A day in the life..

Lips and brows secure = good to go!

Recently I was lucky enough to be chosen as an Ambassador for Lipcote & Co. Their new #LockYourLook campaign relaunching their iconic products was something that really spoke to me, as Lipcote is one of the first products I remember discovering in my mum’s make-up bag as a teenager!

As a mum and business owner, I don’t have a huge amount of time for extensive beauty regimes, so anything that makes this part of life easier is definitely a welcome addition to my cosmetics bag. I also get lots of emails about juggling life, starting a business and my approach to motherhood, so to celebrate the launch of the new Lipcote & Browcote products, I thought I’d give you a breakdown of my day, and some of the things that life for me involves. So here goes!

7am
Oscar, my gorgeous 6 year old, wakes up and comes and gets into my bed for a lovely morning snuggle. This is one of the favourite bits of my day, and we’ll watch some cartoons in bed before getting up for breakfast around 7.30am.

8am
I’m lucky that Oscar’s now old enough to get himself ready for school, so he brushes his teeth and gets dressed whilst I have a quick shower and get ready too. If I’m just doing the school run and heading back home, I’ll keep things simple make-up wise with a bit of tinted moisturiser, a hint of bronzer and groomed brows which I keep in place with a quick swish of Browcote waterproof gel.

9am
I drop Oscar at school and then take our 2 dogs to the park. We have a dachshund called Ruby and an Irish Jack Russell called Peppin who are both a year old, so they’ve got lots of energy to burn! Starting the day with a walk around the park or local woods is so much nicer than diving straight into my laptop, and it means they’ll snooze and let me work for the rest of the day.

11am
If I’ve got an event to go to, I’ll go home and whack on a bit more make-up. I’m loving Charlotte Tilbury, Trish McEvoy and Laura Mercier products at the moment, as well as my current favourite lippy which is Farandine Red from & Other Stories. I always always seal my lipstick with Lipcote, as it’s the only way my colour lasts through commuting, talking, eating and drinking – both of which there’s lots of if I’m either teaching Hypnobirthing or connecting with brands in town.

2pm
I always try and get home an hour before pick-up as I hate rushing at this point in the day. I’ll use this time to reply to emails, catch up with the people who help me run operation YESMUM and plan my Instagram posts for the week. I’ll also set aside time for developing new products and think about upcoming collaborations and any opportunities to support and empower women.

3pm
I’ll head up to school to pick up Oscar and then either take him to the playground or the skatepark on his skateboard or bike. As a mother of a 6 year old, I spend A LOT of time outside – another reason that using products that keep my make-up in place rather than having to keep touching up is such a relief.

5pm
Tea time! I’ll cook something for dinner and Oscar’s just got to the age where he likes to help me with this which is really sweet (even if it does take a bit longer..). I normally eat with him around 5.30/6pm as I hate going to bed on a full stomach.

7pm
Bath & bed for the boy! We’ll do a bit of reading, chat about the day and if he’s been good he’s allowed to watch some more cartoons. I’ve been really lucky in that he’s always been a good sleeper, so he’s normally conked out by 8pm at the latest without too much of a battle.

8pm
I try not to work in the evenings which I think is a struggle for every self-employed person. When I first set up my business I’d be up until the early hours, ploughing away, but now I’ve learnt to schedule my days better and value the importance of rest and relaxation. If I need to wrap up any loose ends/emails from the day I will, but otherwise I’ll get my comfies on, take my make-up off, light our open fire and sit in the living room with the dogs and either read or watch a film. On the nights I don’t have Oscar (he stays at his dad’s some nights too), I’ll arrange to see friends and go for dinner or out in town. It’s all about balance really, and scheduling in things like friends/exercise/rest/cooking means those things are more likely to happen rather than falling to the bottom of the list.

10pm
I know it sounds early but I’m nearly always in bed by 10pm! I really need my sleep, and because my days are so packed with so many different elements of work, I’m always ready to switch off by then. I’ll often have a bath before bed, diffuse some essential oils in my bedroom and then get into bed and read (rather than scrolling Instagram – easier said than done, I know!) before clocking up some Zzzs.

Check out the brilliant products from Lipcote & Co and read more about my involvement in the campaign at www.lipcote.com, and go say hi to them on Instagram for all the latest news at @lipcoteandco

So great to be part of Team Lipcote with the other amazing ambassadors!

Give yourself the gift of time and happiness

At this time of year I’m sure I can’t be the only one running out of steam. Every year I say I’m going to have my Christmas shopping done by October but of course it’s just over a week away from December and I haven’t bought a single thing. It’s made me realise how busy life is and how little time we just take to stop and be. So when Michelle at AdventureYogi invited me along to their Happiness Retreat a few weeks ago, I knew it would be just the thing I needed to take stock and recharge ahead of an inevitably busy period.

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Founder of AdventureYogi, Michelle King

AdventureYogi started 10 years ago, after Michelle had spent her upbringing in Venezuela and Kenya with her parents and then pursued her passion for travel in the French Alps and Japan snowboarding and living on the beach in Sardinia. Her love of healthy lifestyle, spirituality, yoga and meditation were with her since school and it seemed like the next logical step in her career to marry all of these loves into her future working life. AdventureYogi was born with SnowYogi being the first adventure in Chamonix and BeachYogi in Sardinia – the UK retreats followed. For Michelle, seeing the transformation that individuals go through on a weekend or week holiday was a reason to continue on this path. 10 years on and AdventureYogi now offer 50 retreats a year throughout the UK and abroad – maintaining the adventure side of the business with the adventure sports and activities, but now the adventure side is also seen as adventure of the spirit – how far are you willing to go to find your true inner contentment?

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A beautiful light and peaceful space for our morning and evening yoga sessions – blissful!

Now I should say here that I’m by no means a yogi, which to be honest has always held me back from booking this kind of retreat in the past. Whilst I love the meditative side of yoga, I quite literally do not bend. This means I always think I’m the worst person in the class, so not only was I pleased to find a retreat that focused on mindfulness and happiness with elements of yoga, but I was also delighted at how accessible and enjoyable the yoga classes then were, thanks to Louise, our wonderful teacher. AdventureYogi’s Happiness Retreat has been created to help us with mindfulness and the BIG question; what really makes us happy.

The retreat took place at the beautiful Poundon House in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside, yet it was so easy to access via train from London Marylebone. The notion of Happiness flowed from the moment we set foot in our home for the weekend, as we were so warmly welcomed by life coach and yoga teacher Louise Gillespie-Smith, who was always on hand to help us connect with our inner smiles. Louise has been a coach and NLP practitioner for 8 years helping people to create a life they love. She finds the embodied practice of yoga helps to calm the mind and deeply connect with what is true in your heart, and that essence absolutely shone through so authentically all weekend. The combination of yoga, silent country walks, healthy satisfying food which was so lovingly prepared and explained, journaling exercises and a happiness workshop – especially with such a nice group of women – meant you could visibly see everyone feeling uplifted and inspired over the course of the weekend.

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The amazing view from our room at Poundon House – nothing but peace and nature for miles!

Our schedule for the weekend looked something like this, and what was great was that it allowed for lots of space and free time to relax, unwind and reflect, which as a mum and someone running my own business, felt like the ultimate luxury..

