First time mum & baby carrying – Guest Blog by Cat Lamin

Getting around with a newborn can be hard work. You spend months researching the best carry cot only to discover that your post-birth recovery means that using it is out of the question. Or maybe you live on the third floor and can’t get it up and down the stairs. Perhaps you’re just not confident enough at steering to risk your brand new little one rattling around inside. Whatever your reason, sometimes the carry cot isn’t your best option and that’s when carrying might come in to play. 

There are so many options for baby carrying and so much confusing advice that knowing what to get can be a little overwhelming and that’s where sling libraries can be really helpful. 

For the majority, sling libraries are run by enthusiastic individuals who have a passion for baby carrying and are keen to help and support parents in finding the best route for them and Sheen Sling Library is no exception.

We visited Madeleine at her home for a private one to one session when I was around 37 weeks pregnant. We knew that we both wanted to carry our little one, but we weren’t sure what the best option for us was going to be; we’d also been given a sling ring which we couldn’t quite get our head around so I sent over an email and off we went.

The first thing that Madeleine explained to us was that a lot of carriers claim to be for newborns, but most aren’t suitable for the first few weeks and if you want to get carrying right from the get go, you need to look at stretchy wraps, caboos and slings. She recommends coming back once your little one is three or four months old so that you can look at more rigid carriers and figure out what suits your lifestyle best. The idea is that by then, firstly your little one can hold their head up a bit and secondly, you’ll know how much you use your sling, which will help inform your choice of what to buy next.

The second thing we learned was that everyone is different and what suits one person might not suit another so you’re better off trying out lots of different ways of carrying to find what you’re most comfortable with. The joy of the sling library is that Madeleine has around 100 different carriers to try so there’s no shortage of ideas and she even offers short term loans so you can really get your head around what works.

Madeleine has a selection of ‘newborn’ dolls which weigh about the same as an actual baby so if you’re still pregnant you can at least get a feel for how the different carriers work – she recommends that for slings and wraps it’s fine to try them on while you’re still pregnant, but that it’s not worth trying on a rigid carrier until post birth as you need to find what fits your body best once you’ve lost the bump.

IMG_4813We brought along our sling ring to try out and agreed that, while it was a lovely idea, it didn’t really suit either of us so we quickly moved in to stretchy wraps and caboos. I have to admit that I thought we’d end up going with a caboo, especially as the stretchy wrap looked like some sort of origami torture, but we both fell in love with stretchy wraps on first try. There was something very special about the way the baby sat in the stretchy wrap and since neither of us struggled to get it on, we decided that would be the way forward. All credit to Madeleine who got us both to try several different textured wraps and made sure we were comfortable with tying it in before we left. My other half fell in love with a bright red Izmi wrap and we decided that since we’d only need it for the first three or four months, we might as well hire it from Madeleine rather than buying one that will sit in the drawer afterwards and never be used again. We were so grateful that hiring was an option and is well worth considering if you know you’ll only use it in the short term! 

IMG_4864Our little one was born on 8th July and by 10th July his dad had already tied on the wrap and taken William to meet his aunty Jacky for lunch at the local pub; it was great for daddy and baby to have some skin to skin time so easily. It has been a lifesaver for us both – when my other half went back to work it gave me the freedom to get things done while he slept on me. When the baby has been inconsolable and I’ve not slept, his dad had been able to put him in the sling and get on with work while he and I both slept. In fact, I’m writing this post right now with William in the sling as I sit on the bench on Twickenham riverside. It’s safe to say we use our sling nearly every single day and I would definitely recommend looking into getting one.

IMG_5372It’s also been interesting for me as a number of the other mums & dads from my Bump & Baby course have since gone to the Sling Library and, while everyone is happy with their carriers, we’ve all formed different opinions and chosen different options. I can’t stress how valuable it is to try things on and see what suits you best.

After two months with our baby, we’re big carrying fans now and can’t wait to go back to try on some more rigid carriers so that we can decide what our next step in baby-carrying is going to look like. I will be sad to give up the sling, but I’m looking forward to having a quicker option for getting our baby strapped on and ready for adventures!

– Cat Lamin of https://catlamin.com

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Announcing Tea, Cake and Parenting!

