Not many people have eureka moments when feeding a 6-week-old. But Jen Fuller did. In early 2016, in those first hazy weeks of new motherhood (while most of us are trying to remember which way is up!) she had an amazing brainwave.
Jen explains: “Etta was a fussy feeder. Now, I was one of those first-time mums with an app, always timing feeds and wondering why my baby wasn’t clocking 20 minutes like my other mum friends’ babies were. (Or seemed to be!) But this day, I noticed Etta was feeding really well. And then I noticed why. She was transfixed by my jumper - a zebra-print number that I had just thrown on. I looked at all these muslins piled around me and wondered why things in her eyeline all the time couldn’t offer the same benefit that my jumper had.
I thought, ‘Someone must have thought of this. It’s obvious, it must exist, I just haven’t found it’. But I googled and found nothing. So next time I was at a baby sensory class I said to my friends, ‘I’ve had a thought: a sensory muslin?’ And they thought it was great, so I roped in Shruti - a wonderfully talented friend who’s still our designer - and Etta Loves was born!
I knew babies liked high contrast, but I didn’t know much more than that, so I also set off to find an orthoptist [an expert in eye movement, fact fans] and found Laura through a friend-of-a-friend. I introduced myself by email and her reply came back, saying, ‘I’ve been up all night thinking about this because it’s such a brilliant idea!’
Spin forward six years and we have a range of beautiful products in patterns that provide the perfect visual experience for your baby, and will look different to them from week to week, as their vision develops. This is the magic of Etta Loves and what makes us unique in the world. From the colours we use, the scales within each pattern and the placement and space between each shape, everything is designed, on Laura’s recommendation, to support your baby's visual and cognitive development."
"From the colours we use, the scales within each pattern and the placement and space between each shape, everything is designed...to support your baby's visual and cognitive development."
From those first muslins, the Etta loves range now includes playmats, blankets, comforters and sensory strips. "When it comes to new lines, I’ve always loved looking at how people use our products to work out what to make next. That’s so valuable, rather than just thinking: ‘What do I want to make?" Jen explains. "So I saw people laying the large muslins down over playmats and thought, ‘Well, I’ll make a playmat’. They were using the little ones as comforters, so I decided, ‘I’ll make a comforter’. I love watching things evolve and I still reply to every single review that comes in."
When she says Etta Loves is unique because of how much they 'lean into the science', she’s not exaggerating. They’re currently working in collaboration with the University of Sussex's Baby Lab and co-funding a Phd student, who is carrying out research on their behalf on prem babies’ visual development. They've also co-produced an amazing film called Through A Baby's Eyes, that gives you a look at the visual journey your baby goes on in their first 6 months.
"We’ve got a unique depth of understanding of what newborns and 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-month-olds see. So, in our best selling 3-pack of muslins, we have one with lines, because newborns prefer lines. But by about 4 months they like bullseyes, so there’s a dandelion clock pattern. And that’s why our playmats are reversible - so there’s a newborn - 5 months side and a 5 month+ side. Every single thing we do is based on the science: I have become a total geek!"
But at the end of the day, it's all about making life easier for parents. "The whole purpose behind Etta Loves, rather than just making something completely different, was making something do more, " she explains. "As a new parent it’s so overwhelming, there’s so much stuff. I always ask myself if I’m making something: ‘Okay, but what’s its secondary function?’
To be honest, I am still astounded that I have built something and that this thing is so well-wanted and fills a gap that wasn't being filled. But we have. And there’s still so much more we can do. So watch this (mesmerising) space!”