Some products are absolute must-haves when it comes to parenting a young family. But must-haves are changing – because now it's not only practicality we're looking for as parents, we're also interested in sustainability, innovation and brands we can really admire and trust.
For these Special Awards, we've tried and tested a variety of products - some are contemporary versions of old favourites, others are cutting-edge new concepts. We've also singled out some outstanding parenting brands who've made a real difference in a difficult year.
Sustainable/eco-friendly product for babies
Key features we tested/judged – Sustainability, effectiveness, ease of use, quality of product and worth the money
Gold – Babybamba Muslin, £12.99
The quality is beautiful and perfect for soft, sensitive baby skin
Why it’s a winner: Scoring top scores in almost all of our judging categories, the Babybamba Muslin is soft, large enough to use as a swaddle, anti-static and washes really well according to our testers. Made from bamboo, the muslins are 100% biodegradable making them good for the environment. Zahra, mum of 1, loved the quality and the colourful prints. She said: “They're so well made. I have had to wash these a million times over and they're still as fresh and soft as when I first received them. The patterns don't fade either, which is great.”
In the words of tester Aneesa, mum of 1: "The quality of this muslin means it won't have to be replaced often, and the size means I will be able to adapt it's use for my baby as she grows bigger. I can't wait to order other designs too and think this will make a staple gift in all my baby gift baskets in the future."
Buy from: Babybamba
Joint Gold – MAM Feel Good Glass Bottles, from £8.99
Why it’s a winner: Combatting concerns about microplastics leaching out of plastic bottles and offering parents a more sustainable option, MAM has launched its Feel Good Glass Bottles. No longer something your mum or grandma might have used, 21st century glass bottles are becoming an environmentally-friendly choice. Juana, mum of 1, said: “They're amazing quality, packaged nicely and have different bottles for each stage.” Boasting a stylish design, temperature-resistant glass and being BPA-free, the MAM glass bottles scored highly on quality, although be aware they are heavier than plastic bottles.
In the words of tester Nimah, mum of 1: “They’re super trendy, beautifully designed and easy to clean. I especially love that they have a marking for 0.5 oz. This would be especially beneficial for when you’re feeding a newborn and wanting to make smaller feeds.”
Silver – MORI Clever Sleeping Bag 2.5 TOG, £69.50
Why it’s a winner: With most sleeping bags being outgrown in 6 months to 1 year, MORI's Clever Sleeping Bag offers parents longevity due to its adaptable design that is suitable for babies (8.8lb/4kg) up to 2 years old. Made from organic cotton and bamboo, it's breathable, extremely soft on your baby's skin and has handy pushchair belt openings. Although this is an expensive sleeping bag, our testers were bowled over by the quality and the softness. "We are a huge fan of sleeping bags in this household," commented Ruth, mum of 1. "This one is easily the softest and snuggliest of them all. My little girl loves getting into it - it's soooooo soft!"
In the words of tester Ellie, mum of 1: “A must-have if you are looking for an eco-friendly, stylish, super-soft, long-lasting sleeping bag! It is also a good choice if your baby tends to sleep in the pram for naps.”
Bronze – Weleda Baby Calendula Cream Bath, £13.95
Why it’s a winner: Made using calendula grown by Weleda and sustainably sourced organic ingredients, our testers found this bath cream/body wash delicately moisturised their children's skin. “Both my children have sensitive skin, and one has eczema; the product soothed their skin and felt natural and good quality,” said Lucinda, mum of 2. The sustainable packaging – a recyclable bottle that's made using recycled materials – also impressed our testers.
In the words of tester Zartasha, mum of 3: “The scent is so subtle and it's extremely gentle on my baby's sensitive skin. The organic sesame oil makes skin feel soft and supple without causing any dryness and irritation."
