Lectures and Workshops

Rosie is regularly invited to be a keynote guest speaker at conferences around the UK and Europe, where she lectures about babywearing and the role carrying plays in promoting good infant and parental mental health. She has won awards for her work in raising awareness of this topic across multidisciplinary fields.

Rosie is a practising GP with experience in public speaking and creating engaging and inspiring talks, lectures and workshops. She has many years of experience working with parents and carers and training carrying professionals, and puts her skills to good use in creating learning experiences for other professionals, challenging and equipping them to do their jobs well.

Upcoming Appearances 2020

all on hold due to coronavirus

Past Lecture/Workshop Titles

  • Babywearing to Build a Happy Brain
  • Breaking the Rules; empowering families
  • Seven Reasons Why Babywearing Matters
  • Past, Present and Future Babywearing
  • How does Babywearing Support Maternal Mental Health?
  • The Sheffield Story (how the local service develops)
  • Building Resilience through Babywearing
  • The Fourth Trimester
  • Infant Mental Health  – why it matters
  • Breaking Down the Barriers to Babywearing
  • Anthropology and Modern Babywearing
  • Why Carrying Matters from an Attachment Theory Perspective
  • Workshops on various carrier types (particularly for new parents)
  • Workshops on adapting carriers for complex situations
  • Workshops on working with special needs

Previous Engagements

A talk for parenting editors at the Ivy, London, guest of Baby Bjorn, alongside Dr Roberto Albani, gastroenterologist

Hungary, Magyar Babahordozó Konferencia és Fesztivál October 2019, launch of Why Babywearing Matters Hungarian translation and lecture, here, here and here

Sheffield NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play launch event, October 2019, read more here

Ireland, Wear a Hug Fair, October 2019, talk and a meeting with Babywearing Ireland, see here and here

Norway, Sept 2017 and Sept 2019 Nasjonalt Baeretreff, several workshops and lectures, see more here and here

Denmark, Slyngemessen TætPåHjertet – Babywearing Festival, Aalborg, May 2019, a lecture, see more here

Bulgaria, SlingoFest, March 2019, a talk and the launch of  Why Babywearing Matters in Bulgarian, see more here

Poland, March 2018, Launch of Why Babywearing Matters in Polish at Nicminiewisi the Festival of Wraps,  and November, 2018, Lenny Lamb’s 10 year anniversary, talk for the Babywearing and Business International Forum, November 2018

Video of the Festival with a short section from Rosie here

Sweden, lecture,  b. babywearing festival 2018

Denmark, talk February 2018, Dansk Bærefestival and here

Scotland, 2017, 2018

The Netherlands, 2018

Belgium, 2017

England, (Sheffield, London, Coventry, Bristol) 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


sling faq pelvic tuck professionals training

Health and Social Care Professionals

It is now widely recognised that the early years of a child's life matters enormously for their long term health and wellbeing. Many health and social care professionals are increasingly aware of the need to support new families right from the beginning, helping them to build bonds and promoting the creation of secure, healthy attachment relationships. Sling and carrier use can play a very significant part in this.

Rosie is a practising GP, and has been working in babywearing fields for many years, creating unaffiliated resources for NHS use, writing an evidence-based book on the topic, and has trained many health and social care professionals. This is includes health visitors, infant feeding teams, midwives, paediatricians, nurses, perinatal mental health workers and many more.

Her courses aim to equip professionals with a thorough grounding in the science of infant and maternal mental health, and how slings and carriers promote health for a lifetime. She is very aware of the special considerations that arise when working with newborns or vulnerable children and families, and the particular challenges that may be encountered in clinical sessions. She can tailor courses for particular needs and focuses.

Find out more about training courses

Congratulations

You've been carrying your baby for one whole year!
The close contact has connected you to each other and helped your baby's brain to grow. Hopefully it has brought you many happy adventures together and been useful in many ways: sleeping, feeding, travelling...
Congratulations

There is a lot of evidence to show that babies need to be close to their primary caregivers in the early months and years of their lives. This shared space creates an intimate connection between the two individuals that builds lasting bonds; and these bonds can shape your child's future. It may well have helped you too, to survive the challenges of parenthood.

Choosing to carry your baby has been one of the most important things you could have done for your family unit. I congratulate you for that and encourage you to keep going!

If you'd like to download this for yourself or to give to a friend or someone you know, here is the link to the PDF.


fitness dance

Sling Fitness/Dance and Babywearing

There are many fitness or dance classes focused on maternal wellbeing and bonding with baby while babywearing, which can be a great thing to participate in, like Barre and Baby, Dance Like a Mother, Joiemove and Sling Swing, to name just some.

We all know babies thrive when close to their mothers, and baby carriers can help with this rather than putting babies down all the time. Movement and activity are known to lift the mood, and friendly, welcoming social activity is an important part of helping new parents find a supportive community so they feel less alone. So keeping babies close during a fitness or dance class may seem to be a match made in heaven… or is it?

 

Some classes market themselves by suggesting that new mothers should be trying to “get their body back” shortly after birth, so they feel good about themselves. I dislike this phrase; after all, why would you want to encourage a butterfly to revert to a caterpillar? Motherhood and the changes that come with it are to be celebrated. Many women would like to work on the strength and health of their bodies, but this should be a positive choice, not one made out of shame or embarrassment.

