My Essentials: Sonali Shah

We talk to Radio 4’s Today programme and Escape to the Country presenter Sonali Shah on life as mum to Ariana

How are you finding life as a mum to Ariana?
I know it’s a cliché expression but life as a mum is the ultimate rollercoaster – especially because I’m a working mum. It’s a true mix of manic moments when I’m rushing around trying to drop Ariana off to one of her grandmothers before going to work and magic moments when I am able to sit back, take a breath and appreciate my lot in life.

Where do you live in London?
We’ve just moved to a village in north west London. We’re so close to the high street I can nip to the shops with Ariana so easily.

Did you discover any can’t-live-without pregnancy products?
While my pregnancy hormones gave me pelvic pain, they worked wonders for my face. My skin was the clearest it’s ever been and my hair was thick and lush. My body is prone to stretch marks so I knew I couldn’t prevent them – I stuck to Bio-Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter to moisturise and nourish my skin.

4How about in those early days, any lifesavers?
I hired a hospital-grade Medela Symphony breast pump to use at home – best thing I ever did to keep sane during feeding! A friend recommended I hire a double one rather than buy a small one.

Where do you shop for Ariana?
I don’t like to dress her in anything too girly or cutesy – you’ll be surprised how hard it is to find baby clothes without teddy bears all over them. As Ariana is growing so fast, I’ve been sticking to the high street and usually buy from H&M or Gap. She absolutely loves trying on all my shoes, I have dozens of pairs, she’s now moved onto trying her papa’s shoes!

How do you like to style Ariana?
I like to dress her in leggings and cardigans or jumpers. I prefer greys, blues, black and white on her; I tend to avoid too much pink. We recently went to Dubai for a wedding, it was the first time I’d put Ariana in a dress, she insisted on always wearing a hat with the dress so she looked stylish.

What changing bag did you use?
I spent a large part of my pregnancy looking for the perfect changing bag and just didn’t like anything. So, we’ve just been using large handbags I already have, most are from ASOS.

7What items do you keep in your changing bag?
The usual: nappies, wipes, spare clothes, teething powder and lots of snacks as Ariana is a foodie like her mum and dad! I never used to carry medicine around, but Ariana had a febrile convulsion before Christmas, so I now make sure I have sachets of baby paracetamol or ibuprofen with me.

What’s Ariana’s favourite toy?
She’s obsessed with her cupcake dolls from Mothercare. She wants them to do everything with her at the moment – eat, sleep and shower. She even insists I give them a kiss every day!

Where do you like to escape to with Ariana?
We always take Ariana out for at least one meal over the weekend – usually brunch – and like to try out new places. One of our favourite places to take Ariana for lunch or dinner is Wahaca as it has a decent kids’ menu and we love Mexican food – we’re all vegetarian so it gives us a lot of variety. If we’re not eating, we’re usually in a park as Ariana loves animals and starts chatting to all the ducks and dogs she sees. My other escape is my bed. If I’ve had an early start on the Today programme, I nap when Ari naps.

You love travelling: where would you most like to take Ariana?
The priority is to take Ariana to East Africa to meet her two great grandmothers. One lives in Kenya and one lives in Tanzania. I also know she’d love to go on a safari.

How have you balanced working and being a mum?
With lots of help from extremely hands-on grandparents. Ariana loves spending time at their houses and sleeping over, which makes my life easier when I’m away filming away for Escape to the Country. I honestly don’t know how I would cope without my brilliant mother and mother-in-law.

46How does she sleep and do you have any sleep secrets?
We’re lucky as Ariana loves her sleep. She sleeps best in a cot, but it doesn’t have to be her own. And I always use a sleep bag, as that is a great signal for her to realise that it’s time to go to bed. I mainly use The Gro Company sleep bags as they offer a great selection of togs. I then just pop her into her cot, switch my Infant Baby Touch monitor on, say goodbye and close the door.

Where do you go on a rainy day?
Both sets of grandparents also live in London so that’s where we head on a rainy day. She’s crazy about all four of them and asks to visit them every morning. We’re lucky we all live within 10 minutes of each other.

When you can take a few minutes off from being mum, what do you do to relax?
If it’s before 7pm, you’ll find me with a cup of chai and a newspaper. But after 7pm, it is a glass of red wine and some TV.

Sonali presents on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and Escape to the Country for BBC One. @SonaliShah

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