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.

A little request from an exhausted Sling Librarian

cash-1138036_1920Many moons ago I wrote this article for the Natural Mamas website: A plea from a Sling Librarian. It was an attempt to explain a little more about what I do, and what my life entails. It was written after a spate of “requests”. Time has come to update it.

The sling library is currently my sole source of income. It became my full time job in September 2013. For the last 3 years I have our my heart and soul into it. I have always tried to be as flexible as possible on arranging events, creating new meets and out of hours hires. I have been known to make 3 or 4 visits a day to the post office to get slings posted across the country as soon as requested, even taking them with me on holiday so I can post from the nearest post office. post-box-1335582_1920

I work and run NESL primarily alone with support from a lovely bunch of ladies who peer support. Working by myself though does not mean I work in isolation. I have colleagues and friends across the country who are all helping their region to carry their babies too. We have our own support networks where we can chat and ask for help. Where newer libraries  seek the advice of more established ones. Where we ask if they have experienced x,y or z. But, over recent months I have noticed something. I have noticed librarians becoming frustrated, upset, and some simply wanting to give it up. I have read comments in various Facebook groups moaning about local library. Why?

We live in a 24 hours a day/365 days a year fast food, fast service culture. We have grown expectant that our question will be answered instantly, when they aren’t we often take to Social Media to complain. An entitlement culture has developed in our day to day lives. Unfortunately this has an impact on the services sling libraries provide. Many are run on a voluntary basis. A few like myself provide our income and others pay their staff as part of a CIC. However, no matter what model they operate under we should not need to be ‘on duty’ 24/7. We should not be expected to reply instantly (even if Facebook has for the past year had the responsiveness button). We have our own families. We have our own opening hours. We are allowed a day off.

Over the past few months I have seen how other librarians, as well as myself, have to face this attitude of entitlement daily. We have faced comments such as:

“It’s too far for me to return” (please remember that for 7/10 sessions I travel to them too), “We have swimming (or any other baby class) at that time”, “that’s when my baby naps”, “Its’ too expensive”, “I can’t afford deposit”. Others are worse, “I haven’t used it so don’t think its fair you keep my money”, “can’t you come and collect”, “I see you live nearby can I simply pop in”, “I can’t return today, I’ll bring it tomorrow”.

brothers-457234_1920The last of those comments is particularly frustrating as it assumes we have nothing else to do but wait for you to come. When you hire you are given a date it is due for return, by hiring you agree to those terms. If your library operates a deposit system and you can’t afford it ask if there is an alternative you can do. You won’t know unless you ask. Yes, I am aware that best laid plans with babies don’t always run smoothly.  I know babies can have a bad night, they might be poorly, you might just simply need to sleep. We aren’t ogre’s: we are mums, we do understand. If you contact us and explain solutions can be found, but sending us messages after slings were due back, or telling us what you are going to do is not appropriate. You would not tell your GP or hairdresser – “I can’t do that time, I’ll just come now” etc. You would accept that they give you an appointment. Why should a sling library be any different?doctor sign

If we make a recommendation for a carrier based on the size of your child, do not ask us to give you a toddler or preschool size, when we have judged it is not suitable. If you decide to buy that size, that’s your choice, but don’t ask us to go against manufacturer instructions or recommendations, or product recalls, so that you can carry, that would invalidate our insurance. We are wanting to keep your baby safe, it isn’t us being mean. Don’t ask for a one to one service and not expect to pay a fee. We have insurance, training, overheads to pay. We can’t afford to give our services away. We are just trying to make a living; pay our mortgages, allow our little ones to go to clubs on trips, we are not huge multinational companies.

I will continue to do my best to be flexible. Currently, for example, I can’t do 1;1 appointments due to my annual exam marking season but I am ensuring sling library sessions run, I am still offering postal hire. Out of hours hires are offered if I can do it. This is getting increasingly difficult as my children are doing an increasing number of clubs and mums taxi is in full flow.

Please, I simply ask that you consider how you phrase your request. Please ‘ask’ your sling library if you can do something,  don’t tell them what you are going to do.  All sling librarians want to help as many families as possible so there is always a solution. We just ask that you accept we aren’t on call 24/7 and,  that even if we are a business, our families will come first.