8am: silent walk
8:30-10:30am: Morning yoga and meditation class
10.30am: Brunch of porridge, eggs and other interesting wholesome healthy treats
11:30-1pm: Massages and free time to read, explore and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
1pm-3pm: Saturday Happiness Workshop
3pm: Healthy afternoon lunch
3:30-5:30pm: More treatments to pamper yourself or free time
5:30-7:30pm: Evening yoga and meditation class
7:30pm: Delicious vegetarian feast

ymig_originalsOne of my favourite parts of the weekend was Saturday’s Happiness Workshop where we spent time consciously thinking about what happiness means to us, and making feeling and vision boards to focus on those things. I’ve had my board up at home since I got back, and I’ve surprised myself by how much I keep going back to it to keep my head in a good place amidst all of the distractions at this time of year. On the Saturday evening, we all shared our boards around the fire, and it was such a lovely opportunity to connect with the other women and be in the moment of good company and simple pleasures. If you’d like to give it a try, just grab some magazines and flick through to find images or words that you connect with and that make you happy. Use those and photographs or clippings from home and stick them all on an A3 piece of paper in a way that makes you smile, then keep it somewhere you can look upon it often.

If a weekend of TIME sounds like something that’s speaking to you – and when you know mama, you know – then I would highly recommend this as an opportunity to make time for YOU. The lovely people at AdventureYogi are also offering a discount to anyone who quotes YESMUMAY16 when making a booking. Their next Happiness Retreat is running in East Sussex from March 3rd-5th, but there are lots of other adventures on offer if you check out their main site at adventureyogi.com or speak to Michelle and her super friendly and helpful team by dropping them a line here. You can also follow them on Instagram at @adventureyogi and Louise at @louiseatcreate for extra inspiration.

Making sleep a priority with Drift

I work with a lot of expectant couples and new and seasoned parents alike, and one of the recurring themes is how difficult they often find it to relax and sleep well. Our lives are becoming busier all the time and with longer hours and an increasing addiction to our digital devices, healthy sleeping habits are harder than ever to achieve. Throw a baby/toddler/child into the mix and the land of nod seems to drift even further from our grip. Needless to say when the lovely folk at Drift Sleep approached me to try out one of their all-natural sleep surface mattresses (which arrives the next day in an amazingly compact reusable bag!), I was more than happy to focus on my favourite subject – SLEEP!

The Drift Sleep mattress arrives on your doorstep rolled up in a reusable bag, making it much easier to get up the stairs than your average mattress!
The Drift Sleep mattress arrives on your doorstep rolled up in a reusable bag, making it much easier to get up the stairs than your average mattress!

Culturally we are incredibly bad at relaxing aren’t we? In so many other parts of the world, rest and meditation are a part of daily life, but here it’s often something we only opt into when we feel pushed to our limits and are desperate to cling onto our final few threads of wellbeing, only to give up on our commitment a week in. I speak to a lot of people who say they haven’t got time to sleep, and I’m even guilty of that myself sometimes too. If I’ve got an overflowing inbox or a work deadline, I’ll stay up until the early hours trying to get on top of things, only to crash into bed feeling totally wired and unable to switch off anyway. I then feel so anxious about getting to sleep that I squeeze my eyes shut and wake up feeling like I’ve been trodden on. Not great when the next day is going to be just as busy.

So why are we so bad at switching off? I think a lot of people feel time-poor. They leave home in the early hours, work hard and multitask all day and get home about 12 hours after they left the house. They are then hungry and probably want to spend time with their friends or other halves, so end up scoffing down some food in front of the TV. We have such an urgent desire to “switch off” that the very act of doing so becomes frantic and tiring. We then stay up later than we should, clinging onto those precious hours of leisure time, and end up falling into bed with our to-do lists for the next day racing around our knackered minds.

For lots of us, it’s our obsession with not wanting to appear lazy that means we don’t give sleep the same priority as our waking hours. We are told by the society around us that we have to be doing all the time, but what we are neglecting to realise is that sleep is absolutely essential for our physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s no wonder that our rates of chronic diseases such as heart and kidney disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are going up all the time, when most of our body’s healing and repair work happens when we sleep. Our immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy, so if you’re constantly feeling run down and on the verge of being ill, its very likely caused by a lack of quality sleep. Sleep helps our brains function properly too. If you have trouble remembering things or feel absent-minded it’s because at night our brain does the majority of its valuable processing – helping you to digest and remember new information and improving your ability to concentrate and learn. And it goes without saying that a lack of sleep makes us moody, so our personal and professional relationships inevitably suffer too.

Having digested all of that, what’s to stop us just going to bed earlier and getting more sleep? Ah, if only it were that simple. For me, it’s a constant balancing act between recognising the importance of healthy sleep habits and accepting that our lives are busy and demanding, and then finding a way to make a few simple changes to the daily routine so that we gradually move towards an easier and happier sleep at night. Having been sleeping on my new Drift Sleep mattress for three weeks now, I’m ready to report back on how it’s impacted my sleep, along with some other little tips to positively enhance your own sleep routines.

1. Implement a bedtime routine. We do it for babies so why aren’t we doing it for ourselves? We can’t nurture others if we’re not nurturing ourselves, after all! This doesn’t mean you need to get someone to read you a bedtime story (unless that’s your thing), it’s just about doing the same things every evening so that it becomes habitual behaviour and starts triggering an association with shutting down. What I tend to do is get the smell of lavender going about 20 minutes before I get into bed, either with my favourite NEOM sleep candle or with about 4 drops of pure essential oil in 100ml of water in my new Muji aroma diffuser which has been a brilliant investment! I also like to keep a few crystals on my bedside table – amethyst is a great one (you can place it on your chest for a few minutes before you fall asleep if you want to restore balance and get an untroubled night’s sleep), as is clear quartz which helps to quieten a busy or chaotic mind. I buy my crystals from the lovely people at The Little Crystal and they sit next to my yesmum® cards which help to keep me mindful of my daily intention as I fall asleep at the end of a long day.

I always incorporate my yesmum cards into my morning and evening routine to help keep me focused on my positive intention for the day.
I always incorporate my yesmum® cards into my morning and evening routine to help keep me focused on my positive intention for the day.

2. Get fresh air during the day. A lot of people are cooped up in offices all day, then get on a packed tube and then sit in front of a TV. Try and incorporate some vitamin D and fresh air into your day by either going for a walk on your lunch break (never ever eat at your computer!) or get on/off the bus a stop early on your commute. Schedule this time into your day so that you don’t feel anxious about rushing. This stuff is supposed to help you relax, remember?

3. Avoid caffeine after lunch and have a hot drink before bed. I’d recommend something like Pukka’s night time tea, or even just a simple chamomile – teapigs do a great one!

4. Introduce essential oils. This doesn’t mean you need to start burning joss sticks all over the place – just find the simplest way to make it work for you. As mentioned above, lavender is a great oil for promoting relaxation. You could have a few drops in a warm bath before bed, burn a scented candle, apply a roll-on like this to your pulse points in the evening or use a sleep mist like this on your pillow. Another one of my favourite scents at the moment is this amazing Bay & Rosemary candle which, if you’re local to South East London, is well worth a trip to the amazing place that is The Nunhead Gardener to stock up on (amongst other things, do be warned!).

5. Detach from your digital devices. This is a big one! Turn off your digital devices at least 30 minutes before you’re going to get into bed. This means no scrolling Instagram or replying to emails once you’re in bed. Seriously, stop it. If you need your device in the bedroom because it acts as your alarm, make sure you’ve got it on airplane mode so that you’re disconnected from the online world.

6. Write a list of everything on your mind before you get into bed. This can be people you need to call, things you need to do tomorrow, appointments you need to remember, anything that’s worrying you – basically a pre-sleep brain dump. Often we wake up in the early hours worrying about this stuff so it’s a very good idea to get it our of your system before you close your eyes.

7. Focus on your breath and do some stretching before bed. I’ve found this great app called Yoga Studio. It has a great 15 minute beginner’s relaxation session which is the perfect way to wind down before getting into bed. And I am by no means a yogi. Try it.

