run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sick on my suit: the working mums behind Love Boo.. and *COMPETITION*

As your newborn grows into a tiny person, then a crazy ball of cute chaos, the thought of returning to work can seem daunting. It's definitely one of the most talked-about topics between my NCT pals. And that's what inspired this new ROOW feature. Mums and dads who are running their own businesses, climbing the corporate ladder, or experiencing the juggle of working life with being a primary baby or child-carer share their stories and their top tips to help other working parents in the same situation.

Next up are the fab gals behind Love Boo - a baby and mama toiletry brand that's always in our bathroom. Jennifer Gledhill and Corinna Labrosse met in 1994 working as writers on Top of The Pops Magazine – interviewing Backstreet Boys and Blur - and even say they named the Spice Girls - more of which later! Over to Jennifer, who's 45, from Wakefield and has two kids: Thomas, 12 and Maisy, 10.

Where did your big idea come from?

"Corinna, my business partner and I were on maternity leave with our girls (she had Poppy at the same time as I had Maisy). As beauty product addicts, we were complaining about how hard it was to find baby skincare that was natural, looked gorgeous and was effective. We wanted a nappy cream that actually worked! The idea for Love Boo came from there. But we ended up going back to our day jobs and spent a couple of years talking about the idea but not really having time to do anything about it.."

How did you launch it?

"Through trial and error. We found a directory which listed all the UK-based natural chemists and one by one, we met them to discuss our idea for a baby range. It took a long time to meet the best team to work with, and even longer to find the best packaging, design labels . After two years, we finally had a core range of products, displayed them at trade shows and thankfully, lots of retailers loved them  – we’re now stocked in Harrods, John Lewis, Wholefoods and also overseas."

What's the balance of running family and corporate life?

"As any working parent will tell you, you never feel as if you have the balance sorted! And although running your own company means you never totally switch off and there’s a constant ping of emails coming through no matter if it is the weekend or 11pm at night, the benefit is that there is flexibility. Everyone who works at Love Boo is a parent  - therefore we don’t even need to explain, if one of the children is ill or there’s a crisis at home then the rest of the team will take up the slack. My daughter was very ill last year and during that time, nothing else mattered, the rest of the team understood that and I just worked when I could."

What are your top tips to other working mums?

"Work really hard on not feeling guilty. It’s a trap all of us mums fall in to and as my children have grown older, I’ve realised that they don’t even remember any of the stuff I used to beat myself up about – i.e going away to trade shows etc. I’ve always tripped over myself trying to go to every school concert, play, sports event – the other day, I realised I hadn’t booked tickets to a concert my daughter was singing at and she actually said she’d be glad to not see me waving manically like a lunatic from the sidelines. That’s gratitude for you!"

How did you feel about going back to work after maternity leave - any tips?

"I was really worried. We lived in London when I had both children and I struggled with finding the right childcare when I went back to work part-time. I eventually settled on a lovely childminder for my son. When my plain-speaking mother-in-law came down from Yorkshire she said ‘I don’t trust that woman, how can you leave your child with a stranger?’ I wanted to strangle her! But as the kids get older you relax a little and think, as long as they’re happy, clothed and fed you’ve done a good job."

Any cock-ups?

"There’s been lots of cringey moments. Corinna and I not having a clue about business terms or pricing means we have said lots of embarrassing things in meetings... And I once rang a web designer and told him all about our business and order levels etc only to find out he was married to the woman who owned our biggest competitor."

What's been a career high?

"That we helped name the Spice Girls?! One day, a new girl band popped in and I, Corinna and the team were given the job of coming up with nicknames for them – which is how Sporty, Scary etc came about and the rest is pop history! We moved on to become editors of other teen magazines over the years, including Sugar, TV Hits and Sneak before becoming mums and launching Love Boo."


Win! A Love Boo Ultimate Mummy Kit worth £70.00

Run Out of Womb readers can win an amazing set of the award-winning Love Boo Mummy range - including... 

Soft & Creamy Body Smoother to tackle cellulite and dry skin

Miracle Oil to help treat stretch marks and uneven skin tone. 

Splendidly Soothing Bath Soak to wind away your worries and soothes aches and pains

Bosom Buddy to treat breasts throughout pregnancy and nursing and beyond, keeping them perkier, moisturised and soothed. 

