Baby-wearing : Slings
You must have seen these colourful cloth things which peoples to carry their babies close to their bodies. Yes, they are called slings.
Slings are definitely not a new trend which was started by celebrities. The history of baby wearing is as old as humanity itself.
Our ancestors had to find food and shelter to stay alive and they walked hours for it. As it is dangerous to leave an infant alone they strapped their babies onto their bodies and carried on their daily tasks hands free.
I was introduced to using slings 5 years ago when we had our daughter and I loved the idea of carrying her on my chest and still be able to feed my older child and play with him.
There are so many benefits of carrying your baby in a sling as long as you are aware of the safety aspects.
Recently, we had a commercial head shot in the studio with a sling consultant Ruth Grint who is the founder of Carrying Connect. During the photo shoot we also asked her some questions which she kindly answered and patiently. I thought that these questions would be useful for some parents and carers and demystify slings.
What are benefits of slings?
Oh my goodness, don’t get me started! There are so many benefits, for baby, for mums, and for other carrying adults. I could right a whole article just about that, so let me just pick out a few.
Babies love to be close to their caregivers, and to be held snugly. They love to hear the heartbeat, the closeness helps babies to regulate their temperature and heart rate, and they feel secure and generally more content. It can help with baby’s digestion to be upright, and makes baby a part of your world.
For mums, carrying their child can reduce the chance of developing post natal depression. For mums who chose to breastfeed a sling can help to establish milk supply by keeping little one close, and for skin to skin contact. It helps her to take gentle exercise, and to build up core muscle strength. It can aid you to get out and about. Most of all, it satisfies that primitive urge to hold their child close.
For dads and other adults, using a sling gives you a fantastic chance to build a strong connection and bond with the new baby. It helps you to go places where you might otherwise struggle to get, and to give you free hands to get stuff done.
What are the safety aspects for using a sling?
Safety is the key consideration when using a sling. You need to ensure that the baby is able to breath, and that they are secure, no matter what age they are and what carrier you are using.
Are there any safety check list so that carers will be sure they are doing it safely?
All parents who have a consultation or workshop with me are guided through how to do safety and comfort checks, which should be done each and every time they carry their baby.
The most well known safety checks are the TICKS checks, which can be found here http://babyslingsafety.co.uk/
When is the best time to start thinking about getting a sling? During pregnancy or after having the baby?
You can start thinking about slings and carriers for you baby as soon as you know you are expecting! Most families wait until a bit nearer the time, but whenever suits you is fine. If you attend a workshop or have a consultation with me, you will be able to practice with a demonstration doll, including once which is designed with soft legs in case you have a bump to deal with! It is always worth thinking about what time of year your newborn is due, as this may influence your choice of sling or carrier. The advantage is that you can have the sling ready for as soon as the baby arrives.
Some people prefer to wait until their baby arrives, and that is fine too 🙂
Can you carry newborn babies in a sling?
Most newborn babies can usually be carried by dad or other grown ups from hours after birth. For mums, it boils down to how soon you feel ready. If you feel safe to be able to carry your baby in arms, you are probably fine to use a sling. Listen to your body, if you feel unable to carry or it causes you discomfort, stop.
If your baby is small, premature or either of you has additional health considerations, it is worth getting hands on help from a babywearing expert such as myself to ensure safety, and the most suitable options.
When it comes to choosing a sling suitable for a newborn, many types of slings are suitable. I am happy to provide further advice on the choices what may suit you and your family, there is no one size fits all solution!
What is the difference between buying a sling from a shelf or from a consultant?
There are many advantages to buying a sling from a consultant.
Consultants are fully trained and insured, having completed at least 4 days of intensive training in all different types of slings. It is my job to ensure that you love your sling, and that you able to carry confidently, comfortably and above all safely. Shop staff are likely to have received limited training (if any) only in the brands of sling that they stock. Many people have found that even though some high street carriers claim to be suitable for newborn babies they struggle to get a snug fit, and it knocks their confidence.
