Why We Overspend on Name Brands for Our Babies

Shopping Woman in Supermarket

When you’re shopping for your new baby, how do you decide which products to buy? Do you choose the most recognizable name brand, assuming it’s the most trusted? Do you go with a friend’s personal recommendation? Do you get all scientific, reading labels and doing in-depth research before making a purchase? Do you just buy the most expensive option, hoping that means it’s the best? Or do you buy the least expensive option because you’re trying to save money in a weak economy – especially now that you have an extra family member to support?

A new study from Kelton Research shows that the down economy and families’ personal financial limitations aren’t much affecting the amount of money new and expectant moms spend on their babies. In fact, these mothers are often cutting back in other areas of their lives so they can buy more things – and more expensive things – for their infants. Three-quarters of the more than 1,900 moms surveyed cut back on dining out, clothing for themselves and entertainment, compared to only 13 percent who said they’re trying to spend less on their new or soon-to-be-new baby.

One of the biggest areas of overspending is in infant formula. Experts say moms tend to buy the most expensive brand, or the most advertised brand, because they feel guilty about using formula in the first place now that breastfeeding is considered the best form of infant nutrition. Mothers who already feel bad about using formula are understandably more likely to buy a more expensive brand in hopes that it will be better for their babies, even though that might not be the case. (“According to the Infant Formula Act, all infant formulas manufactured in the United States must contain the same key nutrients and adhere to the same quality and safety guidelines,” says Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.)

The study has many surprising stats about how moms are spending their money and why. Read the full article here.

Does any of this ring true for you? I’m a name-brand loyalist when it comes to diapers and wipes, and I’ll admit I’ve argued with my husband over why we neeeeeeded to buy the popular name brand of baby laundry detergent instead of the cheaper store brand that, he pointed out, contained the exact same ingredients. For me – just like the study suggests – sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed in the uncharted territory of new parenthood  it’s easier to just go with a brand I recognize, or to choose the more expensive option assuming the higher price means it’s better than the others. And when you’re still pregnant, your thoughts are consumed by all things baby but there’s no actual baby here to take care of yet – so where else can we direct that attention/energy/anxiety except toward buying every little thing that baby might possibly benefit from. For me, buying products in preparation for the unknown is definitely one way I fool myself into thinking I can control what’s largely uncontrollable.

Marketers of course rely on the fact that we assume a product is of better quality if it’s a name brand or a more expensive brand (two factors that usually go hand in hand), and they also prey on the guilt and insecurity (and red-eyed exhaustion) that often plagues new and expectant parents, especially first-timers. When we’re feeling unsure of ourselves, it’s easier to be swayed by advertising that tells us what we NEED, and what our babies SHOULD have, especially when it comes to things like nutrition and safety, which no one wants to compromise on.

But seriously, what sleep-deprived mom of a newborn wants to stand in the grocery aisle comparing the fine print ingredients on every can of formula to decide which is best? Not any I know. So are we doomed to be at the mercy of the advertisers? Or is there a way to curb the guilt and anxiety and confusion that compels us to overspend on our babies, even when we can’t really afford it?