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How one mum's struggle to cope with her crying baby gave birth to a brilliant new infant rocker chair

When a Co Antrim woman found it impossible to soothe her little son, she decided to take the, er, soft option.

By Stephanie Bell

Alocal mum who knows the torment of having a newborn baby with colic and reflux has devoted the past 10 years to developing a revolutionary new product to give baby comfort and save mum's sanity.

Kerry Nevins, from Glengormley, has endured a decade of sleepless nights, tears and torment just to get her Babocush into production. Finally, just two weeks ago, she took delivery of her first consignment of the finished product.

In the meantime, countless mums have benefited from testing prototypes of the unique comfort mattress which has transformed the quality of their lives as they struggled to cope with their unsettled newborns.

Seeing her idea come to fruition has been a long, tough journey for Kerry, who invented the product through sheer desperation when her son, Harry, now 12, was born.

Her belief in the product and the fact that nothing similar exists to help new mums is what kept her going through the challenges of getting Babocush onto the market.

She says: "It has been the most unbelievable journey and I have been working on it every day for the past 10 years.

"Often, I felt like giving up but I couldn't because I really believe in it, and so many people have used it and I've had the most positive feedback.

"I know how much I struggled with Harry and, in those first difficult weeks, I would have gladly paid someone to come in just to give me peace to make a sandwich without having a baby in one arm while struggling to try and make myself a cup of tea.

"When you're awake at 4am and are exhausted with a baby who has reflux or colic, it is a very lonely place to be."

Kerry (38), who works as a childminder, is married to Andrew (45), a fireman. As well as Harry, they have a daughter, Amy (14).

She describes Babocush as the ultimate swaddling cushion with soothing sounds and motion designed to replicate the comfort a baby gets from lying on its mother's chest.

Kerry had enjoyed a "dream baby" in Amy and was not prepared for how difficult her first weeks would be when she had Harry, who suffered from both colic and reflux and could only be soothed if he was resting on Kerry's chest. That meant she had to constantly carry him around with her and even spent her nights propped up in bed with her baby sleeping on her.

After three weeks, and completely exhausted, she developed her idea for settling Harry without carrying him about all day.

She says: "Amy was a dream baby - quiet, a good sleeper, and I thought this was down to my amazing mothering skills - breast-feeding, keeping Amy in a great routine, cutting off all itchy labels on her clothes. So, when Harry was born I thought my natural skills as a mum would again see me through.

"How wrong I was - Harry was born screaming and continued to scream day and night for months. I was flabbergasted when he even cried in the car. I dreaded having to stop at traffic lights as that would really set him off.

"But I couldn't find anything to help, which amazed me because I couldn't have been the only mum with a baby with reflux?

"After each feed, Harry would fall asleep on me and I would place a cushion on my lap with a pillow draped over it and carefully lie him down on his tummy in pretty much the same position he'd been in when I was holding him.

"I'd then quietly slide my hands under this comfort pillow creation, move it to the corner of the sofa ever so gently, as Harry slept contentedly, then race around the house like a whirlwind trying to get as much done in the three or four minutes of peace granted to me before my little torture realised mummy wasn't holding him and screamed the house down again."

Kerry knew she needed something which would allow him to lie on his belly safely, in the same position offered by her shoulder - something which simulated the vibration of her voice and the beat of her heart.

When she couldn't find anything, she decided to create something herself and Babocush was born.

She says: "When Harry was three weeks old, I couldn't take it any longer so I found a furniture manufacturer in Dunmurry where I bought a huge sheet of foam about an inch deep.

"I chopped it into various sizes of rectangles and layered them until I had a firm hump shaped mattress - an ordinary pillow was too soft and the baby's face would sink into it too much.

"I made a fleece cover with a zip to cover the foam and a harness to hold the baby in place, then made a sort of hood on the underside of the fleece cover, at the top end - a bit like a pillow case flap - which I could slide over my rocker chair to hold the 'comfort pillow' or Babocush in place.

"Luckily, my rocker had a vibration device which, when turned on, meant Harry would happily rest on his comfort cushion for ages as he could feel the vibration through the cushion and it really soothed him. The harness I had, though, wasn't great and Harry often slipped to one side so, when friends and family heard of it and wanted to use it for their unsettled babies, I knew I'd better make some adjustments.

"My friends urged me to develop it as there was nothing like it on the market."

Kerry talked to Invest NI, who gave the project full backing.

She describes Babocush as a small mattress with a protective fleece cover and a harness with adjustable straps which can take on the size and shape of any baby and which has a vibrating device and a simulated heartbeat.

She says: "I started from nowhere - even getting fabric samples was difficult. I had to ring thousands of electronic companies before I found someone who could make the vibrator device.

"Getting it safety tested was another nightmare. I rang dozens of people who didn't want to know because, while there was a safety test for cots and baby chairs, nothing existed for this. After six months I found a company who developed a new safety test and new standard just for Babocush.

"Getting a patent was terrible - in the end, I obtained a design patent instead after working my way through three or four patent attorneys. It has been horrendous but I've always been a positive thinker."

Having searched the world for a manufacturer, Kerry finally settled on Ulster Weavers. While she could have got her product manufactured more cheaply in China, she wanted it to be of premium quality and is delighted to work with a local firm. Her first order of 1,000 has just been completed and she has launched her product through her website - and through Facebook.

She says: "I have met with the local charity Tinylife who loved them and are going to work with me on it, and for every one sold there will be a donation to the charity.

"They are retailing at £139 - they are so expensive to make - and I hope through time those costs will come down as the orders come in."

Kerry adds: "I've put everything into this and the feedback from happy mums and their babies has been driving me all these years. My husband has been an absolute saint through this, too - he is so patient, kind and caring and I couldn't have done this without him."

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