Shortlisted: Bambino Mio miosolo all-in-one nappy | Babycup First Cups | Kendamil Organic
Sustainable/eco-friendly product for families
Key features we tested/judged – Sustainability, effectiveness, ease of use, quality of product and worth the money
Joint Gold – Frugi Snow & Ski Coat, £70
This coat is simply fantastic
Why it’s a winner: Our testers loved Frugi’s versatile coat's eco-friendly credentials and the child-friendly design features, including a detachable hood, highly waterproof material and easy-to-use poppers and zipper. And best of all, the coat is made from recycled plastic bottles. Sarah-Jane, a mum of 5 children, commented: “This coat is amazingly made from recycled materials, although you wouldn't have a clue – it’s the most fantastic quality! It feels like premium materials and is definitely made to last.”
In the words of tester Leonna, mum of 2: “Having previously bought big bulky coats in the hope of keeping my son warm, I have never found one that stays put on the lower half to keep the wind out. The inner layer on this coat is a game-changer.”
Joint Gold – Micro Scooters Mini Micro Eco Scooter, £79.95
Such a great product! It has made scooting much simpler for the kids
Why it’s a winner: Made from recycled fishing nets and other discarded ocean plastic, the Mini Micro Eco Scooter was a big hit with our testers and their kids. Designed for children aged 2-5 years old, the scooter has an adjustable handle bar that is straightforward to use, while the steering is really easy for kids to pick up. Jo, mum of 2, said: “The lean-to-steer function is great and it has introduced them to using a brake. It is handy to stash away in the car, as it comes apart easily and is used by both our 2 and 4 year old.”
In the words of tester Kayleigh, mum of 2: “My children all love the Mini Micro Eco Scooter, so much so that it's regularly whizzing up and down my hallway with one of them on. It has become a firm favourite to the point where no one wants to use our older scooters anymore!”
Joint Silver – Bendies from Sweet Dreamers, £8.99
Why it’s a winner: These reusable silicone straws come in a handy carry pack featuring cute cartoon faces. Our testers found they worked really well and Karen, mum of 2, said they encouraged her daughter to finish her drink. She added: “My 3-year-old daughter loves using them and asks for them at meal times. She's not great at finishing her drinks, but the straws have made drinks more fun.” Each pack of dishwasher-safe straws comes with 1 thick one for smoothies and 1 thin one for other drinks.
In the words of tester Felix, dad of 3: “Its all about reusable items these days so this is an amazing product, to be able to carry the straws around in a pouch as well is just so handy! I love that they can be reused and it is important for children to learn about the environment and reusing items as they grow up.”
Joint Silver – Ecozone Soap Nuts, £6.99
Why it’s a winner: An eco-friendly alternative to detergent, Ecozone Soap Nuts are completely natural, organic and allergy friendly. All of our testers loved them and found them incredibly effective. While there's no 'clean smell' and the packaging is quite basic, they're both cost-effective and powerful at removing stains from clothes without using harsh chemicals. Charlotte, mum of 1, said: “I was amazed by how well they cleaned and how fresh the clothes were after washing.” Danielle, mum of 1, added: “This is a fantastic product for everyday washing.”
In the words of sustainability influencer @N4mummy: “I was surprised by how well these soap nuts actually cleaned our clothes. I gave them the toughest task: poo-covered wipes and my daughter's school tights, and the wipes came out completely white again. I was amazed.”
Bronze – Extra Large Natural Lion belly basket by Bellybambino, £69
Why it’s a winner: This stylish Lion belly basket is stitched by hand in the UK and made from sustainable materials. “I love the seagrass material and woolly hair on the lion basket. It's well made and very good quality,” said Ijeoma, mum of 2. Our testers were also impressed by how many toys the extra-large basket can hold. Laura, mum of 1, found that it encouraged her daughter to tidy up. She explained: “Because it looks so sweet, my little girl loves putting things inside it and so tidy-up time is a lot easier.”
In the words of tester Laura, mum of 1: “There is absolutely something special about this basket. From its individual look to being hand-sewn and made from sustainable materials, it’s a beautiful solution to the endless amount of toys you find scattered around your house once you have kids.”