Magic Balm, the wonder-salve to soothe breast-feeding nipples, sore lips, chapped skin and a whole host of other skin conditions. 

Perineum Massage Oil to massage on to the perineum area from week 34 to help avoid stitches during birth (and great for Baby Massage too!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, 29 January 2016

Dads get bombarded with advice too...

I’m very excited to become a daddy. Apart from being able to shout “who’s the daddy?!” in self-referential male bravado, it’s going to be great to, y’know, have a child... 

This is a guest post from dad-to-be, business journo extraordinaire and Kirsty Young-wannabe Alex Lawson.

Since the first of my three nephews and nieces were born in 2010 I’ve gone from barely noticing children when they’re chucking stuff on the floors of branches of Pizza Express to solo trips to soft play (well, with the child) and a working knowledge of Sudocrem. But I still basically know nothing.

So, as I prepare to become a parent this summer, here’s some of the advice being dished out from all quarters:
* Don’t be afraid when the first nappies are full of tar.

My brother-in-law especially has warned of impending terror. Our little bundle of joy will be delivered to us, shiny, new and only looking a bit like a squashed pomegranate. When it comes to that momentous moment, the first nappy change, what emerges – apparently – is not perfectly spherical rabbit pellets or even shit up their back (a later phenomenon, I learn) but a tar-ry smear as they expunge what was in their system in the womb. One for the scrapbook. 
yes, someone has knitted a pooey nappy. it's at http://breastfeeding.support/breastfed-baby-poop/ if you want to see more...

* You’ll never sleep through the night again

A pretty common one, this. But as I get up obscenely early for work, I’m anticipating having a similar bedtime to baby. The routine will go: episode of Hollyoaks, milk (for baby), beer (for me), then time for Sleepyland. I might even get an adult Grobag.

* You’ll feel useless, because you probably are

I’ve listened to a few podcasts on fatherhood and the biggest theme that comes through when discussing pregnancy and the birth is how completely and utterly irrelevant our presence really is. Can I help with your tiredness dear? Sore nipples? A human coming out of you? No, didn’t think so. Time to rub her shoulder and pull a concerned face I think.

* You shouldn’t spend nights listening on the stairs

This is a piece of advice to myself. So terrified was I, the first time babysitting for my nephew, that I didn’t trust the baby monitor and spent entire evenings sat on the stairs straining to hear baby breathing. Unhelpfully they don’t like to breathe in any regular pattern, throwing you into panic roughly every 25 seconds, so it keeps your hearing sharp.

* You’ll need to drive an SUV

Apparently our tiny, old automatic Mini, complete with a dodgy mechanism which means it’s hard to access the back seat is not ideal. Getting a new car or taking a Mr Bean style approach to driving (armchair on the roof, broom to brake) are our only options.
* You'll realise your house creaks

One borrowed from Matt Coyne's hilarious daddy tips which got people laughing last year. He explains that, until you've tried to get a baby to sleep you won't have realised every loudly ticking clock, errant boiler or buzzing bulb in your house. Luckily, ours is very quiet, I think...

* Prepare to be rocked

The other day my boss comically took a fossil from the bottom of his sports bag. "If you have a boy, expect to find stuff like this in random places," he explained. As the child who once smuggled a dead crab into the boot of the family car before it was smelt out six miles on, I understand the curiosity of youth.

* “Support the head!!!!” 

If there’s one thing you don’t know before you have a baby it’s how to hold one. Well, according to existing parents who have repeatedly looked at me as if I’m going to take the child by the ankles and re-enact Yuriy Sedykh’s winning hammer throw at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

* Let the baby decide what it wants to eat 

A few friends have started telling me about baby-led weaning, which I understand is the big thing at the moment. From what I understand, they’re presented with whatever you’re having: carrots, broccoli… a piping hot cheese fondue, grab what they want, throw it about a bit while you pray some of it goes in their mouth, then you succumb and head to the spoon draw. Enticing. 

* Prepare for triplets

My mother-in-law, an identical twin, took great joy in pointing out there’s triplets and twins which run in the family, and they skip generations. Thankfully, there appears to be just one in there meaning surgically gaining an extra arm to cope with them will not be necessary. For now.

