South Scotland

It's a sling thing: More new parents use baby carriers

Ami AIndow
Image caption Dumfries mum Ami Aindow carries her 14-month-old daughter, Rae, in a sling

For years they have been considered little more than a hippy alternative to a conventional pushchair.

Baby carriers, slings and wraps were rejected in favour of expensive buggies and prams.

But today "babywearing" or "kangaroo care" is enjoying a revival among new parents across the UK.

Many are joining local sling libraries, which offer expert advice and support on choosing the right product for the baby and their families.

Victoria Ward, director of Babywearing UK, said the explosion in the number of these groups across the country reflected the increased interest in carriers.

Since Preston Sling Library was established in 2007, volunteers have set up at least 127 similar not-for-profit organisations across the country.

Ms Ward said: "There are new sling libraries starting up lately each week.

"Slings have started to be seen as a more mainstream product rather than a hippy alternative to a buggy."

Founding dates for sling libraries in the UK
Year Number of sling libraries formed
2007 1
2008 5
2009 4
2010 6
2011 18
2012 26
2013 37
2014 31

In Dumfries, two babywearing groups are supported by the local health board.

Talks to promote kangaroo care to parents with babies in the town's neonatal unit, in partnership with the sling libraries, are due to start soon.

Liz Hood, the infant feeding co-ordinator for NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said babywearing helps the bonding process between parent and child.

"Human babies are born immature and are unable to move about or feed alone for many months," she added.

"'Babywearing or "kangaroo care" allows babies to continue their development in the perfect environment - safe in the arms of their mother, father or other caring adult."

At Dumfries Sling Library, 19 volunteers have been trained by Babywearing UK to offer expert advice to new parents on selecting a carrier.

One of the peer supporters is Ami Aindow, mother to 14-month-old daughter, Rae.

"We are all mums ourselves. We have added it up and we reckon we have got about 50 years experience of babywearing between us," she said.

Image caption Amina Slimani said she is 'addicted' to slings
Image caption Laura Romay Castineira said slings "empower" mothers

The library allows parents with babies under four months old to borrow free stretchy wraps to carry their newborns. Others can hire carriers for £5 a week.

Mrs Aindow said: "Often mums buy a sling, pay £50 for it, bring it home and then it hurts her back. But mums can come here and hire the slings until they find out which suits them best."

Babywearing arouses a passionate response from many converts in Dumfries. None more so than Laura Romay Castineira, a Spaniard who lives in the area with her seven-month-old son Oscar.

She said: "I think that babywearing is an amazing thing that gives you freedom, gives you power, gives you a calm baby and a safe baby and I think that we don't do it anymore.

"I think this culture has moved on to the pram and I think that it's good for us to make it public and help everybody, empower mums to realise this is really easy to do, it's magic and it shouldn't be lost."

Amina Slimani said she carries 11-month-old Adam in a sling for the bonding experience and because it allows her to have her hands free for her three-year-old child.

She added: "It's practical as well. As a Muslim, I have to pray five times a day. I wouldn't be able to do that if he was not in a sling."


Carrying your baby in a wrap or sling

  • Helps premature babies gain weight faster
  • Helps relieve colic and reflux symptoms
  • Helps prevent "flat head syndrome"
  • Encourages bonding
  • Calms fussy babies
  • Aids breastfeeding

Liz Hood, infant feeding co-ordinator, NHS Dumfries and Galloway


Parents are also offered safety advice at the meetings. Just last year an inquest in London heard that a five-week-old baby suffocated in a sling while his mother went for a walk.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) recommends the TICKS checklist, which ensures carriers are tight enough to keep the baby close and that the infant is close enough to kiss.

What do you think? Would you be willing to ditch your pushchair in favour of a sling? Email dumfries@bbc.co.uk.

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