Shortlisted: mama mio Tummy Rub Butter | Pure Bundle - Preloved & Past Season Capsule Wardrobes
Everyday parenting essential
Key features we tested/judged – Effectiveness, ease of use, quality of product and worth the money
Joint Gold – Mamia Ultra-Dry Newborn Size 1 Nappies, £0.79
Great value for money and they kept my little one dry - even when there was a big poo!
Why it’s a winner: Also winning Gold in the Newborn nappies category, these affordable nappies from budget supermarket Aldi performed really well for our testers. Lisa, mum of 1, liked how robust and comfortable they were for her daughter. She said: “The nappies were a great length, which made them very easy to do up even when my baby was squirming around during a change.” While Zeynep, mum of 3, liked the wetness indicator and that the nappies “fit well with nice stretchy sides”.
In the words of tester Keeley, mum of 1: “I am impressed with these nappies. I didn't feel the need to spend more on nappies as these were brilliant. They were easy to use and not too bulky when full and I'll continue to use this brand as my little one goes through the sizes.”
Joint Gold – Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five, £14.99
A great mix of activities that you can whip out when you need to keep the kids entertained
Why it’s a winner: “Some days it’s hard to think of anything to entertain the kids and this book is fabulous,” commented Caroline, mum of 2. Aimed at parents of children aged 1-5, Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five by Daisy Upton is packed full of fun games and activities using items found around the home. Bethany, mum of 2, said: “The activities are mostly quite quick and easy and a good amount of them are devised from items I have to hand in my house.”
In the words of tester Caroline, mum of 2: “The games are perfect for my daughters (ages 3 and 5 years old). They’re quick and easy to set up and they have both really enjoyed everything we have done so far. Massive thumbs up from us.”
Silver – Organic Children Hand Sanitiser – Citrus, £10.50
Why it’s a winner: Boasting 91% certified organic ingredients, no alcohol and natural antibacterial tea tree, the Organic Children Hand Sanitiser – Citrus by Green People is a “good-quality product that the whole family can use,” commented Rebecca, mum of 2. “You only need a small amount of foam to get your hands clean, the pump action is easy for children to use and it has a secure lid to prevent any leaking,” she added. Varinder, mum of 2, loved the citrus scent and the fact that it didn't dry out her daughters' hands with regular use.
In the words of tester Varinder, mum of 2: “I find this product amazing because it's alcohol-free, but ensures both my daughters' hands are germ-free, clean and fresh. It doesn’t dry out their hands like other alcohol products tend to do and the pump makes my life easier.”
Bronze – Nimble Laundry Lover Baby Detergent, £7.99
Why it’s a winner: A non-bio liquid laundry detergent that is specifically made for baby clothes, the Nimble Laundry Lover Baby Detergent was popular with our testers due to its ability to remove food and mud stains without harsh chemicals. Jennifer, mum of 2, said: “It is good for sensitive baby skin and is scented, but with not too much perfume.” Our testers liked the product's green credentials, the fact that a “little goes a long way” and it has a “lovely scent”.
In the words of tester Jennifer, mum of 1: “I'm definitely looking at changing to the Nimble liquid detergent and have already recommended it to other mums. Having something that makes life and washing a little easier is amazing and it's lovely and gentle on my baby's skin.”
Shortlisted: Bibbilyboo The Waterproof Dribble Bib | Kura Organic Wrap
Can’t live without parenting product
Key features we tested/judged – effectiveness, ease of use, quality of product, worth the money
Gold – ewan Deluxe with Shush, £39.99
The quality of this product is second to none
Why it’s a winner: Scoring high marks in every judging category, the ewan Deluxe with Shush sleep aid was described as “absolutely brilliant”, “fantastic quality” and “amazingly soft” by our home testers. They loved how easy it is to use, the soft and cuddly material, and the fact it is machine washable. This updated version of the popular ewan the Dream Sheep has a shush noise in addition to the pink- and white-noise sounds. Our parent testers found the smartCRY sensor, which recognises your baby's cry and activates when they begin to wake up, very useful at helping them to settle back to sleep.
