Mind blown – a weekend of revision and new learning.

Several of the team here at NESL HQ have today figuratively had our minds blown. Since Friday, Suzie and Madeleine (along with 4 other ladies) have been completing their Slingababy Consultancy training (more details of that to come direct from them in next few days). For them this meant a trip to Birtley and the Thought Foundation Building, rather than a road trip to Rugby. The 4 days of this course when I completed it in 2014 completely changed how I function and work as a consultant, I hope they are having similar revelations. From the expressions I have witnessed from both, I think it is safe they have!

One of the reasons I am such a strong advocate for training with Slingababy is that once you have completed the course you can reattend as many times as you wish. With a course arranged just 20 minutes from my home, it meant I had the opportunity to reattend for the first time. Due to work commitments, this means I have been only able to attend days 2 and 3 but those two days have been amazing. Despite already completing this course, I cannot believe how much I taken onboard over the past two days. My brain is in overdrive as it processes the information it’s received and makes connections between my past learning and experience, and what I have learned this weekend.

Here is just a sneak peak at what we have been up to. As of Tuesday, Madeleine and Suzie will both be available for 1:1 appointments and they have some plans up their sleeves too.

Lumiere Festival Sling Sessions

vn-large-Lumiere-set-to-light-up-Durham-again-in-2015For each of the last two visits of the Lumiere Festival to Durham, we have opened to provide extra sling hire sessions. We plan to do the same this year! The Lumiere Festival runs from 16th-19th November (ticket details are here).

This opportunity  allows families who are planning a trip to this spectacular event to do so hands free. It also allows the babies/children being carried to view the events from adult height rather than knee height. lum1The festival also gets extremely busy, so by using a carrier children are kept close an safe in the crowds  (it is estimated 200,000 people visited in 2015). Even things such as getting the bus/park and ride into the city centre can be a little easier with a sling. Artichoke, the event organisers, even recommend that you use a sling rather than take pushchair. As a mum of two, I would also never have imagined taking mine if we hadn’t carried them.

This is what their website says:


“I want to bring my child in a buggy, is this OK?

We’ve learnt from feedback at previous Lumiere festivals that getting through the crowds with a pushchair can be really difficult. If you can, carry your child in a baby carrier or a sling so they can enjoy all the installations with you. “

So how can you get a sling?

Due to my own work commitments I cannot provide the same level of “open house” sessions that  have done previously but we will be offering some extra drop ins. You will be able to hire a carrier at any of the following events (extra sessions marked in bold). For exact times please visit our Facebook page.lum3

Wednesday 1st November – Birth and Baby Family Centre Drop In (North Shields)

Thursday 2nd November – Community Room Tesco Consett (Genesis Retail Park, Consett)

Friday 3rd November – Ace Playce (Killingworth)

Friday 10th November – Miss Tina’s Washington (Barmston Village, Washington)

Tuesday 14th November – Open House 1.30-2.45pm (Rachel’s House).

Thursday 16th November – Open House 1.30-4pm (Rachel’s House).

Friday 17th November – Open House 1.30-2.45pm (Rachel’s House).

I will potentially be able to offer a limited drop in on Saturday 18th but this will not be confirmed until nearer the time.

What does it cost?

lum4Slings that are hired from the normal monthly drop in sessions will be charged at normal hire fees (£10 for 4 weeks) as these sessions only run once per month.

If you wish to hire from the extra hire sessions, it will be cost £3.50 per carrier. They will need to be returned by to our next library drop in (and normal hire form must be completed and credit/debit card details stored via Stripe). Slings must be returned via the Red Drop Box on or before or in person on Saturday 25th November (2-4pm). If sling is not returned by agreed date, we will assume that you wish to extend your loan and charge card accordingly.

We will have a very limited number of baby/child ear defenders and babywearing covers available too.  Both slings and accessories will be available on a first come, first served basis.


Carriers for All Scheme

Way back in April we launched our Crowdfunding campaign with GoFundMe with the aim of raising £300 to create a free long term loan scheme. We we’re successful!

This scheme is specifically for babies born with life limiting or life altering conditions, or families suffering with PND. Although, please do get in contact if you feel you would benefit and don’t hit these criteria and we will always try our best. For example, families in receipt of some benefits can access discounted hire fees already.

At present, we are only able to support families in County Durham.

Please email rachel@northeastslinglibrary.co.uk if you would like more information or to apply. We will need supporting evidence from either your GP/MW/HV or other HCP.

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. 

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).


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.


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.