When buying clothes, I’ve always looked at the material. I stick to traditional ideas--cotton in summer and wool in winter. I also like new innovations in fabrics that mean clothes drape well without creasing, wick moisture, or stretch and shape. One thing I didn’t do was pay attention to fastenings. That was until the zip on my pushchair rain cover broke.
This summer, we've had a lot of warm weather; we've also had a lot of rain. Active preschoolers don’t enjoy staying inside quietly reading books for days in a row. Come rain or shine preschoolers, especially ones used to running around with their friends in daycare, need to be outside.
After the lockdown was eased, we try to play outside every day.
For wet weather, my daughter already had a raincoat and wellies. We had a rain cover for the pushchair. I bought a rain mac and a pair of wellies in the Mountain Warehouse sale.
One day with rain forecast, we put on our wellies, covered the pushchair, and left home to embark on a puddle jumping expedition. It had never occurred to me that the rain cover might not work.
As drops of rain started to fall, my daughter put on her coat and I tried to close the rain cover. The front part was held open by a strip of velcro at the back. I pulled it forward and realised that the zip had broken.
Newborns do not like wet or cold. Their mothers agree. Although I don’t mind getting wet, and I’m trying to encourage my daughter to enjoy being out in the rain, I want my newborn to stay warm and dry. Luckily, the crisis was averted with a still working zip on the other side; I wasn't reassured for the future.
You might be surprised by the number of different fastenings that come with rain covers, on baby gear and in general. Before the invention of zips or velcro or poppers, we had buttons. We’ve had buttons for over 5,000 years. Like astronauts and the American army, parents are also searching perfect baby gear to help make life that little bit easier and smoother.
Parenting is not easy. However much you try to prepare, it will never be enough because you never know what your baby will be like until after he or she is born. My first baby loved being in the carrier and Seoul was spectacularly difficult to navigate with a pushchair. Months before baby number two arrived, I bought a carrier designed for newborns. However, baby number two had other ideas. He appeared and decided to lie with one leg up and the other pointed down during the tests. The midwife worried he had a clicky hip or hip dysplasia. This sparked more tests, and we wouldn’t know definitively until after an ultrasound six weeks later. A pushchair was essential.
After the near-disaster with the zip on rain cover of our heavy-duty pushchair, I looked at the other lightweight pushchair. The rain cover for this one has velcro closings. The disadvantage of a multitude of velcro strips is the time required to fasten them is significantly longer than a zip; many strips of (well-sewn on) velcro don’t break as quickly as a badly sewn zip.
After I started looking at fastenings, I noticed them everywhere, from the poppers on the play gym to the range available on nursing tops. I have four styles of tops for breastfeeding: poppers, zips, buttons, and holes. The key to a good nursing top for me is whether I can undo it and redo it with one hand—the other arm is holding the baby. I thought zips would be really great, but it’s surprisingly hard to unfasten and fasten zips with one hand. Poppers and discreet holes work better. Buttons are my favourite. They are relatively easy to undo, but unlike poppers, they also fasten with one hand.
Baby bodysuits come with two types of fastening: zips and poppers. Initially, I thought that zips would be a lot faster than lots of poppers, and speed is also a distinct advantage when trying to change babies. However, I’ve come to realise that poppers work because you don’t need to unzip the whole bodysuit to quickly change a nappy.
As with the old saying horses for courses, you wouldn’t send a thoroughbred horse around a dressage arena, and you wouldn’t send a Lipizzaner around a racecourse: different fasteners have different advantages. Speed isn’t always the most important factor: sometimes, like buttons and poppers, slower and steadier tortoise choices win. Happily, the ultrasound showed that the baby doesn’t have a clicky hip, so we’ll be using the carrier more in the future. I’ve also started buying tops with buttons—sometimes you can’t beat a thousand-year-old solution. And for all the Economist said that velcro is only for the old or the very young and the American military concluded it was too noisy and inconvenient on the battlefield, for things such as rain covers that need flexibility, velcro is a good solution.