After the stress of organising the world's most high profile christening (sorry North West), right now the Duchess of Cambridge might be feeling the need for a nice long rest. But where can a new mother go to relax when she's still got a young baby to take care of 24/7?
Fortunately, the perfect escape for the chicest of mums has recently opened up on the Kings Road in Chelsea (DoC's former fave shopping street). The Mermaid Retreat is a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa - a dream come true for new mums, (plus their equally exhausted partners) and their newborn babies.
Mermaid offers nothing-but-the-best health care, beauty treatments, and five star comfort, as well as workshops, advice, and round-the-clock childcare from a team of qualified professionals and in-house experts. No request is too large or too small.
An all white space (so spring summer 2013) with cute but chic colourful graphics, the retreat welcomes newborn babies right up to three months old, and is the brainchild of entrepreneur (and Dad-of-four-daughters) Nick Balfour, who has also gathered together an advisory of world experts in the field of childcare to ensure the service is second to none, ‘because mothers deserve and need that. You have to be able to give your husband the opportunity to share the responsibilities – the world can keep turning without you’. In short, you couldn’t be in safer hands, and for nervous, first time mothers (or even exhausted, second-time-around mothers) this is very reassuring.
Our (three month old) tester summed up the mood by rolling around on the marshmallow-like bed linen before letting out a giant whoop, the likes of which we'd never heard before. Clearly even the youngest of guests can sense that they're in an environment that's all about them.
Babies can be pushed around the space in their mini cots-on-wheels, (a real blessing for mums who have just delivered) including to the restaurant, where baby can lie tableside,and fall asleep - while you enjoy a so-delicious-you-forget-its-healthy dinner (plus wine) - before being trundled back to the bedroom, still snoozing. Alternatively, leave baby in the care of the nursery staff in the 24 hour Baby Zone and go out (yes!) to enjoy a meal on the Kings Road.
Some aspects are strictly yummy mummy friendly; and why not? After giving birth, who doesn’t need a therapeutic massage? KMiddy had her own hair and make up artist post birth, which seems like cheating, until you’re offered a blow dry or a facial, three doors down from your bedroom, bliss. And the beauty services takes on an new importance for another treat offered as standard - a short family portrait shoot in the privacy of your room, with a photographer, from the acclaimed Julia Boggio mother and baby studio.
There is no end to the chic thoughtful touches – new mothers are collected from hospital and chauffered directly to the retreat, partners are welcome over night, all maternity and baby products, from nappies to baby wipes are supplied, there’s a leather notebook to jot down advice and tips given by the in-house experts (and you’ll need it). A beautiful linen cot pillow, monogrammed with baby's name, (from the Monogrammed Linen Store) is presented on arrival, to add a personal touch during your stay and to take home afterwards as a souvenir.
Of course, the highlight for most new mums will be the chance to relax while you and your baby are taken care of by trusted, knowledgeable, and warm-hearted professionals, in an environment where babies are not just welcome but prioritised (try getting that kind of service at a regular five star restaurant or hotel).
Yoga with your baby? No problem, instructor and mother Amy Eastwood (who’s also training to be a doula) knows that new mothers need exercises to open up the chest to counterbalance ‘all that hunching over your baby while feeding’, leading you in stretching exercises while your baby kicks away contentedly beneath you, or watches propped up on pillows. You’re left feeling taller and more lighter.
A physio who actually explains pelvic floor exercises in a way that makes you want to do them (no, really)? Camilla Lawrence, a specialist women’s health physiotherapist from Six Physio, will come to your room for a consultation, reminding you the importance of having your neck and shoulders supported during every feed to avoid back ache and headaches. And who prescribes ‘pilates and swimming’ as the perfect combination of aerobic exercise and core strength building, post baby.
Meanwhile, the Your Baby’s Day: Routines and Sleep workshop was invaluable, with genius, insightful advice from Vicki Scott, a long-serving nanny, and fun anecdotes from other mothers.
Another highlight was a one-to-one with Mermaid’s Executive Nutritionist Vicki Edgson who helped create the menu for the restaurant’s retreat (coconut milk porridge is just one of her delicious recipes we now make back at home). Her advice on nutrition and cooking for yourself as a busy new mother was practical and inspiring, from eating more carbohydrates for energy, to eating four small meals a day to counterbalance the long days with baby, and cooking in huge batches in order to live off easy leftovers as often as possible.
Mermaid, is, of course, not cheap. Our short break would have cost just over £2000 for two nights in a standard double, including Your Baby’s Day workshop, therapeutic massage, facial, nutritional consultation, Mother & Baby yoga. Right now the retreat is advertising a stay as the ultimate Christmas gift (‘sleep, the best present of all’), with special offers to celebrate its first anniversary, and Maternity Wellness packages starting at £195.
But after three days/two nights in SW1, we left feeling as relaxed as if we'd taken a fortnight's beach holiday in some far-flung destination. Not only that, mother and baby had undergone a thorough MOT, and I was leaving with new skills and knowledge about how best to take care of my new baby. Any parent can tell you, holidays can lose all meaning once you’re vacationing with a baby. With Mermaid, you’re guaranteed to have time off and all the recuperation you need.
Becoming a first time mum is amazing, but it’s also a full on, exhausting, nerve-wracking experience. Mermaid provides a unique haven in the wilderness. Join up as a member and Mermaid would be the perfect social and support drop-in hub for those early months. We left, as promised, feeling ‘rested, energised and ready for [our] new roles’. And who can put a price on that?