Two months in and a New Years resolution check in.

In January, I blogged about New Years resolutions. The theory behind them, success rates and the categories they typically fall in to. Most importantly though, I explained what my resolution was. How are your resolutions going or have they been forgotten about? Two months down the line, I thought it was time for a little update on mine.

The day I wrote this blog I was very good. I sorted out which slings I wanted to sell. I put them to one side and then, I left them. The actual thought of listing them for sale made me feel sick. Despite the fact that Isaac turns 5 in April I couldn’t do it.  But, I said I would so I had to. 

So last Saturday afternoon I listed them for sale. The prospect of measuring each one and getting action shots was too much. Therefore, I simply listed as a group “flat shot” and said measurements and action shots available on request. A week later two are sold and with their forever homes and two remain. I will get there, they will be sold. My bank balance is looking a little healthier already.

It is a sad day when you accept your babies are not babies anymore. But, I am extremely proud of what they have grown into.

5 Reasons to have a private consultation

As a sling librarian and carrying consultant I see families in group situations, as well as privately in 1:1 appointments. The arrival of 2017 marks my fifth year as a practising and active carrying consultant. I am extremely lucky to have worked with many families since I first trained in 2012. In total, I have trained with 3 schools and continue to attend a variety of CPD events. This blog considers the reasons to consider booking a 1:1 appointment.

Here are my Top 5 reasons why I believe you should pay to have a private consultation with a trained babywearing consultant.

1) Time

25788202-faad-4bc9-9703-0354672dea99-1028-000001126b76296b_tmpSomething we all wish we had more of is time. During a sling library session, I can see anywhere upwards of 10 families in just over an hour, with typically 15-20 families, each with their own individual needs to meet. A private consultation appointment is a minimum 60 minutes long (with a standard consult lasting for 90 minutes), so we can take a more relaxed approach, tackling your family’s requirements personally, keeping you and your baby at the heart of the appointment. During this we can explore options together, you can have a drink, your baby can be fed or changed or we can even go for a walk together to check the carrier is right for you and your baby. Extra time is especially important if either you or baby have additional needs which need to be considered.

2) Choice

Typically, I can only spend 10 minutes per family in a library setting. This means I can usually only demo and fit one carrier and limits how many times you can try to put a carrier on. We cover the basics of what the carrier does and how to wear it safely but there is not time to discuss every individual element of the carrier or the different ways it can be worn. During a consultation, we can look at different styles and types before trying those which best fit your needs. As consultations are normally held in my office I have access to all carriers we have rather than just those I can fit in the boot of my car. For home visit appointments, the pre-consult questionnaire allows me to make professional judgements to bring what is suitable. I am often asked how I know which carrier to choose for a family but after fitting carriers for almost 6 years you start to instinctively know what will work.

3) Sling hire is includedimg_0004

Sling hire alone is £5 for 2 weeks. As part of a babywearing consultation you will always get a minimum of two weeks hire but due to the fact I link return of slings to library drop in sessions families often benefit for 1,2 even 3 weeks’ free sling hire. I want the sling to work for you and your baby, by able to take it home for an extended period of time you are able to see if it is right for you, without having the feel like you are being rushed to make a choice.

4) It is just you

Consultations are private appointments. It’s just you and me. You are always welcome to bring your partner or a relative along too (there are toys for baby and older children as well). If you have a sling and just want to learn how to use it or use if more effectively then bring it along. We will work together to make it work for you. If you have previously bought a carrier for an older child, but now need a newborn insert to use it with a small baby; if it is one we stock, you can take it home as part of your hire package. Each appointment is tailored to what you want and need: one size does not fit all. A babywearing consultation allows us to think outside the box to find solution for you.

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With thanks to Steph Oliver-Beech Photography and Sheffield Sling Surgery and Library for use of photo

5) Support doesn’t stop

At the end of the appointment, you receive my contact details in the event you need to ask any more questions. Ongoing support is available via phone, email, FaceTime or Skype for as long as you have your carrier on loan. Our booking system allows me to make a record of all the slings tried during the appointment, allowing me to quickly find you an alternative sling if you want to swap or try another for longer. You are also welcome to swap your carrier at any point during the hire period; simply just pop into one of our drop-in sessions. Follow up consultations can also be booked at reduced rates if you would continue to prefer 1:1 support.

