When baby is big business

PUBLISHED: 12:21 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 February 2013

making the right choices for you

making the right choices for you

It could be argued thst today's children have never had it so good, but modern parents now have more choices than ever before too. Jill Parsons looks at the booming baby business in the cotswolds

Modern parents are often regaled by tales of previous generations making do when it came to babies. If the legends are to be believed, babies were expected to spend their early months kipping in a draw with only a cotton reel to play with and a jar of rice as a rattle.

While the reality was no doubt a rather more cosseted start to life, it's certainly true that new parent know that having a baby heralds the start of a spending sprees that will last a generation. With clothes, classes, childcare and all manner of wonderful accoutrements befitting the well-heeled baby available, parents know that babies are the ultimate investment from the moment they arrive.

Many parents turn away from the big cities and head to the country with their offspring in tow, and the Cotwolds is a notably child-friendly place, with excellent childcare and schools, plenty to do and lots of fresh air.

So it's no surprise that there are a number of businesses carving out a niche for themselves in the booming baby business.

Antenatal Choices, a company specialising in antenatal courses involving both pampering and practicality that are run at the Lygon Arms Hotel in Broadway and started by two young mums from the Forest of Dean, was one of the first in the country to highlight the concept of "babymooning". The idea, which originated in America, was to offer pampered adult breaks before the sleepless nights, fatigue and general chaos of a new baby begins.

Co-founder Jean Heaman, who has recently sold the company but still runs the weekend courses that are currently held every three or four weeks at the Lygon Arms, says that the tranquillity of the Cotswolds, coupled with the luxury of staying in a top hotel, gives couples the perfect opportunity to relax while taking practical steps to prepare for their baby's birth and beyond.

"It gives new parents the chance to learn about becoming a parent and what that could involve for them, while making it a pleasurable and restless experience, especially for the mothers-to-be. There's plenty of demand because either parents are not finding the information or classes they are looking for through the health system, or they have very busy lives and find it very difficult to find something that will fit their own plans.

"Also, a residential course helps you to take a step back from your busy life and take valuable time out as a couple. The idea is to provide high quality antenatal classes in a luxury hotel setting in small groups, leaving couples plenty of time to de-stress and focus on the birth of their baby. We cover a range of birth and postnatal topics including birth positions, pain relief, the role of the birth partner and what to expect in the first six weeks after the baby is born, as well as the chances to have lots of pampering, which is just as important."

Cotswold mums-to-be are also making good use of the latest chance to have a sneak preview of their future arrivals through a range of detailed scans of their babies.

Babybond, in Cirencester, offers the chance to have 2D and 4D scans to provide pictures and videos of the child before its arrival, in an atmosphere that is very different to a hospital. "Babybond is providing a beneficial alternative for people who want the bonding experience, without the antenatal screening protocols already provided by their hospital," said Jenny To of Babybond.

"Nearly all of Babybond's sonographers still actively scan in obstetrics within the NHS, so that Babybond's clients are reassured by the knowledge that the sonographer will observe a professional duty of care at all times - and provide a fabulous bonding experience for the parents."

Other issues are paramount once the baby arrives. There may be a wealth of childcare available, but how do you find suitable, affordable help around the house? For Jo Lawrence-Mills, her own experiences with au pairs suggested that there was definitely a gap in the market for a more personal service.

"Finding au pairs can be quite stressful, especially as it can be hard to identify a family's needs. I set up my agency, Toto's, five years ago so that I could get to know families and, rather than bombard them with candidates, make a good selection for them. Having been through it myself, and starting my business when my youngest was one, I knew what to look out for.

In return for a placement fee, Toto's will locate suitable candidates, using reputable agents in a number of countries, for a particular family and will be on hard to offer advice on making it work smoothly.

Jo points out that there are particular issues facing au pairs who come to the Cotswolds, particularly given that it is a largely rural area. "Au pairs come to this country to learn English and it is important that they go to college, so very often a car will need to be provided. They will also have to make more effort to make contact with other au pairs in the area, some of who may be quite isolated. We try to offer as much support as we can and make sure it's a mutually beneficial experience for all concerned."

Contacts List

Antenatal Choices: www.choices-antenatal.co.uk

Toto's Au Pair Agency The Bell House, Luckington, Wiltshire SN14 6NT

Tel: 01666 841225 fax: 08700519495 email: jo@totosaupairagency.co.uk

Babybond Cirencester: 85 - 87 Cricklade Street Cirencester GLOS GL7 1JF

Tel: 01285 643 800, Email: cirencester@babybond.com

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