Is there anything more natural and joyous than bringing a baby into the world? Well, perhaps not for the first three months of that process. Or for the last three! But after the physical discomfort is accounted for, it can be generally agreed upon (even by people who choose not to have children) that childbirth and parenting are among some of the most rewarding activities possible. Which is why it’s entirely cringe-worthy that the onslaught of consumerism begins literally as soon as social media realizes that you’re pregnant and continues for approximately the next eighteen years. While we don’t have enough digital space to cover all eighteen years (though we do break much of it down in our Postconsumer Parenting articles), we thought that we’d take today to talk about some of the early onset of consumerism and having a child.

You’re Pregnant? Online Retailers Want You! Social Media Knows That!

So you’ve found out that you’re pregnant and you can’t wait to share that with three hundred or so of your closest digital friends. You get out your phone and go immediately to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whichever new one is on the scene by the time you read this and post your big announcement. Behind the scenes, all of those social media channels immediately use contextual words and clues to figure out that you’re pregnant and dump you into an advertising target group for expecting or new parents. For the next nine months plus, expect to see nothing but ads for diapers and baby gear in your social media feed. And research says that you’re likely to respond to those ads and purchase something. That’s why the data is so important to advertisers. When it comes to new moms, a few simple decisions can mean a long lifetime of value for a company. For example, if you decide early on that you want to use only a singular brand of diapers, the company that makes them can generate a significant amount of revenue from you. That’s why it’s so important to them to be able to begin targeting you the moment that they (and everybody else) know that you’re pregnant.

What Can You Do? Think twice about that social media announcement! Email and personal phone calls are great!

So What If You Don’t Announce? Then Also Don’t Shop on Online!

Perhaps you are a blissfully private person and you don’t want to announce your pregnancy on social media. Trust us, there are still some of you out there! Retailers can still find you based on cookies and data from where you shop and what you purchase (or even just look at) that gets fed into remarketing campaigns. As soon as you start looking at cribs, or baby clothes, or make a registry, the world of remarketing kicks into gear. You’ll be seeing ads for all of those products everywhere that you go online. You haven’t even given birth yet. Your baby is already the target of the message that he or she needs “stuff.”

What Can You Do? When possible, turn off cookies while shopping or shop using an Incognito Window in the Chrome Browser.

The Baby Shower. Yes, It’s Sweet, But…

We think that it’s a lovely tradition that people want to help you gather the things that you need for your newborn. But there’s also a danger of the consumer messages and “gifting competition sense” that comes into play with baby showers. Let us be clear about this:  a first time mother will absolutely need a lot of things to get her started with her baby. Diapers are expensive. Babies go through clothing quickly. There are things that are needed and the idea of friends and family pitching in to make them happen is everything that we believe in. We’re not at all suggesting that there isn’t a place in the world for a baby shower. But think about the last several baby showers that you’ve been to. How many of the gifts were truly about items that the mother would need and that would reduce the expenses and headaches she would encounter versus how many gifts were cute but impractical clothing or “baby luxuries” that are well marketed? We’re guessing that when you pause to think about it the number favors the unnecessary rather than the necessary. Why is that? Because baby items are extremely hyper marketed (and profitable).

What Can You Do? If you’re a guest at a baby shower, think seriously about your gift purchase and its usefulness to the new mom. If you’re a new mom or a shower host, encourage people to bring purposeful gifts.

Finally, Think Twice About that Baby Registry

We’re usually pretty middle-of-the-road about most shopping tools and traditions. We know that shopping isn’t going to be totally eradicated from the planet. But we’re on record that there’s nothing positive about a registry. All it does is encourage excessive shopping and give away tons of data about you. We do understand that it helps you not receive duplicate gifts and also guides people to things that you want. But the idea of a registry was created to extract extra purchases from people.

What Can You Do? If you really need a registry, set up a small one and then never look at it again!

The truth is that, obviously, your baby does need some “stuff.” But your baby doesn’t need nearly as much stuff as the consumer marketing machine would have you believe. Just ask some moms who have been around the block. They’ll tell you!

Have a different take on “stuff” and having a baby? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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Photo Credit: Clever Cupcakes via Flickr