by Victoria Ward, first published in the Green Parent magazine, May 2014 issue.
If you are a keen babywearer interested in sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with other parents and/or professionals, there are many ways you can do this. You could set up a sling meet or sling library where you arrange regular meetings at home or in a community venue, or become a Babywearing Consultant or even a Sling/Wrap/Carrier Manufacturer.
Sling meets usually offer the chance to discuss babywearing and look at slings and carriers that people bring along. Sling libraries loan out slings, usually taking a hire fee and deposit. No training or insurance is required, though some venues may ask you to have public liability insurance. You can access sling library insurance (which includes public liability, product liability & professional indemnity cover) after attending a one-day Babywearing Peer Support course offered by the School of Babywearing. Most libraries run as non-profit and the costs of buying slings are likely to outweigh any potential takings for quite some time. Discounted slings are available from some manufacturers and details of discounts available are regularly sent out to everyone listed on the Babywearing UK local support page (www.babywearing.co.uk/local support). You can also check to see if there is an existing sling meet or library near you.
A Babywearing Consultant works on a one-to-one basis with parents, helping them to find the right sling(s) or carrier(s) for them. Training usually includes reviewing anatomy & physiology, baby development and facilitation skills, as well as practising the use of a range of different slings and carriers. Consultants usually charge for one-to-one appointments and workshops, which can cover the costs of your training, insurance and the purchase of demonstration slings, all of which need to be taken into account when planning your business.
Carrier making is another way of running a babywearing business but it’s important to look into this thoroughly and build on existing sewing skills. Claire Mackenzie-Neville, from Kitten Creations (www.kittencreations.co.uk), a sling consultancy, design and carrier making business, has been making bespoke carriers since 2008. She advises people interested in making carriers to consider that “the amount of research, administration and customer service that any good carrier maker provides, along with the expense of equipment, advertising and insurance, makes this job a labour of love more than anything else.” Claire is a member of the UK Committee of the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA), www.babycarrierindustryalliance.org, which offers advice on what to consider before starting a carrier making business.
Babywearing UK was started up as a social enterprise after Victoria Ward, owner of a maternity and sling shop, saw a need for parents to receive information antenatally, to help them understand what the positive effects of babywearing can be. The School of Babywearing, part of Babywearing UK, raises funds by providing a range of training which is accredited by the Open Colleges Network. “We produce free leaflets and safety cards, which are distributed to parents and professionals across the UK,” says Victoria. “I was keen to offer a range of different training courses, to enable as many people as possible to find out more about babywearing and why it can be such a great parenting tool.”