In the words of tester Lauren, mum of 6: “I couldn’t have tested this at a more perfect time – my baby had just started fussing at night-time and it was somewhat difficult to get her off to sleep. I pop this on and she falls straight to sleep to subtle heartbeat noises. I really tried to find something that was missing or that could be changed, but I honestly couldn’t find a single thing.”
Silver – Munchkin & Bear Luxe Padded Play Mat, from £94.95
Why it’s a winner: “I wouldn’t have thought of buying a mat like this before testing it and I am 100% converted. I have been so impressed with the look, quality and practicality of this mat. It is literally life-changing,” said Hannah, mum of 1. This wipe-clean, PVC-free, padded and shock-absorbing foam mat is ideal for safe play from birth. Our testers loved how easy it is to roll up and wipe clean. Both testers found it had multiple uses, not only as a play mat, but also a place for parents and older kids to practise yoga, Taekwando and ballet.
In the words of tester Sami, mum of 5: “Wipe clean and heavy-duty, this ended up being our go-to play area. It is amazingly well made; so soft and squishy and very luxurious. It’s expensive, but worth every penny.”
Buy from: Munchkin & Bear
Bronze – DockATot Deluxe+, from £130
Why it’s a winner: Suitable for use from birth up to around 8 months, the DockATot Deluxe+ is a safe place to put your baby for supervised daytime naps, playtime and tummy time. Our testers rated it highly for comfort, ease of use and its large size. Sophia, mum of 1, said: “I love how comfortable and spacious it is for my little one. It feels and looks very durable and it's so easy to wash.” Both of our testers loved the vintage-style floral patterns.
In the words of tester Emma, mum of 1: “I love the colour and design! It fits in with our house beautifully and looks good in our rooms. We have found that some baby items are practical, but not always aesthetically pleasing, whereas this has a beautiful pattern and style.”
Shortlisted: Bumbo Booster Seat
Technology products for babies and families
Key features we tested/judged – Functionality, battery life, portability, safety features, design and connectivity.
Gold – Vtech 5" Pan & Tilt & Night Show Projection Video Baby Monitor VM5463, £99.99
The image quality is superior - I can actually see if my baby is breathing rather than just a fuzzy outline
Why it’s a winner: With a range of high-spec features, including excellent image quality, night vision, sound and light options, plus an excellent pan and tilt feature, this video monitor scored high marks from our home testers. Siona, mum of a baby, said: “I no longer need to have a light on to be able to see my daughter on the monitor. Night-vision mode is excellent!” Our testers loved the fact that the monitor was so easy to set up and use - giving parents great visibility of their child without the risk of disturbing them.
In the words of tester Georgina, mum of 2: “The pan & tilt option is useful – you can mount the baby unit on the wall. Friends who use video monitors have had to buy a tripod or similar to get the baby unit to stand at the right height, whereas you don't have that issue with this monitor."
Silver – Nanit Plus, from £299
Why it’s a winner: Our testers were impressed with the “clever features and state-of-the-art technology” of the Nanit Plus monitor, which has a high-quality camera, is able to connect to multiple devices, and holds a huge amount of data. It's not a cheap product, and there are additional purchases as your child grows, but our testers really loved the peace of mind that this monitor gave them with Breathing Wear bands, swaddles and sleeping bags detecting their baby's breathing, Daisy, mum of 1, said: “Having this feature really does help me sleep better at night.”
In the words of tester Rovenna, mum of a 4-month-old baby: “The 'insights' and wealth of information it provides, plus the age related tips, were very useful. The HD camera quality is better than any others I have seen and the videos are both informative and cute!"
