We caught up with Courtney Adamo, founder of Babyccino Kids to talk fashion, parenting and the perils of Instafame, whilst her little ones dress up in some of Fenwick's favourite childrenswear.
Courtney Adamo and her daughters are singing along to _The Sound of Music_. The mother of four, who moved to London 12 years ago with her husband Michael, is endearingly similar to Maria Von Trapp. Beautiful, capable and clearly adored by her brood - Easton, Quin, Ivy and Marlow - she began Babyccino Kids with two mummy friends eight years ago. What started as a blog to share their idyllic/hip urban lifestyles now boasts a shopping portal for the world's most stylish children’s brands.
It has not all been singing and sunshine however, as last year an innocent picture of her daughter Marlow was reported to Instagram as inappropriate and her account was suspended. We caught up with Adamo in her London home to talk fashion, parenting and the perils of Instafame, and we also took the opportunity to invite her little ones to play dress-up in some of Fenwick's favourite childrenswear.
###### Tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in a house [in Seattle] surrounded by fields and farmland, and we lived quite far from the main road so even as young children we were free to roam around outside on our own. I’m the eldest of five children, so there was always someone to play with and we were always outside plotting our next adventure. We loved it! And of course, when the tulip fields bloomed every spring it was incredibly beautiful and picturesque. I remember riding my horse through the colourful fields and knowing full well how dreamy it all was.
###### When did you move to London? Did you always want a big family?
My husband and I moved 12 years ago for his job. We thought we would be here for a year, and yet 12 years later… Both my husband and I come from big families so the mayhem is completely normal to us. As an eldest child, I was practically groomed to be a mother from a very young age, and it’s definitely something I always knew I wanted.
###### Why did you launch Babyccino Kids?
When my partners and I began Babyccino Kids hardly anyone knew what a blog was. We had all met in London shortly after our first babies were born, and we bonded over new motherhood and the questions/concerns/gripes/pleasures that come with it. We used to meet in cafes and talk about babies and newfound products we loved, recipes we made and enjoyed, activities we had discovered, and other interesting parenting topics. Two years later, Emilie moved to Paris and Esther moved to Amsterdam. We started the Babyccino Kids blog as a way to stay in touch with each other and continue to share our discoveries. Being founded by three different mothers in Europe, I think we offer quite an international perspective on parenting. We hope to present a very real and approachable type of lifestyle, all the while celebrating the beautiful and stylish bits of motherhood.
###### How do you balance working and motherhood?
The million-dollar question! It’s always a juggle and I’m constantly trying to find the right balance, but I like to remind myself that it’s such a lucky position to get to juggle both. I’ve learned that it's best for me to keep motherhood and work separate and to try to be focused and present in each role. I work really hard during my working day. Thankfully my husband drops the kids off at school in the morning so it allows me to start early. In the afternoons, I close my computer and try to put my work behind me as I go to pick the kids up from school and focus on being a mama for the rest of the day. I find that if I try to answer my phone or emails when I’m with the children, I just become a cranky mother, and probably not very good at my job either. If there is still work to do in the afternoon, I try to squeeze it in after the kids go to bed… if my husband will allow it.
###### How do you dress your children?
I like to keep things quite simple, opting for neutral colours and muted tones. I’ve always liked a more understated, somewhat traditional style when it comes to children’s clothing and somehow if I stick to these principles they usually end up looking somewhat well-dressed (though certainly not always).
Ivy wears dress, £125, Caramel Baby and Child
###### Do they have huge wardrobes filled with beautiful clothes?
Oh gosh, no. They each have a small dresser and I really try to go for quality over quantity when buying for my kids. I like to invest in clothes that I’ll be able to pass down from one child to the next, and would rather buy one or two handmade jumpers than several different ones of poorer quality.
###### Is Marlow a fan of fashion like her mummy?
I know this will sound like a bit of a contradiction, considering it’s my business to promote children’s brands and of course I have a certain aesthetic, but I really try to keep my children unaware of what they’re wearing. I don’t make a big fuss about new clothing, and try not to talk about what they look like or place value on those sorts of material things. All of my kids are quite happy to wear what I set out for them, and I would love to keep it this way (for as long as I can anyway).
Jumping on the bed in the girls' room. Marlow wears floral dress, £82, and Ivy, £88, by Caramel Baby and Child
Marlow wears button back knit, £75, Rachel Riley; tutu, £55, Mouche; Ivy wears, dress, £125, Caramel Baby and Child
A knitted babygrow accompanied by mini suede moccasins makes a charming decoration in the hall
Marlow wears hair bow, £9.95, Rockahula
Ivy wears dress, £88, Caramel Baby and Child
"We really try to avoid plastic toys. I have learned that my kids play more imaginatively and cohesively with simple toys like Schleich animals or building blocks or other natural toys," says Courtney
Ivy wears dress, £75, Caramel Baby and Child
Marlow wears floral dress, £82, and Ivy wears floral dress, £88, by Caramel Baby and Child
Ivy and Marlow wear hair bows, £9.95, Rockahula
###### Whose childrenswear would you recommend to a friend?
There are so many wonderful children’s brands, many of them founded by other mothers who pour so much love into their products, creating things by hand and from natural and organic materials. I love brands like Mabo Kids and Soor Ploom in the US, Babaa knitwear in Spain, Macarons in Germany, Caramel Baby and Child, Rachel Riley and Millie Manu here in London, Bonton in Paris, and the list goes on….!