8. Invest in a fabulous mattress! So this is the one that has only just made a big difference to my own sleep quality and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought about addressing it sooner. I’m not a particularly comfortable sleeper. I always get really hot in the night and end up in some kind of ongoing dance routine with my duvet to adjust my temperature through the night. The Drift Sleep mattress though, with its temperature-regulating wool top layer has been an absolute game changer for me. I’ve also realised that my last mattress was way too firm which was creating lots of tension in my neck and shoulders. I kept changing my pillows to try and sort this out, but since sleeping on a more medium-firm mattress my upper back has been much more free of tension. Anyway, don’t just take my word for it, you can totally try it out for yourself because the guys at Drift offer a 100 Night Trial where they’ll give you a full refund (and pick up your mattress for free) if you’re not happy, AND they’re offering a lovely £50 off any new mattress when you enter code DRIFT£50NOV16 at checkout. Well worth a go in my well-rested opinion.

Oscar and our new little Dachshund pup Ruby give the Drift Sleep mattress a big thumbs/paws up!
Oscar and our new little Dachshund pup Ruby give the Drift Sleep mattress a big thumbs/paws up!

Good luck, write down your plan and be strict with yourself. If you give it as much commitment as you do your work, you will definitely feel a welcome improvement in all areas of your life. And enjoy, you deserve it.

Making back to school a breeze

With our feet firmly in September and the Back to School brigade imminent, I’ve put some thoughts together on taking a mindful approach to what can be a potentially daunting time for the smalls and us alike! After all, being a kid isn’t easy and often the conditioning and beliefs we absorb as children manifest into the emotional baggage we lug around as adults. Negative messages from parents, teachers and other adults (even well-meaning ones) can sow the seeds for false beliefs and self-doubt. Messages like “don’t be upset” or “you mustn’t cry” discredit the difficult emotions that are a normal part of our human experience, and install the message in our children that only happy emotions are welcome or even valid.

Click to enlargeHow often do you find yourself distracting your child when they’re upset about something, or try to cheer them up when they are struggling with a feeling that you find too difficult to connect with? Even though as parents we try our best to offer our children emotional security and availability, it’s frequently tripped up by the fact that we may have not had that modelled in our own childhood, making it harder to implement now that it’s our turn.

One of the reasons I created my kids range of yesmum® cards was to introduce the benefit of affirmations at an early age, so that the use of positive language and emotional mindfulness becomes a normal part of daily life. The cards offer a quick, straightforward way for your child to access the power of positive programming and start each day with strength and self-assurance; building empathy, resilience and compassion (for themselves and towards others) along the way.

YMIG_human8The idea would be to place the pack on their bedside table and encourage them to turn a new card over each morning, read aloud five times and embrace for the rest of their day. Alternatively, keep the pack on the breakfast table to inspire a discussion about everyone’s feelings as the day kicks off.

The idea is to offer a quick, straightforward way for your child to access the power of positive programming and start each day with strength and self-assurance

For younger children, you could explain that they are cards for strength, and that if they say them often enough they’ll have the power to become true. For older children they can be used for specific issues, so if they’re having a hard time learning a new skill or with homework, pick out “I can do difficult things” and encourage them to recite it until they feel more capable and calm.

A simple habit of positive thoughts will help establish a happy mindset, and this will directly affect the way your child experiences the world around them. The more they tell themselves something, the more they will believe it, and ultimately the more they will live by it.

I’ve picked out five of my favourite cards and talked a little about the message behind them…

Yes_1606_small“I am a good friend to myself and others”
This card promotes self love and appreciation at the heart of other relationships. In order to give the best of ourselves to others, it’s so important that we learn to nurture ourselves first.

When we feel loved and accepted by ourselves, we can offer that love to those around us, and whilst this could prove a tricky concept to explain to kids, asking what a good friend is and then encouraging them to apply it to themselves is a great place to start.

Of course it’s important that we model that for them, too, so instead of saying yes to everyone at our own expense, it’s important to demonstrate healthy boundaries and a loving routine and example of self-care.

Yes_1608_small“I don’t need to copy others because I enjoy being myself”
Thanks to the advertising we’re surrounded by, the idea of following the crowd and fitting in is rife in Western culture from an early age, and I think originality and authenticity are really wonderful traits to nurture in our children.

Identifying what’s different between themselves and their peers can be just as empowering and enlightening as noting similarities. What do they bring to the party that makes them unique, special and an asset to their peers?

“I am a winner”
Because what kid isn’t, right? Encourage your child to think about what they’re the best at and don’t underestimate the power of you child saying this out loud to themselves. It could be telling jokes, giving cuddles, making the tastiest cakes or doing killer cartwheels – never be afraid to praise them for being GREAT.

Yes_1673_small“It’s okay for me to say how I feel”
I think this is one of my favourite affirmations. So often we see happiness being encouraged and sadness being brushed under the carpet or distracted from, and I think as parents we need to be really mindful of not going down this route, even if it’s what we had modelled by our parents.

Nurturing and helping your child to articulate difficult feelings like anger, sadness, frustration and confusion means you’re providing a safe arena in which these feelings can sit and be shared, rather than your child having to keep them all to themselves. When children share feelings of vulnerability with us, we have the opportunity to help them navigate the trickier emotions of being human, and what a wonderfully empowering gift that is to our children.

Yes_1628_small“I am good at lots of things”
One thing I’ve experienced with my own son is his frustration when he doesn’t understand or achieve something with ease. When he gets fixated on what he can’t do, I encourage him to think about all the things he’s really good at and we make a list.

I think talking about and writing down a list of their skills and talents is a great way to tangibly promote self-esteem and also to help them realise that the things they’re now good at took practice and patience on their part.”

With our yesmum® MINI range ideal for children aged 4–14, we’ve also just released a yesmum® STUDENT range which are designed especially for those venturing into further education, aged 16+. For 24 hours only you can get 20% off both of these ranges when you quote BACKTOSCHOOL at checkout. Hurry though, the coupon expires at midnight tomorrow!

Follow our yesmum® adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to be the first to find out about latest offers.

Father’s Day finds for daddy cool

I haven’t actually written anything since my Mother’s Day gift guide (oops), but what better reason to make a return than to make sure we get the Daddy cools sorted in time for Father’s Day? You have just under a week to get the kids’ handmade/glitter/pipecleaner stuff together (it’s next Sunday, 19th June), but in the meantime here are some actual nice bits I’ve found that offer a pleasant alternative to the annual sock/pant unwrapping.

weekender-fairfield-full-size-_black_-1Papa time
So first up we have these great Timex watches. They’re cool, relatively hard-wearing and they’re pretty reasonable as watches go. What’s more you’ll get 15% off your first order when you subscribe to their newsletter. This one is the Timex Weekender Fairfield and is £59.99, but there’s a great selection over on the website and plenty for under £50 too. If you’re looking for a pricier timepiece, check out Mondaine and Uniform Wares, both super cool and minimalist in design, and both available at Liberty London.

 

yesmumPOPS

Mindfulness for men
Following the success of my yesmum positive affirmation cards for mothers and kids, I decided to create a range specifically designed for fathers. Being a dad isn’t easy and these yesmumPOPS cards (£10.50) offer a quick, straightforward way to access the power of positive programming and start each day of fatherhood with strength and self-assurance. The School of Life is also a great place to check out. They run loads of thought-provoking workshops around developing emotional intelligence, or this Night Thoughts book (£15) is brill and promotes their philosophy of Writing as Therapy.

