Mums Who Inspire

'My daughter is my motivation': Meet the mum who helps parents manage eczema

This week on our Mums Who Inspire series, and as part of Eczema Awareness Week, we sat down with Nicola McDonnell, founder of Itchy Little Monkeys, a set of innovative products she created to help her daughter, who suffered badly from eczema since she was a baby. The range now serves as a helpful and fun aid to parents who are trying to manage what can be a distressing skin condition. If you have a story that you would like to be featured, email mumswhoinspire[at]magicmum[dot]com.

Nicola McDonnell was inspired to set up her own business when her daughter was just a baby.

"My daughter Sienna is the inspiration behind setting up the business. She has suffered badly from eczema since she was a baby. I came up with the idea when searching for solutions that could help her," she told MagicMum. "With 1 in 5 kids having eczema, I knew there must be so many parents out there that were going through what we went through with our daughter – the sleepless nights when she was driven mad by the unrelenting itch with the ongoing risk of infection from the scratching. It can be very distressing for both parent and child and there is no cure for it – it can only be managed and it’s all about maintenance."

This is where her business comes in; with products to help manage the skin disease. 

Nicola says she tried everything – every cream available, diet changes and the whole lot over the past number of years (Sienna is now eight-years-old) to help treat and manage the relentless itch and scratching.  For a long time, she says she would go into her daughter in the morning unsure what condition her skin would be in, depending on how bad the itch-scratch cycle would have been the night before.   

Because it is a skin condition that is distressing in that it can be quite unpredictable in the severity of its symptoms, or when they could appear. Your child could have a flare on any given day, starting the itch-scratch cycle all over again and increasing the risk of infection in the skin.  In our latest #MumTruths podcast, Paediatric consultant Dr. Sinead Murphy stressed that the key was treating the skin with a gentle emollient to keep the skin moisturised because, as she explains, if the skin is moist we can stop the baby or child itching. "It's the itch that causes the rash, not the rash that causes the itch."

Nicola, recording the latest episode of our #MumTruths podcast

It was after years of trying to find a solution to this that, Nicola, who is also featured on the podcast, explained that she began to get the idea for her business. Itchy Little Monkeys, aims to remove the stress for both parents and child with products to help stop the scratching as well as to help and inform the parents – while offering a fun element for the children. 

"As adults, we know when to stop the scratching, but it's much more difficult for a child; they don't have that control and the damage that can be done to the skin and risk of infection are a constant source of worry." Her wonderful products aim to help get this under control.   

"We are currently offering two products: The Shruggi is a form of scratch mitten made from organic cotton and silk and comes in bright, colourful child-friendly designs. The main difference between this and traditional scratch mittens is that the Shruggi stays on – giving parents that peace of mind that their kids are not causing damage to their skin. And I wanted something that kids would want to wear in that if they enjoy wearing it, they won't be tempted to take the mitten off and start scratching."

"We also have a range of storybooks featuring the Itchy Little Monkeys, Max & Mimi. The stories are great for kids while also providing top tips for parents." The idea behind the books came because Nicola said she wanted to take some of the stress away for her daughter and introduce a fun element that she could identify with. "Sienna would always say, 'why is it just me with itchy skin?' so I wanted some characters to bring a fun element to the treatment part of it as well as educating them."   

The idea is to make bedtime easier for the children with eczema, she explained, because with no daytime distractions, and the itch kicking in, it can be so uncomfortable and distressing for them.  "It's helping them to relax, taking the stress away as much as we can and adding an element of fun to it." 

One of the highlights of her journey creating the products she says is helping other mums in the same situation.

"Day to day, [a highlight] is being able to help mums who are now in the same situation I was in – whether it’s offering them practical advice or being able to help them through the use of our products and hearing back from them that we were able to help make life easier for them and their child," she says. 

And, of course, her daughter is a continued source of inspiration for her. "My daughter is my inspiration – knowing how she has suffered badly from eczema over the years, how tough it has been for her and her resilience in dealing with it."  

"I wanted to take all the knowledge I learnt along the way and passing that back to mums and parents – the tips are there for them as a support."

For more information on the products, visit

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