run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Your buggy personality quiz...

Every time I enter the nursery bit of a department store I spot worried-looking parents touring the travel systems and fixated on the fact that they *really, really* need a particular £8350.54 buggy because otherwise their baby won't grow up happy/healthy/middle class.

I know some people bought their pricey buggies second/third/seventh hand and some think they're an excellent investment. But I thought I'd put together a TONGUE IN CHEEK (don't kick me.. I haven't slept in six nights) guide to the simplest way to pick a buggy. Sugar Magazine-style (does that age me?) - just match your personality to your (baby's) ride.

You're rich...

or prepared to go into debt to buy a fabric chair on wheels. You secretly like the idea of having the same buggy as Kate, George, and Charlotte, (but won't tell anyone that). Your bag is Vuitton, your ring is bling, your everyday jeans are Diesel (and you'd love a buggy that matches..). Winter = Ugg biker boots; summer = weekly pedicure. You need to buy the icon of conspicuous consumption for the parent - you need a... Bugaboo Cameleon.

You're having a second child...

and you no longer care how your buggy looks (they're all the same when smeared with the placatory rice cake/yogurt/rusk that you swore you'd never hand over in transit). You want something that folds with one hand because you know the other one will be required to hold your other kid(s), for several hours at a time. You want something that holds its eBay value because you're Definitely Not Having Any More, And you already know what you're buying because everyone's incessantly recommending it: you need a City Mini

You're a banker...

and are happy to spend £1200 (plus accessories) on a buggy, even though you know it doesn't self-steer OR have an engine. The cash is really just a bit of last year's bonus, and if you're going to be dashing to Dinky Dancing rather than running the derivatives desk at JP Sachs for two weeks (that's how long you're going on maternity leave - any longer and you'll be dubbed a skiver), you want to do so in style. You need to head to one of Chelsea's nursery-curating boutiques and stock up on a... Stokke Xplory.
Mary Poppins was your favourite childhood film...

and whilst you can't buy her magical handbag, you really want a sit-up-and-look-at-me old-style pram to stroll around Balham with. The price isn't super important because mummy wants to buy the transport system for her first-ever-granddaughter (you found out it was a girl at an early scan because how could you start shopping otherwise?). So you'll want to buy a... retro Silver Cross Kensington
You work in fashion...

and your buggy needs to show that you do. It's not a matchy-thing - you wear black every day anyway, especially when you've got a bowling ball growing around your middle - but you need to make a statement and go for a Big Name Collaboration. You're friends with the right PRs so you won't be paying full price anyway. Now the only decision left to make is.. Mamas & Papas + Liberty or Maclaren + Orla Kiely?

Why did you pick your pram? I went for a great-value and good-looking Cosatto and love it bar the fact it doesn't fit in my car boot in one piece. What's your buggy-buying advice? Please comment below.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Waterbabies: a review

I'm no baby class junkie - at the youngest age, I reckon they're often more for the parents than the babas, so don't recommend spending hours pouring over the benefits of Marmoset Music vs Baby Yoga etc. But I did want to take tiny man to swimming lessons. 

Even if you don't believe the research that starting babies swimming early reminds them of womb-time and makes the learning process easier, getting them used to water and on the path to the life-saving skill of swimming as soon as possible seems like a good idea. In their first few weeks, babies naturally inhibit their own breathing underwater (with their gag reflex), although that lessens at about 6 months - but when properly supervised and with lots of parental know-how babies can naturally swim short distances underwater from very early on. Plus tiny man has always loved splashing in the bath... And as an extra bonus, swimming tires babies out like 12 hours on the treadmill would for us... so leads to biiiig nap time!

Swimming classes were definitely something I wanted to research. The thought of what could happen if your hand slips in the pool for a second... is terrifying. I wanted a great teacher who could give tiny man and me confidence to enjoy the water together. Asking around for recommendations, the name Water Babies kept coming up.