I am so excited to share my news with you all – my wonderful friend Cat and I are launching “Tea, Cake and Parenting”, a new hub for parents, providing support, information and opportunity to meet others at the same stage and most importantly tea and cake!  We are kicking off Friday this week with our first social morning, with many more planned (full dates and times can be found here).

But before I explain all that I really wanted to share the story behind Tea, Cake and Parenting.

IMG-20190827-WA0029Cat and I have been friends for over 12 years, we met while rowing for Son’s of the Thames Rowing Club and became fast friends as we are both natural organisers!  We hate faffing around wasting time and so would organise our other rowing friends and just ensure whatever needed to get done got done.  Then over the years we’ve had children, and our friends have had children… and we’ve supported each other over and over again at different times.  When I moved to Mortlake Cat immediately sent me a list of playgroups and local activities, and introduced me to almost every local person who had a similar aged son to mine!  Through Sheen Slings I met many amazing people who support pregnant parents and new parents and I was able to pass these contacts onto Cat as and when she needed them.   And likewise Cat, made contacts and passed on to me…   And of course both of us found we are the ones our friends come to to ask if we know something or someone who can help with x because over the years we’ve both become “nexi” or “hubs” of information and contacts.

65839731_355329411843763_8089286966023028736_nBut the biggest thing Cat and I did for one another was simply to listen, to be there, to be present!  Present with a understanding listening ear, a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Really this more than anything is the absolute key to thriving rather than just surviving parenthood!

This support – having somewhere to turn to if you have questions, somewhere you can be hear and simply be is so important as a new parent.  Over and over again through the sling library I have met parents who have felt overwhelmed and just not sure where to turn, who’ve needed more support than can be offered in during a Sling session and under the umbrella of a Sling consultant.  I’ve always wanted somewhere I can send them where they can ask ANY question, come with any problem and just be heard.  And really this is what Tea, Cake and Parenting is all about. 

This is our aim… to be a hub for new (and not so new second, third or more times around) parents.  To fulfil this aim we will be running 2 types of session – social mornings and topic mornings.  You can read more about both here, but in a nutshell the social mornings are informal fortnightly sessions we are running from our homes.  Come with your worries and concerns or just come for some company of other like minded adults and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake in an environment where you don’t need to worry and apologize if your baby needs to feed, sleep, have a giant poo or just roll around throwing toys everywhere.  The topic mornings will be slightly more formal focused sessions (although babies obviously welcome to come and do all of the above and be as informal as they like), where we delve into a key parenting topic in detail as a group, looking at the evidence and different strategies.  They’ll be guest speakers as the topic demands and plenty of information on how to find out more and get more in depth support if needed.  We have literally tonnes of ideas for these and will be looking to start with one or two later this year before pushing on with a more full schedule early next year!

So do come along and find out how Tea, Cake and Parenting can support you!

Madeleine

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Why I don’t think you should buy a baby carrier before your baby is born…

IMG_1598I love that babywearing has grown in popularity over the last few years!  I see so many parents absolutely loving snuggling their little ones while getting stuff done… and it’s fabulous.  But one of the downsides of this growing popularity is baby carriers are now on almost all must have lists of things to buy before the baby arrives.  And here is a the catch: carriers (particularly buckle carriers) fit a bit like jeans – different brands and different styles fit different bodies.  In fact it’s worse than jeans because as well as needing to fit the parent it must also fit the baby, and fit how you want to use it, fit your lifestyle and fit the personal preferences of your little one!  All of which is almost impossible to tell before baby is born because it’s very difficult to try a carrier on when you have a bump in the way and how can you know how you are going to use it or what your baby’s preference is going to be before they’ve even entered the world?

You just can’t.  Fun fact – more than 60% of my clients are people who purchased a carrier before their baby was born and then were really dismayed to find that it didn’t work they way they thought it would.  Maybe it was a carrier that advertised from birth but in reality doesn’t work well until more like 8 weeks, maybe that it turned out not to fit them well, or holds baby only in x position but baby prefers y position or maybe its a case of the carrier is absolutely fine but the instructions and YouTube videos were so bad they couldn’t figure out how to get it comfortable but a few tweaks and a different method for putting it on has made all the difference.

