Continuing our series interviewing our conference sponsors this week we're talking to Sophy from Southsea Slings.
Can you explain a little about what babywearing / using slings is all about and what motivated you to become a sling consultant? What babywearing and using a sling is all about, is really dependent on you and your family's needs and preferences. Babywearing is a skill, carriers and slings are tools in a parenting tool kit. For some families, wearing their baby in a sling from day one is a plan they had long before they are awaiting the arrival of their child even. For others using a carrier is only a consideration when they taking their toddler on a camping expedition. The benefits of babywearing to newborns to preschoolers and their carers are numerous, and it was this fact and our personal experience of using slings with our babies that drove me to become and sling consultant. When I completed my training in 2012 I really wanted my work to be part of breaking down any cliques, and stereotyping around what kind of families used slings and why. I had been a La Leche League breastfeeding support leader for some years, and had loved how non-judgemental and empowering my training had been. I wanted to try and assist families to be empowered to use slings safely, in a way that suits their personal needs, no matter what their parenting choices were.
What are the main benefits of using slings for pregnant and new mums?
Using what is commonly called a wrap sling (essentially a long length of fabric) to wrap your bump whilst pregnant can be a great way to support your bump, improve posture, open up your rib cage and become more aware of your own body. It is also a great way to start to become familiar with the way a wrap or stretchy wrap works, meaning you are better prepared for its use with a baby. For new mums one of biggest benefits is having hands free from holding baby, whilst still meeting baby's needs of being close. This has major benefits to new mums being able to attend to their own needs, such as having a wee, getting a glass of water or grabbing a sandwich without the stress of leaving their baby unattended. Using a sling with a newborn promotes secure attachment , aids recovery from postnatal depression, decreases stress, makes getting around with baby easier and safer. The benefits for baby also benefit new mums, as meeting their baby's needs becomes easier and so they can enjoy new motherhood more.
What are the benefits for babies?
Reduces stress, aids digestion, great assistance for babies with colic or reflux, promotes greater periods of sleep and of the quiet alert state; babies cry less, promotes mothers responding to babies' initial cues for breastfeeding, great for temperature regulation, more cuddles with the sound of a heart beat! Reduces the incidence and aids recovery from of plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) and torticollis (stiffness in the neck). Less stressed carers are always a benefit to baby too.
Are there any specific situations in pregnancy or for mums where babywearing can really help?
This is a really difficult question, because there are so many specific situations where babywearing really helps. It allows mothers and any carers the ability to attend to their baby's most basic and paramount need to be close to their care giver, whilst allow the care giver a greater amount of freedom to attend to their own needs too. Kangaroo care for premature babies is a great example of a specific situation where babywearing really helps, promoting greater weight gain, better temperature control, promoting positive, secure bonding and attachment, better breastfeeding outcomes, and less social isolation for parents. Mothers with specific disabilities making carrying baby in arms impossible altogether or for long periods of time. Mothers who have had a c-section that have have to use stairs, having two hands free to safely support themselves, whilst carrying baby. I could go on and on with examples. I suppose it may help to imagine the question the other way round; it is rare but sometimes slings do not help because parents have had bad experiences of trying to use a sling without sufficient knowledge of how to use it safely and then slings are not helpful! Hopefully we can help prevent this happening with the support we offer to help families learn to use slings safely and comfortably.
Do you have any hints or tips for pregnant women or mums to help them look after themselves, their physical health and their mental health?
Being kind to themselves. Not trying to be superwoman. Definitely finding a antenatal group, even if you feel like you have very little in common with the class attendees, you have babies in common, and that is a very special factor. Everyone will have ups and downs with being pregnant and or becoming a mother, and just being able to chat to someone going through a similar experience at the same time in your lives is so helpful and supportive, even if you have very different ideas on parenting. I think social isolation and fear of judgement is massive negative factor for many mothers, new and experienced. So if at all possible go along to some groups whilst pregnant and when your baby comes along. Using a sling is great for your physical and mental health and having a gentle walk out and about is a great way to start to recover from pregnancy and birth.
What sort of training do you do as a sling consultant?
Training varies depending on the course that you attend. I attended The School of Babywearing UK (Externally regulated by OCN Eastern Region) 5 years ago now, and since have done 100's of hours of client contact time. I attended a face to face course and then had to complete course work, including reports and feedback from families on consultations. I now to keep up to date with current recommendations from manufactures as well as keeping abreast of ongoing research, attending conferences etc. Rachel Hammerton, who also runs Southsea Slings, trained with Slingababy (very popular and well established babywearing training school based in UK). Our courses both covered aspects of child development, mother and baby physiology, safety, and benefits to babywearing - use of the various kinds of slings and carriers, aspects of history of babywearing, woven wrap carries, special circumstances. Skills of being a consultant, in terms, for example of pedagogy, empathy and observation. Organisational skills , such as how to run a workshop etc. Both myself and Rachel are fully insured as Babywearing Consultants.
Is there a way mums can find out what training levels the person running their local sling library has?
BABI - British Association of Babywearing Instructors is an association that can assist with a great map, with details of who runs what and what qualifications they may have. Listings and details on line are commonly updated by volunteers and may sometimes be slightly out of date. Trusted antenatal groups, as well as NHS health professionals are good to ask about local services. There is no one official umbrella regulatory body for babywearing consultants or sling libraries, but there are reputable organisations striving towards maintaining up to date detailed listing. One of the best is Sling Pages, a website, currently undergoing a re-vamp. If in doubt a good group or sling library will be happy to answer any queries from clients as to their qualifications, if they are not happy to chat then it may be worth finding another service.
If you're wondering what parents think of the service from Southsea Slings check out the many positive reviews on their Facebook Page like these ones.
"A great way to find your perfect sling. I had slings in the past that I was not 100% happy with, and thanks to the helpfulness of Southsea Slings I have found my perfect sling.
The perfect sling is a very individual choice and the service that Southsea Slings provides enables that choice to be made. Thank you so much"
"This is a must attend morning. I had my own sling but have not really known how to use it up till now. I’m so much more comfortable and my baby is much more secure. Baby wearing is magic too. He falls asleep within minutes of getting in. Thank you so much. Lovely ladies too"
"Superb service pre baby so I was ready and confident! The ladies here are lovely and happy to help with a great selection of products and knowledge. Would highly recommend them."
Where can you find them?
Running regular free to attend drop in sessions in Portsmouth (weekly term-time) , Havant and Chichester (monthly). Their services also include private consultations in the comfort of clients' homes, as well as, workshops, talks and event stalls. Southsea Slings is a social enterprise and offers 50% reduction for monthly hires to clients in receipt of social security benefits, such as Universal Credit. https://www.facebook.com/SouthseaSlings/
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 07801222714 www.southseaslings.co.uk