A bit of price research showed the brand to be the Selfridges of the baby swimming world: unashamedly expensive. In London classes are about £300 for a term of ten lessons - it's a big outlay. But, four lessons into our ten, Water Babies is definitely offering good value.

Some might be impressed by the gadgets and wizardy - our brilliant teacher, Frances, at the warm, new and very clean Whitings School pool near High Barnet, has a waterproof iPad with info and to check all the babies in. On signing up, you receive a really detailed info pack, plus a folder with stickers to mark your baba's progress (first underwater dip, etc), and you can also buy branded super-warm wetsuits and have an underwater photo shoot.

Those are all nice extras, but what really stands out is the quality of teaching. Frances is calm, knowledgeable and seriously experienced - she's been teaching tinies swimming for nearly a decade. She talks through every exercise, remembers every baby's name and what they do/don't like (tiny man beams every time he sees her), and shows us the best way to hold and support our babies in the water.

Each class follows a pattern: a warm-up twirling the babies in water to a song, a pattern of saying your baby's name, 'ready', 'go' and gently splashing them as a cue to prepare for going under water, followed by an underwater dip, and learning different water games to teach them skills like blowing bubbles, swimming on the back. At the end, Frances holds up picture cards above the babies' heads as they lie floating on backs - I wouldn't have thought they'd be bothered but tiny man stares and stares and happily kicks his legs.

So whilst we're nearly half-way through the term and I don't yet know if tiny man is going to be the next Ian Thorpe, he loves our weekly swimming lesson and I love the WaterBabies format and confidence-inspiring teaching. The next batch of lessons brings with it an underwater photoshoot, so watch this space...

* Run Out of Womb trialed swimming lessons courtesy of WaterBabies, but rest assured we are seriously gobby and would never rave about something unless we love it.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Review: baby-friendly stay in London - the Sofitel St James

"Bonjour" is the greeting from all the smiling staff as you arrive at Sofitel St James. So however far you've travelled - and for us, it was just across London via the Tube - you immediately feel like you're on holiday. In a glistening, deluxe hotel in the middle of France. 

And when you also turn up with an overloaded-buggy containing a bewildered tiny man, that 'bonjour' is followed up with, 'un bébé! Fantastique! How can we help you to check in?' 

The staff at the French group Sofitel's Piccadilly hotel almost all hail from across the Channel. And whilst the old stereotype might be that the French like their children to be seen but not heard, our weekend at this grand Gallic hotel - a former bank and grade II listed building slap back in the middle of anywhere you'd want to be in central London - couldn't have been more baby-friendly. 

With tiny man now seven-months-old, we reckon it's a great time to travel, stay away in hotels, and explore - our own city or others. At this age, you don't need to haul along a Moses basket or 38,789 nappies, for one thing, and there's also no need for restaurants with chicken nuggety kids' menus and primary colour schemed-walls

So exploring baby-friendly rather than baby-focused hotels - where there's a cot in the room but enough grown up touches for us to enjoy too - we checked into the Sofitel. 

There was one early glitch - our first room smelt a little smokey, but the staff couldn't be more apologetic and quickly whisked us to a newly refurbished luxury king room one floor up. Alongside a generously-sized room, with a huge bed and brown/cream colour scheme - all the practical touches parents need - cot, changing mat, steriliser - were already in-situ, alongside extras we loved: a cuddly snoozing teddy gift; plush tiny dressing gown which meant all three of us could pad about and pose for Instagram; organic baby bubble bath and creams, plus Johnson's unctions. There was even a stand-alone Chicco baby bath, although I opted to share the inviting tub in the huge black and white bathroom with tiny man later that evening. 

