Sling Libraries

There are over 150 sling libraries across the UK with more starting up each month. Victoria Ward explains what these libraries are and how they can help

What is a sling library? Like traditional (book) libraries and toy libraries, sling libraries’ main role is to loan out slings and carriers and to offer advice and information on babywearing. Each one is run by volunteers and they run in different ways, meeting anywhere from weekly to monthly in someone’s home, a children’s centre, community venue, play centre or library. Some run alongside Sling Meets which are more informal gatherings of sling lovers who meet to socialise and share information about their slings, carriers and experiences. Some make a small charge for attending a library session and almost all charge hire fees and a deposit. If you are new to Babywearing and keen to try different slings before you buy, a sling library can be a good option.

Who runs these sling libraries? Libraries often have trained volunteers who have attended Babywearing Peer Support training and sling library insurance. Some are run by Babywearing Consultants, who have completed more in-depth training to offer one-to-one advice to parents and to run workshops.

What happens at a sling library session? Often sling library sessions are very busy and some sling libraries operate numbering systems so that as people arrive they are given a number and ‘served’ in order. The focus of the sessions is both giving advice and hiring out slings, though a sling library session isn’t always the best place to get in-depth advice or to try something new like a back carry. You may get time to see how to use a new sling or carrier or to find one to hire that meets your needs but in a busy session you may not get more than 5 – 10 minutes of individual attention.

How do I know what slings they will have? Many sling libraries have websites and Facebook pages which may list the slings and carriers they have, although that may not mean that all are available to hire at the next session. Some operate booking systems for the most popular carriers. It’s always worth contacting them in advance if you do have a particular carrier or type in mind or you can attend a session and see what’s available.

How are sling libraries funded? Generally libraries are funded by the people running them donating their own slings to the library or using their own funds to buy library slings. If they’re lucky, they can slowly claim back the cost of the initial outlay through hire fees. A small number of libraries have received grant funding and a few are donated slings by manufacturers, although this is much more rare now that there are so many libraries. It’s worth remembering when chatting to sling library helpers that they are all volunteering their time before, during and after sessions.

What if I need more help than a library can offer? If you feel you would benefit from a one-to-one session, you could contact a local Babywearing Consultant who may visit you at home or invite you to their home to have a session geared towards your needs and those of your baby/child. Babywearing Consultants usually have a range of different types of slings and carriers that you can try and may have some available to hire. They can help you find the right choice for you, show you how to use a sling or carrier that you already own and show you how to try different carries. They may also offer workshops on topics from an Introduction to Babywearing, to Back Carrying, Toddler Carrying and more.

I would like to start a sling library, what do I need to do? You can start a sling library with no training or insurance though you may prefer to cover yourself by obtaining insurance and you may find that training with a recognised Babywearing School allows you to access special offers and discounts on slings and carriers. You need to make sure that there is demand in your area (check which sling meets, sling libraries and Babywearing Consultants are in your area at www.babywearing.co.uk/local) and think about when and where you’ll meet, how you will fund the purchase of slings to set up your library and how you’ll structure your library. Babywearing UK has a factsheet on Choosing the Right Structure for your Sling Library that may be helpful. Starting a sling library is hard work and you’re unlikely to make a profit – successful libraries invest their money to grow their stock.

Victoria Ward lives in Devon with her husband and four children and runs Babywearing UK and the School of Babywearing, which offers a range of babywearing courses.

Find a sling library near you – www.babywearing.co.uk/local

This article was published in the Winter 2014 issue of Juno Magazine.

 

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Crochet Suck Pads for your Carrier

tulacrochetpadsBabies love to be carried and they love to chew – sadly, combining these two may have dire consequences for your beloved sling.

One crafty mama, Kelly Bilsland, saw this an an opportunity to get creative and crocheted these gorgeous suck pads for her Tula Carrier.

Such a lovely way of protecting the straps of her carrier and allowing her baby to suck as much as she wanted.

She also made a reach strap so she can pull the sleep hood up more easily – genius, I just wish I had thought of it first.

Thank you Kelly for allowing us to share your photos. tulareachstrap

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Babywearing in Children’s Books

howtohidealionI love it when authors treat babywearing a normal part of life.  No fuss, no fanfare; it’s just there as part of the background.

How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens is one of my toddler’s favourite books at the moment – it has a sweet story and beautiful pictures, with several images of mum and dad wearing the younger sibling.

There is another, longer list of books with babywearing images in them on the School of Babywearing website if you are inspired to add to your family’s book shelf.

