herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Sling your little heart out

A sling is the simple answer to getting about with babies and there are plenty of varities to chose from.

Getting around with a baby can be fraught. Shopping trips must be planned with care. Buses are hard to negotiate, and getting through airports can be hell on earth. You're constantly taking the baby in and out of the buggy; and if you have other children and you're travelling alone, it can become a nightmare scenario.

That is where slings come in. If you "wear" your baby strapped to your body, your arms are free. The baby is happy; he can even breastfeed on the go; and you don't have to remove him to go through security, or climb up the steps of the plane.

Slings have been around, in Ireland, for 20 years now; but, until recent years, they were used by a tiny minority.

"They just weren't trendy," says Kate Byrne, head of Attachment Parenting EU-Ireland.

In 2005, all that changed. Kate organised a fashion show, and asked various manufacturers to donate a sling.

"We got 30. The variety was amazing," says Kate. "After that we started up a sling library. Mums could try out the various types and pick one that suited their needs.

"Women use them for so many reasons. Maybe they've gone back to work and need a sling to go on the Luas. Perhaps they live in an apartment where the lift keeps breaking.

"A month ago we started a forum for baby wearing: www.babywearingireland.com. It has only been up a month, and we've more than 200 members.

"I met a woman from Africa yesterday. She's thrilled to see more baby wearing in Ireland. She says it's the norm where she comes from. They call them kangaroo babies."

Linda Collins has three daughters under three; Dervla, three and a half; Andrea, two, and Caoimhe who is just seven months old. When we speak, she's on her way to Kilkenny. She's using public transport and she's on her own.

"I have a double buggy; but if I didn't have a sling I wouldn't be able to get out of the house," she says. "I don't drive."

A passionate believer in baby wearing, Linda has up to seven slings at any one time.

"There's one that is attached to me every day," she says. "That's my workhorse. But I have others I pick out to wear like you pick a handbag. I wear some to go with an outfit; and others if I want to stand out in the crowd.

"Before I had children I was aware of baby wearing," she says. "My cousin came over from England with two young children. She and her husband each carried one in a sling, so they didn't need to bring a buggy.

"Four years ago, though, there wasn't the variety. The first sling I had wasn't very comfortable. It's brilliant the way the whole thing has taken off in Ireland.

Freedom

"It's great when I'm out and about. I can hop onto buses without being restricted. I don't have to think twice.

"I use the sling around the house too. Caoimhe used to get wind a lot and could be clingy. The sling is useful when I have to do other things, or when I want to interact with the other children.

"We're going to Tenerife in September. We'll each take a child in a sling, and bring a buggy for the third. I've already done Lanzarote and New York with a sling.

"People often stop me and ask me 'is it comfortable?' and 'is the baby happy?'

"The new site is great I always ask advice before I purchase a new sling. I had a 'sling meet' and 21 people came to that. It was brilliant."

www.babywearingireland.com

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