The Essential Parent Company

It happens quite a lot, some products that get tested for the Mother & Baby awards get nail-bitingly close to winning and then lose out  on the recognition they deserve. My gripe with the process is that each category is currently restricted to one Gold, one Silver and one Bronze winner. If the category is highly competitive, products can miss out on an award by the merest ‘nought point’ of a score.

In the Most Innovative Award, because historically it was picked by the editor, there is only one winner . Inevitably there are many products, that ‘mum’ testers have really raved about and say that they would definitely recommend it to win a GOLD but who lose out to another product that has been raved about just that little bit more. The reality is that anything that it gets onto the final shortlist could easily be a winner. What wins one time might lose in another occasion, just because one or two mums are a little more generous or critical, than some other mums in another year.

Here’s one product that came close to winning in three categories and judging by the rave reviews that tester gave it this year it would be a crying shame if it disappeared under the radar by not getting the recognition  it deserves.

This Essential Parent Company entered their ‘Baby Care Guide’s, 4 DVDs  focusing on Feeding, Sleeping, Everyday Care & Development and First Aid & Accident Prevention.

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This was what some of the Mother & Baby testers said:

Nathalie: “Every mum should have one. It answered all my questions. I wish I had it with my first baby 2 years ago .”  

Rhiannon: “I already have a basic knowledge of first aid but this dvd reminded me of things I had forgotten and things they have updated since I did my first aid training. I think it offers a good knowledge of what to do if, god forbid, something was to happen to your baby or child.”

Michele: “I have this DVD in my laptop and have referred to it over and over in the past few weeks. Clearly indexed I can quickly look at the clips that are relevant to my query. Baby books are great but being able to ‘see’ how to breast feed etc is a huge help, like having someone there to show you what on earth you are doing wrong. I would say this is a must for any new mum and should be available on the NHS.”

Rebecca Chicot is one of the founders of The Essential Parent Company.

She has a doctorate in child development and parenting from Cambridge University.  Rebecca worked for many years at BBC Television in London making science documentaries for BBC1.  She was part of the team that made Professor Robert Winston’s landmark series “Human Instinct” which was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2002.  She is a mother of three lovely children and from her struggles with breastfeeding and baby care is passionate about giving new mums and dads the confidence to be relaxed and happy parents, and to enjoy the wonderful first few years with their baby.

This is her story:

As an expectant mum in 2002 I vividly remember browsing magazines and nursery shops looking for the Mother & Baby Gold Awards as a guide of what other mums in the UK recommended to the new mums on the block. Little did I know what went on behind the scenes to find out which products would receive the coveted Gold, Silver or Bronze Awards…..well not until 2012.

In 2006 my dear friend and colleague in the BBC Science Television department, Diana Hill had a baby boy, as did I.  She had struggled with being a new mum and had no family in the UK.  She saw first hand the need for visual baby care guides and realised that we had exactly the right background to make them!  We are fantastically honoured to have Professor Robert Winston work with us on the content and he kindly offered to narrate the DVDs for us as he believes that The Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs fulfil an important role to help support new parents and their babies.

It took a few years to get off the ground – juggling work and babies, and trying to find the time to work out how to make the DVDs.  We knew that to make something beautiful and watchable we would need a BBC sized budget.  A big break came when we won the South Cambridgeshire District Council’s “Step Up” Award for aspiring small businesses. Beating tough competition, including biotech companies and the like, the win gave us access to local accountants, offices, and lawyers. Soon after the win, the company finally found four fantastic investors, and production of the DVDs followed soon after.

We wanted to get the best experts and organisations involved.  We were used to this at the BBC but it was a very different ball game approaching the likes of UNICEF and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as a mumpreneur.  Luckily for us they saw the value of what we were trying to do and slowly but surely we got on board.

We had the money to make the product and the people to make it with us but then we had to convince retailers to take the product.  Again, we were pleasantly surprised that John Lewis, Mamas & Papas and the NCT were impressed with our Essential Baby Care Guide DVDs and we were thrilled to be available in such fantastic stores.

However, at the back of my mind the Mother & Baby Awards were something that I was desperate to apply for.  We had no advertising budget, no PR budget but knew that a Mother & Baby Award would give new mums in the UK the confidence to try our unique product.

The process was intense, posting our DVDs all round the UK, full of trepidation as to what the tester mums would think.  When we found out we had been shortlisted we were thrilled, despite getting great reviews from mums, baby magazines and health care professionals we still knew that the vast majority of new and expectant parents still hadn’t heard about The Essential Parent Company or The Essential Baby Care Guide.  

