run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Why I HATE parenting tribes

I have, fairly obviously, never had a baby in any other era - but I'm pretty sure the whole parenting thing used to be simpler. You gave birth; you became a parent. Your baby was hungry; you fed it. Your baby needed to get somewhere; you took it there.

Today it seems like some parents take things everything ever-so-slightly-too-seriously. Everything is up for debate; every little decision demands torturous hours of thought in order to tackle the inevitable demands for justification you're going to face - from the supermarket check-out assistant, from other mums, from the media.

Now obviously, bringing up a tiny human is a serious responsibility and can be seriously hard work. But being a mama or papa is also seriously fun - and it seems to me that among all the bazillion labels and warnings and stress and parenting anxiety, that's sometimes getting lost in translation.

And the thing that really drives me bonkers is you can't do anything as a parent without being labelled part of a tribe. 

When I popped my tiny man into his sling to walk to the park today - as I often do, because it's easier than the rigmarole of the buggy and because sometimes it's nice to have the best smell in the world - the top of his head - within sniffing distance - a fellow mum at the swings said, 'Oh, so you're one of those baby-wearers? Attachment parenting, ay? Do you all sleep in one big bed together?'

Nope, actually - but I don't have a view on those parents who do. It's sometimes the only way to get more than two hours' consecutive sleep. As one of my favourite mum-friends - whose baby just loves to say 'hello' to his knackered parents every few hours in the night - puts it, 'can't I be co-sleeping out of desperation rather than attachment parenting?'

Right? And when I feed my baby a mixture of purees and finger food, depending on how much he's eaten and how much I need a few seconds to ram some chow down my own throat, can't I be feeding him in the best way that works for us - not being a failing baby-led-weaner or needing to be told 'that's NOT the way to do it', as another cafe group mum chirped the other day.

We're all just winging it here, parenting the best way we can. All the labels and shooting-glance judgments and competitive philosophies are getting in the way of baby giggles. And nothing in the world should do that.

When another mum asks for your number at baby group and you feel like...

AKA how you did in the old days, when a hot guy asked for your number.



Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Sick on my suit: the working mums behind Bubblegum Balloons

It's been way too long since Run Out of Womb's last interview for Sick on My Suit - the series asking working mums, entrepreneurs and high-flying corporates how they do it - and their tips for the rest of us. But this week we're meeting the fab trio behind Bubblegum Balloons, a two-year-old business owned Sally, Megan and Laura, two sisters and their friend who have five young kids between them - including a five-month-old who's a regular in the office. Working around school/nursery times, their balloons and party decorations have attracted big corporates including Google, Facebook, Victoria's Secret and Christian Louboutin, and last year Cheryl's team on the X-Factor brandished their balloons.

So how do they do it? Co-founder Sally, 35, from Fleet, Hampshire, who has a three-year-old and newborn, explains... 

ROOW Where did your business idea come from? 

The desire to work for ourselves: we are all quite crafty and love pretty things. With six kids of our own, balloons were an easy choice.

How did you launch it? 

We sent a number of balloons to the press at the same time as doing a large photo shoot and launching our website - all in the same weekend.

Can you describe your average day? 

It is always different. The number of day-to-day postal balloons varies from 20 to 50+, then there are crazy events.. It is a bit of fun juggling it all.

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

It is always a challenge and it changes all the time through school holidays, new babies etc. We generally feel balanced, but like any working Mum, we all go off balance regularly. It’s all about how quick you can regain that balance. Our sales increased by over 120% in the last year.

What are your top tips to other working mums? 

Just take each day at a time and don't beat yourself up if the balance isn't always there.

How did you feel about going back to work after maternity leave - any tips for those about to do so who feel scared/worried? 

The difference when it's your own company is the desire to get back is quite strong. You also have more freedom to set your hours to suit you when it is your own company. Nowadays, most Mums have to work so you just have to make the work time productive and the family time count.
If you are thinking of going out on your own - do it! It’s the best thing we ever did.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Win! £50 Boots voucher with For Aisha

When most parents think of a baby food pouch company, one brightly-coloured brand springs to mind. But since we all like the convenience of an occasional ready meal for a baby, (although you can easily make your own - read more about the Fill'n'Squeeze here), and they're really useful whilst on-the-go, we at Run Out of Womb were interested to test out a rival, For Aisha.