* You’ll never listen to a full song again

This particular favourite, which comes second-hand from friends at work, is most alarming. As a fully fledged music nerd the thought that my Billie Holiday and Squarepusher LPs will have mucky paw prints near them is scary enough, but apparently “there’s just no time for music”. I’m still sceptical though, and am desperately combing Pitchfork for recommendations of nursery rhymes with a dubstep feel.

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Sick on my suit.... the mum-of-six superstar inventor of Sock Ons (and *COMPETITION*)

When Kezi Levin got married - straight after school - and then embarked on a degree whilst having three babies in three years, "everyone said I would never finish uni, or amount to much - but that just inspired me to prove everyone wrong," the 37-year-old laughs.

And so she has. Now a mum of six, Kezi, who is originally from Australia but has lived in London for almost two decades, is the inventor of a small but brilliant idea that zillions of our babies use daily: Sock Ons. They do exactly what they say they do: keep babies' ever-falling-off socks on their feet, staying toasty.

Here Kezi launches a new Run Out of Womb feature, 'sick on my suit' - where working parents talk about how they do it, and give their tips and advice.

So how do you runs a big baby business - more than 1 million babies worldwide wear Sock Ons - plus other products now include Mocc Ons and Plod Ons too - whilst looking after a big family of six boys (ready for it? they're 17, 15, 14, 11, 9, and 4!)?

Oh - and there's the chance to win a bumper back of baby goodies at the end. 

Hi Kezi. Where did the Sock On idea come from?

"I needed one of my babies to wear formal attire to a wedding in mid winter.. but he was never able to keep his socks on for more than a minute. I was on the verge of putting him in a pair of tights (much to the wild protests of his older brothers) or to just go bare-footed. I was dismayed that no one had come up with anything to solve one of parenting’s most annoying problem!
Necessity proved to be the mother of invention – I cut up a prototype that night and it magically worked! No more lost socks. No more cold feet. No more being told off by well-meaning shoppers that my little boys feet were bare in mid winter and I should really do something about it.."

What happened next?

"The inventing and branding was the easy part. I had a design degree from Central Saint Martins and I love problem solving. The hard part was marketing and trying to break into a very tight market. I spent two years filling patent and design registrations, perfecting the packaging and brand strategy - all being funded by the graphic design business that I was running from home, in between looking after 4 small children!) I should just add that I actually work for relaxation..!"


How did you launch it?


"I exhibited the product at the Kind + Jugend international baby product fair in Cologne as a last- minute entry and ended up winning the gold prize for innovation! This launched us internationally and gave us incredible exposure. With only samples on show I had orders coming in and had six weeks to secure a reliable production line! The beginning  was very stressful but incredibly exciting."

What's the balance of running family and corporate life?

"Family definitely comes first. My office looks like a playroom and I really work around the childrens schedules. I am very blessed to be able to have a job that I love and is flexible in the hours. I work when the kids are at school and when they are asleep.

It's not always easy. I used to call Mothercare everyday trying desperately to speak to a buyer to get our products into their stores. No one would ever pick up the phone but I was very persistent. One day, I had all the kids in the car screaming and by chance the buyer picked up the phone! I tried desperately to sound professional, muffling the noises coming from the back and they said they liked the product. But.. never make important business call with kids in the car!"

What are your top tips to other working mums?

"Children grow up so fast – cherish the moments you have together and try not to wish them away. There will come time when you are not needed as much and try to work around them if possible. Go with the stage of life you find yourself in and find inspiration in each phase."


Competition time!
After inventing SOCK ONS, Kezi's business now also makes PLOD ONS- to protect crawling babas' knees - MOCC ONS - moccasin-style slipper socks - and DRIBBLE ONS bibs. She's offering Run Out Of Womb readers the chance to win one of each - just enter below. 


Like Sock Ons on Facebook for more chances to win great products and be the first to see new product releases!
Visit www.sockons.com for more information.