Welcome gifts
Didn't want to leave..
On arrival, though, having everything already set up meant we could pop tiny man in his cot for a quick nap - before playing (the thick carpet, huge bed and deep armchairs were all thoroughly explored by our new crawler) and feeding time steriliser supplied - and the housekeeping pointed out that snuffly babies can even request humidifiers). We bathed and relaxed, then settled the baby to sleep in the buggy before enjoying the novelty of strolling right into central London. 
After a spot of Christmas shopping (the hotel is minutes walk away from Carnaby, Oxford and Regents Streets and gazillions of wallet-lures), we had dinner at Honest Burger (who gave us their roomiest table with space for the buggy) and ice creams (because it's never too cold for ice cream) before heading back to our cosy room. 

We did face the usual hotel-and-baby in the nighttime problem: unless you've got the cash for a suite, you have to stumble around in the semi darkness to keep the baba asleep. But torch-like bedside lamps made it easier, and I used the luxury of being a long way from my laptop and home chores to relax.

Tiny man peruses the Sunday papers over breakfast...
Next day led to the highlight of the hotel: well, it is French - so the breakfast was bound to be brilliant. But crispy croissants, tree-ripe juicy mangos and other fresh fruit, lovely juice combos (orange and ginger, raspberry and banana) plus amazing hot chocolate and a cake of hash browns alongside perfectly poached eggs kept me happily filled up until dinner. 
Meanwhile, our careful attempts (12 laps of the corridor) to schedule tiny man to stay snoozing for his morning in his buggy ... totally failed. All that meant was that the waiters and most of the other guests beamed at tiny man - the only baby in the restaurant, and he lapped up the attention. As did we during our stay at the Sofitel - which we'd recommend to any new families looking for a luxury break with great food, everything you need provided, and lovely extras to make all of you feel very welcome.

* Run Out Of Womb was a guest of the Sofitel for the purposes of this review; rest assured, though, that we're seriously gobby and would never rave about something that was ropey.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The best last-minute (parent) presents

Whether you're keen to be a 'useful present giver' or just want to send out something super-cute to a new (or not-so-new) parent in your life, these are some things that I reckon any parent would be glad to receive.

First up, my new favourite photo gifts are from Cheerz. Their bright, Insta-alike site lets you easily turn your photos into fridge magnets (my fave), old-style strips of pics (see above.  I've done one of tiny man at 1m, 2m, 3m, 4m and it's so nice to see him grow in them) or boxes of Polaroid-style snaps. They arrive really speedily in gift-friendly boxes. The magnets really jazz up the fridge and the filters mean they look cool, rather than mad-magnet-plastered-house weird. And the strips are an ideal gift for doting grandparents etc - because who wouldn't want a pic of a pouting baba in their purse?

For the 'useful present-givers' out there - generous friends or grandparents who want the parents baby (who are we kidding) to come and visit them, maybe, this Baby Bjorn travel cot *rocks*. In fact, our well-travelled tiny man has slept in loads of these already, and this one comes out top every time. 
Why? It's light - 6kg, which is a lot less arm-straining than any of the other major brands - and, unlike most of the mesh/plastic monstrosities, it looks good enough that I'm planning on using our turquoise in the lounge as an occasional play pen. But best of all is that once you've got the travel cot out of the bag, it almost erects itself - no separate appendages or other parts to attach, the legs pop up automatically, the mattress plops on top and you're ready to go. Which is ideal when you arrive at non-baby-set-up farmhouse hotel at 6pm with a tired baba who really needs their bed ready, now. 

The mattress is also thicker than the usual paper-thin travel cots, (developed with paediatricians which reassured me as travel cots can feel flimsy) and it's easy to wash as the casing just zips off ready for the washing machine. Only downsides are, it's fairly low so bad back-sufferers won't like it, and you do have to buy Baby Bjorn sheets because it's a different size to standard. You do pay a bit more - it's £170 - but it lasts up til around age 3 and it's got the to stage where I'd pay more than that for a good night's sleep!

