Saturday, 31 October 2015

Our first trip to The Baby Show

We were recently kindly offered tickets to The Baby Show at London Olympia by the show's organisers; a huge exhibition of all things baby related, (which we explained here). We wanted to spend the weekend away to celebrate our positive pregnancy test, so a trip to London seemed perfect!

Obviously we are too early to attend as shoppers, by thought it would be a great learning experience.

The show is easy to find, with the Olympia building being right across the street from Kensington Olympia tube station (they also have shows in London ExCel and Birmingham)  and we were soon inside, and surrounded by all things baby!

We did find the Olympia smaller than the Birmingham venue for The Baby Show - although we haven't visited as shoppers before, we set up a stall at the Birmingham Baby Show for Lauren's employer last year, and found it to be huge! We found Olympia to be smaller, although this was a good thing, as we found the show easy to navigate, and less overwhelming.

We visited on the Sunday, and although still busy, we felt it was much more manageable than if we had visited on a Saturday - we were able to see every stall we wanted to, and also spent a lot of time chatting to vendors.

Although Lauren was only 5 1/2 weeks pregnant when we visited The Baby Show, we were obviously too early to make purchases, we wanted to visit the Baby Show to explore three things:

1. How friendly are baby related companies to same sex parent families?
2. How eco friendly are these companies? 
3. What exactly is out there - what will we need, what do we need to choose between and decide on. What's necessary and what isn't? 

1. As we mentioned when we visited the Wedding Fair, we found vendors to be positive, negative, or a little unsure how they should respond, albeit in a positive way. At The Baby Show, we had expected to face either more disapproval, or more confusion from vendors, as peoples reactions to same sex couples having children seems to be stronger than same sex marriage, but found this wasn't the case at all.

We were really impressed with the way most vendors reacted to a same sex couple having a baby! Our first vendor, starting chatting to us about a baby grow we had picked up, and early on mentioned "so easy to use, so great for dads" (which could have been perceived as a little patronising to dads!), and we immediately corrected her with "our baby will have two mums, no dad". Her reaction was apologetic and a little embarrassed, and said that she thinks babies with two mums are very lucky!

Other reactions were completely non existent - most people got from talking to us that we were a couple, and having a baby together, and treated us exactly as they would any couple. One vendor, Ergo baby carriers, when talking to us about carriers instantly assumed we were a couple, asking if we would be sharing a baby carrier, or having one each. Another wonderful lady from Cheeky Wipes was also so lovely and enthusiastic about us becoming parents, which was really lovely, and definitely made our day! I did notice vendors looking at us a little longer than normal as we walked by, but not in a negative way, and I might have noticed this simply because the show was a little quieter than usual.

The only negative reaction we got all afternoon was a pointed glare from the charming (!) lady running the Church of England christening stall. We didn't stop to mention we would never consider christening our child, but walked hand in hand extra slowly past her stall anyway! We also weren't keen on the amount of 'mummy & daddy' products sold by Mothercare and a few other baby clothing brands…hmm!

2. Although we aren't exactly "Earth mothers", we do try to live as ethical a life as possible. Sarah is vegan, Lauren is vegetarian (though doesn't drink dairy milk, and has a 90% vegan diet), we recycle etc, so we do want to incorporate a respect for the world around us into our choice of baby products. Upon walking around the Baby Show, we we pleased to see this seemed to be a widely available choice. Of all the toiletry stands we noticed, they all seemed to be of a natural theme, although we didn't investigate at this stage exactly how natural each company actually was. 
Something we noticed that we were extremely interested in were Fill n Squeeze - pouches that can be used for storing and transporting home made baby food. At £19.99 for a starter kit, and £4.50 for an exta 10 pouches, this prices a lot cheaper, and eco friendly, than buying expensive store-bought pouches of baby food. They are also freezer, dishwasher, and bottle warmer safe. We love the idea of whizzing up some sweet potato or blueberries and using our own pouches - definitely on our 'to buy' list!

Something we were already interested in, but not completely sure about, is using cloth nappies. The average spend on disposable nappies for as long as baby needs them is said to be around £1200, whereas the cost of cloth nappies as long as baby needs then is said to be around £350. That's a big difference, not to mention it is said around eight million disposable nappies are threw away each day in the UK - all ending up in a landfill somewhere! We noticed a couple of cloth nappy stalls, so wandered over to one we had heard of, Tots Bots, for more information.
A representative from the company was happy to take us through the process of how the cloth nappies worked, and how they are washed. She also answered our questions on fears of leakage by saying that this usually happens when the nappy is too tight, although she did say babies in slings/carriers are more prone to leakage - which concerned us as we are set on using a sling/carrier to carry our little one as much as possible. Overall we are still interested in cloth nappies, and still plan to give them a try.

Lastly was something else we are extremely interested in - reusable cloth wipes. As someone interested in Eco baby products, they were something Lauren had looked into, and had even purchased a kit for her best friend when she had her baby earlier this year. 
The company she had purchased the wipes from, Cheeky Wipes, had a stall at the show, so as I was none the wiser about them, we decided to go and get some info. The lady we spoke to was fantastic - some of the sales people we spoke to seemed a little like they were reading from a script, and didn't have a genuine interest or belief in the product (such as Tots Bots, I hate to say!) but this lady was great - she had genuine belief, enthusiasm, and experience of the product. She gave us a demo of how the wipes work - clean wipes are kept in the Cheeky Wipes 'fresh' box with a small amount of cold water with a few drops of chamomile & lavender essential oil. I was encouraged to smell this - it was gorgeous and reminded me of a spa! The lovely lady explained the types of fabric used and why, and that dirty wipes are then stored in the 'mucky' box, which contains a fabric liner bag, cold water, and tea tree & lemon oil. The liner bag is simply then removed and popped in with your washing in the washing machine. Simple.