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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

London's most baby-friendly restaurants

In his first six months, my baby probably tested out more restaurants than I did in my first 16 years. I mean, he’s not going to be scrawling any dining reviews—he failed to even let a morsel of the chefs’ food touch his lips—and he couldn’t say much about atmosphere either, mostly snoozing through them all. But he was quiet, cute, and never asked to share my dessert. Certainly a better dining companion than many people I’ve broken bread with.
This post first appeared in Kin London - a magazine and website that I love, which is focused on interesting things to do and say about babies in the Capital.
That’s changing a bit now—tiny man takes his own food into restaurants nowadays, and what proprietor likes that? Plus, he sometimes makes a bit of a mess of said food, and wants to share everything that’s on my plate, with particularly strong interest in my chocolatey desserts.
But despite loads of people warning me in pregnancy that I’ll “never go out again!”, I’ve actually found that period when your baby is still tiny and snoozy and portable (and you only have one—I can imagine it’s a lot tougher with multiples or older kids) to be fantastic for exploring London and its best eateries. In fact, I reckon there should be a name for it.
It means you don’t have to restrict yourself to the restaurants where beaming waiters immediately approach with a kids’ menu and highchair and crayons. Let’s be honest: there will be years of those restaurants. Years. So you may as well try to visit the cool ones now, while you still can.
Cooing at the baby
During paternity leave my husband, baby and I hung out at Ottolenghi—sure, you have to queue for lunch, but they were great at giving us an end table with pram space, and not minding when we eked out lunch for an extra half hour to give the baby some milk. We also loved Franco Manca in Broadway Market (now a London-wide chain) who served food around feeding time so the pizza didn’t get cold, and cooed at the baby non-stop.
A few months in, even the Wolseley in Green Park was surprisingly baby-friendly: we got a booth so the little one could wriggle around (under higher supervision than Pentonville inmates, obv). At Patty & Bun in the West End, we were allowed to discreetly queue jump and uber-cool Bao in Soho carefully highlighted which buns were spicy and not breast-feeding friendly, and brought me dishes around feeding. Flesh & Buns in Covent Garden let me switch dishes in their set menu so as to be breastfeeding-friendly, as well as helped us to heat up baby food.
There are some rules: we steer clear of noisy restaurants, and anywhere too rush-around-y where hot food could get spilt on or near the baby. Plus, now he’s getting older and noisier, we wouldn’t rock up at anywhere seriously posh as we wouldn’t want to ruin other people’s special meals.
But don’t let the doom-mongers say otherwise: having a baby doesn’t mean 18 years of evenings or meal-times stuck at home. London is full of baby-friendly, if not totally baby-focused, places to visit. Bon appetit!
Read more at Kin London.

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Friday, 15 January 2016

Poonami parenting... because #shithappens

Sudocream: baby Cody reckons it's the best moisturiser around...
If you've ever followed an dazzling 'Instamum' or come across a humble-bragging baby blog or Twitter feed, you've probably felt mum-guilt about why your house isn't a whiter shade of Persil advert, why your average day isn't a gentle gurgle of giggles followed by an open-mouthed babe patiently waiting for your lovingly-homemade puree to slide on down (stain-lessly) - before said babe begs for their cot - where their eyes instantly slip shut for a 12-hour sleep.

Because for most of us, this Photoshopped, Instagram-filtered life seems absurd. When you've got a baby, #shithappens. Usually when you've just popped him/her in the car seat and are already running 30 minutes late. Sick happens. Usually when you've just put your best silk top on for a keep-in-touch work day and wanted to prove you have Totally Got It Together. Embarrassment happens. Usually when your toddler announces the person in the (broken-down?) line next to you is really old and ugly. 

Luckily some mums of Facebook are happy to confess the poonamis of parenting too. In a bid to help struggling parents realise they're not alone. To counter the perfection-parenting of social media. Or just to help us giggle through a particularly poopy day.

We all love our babies to infinity and beyond. But sometimes, when #shithappens all over your clothes, car, bag, and baby, it's nice to share... Here are parents' honest tales of baby days.

* "For a few weeks our son only pooed once a week (Friday morning, like clockwork). We were visiting my parents and my mother was holding him. She had put on his nappy just before but must not have closed it well enough - so when the poo happened, she was covered - with the most adorable, surprised expression on her face. A week's worth of poo is a significant amount.. Oh, and I might have to mention that my parents have a pristine white carpet.."