The key here is to learn from this – babywearing is AWESOME but it needs to work for you.  The best way to see if a carrier works for you and avoid wasting your money is to try it with your baby and for that your baby needs to be here.

IMG_1852But “I want to wear my baby right from day 1” I hear you cry!  Yes! Yes I do want you to be able to do this too…  So here is my advice.  Don’t buy a buckle carrier yet, but do invest in a newborn specialist sling!  Or better still rent one.  Something like a Stretchy Wrap or a Caboo.  Or if you don’t like the idea of one of these a Ring Sling, a Woven wrap or a really specialist tiny buckle carrier like the Izmi Baby.  These are fab options that work right from day 1 and fit a huge range of people.  They can be tried on and learnt in advance as they offer a much more flexible fit.  And they don’t cost the earth to purchase, and in fact you needn’t buy one of these at all as Sheen Slings and many other Sling Libraries offer long term loans on Stretchies, Caboos and other newborn specialist slings which can save you from needing to buy something that you’ll only use for a few months.  So you can save your money for the big investment sling once your baby is a couple of months old and is here to try on with.

-Madeleine

Carrying Stories – Ana … Carrying in a warm climate

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Ana’s story….

“From the get go I knew I wanted to carry my baby, the only question being how.

IMG-20180804-WA0004My mum had kept a newer version of the carrier she had loved back in the seventies when she had my fussy big brother whom she had to carry almost 24/7. Sadly when I tried on the Snugli it was clearly not a good fit for me. My mum on the other hand has loved using it with my son.

So for me it was Madeleine to the rescue with a lovely Hana stretchy wrap. I was so happy and excited to use it that it went straight into my hospital bag. Inevitably there were some teething problems which were simply lack of confidence as a new mum with a tiny baby, but after some perseverance and a pep talk from Madeleine everyone was happy and the love story truly began.

IMG-20180804-WA0005Those first few months with the Hana were amazing. It was so lovely carrying Anton close especially when we went anywhere busy, and absolutely essential for our first few flights.

When Anton got a bit bigger it was time to get something else, and I ended up opting for the Amazonas Smart Ultra Light. It provided me with substantial support for my lower back without being bulky. I also needed something slightly more light weight for a warmer climate. I love how compact it is so that I can just always have it with me even on days when we are using the buggy. Slowly but surely we mastered back and hip carrying.

For quick ups and popping into the shops I now also have a ring sling which my son absolutely loves (more than I do I have to admit). But it’s incredibly convenient at times.”

Carrying Stories – Juliet

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Juliet’s story….

20180101_132833_resized“I knew I wanted to carry my baby when I first found out I was pregnant. It seemed like a common sense thing to do; aside from the fact that we’d be able to keep going to places we enjoyed that may not be accessible with a buggy, I knew that I would want to keep her close and how this would benefit both of us. In advance of Rosa’s arrival, we bought a stretchy wrap and an Amazonas Smart Carrier. I liked the idea of the stretchy, it seemed soft and snuggly, but Rosa’s dad, Tony, was all about the buckles! When she arrived, I found that I alternated between the two. Whilst I did like the closeness the stretchy wrap provided and used this when I was staying local, the Amazonas was definitely more practical when going out and about and for longer walks.

20180607_110833_resizedRosa put on weight quickly and at around 3 months, I packed the stretchy wrap away. We carried on using the Amazonas, but as Rosa grew and her head control improved, we realised the limitations of it. Tony in particular wanted a carrier that could do a front outward carry (as well as wanting a more neutral colour than the purple, green and cream swirls of the Amazonas!). We went along to Sheen Slings library session and chatted with Madeleine about our options. We ended up borrowing 2 different slings to try – a Lillebaby and an Ergo Omni 360. Whilst we liked both, the Ergo was the winner due to the ease of use. After just a few days of having it, we put in an order for our own brand new one using a gift voucher we’d been given.