Picture from Cheeky Wipes
We loved how easy they seem to use, and how Eco friendly and economical they are, as well as how much better for the baby they seem. 
We have to admit, this was a purchase there and then! The kit was £30 instead of £40, and we chose to pay £3 more for bamboo/velour wipes as they were so soft! We had a really enjoyable chat with the Cheeky Wipes lady (I regret not getting her name!) - this was probably our favourite stall of the day! We have since discovered Cheeky Wipes sell other items, and will definitely be looking into them. We look forward to reporting back in the future!

3. As people who were previously overwhelmed by what these strange things known as babies need, we found the baby show invaluable. There are so many products on offer to make life simple, some we had never thought of. It was also great to have the chance to ask vendors "so what does this do?" and be given detailed info and demonstrations - we can't praise the vendors enough for how informative and helpful they were.

The first stall we came across was a great example of innovation - we were initially attracted to Magnificent Baby for these adorable raincoats, but discovered all the clothing they sold had magnetic fastenings - so clever!

We also admit to another purchase - these cards from Landmark Moments. A pack of 38 cards with phrases like 'today I'm 8wks old' or 'my first trip to the park'. - you write the date on the card and stick them in scrapbooks or use them in photos.  We thought these were really sweet, and a great way to remind you of special memories. And they were on offer at only £5 a pack! 

We are strong advocates of breastfeeding so were interested to see what breastfeeding products were on offer. Unfortunately the feeding options available seemed to be mainly aimed at formula feeding. However we find these super sweet breastfeeding pillows that we had never heard of before!

We were surprised and pleased to see Comotomo, an American company that Sarah had read about, making their first appearance in the UK. They make bottles designed for feeding breastfed babies expressed milk. Whilst we both agree that our baby will receive breast milk exclusively for the first six months and then as much as it wants for as long as it wants, we also plan to share the feeding when we are able to. Not because Sarah feels the needs to give our baby a bottle to 'bond with it' as most couples feel, more down to the ability to share a task that by all accounts is quite time consuming! Plus we aren't too sure at what point Lauren will be returning to work, so Sarah and our family being able to bottle feed expressed milk will be essential! We had read Comotomo were one of the best bottles designed for this, so it was great to see and feel the bottles, although unfortunately the vendors weren't that informative!

We also came across something we had never heard of before, a company called Yoomi. They sell bottles designed for feeding expressed milk to breastfed babies, but also contain a device which when clicked, and placed inside the bottle, heat milk to natural breast milk temperature in 60 seconds. Genius! We thought this was a great idea, particularly for when Sarah is out with baby and needs to feed them. 

We also came across a company Lauren knows of through her work as a midwife, called Medela, who are said to be 'the breastfeeding experts'. They were really helpful and explained their breast pumps and bottles to us, which are ideal for mimicking breast feeding, particularly as the bottle teats are much longer than usual bottles, meaning the milk goes in to the baby's mouth at the same point as if it were breastfeeding. We definitely think we will purchase these in the future, as well as  the self heating ones from Yoomi.

We visited The Gro Company's stand, as we already use their GroBlind (a transportable blackout blind that sticks to any window) for when Lauren has worked night shifts. We really liked the sound (excuse the pun) of the GroHush, a  portable 'baby calmer' that is placed next to the baby and plays either the sound of rain, waves, or a mothers  heartbeat. It is supposed to soothe a fussy baby by playing white noise that, along with being held close to a parent, will allow it to fall off to sleep.

We also liked the Gro Snug, a combination swaddle blanket (wraps the baby with arms and legs tucked in) and sleep bag (baby's arms are out). Baby's enjoy the comfort and security that being swaddled brings, but the Gro Snug allows them to have this feeling whilst also being safe. 

Something that has been the most baffling of everything baby related to us was prams. What's the difference between them all?! How do you know what you need?! Luckily, a lovely guy from mamas & papas was happy to spend time with us chatting to us about what we needed from a pram, starting with how big our car boot is, and how much storage we have. He was great, and went through different types of buggies, and how to use them. We are by no means experts, but definitely feel a lot more confident now! And the beautiful Liberty print pram definitely caught Lauren's eye!

She's a natural!

Lastly, something else we have been pretty certain we want when baby comes along, a sling or baby carrier. We stopped to talk to Ergo, who explained the difference between the star print Galaxy carrier Lauren loved, and the 360 carrier - which enables you to wear your baby front facing if required, as babies apparently like to see what's around them as they get a little older! One concern we had, is that at 5'1 and of petite build, Sarah would struggle to wear a heavy baby, or that she would be too short for the carrier! The lovely guy at Ergo said this definitely would not be the case, and asked if Sarah wanted to try on a carrier with a weighted doll for a demonstration. We of course said yes! The Ergo rep showed her how to put on, adjust, and secure the carrier while keeping baby safe, and she was amazed to find the baby felt weightless as the carrier distributed the weight evenly. Success!

We thoroughly enjoyed our day at The Baby Show, and felt like we came away with so much knowledge. Our favourite stalls were Cheeky Wipes, Ergo, and Mamas & Papas - the sales people were so friendly and helpful, and genuinely enthusiastic about heir product, without being at all pushy. These were also the stalls we learnt the most from. And we managed to resist the urge to purchase armfuls of cute baby stuff…even these shoes!

We will definitely be attending the Baby Show in May, as Lauren will be VERY pregnant , we can definitely make some purchases - very informed ones thanks to the Olympia show!

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