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Southwood Stores selection
For the man who has everything, I’m pretty confident you’ll find something excellent at the Southwood Stores online store. I love this Completely Devoted print (£25 or £55 depending on size), these Gangster Pencils (£5), and this gorgeous hand-carved Bark Board (£22.95) if your pops is a king in the kitchen. Oh and these Bernard & Samuel egg cups (£10) deserve a big thumbs up for the bearded ones too!

 

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Hey hey for HAY
I’m a big fan of HAY. They make amazing interior products and all of their Danish designs are quite frankly a thing of beauty. Take these playing cards which are super sleek, some posh pencils or this Pieces n Play Set for the doodle/domino-loving dad in your life. Their stationery selection genuinely gets my pulse racing, so if dad’s that way inclined you could check out their Perforated Calendar or the delightfully named Pinorama for dads with desks. If you’re a design obsessive and haven’t stumbled upon HAY yet, then you’re welcome.

 

Dad bags
Every dad needs a bag big enough for baby stuff, and the Tiba & Marl girls have nailed it once again with this unisex black Elwood backpack. It’s £120 but you’ll get to share it so that’s a bonus. Crafted from tumbled black faux leather for a luxurious finish, this backpack is large enough to fit most laptops and doubles up perfectly as a work bag, gym bag or carry-on bag. Norse Projects have a great selection of dad bags, tablet cases, pouches and accessories too.

 

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Aesop forever
Anyone who knows me know I have a bit of an Aesop obsession. Their products are SO good, amazing on the skin (and aesthetically mega-pleasing). Maybe it’s time to let dad in on the goods with some of their shaving products, or their miracle APC Post-Poo Drops (£20) – yes really it’s a thing. As they so eloquently put it, “after vigorous activity has occurred in the bathroom, Post-Poo Drops’ crisp citrus peel notes – fortified with rich floral elements – effectively neutralise disagreeable smells.” Genius.

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Dad merch
Molly Gunn’s brilliant charity MOTHER sweatshirts have totally taken the mum world by storm, and now dads can get a piece of the action too. Check out her PAPA sweatshirt, which is £45 (and all profits from sales of PAPA designs go to Prostate Cancer UK). This Breaking Dad one (£40) from the lovely crew over at Parent Apparel is great, and they have a fun selection of tees and DadAss pin badges (£6) too.

 

 

Steamed-LobsterFather’s day fish
This may sound like a slightly obscure one, but the men in my family are massive fish fans, so when I’ve bought them fish boxes from The Cornish Fishmonger in the past they’ve been very well received! Their Cornish Seafood Selection Box is £46.95 and will normally include a dozen cleaned king scallops or 500g clams, local black mussels, oily fish fillets, filleted flat fish and white fish fillets. All the seafood will be delivered to their door fully cooled and prepared and ready to enjoy. They also deliver oyster boxes, cookbooks and gift vouchers if you can’t quite decide.

 

delayedgratificationPaper perfection
I bought my husband this publication a couple of years ago and I’m a big fan. Delayed Gratification is the world’s first Slow Journalism magazine. It’s a beautiful printed quarterly publication “which revisits the events of the previous three months to see what happened after the dust settled and the news agenda moved on”. It’s £36 for an annual subscription. There’s also a brilliant book called Letters of Note (£20) which is “a collection of over one hundred of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters. From Virginia Woolf’s heart-breaking suicide letter, to the first recorded use of the expression ‘OMG’ in a letter to Winston Churchill, Letters of Note is a celebration of the power of written correspondence which captures the humour, seriousness, sadness and brilliance that make up all of our lives”.

Here’s wishing all the papas an excellent Father’s Day. You rule! x

Mother’s Day must-haves for the modern mama

So I’m not entirely sure where Mother’s Day snuck up from this year, but with only a week to go it’s time to get your thinking caps on if you want to get the mama in your life something impressive. When buying your Mother’s Day gift, remember to keep the recipient in mind and don’t get lured into the balloons and bouquets trap like a sucker. There are at least 10 things every modern mama would prefer, and for what it’s worth, here’s my low down.

Mother_3001_003_grandeCook books got cool
Gone are the days of dinner parties with Delia, now every modern mama wants to nurture herself from the inside out, and there’s no better way to do it than with the gorgeous Hemsley sisters. Their new book Good + Simple (£12) is definitely on my wish list, and is out now. If you want to push the boat out, why not get her a spiralizer too? Nothing says I love you like courgetti.

If she hates cooking but loves books, then check out One Day Young, Hey Natalie Jean, How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing your Cool or The Mother Book. They all get a big thumbs up from me!

Mama garb
I’m sorry but there’s no denying my love affair for all things Selfish Mother. Her iconic Mother sweathshirts are loved by celebs and mortals alike, and profits from the new range of Winging It tees (£30) go to KIDS CHARITY UK, who do amazing work with disabled children and their families. What’s not to love? Parent Apparel also do some cool mama sweats, as do Gray by Southwood Stores.

10268965_1711355902418801_196803763_nCandles are always a good idea
Before I had kids I always wondered why people bought each other candles. Now I understand. Candles are a mother’s chance to rekindle a tiny sense of calm and tranquility in what is normally a madhouse. I genuinely can’t get enough of beautiful candles these days. My favourites are Om Candle Co’s Strength & Rest candles (which are a bargain at £10 a pop), Diptyque’s Tubereuse (£20/£40) and NEOM Organics Happiness candle (£30).

Face savers
Speaking of things you didn’t appreciate before becoming a mother – let’s talk about the must-haves that are face savers! Things that miraculously cover bags and brighten complexions – that’s the sort of thing we need on our side. My can’t-live-withouts include Clarins Beauty Flash Balm (£29), YSL touche éclat (£25) and Aesop anti-oxidant eye cream (not cheap at £59 but literally the product of dreams).

a-lovely-little-company-A4-light-box-1A little lovely light box
Now this I love. A Dutch made A4 light box (£30) which you can write your own messages on using the characters enclosed. I was kindly sent one of these from the lovely crew at Yellow Lolly (everything on their site is awesome) and it looks so effective in our living room, plus it’s LED so doesn’t generate much heat, meaning you could just as happily keep it in your kid’s room too. Leave mum a little message to wake up to on Mother’s Day – preferably one that says “stay in bed” for extra brownie points.

HPStationery got sexy
I don’t know about you but I’m a first class sucker for stationery, and these Happiness Planners (£35) are the ultimate in paper positivity. Alternatively, check out this awesome Anya Hindmarch pencil case (£140), a more tongue-in-cheek “people I want to punch in the face” notebook (£11.99), or pretty much anything from one of my favourite shops – Present & Correct.

bloomon-winactieFlowers got wild
I know I said to steer clear of bouquets, but there are a couple of exceptions to the rule! Basically, don’t buy an extravagant bunch of different flowers and colours – less is most definitely more when it comes to blooms, so if you want to go traditional posy but don’t have any idea what to pick, avoid Interflora and go with someone trusty like The Fresh Flower Company or JamJar Flowers and you won’t go wrong. Alternatively, I’ve just discovered Bloomon who deliver beautiful wild flowers to your lucky recipient as often as you like (weekly, monthly, you name it!) – these ones are definitely on my wish list. Go check out their ethos – they’re awesome!

Care-Essentials-Pacakage-300x200Hayfever hero
If flowers aren’t mum’s bag or if you’re short on time/creativity, then look no further than Don’t Buy Her Flowers. Mums work hard, so the gorgeous Steph at DBHF wants them to know just how much they’re appreciated and loved. Gorgeous products that have been thoughtfully put together, with options so each package can be tailored for the recipient. All of their packages are gift wrapped and £1 from every Mother’s Day gift will go to charity Kicks Count and I should add that you can now add a pack of my yesmum affirmation cards (original or to-be) to any Mother’s Day gift box. Huzzah!

d0bd29d518d0790fd8501a195c5a15ebJewels for your queen
If the mamas I know are anything to go by, some sweet jewels are going to be well received on Mother’s Day! My favourites are Cult of Youth’s Mama chain (£35), these gorgeous hallmarked Irish Coin charms by Katie Mullally (from £50), or get personal with an iconic gold name necklace by Anna Lou of London (£58).