Baby safety at all times, and the health and wellbeing of new mothers are both of vital importance. It is my firmly held belief that anyone who is suggesting or recommending the use of a carrier during a class should be competent and confident in their use. This can only come with adequate training.

Furthermore, I believe that the long term health and fitness of women after birth and pregnancy takes precedence over quick-fixes. The pressure to “get your body back” and the media focus on celebrity bodies is not helpful for women. Good mental health and a supportive community are cornerstones of adapting successfully to life as a mother, and for many being active is part of that. However, there is often a significant lack of knowledge about the effects of many activities of daily life, let alone exercises or running etc on the pelvic floor, and loading it further with a baby carrier (especially one that is poorly fitting and uncomfortable) is detrimental in the early weeks to months.

It may take six months to a year for the body to recover completely, (according to research at Salford University). Of course this is very individual, depending on previous levels of health and fitness, how pregnancy and birth went, etc. Some women will be much more ready to return to their previous levels of activity than others. The “six week check” by the GP is often used as a benchmark to “sign off” as fit for exercise or dance classes. However, this is not what the six week check is for and this is not an appropriate way to establish if women are ready to return to increased levels of activity.

You can read more about my thoughts on slings and exercise here. 

I believe that in order to be able to offer dance or exercise classes safely and beneficially, all instructors should be focused and committed to the health and wellbeing of both the mother and the baby as their top priority.

Instructors should all

  • Have formal, high quality and officially recognised postnatal training qualifications (requiring assessment, and willing to provide these credentials to parents who ask.)
  • Have a significant depth of knowledge on the pelvic floor after birth and the effects of certain movements and activity on this recovering organ. This is often lacking. I recommend the courses for fitness professionals run by Louise Field of Adore your Pelvic Floor.
  • Offer proper assessment of a mother’s functional strength (beyond the “six week check”) and a willingness to adapt movements to reflect this.
  • Demonstrate the ability and commitment to put the client and baby’s needs first, even if it means saying that the class isn’t suitable. Babies are not an accessory to be used for fitness.

plus

  • High quality, in depth babywearing peer supporter training to ensure mothers and babies are carrying safely at all times, without any compromises. Instructors should have a particular interest in babywearing for its own sake, as opposed to something to add onto existing classes. Ideally they will already be familiar with slings. They should demonstrate a keen desire to be practising optimally and in line with current best practice. Baby and maternal safety is always paramount. 

babywearing peer supporter training

If you would like to explore the option of peer supporter training, please contact me to discuss. I reserve the right to decline training.

Please note that training with me is NOT an endorsement of any class, and Carrying Matters is NOT and never has been affiliated in any way with any fitness or dance classes.

I am no longer able to offer half day “safety awareness training” courses to those who are running postnatal fitness/dance classes. After a while running these courses, I feel this insufficient time to cover all the issues in enough depth to ensure the safety of babies and their mothers. This is especially as babywearing is not usually the main focus of the class and many class instructors have hardly any personal experience with babywearing themselves. Anyone who sees babywearing as an integral part of their class will be willing to invest in in-depth training with assessment.

Please note that I have attended a full day of training in pelvic floor awareness for fitness professionals myself.


adoptive and foster families

Slings and Adoptive and Foster Families

We all know how vitally important it is for children to build secure attachments with their primary caregivers, both for a sense of security and belonging now and in the future. It is much harder for this supportive relationship to develop when the primary caregiver has difficulties of their own, and when children need to be taken into care. The adverse experiences being endured by children in these circumstances have been shown to have a long term effect on future mental and physical health

This page collects some of the most useful writing on the topic of sling use among adoptive and foster families.

Leah Campbell's story

Adoptive and foster parents will know that their children need all the love they can give; and a sling can play an useful part in building these bridges amidst the turmoil. The biochemistry of creating a secure attachment is not a conscious process, or one that depends on ancestry; the release of oxytocin and the down-regulation of the stress response that happens with consistent, close and loving contact happens in the background.

Carry the Connection website

There are many other benefits in terms of language acquisition, socialisation, and also helping children to learn which of the adults around them are their primary caregivers.

Sue, a foster parent in the South, is a strong advocate of using slings as part of her care.

“Many of the babies who we care for have been exposed to either drugs, alcohol or domestic violence whilst in the womb. Carrying them has, without doubt, enabled them to develop into calm, sociable, happy, securely attached babies who meet (and often exceed) their developmental milestones.

Babies who have been neglected for the first few months of life can be very wary of people and situations. By carrying them they learn more about the world from a position of safety. They take cues from watching our faces and  learn to trust people and situations more more quickly.