* "Turned my back for a sec, turn around again and see my baby has covered himself in Sudocream... Tasty!" (see pic above)

* "I had really bad piles following my first pregnancy, which of course nobody really talks about. My lovely brother decided to teach my two-year-old son to shout 'PILES' every time someone asked 'what's mummy got'. At the next family tea my brother decided to ask him really loudly what mummy's got and my son ran around the house shouting 'PILES PILES MUMMY'S GOT PILES'!! So embarrassing! 


Another time I was out with my husband's friends for lunch and I bent down to get some crayons my son had dropped. One of the guys said to my son 'what's mummy got' and you can guess what he shouted in response! 'Mummy's got piles' I've never been so embarrassed and just quickly changed the subject pretending that hasn't happened... Cringe!"

* "I just got in the car on way back from Kew Gardens, ready for the hour-long journey. I could see my baby in the back, getting really red-faced and clearly pooping. I immediately got out of the driving seat to change him because of the long journey back.. But by the time I reached his seat, it was clear I was too late. Poo everywhere. Including on my clothes as he flailed around as I tried to change him. Luckily I found some old shorts in the boot to change into, because my jeans got covered - and the only other option was sitting there in my knickers. Not ideal at all the traffic lights."

* "My son cried rape (instead of grape) right in the middle of the two-minute silence at his nursery school!!!!! That added to the shocked silence!!!!!! Wasn't quite the Remembrance Day they were planning."

* "I just found a poo under the sofa.."

* "On a packed tube at rush hour with my 2 year old, I was clearly standing to close to the emergency alarm as she managed to yank it and bring the train to a standstill! I wanted to die!"

* "The morning of the election results my son puked directly into my mouth. Formula tastes just how I knew it would ..."

* Waiting for our swimming lesson at the side of the pool today, I felt a warm trickle down my leg, my son was peeing what seemed like his body weight in fluid.. (Turns out I didn't place the bits correctly in the swim nappy and it managed to flow over and out). We both needed a shower and had to flag down the pool staff to clean up before we could start the lesson!"


* "This kinda speaks for itself..."  
It's just not what you want to find when you get your baby up from a nap... Stealth sleep-poo!," says Kate, above.
* "Was running a one-off training day while on maternity leave. Put in a massive effort not to look like a bedraggled mum. Got to the venue and realised I had snot streaks across the shoulders of my black cardigan so had to be cold all day. Plus I spent every break in the toilets expressing milk into a polystyrene cup so that my boobs wouldn't explode!"

* "Don't play "upside-down, rightway-up baby" with a freshly-fed baby.. My partner did - he was swiftly covered all over in vomit, although our son was laughing beautifully (one of his first real laughs.)"

* "My partner has taught my one-year-old princess to waft her hand in front of her nose and say "pooey" when she farts! Such a cute, dainty child!" 

* "I have been weed on many times but this time was more special! I was singing and cooing at my 10-week-old as he was lying down naked. I was really going for it, singing away, he was smiling and laughing and then of course he wee'd - right at the time my mouth was wide open..."

* "We were in Butlins, in the middle of the fairground, when my daughter exploded. She not only pooped on herself, but on me and her daddy too!! All we could do was laugh as we went off to clean her up.. But now our youngest pretty much explodes 2/3 times a day!"

* "I have a very embarrassing story - I just wanted to ground to swallow me up. My friend and I went shopping with our 18-month-old children, and went into a fancy lingerie shop. After five minutes the children were running around like crazy, when we noticed we had lost my friend's child. We were running around everywhere looking for him, then found him in a cubicle and sighed with relief. 
But at that moment the manager tapped me on the shoulder - I turned, and to my horror, saw my little girl in the middle of the all-white wedding department, with her tights round her ankles and poo on the floor, smiling at me! I just wanted to cry - and I've never cleaned up a mess so fast! I couldn't apologise enough, meanwhile the staff walked around madly spraying perfume. As I left, two ladies walked in saying 'it always smells so nice in here!' It's safe to say I have never been back in that shop.."

* "When my little boy was a baby, my husband was giving him a bath, chatting away to him, when all of a sudden he starting weeing.... directly into my husband's mouth."

* "When my little boy was a baby, I was changing a pooey nappy when he wriggled his legs free from my grip, stuck his foot in straight in the nappy then kicked me in the face. Nice.."


