During one of our NCT antenatal classes one of the other expectant parents mentioned a ‘4th Trimester’ group run by our local sling library, and suggested we all meet there once the babies had arrived to make the most of their free 6-week stretchy hire. I’d heard people mention sling libraries before, and had a vague idea that I wanted to try babywearing, but I hadn’t got round to researching our local library yet so was pleased to have some friends to go and try it out with.
Fast forward 6 weeks and all 8 babies had arrived safely into the world and all 8 mums felt ready to venture out and about! We headed to the Monday morning group at the sling library where there was a talk for new parents, I don’t remember what the particular topic was for that week as I turned up just after it finished, apparently it was harder than I thought to get out of the house with a newborn! It didn’t matter at all though as straight after there was a drop in for sling hire and help. We were made to feel so welcome and everyone was so friendly, that it wouldn’t have mattered at all if I’d turned up alone instead of with friends. We got comfy on the sofas with a cup of tea while we waited for our turn with one of the library staff or volunteers. It was in fact Rosie who runs the library who was free to help us first. As all of the babies were so young, she recommended we try out stretchy wraps to begin with, and for a small deposit they could be hired out for free, for 6 weeks. I’ve heard that a lot of libraries around the country offer this service too.
I had already been gifted a stretchy wrap and Rosie was more than happy to help me to use my own sling as part of the library service. We settled our tiny newborns into baby bouncers while we practised using the wraps with demo dolls until we were confident to try with our real babies. Rosie did a group demonstration then helped each of us in turn with little adjustments and tweaks until we were all happy. We all left the library that day confident to use stretchy wraps with our new precious bundles and those slings certainly got a lot of use over the next few weeks.
We continued to attend the Monday morning 4th Trimester group and after a while I felt ready to try a new sling. I loved the stretchy wrap but as Teddy was getting bigger and I wanted something with a little more structure, and a little less tying! After explaining my requirements to one of the library volunteers she suggested trying out some buckle carriers. She brought over a selection and explained the pros and cons of them all before asking which I wanted to try first. Teddy settled instantly in the first carrier we tried, so I decided not to take it off and hired it for a month! It proved to be invaluable as Teddy really wasn’t keen on being put down, or lying in the pram, and he took some of his longest naps snuggled against me in the buckle carrier. I loved the closeness and it meant I wasn’t confined to the sofa while he slept.
I attended another drop in session with my very own Izmi carrier, and once again the staff were more than happy to give me a demonstration even though I wasn’t using one of their library slings. The library is run by a mixture of staff and volunteers who are all passionate about baby wearing and have received peer-support training. They all have their sling preferences and expertise and are more than happy to share their knowledge and snuggle your baby while you have a break and a hot cup of tea! Over Teddy’s first year I have visited the sling library many times, mostly to drop in sessions to try out and hire a new sling or be taught how to use my own.
I’ve also popped in when something didn’t feel quite right with my carrier and I needed help to pinpoint what adjustments I needed to make. I’ve hired a ring sling to wear at a wedding and I’ve also attended a woven wraps workshop when I felt like learning a new skill.
I couldn’t afford to buy all of these slings so without a hire service I’d never have been able to try them. Slings have enabled me to keep my baby close and get things done when he just wanted to be held, they’ve provided a safe place for him when he could otherwise have felt overwhelmed at large gatherings and they’ve enabled us to explore places that are not accessible with a pram.
I’ve recommended the Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library to several pregnant friends and if I see anyone asking for sling recommendations online I’m quick to comment suggesting they find their local sling library. The range of slings available is huge and no one wrap or carrier will suit everyone so I can’t emphasise enough how invaluable sling libraries are to ensure that you find the right fit for you.
It’s the perfect opportunity to try before you buy and I expect you’ll find a lovely local community of baby-wearing families too.
Written by Kimberley
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