When I had my first daughter, Tabitha, just over three years ago, I was completely unfamiliar with the term ‘babywearing’ and knew nothing of the various slings and wraps on the market. When it came to picking a carrier for my newborn, I walked into Mothercare and came out with a Baby Bjorn because, well, I’d heard that they were good and they happened to be on offer that day. Don’t get me wrong, the Baby Bjorn was good and it did its job as a carrier, but I was always so envious when I saw other mums with their babies snuggled into a soft cotton wrap looking so comfortable and at-one together. When my second baby arrived, I really wanted to ‘babywear’ Polly properly, but once again I had no clue about what to choose and ended up ordering something totally inappropriate online that I sold within a matter of weeks. I’d heard about sling libraries—where you go along and ‘try before you buy’—but there wasn’t one local to where I live and so I gave up on the idea.
A few months ago I got chatting to a fellow mum, Madeleine, at one of the local playgroups, and I was fascinated to hear that she was starting up a sling library and consultancy in East Sheen. Madeleine has recently moved to the area from West Kensington, where she ran the NCT Kensington and Chelsea sling library. She told me she knew there wasn’t a sling library anywhere in southwest London and so when her family moved to Mortlake at the start of this year she was really keen to change that.
Now that Sheen Slings is properly up and running, I went along to see what goes on at a sling library. Madeleine holds drop-in sessions at her home on Lower Richmond Road on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, and monthly ‘working parents’ sessions on the last Saturday of each month. I was really pleased to see that, despite it still being early days for her, it was a busy session with a number of mums with babies of various ages dropping by. It’s a really informal meet-up where parents can try on a range of slings (using their baby or a weighted doll), get help with adjustments, ask questions and hire a sling or wrap on a short-term loan. As well as the meet-ups at her home, Madeleine has started doing consultancy sessions at the local children’s centre and will also do private sessions and home visits within the borough.
Madeleine tells me that she got into sling consultancy when her local sling library closed down not long after her son was born. She was really keen to help other parents benefit just as she had and so re-opened that sling library a few months later. She undertook the School of Babywearing’s peer supporter course, and has since gone on to qualify as a Babywearing Consultant with the Trageschule UK.
Madeleine says she really enjoys watching a parent apprehensively try on a sling, starting off unsure about it, and then seeing their joy when their baby falls straight to sleep. She says the smile on their face is amazing. She adds that this happens all the time, but she particularly enjoys it when a parent brings along a sling they already own that they are certain doesn’t work for them. She loves seeing parents grow in confidence, both with how to use their sling and when they realise they can finally have free hands and a sleeping baby at the same time! Getting the right advice and being able to try different types of baby carriers can make all the difference.
For more information about Madeleine’s sling library, you can visit her website sheenslings.com and follow her Facebook page. Of course, Sheen Slings is just one of many sling libraries across London and the UK, so if you don’t live in Southwest London, the best place to find your local library is on the sling pages website. There is also a London-specific website Slinging London and accompanying Facebook group.
I’m really pleased that East Sheen now has a sling library to assist all the daunted new mums in the area, especially as it is run by someone as passionate about babywearing as Madeleine—if only she’d been around when my two were newborns!