Dear Lady on the Tube

Yes I saw you looking, standing there in your corporate suit, immaculate make up and smart handbag.  I saw as you glanced me up and down and gave me a look of distain. I tried to look you in the eye to show I didn’t care (but yes I did). I know I looked hot, tired and a bit disheveled. But, hey I was a tourist. Visiting a city you don’t know well is tiring, especially when you are sightseeing with young children.

If I had been there alone, you wouldn’t have given me a second look. It would have been easier for me to blend into the back ground and hubbub of a bustling station. I know why you kept looking. The leggy 5 year old falling asleep on my back in a carrier was hard to miss. Hey, if he’s been having a piggy back I expect you wouldn’t have looked either (or even asleep in a buggy). 

Children need close contact with caregivers. It provides stability and a sense of calm. A busy underground station is scary when your five. You are standing at knee height, it could be easy to lose the hand of mum. A five year old who is exhausted from walking miles around museums and the city centre is also going to slow you down as he trudges along the platform and up the steps.


So yes, I’ll carry him. I’ll carry him for as long as he needs me. In doing so yesterday, he got to have a nap and thus be able to enjoy the rest of his day trip to the capital, I didn’t require a seat on the tube (although thank you to the lady and gentlemen who both offered theirs to me), I took up less space than I would have if I’d used a buggy.

 

I’m pretty tough skinned. After seven years of carrying and helping thousands of families to carry their own babies, preschoolers and older children, I have heard and seen it all. Carrying older children may not be common, it doesn’t though make it wrong. 

So, to the lady on the tube I simply ask that you don’t judge other mothers and fathers as you judged me yesterday. I’m a tough cookie, I will keep doing what I need to for the good of my family. Other mums and dads though, may not yet have the confidence to carry on regardless (Thanks Beautiful South) and may be put off by that look. 

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Hoods, head rests and supporting little heads.

IMG_0388Babies are both fragile and tough in equal measure, and this is why we are always told to “support” baby’s head. But, how and where should this support come from? As a consultant and a sling librarian one of the most common questions I am asked is “will that support her head”?

As with all safe sling use, the first thing we must consider is TICKS. Taking the first two items from this list, any sling should ensure that the baby is held tight against the wearer, remaining visible to the wearer always. Furthermore, the carrier should fully support the baby’s spine. If a sling is worn so that baby’s head is tucked inside it can make it tricky to see them. Therefore, if you are going to use this method, only the pass on side away from a baby’s head should ever be used – no fabric should ever obscure their face. However, a sling that is worn tight and providing support all the way to nape of the baby’s neck will provide all the support they require. For example, with a pre-tied stretchy wrap the passes should cross at the nape of their neck, with third layer coming to this point too. It should not be necessary to cap their head for support; although I understand some babies like the security it provides them (while others detest it completely and will fight it).

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We are told to support their head because it is disproportionately large when compared to the size of their body (at birth it is already half the size of an adult’s head) and is roughly the same size as their chest until around two years old. Although, the head is well developed (to allow for brain development and growth), the muscles of the upper spine are not as well developed and take time to develop. The upper curve of the spine, the cervical curve, develops first and can be seen developing in infants from around 6 weeks.

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jshapeBut surely, a baby’s head will loll backwards if not supported. Not necessarily, the spine is an amazing invention and by ensuring a baby is fully supported and has a pelvic tuck (being held in their natural foetal/ m shaped position, with knees above their bottom, it is impossible for head to loll as the vertebrae stop it. This image from Sheffield Sling Surgery shows just how supported a baby is simply by being held in the correct position, without the need for anything supporting behind the babies head. Try it yourself by completing a full squat with your feet flat to the floor, bottom lower than your knees and not ‘supporting’ yourself with your hands. The minute you rock out of the squat you will be able to tilt your head fully back but not while in the squat positon. This is another reason having the carrier tight is important, by preventing a baby from slumping (and compromising their airway) they also can’t rock out of the squat. The first place anyone should consider adjusting for a baby that has a lolling head is their pelvis – the spine after all is all connected to one and other.

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Another issue to consider when ‘supporting’ a baby’s is head, is that the carrier does not prevent movement. In the event of danger, even small babies can normally move sufficiently to try to remove or reduce the threat. But it is not just cradle carries where babies head is held fixed by a carrier. Unfortunately, the weight of their head can force the chin onto chest and obstruct a baby’s airway. This is most common in cradle carries. Carriers that have high-flat elasticated sides, as well as forcing chin onto chest by encourage even more curling of the spine, also can cause rolling towards the wearer. Both of these mean that the ability for baby to move their head away from trouble is restricted. It is for this reason, that most ‘bag style’ slings and cradle carry positions have been removed from sale or removed from instructions. Many carriers extol the benefits of their ‘headrests’ but if the baby can’t move their head (often due to ill-fitting carriers) then this head rest could be dangerous.