* "When at nursery, my baby boy was poking about his eye and the teacher asked if he was OK. He replied 'yeah, its just an eye bogey' to which she raised her eyebrows and replied 'most children call it sleepy dust'."

* "My little one cannot be trusted in public places, particularly in enclosed spaces such as lifts in shopping centres, where he has a habit of loudly commenting on fellow shoppers 'wow look at that lady, she's soooo OLD!' Once he stared for ages at an old lady in the queue in the post office before asking her what had happened to her teeth!"

* "My daughter had an exorcist moment, she woke up looking like the exorcist, her hair looked like the exorcist, she was wearing a gown like the exorcist, her puke was green like the exorcist and travelled all over... Well... Everywhere!!! You get the picture! I was waiting for her head to spin... "

* "I took grandparents to a friend's wedding up north to babysit the kids in the hotel because I was still breastfeeding the baby. I kept darting between the wedding and the hotel room to feed. It was only when I returned to my seat after I made a toast, that my hubby pointed out I had a very visible milk stain on my dress. I've also had to express in the toilets at weddings before, but shouting 'I might be here a while, you might want to find a different loo' is embarrassing, especially in unisex toilets."

* "The realistic parts of parenting.. I've been trying to teach my toddler to not run away in public places so we practice 'go, go, go, stop!' And he has to stop. Well I'm a believer of setting an example so if you see someone creeping around Brent Cross shopping centre, while a toddler shouts 'go' and then playing statues, it's me. I can also be found sitting on the pavement in the street waiting out a tantrum and singing off key everywhere."

* "I've been projectile pood on countless times whilst nappy changing - once at 3am, right in the face, when she was 6 days old and we were supposed to get up early that morning for her newborn photography shoot - where she then pood all over the photographer!"

* "The first 6 baths I had with my now 2 yr old boy, he shat in. Big time. I was covered. I had to shower!"

* "When my son was a newborn.. He projectile vomited into my new shoes which were at least 3 metres away! It is as like he was aiming for them!"

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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Review: Four Seasons Hampshire - Britain's most baby-friendly luxury hotel?

A spa break? With a baby? Given my eight-month-old gives me a daily face massage (poking me in the eye whilst feeding) and we do water relaxation daily (evening bath) and relaxing music plays on a loop in our home (aka The Cot Mobile), you're probably wondering why we decided to drive the hour-and-a-bit journey from north London to the Four Seasons' country retreat-style hotel in Hampshire this weekend.

Yeah, right. However much people moan about holidays with babies 'never being the same', they're still amazing. No lie-in, maybe, but new places to explore, a crisp white bed, no clearing-up. Frankly I'd travel about 12 hours just for an amazing hotel breakfast. 

And very soon after pulling up outside the restored Georgian manor that is the Four Seasons Hampshire, it quickly became clear that this is one of the best hotels in Britain for anyone travelling a baby. A pair of hands magically appear when you're juggling a wriggler and trying to get him a snack. On top of the usual cot in the bedroom (with cute 'baby is sleeping' door-hanger), and steriliser and bottle-warmer too - there's also a toy to pick out of a chest at check-in; jars of home-made gourmet purees (yellow courgette, mango and tangerine, anyone? I was practically tucking in myself) in the room, a basket of nappies and organic Childs Farm toiletries; tiny man's name laid out in toys in the bath, a baby towel and bib with his name stitched on it..

Unlike the many hotels which restrict children and babies' time in the swimming pool to one hour a day, the Four Seasons Hampshire has one hour during the daytime when under 12s can't go for a dip.. In its huge, beautiful, 30 degree-warm infinity pool housed in a glasshouse, with an outdoor vitality pool with relaxing hydrotherapy jets accessible from the indoor pool. The latter is adults-only, but we soon worked out a favour-system of one of us playing with tiny man in the pool (inflatables and rubber ducks provided), the other relaxing (there are also steam rooms and saunas, and 'relaxation rooms' with nuts, fruit, tea and magazines. mmmm) then switching. 

