A ‘babywearing’ group, which was established by a Skibbereen woman, is being very well supported by parents, writes Siobhán Cronin
Babywearing is the ancient tradition of carrying infants and young children in a piece of cloth known as a sling, which allows the wearer to carry on with daily tasks while keeping young children conveniently and safely close.
It has seen a massive increase in popularity throughout Ireland in recent years.
And in 2014, Skibbereen woman Fiona Shanahan started up a local group as the nearest sling meet was in Cork city.
‘It started as a social meeting where local parents brought along their own slings,’ recalled Sarah. In 2015 Babywearing Ireland got behind Fiona and BWI West Cork Sling Library was born. It has since grown and the local ‘library’ now has over twenty slings and is constantly expanding.
Fiona O’Sullivan from Glengarriff and Fiona Shanahan from Skibbereen now run this local group together. Fiona has recently completed a Babywearing Advocate Training course. Both are mothers to young families and give their time and share their love of babywearing to other parents throughout West Cork.
‘The group is very social and a lot of friendships have been made through the group,’ explained Fiona Shanahan. ‘We have parents from Castletownbere to Macroom, and Clonakilty to Baltimore. We have a lot of regulars who just love the social aspect of it.’
Fiona said that babywearing has seen a rebirth in recent years, because parents appreciate the freedom it gives them while keeping their young safe, warm and close.
Sling ‘libraries’ are a huge asset to any community as there are so many types of slings available, it’s not a one size fits all, she said.
‘There are different features in each. There is a learning aspect to slings and some rules need to be adhered to, to ensure your baby is supported in the correct and safe position. ‘
Fiona also explained that there are ‘TICKS’ which are guidelines that are demonstrated at the meetings. ‘We also have a new realistic seven pound weighted baby doll for demo purposes and for parents to practise with. We facilitate meetings once a month and slings are available to hire on a ‘try before you buy’ basis. While we don’t actually sell slings, there is a list of Irish retailers on our website and we are not affiliated to any brand. All our funding comes from donations through sling rentals, raffles and the Wear a Hug fair.’
The group hosts events during the summer months and have recently taken a trip to Cape Clear where they hiked around the island and had a picnic on the beach. They have also organised a walk through the Nature Reserve in Glengarrif.
The sling meet is always welcoming of new people who may be curious about slings and would like to try them out.
More information on the meetings and photos of the slings are on the group’s Facebook page (BWI West Cork Sling Library). It is a completely voluntary organisation run by a network of volunteers all passionate about promoting safe babywearing and its benefits for both children and caregivers.
Babywearing Ireland (BWI) organises sling meets every week across Ireland and currently has 28 sling libraries and a National Sling Library which offers postal rental.
BWI is in fact celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
‘These meet-ups provide a much appreciated chance to socialise, enjoy a coffee and a chat about all aspects of parenting,’ said Fiona.