FullSizeRender2The wild cards
So just for good measure I’m throwing in these wild cards. First up we’ve got pretty much anything from the amazing Mére Soeur online shop. This is a fine example of an awesome woman making awesome products for awesome mamas. I couldn’t be a bigger fan!

Q6FBC_WHITE_1Then we have these brilliant statement tees by Katharine Hamnett x YMC (£50). Instantly recognisable, Hamnett’s high impact slogan t-shirts were first created in the early 80s as a simple medium to convey an important message – a sartorial call to arms. A cultural marker of the times, her t-shirts have reached cult status worldwide. Utilising environmentally friendly ink, the t-shirts are ethically made in India from white sustainable, certified organic cotton. Love.

There you have it – you now have no excuse not to get the mama in your life something gorgeous this Mother’s Day, and if in doubt, a lie-in and breakfast in bed is always a good place to start! Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mamas out there – you are all doing the best job ever, and if it’s a 10 minute recharge you’re looking for, check out the new Relax & Recharge MP3 in my shop.

 

Vulnerability and authenticity from a Maverick Mum

So I’ve recently been asked by the lovely folk over at Not On The High Street to write a feature about being a Maverick Mum and share my experience of doing motherhood my own way – part of their campaign to change the cookie cutter image of motherhood often portrayed in the media. The trouble is, it came at a time when I am feeling in no way maverick, and not entirely sure that doing things my way is working particularly well.

I am going through a patch of pretty rough health and re-evaluating whether I’m doing anything well enough, so my initial thought was to turn down the opportunity. But then I thought, why? Should I only speak up if I’m feeling chipper about life? If I have something inspiring or uplifting to share? If I’m promoting something I do successfully? What message does that send out to other women? Basically the one that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis – that as mums we have to hold it all together, please everyone and look super cool and happy in the process. So what I’m doing now is my last piece of writing before I take two weeks off to get myself back to good health and figure out how to tweak a few things for a better work/life balance.

When I became a mum I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t ready. None of my mates had kids and I found myself thrown into this world of full-throttle change and overwhelming responsibility. Luckily I stumbled across hypnobirthing when I was pregnant, and it was a game changer for me. I was scared about birth and about becoming a mother, but hypnobirthing meant I felt so well supported by my husband and equipped with the tools I needed to start bringing together my mental and physical capabilities rather than leaving them to function independently. Despite planning a home water birth, my unplanned caesarean was one of the most positive and empowering experiences of my life. It taught me that the ability to calmly navigate difficult circumstances with confidence was worth way more than things always going to plan – a great life lesson for this Maverick Mum.

Knowing there was more to this hypnobirthing lark than was being promoted at the time, I decided it was something I wanted to introduce to other women in a more accessible/less hoo-hah way. I quit my job whilst on maternity leave (because going back to my old job part time wasn’t an option) and retrained to become a hypnobirthing practitioner. I launched London Hypnobirthing in 2011, teaching couples in my home. Although I would get really nervous before teaching when I started out, I gradually got more confident and realised that this was exactly what I was meant to be doing. I loved it, the couples loved it, they were having great births and I was feeling wonderful about making such a positive contribution to people’s lives. Fast forward five years and I’ve organically built one of the UK’s most successful hypnobirthing practices and been lucky enough to work with some high profile celebrities and influential brands to start changing the face of birth and motherhood in the UK.

YMIG21And then last year, my yesmum cards were born! These positive affirmation cards are adapted from an idea I had been using in my work with pregnant women. I would encourage them to surround themselves with positive statements about birth in order to reprogram the subconscious mind to recognise birth as a safe event, rather than something to fear. Changing the way you think about something inevitably changes the way you experience it, so I decided to create affirmation cards for new mums that had enjoyed using the technique on my course. To be honest I thought I’d sell a few packs to people I’d worked with, but the response was completely overwhelming and it had clearly tapped in to something mums don’t hear enough – that they’re doing a great job. Hop forward 8 months and there are now 5 different ranges that get shipped daily to every continent – all marketed exclusively and organically through my Instagram page.

shutterstock_98631656Now obviously Instagram has been great for me business-wise, but social media platforms don’t come without their woes. When you find yourself deliriously scrolling through beautiful feeds of non-Cheerio-encrusted kids, a Le Creuset on the stove and a Macbook open, you can’t help but think “cripes, she’s doing it all and I should be too”. What you must remember though is that this is the digital equivalent of the photo of the woman laughing whilst eating a salad. It’s not real, and for every perfect shot there are 30 that are too “real life” to make the grade – where the kid is being bribed for a smile, where all the Peppa Pig yoghurts spontaneously launch out of the fridge, where mulitcoloured pieces of crap are flying around like a PlayDoh hurricane and someone’s crying because their Action Man fell down the toilet. I think it’s all too easy to get sucked into this world where everyone’s an instamum or a mumboss with a blog and a business and a brick wall, and I think we’re at real risk of succumbing to the belief that this is what we need to be happy, because it’s simply not true.

So what I’m suggesting is this: slow the devil down. You do not have to do it all, you do not have to do the same as anyone else and you do not have to be busy all the time. You don’t have to be witty or funny or stylish or cool or a domestic goddess. You don’t have to have a tidy house or a business or a blog or even a bloody Instagram account. All you need to do is find your way. Stop comparing yourself to other people and trying to make your life look more like theirs. Just focus on your own game – your kid, your family, your dreams. Whatever you want to do – go back to work, be a full-time mum, volunteer, make stuff, write, sing, wonder – that’s what you should do, and the only way you’ll know is by letting it come to you when the time is right, and by getting in touch with what you feel. If you’re running around at 100mph trying to keep up with everyone else’s game, you’re going to fall flat on your face and feel constantly consumed with frustration that things aren’t fitting together for you. But when the fit’s right it just happens, and that is truly magical.

So those are my Maverick Mum meanderings for what they’re worth, and that’s exactly what I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks getting back in tune with for myself. I love my business, I love social media, but right now I know I want more quality time with Oscar and my husband, a bit less pressure to please everyone and keep the plates spinning so quickly, and ultimately, my health back. I invite you to think about it with me. Resist the temptation of comparing yourself to the woman next to you. Stop the glorification of busy. Remember you are doing a great job and you are exactly what your child needs. Find, believe and love yourself hard. The rest will fall into place – it always does.

If you fancy winning £500 of lovely notonthehighstreet.com vouchers head on over to Instagram with your favourite mum snap (whether it relates to your mum, or your experiences raising your own children) and tell @NOTHS about a time one of you went completely #MaverickMum.

So long sickness! Six natural remedies for nausea and fatigue.

I’m going to cut to the chase: Morning sickness sucks. I work with so many women who contact me early in their pregnancy, excited about the journey ahead but miserable at the hands of that horrible nausea that often occupies the first trimester. With women wanting to avoid medical intervention wherever possible, I’m often asked for natural remedies for morning sickness, and I thought I’d share what I’ve come up with.

Despite its name, morning sickness can strike at any time of day, and it’s sometimes just the constant nagging of nausea rather than anything productive. Although it can be totally miserable, remember that this is the manifestation of your body and hormones adapting to pregnancy, and it’s likely to lessen (or hopefully disappear!) after the first 12 weeks or so. Whilst some women report no nausea, around 80% do, so for a start you’re not alone! Of these women, severity of sickness varies from moments of nausea to full on hyperemesis gravidarum (HD) which requires specialist treatment that I won’t be talking about here.