It's taking on the food giants in the baby food sector, but whilst most of the current baby food specialists focus on only using organic produce, For Aisha is chasing a different market: its meat is Halal, and the flavours are more exotic than most pouches: there are one or two "plainer" meals, like lamb Shepherd's Pie, but most of the meals are packed with a punch of spice: Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Tomato and Chickpea Curry, Chicken Dhal.

A point to note - whilst the label says For Aisha "sources ethically", the fruit, veg and meat isn't organic, which might put some parents off -  but the makers say there is no producer that they can purchase organic meat from on the list of Halal suppliers, and point out that baby food is made under strict regulations.

The pouches are all for seven-months-plus (stage two weaning) - and I love the idea of incorporating big flavours - it's important to give tiny ones lots of different tastes. I did worry, however, that they might be too spicy to tummies that were unused to tanginess, and indeed my 10-month-year-old wasn't particularly keen after a few spoonfuls. Some of his friends shared the pouches, though, and one very fussy one gobbled down the puree, so it's definitely a personal taste thing for each baby!

Want to try out For Aisha yourself? Run Out of Womb can win the chance to try out a range of For Aisha pouches - and a voucher to spend £50 at Boots, which is one of the stockists. Enter via Rafflecopter, below. And good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

On back-to-work 'grief'

Molly wondered if she'd have the time to express when back at work.
This is a guest post by mum-of-one and PR extraordinaire Joanna Burkill * 

It feels wrong to dub that dread you feel in the pit of your stomach as maternity leave ends as 'grief'. But one of my most practical, logical and straight-talking friends said to me that just before you go back to work, you do go through a kind of grieving process: you cannot imagine how your baby will be OK without you, and you are so a part of one another. 

This shocked me because it was so unlike her to say something emotive like that. But, sure enough, she was right: like her I went through what I can only describe as a feeling of loss two weeks before going back. 

Not because I didn't want to return to work. Far from it, in fact, I was looking forward to work in a big way. But the thought of leaving my little girl miles away terrified me. 

I am happy to report that once you make the return: it's absolutely fine. 

I can't reassure other mums and dads enough. My daughter - who has had more than her fair share of clingy episodes - is so happy. She's not coping, she's thriving.  

Here are my tips. Please do feel free to disregard entirely as everyone is different & I hate unsolicited advice - but I hope they help.

* 1-2 weeks before going back have a plan in mind for every day (play date, trip to farm, just a walk around the park - whatever if is) as it stops your mind wandering. 

* If anyone asks you something about work before then and you just don't want to talk about if, feel free to say: 'Yep I'm going back, don't know what kind of pattern, I've made the decision to try and stop having so many conversations about it at the moment tho as I just want to enjoy the time we have left'. Sounds ridiculous, you'll feel like an idiot but it does shut them up. 

* You won't want to, but try a couple of settling in sessions with whoever is looking after your baby. Try to stay close the first time and set your expectations low. My childminder called me back after six minutes! We tried two settling sessions a week for three weeks and by the end she was still unhappy. Then the day I went to work - magically everything was fine. I'm amazed how many parents have said the same thing happened to them.

* Know what works for you and tell your carer how to update you. I like loads of Whatsapp pics and messages. Some parents prefer to hear nothing unless there is an issue.

* Finally: you may suddenly all at once feel that you just can't do this. That's totally natural. It feels so wrong at times to leave your little one. But I can't emphasise this strongly enough: from the minute I went to work it was all FINE. I actually find life a lot easier now. Having a few non nappy changing / feeding battle / entertainment duty days actually feels like the break you've been waiting for. And you still see your baby loads and you are always, always their most precious person. They just get a new exciting part to their week.


Monday, 7 March 2016

13 things no one tells you about giving birth

There are some things that everyone knows about having a baby... such as it's nothing like Hollywood (where labour takes three minutes, involves cheeks attractively blushing and a sneeze-like push). And there are other things people keep quiet about. To save the human race. (Nah, not really. It's not that bad, otherwise why would women have two..? Dontmentiontheforgettinghormone) 
Anyway, this isn't written to scare mamas-to-be. The vast majority of women have smooth, safe births and if things don't go to plan, healthcare in this country is so good that you're in brilliant hands. But there are some things that you might just want to know. So I crowdsourced mums to ask, what was the birthing experience that surprised/shocked/amazed/disgusted you? Here are the main answers.. so you can be prepared.

The animal noises thing

"That it's completely fine to moo on your hands and knees on the floor of the hospital reception..."

"The thing I wasn't expecting was the weird noises I made while in the end stages! I'm not a particularly loud person, and I'm not the type to draw attention to myself really but I was making such bizarre donkey/cow/whale noises!"