IMG_20180422_140246 (1)_resizedImmediately the Ergo became our go-to carrier. I have explored other options since getting it – I have a lovely woven wrap and a ring sling, but I don’t find either to be as easy, comfortable and supportive to use as the Ergo. Luckily, Rosa seems to love it too! We started with front inward carrying and when she was strong enough, started to use the front outward carry for periods too. As we got closer to her 1st birthday and she got heavier, we started to have a go with back carrying and recently, because I find it difficult to get her into a back carry by myself (need to practice more!) I have started doing a hip carry with it so she can see where she is going but can still snuggle in if she wants to.

20180414_111314_resizedTony and I both love carrying Rosa, I think keeping her so close has really helped us all to bond. Rosa seems to love being up at our level, seeing the world as we do and constantly interacting with us (and others who stop and talk to her, which happens a lot!), which you just can’t do in the same way when they’re in the buggy. Tony was out shopping with her recently and she had a hold of some toothpaste. He went over to the counter, she passed it to the cashier and then passed over the card to pay as well! All that interaction will benefit her language and social communication skills no end! Recently, we’ve done trips to the zoo, farm, aquarium and we regularly go out walking in forests and parks. We only ever take the carrier on these trips and always feel a sense of freedom as a result.  Rosa’s always found it easy to sleep in the carrier too and since I have learnt how to breastfeed in it, we can keep on the go whilst meeting all her needs.

20180414_112334 (1)_resizedWe’re dreading the day when Rosa outgrows the Ergo, but rest assured we will be back at the sling library to find a toddler carrier to add to our collection! There are far too many benefits to stop carrying any time soon!

Carrying Stories – Adele

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Adele’s story….

IMG_7475“I am using the sling ‘Je porte mon bébé’ basic wrap which is shorter than the original wrap. Both Oscar – my little boy – and I are loving using the sling, it is light and easy to just keep in my bag or the pushchair. We were able to use it from day 1 when we came back from the hospital as Oscar was finding it hard to settle in the evenings (still does!). He is 9 weeks old now and I use the sling almost everyday inside the house and outside. I really feel that he needs to be close to me or my husband to relax and settle, it is definitely helping his emotional development and is important bonding time for us.

 

 

IMG_7734For me the sling is simply magic and helps us for many things from digestion, temperature, unsettled baby and also sleep. I keep telling my friends how this has become an essential baby item for us.”

-Adele

Carrying Stories – Nina.

Carrying your baby is such a personal thing – people carry for different reasons and different carriers suit different people.  Here is Nina’s story….

sling“I didn’t fully appreciate and understand the benefits of baby wearing until I had my second baby in 2013.  Alexander was born 5 weeks prematurely and with a toddler running around my feet and a tiny baby who needed a lot of attention, I decided to try and use a material sling. To be honest, my motivation at the time was making my life easier, but I now know how much baby wearing benefits a baby too!  I had always seen material wraps as a bit scary (as they looked so complicated to put on) but after some research, I settled on the Moby Wrap.  After watching a few Youtube videos and a bit of practice, I had mastered it.  And from then on, my life changed. Instead of having to either hold a small baby or put him in a Moses basket and then worry about my toddler running around and knocking him over, I was able to go about my day hands-free (and worry-free!).  Alexander absolutely loved the sling and would sleep in it for hours in those early months.  As well as the convenience for me, wearing Alexander helped him to feel calm and reassured – he loved being close to his food source at all times! It was also so easy to slip it into my changing bag if I wanted to take it out with me – it doesn’t take up much room at all. I wore Alexander constantly in the Moby Wrap until he was about 6 months old.  Then I moved on to a Manduca, which held his weight a bit better at that stage.

Fast forward a few years and baby number 3 arrived in September 2017.  I dug out the Moby Wrap and did exactly the same thing with Sebastian! Being hands-free was even more important for me with this last baby as I had school runs to do, homework to manage and a lot more demands on my time.  Sebastian loved the sling too and spent his first 6 months strapped to me permanently. I loved being so close to him and was even able to go out in the evening with him sleeping on me! When he got too heavy for the Moby Wrap, I decided to treat myself to a new Ergo 360, mainly because I liked the idea of having the option of him facing forward.  Once I worked out all the settings (with a bit of help from Madeleine!) I have loved that sling too, although my absolute favourite is still the Moby Wrap.

If I could give one piece of advice to a new Mum, it would be to buy a sling and wear your baby as much as possible!”

-Nina