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You can book a private appointment via our booking site. A standard consultation is £30 for 90 minutes and it’s just £20 for a sling clinic appointment to troubleshoot your own sling.

I know a carrying consultation will not be something everyone thinks they need or can afford. For families in receipt of means tested benefits or in the event of PND, disability, premature birth (or life limiting conditions for baby etc.) please talk to me. I will always do what I can to help, from reduced fees to free hire. But, if you don’t tell me, I don’t know and cannot help.

Safe sling use and the pressure to feed in a sling

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The arrival of a new baby is a joyous occasion and the desire to want to keep them safe is one that is at the forefront of a mothers mind. As mothers we do all we can from the minute we discover we are expecting (and before in some cases) to protect them. Keeping baby close to you can be one of the easiest way of helping mums know that baby is safe and this is why many parents will choose to use a sling with their baby.  Babies want and need to be held; they are biologically programmed to want to be close to their care giver.

Sadly though, there are risks when carrying a baby and it is crucial that we follow some simple safety guidelines. Special consideration should be a taken when carrying babies who were born prematurely, with a low birth weight or who have underlying medical conditions; however, it is also important to remember that carrying can be extremely beneficial to both baby and mother in these situations. Kangaroo Mother Care has been proven to have health benefits and to save lives and reduced length of hospital stay, and using a carrier can help attachment and bonding (especially important if mothers are suffering from PND). We must therefore acknowledge the risks of using a sling are outweighed by the benefits.

Changes in the carrying industry following the Infantino Slingrider recall in 2010 have looked to address many of the issues of carrying young babies and the increase in easily accessible trained babywearing support has become a much larger element of the carrying community. There has been an increase in regulation (primarily in USA) and  professionalism within the industry, with sling libraries and babywearing consultants now available across the country. As carrying has moved from a small niche audience to mainstream parenting, it is no longer unusual to see carriers on sale on the high street or to see parents using slings with their babies, toddlers and even preschoolers. Carrying our young is biologically normal. It allows us to meet the needs of baby while carrying on with our lives; whether this is looking after other children or simply getting out of the house.

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Copyright: lopolo / 123RF Stock Photo

It is this societal expectation to ‘get back to normal’ that leads many parents to want to do several things at once. One of the most frequently asked questions I am asked or read is: “Can I feed in it?” For many mothers, breastfeeding can be something they fear doing in public and want something to help them cover up, or to let them ‘feed on the go’. As a mother I understand this completely. As a breastfeeding peer supporter I understand the fears women have. As a society, we traditionally hold babies in arms in a cradle position (the need to support their head is drilled into us from when we are children) and this position is often associated with breastfeeding or seen as the main feeding position. Unfortunately, this position in a sling is dangerous if not done correctly. In arms a baby is supported and his parents are fully aware of what baby is doing. However, in a carrier their disproportionately large heads and weak neck muscles, combined with the weight of gravity and the bounce of fabric (as well as a feeling you are hands free) can cause babies chins to rest upon their chest. This has the potential to block their airway and sadly lead to positional asphyxia (similar effects can be caused by infant car seats).

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Copyright: lenor / 123RF Stock Photo

As a carrying consultant, I often tell mums that “if you need my help to feed in a sling, you aren’t good enough at one or the other”. I don’t mean this in a way to criticise the mother (although I know many might see it like that). Breastfeeding and using a sling are skills that need to be learned and trying to mix them can lead to frustration and a feeling of failure. As babies get older and feeding is better established combining the two is a natural link to make, but in the early days when baby and you are learning what to do, please do not feel you have to try, it is ok to sit and rest, to watch the feed carefully, to learn the signs of when your baby is full.

Copyright: North East Sling Library

13032095 - mother with baby in a slingIt is the risk of positional asphyxia when using a cradle carry position (typically in a ring sling or stretchy wrap carrier) that has led to it being removed from many manufacturer’s instructions, why I have only taught it twice (both in situations where upright and off-centred positions were not possible due to other medical complications and neither wanted to feed in the sling) and why a post on social media asking how to do it can lead to many having a meltdown at their keyboards. Unfortunately, there are slings that still have it in their instructions or which advertise breastfeeding position as a selling feature (often cheaper brands sold on ebay/amazon) and there are thousands of videos on YouTube– a quick search of the site brought up 2100 hits (over 3000 if you use the search term breastfeeding in a stretchy sling) – of various levels of detail clarity.