So if you’ve just found out that you’re expecting and you’re feeling a bit ropey, be pro-active early and start implementing some of these natural remedies to make those first few months as comfortable, enjoyable, and sick-free as possible!

Magnesium

When I teach hypnobirthing, I talk a lot about negative emotional cycles and adrenaline (fear-tension-pain), so I was really interested to read how our stressor hormone – cortisol – is linked to nausea in its very own cycle. One of the main functions of cortisol is to increase blood sugar and when we’re producing excess cortisol due to stress or low energy levels, it responds by taking your blood sugar through huge spikes and crashes, which then results in fatigue and nausea, feeding straight back in to the feeling of stress. So we feel sick as the body adjusts to pregnancy, the sickness makes us stressed and fatigued, our cortisol levels creep up and create more feelings of nausea and stress.

5415_Pregnancy_Supplement_Large_1Now normally, magnesium balances our cortisol levels by filtering excess levels from our blood stream. Sometimes though, the hormones we produce when we’re pregnant inhibit our ability to absorb magnesium efficiently, so the high cortisol levels remain in our blood and and this then triggers the vicious cycle I’ve just explained above.

To combat this you can up your magnesium intake before you conceive, or if it’s too late for that, add magnesium to your daily routine now that you’re pregnant. Ideally you want to use a magnesium spray like this one, as oral absorption remains difficult in pregnancy. Simply apply 5-10 sprays in the morning and evening and rub into the skin. Alternatively you could use magnesium flakes like this to make a bath or foot soak, and if you do want to opt for an oral dose too, something like this Super Nutrient Pregnancy Supplement could be a good bet.

Travel bands

2pcs-Anti-Nausea-Morning-Sickness-Sick-Wrist-Bands-For-Travel-Car-Sea-Plane-Anti-Nausea-WristbandsNot just for motion-sick coach-trip fanatics, these snazzy travel bands can actually help with morning sickness and nausea symptoms. They work using acupressure points on the wrist by restoring the balance of negative (Yin) and positive (Yang) ions in the body. You simply pop a band on each wrist with the button placed face downwards over the Nei Kuan point. To find the Nei Kuan point (it’s important that you do), place your middle three fingers on the inside of each wrist with the edge of the third finger on the first wrist crease. The correct point is just under the edge of your index finger between the two central tendons. With no negative side effects, it’s probably worth a shot if you ask me, and quite handy to keep hold of if your child goes on to develop travel sickness.

Alternative therapies

I’ve worked with lots of mums who’ve used acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology to help ease the symptoms of fatigue and nausea in early pregnancy. Make sure you find a therapist who is qualified and insured in maternity treatments (check out my team page if you’re London-based) and you’ll definitely enjoy the relaxing benefits of these treatments, hopefully alongside an ease in your sickness and fatigue. Reflexology in particular will help to stimulate the pancreas reflex to help balance your blood sugar and reduce those pesky cortisol spikes mentioned above.

Peppermint

Three_mint_on_whitePeppermint is very safe to use in pregnancy, and has a calming and numbing effect which instantly relaxes your stomach muscles. I absolutely love Pukka’s Three Mint tea – it’s sweet and refreshing rather than bitter and makes a great alternative to caffeine during pregnancy. If you’re not a fan of drinking it, you could use the essential oil by burning it around the house, adding a few drops to a bath, or inhaling from a handkerchief that you keep on you throughout the day.

If you’re not a peppermint fan, lemon is an effective alternative, and a good tip I came across was to keep some lemon wedges cut up in the freezer, and then pull one out to nibble on whenever nausea calls.

Ginger

F39Another great natural remedy for morning sickness and nausea is simple ginger. Ginger has long been used for stomach related discomfort and again, is a very safe option for pregnancy. You’ve probably thought about drinking it in tea form (handy to keep at work and as a replacement for caffeine) or nibbling ginger biscuit, but my favourite idea is to knock up some candied ginger. Not only will it help keep your blood sugar levels up when you may not feel like eating much, but it tastes delicious and feels like a bit of a treat! The Daring Gourmet has a great recipe over here. You could keep a little pot in your handbag so that you always have a tasty remedy with you that you can call on at a moment’s notice.

Relaxation

With all we know about the link between cortisol levels and symptoms of nausea and fatigue, it makes sense to me that relaxation plays a big part in feeling well in early pregnancy. Because you won’t look pregnant at this point, it’s very easy to forget about all the hard work going on in your body behind the scenes. Add to the mix that you probably haven’t told many people your news, it’s tempting to just carry on as normal, but that can be at the cost of your emotional and physical wellbeing. If you’re pushing yourself too hard, your stressor hormones will spike (yep, that’s the coritsol again) and remember that this leads to increased feelings of nausea and fatigue. One of the best things you can do to combat this is to listen and respond to your body’s needs. This means getting lots of rest wherever you can (think early nights and weekend naps!) and using a relaxation aid such as my guided relaxation for pregnancy MP3 which will help you to physically and mentally relax on a very deep level, leading to a reduction in cortisol and an enhanced feeling of wellness.

shutterstock_174520502I do hope this has given you some helpful ideas for combating morning sickness and nausea in early pregnancy, and if you have any other tips and tricks that have worked for you, please leave them in the comments below! Remember that your body is working really hard, and it’s essential that you listen and respond to its important messages. You’re going to need to do this for the rest of your pregnancy, and into motherhood, so it’s good to get practicing now.

Culturally we are obsessed with doing, and it’s important to remember that sometimes there’s just as much value in not.

10 new mum gifts that are awesome (and don’t die)..

shutterstock_212125591The transition into motherhood can be a daunting one, and I think culturally our focus tends to be on the new life of the baby rather than the changing life of the woman who’s just emptied her womb. And that’s understandable right? Babies are so cute and squishy and fresh and tiny. Their lives are ones to be showered and celebrated. They are so easy to adorn. New mothers are different. New mothers are powerful and vulnerable and open and raw. Their lives have changed irreversibly in a matter of moments and how do we cope with this in society? We encourage them to return to normality as soon as possible, for all our sakes. To get their bodies back, to go back to their old jobs, to keep doing the things they did before they grew the babies. To make as little fuss as possible Why? Because it’s easier for us that way. It’s easier for us to not address the life-changing art of becoming a mother, and to nurture her through the intimidating physical and emotional challenges it brings.

I am writing this blog post because I work with pregnant women and new mothers every day. I see them preparing for their births studiously – taking all the classes, breathing all the breaths, buying all the stuff. And then I see them become mothers and I see them change. I see them trying to cling onto who they were before. I see them holding back tears because they can’t bear to reveal vulnerability as if it were the plague. I see them doing whatever they can to keep one foot in the shoes they used to wear. I know because I did all that too. It’s survival. It’s primal, it’s raw, it’s fueled by love and often by fear. It’s crazy and it’s amazing all in one moment, and I reckon it needs to be acknowledged by us all a bit more bravely.

