From The Boston Globe:
Perhaps you’ve seen the helmet babies – on the T, strapped into portable carrying chairs between fidgety parents; on the street, curled up in slings against the chests of dads. Helmet babies look strange, their soft baby heads encased in shells of foam, tight straps hugging their chins. If you’ve spotted one at close range, you may have felt the temptation to ball your hand into a fist, reach over, and give that fortified little noggin a gentle “knock knock.” Not long ago, babies were only fitted with helmets if they were born with irregularly shaped heads. But in recent years, entrepreneurial manufacturers have expanded the market, creating helmets designed for any children whose parents want to protect them from scrapes and bruises while they’re learning how to stand upright and walk. These helmets have names like ThudGuard, SoftTop, and Baby No Bumps. Some even come with decorative Mickey Mouse ears.
The baby helmet is just one piece of the protective armor being built around childhood these days. There are soft pads to shield babies’ knees from irritation while they’re learning how to crawl. Specialty feeding spoons change color when the food is too hot. GPS devices track babies’ movement in real time. The Safety Turtle antidrowning alarm alerts you when they get into the water. As these products proliferate – perhaps you’d like to dress your baby in a full-body jumper with special pockets that make it impossible to drop him? – so does the sentiment that perhaps we’re going too far, and that parents have let their protective instincts get the best of them. In books, magazines, and parenting blogs, a divisive public debate has placed safety-conscious moms and dads on the defensive against a chorus of critics who believe America’s children are being crippled by paranoid overprotection.