The shaking thing

"During labour I was shaking hard and my legs were all over the place and it freaked me out. But if I'd known before that it's normal, I wouldn't have worried."

The stitching thing

The concept of being *stitched up*, DOWN THERE, terrified me ever since we learnt about it in year 10 biology. But seriously: if you have to have an episiotomy (medical term for cutting down there), you don't really care. "You don't feel it 'cos your vag is numb in shock," laughs one mama. Although another advises: "they'll stick a paracetamol suppository up your bum at the end of stitching without any damn warning.." :O

The water-breaking thing

"I was shocked that, when your waters break you keep on constantly wetting yourself...." Adds another mum: "No-one told me that when your waters break, it's not all done in one go. Would have been useful to know when I then got in the car after & it happened again.."

The privacy thing

"Despite being quite certain that you won't be able to cope with strangers looking at your secret place, and try to think of a way of giving birth with your tights still on, you very quickly welcome any and all personnel into the room while your feet are up at your ears..."

"To this day I do not understand fully why a nurse stuck her finger up my bum immediately after birth. Something about checking for tears... I remember only that it happened and I was actually not that bothered by that point...!"

The breathing thing

How much can breathing reaaaaallly get a baby out of you, I inwardly mocked during NCT classes where our (brilliant) teacher demonstrated a gentle blow, blow, blow like you're taking out birthday candles on a cake method. Well, it can. Seriously. Focusing on the breathing makes the pain manageable - for some until drugs can be found, for others until a baby emerges - either way, the 'breathing thing' works so do some practicing!

The blood thing 

"I was shocked about just how much blood you lose post-birth. I knew it would happen but just not how much....I was changing a pad every hour. And nobody warns you those pads are HUGE and like wearing sanitary towels of years gone by."

The 'get your sweat on' thing

"You sweat loads at night after birth, especially if you have lots of water/swelling in pregnancy. Like, seriously. loads. I had to sleep with a towel under and on top of me for about two weeks after."

The epidural thing

"I was shocked / unpleasantly surprised to learn that you need a catheter if you have an epidural..!"

"I didn't know that you are not allowed to eat once you have had an epidural! That meant I was being sick because I was so hungry and then had no energy left to push."

The C-section thing

"I didn't realise I'd need to inject myself daily with anticoagulant drugs when I went home after a C-section."

That someone will say it's an amazing, beautiful thing

When I asked for mums' experiences, one said this: "I think its a terrible insult to women that most messages about birth are negative. I had a beautiful, stress and pain free birth (despite a ventouse delivery), an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Birth isn't something fearful, distressing or painful - it's something that our bodies were made to do." The final bit is definitely true - and as I said, just trying to share general 'this might be useful to know' rather than share war tales.

The "it's not over when the lil babe starts to sing," thing

"I didn't know you got afterpains. I had to do labour-breathing on a few occasions days after giving birth - and when I breast-fed, I got pains like the worst period ever as that's when your womb starts to shrink back apparently." Says another mum: "Afterpains when I breastfed meant, at once stage, I thought I had another one coming!"

The bodily surprises thing...

"Nobody told me about the possibility of giving birth to a bloodclot which was larger than my baby's head the day after the birth! I had a complete freak-out at that!"

The after ows

"That going to the toilet post episiotomy is as traumatic as the birth!!!?" 

"The aftermath. Why does no one talk about this or prepare you for it?! Why does no one tell you it is like weeing a knife after stitches ?! I called it the "second birth".

"That afterwards you can't sit down properly for about a fortnight.."

What were you surprised by in birth? Share your tales by commenting below.


You know you're a parent when...

To the outside observer, it's obvious. You give birth, you're a mum. You contribute your sperm to that act, and it becomes a baby: you're a dad. 

But to new mamas and papas, it can take a while for the feeling that you're a parent to sink in. 

The times I feel all-growed-up, as the Rugrats used to say, is when my parents or in-laws defer to me over what tiny man should eat / drink / when he should snooze. And I think, whhaaaat, the adults are asking me what to do?!

Anyway, I crowdsourced a bunch of other parents and here they reveal, admit and share their own 'wow I'm a parent' moments. Phew, it's not just me!

"Two weeks after our daughter was born, the health visitor came round. She said, 'right mum, how is she doing?' There was a long silence while I waited for MY mum to answer ... and then realised she was talking to me!"

"When we left hospital with our first-born, my husband looked at me in the lift and said 'what are they doing letting us leave here with a baby?! We don't know what we're doing!'"