One of my good friends has just given birth and I am committed to letting her know we’ve got her back. When people have babies we buy cute stuff and take it round and cuddle them and leave, and I want this to serve as a reminder to nurture the mothers around us – the motherhood, the sisterhood. When your friend has a baby, think about her – about the woman she’s become – the part of her spirit she’s left behind – the new parts she’s scared to embrace – and let her know it’s okay. With this in mind I have put together a little list of thoughtful gifts you could take for her, rather than the baby and rather than a plant/flowers/something else to look after. They might not be things you’ve thought of before, because they are collated to encourage a new mother to “don’t” rather than “do”. To sit back and take it slow, to transition into motherhood gradually, one moment at a time, with tons of goodness and mindful rest that is quite frankly essential to getting your head around this new job spec. I am telling you now she will love you for it.

product_54Food, food, and food

Everyone’s heard (or given) the “fill up your freezer” line, but how many of us really do it? Similarly, you’ll have probably heard that taking round a hearty meal to new parents in exchange for baby cuddles is good etiquette. Now that’s all well and good, and definitely do it if you can, but what if you’re a ghastly cook? Disappointment/poisoning is not what we’re going for here, so COOK has your answer! Buy the new parents a COOK voucher for a delicious home cooked meal that can be delivered to (almost) any kitchen nationwide! If the new mama you’re buying for is breastfeeding, you could also check out the amazing BooB Smoothies which help promote the production of breast milk and are available for delivery.

FullSizeRender3Pretty printed positivity

When you’ve just had a baby it can be easy for your house to become a muslin/mitten factory overnight, so what about getting mum something that makes her feel good and is nice to look at on the days she’s stuck in the house because everyone keeps pooing/crying? I adore these prints by the talented Becki Clark – if you drop her a line you can even ask her for a custom print that’s made especially with the new mum in mind. For bonus points, get it framed so that mum doesn’t have to! If you’re creative you could even make something yourself. Handmade gifts always seem more special now that Amazon Prime exists!

401-2000902-1101101_MNice smells and stuff

I’m not going to lie, the first weeks of motherhood contain an enormous amount of milk, poo and sick. It can smell a bit rank. So why not treat mum to some niceness that’s going to help make her nest smell amazing and promote a sense of peace and calm? NEOM is one of my favourite brands and they have wellbeing ranges that include scents to sleep, instantly de-stress, boost energy, make you happy, and calm & relax – erm, all of the above anyone? I love their Cocoon Yourself candle which is an amazing blend of mandarin, ylang ylang and chamomile, AND it’s almost half price in their sale at the moment. I’m also a big fan of this Badger Balm which is great for upping mum’s chances of a good night’s sleep, even when the odds are against her.

YMIG21Mindfulness materials

Obviously I’m a big advocate of mindfulness for mothers and that’s why I designed my YESMUM cards – positive affirmation cards that use mindfulness and positive programming techniques to help adjust mindset and strengthen emotional wellbeing. There are 31 cards in a pack, so mum keeps them on her bedside table, turns over a new card each morning, reads aloud and embraces for the rest of her day. Each card serves as a reminder that she’s doing a great job and encourages her to ditch the guilt and anxiety-breeding comparisons. Another nice idea is buying the new mama a little journal and some nice pens so that she can stop worrying about sleep-deprivation-induced forgetfulness! The Happiness Planner have some gorgeous products that fit the bill perfectly.

CRO_Electronics_Amazon_Fire_Stick_10-14TV on tap

Just to prove I’m not an anti-tech pocket-watch wielding hippy, why not get mum something she can enjoy during endless hours of breastfeeding? I remember watching countless episodes of Desperate Housewives on my phone in the middle of the night. If only Netflix had existed five years ago! Imagine how happy your mate would be if you bought her an Amazon Fire Stick so that she could literally pop the laptop on (in whichever room she’s in!) and watch whatever she likes without having to subscribe/search/buffer/plug in loads of wires. And it’s only £35 which is what you’d probably spend on flowers. Much better value IMO. Failing that, buy her a box set.

Justified jewels

mama_chain_in_silver_silverI’m pretty sure there was a time when men used to buy their wives a piece of bling after birth, but apparently that doesn’t happen any more. Every woman loves receiving jewellery though right? It’s just for her and acts as a tangible reminder of someone’s feelings towards her. In that case, why not take the new mama something gorgeous like one of Cult of Youth’s mega MAMA chains? They are available in silver, gold and rose gold, and you can pick from Mother, Mama or even her little one’s name. Made by a mama too, so that makes it even better in my book. Also gorgeous are the semi-precious stone necklaces by Wanderlustlife, all handmade in the UK, or if the pal in question had her baby some months ago, you should check out Lara and Ollie who make really cool teething necklaces for mums to wear and babies to chew! Epic idea right?

HMP_hackney_Cover_INTERNATIONAL_1024x1024Books that aren’t just about babies

I never really get the “what to expect” baby books, because the whole point surely is that you have no idea what to expect, and no one does. Babies aren’t robots and aren’t programmable to perform to a book’s milestones and schedules, however much our culture tries to enforce it. So let’s leave mama to use her trusty instinct when it comes to her baby, and instead buy her something to read about the sisterhood of new mothers. Three of my favourite books for new mums (that aren’t preachy and share personal and thoughtful insight) are Hey Natalie Jean by Natalie Holbrook, How to be a Hip Mama Without Losing Your Cool by founder of Mothers Meeting, Jenny Scott, and of course, One Day Young by photographer (and mama) extraordinaire, Jenny Lewis. If she’s more of a news fiend, she might find that life with a newborn leaves her constantly feeling on the back foot of current affairs, in which case buy her (or subscribe her to if you’re feeling generous!) Delayed Gratification – a news publication that waits for three months to pass before returning to the news, picking out what really mattered and returning to events with the benefit of hindsight. It’s really pretty excellent.

eK0coyyvTZSHte6DAiQV_ImperfectionPot-1_grandeThe Imperfection Pot

This is genuinely one of the most lovely things I’ve come across! Designed by Adam Buick for The School of Life, The Imperfection Pot is a simple ceramic pot that serves as a reminder to be mindful. Inspired by the Japanese tradition of wabi sabi, which finds beauty in humble, imperfect and easily overlooked places, it was made with a free hand which has resulted in the appearance of subtle flaws. Rather than ruin it, these imperfections are the key to its charm. They encapsulate – and promote more widely in life – an attitude of generosity and acceptance. It is designed to help us in the tricky but necessary task of accepting and even learning to appreciate our imperfections – as well as the flaws of others. It provides a counter to our yearning for perfection, which can be relentless, and is something to turn to for support and inspiration when our unreasonably high expectations of ourselves and those around us threaten to get out of control.

FullSizeRender2Unashamed mother merchandise

Motherhood might be a tough gig at times, but it’s also pretty damn amazing. It’s certainly the best club I’ve ever belonged to, so why not remind mum that this is not the end with some all-out unashamed mother merchandise? There’s plenty out there, but my favourites by a mile are the excellent goods by Mère Soeur – this travel mug would be perfect on those first pram-pushing park walks, especially combined with this TeaPigs Fennel & Liquorice tea which is caffeine free and perfect for milk-making mamas. There’s also the awesome apparel by Selfish Mother (you must’ve seen plenty of celebs sporting the famous Mother tee right?). Not only are her tees and tops super cool, but all profits from sales of Mother designs go to Women for Women International – an amazing charity that helps women in 8 war-torn regions rebuild their lives through training programmes.

Care-Essentials-Pacakage-300x200The ultimate box of treats

If you just can’t decide what to go for, then Don’t Buy Her Flowers is TOTALLY your answer! DBHF is the brainchild of my talented friend Steph and offers thoughtful gift boxes for new mums. The idea being that however lovely it is to receive flowers, it’s basically something else to look after, which isn’t massively ideal when you’ve just had a baby and inevitably run out of vases. Imagine opening the door to this lovely lot! Her packages start from £17.50 and include all sorts of loveliness, from magazines to Moet (and all that’s in between).

FLORENCE_KILNER_JARNow just to clarify, I’m not against flowers. I mean who doesn’t love getting posies from the postman? But maybe gift them a few months down the line when the stem-bearing visitors have dwindled and your pal needs that happy reminder that she hasn’t been forgotten. Even better, check out JamJar Flowers and Edie Rose whose beautiful blooms come prearranged, meaning all mum has to do is smell and smile.


