On Thursday 13th December we got all festive at our Chrimbo sling-meet at the Hallamshire House. Everyone got into the festivities, little and big people alike.

There were Santa hats, Reindeer jumpers, cheeky elves and some crazy specs that Sir Elton would be proud of!

We wonder if this lovely mummy will enter this festive shot in our Advent Calendar competition running over on our facebook page - she could be in with a chance of winning a £20 Monkey Mei Tai voucher if she did! Or just come and have a look at what has behind the doors opened to date!

It was a lively meet with lots of chat and lots of demos - below, Katherine, aka Mrs Claus, outs her Peer Support Worker qualification to good use to demonstrate a back carry with a Mei Tai.

And, of course, there was Christmas cake: this was made by one of our members and was one of the prizes in our raffle; along with a voucher for a free loan from Sheffield Sling Library and "Off We Go", a lovely nursery rhyme CD by Jess & Richard Arrowsmith. Charlotte was lucky enough to win the cake but got a bit of a shock when she lifted the beast! We have been told temptation has been resisted and it is being saved for the family on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone! And we look forward to seeing you in 2013, you can find us at MegaKids on Tuesday 8th January. Please check our Upcoming Events for more details and other sling meets planned for January, and beyond.

We've got loads of sling meets on at the moment!
A mum getting to grips with her Manduca carrier at our sling meet
Last Thursday was our regular sling meet at the Hallamshire House, where the talk was all about soft structured carriers and other full buckle carriers. There's so many different brands and they're all slightly different, so the good news is that there's usually one out there for everyone. 

But it does mean that you sometimes have to try a lot of slings on to find your perfect carrier - this is why we love getting together for sling meets, and why we are always so happy that Sheffield Sling Library exists.
We're going to publish the results of our carrier comparisons soon in our babywearing help section, so keep an eye out.
Then this Monday we had our first Hillsborough mini-meet, which was a great success. The library turned out to be a fabulous venue where the kids enjoyed playing and reading (or in some cases, just pulling all the books off the shelf and putting them in piles...).
Four babywearers carry their children at Sheffield Babywearers' Hillsborough sling meet
Four of the babywearers who came to the Hillsborough mini-meet

Sheffield Babywearers are running a Babywearing Advent Calendar competition on their Facebook page and the prize is a voucher from Monkey Mei Tai custom carriers. They kindly lent us one of their beautiful carriers for our International Babywearing Week photo shoot, which you can see here.

Here is the photo that was revealed when we opened the first door of our calendar and we look forward to revealing more as we countdown to Christmas. Please come over and either share your pictures with us (to qualify for the competition you must both like our page and share a photo), or just bob across and enjoy the lovely festive images.

A dad tries out a stretchy wrap using a teddy
When my partner first told me about slings and babywearing I thought she was a bit mad, after all prams are the norm, why would we want to use anything else? Of course, being the good partner that I am I indulged this idea, begrudgingly, thinking that she would easily get bored of the idea within a few weeks and we would just use the pushchair like "normal people".

In the interest of not spending much money whilst still indulging the idea we decided to have a go at making our own stretchy wrap. So, I helped my heavily pregnant partner measure out and cut the fabric (I even bought her a sewing machine!). Of course, as soon as she got her new toy I had to try it out. Now baby wasn't here yet so we tried it with a teddy. I have to admit I felt daft, after all there's a huge difference between a baby human and a stuffed toy.

We had the general misconception that our daughter would be a fragile little thing and were both scared to put her in the sling at first. As coincidence would have it, Evelyn Rose arrived at the beginning of International Babywearing Week, so that was handy.

Last week saw the turning on of the Christmas lights in Sheffield and a number of our members popped down with their families. Here they are, sharing the benefits of babywearing at a busy, public event.

"Mya usually becomes overwelmed by characters/mascots, with them being so big, but she was perfectly happy for me to approach 'Pooh Bear' and for her to give him high 5 as she has re-assurance of me being right there for her to snuggle into." 

