Sling Libraries -- what are they?

Oct 24, 2017

In short, a Sling Library is a collection of slings and carriers, from a variety of manufacturers, which are available to browse/try on and hire out for a fee. 

A Brief History...

Sling libraries first began to emerge in the late-2000s, following a surge in popularity for Babywearing due in part to Dr William Sears, who had coined the term and advocated heavily for it in his book, ‘Attachment Parenting’. This was paralleled by fast increasing production of new and varied Slings and Carriers; on the most part from new family companies, who had drawn on their personal experience of carrying their own children to design and make ergonomic carriers, and sell them over the internet (examples include Connecta, Ergobaby, Tula and Beco). 

This surge in popularity and production, coupled with a general increase of internet use led to the creation of online forums, such as the Natural Mamas Forum, where enthusiasts would discuss pros and cons of each slings, and lend one another advice. These led to organised ‘real life’ meet ups known as ‘Sling Meets’, where parents (mostly mothers) could compare and handle the various slings brought along. This became quite an essential way of 'shopping around' as at that time (and largely still today) very, very few of these newer, ergonomically designed carriers had made it into high street stores. 

Many of these Sling Meets (including the one I now run) in turn evolved into Sling Libraries - either owned by one person as a their own business, or as a community group (not for profit) - where people could pay a small fee to take home a sling to try out, and see if it will work for them. These libraries were and are varied in terms of how they are run, but generally they are staffed by volunteers, who are present to assist in helping library users identify the differences between slings, and give a brief demonstration of how they are used.

Changing Times

As the number of people eager to carry their babies in slings increased, and the number of slings of the market experienced very rapid growth, so did the need for the professionalisation of Babywearing Education. Some parents (myself included) on visiting a Sling Library and having the opportunity to try out a variety of slings, still found they were uncomfortable, or their baby was unhappy. To this day many ‘rules’ and unsolicited advice (which is often unfounded) is thrown around, usually online, meaning parents can often feel overwhelmed at the amount of information, and variety of slings which are out there.

Education around Babywearing became necessary, partly to ensure people were learning to use their sling safely and with minimal risk, but also to help parents feel empowered and enabled to carry their baby comfortably, without necessarily having to hire several slings in the process. The TICKS safety guidelines were put together in 2010, and in the same year the School of Babywearing was launched, followed by Slingababy in 2013 (where I trained). These schools, among others abroad, began training up consultants in sling safety, physiology of both mothers and babies, benefits of carrying, wrapping techniques, identifying and supporting different learning styles, and of course how to use a great variety of different slings and carriers.

Fast forward to 2017, and Babywearing is now significantly more mainstream. Carrying your child in a sling does not mean you are adhering to a particular form of parenting; people carry their children in slings for a variety of very different, personal reasons. Where Sling Libraries have worked well, and continue to work well for a lot of people, there is now the added option, as well as increasing demand, for a private consultation with a professional. A consultant has the time and the skills to be able to give in depth demonstrations of a number of slings and carriers, and support parents to find something that works for their and their child’s individual needs. This works particularly well for those without the time or inclination to spend weeks or even months trying out lots of different slings, or those who would like help and support in a far quieter, one on one environment.

Libraries and consultancies ultimately work together and support one another; often libraries are run voluntarily by consultants themselves, who then offer additional, bespoke help and support through their consultancy service. The wonderful thing about having all these options – just as there is a sling out there for everyone – there are different access routes to sling help for everyone!

By Hannah King, co-director of Harrow Slings

To book a consultation or to find out more, contact Hannah via this link.

To find your nearest library or consultant, head to www.slingpages.co.uk