The Mother & Baby Awards had the power to change all that.

We felt very excited to be at the Park Lane Hilton on the Awards night and we tried not to be too optimistic but had so much riding on the awards.  The rest is history, we didn’t win an award in the Best Breastfeeding Product or Best Innovation and I had to depart into the night and dash for the last train to Cambridge feeling honoured to have been shortlisted but gutted for the company and our future that we didn’t manage to win.

On the way home we discussed whether we could ever afford to try to enter again…the postage, the entrants fee, the awards ceremony…it really adds up, especially for a little company.  However, my mind was made up to try again once I received the glowing comments from the mums who tested our product. It’s a great endorsement to have managed to make a product that can have such a positive impact of many mums and their little ones.”


The excitement of being a Mother & Baby tester…

I hope I will be forgiven for not posting this right at the beginning of the testing process. Time ran away with me and life a at home got shaken up quite a bit. I could have mused about it on my blog, if I’d found a moment to do so.

So, here is a belated post from one of this year’s testers.

Lia, over to you…

Oh wow, lovely news! From what I can see some of the allocated bathtime products are suitable for use by both for our newborn boy and our toddler, so looking forward to testing them doubly!


I am not a good writer, by any means, but I had a little bit of inspiration the other night and wrote something half decent…


Here it is:

July 2012 (just before and just after the arrival of number two!)

Tuesday: I couldn’t quite believe it when Jessica sent THE email. I was picked to become a tester of baby monitors for THE mother and baby awards 2012. 

This is the ‘creme de la creme’ of baby product awards, and I do remember first seeing those gold stars on products I was looking to buy when I was pregnant with number 1 and thinking:

Wow, this has won an award, I am so buying it!

The excitement was so intense that it didn’t even wear off when I told my husband and he replied with the usual ‘okay,good’ manner.


OK they are not supposed to know about these things, and fair enough he has other things on his mind.  Especially being that I am due to give birth later this week.  So I picked up the phone and called the first fellow mum tester, who had a baby girl three months ago.

Now, that was the reaction I was looking for!  She hadn’t had a chance to buy a monitor yet and was overwhelmed by the choices available, so another perfect candidate. By the end of the day I had already 4 mums and 1 dad lined up and started making arrangements as to who would test what when.


Wednesday: The monitors may not be here yet, but I am such a control freak I want it all sorted in advance, especially since one of my friends is going away on holiday in August and I need to get the feedback in.

Monday: A few days and a baby later (yes, number two is here!) I got another email with all the tantalising details and updated my friends. Now for the agonising part of waiting (not long, but long enough for me) to receive the monitors, one by one, over the next couple of days to test. 

Tuesday: I looked at my beautiful bundle of joy,  and his hyperactive brother for a second and I thought….who do i need to monitor first? Ha. No, seriously, if it wasn’t for my toddler sleeping in his own ‘big bed’ now and moving about, I would probably want to keep an eye on him too, to ensure he is not:

a) in the kitchen, having mastered how to open the top drawer and holding the sharpest knife, or

b) in the bathroom, turning the hot water tap on or even more scarily,

c) by the baby crib pulling baby’s hair and covering baby’s face with his Peppa pig George hat.

What if the right eye is half-open checking, say monitor A to see baby, and the other eye wide awake checking monitor B to see toddler, I am a supermum and can manage this and sleep deprivation so long as there are no accidents..(yeah right).

Thursday: There is one more thing I need to figure out though, and this is SERIOUS. How to keep toddler away from the monitors I am testing. You see, he, just like his mummy, is a gadget-aholic with serious intent. I bought a new camera for me, he got a kiddie camera for Christmas so that he doesn’t mess up mine, he has his own kiddie laptop and mobile phone. He even knows how to use daddy’s Blackberry (much better than daddy himself, but that is not so difficult to beat/achieve). I must come up with a plan to ensure he doesn’t become too interested in the monitors. 

I, like many mums I know, work with lists, so I get on with the task of preparing a list of bribes for toddler to keep the monitors out of his reach..I first do this while I am half asleep breastfeeding baby, continue through the night (in my dreams) and finish it off in the morning.

1. Ice cream in the freezer (get earplugs for when daddy comes home and sees it)

2. One or two Peppa pig DVDs (must borrow from the library, and this time I must return that book I took out 2 years ago)

3. Promise to go somewhere by train tomorrow (even two stops to Shadwell will do, so long as the transport resembles a train!) At least his obsession for trains is manageable, the other day he asked to go on a helicopter ride! Eeeeek

4. No number four yet, but I am not even done breastfeeding..zzzzzzzzzz

Mother & Baby Awards 2012 – Do you want to be a tester?