Copyright: lenor / 123RF Stock Photo

Therefore, when carrying a baby in a carrier it is important to take time to learn how to use your sling; to read the instructions (I know as parents life is busy but it is worth it), to practice tying it and to seek help/support if necessary.  When looking at buying a sling (a term I use for all carriers except framed back carriers but which is often most used for stretchy wrap carriers) ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Is it from a respected company?
  • Do they have up to date instructions and safety guidelines on their website?
  • Can you get in touch with them for support?
  • Has it been safety tested and is it made with child safe dyes?
  • Is the price too good to be true?

When using your carrier it is important to follow the TICKS guidelines. These were developed in March 2010 and have become the gold standard for safe baby carrying in the UK (North America often use the Visible and Kissable rule). TICKS seeks to provide 5 simple and easy to remember steps to keep baby safe by maintaining a clear airway: Tight, in view, close enough to kiss, keep chin off chest and supported back. One of the simplest ways of achieving these five steps are to keep baby in an upright position and babies can be carried upright from birth; a well-fitting sling will provide a newborn with the support they need for their head (being held upright also has the benefit of  helping babies with wind). But, being upright, can make it harder to breastfeed in a sling to begin with, although as baby gets older it gets easier – this biological upright feeding position can be easier for baby too.  Keeping baby visible allows us to easily monitor them, to make changes if necessary. Tying the carrier tight and ensuring it fully supports babies back not only helps them to feel secure (by creating a point of stability), it prevents them from being able to slump in the carrier.

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Carrying your baby in a sling is a wonderful feeling and can be extremely empowering to the mother (and other caregivers). Done safely, it can be the key in unlocking amazing adventures together or simply getting out of the house. Enjoy the freedom, the cuddles and take one step at a time. Do not think, that by putting baby in the sling they are fine by themselves, babies needs change with seconds. It should be an enjoyable shared experience but one where the wearer is fully aware of babies needs at all times. If in doubt, stop and ask for our help: that is why I and consultants across the country are here.

 


Where to find out more

http://www.cochrane.org/CD002771/NEONATAL_kangaroo-mother-care-reduce-morbidity-and-mortality-low-birthweight-infants

http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42587/1/9241590351.pdf

https://sheffieldslingsurgery.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/sling-safety-with-young-babies/

https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/sling-safety

http://babyslingsafety.co.uk/

http://www.which.co.uk/reviews/baby-carriers-and-baby-slings/article/baby-carrier-and-baby-sling-safety/baby-carrier-and-baby-sling-safety-tips

An ever changing industry

img_2705Today I read a comment on a video on Social Media site saying how what I do is “not new” and in a way the lady is right. But, the comment did make me think – probably as I was the one demoing how to use a sling in the video she commented on. Babywearing/carrying our young – call it what you will – is a millennia old practise. For as long as we have needed to move, we have needed to carry our young. Without the ability to carry our young we would not have developed as the highly successful species we are today; we simply could not have moved at the speed required (T. Taylor – The Artificial Ape).

What is different now, is that the skills of carrying our young are not passed down from generation to generation as they once were. The Industrial Revolution and the move to the towns in the 1800s and the outbreak of World War I and World War II required women to be in the work place more. This shift in social position led to an increase in the world of nurseries, and a decrease in breastfeeding and carrying of our children, and thus the loss of skills once common place.

When I began carrying Henry in 2010 there was no local support available. Google, YouTube and Facebook became my teachers and led me to sources of help. The nearest ‘in person’ support I could get was a 90-minute drive away; not something I wanted to do with a new baby.  The support I gained from likeminded parents was invaluable in the early days and until around 2010 there was very little professionalisation of the industry. The launch of the  Consortium of Sling Manufacturers and Retailers and the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing in 2010 were some of the first steps towards professionalisation. DSCF2830

Early pioneers of babywearing in the UK had started  to train as consultants and there were courses organised from Clauwi and Trageschule Dresden in the late 2000s. I was lucky that many of these women were also members of the Natural Mamas forum. They inspired me and they still do. The birth of the School of Babywearing in late 2010 and Trageschule UK in early 2011 brought increase access, flexibility and training opportunities to the UK. Until then, courses had to be specifically arranged with European training schools.

