If you thought babies were not welcome in libraries, guess again.
Warrington, Wigan and St Helens Sling Library is a travelling group which tours libraries offering advice on how to fit a baby sling and provide a social arena for new mums.
Sling Meets are held at least once a week during term time at five different venues, including Playdays in St Helens, Hal’s Pad in the Wigan Life Centre library, Park Children’s Centre in Skelmersdale, and Dorafo Lounge in Warrington.
It is run by a fully trained babywearing consultant who teaches people how to use baby slings and carriers. The organisation hires them so that people can try them out.
Rachael Cunliffe, 38, from Newton-le-Willows, set the group up in 2009 after she was struggling to carry her then one-year-old daughter, Celia.
She said: “I started the group up informally in 2009 so I could meet other people who used baby slings. My daughter was very allergic and she would not sleep. As a result, I got post natal depression, but carrying her in a sling really made a difference and we started to bond.
“I got in touch with people through forums and the Slingmeet website and we met up in the park. It just snowballed from there.
“People said they would come if I set up a group, so I did some training with Trageschule Foundation and set up Warrington, Wigan and St Helens Sling Library in 2011.
“I help people to find the right sling or carrier for them and then teach them how to use it safely and comfortably.
“All ages of baby and child are welcome and no previous experience is necessary. We can teach people how to use something they already own as well if it’s not working well for them.
“As a librarian, I’m the one with the most training and experience, so I always deal with anyone that needs more knowledge, for example if there are medical complications.
“I also oversee the library and ensure everyone has the information they need.
“My favourite part of the job is that look on the face of a parent who has just realised they’ve got their hands back.
“Often those are the people who are finding parenting challenging, I know from experience what a difference slings and carriers can make to your wellbeing, not just practically but emotionally. So seeing that look really does make me very happy.”
Adele Pye, 32, added: “The sling library helped me with my daughter and I went back with my son.
“I wanted to give something back, so I started off doing admin and directing parents to the consultant and where to hire slings. I have now trained to do peer support.
“I like meeting and helping new parents, especially first time mums. They come to us, saying their baby can’t be put down and we reassure them it is completely normal. It is satisfying helping to turn a stressed parent into a happy one with a sleeping baby.”
For more information visit www.wawishlingmeet.co.uk or www.facebook.com/WaWiSHSlingMeet/