The hotel was full of three-generation families: grandparents babysitting whilst parents indulged in a massage/game of tennis/snooze - there's also a free, supervised kids' club on weekends and school holidays for older children. But we enjoyed a weekend as a trio, starting with a four-mile looping walk through verdant fields, then along the Basingstoke Canal. Before we set off, the hotel's tweed-wearing smiley staff handed over Hunter wellies, water and a map. And when we returned, buggy thickly caked in mud, they simply smiled and helped us to clean it, whilst tiny man patted the hotel's Lord of the Manor: patient black Labrador Oliver. 

The buggy was promptly cleaner than its newborn days, and fit once more to glide through the hotel's glassy, candle and white-rose scented corridors (it's a big, low-lying hotel with long corridors that are easy to navigate with a buggy). 

Tiny man slept in his buggy next to us during dinner; kids aren't allowed in the posh Seasons restaurant after 8pm, but the eager-to-please waiters at the Bistro grill let you order off either eatery's menu. There were babes-in-arms aplenty, but the atmosphere was calm, not Center Parks. After cocktails and G&Ts in the bar, we gorged on creamy chestnut mushroom soup, tasty steaks, and apple crumble and chocolate soufflĂ© for dessert. I'm hungry again just writing about it. 

Later that evening, catastrophe stuck. We realised Sophie La Giraffe, the chewable toy who has been tethered to his buggy since birth, was MIA. Calling reception, then put through to security, I was slightly embarrassed to be making a 10pm phone call to report a lost 15cm-high toy giraffe, but to the man on the other end of the line this was a Serious Issue: ten minutes later, a soft knock on the door saw Sophie handed over. She was tight-lipped about her adventure but ready for another day of being chewed - before tiny man knew she was missing. 

Throughout the hotel the staff want to help: in the spa changing rooms, an attendant swooped to offer her arms to hold tired tiny man as I tried to change; in the toilets near the restaurant, there are full changing areas with nappies, wipes etc in the men's and women's loos. Little things that make holidays more relaxing.
Breakfast too saw smiles from everyone - guests and staff alike. This is not a hotel that makes parents feel bad for daring to bring a baby into a public space. I fed tiny man first-thing, then we took turns in the spa before returning for our breakfast. As I stuffed my face with croissants, ricotta and honeycomb crepe and fresh juice, the waitress bought a child's bowl filled with fresh berries for high-chair nibbling. Older kids milled around the children's buffet table - pancakes and porridge aplenty. Later that morning, my passing comment that we hadn't had the best night as tiny man hadn't slept well triggered a hunt for a different cot, in case that would help.
Back in our spacious bedroom, tiny man crawled around (the only - literal - sore point being a big chest of drawers which he loved and we had to watch, hawk-like) and we curled up with the weekend papers during nap time. Our last day was spent wandering the hotel's acres of grounds - there are bulls, cows, horses and ponies, so a day out to a 'zoo' for tiny man. 

My husband's eyes nearly popped out when he saw the teen games' room - pool, football, table tennis and air hockey tables, plus big screens with consoles - and sling-wearing meant we managed a few games. There are two adventure playgrounds, a ziplining course, tennis courts, a gym, horse-riding and canal trips too... We couldn't do it all but had a ball doing what we could. Now I've just got to gently let an eight-month-old know that, since we're back at home, breakfast is just plain porridge and our daily walk won't encompass any horses...





* Double rooms at the Four Seasons Hampshire start at £225, including full use of spa facilities and breakfast. Run Out of Womb was invited to review the hotel, but rest assured we only rave about places we love.
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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Great ideas for first birthday presents


Maybe your baba already owns three-quarters of Early Learning Centre and you're after some imaginative ideas, or perhaps all of your relatives are asking what he/she wants and you need some inspiration. Either way, here's a list of great gifts that any first-birthday celebrant will love receiving!

With the proviso, of course, that they 1) won't remember anything 2) will prefer playing with the packaging and 3) probably really want you to spend the money on a spa trip / dinner out / etc... 

If you can afford it, and/or your child really has loads, try to donate to help a child who is in need too.

Meantime, over to the ideas:


* The gift of a class / activity - relatives might agree to pay for a term's swimming lessons, for example, to learn a skill and avoid occasionally-played-with toys.