…And as a little bonus idea for my London mamas, why not book your mum mate a reflexology session with mobile therapist Hannah, a postnatal massage (which she can take her baby to!) with Beccy or a family photoshoot with the mega talented Emily Gray Photography. You’ll be in the top mates book for a long time to come.

Independent Midwives – unnecessary indulgence or an unparalleled investment in Motherhood?

Many women wonder why they would pay for midwifery care when they can get it for free in the UK, but with the NHS becoming increasingly overstretched and the disappointing demise in caseloading midwifery (where you have a named midwife throughout your pregnancy), lots of women now never see the same midwife twice, with it being even more unlikely that they’ll have ever met the midwife supporting them in labour. We know that birth outcomes are improved when a woman births in a place she knows with people she knows, as her labour inevitably progresses more comfortably and efficiently when she feels safe and nurtured by people she trusts. A big part of that trust is formed when a woman gets to know her midwife over the course of her pregnancy, as it means she’s receiving care and advice informed by personal experience rather than protocol.

Now I know what you’re thinking, £3k+ is a lot of money, but it’s important to put things in perspective. I think culturally we neglect to respect the life-changing experience a woman goes through when she becomes a mother. We think of birth as a somewhat mechanical process, a One Born Every Minute style conveyor belt of stereotypes and surgical assistance, where each woman is merely a user of the service. More and more women I encounter though are questioning this, and realising that a big part of the journey towards a positive birth is in making informed choices, feeling looked after, and empowering themselves to create the birth they want, just like they do in every other aspect of their lives. With that in mind, I personally consider finding the right midwife for you an investment in one of life’s most monumental moments. A positive, empowering birth sets a woman up for a confident transition into motherhood, something I wholeheartedly believe is invaluable.

Just before Christmas I met with the wonderful Annie Francis, CEO of Neighbourhood Midwives – the only employee-owned midwifery social enterprise providing fully insured care in and around London. Annie has looked after a number of women that I’ve taught, and hearing first-hand how much her and her colleagues enriched my clients’ births and complemented their hypnobirthing preparation, I am keen to help spread the word of such a valuable service.  Hopefully Annie and I can iron out some misconceptions along the way, and offer some clarity on a service that more and more women are enlisting as they strive for a better start to motherhood.

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What is an independent midwife, and how does this differ from the midwifery services I would receive via the NHS?
As independent or private midwives, we are qualified and registered in the same way as any other midwife but we have chosen to work outside of the NHS in order to provide continuity of care. This means that you can meet one of us for a free consultation and decide if you ‘click’ first and then, if you choose to go ahead, you can directly engage our services to provide your care on a one-to-one basis. You can either ‘top up’ the care you receive through the NHS or we can provide all of your midwifery care from booking, through the pregnancy, birth and postnatal period. We do all our visits at your home at times to suit you and can get to know the whole family.

We are on call 24/7 to deal with major worries (or even little ones) and will come to your home when labour starts. We remain with you until the baby is born and everyone is settled, whether you choose to be in hospital or at home and afterwards we will visit daily at first, then at intervals until we discharge you, generally 6 weeks after the birth.

The NHS provides excellent care but this is often from a different midwife at every appointment and so can be very impersonal. Some women in London have reported seeing up to 9 different midwives antenatally, none of whom will look after her in labour. Continuity of carer is currently not usually available to most women on the NHS and yet we know that having a relationship with your midwife is really important to women and generally leads to safer outcomes for both you and your baby.

What are the benefits of hiring an independent midwife?
Complete peace of mind, through continuity with a midwife you get to know and trust;
Access 24/7 by phone or email; and
The reassurance of knowing a trusted professional will be by your side throughout. The evidence shows that this type of care leads to better outcomes for mum and baby, both in the short term and long term.

If I have an independent midwife, do I have to have a home birth?
Absolutely not. You may know you want a home birth right from the start or you may not make a final decision until much nearer the time, while others prefer to have a planned hospital birth but with the reassurance of their own midwife by their side.

“Along with hypnobirthing, Neighbourhood Midwives is the best money we’ve ever spent – worth every penny and more! The service is second to none and the continuity of care pre and postnatally has been invaluable. We have no doubt my labour would’ve been a very different experience for both me and Pete had it not been for Annie’s presence – we can’t recommend Annie and Neighbourhood Midwives highly enough.” – Vanessa & Pete

How much does it cost, and what if I can’t afford to pay upfront?
Our costs vary from £3000 to £5000 for full care in and around London. Neighbourhood Midwives want to be available to as many women as possible so we offer a range of different packages and the option of payments through installments are always available. One dad said afterwards that it was better value than his beloved Vespa!

How will having an independent midwife benefit me pre and post birth?
During the antenatal period it is very normal for you to have lots of questions and worries. Normally you have to save these up for many weeks before you next see your midwife but with an Neighbourhood Midwife you can just text anytime.

You never have to go through the same information twice because, as your midwife, we get to know you well and can work with you to resolve any problems, identify what your concerns are and then act accordingly to reassure or organise further support where necessary.

We can accompany you to any specialist appointments to help you to understand all the information you are being given and what the options are as a result. We can help access the best therapists for you and advise on a variety of classes and activities, in short we can help you and your partner feel as prepared as possible for this special event.

After your baby is born, we will visit you every day to begin with – sitting by your side and listening, offering guidance, advice and support. All our midwives are highly skilled at breastfeeding and can usually help to iron out any problems, guiding you to make your own decisions and to grow in confidence as a mother. Over those early weeks, we will continue to visit and are always available by phone, helping with any issues that arise and ensuring your recovery and the wellbeing of your baby. By the time we say goodbye you will generally be fully recovered and thoroughly enjoying your baby and your new life as a mother.

“Enlisting the services of Neighbourhood Midwives is without doubt some of the best money I have ever spent. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I didn’t just pay for a one off service or even a few weeks’ worth of service.  Amber is 6 weeks old now and I am still feeling the benefits.  I am sure I will feel them for a long time to come.  I recovered quickly both physically and emotionally and look back on my birth with pride and very fond memories. Having midwives who knew me and who I trusted entirely, helped me to have the birth I always hoped for, one without panic or fear. Annie and Tina are not just incredibly experienced, professional midwives they are lovely, wise women who are worth their weight in gold.” – Debbie (read her full and beautiful birth story here)

IMG_16772Finally Annie, why did you decide to become an independent midwife, and how did Neighbourhood Midwives start out?
I did my training after I had all four of my children, largely inspired by the amazing births I experienced and my independent midwife, Caroline Flint. I qualified in 1998, all set to be part of the brave new world of maternity services which I thought was coming with Changing Childbirth. Sadly it didn’t materialise that time around and, because I had experienced for myself the enormous value of having continuity of care it was the only way I wanted to practice and so I became an independent midwife and worked that way for 17 wonderful years.

For the past ten years or so, we were also working on trying to solve the insurance issue and eventually, after many false starts, we found the right vehicle in employee ownership (just like John Lewis). For eighteen months we worked closely with our social investors setting up all the necessary structures and governance to successfully access full indemnity insurance. Then, in July 2013, we launched Neighbourhood Midwives, a social enterprise with a mission to eventually be commissioned by the NHS. In the meantime though we offer a private service across London, building our track record and doing what we love best, providing safe, high quality continuity of midwifery care to women and their families.


Neighbourhood Midwives are currently running a promotion offering all families who book a full care package with them before 31 January a stocking full of gifts from Aden & Anais, Pinter and Martin and Nom Nom.