As a Consultant I am not tied to one particular type or brand of sling, in fact I have access to around 30 different brands of sling to help you to find the one that suits you the best. The typical high street baby shop may only have 3 or 4 different slings to chose from.
If I am an authorised stockist for the brand you chose I can order it in for you within a few days, so you can chose the particular colour you want – shops often only stock black! If I don’t stock it, I can refer you on to other reputable businesses that do, often with a discount. While saving you money on the cost of a carrier is important, the best way I can save you money is by finding you a sling you love the first time you buy, rather than buying various different ones that don’t suit.
For many slings, I can also offer you the chance to hire before you buy, so you know that you are making the right decision.
Anyone purchasing from me also gets access to my expertise for advice afterwards, such as straight forward trouble shooting.
Are slings make babies clingy?
In a word, no! Babies by nature want to be kept close to their caregiver, and slings can make easier what nature intends! When a baby wants to be close, a sling can give a parent their hands back, to enable them to care for another child, have something to eat or drink, or get out and about, whilst still fulfilling the needs of their young baby. Evidence shows that babies that have a secure attachment to their parent are likely to be more, rather than less independent as they get older.
What is the difference between a sling and a carrier?
Slings have historically referred to cloth ways of carrying a baby, whereas a carrier has been more structured. In reality, the terms are often used interchangeably, so don’t worry!
Where do you do your consultants?
I offer consultations on the Wirral, and slightly further afield (mileage charges may apply). I also run small group workshops on the Wirral.
Do you do home visits?
Yes, I offer consultations in your own home. This can be before baby arrives, when you have a newborn baby, or if you have perhaps a working partner who wants to attend. You don’t have to worry about getting out of the house, I will bring a selection of slings to your house along with demo dolls for a bespoke session catering to your needs. I am able to offer consultations during the day, in the evenings, and at weekends.
In November 2017 my organised, ordered life changed forever. The arrival of my son, complete with reflux, turned my life upside down. My idealised vision of motherhood was a little bundle cooing contentedly in his cot, feeding on a schedule, and sleeping in the night. Reality was living with a screaming octopus who didn’t want to be put down. Change, feed, change, puke, repeat. Those first few weeks were tough. I had the feeling that nothing I did as a parent seemed to help my little one. I dreaded my husband going back to work, how on earth would I manage on my own? My family was far away, and I felt alone.
A gentle suggestion from a friend that a sling might be useful was to change our parenting journey forever. The moment that I put my screaming little boy in a stretchy wrap, he settled, and within minutes he was asleep .
Keeping him upright after feeds seem to reduce his reflux symptoms. He seemed to gain comfort just from being cuddled up close. As the days and weeks went by we all discovered so many benefits of carrying our baby. We got out and about to places we may otherwise avoid. We had free hands to be able to open doors, have drinks, and pet the cat. When Matthew was cranky, gentle swaying and singing in the sling was often enough to calm him down. We picked up on his feeding cues early, and found ourselves chatting away to Matthew as if he was part of the family… which he was! We have met many lovely families who also use slings, random conversations at the zoo and Ikea are common.
My pregnancy had been deeply affected by Antenatal depression, and I had been so worried that I would not bond with my baby. Being close to him helped so much with building our relationship. I will never underestimate the effect it had on my mental health. The connection that I felt with him was the inspiration behind the Carrying Connects name.
Realising that I wanted to help other families to discover the benefits of slings, I trained as a Peer Supporter, and then a Consultant, with Slingababy. I know at least a little bit about a lot of slings and carriers, and their advantages and disadvantages. I can help you to chose something new, or help you to use a sling or carrier that you already have. Safety and comfort are key for you and your child.
I have the lovely privilege of being to support families expecting a new arrival, those with newborn babies, or those with older children who they would love to carry. Above all, I am a fellow parent who remembers well what a struggle those early days can be. I don’t pretend to know everything about parenting, but I can often signpost families in the direction of other groups and support available in the local area. Slings made such a massive difference for us that I want to share the love all over the Wirral.
Where can you find Ruth