaped cloth while living this new baby life on three hours of sleep. Or hell, eight hours. My kid sleeps through the night now and I still can’t magic a blanket into an origami envelope, no matter what’s at stake.
The sleep sack is an undeniably great and useful item. So much so that the market is bursting at the seams, if you will. At any given time, Target alone carries up to 20 different brands each selling their own version. It’s understandable that companies are looking for ways to differentiate the name when the product is basically just a bag-shaped pajama. Apparently the logic is that babies = cute, so product names should be cute, too.
The problem is that being forced to say out loud, with a straight face, “I’d like two Kangapouches, a Woombie, and throw in a Zippadee Zip, I’m feeling flush” is just not cute. I mean, am I the infant here? No. I am a grown adult, holding a credit card, interested in purchasing a thing with which to care for my child. I am a grown adult, meeting up with my grown adult friends with children at the park, where we all recommend useful products to each other. I am a grown adult who wants to be treated as such.
The nonconsensual forced cutesiness doesn’t stop with clothes, as you may have guessed. Want to set up a registry at Giggle for a Rock N Play, Jumparoo, or MamaRoo? Perhaps when you’re done wondering “Where’s the DadaRoo?” you’d like to consider an Uppa Baby or a SnoofyBee? (Translation: bouncer, activity center, motorized bouncer, stroller, changing pad that prevents a squirmy baby from grabbing their own poop-covered junk during diaper time.)
Again, these are great and useful items. While my toddler didn’t really take to the bouncer, she LOVED the activity center — she was so serious about it that we called it her office — and until she got too big, it gave her a fun, safe place to be in the kitchen with me while I did other stuff. And while we are not going to SnoofyBee in favor of changing her diapers on the floor with a leg thrown over her chest (credit to my amazing mother-in-law for this technique!), not all parents want to or physically can do that. And who is about to call a stroller useless? No one, that’s who.
But the names. Oy. The above are merely a few of the worst.
Not all brands have such egregiously infantilizing practices. Back to the sleep sack for a moment. Halo calls its SleepSack: Yep, stet that midcap, but otherwise very straightforward, Repo-Man style. Aden + Anais stays minimalist with the Sleeping Bag. Carter’s calls its take Sleep Bag, which, minus the gerund, somehow sounds a little... ominous? Yet delivers the gravitas. As do its Sleeper Gowns and Swaddle Blankets. Other contenders include Sleeping Sack from SwaddleDesigns; Bedtime Sleepers (Bebe Au Lait; speaking of ominous, are you really making a coffee drink with your infant’s body? Solid product name, though); Sleep Nest (Baby Deedee; not descriptive of the actual product but not bad); Swaddle (Embe); and Wearable Blanket (Disney. Disney, aka Cute Central! Go, you!).
While my own tastes run toward a more literal naming convention, I’m totally up for a little creativity in this department. I’m not a robot with no sense of humor — just a parent who wants respect for my maturity and buying power. Product namers, and the brands that employ you: Please treat parents with the dignity we deserve. We get enough bananas in our hair at home.