 "I enjoyed the ease with which we could interact with the characters - my son, the fire brigade bear and I all played peek-a-boo till T was screaming with laughter as the sling meant he was high enough to see over the barrier and I had my hands free for peek-a-boo!"

"Can we have a meet in Rotherham?" asked one of our newer members. "Your wish is our command," we said, and within a week we had organised what we believe to be the first ever sling meet in Rotherham, South Yorkshire! 

Six babywearers got together - a few old hands and a couple of newer mums - and had a fun time swapping slings, drinking excellent hot chocolate and chasing the toddlers at Camelot Play Castle (a lovely, inexpensive soft play centre in Rotherham). The two newbies went away completely converted and planning on heading to Sheffield Sling Library at the first opportunity to try some slings with their gorgeous 6-month-old daughters, one wanting a wrap and the other a mei tai
A few things were certain by the end of the meet - we're doing it again, we're going to convert Rotherham to babywearing, and we're getting more hot chocolate...
I started off my babywearing journey by borrowing a friend's homemade stretchy. The fabric she has used contained a lot of polyester, which was very hot and sweaty for the summer so when I went into Fine Fabrics in Hillsborough with the intention of buying some fabric to make my own I opted for some thin cotton jersey fabric and made my own, which you can see in this photo of me carrying my 8 month old son Daniel in a front carry for a 5 mile walk in the peaks around Hartington. 

I think they still have the same fabric in stock so if you want to make one like this you can! 

Safe babywearing
Safe babywearing
Last weekend two members of Sheffield Babywearers went down to Bristol to attend a training course to become Babywearing Peer Supporters. This OCN Level 3 course is run by the School of Babywearing, and when they've finished the (rather arduous) coursework they will be qualified to help other babywearers. There's not many babywearing peer supporters or consultants in our area, so we're really excited about this. 

We've added a page to our website on babywearing peer supporters and consultants, and it's filed under "Safe babywearing" because that is the area where these people are most useful. If you, as a babywearer, are asked to help with carrying a premature baby, a low weight baby or a child with a medical condition, it's best to refer them to a trained consultant, or sometimes a peer supporter. You may know lots about babywearing, but the medical issues are often complex. Also, if you are ever unsure about a baby's safe positioning in a sling, refer the parent rather than take risks with the baby's safety. A full list of when it is appropriate to refer a parent is on the new page.

When I was pregnant I remember watching a woman at Sheffield train station put her baby on her back with a long length of fabric.  I realise now that I must have been staring.  I was impressed by her technique but just assumed that I wouldn’t ever carry my baby in this way.  I didn’t even give it a second thought, in spite of seeing what a good idea it was.
I’m a new mum to Robin who is now eleven weeks old and I never knew there was such a thing as ‘babywearing’ until after he was born.  Like most things with this journey into parenthood, I have picked up knowledge along the way.  

Whilst pregnant, I liked the idea of carrying my baby in a sling and had read that it might be useful to have one as well as a buggy or pram.  I bought a Caboo Close carrier (a hybrid stretchy carrier) from ebay for a bargain £25.  I’m not sure what made me choose this one over one of the mass produced type slings but I read some good reviews and thought I’d go with this one.  My husband and I spent hours practising with a doll but we never got around to actually using it until Robin was about two weeks old. 

Whilst going through the images taken during the photoshoot Sheffield Babywearers organised as part of their celebrations for International Babywearing Week, I find myself contemplating this year's theme: Carrying on Traditions.

It strikes me, as I sit here perusing the gallery of images, trying to decide which images I like the best (there isn’t just one, there are many) that babywearing is hugely diverse - as diverse as the babies we carry. On the day babies, toddlers and preschoolers were carried in ringslings, mei tais, pods, buckles, and wraps; on their mums' fronts, hips and backs. In fact, a few preschoolers even did some carrying of their own - an oversized Tigger in a shorty wrap for an impromptu back carry, and a more appropriately sized scarf to carry a doll. 

So I then find myself pondering the question: how can such diversity link all babywearers? And it struck me, babywearing traditions are not just about returning to traditional ways of carrying.