In today's world of blogs and WebMD, we all know how we're supposed to parent. But after a few months, or years, or kids, not everything feels life-or-death important. We'll give the 1-year-old a blanket at night; we'll feed the 6-month-old formula that's been at room temperature for an hour; and yes, we'll use our own mouths to "clean" off the binky junior just chucked on the floor for the ninth time.
A lot of us feel guilty or anxious when we do things we know aren't ideal. But RayVio, a company attending, is proposing a solution to at least one of those anxieties: the $130 Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod. The question is, does every anxiety need a solution?
Honestly, the Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod does appeal to me for a few reasons. First, the tech behind it is compelling: Put anything inside the Ellie's lunchbox-size compartment, and high-powered UV LEDs flip on, killing, the company claims, 99.99 percent of harmful bacteria on it in about 60 seconds. Cool, right?
Second, I'm a new parent, and just keeping track of pacifiers is hard enough. Plus, cleaning them often entails extra stress and time away from the kiddo. To toss all my son's paraphernalia in a device that cleans it for me would be super helpful.
Of course, the Ellie doesn't actually clean the stuff. Maybe I'm particularly lazy, but boiling my son's binkies isn't the end of the world -- it's the constant scrubbing of bottles to get nasty formula out. And while a sterilizer is well suited to disinfecting bottles growing bacteria, no amount of UV light will clean the gunk out of those bottles. So, practically, the Ellie isn't going to change parents' daily routines much.
And that's the problem with the Ellie: It impresses at first blush, but the details destroy that shiny first impression. Suddenly, you have to find room for a lunchbox-size container in your already-overstuffed diaper bag. And you have to find room in your already stretched-thin budget to drop an extra $130. And those aren't even the biggest problems.
My most serious question regarding the Ellie is whether killing all the bacteria on pacifiers is a good thing. A quick online search will yield dozens of articles talking about the immune system benefits kids get when their parents just clean off the binky with their mouth. That's right: What you thought was just laziness might actually be good parenting.
And this raises a broader question. Should the response to parental anxiety be (1) research to find the best solution for the child's health, or (2) devices designed to assuage parents' anxieties? The Ellie seems to represent the latter, not the former. Personally, I'd like to see empirical evidence supporting its use before shelling out cash on a device like the Ellie, or recommending anyone else do so.
RayVio plans to ship the Ellie UV Sterilizing Pod by April 2017 -- a goal to be taken with a grain of salt, as with all crowdfunded project goals. The tech behind the Ellie seems promising, but I'd like a little more evidence of its health benefits for kids before recommending it.