Bronze – FamiSafe parental control app, £9.49 per month
Why it’s a winner: Designed for parents of children age 6-18 years old, the FamiSafe parental control app allows parents to keep a close eye on their children's online activity. Key features of this comprehensive app include monitoring and setting screen time, the ability to limit YouTube content, a geolocator, an app blocker, filter search engines and even track your teenager's driving habits – if they're still letting you monitor them at that stage! With a monthly fee, this app is most suitable for older children who are using social media and watching lots of YouTube videos.
In the words of tester Alana, mum of 2: “The app is helpful for parents of pre-teens. I like that you can see where your children are at all times.”
Buy from: FamiSafe
Innovation of the year
Key features we tested/judged – Effectiveness, ease of use, quality of product and worth the money
Gold – Joie roomie glide, £169
A functional, practical, smart-looking, quality product
Why it’s a winner: The key innovation of Joie's roomie glide bedside crib is its smooth, side-to-side rocking motion. It's a gentle movement that you can control with one hand and easily lock when rocking is over. "I pop my baby to bed awake, so the ability to rock her gently is great," said tester Jennie, mum of 2. It also scored highly in ease of use and quality, and with 11 height adjustments, folding feet and 4 incline positions, the roomie is designed to fit most beds, including divans. Tester Megan, mum of 1, found the tilting option worked well. "It has been great for my baby, who suffers badly from reflux. The ability to slightly tilt one end has helped her to sleep better at night. Remember, though, like all bedside cribs, you can't have the side down if the cot is in tilted position.
In the words of tester Jennie, mum of 2: "The material is great quality and I like how see-through the side is, so I can see my baby clearly even when the side is up. It makes caring for your baby at night so much easier. I feel reassured that she’s just right there and I can touch her if I want to and see her clearly."
Joint Silver – Kendamil Goats' milk, £21
Why it’s a winner: In 2014, the European Commission Directive on Infant Formula updated its formula milk guidance, allowing infant formula and follow-on milk to be made from goats' milk - a move that is echoed by NHS advice. Kendamil Goat's milk is made in the Lake District, giving it a low carbon footprint, and unlike some cows' milk formula it doesn't contain fish oil or palm oil. Cathryn, mum of 4, found it brilliant for her son. She said: “Blade loved it. He’s had no issues swapping to goats' milk.” It is more expensive than other baby formula brands, but our testers loved the quality of the milk and how easy it is to prepare a bottle. Please note, the NHS advises that goats' milk is not suitable for babies with cows' milk protein allergy and we'd recommend checking with your GP or health visitor before changing your baby's normal milk.
In the words of tester Cathryn, mum of 4: “It’s a filling milk, with no nasties, tastes great and my son loves it. It’s as easy to prepare as other milks and requires no special mixing. Plus, it keeps its sweetness warm or cold, which is a great pro.”
Joint Silver – Thumbsie thumb and finger guards, from £9.55
Why it’s a winner: Recommended by dentists, Thumbsie guards help children age 3-12 years to stop sucking their thumbs and fingers. Our testers liked the fact that with designs in over 40 fabrics, it meant there were some for younger and older children. Sarah, mum of 4, praised the accompanying story book and reward chart, which helped her youngest daughter. And most importantly, it worked. “My daughters have cut down the amount they suck their thumbs significantly and my oldest daughter has stopped altogether. I am confident that all of my children will have stopped in the next few weeks.”
In the words of tester Jessica, mum of 3: “The Thumbsie guards were well made and stylish. The finish on the guard was high quality, the velcro was strong and the stitching finish was well done, which gave me confidence in the quality.”
Buy from: Thumbsie
Joint Bronze – NUK Learner Bottle with Glow in the Dark Effect, £5.99
Why it’s a winner: Designed to help babies transition from bottle to cup, the NUK Learner Bottle has anti-slip handles for easy grip and a silicone spout to reduce spills. Its innovation comes with the glow-in-the-dark design, which makes it easier for children to find the cup if they want a drink in the night. Barbara, mum of 1, said: “The design is cute and the double handles and size are ideal for little hands learning to be a bit more independent.” Our testers liked how easy it is to use and also to take apart to clean.