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The Stretchiness of Stretchy Wraps

stretched-amountWe were invited to try out a new stretchy wrap recently and ended up having a conversation about the different degrees of ‘stretchiness’ that a stretchy wrap has. (Read more about the differences between stretchy wraps on the North East Sling Library site). Out of interest, we calculated the stretchiness of some of the main brands (by stretching a set width of material using the same force and measuring the maximum stretch)*. Here are our results:

Product 30cm stretched to:  Stretchiness Stretch Fabric constitution
Baby Bundler (the first  stretchy wrap brand!) 33cm 10% 1 way 100% cotton
Boba Wrap 43cm  43% 2 way 95% cotton, 5% spandex
By Kay Original 36cm 20% 1 way 100% cotton
By Kay Aqua Carrier 34cm 13.3% 1 way 100% polyester
Calin Bleu Fleece 36cm 20% 1 way 100% polyester
Cot to Tot 43cm 43% 2 way 95% cotton, 5% spandex
Designed 2U 35cm 17% 1 way 100% cotton
Ergo Wrap 41cm 36.6% 2 way 100% cotton
Hana Wrap 42cm 40% 2 way 68% bamboo, 28% cotton, 4% elastane
Hoppediz Wrap 36cm 20% 1 way 100% cotton
JPMBB (Je Porte Mon Bebe) 65cm 117% 2 way 95% cotton, 5% spandex
Joy & Joe 35cm 17% 1 way 100% cotton
Kari Me 43cm 43% 2 way 90%+ cotton
Moby Original 35cm 17% 1 way 100% cotton
Moby Mediumweight 35cm 17% 1 way 100% cotton
Victoria Slinglady 37cm 23% 1 way 100% cotton
Wrapsody Stretch Hybrid 35cm 17% 1 way 100% cotton
Wrapsody WrapDuo 38cm  27% 2 way 100% polyester

* We didn’t do this under lab conditions, but we did measure pretty carefully & try each stretch three times, taking the average measurement. For hemmed wraps, we measured away from the hem as we found that the hem reduced the stretch by 20 – 30%.

Any brands we’ve missed? Any thoughts or questions? Please comment below.

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Dr Evelin Kirkilionis Workshop – postponed

Unfortunately this study day has been postponed though we hope that Dr Kirkilionis will speak at the 2015 European Babywearing Conference in Leeds.

kirkilionisevelin-pmweb-Dr Evelin Kirkilionis is the world-renown author of ‘A Baby Wants to be Carried’, and has over 20 years experience and work in the field of understanding children’s development, Dr Evelin Kirkilionis will explain her research and practical informative approach to Babywearing.

By the end of the workshop you will have an understanding of:

  • The importance of evolutionary history and how it affects infants today
  • The healthy aspects of babywearing
  • Innate and learned behaviour
  • Consideration of babies’ anatomy and characteristic features, showing their predisposition to being carried – eg behaviour patterns, physical signals, specific features regarding anatomy and physiology which are adjustments to the situation of a clinging young (for example palmar and plantar grasp reflex, spread-squat reaction, the range of moving of the lower limbs)
  • The importance of carrying to parent and child
  • Tips and facts on tying techniques

9781780661452_web__49908.1377339314.220.290

Dr. Evelin Kirkilionis studied Biology and Human Ethology and has worked on the subject of carrying babies and the basic needs of children for more than twenty years. In 1989 she finished her doctoral thesis and in 1993 she co-founded the independent research group ‘Forschungsgruppe Verhaltensbiologie des Menschen (FVM / Human Ethology Research Group) which works closely with the University of Freiburg. FVM’s main objectives are related to problems arising during children’s development and their research is used to advise professional groups and institutions.

More details on “A Baby Wants to be Carried” can be found on the publisher’s website.

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The History of Babywearing

furmeitai If you use a sling or carrier, you will probably have had at least one person tell you that “those things weren’t around in my day” – they are both wrong and right.

Slings have been described as one of the very first pieces of technology, an absolute necessity for nomadic peoples for whom carrying their babies in arms was both impractical and would have meant that mothers needed even more energy, which was in scarce supply. Yet it is true that most of the slings and carriers we see today were produced by companies that were established in the last 40 years. The last twenty years have seen the creation of new products such as stretchy wraps and hybrids and a huge growth in the number of companies making and selling slings and carriers.

How did ‘babywearing’, as we may now know it, come about?

bilumIt’s thought that natural materials like bark, leaves and animal skins were initially used to fashion very simple one-shouldered carriers, which helped support some of the child’s weight while adults were moving around from place to place or looking for food. Later, after weaving was used to create cloth, simple pieces of cloth were used to tie the child close to the adult (or to a sibling, as many babies were and still are carried by older children). Sometimes these were very ornate, such as in Asia, where carriers were often heavily embroidered or made from fabric such as the silk of kimonos or kimono sashes in Japan.
In Africa, kanga and kitenge fabrics were part of dress fabric used as an apron, a blanket to sit on and a general carrying aid. In Mexico, the rebozo, which was a general purpose ‘carrying cloth’ which each woman carried at all times, was used to carry babies in. In India, women tied babies into part of their saris and in Borneo rattan baskets were used. Closer to home, in Wales the Welsh blanket was used by both men and women regularly to carry babies until the 1950s, when the mass production of strollers meant that their usage virtually died out.

pagneStyles of original baby carrier vary from climate to climate – in hotter climates, babies have a greater need to feed frequently and carriers that keep the baby close to mother (or to another woman who will feed it) tend to be more practical as they allow the baby to have very frequent, short feeds, avoiding dehydration. In colder climates, babies tend to feed less by day and can be left for longer periods so carriers that can be left hanging on tree branches or strapped to sleds may be more practical. The Inuit amauti is a carrier and coat, where the baby is carried inside the coat, which is tied at the waist, less practical for nursing but a great way to keep warm.