"The night my daughter was born, I picked her up, placed her on the bed and thought I could smell something. Being totally naive I thought, she can't have soiled her nappy she's only been born three hours. So I poked my finger inside the nappy, and lo and behold... She had. I thought - I'm gonna need some help now - and pulled the cord for a nurse.. Totally embarrassed now - what must that nurse have thought of me!"

"When I turned into my mum saying phrases such as 'There's no such thing as can't', 'I want never gets' and 'It'll end in tears'!" Steph

"Nearly ten months in, and I'm not convinced I still fully realise I'm a parent. It catches me unawares at random moments. The one thing I do though that I think gives me a definite parent badge is the nappy sniff test....don't know when I first did it but suddenly I noticed I do it!

"When calling and making an appointment for him, having to say "it's for my son.." Gets me every time."

"My friend pointed out my baby had the same babygrow as her son and I said 'oh yeah, I love those ones, they wash beautifully' The most mummyish words that had ever come out of my mouth!"

"I put my newborn in the car seat in the house, all ready for our first outing just the two of us. I remember being super-proud that I had managed to get out showered, hair washed and dried and make up done... All by 11am! Go me! As I reversed out the drive, I looked back and noticed something missing on the back seat... I had left my little one sitting in his car seat in the kitchen table... I had just walked out the house like I always used to! Bad mummy."

"I was at work and tried to find something in my coat pocket and instead pulled out a red bus! I remember commenting that it was such a 'mum thing' to do!" Leslie

"I was finishing off an essay when my daughter was two weeks old, and feeding my tiny two week old baby, and all I could think was "I'm still a student.. but oh my god, I'm a mum too!" and it was amazing and scary all at once." Maddy 

"The day after giving birth to my daughter we went looking at new cars as my Fiesta needed upgrading to a 'family vehicle'. It all felt very real looking at bigger boots for pram space!" Emma 

"My son was rushed into hospital when he was 4 weeks old and I was totally terrified. This little person needed me so much and I couldn't help him. That was the moment that I truly realised what being a parent was all about. Luckily it was just a nasty infection and he was OK to come home the next day." Mary

"When I stuck my daughters first piece of work on my kitchen cupboard!" Amy 

"In Aldi last week, I was chatting away to my other half whilst queuing for the till, totally forgetting to parent. Our 11 month old then crawled up the conveyer belt! Oh yes we are parents now, must watch the baby!" Gemma

"When someone at a baby group referred to me as "Charlie's mummy" I was like - oh wow. That's really me!" Beth 
"When he was just a couple of weeks old and needed a prescription for something. I went to the pharmacy and said "I've got a prescription for my son" - it was the first time I'd said "my son" to a stranger and suddenly I was like WOAH I'M A PARENT!" Chantal 

"The first time I took my daughter shopping and she start crying. I look around to see why someone's else baby was crying but then realise it was mine. Oh yea, I am a mother now!" Christina 

Win! Squid soap and Comotomo goodies

Anyone who's ever grappled with a soap-phobic kid will be battle-worn. Convincing a small person that washing their hands is a really good idea can sometimes feel as tough as getting Donald Trump to cut his hair. So hats off to the inventors of Squid Soap: it's a fun-looking bottle where pushing down the dispenser "inks" your hand in a bright colour - you can then easily teach kids to wash until the ink is gone. for the perfect germ-free clean, without the arguments. 
Aaand on the topic of grumpy kids, someone told me teething is as painful as childbirth, so that's upped my sympathy levels for tiny ones and their sore gums. My small man is gumming this Comotomo teether (less noisy than a certain giraffe, and easier to pop in the freezer too) and we love it.

Now Run Out of Womb readers can test these products out too - along with a Comotomo natural-feel baby bottle - in our latest competition. Simply enter below.. and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Finding a trusted babysitter online

As a kid growing up, I loved it when my parents booked a babysitter. It usually meant a neighbour's au pair or teenage daughter coming round to play games with me all night long (well, 'til 10pm when my usual bedtime was 8.30), or someone I could innocently tell I was alllways allowed a snack right before bed.

Yet now I'm (so I'm told) a grown-up myself - and a parent of tiny man, the babysitter issue isn't so easy. Some days I even find it stressful to leave him with a friend or relative - so the idea of finding a local babysitter and inviting them into our home to look after our baby (who still wakes up a bunch of times too) is .... one reason why we don't go out in the night-time a whole lot at the moment!

