A NEW hands-free method of parenting is taking off in Sheffield.
Sheffield Slings was formed by a group of mothers who shared a mutual love of carrying their babies in slings - and has now attracted more than 300 members in less than a year.
The concept is believed to be a more ‘natural’ way of parenting, and is said to soothe infants, aid sleep and boost bonding.
On a purely practical level it leaves the parent able to carry their baby while doing other tasks such as preparing a meal, and to get out of the house without lugging an unwieldy pram around.
Some mums even say the group has helped them stave off post-natal depression by providing them with a support network.
The idea for Sheffield Slings started at the city’s Peace in the Park festival last year.
All the founding mums were carrying their babies in colourful slings and attracted plenty of attention from the crowds of festival-goers.
“People kept coming up to us and saying that’s a great idea,” said mum-of-two Rosie Knowles, of Hangingwater.
“So we thought we need to get out into the community and take slings to people.”
A few salsa dancing sessions, flash mobs, long walks and public events later, and the popularity of the group has surged far beyond the original five.
More than 330 mums and dads have signed up to the group in just eight months and the group has already won the Best Babywearing Outreach Programme 2012 Award.
Members meet at events, spread the word in their area and are able to attend sessions on everything from breastfeeding to using baby carriers.
Slings range in price from £25 to £250 and vary from simple piece of fabric, to those hand-woven in Guatemala and designer baby brand versions which sell out in minutes online.
Rosie, a GP in Crosspool, added: “So many people in the group have suffered with post-natal depression, so they can say to each other ‘I’ve been there too’.
“I think the popularity of the group is because we are a friendly bunch and we go the extra mile to where people are.
“The popularity of slings is part of a culture of wanting to be a particular type of parent, having your child close to you. It’s natural parenting, it frees people up.”
The group aims to be all-inclusive and even has three mums who carry their premature babies as well as an oxygen tank on the back, to help with lung development. It has a core steering group and some members are even gearing up to take a qualification so they can teach others how to use slings.
Ruth Wainaina, mum to seven-month-old Edith, said: “I’m completely addicted now to the whole world of slings. Here you get feedback and also a bit of validation that you are doing what you see is the right way to be a parent.”
Visit www.sheffieldslings.com for more information.