THIS IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT  (only with my luck it’ll go about as viral as a slightly embarrassing rash)

I’m here again.  A fretful summer of organising all the product testing for the Mother & baby Awards looms ahead of me.

It’s just possible that some of you might have noticed that I didn’t do it last year.  Others won’t care…


IF you happen to live in the UK and have a baby or child under 5 (or are pregnant and about to pop in the next month or two)….


IF you happen to know anyone else who fits the criteria above?

AND SHOULD you happen to be a mum (or a dad) fitting the above criteria…

AND you fancy  applying to be a tester for this year’s Mother & Baby Awards. You might just want to  CLICK HERE?

THEN AGAIN, it’s  possible that you don’t actually want to be a tester, but what you’d ACTUALLY LIKE TO DO is to enter your own  product into the Mother & Baby Awards…

(If that’s you maybe? Then click here).

YOU MIGHT ALSO want to tweet and share this post with other people to give them a chance to apply or enter a product too?


BUT HURRY! I guess when the applications reach a ridiculously insane number then the application will close 😦

Blogger’s block…

overcoming writer's block - crumpled paper on ...

…Is nothing like writer’s block when you can’t think of what to write.

I have plenty of blog ‘posts’ up my sleeve.

There’s ‘The Incredible Lego Technics Boy’ which (in my head) is a wonderful tale of ‘triumph over adversity’ or ‘Don’t underestimate a disabled boy because he doesn’t talk….’

Then there’s a whole host of product reviews stacking up.  Things ‘I’ve eaten’ vs ‘diets I should try’ (you can see how those things work in opposition).

Continue reading

Mine’s a pint, please.

A Dairy Crest Semi-Skimmed Milk Bottle.

Image via Wikipedia

Would you, or would you not down a pint of milk?

My mother must have often wondered why we always used to be short of milk in our house in the morning.

I confess, I’d frequently wake up in the middle of the night feeling thirsty and fill a glass of lovely cold milk and down it almost in one. It was such a deliciously refreshing sensation that it was possible I’d end up downing a whole pint bottle. Do you remember when they used to come with a think plug of cream on the top? I’d poke it and scoop it out with my finger first and lick around the bottle’s rim to make sure I didn’t leave as much as a smudge behind.

But I’m unlikely to do it now. I’d feel kind of naughty…

So do you, or would you ever, think of drinking a glass of chilled milk as your first choice of drink if you were thirsty? Or are you hung up, like me, with the thought that milk is too fattening for grown up women and really only suitable for babes and infants to enjoy?

Continue reading

The Mother & Baby Award Winners 2010 announced.

The Mother & Baby Award Winners 2010

The winners were announced at a gala ceremony on Thursday 18th November at the Hilton Park Lane. Hosted by Jason Manford and Deputy Editor, Kathryn Blundell.

Again this year we asked over 1000 mums to put every entry in the reader-tested categories through their paces.

As Kathryn said,

“Over 3000 products were carefully parcelled and then sent nationwide to be sicked on, bashed, chucked and chewed. It really means that shortlisted products impressed the women that matter –mums. Mums, who gave the nation an extra 790,000 babies last year all of whom need to be cleaned, transported, fed, entertained, and put to bed…

Mother & Baby continues to set the standard for parenting press and is undoubtably the most influential and trusted brand, with a heritage that spans over 60 years. These fantastic awards are a vital part of Mother & Baby’s heritage – we’re so pleased to be able to reward excellence within the industry, supporting mums to support you through these accolades. Everyone shortlisted should feel so proud – these mums are a tough crowd. And don’t get me started on the toddlers…” Continue reading

Mother & Baby Awards 2010: the Shortlist is announced.

With a total of 188 brands, 538 products and 3216 product samples sent out, collating the results for the Mother and Baby Awards 2010, has been time consuming-to say the least. Each and every award category has been decided entirely by our volunteer tester mums and they have certainly been busy all this summer, putting products through their paces. Now our all important reviewers and ambassadors for parents everywhere, have produced the much awaited for shortlist of their favourites.

In response to the overwhelming level and quality of entries this year, we decided to split some of the larger categories to make more award categories. We have gone from 24 tested categories 2 years ago, to 30 last year and now to 33. You’ll see these extra additional awards as marked as *NEW* if you think that they look unfamiliar.