Getting appropriate help

rachaelAs a Babywearing Consultant I see families of all shapes and sizes. I regularly see babies, toddlers and parents with complex medical needs. I also see families who just want to carry their children. They have sought my help and my expertise. They know I have been trained (and continue to do so) to help them. I am insured to help them. The number of Babywearing Consultants in the UK has grown massively since I first qualified. There are 3 active training schools in the UK, with 2 based on the continent who can arrange course here too. I have been doing this for over 4 years (nearly 5 as a sling librarian only). I have thousands of hours of experience. This experience is priceless.

As a consultant I do charge.  I charge because I have expenses to cover and a small living to make (this is my sole employment). I have carriers to buy and replace, insurance costs, BABI membership, website and printing costs, even simple things like tea and coffee. For £30 families get 90 minutes of my time, to demo, teach and trouble shoot, and a sling to take away to try. I can spot common mistakes, provide alternative ways of starting or simply say stop let’s start again. They get support before the appointment: from booking, to being able to select appropriate carriers before they arrive based on the needs they have expressed, post -consultation support via email, by phone and from within my group. They have a pack of materials to take home. Tell me how a YouTube channel gives you continued support?

cut screenshotThere are a plethora of YouTube tutorials (hey I have my own) and lots of Facebook groups out there. I am a member of lots of them and even admin in some. I give this time for free. I do it to provide some form of I hope trained, clear and high quality support. But, there is only so much I can do via text. Sometimes there are just times when I need to see people in person, or they need 1:1 help from their local consultant (find yours on Sling Pages). There are times when very often I simply just put “see a consultant”.  For example:

“My baby is 3 weeks old but only weighs 5lb”

“My baby was premature, what is the best stretchy to use?”

“I have x,y,z condition can I use a sling?”

“My friend has just had a baby but it has X,y,z, what should I buy them?”

charlotteThey are just a few examples. These families need support but they need specialist support. Carrying a low birth weight or premature baby need special consideration. Are there issues with muscle tone? Feeding or oxygen tubes to work around? Special handling techniques needing to be followed? It isn’t simply just a case of follow TICKS, as crucial as they are not the only consideration. I also sometime see people suggest “visit a sling library”. But for the cases above and many more this is would not be appropriate, and I say this as a sling librarian from a large and active sling library. The simple issue being time. They require more time than I can physically give in approximately 10 minutes. I have a plea, as good as your intentions are by saying “visit a sling library”, please think, would a better reply, for those families with additional needs, be “visit a consultant”. Help families to get the appropriate help to their needs. Appropriate doesn’t need to be because they have complex needs. It may be they want to try lots, worried about feeding in public, can’t make the times the library is open.

upbabyprojectuk-logo-square_hi-resFor families with babies (or wider family) with complex needs but who can’t afford a consultation it is worth contacting The Up Project. For those in the North East I am their DBS checked and I house trained consultant. I give my time for free to this worthy cause. If you don’t qualify under their terms, it is worth asking your local consultant if they can offer payment plan, skills swap or reduced price appointments too. We want to help as many families as possible, we simply can’t do it for free.

 Why MyTurn and GoCardless? The return of this sling librarians evenings?

I love running a sling library. But sling library admin takes me ages. I currently typically spend between 60-90 minutes on the evening after a session doing admin. This ranges from emailing out instructions and when sling is due back, to updating renewed slings and creating my day to day working list. Then there are the text messages/email reminders and chasing overdue slings. I can do as much work after a session as I do at it. My work life balance has disappeared. 

So, I have been looking at ways of making things easier and less time consuming for me. But while also providing you with the same information. I pride myself on the fact that support doesn’t just end the minute you leave the sessions. This means in the last few weeks I have registered the library with two different systems.

The first is GoCardless. GoCardless allows small businesses to take Direct Debit payments, whether recurring or one off.  