###### Why do you think people are so captivated by you and your family?
I think people are intrigued by the idea of raising four kids in London. It’s quite unusual to have four kids these days, especially in a city like this. Also, we’re quite adventurous and really love to travel, and perhaps people are interested in that aspect as well.
###### Do you have any parenting tips?
Don’t overthink things! There are so many parenting books telling you how to parent your children: how to feed, how to bathe, how to put them to sleep, how to educate, not to mention, mothers who want to pass on their advice and opinions. I’m all for sharing and debating parenting topics, but I've really learned that everyone does things differently. I think we are forgetting to trust our own instincts; we get caught up in what other people think and forget that we actually DO know what is best for our children.
###### Any tips on sibling rivalry?
I wrote a post about preventing sibling rivalry on our blog, which I think explains a bit about why they mostly do get along with one another. While we are quite a relaxed family, we do have some firm rules with the kids and they definitely know their boundaries. I think it's important for children to understand the family rules and know how to act with one another and in certain situations. I suppose we have quite high expectations of them in this way. And, while it's an uphill battle, I'm also quite a stickler about manners.
###### Do you think co-sleeping helps?
I think it works in many ways - I think it does create a strong bond - we’ve never had a problem with scary dreams or other sleep issues. They must feel comfort knowing they have each other so near. It makes travelling easier as they comfort each other in new places and it's nice at night that Easton often reads to Quin. Quin never slept in his own bed. We would tuck each of them into their own beds, but every night we would come upstairs to find them in the same bed together.
Smile! Easton wears jumper, £78, Caramel Baby and Child
Practice makes perfect! Easton and Quin wear jumpers from a selection at Caramel Baby and Child
The children's artwork has been framed to create a unique picture wall. Easton wears jumper, £78 and shorts, £82, Caramel Baby and Child
"I’ve learned that it's best for me to keep motherhood and work separate and to try to be focused and present in each role," Courtney says.
Easton and Quin with their father Michael
The imaginative picture wall in the boys' shared bedroom
Quin wears shirt, £60 and trousers, £87, Caramel Baby and Child
Quirky vintage touches can be found even in the boys' bedroom, from the vintage crate to store reading books to the oversized E for Easton.
A string of picture cards make a pretty decoration in the girls' bedroom. Ivy wears dress, £75
###### Have you received any great parenting advice through your blog?
What I have learned is that there really is no ‘right’ way of parenting. I’ve written posts where I share my thoughts on things like co-sleeping and electronics, and I’m always surprised by the amount of insightful feedback and intelligent debate over issues like this, and it’s nice to hear from people who disagree or do things differently. It reminds you that we’re all just doing what we think is best for our own families!
###### Did you ever find out who complained to Instagram about the picture of Marlow?
I never did find out who the specific individual (or perhaps individuals?) was, but I’m not overly bothered about it. This experience has taught me quite a lot, and I’ve learned that I am never going to please everyone. There are always going to be people who disagree with my parenting choices or want to criticise me for the decisions I’ve made. I just have to focus on what I believe and what is best for my family and try to block out the people who want to leave mean, judgemental and often entirely unfounded comments. My skin has certainly thickened in the past year, that’s for sure!
###### Were you overwhelmed by the response when your Instagram account was closed?
I was completely overwhelmed by that whole experience. I think my husband and I both felt really exposed and vulnerable, especially after all of the press coverage and the onslaught of comments from readers. It took me a while to find my feet after that.
###### And did Instagram ever explain why they closed your account?
They explained that they have to be ultra careful to protect children from potential child predators and that their nudity policy is especially strict when it comes to children. They do not allow any female child of walking age or older to be photographed shirtless, regarding of how innocent the image is. Someone had gone through my account and had flagged several photos where my baby or toddler had been shirtless (even photos taken from behind) and I believe this is what eventually got my account disabled.
###### What have been some of the best and worst bits of Instafame?
[Laughs] Instafame! I don’t really see it like that, but I do think that it’s been really beneficial for our business in growing our audience, and it has definitely opened a lot of doors. I’m also really thankful to have such a wonderfully supportive network of followers, and feel so lucky to be connected to mothers all over the world. The negative feedback and criticism is never fun to deal with, and of course sometimes it feels bizarre to share my life with so many strangers. But on the other hand, it’s so nice to be able to share photos and be connected with my friends and family, and I love getting a glimpse of other people’s lives too. It can be such an inspiring place! Also, I’ve made many ‘real life’ friendships through Instagram and that is something I’m most thankful for.
Easton and Quin wear jumpers, from a selection Caramel Baby and Child; Marlow wears dress, £79, Milli Manu
###### Your home is beautiful - where do you source all of the furniture?
We've found a lot of our furniture from eBay. Many of the pieces have been handed down from friends who were re-decorating their homes. If I do want to buy new furniture, I like to look at The Conran Shop or Skandium.
###### And how do you keep it so plastic free?
We really try to avoid plastic toys. First, I have learned that my kids play more imaginatively and cohesively with simple toys like Schleich animals or building blocks or other natural toys. Whenever my kids have been introduced to battery-operated or brightly coloured plastic toys, they will fight over whose turn it is to play for about ten minutes before quickly losing interest and never going back. I just don’t think they encourage creative play as much as other more traditional toys. Also, we are really conscious of the waste that is created by a big family and are constantly trying to reduce our footprint on this planet.
###### And finally, what's next?
We do hope to host our ShopUp event twice in London this year, and hopefully bring it to other cities like New York as well.