* A teepee - great place to hide, play, chuck toys out of site, Instagram your home.. etc.
 joyjoie.etsy.com
* Activity table - to stand and play 
Little Tikes - Busy Baby Activity Table

* Membership of a local soft play / kids' group

* Sponsor a child in a developing country - they can become penpals as each gets older

* Vouchers for a special outfit or first pair of shoes

* A year's membership to London Zoo, National Trust, or other fun days out
Meet the Giraffes experience at ZSL London Zoo
* Building blocks or shape sorter
* Baby space hopper 
Moo Cows
* Little rocking horse or other ride-on animal, or Scuttlebug
Buy Scuttlebug, Tiger Online at johnlewis.com
Books


* Push / pull along toys

* Little Tikes car

* Montessori tower
* Ballapalooza 

* Fisher Price 'Little People' garage 

* Mini Micro Scooter with seat
* Baby Annabel or Baby George

* A personalised toy box 


* Toy buggy and first doll 

* Tea set

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Monday, 4 January 2016

"Helpful advice" from grandparents



When you were pregnant, you imagined long chats with your mum about being a parent, reminiscing and comparing her own sweet baby memories of you with your lovely experiences now... 

But now the baby is here, there are also other conversations. More heated ones. Ones where you wonder how you're even related to someone WHO'S SUGGESTING GIVING YOUR NEWBORN JUICE 'so they sleep better'. And these are some of those 'debates'.. in social media form.

The 'crying' issue
The 'your baby is cold' issue...


The 'your baby still isn't trained?' issue



The 'car seat' issue


The 'next one' issue

The routine issue


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Friday, 1 January 2016

Review: Afternoon tea at the Landmark London

Afternoon tea at a posh London hotel was something I thought was over until tiny man turns about .. hmm 12 and is happy to sip tea and people-watch without small rice-cake bribes. But then I was invited to visit the Landmark London, to tea in its gorgeous palm-tree speckled winter garden, and the waiters and staff were so happy to see tiny man, he was so good, and the overall experience so enjoyable, that I can't wait to book another.

Still, the difference between pre-baby afternoon tea and post was pretty big... Unlike the leisurely afternoons of old, hands wrapped around steaming-hot teacups, maybe a newspaper or two, and a few hours, this time I pushed the hot drinks to the other side of the table, had to barter one rice cake for every macaron I could pop into my mouth without being besieged by a smart baby who *knows* my cake is nicer, and couldn't linger too long as baby dinner time approached. 

But bringing a few toys and baby-friendly bites was undoubtedly worth it. Tiny man loved sitting in his high chair (he's too small for most restaurant ones but the waiter beamingly bought over some cushions and arranged them as if for the king on his throne!) and gazing around the sparkling room, with tinkling piano music and smiling fellow-diners. I worried some would hate the sight of a baby ruining their special occasion, but instead everyone beamed at tiny man as they walked past, and a kind tea-drinker at the next-door table even picked up the toys he tipped off the high-chair tray with far more patience than I do.

Plus, there was no repeat of Claridges-gate here: tiny man got thirsty for milk twice during the tea, and no one batted an eye at breast-feeding at the table.


When we first sat down, with read the menu of about a zillion different tea types (the tea menu alone stretched two pages). I opted for the spicy Winter Garden Blend, whilst my mum who I invited along went for the Angel Peach green tea with sunflower blossoms. Just your average Tuesday afternoon sip, right?
And the food? Well... My stomach rumbles just writing about it. A plate of delicious sandwiches - chicken and tarragon, organic egg mayonnaise, smoked salmon, and of course cucumber ones - which was topped up as often as you wanted. Scones and jam - you can pick the jam, including exotic treats like elderflower, but the strawberry with its big juicy fresh berries was so good I kept dipping into that one - and cakes. Oh, the cakes. The picture above doesn't really justify how good they looked - chewy, crunchy macaron, apple cider jelly bites, chocolate bombes... 

And when over-indulgence meant  we couldn't finish everything, the waiters swiftly boxed extras up in a take-home carton. I intended to share mine with Mr Run Out of Womb. But good intentions don't always play out...

If you're looking for a London hotel for afternoon tea where you can happily take along the baby without feeling awkward or having to lose the luxury, the Landmark is a brilliant choice. 
.
Afternoon tea at The Landmark London is £45/head. We were invited to the hotel for a review, but rest assured we only rave about what we love. And we loved this cake.

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