Oscha's Sling Libraries and Consultant Scheme helps 100s of libraries around the world; offering discounts on slings to hire out and free promotional materials to spread the word about the benefits of baby carrying in their community. Cathy, general manager here at Oscha HQ, takes a look a what a Sling Library is and what they can offer parents.
What is a Sling Library?
Babywearing is a practice that flourishes in the context of the real-life social meet up. With most babywearing retailers operating online, and with the fabric feel and construction such an important element in considering a purchase, opportunities to touch and try out different fabric blends in one space are truly valued.
The opportunity to try a variety of styles of a carrier, with support from experienced or professional baby wearers, allows the chance to explore and to practice with guidance and support. Of course, there is also the added benefit of being in the company of other people who feel as passionately about carrying as you do!
While Sling Groups or Meets can satisfy the informal, social needs of baby wearers who want to come together, more formalised 'libraries' do offer everything a meet-up has to offer along with the added bonus of being able to borrow baby slings and receive professional advice.
"I've been running a sling library for the last six years and I've now met many thousands of families - it's a privilege to be able to give them a useful skill that makes such a difference to family life. Our hire service is very popular, and many families use it to try before they buy - there's no substitute for taking something out for a long walk to check it works for you. We have hundreds of brands so we get a lot of practice at matching the person to the carrier, and it's all done in a low-cost, no sales environment."
Nicola Lawson, West Yorkshire Sling Library
Sling Libraries are usually based in towns, set up by volunteers, creating spaces that offer the opportunity to explore a wide range of babywearing options. Usually meeting fortnightly or monthly (the venues can range from someone's living room, to a community centre, to a local cafe), organisers bring along a range collected or donated carriers in a wide range of styles: woven wraps and ring slings, stretchy wraps and soft structured carriers (SSCs).
Attending a Sling Library: What To Expect
Attendance or membership of a sling library may in some cases involve paying a small fee, and there are usually costs associated with hiring carriers (in most cases for a month-long duration). Hiring, membership fees and other fundraising activities help raise money to cover venue costs and the purchase of exciting new pieces, with many retailers offering discount schemes to help support Sling Libraries.
Among those attending a Sling Group, there will be a range of experience and knowledge. Many Sling Libraries are set up by or with professional Babywearing Consultants, who regularly attend and offer 1:1 consultations (for a fee) and general advice.
Consultations are a fantastic opportunity to try out different carries and techniques with support and feedback to help you develop confidence and address any areas you've been struggling with: ring slings not been working for you - why not try a SSC (or try several - there so many to choose from)? What to get to grips with the multi-carry options of a long woven wrap? This is the perfect place to try it out!
Sling Libraries endeavour to collect a wide range of fabrics, patterns, colours, styles and brand variations, from which you can explore, play and test run until you find what works best for you, simply try something else just for a change, or select something special for holidays or events.
Dr Rosie Knowles, Sheffield Sling Surgery
“I run the sling library because I know the difference being able to carry children safely and hands-free makes to families. I watch new parents come in the door with lots of worries and questions about how to use a sling and which type they might need, and I and my team love to help them explore these thoughts, show them the options and help them try them out, first with a weighted doll and then their own child. I watch them leave smiling, anticipating the hands-free cuddles to come. I have seen how useful slings can be for babies with reflux, for families who need to keep one child close while caring for another, for keeping active toddlers safe when their busy little legs tire out. I've watched families struggling with mood disorders find great benefit from a sling and watched secure attachments forming from the close contact. I run the sling library because it matters; it helps parents and carers to find which sling is safe for baby, comfortable for them and meets everyone's needs before they make any expensive mistakes."
A Supportive Environment
For many of those new to babywearing, the practice can seem both exciting and overwhelming - the number of choices, the cost of purchase, getting the techniques right and making sure your child is carried safely and both of you are comfortable.
A Sling Library provides a supportive and encouraging environment to explore and learn how to use new carriers with people who are experienced and confident. It's not just about exploring the wide range of options - but make sure you are confident and comfortable using your own carrier, whatever that may be.
The growth of Sling Libraries has undoubtedly made the practice much more accessible to those, who, for a number of reasons, might struggle to carry otherwise, or might be unable to physically attend. As well as offering a range of good quality carriers for rent at low cost, many also provide 'Doorstep' and postal services, meaning carriers can be delivered at a time that works for you.
Jess Hippey, Baby Carrying Consultant â€“ Close and Calm, Aberdeen
"After finding my first carrier uncomfortable I decided to explore other options and was overwhelmed by the choices. There were so many different options available and people seemed equally passionate about lots of brands and types of carriers being the best. When I eventually found someone who had my â€˜dream' carrier I was disappointed to find it didn't fit my petite shoulders however much I tried! Thankfully I hadn't wasted money on it, but the need for a place to be able to try things on and be shown how to use them by a trained professional became apparent and so I trained and set up as a Consultant and Sling Library. People are free to come and browse the carriers and wraps, and we can help identify something that meets your needs and will bring joy to your family. It's a privilege to see so many families breathe a sigh of relief as they find something perfect for them and I'd really recommend you find your local one as they'd be delighted to help."
Share the joy!
Sling Libraries are born from a passionate commitment and drive to share the joys of babywearing, to invite more people to experience it together, supporting each other to explore the many options and refine their skills, to delight at the wonderful array of choice and designs.
At Oscha, we are proud of the relationships we have with many Sling Library groups and organisers in the UK and beyond. We encourage all babywearers to locate, attend and support their local Babywearing Group - share the joy!
We'd like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all the volunteers that set these groups up and keep them going. Thank you for the dedicated and valuable work you do for individuals, families and communities, it is deeply appreciated by all of us.
Finding a Sling Library
You can find a list of Sling Libraries in the UK here - even if the Sling Library nearest you is further than you are able to travel, it's worth contacting them to see if they know of a more local group in your area.