This cute babygrow (£32) has tiny teddy bears printed all over it, has a matching beany hat and blanket and is seriously soft. Ideal present for prospective parents because it's gender-neutral - and has easy poppers, which, on one hour's sleep and the 9878934th nappy change of the day, can really make a difference... It's from Fine Young Things - a site we love where you'll find loads of other gift ideas: its set up by a group of European parents who pick the best (cutest, long-wearing, and different) products from across the world and pop them all on one website - this set is by Sticky-Fudge, a South African brand which majors in unusual prints. You'll struggle to restrict yourself to just one thing on this site...

Aaaand, at the other end of the market, since tiny people grow out of their clothes twister-fast, the benefits of cheap-o supermarket baby clothes can't be underestimated. Only problem is, much of the Tesc-bury-sda range is cartoon-splattered bore-ville. Which is why I love Morrison's Nutmeg range. Their babygrows are soft, come out the wash as good as they went in, and have really cute designs, but now I'm hoarding their clothes too. We love this amazing cosy and soft Fair Isle hoodie (looks designer-good: costs £10..) and the penguin top and tracky bums (£3 and £4 respectively.. omg). are so comfy for winter days. I happily travel to Morrisons in Camden for their big range of Nutmeg gear. 


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Six people every parent hates

1) The nap-waker

The postmen. The couriers. The Jehovah's Witnesses. The double-glazing contractors. We spent 53 minutes getting our baby to sleep, and your finger resting far too long on the doorbell took two seconds to ruin all of the hard work. Now you've cut into our working/cooking/Facebooking time and left us with a super-grouch for a baby. THANKS.

2) The 'what, you can't do casual anymore?' friend

You spent the morning getting your baby/ies ready and fed and hiding all the clutter under the sofa whilst simultaneously making a Sunday lunch WITH MORE THAN ONE COURSE for non-parent friends. They asked what time was best; you said 12.30; you're feeling smug at your ability to Do It All... until the friends don't turn up... until 1.30pm with a shrugged excuse - "sorry, you know what Sunday mornings are like...". That's about as palatable as inhaling baby sick... because it means your tidied-home is already a tip and you have to get the small one(s) to sleep in the next 10 minutes and lunch burns, and the friends go home bitching about you being in a massive mood.
3) The 'aren't you just making a fuss?' friend

You're on a rare night out with non-parenting friends and mention you're really knackered. They point out they just worked a 12-hour shift at the office and you 'padded around at home all day'. You politely respond that your day started with a screaming baby at 3am, 4am, and 6am and that you've been feeding/bum-wiping/chasing said baby all day and now you've been away for 19 hours and you're pretty likely to face the same schedule tomorrow, because you have done for the past eight months. But their face points out 'you did this to yourself' and you resolve not to go out, ever again.

4) The inventor of Google

Your baby had a tiny red mark. BUT NOW YOU'VE GOOGLED AND IS IT EBOLA YOU'RE TERRIFIED. During the hour your baby slept last night, you lay awake, listening to them breathing on the monitoring, worrying about what Google said. (In the morning, all was fine. Phew.)

5)  The critical stranger

You're on the bus/at a cafe and your baby Won't. Stop. Making. Loud. Noises. It's not crying-noise. It's squawking. They're not hungry. They're not tired. There's nothing you can do. But the lady in the next seat knows otherwise. Of course she does, she's observed your baby for 3 whole minutes. She taps you on the shoulder. "Excuse me, but don't you think you should give your baby something to eat? She's making some noise, you know." You hate the critical stranger so, so much.

6) The smug social media mum

She had a blowdry and mani-pedi whilst she was in labour (to ensure the after-photos were perfect; her baby shower was straight out of a magazine - in fact, Hello! ran a spread on it because her fourth-cousin, who once dated Prince Harry, turned up with cupcakes. Her cream-and-pale-grey nursery has pale cashmere throws for the perfect K Middy-style baby photo background... and there don't appear to be any pale yellow *or* Calpol-coloured sick-stains. What? You hate her. You'd like to say you have no Facebook post to show, because you silenced her on newsfeed. Obvs.

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