Any new mother bringing her baby home wants to wrap them up in cotton wool and ensure they’re comfortable, safe and loved.
But for Sinead Murphy, 37, this was even more important.
Murphy’s daughter Rose, now nine, has Down’s syndrome. Days after Rose was born she began to have problems breathing and spent a week in intensive care unit (ICU).
When she returned, Murphy felt the moses basket her daughter slept in wasn’t safe or secure enough
“We loved how portable our moses basket was as we needed to keep Rose very close,” Murphy, from Belfast, told The Huffington Post UK.
“But to me it didn’t feel strong, the handles in particular didn’t feel great, it was impossible to clean and the hood would not stay up.”
So Murphy decided to create her own safe sleeping product for Rose – the Shnuggle Basket.
Murphy said Rose taking ill so soon after she was born was the driving force behind her business idea, as it contributed to her being so protective over the suitability of the place her daughter slept.
“You could see her whole diaphragm pulling up,” Murphy explained.
“Community midwives thought it was newborn baby ‘snuffles’, but we went to the hospital and she was admitted.
“I sat up all night with a nurse helping her to breathe with a steam box.
“By 9am she was intubated and had a police escort in an ambulance across Belfast to a specialist ICU.
“There she spent seven days unconscious and I brought little bottles of expressed milk for them to feed her through a tube – it made me feel useful.”
Murphy and her family were told Rose’s white blood cells were extremely high and she had to be given a short course of chemotherapy.
Several weeks later, they were able to bring her home, but she had a tube called a central line in her chest, which helped her breathe and needed to be flushed every 48 hours.
“Looking back now I can’t believe what we all went through, but it is amazing what you can cope with when you are given a child to protect and care for,” Murphy said.
“Something bigger than you kicks in. I realised I needed something to keep Rose safe.”
Rose slept in a regular moses basket but Murphy said the rustling of the wicker kept both her daughter (not to mention herself and her partner) awake at night.
She wanted to create a larger, stronger, quieter and easy-to-clean basket so that as Rose grew she wouldn’t be limited on where she could sleep just by her size.
“I wanted the basket to be bigger so that all babies, including Rose, could stay in their moses basket longer,” she explained.
“It is recommended that babies should stay in parents room up to six months.
“Also, so many traditional baskets are tiny so they don’t offer great value.”
This was when she began to draw up and brainstorm ideas for the Shnuggle Basket.
“I wanted it to be wicker-less, stronger and hypoallergenic so there was nowhere for dust mites to hide,” Murphy said.
“The handles had to be super strong and it needed a hood that stayed put.”
Murphy’s husband worked for a company that involved manufacturing at the time, so he was able to put her designs on paper and help source a company to make her drawings a reality.
The mother also approached local business support organisations who offered free advice, business plan writing courses and advice on getting prototypes made.
“When I started I really didn’t have a clue,” she admitted.
“Before this, I was a specialist debt adviser so I just applied my problem solving skills and determination to my new business and asked a lot of questions.”
The prototype was everything Murphy had imagined for her daughter.
“The fact that it could be cleaned with mild detergent and is larger than traditional baskets really helped Rose in her recovery,” she said.
“The larger basket meant we could keep her near us for longer before moving her into her own room.”
Shnuggle launched shortly after, in October 2012.
Murph initially built the business from home, until the company grew to such a scale that other premises were needed.
Following the basket range, and after Murphy had given birth to her son, she and her husband designed the Shnuggle Baby Bath for both their kids.
“I couldn’t move the big plastic bath we had and it was quite stressful trying to wash a slippy baby (especially when I was on my own),” she explained.
“I tried the bucket bath, but it just didn’t last long enough before even our son outgrew it.
“So we designed the Shnuggle Bath to be compact, using only two litres of water, with a foam backrest to keep it cosy and the bum bump to stop baby from slipping.
“We wanted our products to make life easier for any mum.
“Our baby bath helps support baby for as long as they need it and because it fits into your sink it’s really useful especially for those who’ve had caesareans.”
Nearly four years on, Shnuggle has expanded its range of products and now it ships to 22 countries worldwide.
Jean Adair, 40, purchased the Shnuggle bath for her 23-month-old daughter Willow who has Down’s syndrome.
“Due to Willow’s low muscle tone, the bath was a God send,” she told HuffPost UK.
“I only wish I had it sooner. Having both hands free and Willow safe and completely supported was such a help every bath time.
“Willow is still petite and still loves her bath.”
Murphy said the brand, which has won the Best In Home Product Award from the Baby Products Association in 2013 and Best Cot Design at the Junior awards in 2014, can be used by all mums who are looking for easier solutions to bed and bath time.
Most recently, the mother decided to use her business to support a cause close to her heart – Kicks Count, a charity that raises awareness of the importance of monitoring babies’ movements during pregnancy.
“I came across Kicks Count during my last pregnancy as I worried so much more during that pregnancy and I became very aware of Ruby’s movements,” Murphy said.
“I also had a couple of scary times when she went very quiet.
“I truly appreciated the information Kicks Count were sharing and realised that they were trying to reach people just like our customers. It just seemed like a perfect partnership.”
When parents are purchasing a Shnuggle product, they will be given the option of making a voluntary donation to Kicks Count.