How could you resist those big blue eyes?
Please meet Willemein, alias Billie, a babywearing consultant in Dublin. We first met at her monthly Sling Cafe and then again for a cup of tea and a few pictures. Her daughter happily posed in a denim ring sling for this article.
If you’d like to know more about baby wearing, please, read along, and click on the links at the bottom of the article for even further information.
Where did your interest in babywearing first start?
During pregnancy one of my friends gave me her preloved stretchy wrap as a gift – she promised me it was something that every mother needed! My initial thought was that it would be quite practical, have my hands free and be able to do things while minding my baby. However, when my baby arrived and I started wrapping her I instantly “got” it, I was hooked! It made me feel more in tune with my baby, gave me an immense sense of security, I felt my self confidence about being a new mother increase and I could literally feel the love growing… Wrapping my baby simply gave me so much joy!
How did you go from carrying your own baby to becoming a babywearing consultant?
After the success with the gifted stretchy wrap I started looking at other types of slings and carriers, bought one… then I bought a soft structured carrier and then another… you can see where this is going !! Very quickly I realised that I enjoyed babywearing so much that sharing that enthusiasm with other people was a very natural progression. Babywearing has had such a positive impact on my life and on my family, that I really wanted to share it with other parents and parents to be and make it more accessible for everyone.
There are so many baby carrier / slings options! What is the best way to choose which is best for parents and baby? Should parents wait until the baby is born?
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the choice but in fact there are only 5 type of slings, each with different characteristics and benefits: woven wraps, stretchy wraps, mei tai, ring sling and soft structured carriers. Some people get carried away with fancy designs and fabrics etc. but actually all that is important is that it is comfortable for you to wear and that it holds your baby in an ergonomic upright position supporting the spine, hips, neck and head.
Slings are a little bit like shoes – they don’t fit everyone – and that is why it is a good idea to try them first. It also depends on the age and size of the baby, the wearers body type and even your lifestyle or personality. When people ask me that very question; “Which carrier?”, I always suggest that they come to a sling meet and try out different types of slings, feel the fabrics and try them on. Renting a sling for a week or two is also a great way to find out if it really suits your family.
A sling consultation with a babywearing consultant is a bit more in depth. It will give you a chance to really learn about babywearing – the benefits, safety, different types of carriers and you can try them with a weighted doll to get a good feel for what you might like. Definitely get yourself familiar with slings before baby is born, parents have their pram and baby room all sorted out before the baby arrives and in my opinion a sling should be a standard item on the tick list for parents.
We hear sometimes conflicting information about “bad carriers” (dangerous for baby’s hips) which no studies seem to confirm. What is your view on it?
Babywearing is about having your baby close, sharing the positive feelings between you and your baby whilst wearing – this can still be achieved by what you call ‘bad carriers’. High street carriers are generally not the most ergonomic ones – however they do make babywearing more accessible.
Ergonomic soft structured carriers are designed to support the natural position of your baby and they support babies hips, spine and neck. The high street carriers carriers that don’t offer this support are not really comfortable to wear for a long period of time – for both the baby and wearer. The only way to really explain this is to have someone try a narrow based high street carrier versus an ergonomic carrier. I usually bring a narrow based carrier to a consultation to let them feel the difference, but briefly you can imagine that when babies legs are just hanging down it will quickly become really uncomfortable for the wearer as the weight of the baby is pulled down – you basically end up feeling like the baby is hanging off you rather than snuggled against you. Ergonomic carriers support the natural position of your baby and distributes the weight evenly making it comfortable for both of you.
Do you feel like you connect better with mothers/parents who are also interested in carrying their baby? Is there a babywearing community in Dublin / Ireland?
Not necessarily. As a new first time mother I try and connect with every parent I meet, whether they have their baby in a buggy, on their shoulders, or in a wheelbarrow (!). I learn a lot from the all parents I meet and feel a little bit like we’re all on this crazy journey together!
Saying that, it is lovely to see more babies in slings out and about nowadays and it is nice to meet other parents who enjoy babywearing. In terms of community there are nice little groups of babywearers all over the country. There are sling meets, activities and sling libraries run by babywearing consultants and volunteers from Babywearing Ireland. There’s also a vibrant online space for babywearing enthusiasts – Facebook groups etc.
Sling meets welcome everyone to come along and learn about ergonomic slings and the benefits of babywearing. I personally organise “Sling Cafe Dublin”, a social event where anyone interested in babywearing can come together for a cup a tea, a chat, and of course to try lots of slings and carriers!
Babywearing Ireland organises Sling Meets all over the country and it is worth checking out their website for more information: www.babywearingireland.ie