At the same time as increased training opportunities, there was a massive growth in ‘in person’ peer support through the foundation of many of the biggest sling libraries in the UK. The West Yorkshire Sling Library, the South London Sling Library, South East Slings (formerly Eastbourne Sling Library) and myself were all founded in late 2010 or 2011. In many cases, sling libraries formed out of existing ‘sling meets’ or from LLL lending libraries etc. NESL was founded as there was simply nothing here and I saw a need and wanted to help.  The increase in training opportunities and a growing public knowledge of the existence of sling libraries led to a massive growth from late 2011 onwards. Until 2011 there were just 20 sling libraries in the UK. This amazing timeline from South East Slings (accurate up to 2015) shows just what a transformation happened.

The hardest part for me was to ask for payment for my services. When I first started NESL I did not have any training but the hire fees I took (£5 for 2 weeks when I first began) went to buy stock, website and URL, refreshments and advertising materials. Eventually, there was sufficient money in the pot to fund my first training course in March 2012. Since then, I have gone onto to complete 3 more training courses and have invested thousands in stock, insurance, websites and promotional materials. The more I invested, the less I could allow the sling library to be a hobby.

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There are times when people question why I charge. But without charging I could not exist. I could not buy stock or replacement stock. I could not pay to travel to CPD or for extra training, I couldn’t pay for insurance etc. Yes, I enjoy helping families and seeing their faces when they find a carrier that works for them brings joy to my heart. But, if I didn’t charge I would be undermining the work I have done and devalue the services of myself and the other consultants in the UK. We are in an world where help is often sought out by parents. I did. Doulas, feeding specialists, Lactation Consultants, Hypnobirthing teachers, Baby Massage instructors etc. all charge.

Babywearing Consultants are therefore no different. One day I hope that the work I do, will be as valued as that of other professionals working with families. Professionalisation of the baby-carrying industry has led to increased standards; those who provide a bad service won’t survive. Professionalisation has led to safety standards which keep babies safe. Professionalisation has led to the TICKS guidelines; now widely accepted as ‘best practise’. Professionalisation means ease of access and local support. The industry may be a new one but it is an ever changing, ever growing one and something I am immensely proud to be a part of .

Slings, clothes, toys and the new Milk Tray Man.

Today has been a long day (I got up at 4 am and on the train at 5am – but this did mean I got lots of admin done). I am tired but it has been worth it. Today, I have been to London and been introduced to the world of media companies and parenting awards: I have been a guest expert judge. Not something I ever thought I would say when I founded NESL. But, over the last 5.5 years I have worked hard to develop a reputation as a trusted voice; today is a culmination of the hardwork and determination I have put in to building up the sling library.

In August 2016, I was contacted by Hazelann from Made For Mums after commenting on a thread on their Facebook page and since then I have been helping them with sling related questions, and am looking forward to continuing to do so. This led to an email inviting me to act as an expert guest judge. I am img_0775eternally grateful to have they employer for allowing me to have the morning off work in order to attend. The Made for Mum Awards will be known by many as the Prima Baby Awards. We have been judging lots of categories: infant footwear, sleep products, maternity clothes, and of course slings, to name just a few. Other categories were judged yesterday too. You can see which brands have been shortlisted and help by taking part in the online voting by clicking this link.

My fellow judges came from the world of journalism, midwifery, medicine and even the new Milk Tray Man (and yes he bought us chocolates but wasn’t wearing the trademark black polo neck sweater). The thing that united us: we are all parents. I was able to demo how to use the carriers, many of which my other judges had not previously seen. The team from MFM even filmed me demoing how to tie a stretchy wrap, this will be on their Facebook page soon.

It has been an amazing day. I have had a glimpse inside a world I didn’t know existed and loved every minute of it. Now, as I sit drinking a cup of tea and watch the darkness flash by, I am feeling very honoured to have been part of an amazing day. Thank you so much to the MFM’s team for inviting me and a huge thank you for letting me bring a couple of bits home for me and my boys, but most importantly for allowing me to bring home a new carrier for the sling library: the Mountain Buggy Juno Carrier (although currently missing its newborn insert as I forgot to put it in the box). I am sure this will be a very popular addition to our stock and it is available to hire now!