In the late 1960s, an American woman invented the Snugli baby carrier after seeing African women carrying their babies on their backs, when she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo, West Africa. In the 1970s, the first German woven wrap company, Didymos, was established after its founder was given a Mexican rebozo.  In the early 1980s, the ring sling was invented by a man in Hawaii for his wife. He sold his idea to Dr William Sears, who invented the term ‘attachment parenting’ and whose wife, Mary invented the term ‘babywearing’ after using a sling with their son and describing the sling like an item of clothing that she put on in the morning and took off at night.

Since the 1980s, the number of types of slings and carriers has grown hugely (the pouch and soft structured carriers are Western adaptations of traditional carriers), as have the number of new companies, from very large manufacturers to smaller work at home parents making custom-designed carriers. The choice really can be overwhelming though perhaps thinking back to the origins of baby carrying and how the focus should be on the practice of baby carrying and less on the product, may help parents make the right choice.

by Victoria Ward

This article first appeared on the Gentle Parenting website.

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Hampshire Sling Meet

A new sling meet and library is launching in Hampshire, with their first meet on Friday 9th May 2014 at the Rowner Childrens Centre, Gosport, Hampshire, England, PO13 8AA.

From June, they will be meeting at this location/time on the first Friday of every month.

A range of slings will be available to hire at a cost of £5 per month.

The meet is organised by Lucy Howell and Bethany Reynolds – Babywearing UK wishes them all the best.

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Babywearing as a Business?

by Victoria Ward, first published in the Green Parent magazine, May 2014 issue.

RS_workshopIf 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.”

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Guest Blog Posts

Are you a babywearer who would love to share your experiences & knowledge and help others?

Babywearing UK is looking for guest writers to blog about their personal experiences and how babywearing has helped them in their day to day life.

In particular, we would love articles on:

Babywearing foster/adoptive children
Babywearing as a grandparent
Older siblings carrying newer additions to the family

You may like to write a series of articles or just a few paragraphs on an aspect that is particularly close to your heart.

Either way, your contribution will be valued: please email Arabella to get the ball rolling.

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Keeping Babies Safe

At Babywearing UK, we were saddened to hear of the death of a baby in a sling last Christmas. Incidents in slings and carriers are rare and we  want to reassure parents about sling safety, and remind them how to check that their baby is safe in a sling or carrier.

We know that while babywearing is a well-established practice across the world, it went out of fashion when the usage of pushchairs and strollers became widespread, in the 1950s. In the last twenty years, the practice has grown in popularity again among UK parents, with one survey showing that 80% of expectant parents would use a sling or carrier with their baby and many lists of ‘top ten items to buy for your baby’ including a sling or carrier.

There are many ways that parents and babies can benefit from using a sling or carrier (or babywearing, as it has become known) including the practicalities of having hands free, and providing a calm environment for the baby. It’s advised that it can be safer for babies to sleep in a sling or carrier than in a room on their own for daytime naps. There’s an ISIS online factsheet for parents about this that parents can read with a referenced factsheet for health professionals too. Look at our tips on choosing the right sling or baby carrier.

Like any baby product, it is important that parents know how to use their sling or carrier safely. Ensuring that the carrier is in a good condition and that the parent knows how to use it correctly and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions is essential, as is following the TICKS guidelines, created by the UK Sling Consortium, which advises following these tips to keep babies safe:

Tight
In view at all times
Close enough to kiss
Keep chin off their chest
Supported back

The ideal position for young babies is usually an upright one – think of the sling substituting for the parent’s arms, holding the baby in a natural, comfortable position. Check the baby frequently, especially if they show signs of distress, suddenly stop crying, wriggle or move in an unusual way or make any unusual sounds. Feeding in a sling or carrier is something that should ideally only be considered once the parent is confident about breastfeeding and babywearing and the baby can support its own head, from about four months of age. A baby who is fed in a carrier should be either fed in an upright position or returned to an upright position after feeding.

There’s no substitute for face to face advice & in the UK there are hundreds of sling libraries, sling meets & babywearing consultants, all of whom can offer information, show a range of slings & carriers and help parents find the right one for them. Find them on the Babywearing UK Local page.

 

 

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