In the words of tester Laura, mum of 2: “I love this bottle, no more water dripping everywhere and it's easy to use and clean. I have paid more for cups/bottles that have still leaked – this one is great!”
Joint Bronze – Natal Active Performance Maternity Support Leggings, £65
Why it’s a winner: Our pregnant testers were impressed with the soft wicking fabric and innovative adjustable design of the Natal Active Performance Maternity Support Leggings. Mum-to-be Maria said: “They feel extremely comfortable and having worn these so much since receiving them I would definitely invest in a pair.” The leggings have longevity as they can be worn antenatally and postnatally and have adjustable support from the back to the hips. According to one of our testers, they also washed well and maintained their colour and feel.
In the words of tester Maria, 6-months pregnant: “Definitely worth the investment. Great quality, comfortable and versatile enough to wear after pregnancy. I wore them all day and they still felt as comfortable as when they were first put on.”
Buy from: Natal Active
Shortlisted: Mamia Premium Dry Fast Nappies | Yoto Player | Y'earn parent-to-parent marketplace
Parenting brand of the year
Key features we tested/judged –Brand quality, brand achievements, effectiveness of products and customer feedback
Gold – Mamas & Papas
A trusted nursery manufacturer and retailer who listen to their community of parents
Why it’s a winner: Established for nearly 40 years, Mamas & Papas learn directly from their retail customers in order to create their own award-winning products as well as offering a range of top brands. During lockdown they launched their Never Underestimate the Power of Community campaign, which revealed the extent to which parents-to-be were missing out on a variety of pregnancy advice. This led to a partnership with NCT and a series of Parents To Be sessions featuring health and maternity experts providing a range of antenatal advice – beyond Mamas & Papas’ traditional product-buying expertise.
In the words of MFM Reviews Editor Gemma Cartwright, mum of 1: "Mamas & Papas offer a reassuring experience for mums-to-be and new parents – with personal shopping advice and good prices on big brand items as well as their own quality products, plus this year they've supported and entertained a community of parents via social media."
Buy now from: Mamas & Papas
Silver – Organix
Why it’s a winner: A founding member of the Organic Trade Board, Organix has long campaigned for raising the standards and regulation of children’s food and offers a ‘No Junk Promise’ with their own products. You know what you’re getting with Organix food – the ingredients are recognisable and clearly explained. Sustainability has become an increasingly important focus for Organix, influencing their business decisions and confirming their commitment to organic farming. We particularly like that their packaging is 85% recyclable and they have a clear objective to be 100% fully sustainable by 2023.
In the words of MFM Editorial Director Susie Boone, mum of 3: “Their passion for healthy, organic food for child is always front and centre of the Organix brand, and it’s great to see their determined campaigning continuing to make a difference within the food industry.”
Bronze – Lidl Lupilu
Why it’s a winner: We know Lidl’s reputation for great value products, but it’s the quality of those products that have impressed our testers. Whether it’s Lupilu’s Gold-winning toddler nappies or Gold-winning organic baby food, Lidl is creating affordable and appealing products. This year, Lidl partnered with NSPCC to raise awareness of the charity’s much-needed support of children struggling with mental health and emotional health issues. Lidl has raised £3 million for NSPCC and is now committed to raising £5 million across the next 5 years for NSPCC and Childline.
In the words of MFM Editorial Director Susie Boone, mum of 3: “Our testers have found over and over again that Lidl Lupilu products are great quality and budget friendly. Plus we love the fact that they’re involved in supporting new parents and children through their work with both the NCT and NSPCC.”
Buy now from: Lidl
Shortlisted: Aldi | ClevaMama | Joolz | Usborne Books
Six big family moments that matter – and the products that make them easier to navigate
These products from John Lewis & Partners help support the memorable moments of family life.