But since all parents need a night out now and then (if only to remember why they picked this dude to procreate with in the first place), I was really pleased to find out about the launch of a new London-based babysitting service: KidSitter

It's a network of highly-rated, experienced sitters, who have all passed a thorough five-step vetting process. They've all had criminal record checks (DBS checks), and have had paediatric first-aid training. To book, there aren't any agency fees or bartering - you pay a simple £12 per hour. You can book as last-minute as two hours before you need a sitter, if the booking is made between 9 AM and 6 PM, on all days of the week.

And now Run Out of Womb readers in London have a chance to win a three-hour babysitting session with KidSitter - just enter below.

NB by entering this competition, your email address will be shared with Kidsitter, unless you opt out by sending your details and the words 'please don't share my info' to me via the 'contact me' form here; please note Kidsitter currently only works in London.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with KidSitter. 

Moving house with a baby: top tips

"Moving house with a baby" sounds weird. Because you're hardly gonna leave them at the old pad, right? But since moving house is supposed to be up there with Most Stressful Thing To Do, Ever, and having a young baby is no picnic either, doing them both at the same time is ... calm and relaxing, right?

Well, that's what I told myself before we moved home last week. I knew it would be busy and tiring - but I focused on Pinteresting interiors and dreaming about making a new nursery rather than, uh, the actual moving thing. 

But I've learnt! And here are my been-there, done-that, and-missed-the-sleep tips on moving house with a baby - plus a list of things to buy ahead of time if you're doing so soon.


1) Get help. You might have moved yourself in the past, but add a baby into the mix and removals firms are immediately amazing value. If you can, doing the packing yourself is a good way to cut the cost. We packed in the evenings leading up to Move Day.

2) Sort babysitting for the day. I'm still feeding tiny man but with some expressed pouches and my totally brilliant mum, he was looked after so we could get on with shlepping boxes and working out what went where.

3) Pack a 'weekend suitcase', and keep it with you. Imagine you're going away for a weekend with your baby, and put all the necessities for doing so in a suitcase. That way, even if you can't work out what your carefully-labelled boxes actually contain and have no idea where the one filled with gro-bags / sleepsuits / Calpol is, you'll have what you need for the first few days. 

4) Food - if your baby is weaned, don't forget to prepare food in advance - and probably buy some pouches too as you'll be too rushed to start pureeing new things. Keep milk supplies to hand too - and don't forget an epic stash of goodies for the grown-ups too. Gotta keep the energy levels up...

5) Get your baby's room ready first once you've got the keys to the new place. Put up their old cot, black-out blinds (see below) if there aren't any, plus any mobiles/cuddly toys/etc that they're used to. A good night's sleep for them on that first evening will mean you can crack on and avoid exhaustion too...

Moving House Shopping List

Sure, you're going to need a lot of stuff. Probably even including a trip to Ikea, ugh. But here are some things we found vital right from the start:

1) Gro Blind.

Sellers often pack up their curtains when they move - if your new pad is going to have bare windows, a black-out blind might be a vital purchase for baby zzzzzzzzzzs. We packed two Gro Anywhere Blinds - and they're epic. The blind attaches directly to the window with suction cups, you can size it to your window (as long as it's no bigger than 130cm x 198cm: if so, you'll need more than one) with Velcro, and it comes in a travel bag (we'll definitely be packing this on our next holiday and avoiding ropey-hotel-curtain-itis.) We also installed a Gro Light, which we couldn't use in our old flat and LOVE - at a flick of a switch you can go from full lights on to gentle LEDs for a night-feed: much easier than inevitably flashing the iPhone torch right in the babe's face.. again.

2) Safety stuff.

Even though you might be thinking of a gazillion things you need to buy for your house, if your baby's on the move they will be desperate to explore it too... So if you can, pack a load of safety equipment like a stair gate ready for pronto installation. We went for BabyDan's Guard Me gate - and were so impressed that we've snapped up most of their other baby-proofing items too. Post to follow!

3) Food. 

The baby's needs are covered above, but what about yours? Do an online supermarket shop to arrive the morning after you move in - and if you're in the UK, I'd recommend organising an ingredients delivery service for the first week too. In this first week, I've wanted to use every spare nap time to sort out a room of the house, not spend hours cooking - so our HelloFresh box has been fantastic. We've had goats' cheese and leek tarts one day and Penang curry the next - they've taken under half an hour, where without HelloFresh we'd have been reeeeally sick of supermarket pizzas by now. They're our moving week must-have! (And reminded me of work as I wrote about the founders here aaaages ago).

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