Two years ago, I and a few friends went to Peace in the Park with our little ones in the slings that we loved.. aiming to be visible as sling users in a public place. While we were there, having a beer and enjoying the ambience and the sunshine, getting a few comments from fellow attenders, we decided to set up a grassroots movement to raise the public profile of babywearing in Sheffield – to make sling use “normal” in the city that we love. Saturday Slings, at it was known in the early days – was to be “owned” by its members, meeting anywhere and everywhere, sharing knowledge, being encouraging and welcoming to anyone who chose to carry their baby, be it wrap, ring sling or buckle, be it full-time or part-time sling use. We started with five…. and two years later the facebook group, now known as Sheffield Slings – has over 1,000 members. Sling spotting is an everyday occurrence around here, and many communities have developed as parents make friends and watch their children grow up together. There are several meets a week – some bigger than others, in many locations around the city, from Hoyland to Rotherham, with a growing demonstration library for people to try things out. From that group, the Surgery – both a consultancy and a busy sling library has developed, with the fortnightly Slings in the City drop in – my team and I see over a hundred people a month through the Surgery. Demand for help is high, so I now train peer supporters myself, and many of these are now active in the meets/libraries, putting their skills to use and benefiting others. New consultants have trained to continue meeting needs near and further afield – The Carrying Works is one example. I am thrilled to see how the initial vision we had that summer’s day has developed into this wide-ranging community that spreads through the love of its members who introduce their friends – and grateful to the “steering team” who continue to realise this vision (I stepped back from management some time ago). Most of my friends from these early days have moved on as their children have grown bigger, but I am still here, supporting the group and watching new parents discover how wonderful it is to be able to carry their children close, conquering bonding difficulties or PND thanks to a sling, being able to get freely out and about into the glorious Peak countryside, and then seeing these babies being carried into toddlerhood and beyond. It’s been an intense two years… I have a few more grey hairs (well, a lot!) but I am looking forwards to what is still to come!
This year, we actually have a stall at Peace in the Park itself.. see you there!