All payments are protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee and GoCardless are regulated by Financial Conduct Authority (formerly FSA). I don’t see any of your bank details. By registering you grant authorisation that I can take payments in the same way as all Direct Debits. You receive an email before each patents will be taken too. This system means I can readily renew your slings. It means I don’t have to take deposits, it means you don’t have to worry if something comes up and you can’t make the session, or you simply want to renew. It is also cheaper than PayPal. I am urging everyone to sign up. I have used this system as a customer since September and find it really easy to use. I hope you will too. Please register using our details by clicking here.

This is what it looks like when you sign up.   
 Our next development is the creation of an online inventory, with MyTurn, of all our slings (accessories will be added shorlty). This is searchable by brand, type and key words. 

After seeing comments by fellow sling librarians across the country I have created a NESL MyTurn page. This page will allow you to see what slings are in the library and if they are Instock. It also says when they are due back (please only take this as a guide and don’t assume it will automatically come back – life with small children is never straight forward and things happen to stop people coming).   

Cataloging the library and now adding users is a labour of love currently. It would be really helpful if you can preregister your details by visiting this page and creating an account. I hope in long run it will be time well spent.

This system works very much like a book library. You will be given an account and this will then be used so we can easily track what slings you have tried. It will also automatically email you with details of when sling is due back. All our carriers now have instructions on their record page too and details of how to access these are also in email. It will also email you the morning before you are due to return. (MyTurn are currently developing the option to do this earlier but will be a little while).

I hope you like both new developments as much as I do. Slings will of course be able to be renewed by PayPal (fee payable) and by BACS. Our website will be having a little refit with link to MyTurn being added. Any questions, just ask!

My Best Nine on Instagram of 2015

I was intrigued by selling various #2015bestnine collages on my Instagram feed over the last few days of 2015. It did the trick, it got me wondering what mine were.  I was a little surprised by the results.

 I am @neslinglibrary on Instagram if you don’t yet follow me. I share photos of everyday life as well as sling library. I do after all describe myself in my profile bio as:

“Rachel Coy: Mum of two boys with the mission to help the NE carry their babies big and small. I’m a carrying consultant & sling librarian at the NE Sling Library”

So here are mine. 9 photos which between them sum up my life in 2015. I also apparently made 744 posts in 2015 and they had a total of 2300 likes. These 9 images make up just 117 of those. What do these images tell me? Maybe a look at each one is might help.

The first 4 images are the most popular I posted in 2015. From top left they are a local mama showing  her hand knitted babywearing coat insert (16 likes), next all received 14 likes are: me playing with a Woven Wings Droplets wrap at Slingababy CPD, a mamas first wrapping attempts and associated sleepy dust and another’s solo attempt at a double hammock after a consultation. These 4 images show the variety of a sling library and consultant. The range you can spend too. There is no one size fits all.

Next comes a photo of life or more correctly World Book Day 2015 and the outfits hubby and the boys wore. Not sling library related but life. Then there is Maria and her gorgeous girl playing with ring slings. The summary of what NESL means was posted when I was feeling raw and worried about the library. It was a silly summary that made me feel better and got 12 likes. I am not sure what it was about these images that made them as popular as they were.

The final two are normal life. A picture of my eldest looking rather grubby, dressed in Victorian dress for a trip to Beamish with school. The last is an image of me off duty and probably looking the happiest I had looked for a long time. Taken at a restaurant in Preston the night before a friends wedding. I joked it was a Mai Tai for the sling librarian. I was happy and relaxed in a moment. Both are something I find extremely hard to achieve.  I am constantly on edge, worried about what others think of me, worried about the library. Maybe the fact I was relaxed was the reason this image resonated with people.

My Best Nine of 2015 are an arbitrary choice based on popularity alone. Why not do a top ten and then this image would have been included too. With only 10 likes it didn’t make it onto me photo grid but in this mamas eyes and smile is as much happiness and joy of any of the other images that were chosen.

Popularity doesn’t mean importance. Likes don’t mean a photo is more or less significant. I will continue to share images across social media. The picture below shows my last 12 uploads: they too are a combination of sling library and real life. I will continue to do what I love: being a sling library, consultant and mummy, and hope that you will follow me on this journey.