 A ‘headrest’ is a strange term, as the head should ideally rest against the carrying adult. Further support behind the head is of course possible in many carriers, or with a supplementary hand, but it should not come at the expense of freedom of movement. Nicola Lawson, The West Yorkshire Sling Library

IMG_5249The final element to consider is the use of ‘sleep hoods’. Although, they can make a novice sling user more feel more comfortable when their baby is asleep, they should never be fastened on both sides to that the baby cannot move their head or so that the flow of oxygen to baby is compromised. In hot weather, it is also harder for baby to cool down if they are being covered too. The temperatures of ‘covered’ baby’s, whether in car seats, pushchairs or carriers, can quickly increase.  If hoods are fastened in such a way, it impossible to keep baby in view, it is impossible to check on their well being.

I know that hoods, passes and head rests can help sling users feel more confident but they should never be at the detriment of safety. A gentle hand if leaning forward should be sufficient. If it isn’t, the carrier needs adjusting and fitting correctly. This is what your local sling professionals are here for, so just ask. You can find your nearest consultant/library by visiting Sling Pages.

Be safer

With thanks to Dr Rosie Knowles of Sheffield Sling Surgery for allowing us to use her images and for proof reading this article before publication. Thank you to Suzie Young (registered Midwife) for reading through it too.

Carriers for All Campaign

charlotteI’m a little scared to share this but today I launched my first ever crowdfunding project. The aim of the North East Sling Library is to help as many families as possible in the North East to carry their babies big and small. In the nearly  6 years we have been running we have never applied for any form of funding and have self-funded from my savings in the early days and now day to day costs (insurance, new stock, etc) are covered by fees, so this is all very new for us. But I have a very specific plan and this blog is to tell you more.

We currently charge £5 for 2 weeks hire and £8 for 4 weeks (as of 1st May 2017 this will rise to £7 and £10). This can be reduced for families in receipt of means tested benefits (you can read more about this in our mission statement) but I know there are still families who could benefit from our help. This is where crowdfunding comes in.

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We have launched a Carriers for All Campaign  with GoFundMe. We are looking to raise £300 to help create a dedicated library of slings that can be hired free of charge for 3 months (and then at a nominal fee of £5 per month) for families with children with additional needs or life limiting conditions, or families experiencing PND (although we may be able to help other families too – the more help we receive the wider our remit can be). We have spent the last 18 months or so sharing stories of how our carriers (or a carrier) has helped families in a number of different situations. Here is a chance to be able to help even more. Families will need to be referred to us via a Health Care Provider (GP, HV, MW, Physio etc). Although, if you see a family you think would benefit but don’t fall under HCP category do send us an email (rachel@northeastslinglibrary.co.uk) and we can see if we can help. Further details of how to apply will be added to our website in the next few days.

We need your help. We initially want to raise £300 but the more we can raise the more families we can help. GoFundMe, unlike some crowd funding sites, pays out any donations, so this is very much an every penny counts project. This money will be used to buy carriers that can be used from birth (including premature baby) to preschool and beyond. There a number of thank you rewards available but we truly hope that people can see the benefit in this project.

I want to say thank you for the bottom of my heart and urge you to support us. To help our campaign just visit our GoFundMe page. It would be amazing if you can share the link too!

Best Wishes

Rachel

View More: http://alidover.pass.us/rachel

Kindness of individuals

Today saw the launch of The Diana Award’s National Kindess Day and this blog is about the small acts of kindess that make a big difference. 

The last few weeks have been pretty rubbish for me. I have been quite unwell and have spent a period of time in hospital and time recovering at home. While the doctors try to work out what has caused me to be in so much pain, I have been feeling quite lonely. I have been unable to work or run the library. Thankfully my super star team of admin have been brilliant. 

However, on Tuesday evening I was feeling particularly rubbish. My husband was away. My tummy was swollen and I was sore. I turned to the library Facebook group and simply said, “I need cheering up, show me your carried babies or simple similes”. The group did not fail to disappoint.

Quickly photos were added to the thread. They weren’t all pictures of babies being carried. Some showed babies carrying their dolls and even a pair of feet. What they all shared was their ability to make me smile. They gave me something positive to look at while I await blood test results.

 

The sling library has brought so many people together. It is more than just slings. It’s a community who can be called upon to help. The kindness of the individuals who shared their photos sums up what the library is about. It isn’t just about carrying but friends, friendship and being there through thick and thin.


Thank you everyone for being so amazing and so supportive. I will be back to fighting form soon but until then I know there is a whole group of like-minded parents who I can turn to for support.

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.