Plus one, judged by a panel at Mother & Baby for ‘Best New Innovation’. A product which we think is new, brilliant, a refreshing change and will make a difference to the lives of parents today.

Congratulations to every single brand that has impressed our mummy testers and is in the running for an award.

The winners will be announced on the night at a Gala Awards ceremony on Thursday 18th November at the Hilton Park Lane. Continue reading

M&B Awards Blog: A few Testing Gems

Just ahead of the 2010 Mother & Baby Awards Shortlist announcement, there have been few products mentioned by testers as having been absolute gems. It will be interesting to find out if they also turn out to be winners…

What products you’ve tried or bought that have most surprised you?

“One of the products I’ve been testing is the 37° sleeping sack, Natalie O’Dwyer said. “This is a most amazing product! When it arrived it was packaged up beautifully, and had been sent with a matching vest. My son is a very poor sleeper, and we have struggled to find anything he can sleep in as he is either too hot too cold, or tangles himself up in covers. Not with this product however! It is incredibly soft, even after washing it, and I love the gender-neutral colour and patterns. It’s a perfect fit, and the poppers are nice and strong on the shoulders. It’s really thick without being too hot for the baby, I don’t worry about him being cold in the night now.

The first night he went to bed in it, we had our bath and massage, and dressed him in the vest and sleep sac. He had a feed from me for about 10mins and started to drift off. It’s usually at this point we have the trouble as the minute we put him down in the cot and try to put his covers over him he wakes up screaming! Because he was already under his covers being in the sleep sac, he didn’t even wake when I put him down. To my amazement I didn’t hear from him until 7am the next day! Usually he wakes up 3-4 times a night! He sleeps in it every night now, and I will be buying another so I can wash one and wear one.” Continue reading

M&B Blog: Baby Carriers and their fans…

Personally, I’ve loved baby carriers with my own babies and used them in preference over a pushchair as much as I could. I believe, as little babies, they liked the close proximity of mum and seemed more content to sleep than if I tried putting them into a pushchair. Then, when they were bigger, I used a back carrier as much as possible. They undoubtedly loved the high vantage point to see where we were going. Meeting adults face-to-face with broad grins and giggles. I swear my little boys were little flirts particularly with women. As a family, we could continue to take long, healthy walks on any terrain whatsoever and to put them back down at ‘car-exhaust’ level in a stroller seemed disingenuous as an introduction to the healthy lifestyle I wanted for them.

Baby carriers have moved on a long way and particularly slings have become much more popular. I campaigned long and hard with Mother & Baby to include back carriers in the testing process. I had a good 8 years of use with mine with all my children. So, for mums like me who really enjoyed using them, it was a really good investment. Whereas a front carrier I found only really comfortable to use while they were really tiny for the first 6 months. Continue reading

Mother & Baby Testing: Breastfeeding Products and Reusable Nappy reviews (by Kirstie Newton)

Plug-In Baby

Daughter arrived two weeks early, and was a little on the small side, we spent five days on the Transitional Care Ward. Our goal was to establish successful breastfeeding; then and only then, would we be allowed home.

It was hard work. For two days, Daughter was sleepy, and had to be fed hand-expressed collostrum by syringe. This, in turn, led to two days of laziness and temper tantrums when dinner didn’t flow on tap. She would suck her hands and smack her lips, but seemed unable to link this to my burgeoning milk supply. The midwives described her as a “little madam,” while I nicknamed her “Mary, Mary, quite contrary”.

The electric breast pump became my best friend, its suction rhythms falling some way short of sparkling conversation, especially at 3am. As Daughter feasted on bottles of Mummy’s Gold Top, she must have congratulated herself on finding the simplest meal ticket going. Read the entire post here.

Musing on Reusing

Before having my own baby, the last time I changed a nappy was on a two-year-old. It was, to a degree, fun. Little Arthur wasn’t remotely fazed; it could even be entertaining, when I blew raspberries on his tummy.

Fast forward 20 years to new motherhood. No one ever told me that removing a newborn’s nappy was akin to murder. Daughter screams the house down, and kicks harder than the England football team. Them, to wreak her revenge, she waits until the nappy is off before peeing a perfect arc across the bathroom carpet, soaking anything in its trajectory (tip – wriggle at the same time to ensure maximum coverage).

Nappies have changed a lot since our parents were nippers. If anything, they have come full circle. My gran claims with fondness that “nothing looks nicer than a line of snowy white terries drying in the sunshine”. Contrast this view with that of my teenage cousin, raised on disposables: “Gross! Some things are not meant to be reused, and that includes nappies.” Read the entire post here