Using carriers when introducing babies to their adoptive parents show the babies that this is someone to be trusted. Only I carry the baby in a sling whilst they stay with me although many other people hold them. However from the first day of introductions the adoptive mother wears the baby in my (the baby’s) sling. I believe this shows the baby that Mummy (or Daddy) is a special person which enables the attachment to switch between us. “

“Children with disrupted attachments are often indiscriminate in who they seek to have their needs met by. Children should always be guided back to their parents by family and friends if they are approached by the child particularly for food and nurture. This process is called funnelling and is extremely important in giving a clear message to the child about who their primary caregivers are. A sling or carrier could be helpful in this process, reducing indiscriminate attachment seeking behaviour and discouraging over-enthusiastic family and friends from picking up and nurturing the child.” Carrying the Connection

This blog post from Slings and More (based in the North East) assesses the science behind how slings can help  adoptive and foster parents to build secure attachments.

“Foster and adoptive families have an immense role in helping to form strong attachment bonds with the children they look after and to help those children who do not have strong attachment bonds to begin to form them.”

This is a personal account of a mother’s experience of using slings as she adopted a little girl.

Her father told her: “You two should have some time alone. She needs to learn your smell and the sound of her mama’s heart.”

Perinatal mental health challenges can be very real for adoptive parents too, and slings can be enormously helpful for all shapes and structures of family unit.


Carrying in the cold, snowsuits

Snowsuits, Scarves, Slings and Safety - Carrying in the Cold

Autumn and winter can be a wonderful time of year, with frosty mornings and chilly walks, the first snowfall, and a little child nestled cosily up to you. Fresh air is good for the soul, and exercise and changes of scenery can make a big difference to family life. You don't need to be afraid of wintry weather, in fact, a baby carrier can help you go places!

It is important to consider safety in all things, and dressing warmly for winter while using a sling/carrier is no exception. Snowsuits may be cute and warm but they need to be used carefully.

When the weather turns chilly, or even icy, every caring parent’s mind turns to how to keep their baby warm in the cold air. Out come the snuggly snowsuits and the hooded jackets, out come the warm cosy scarves and thick cardigans, all aimed to keep you and baby toasty warm. At sling library sessions I can often be found encouraging parents to undress their babies, and often themselves! But why? Surely warmth is important?

Indeed it is, and it is good to be aware of your child’s needs. But there is often still a question about the best way to keep warm when you are using a sling… are the snuggly snowsuits really the best option? Are they safe to use, especially with the current advice about avoiding thick coats in car seats? (see the link at the bottom).

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

I see a lot of parents with small babies (under four months) in snowsuits or thick jackets who are then settled into a carrier, be it a stretchy or woven wrap or a meh dai or a buckle carrier. Problems can arise at this point; baby is often too warm, and may be rather sleepy as a result, or irritable, and the parent may be finding the carrier uncomfortable. Babies under 4 months are at greatest risk of difficulties due to their relative smallness weakness; they do not have strong and sustained head, back and torso control, so are more likely to run into problems. Older babies and toddlers are very different!

Let’s look at some of the major factors to consider when using a carrier in the cold.

1) Be aware of OVERHEATING 

Too many thick snuggly layers can be a risk of overheating. Babies are by nature warm little creatures (carrying them can feel like having a delightful wriggly hot water bottle on your front) and it is their extremities and their heads that need protecting much more than their middles. They are not yet able to regulate their own temperatures in the way that adults can (which is why skin to skin contact from an adult for a feverish or cold child can be so very useful) so being close to your body will rapidly warm a child up anyway. As you walk you will warm up, and your extra heat will warm up the child on your front even more.

Being too hot is not good for babies; it makes them sleepy and overbundling a sleeping baby is a risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It makes sense to avoid this overheating in slings just as much when baby is sleeping in a bed or a car seat. Furthermore, being too bundled up reduces their ability to sweat (the drops of sweat need to be able to evaporate to carry heat away) which means even older children who can regulate their temperature better will also struggle with being too hot. Hot babies are at significant risk; it is relatively easy to add extra layers for warmth if you misjudge slightly and to remove them when you come in out of the cold.

.

 2) Be aware of AIRWAY

Sometimes the weight of baby inside the snowsuit can mean they sink down inside it, due to gravity, and end up with their faces buried inside the body of the snowsuit. This may pose a risk to airway and breathing; the same goes for hooded jackets or thick cardigans that can “ride up” the back of the carrier.

Too much fabric around the chest and upper body will also make it hard to achieve a fully supported back and a tight carry. This may increase the risk of too much space between baby’s head and your chest, allowing his chest to curl and compress and his heavy head to slump forwards, potentially compressing his airway, or burying his face into fluffy fabric, reducing airflow. Thick snowsuits really can be a significant risk.

Always ensure good airflow. Be aware of your own clothing too; a cowl or a scarf may prove problematic if your baby snuggles his face into the fabric, reducing free airflow. This is more of a risk with smaller babies than in those who have head control and are able to move themselves independently.

Make sure your baby’s face is not obscured by scarves or fabric that could be problematic if they fall asleep.

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

This little boy is too small for his snowsuit; if he was placed inside a sling his face would disappear into the fluffiness.

 3) Be aware of POSITION

Increased bulk can affect positioning considerably. It is hard for joints to bend easily in thick, stiff trousers or multiple layers of clothing, so the M shape with bent knees higher than bottom that encourages healthy hips and protects the natural curve of the spine into a J shape can be hard to achieve. Baby may end up being “starfished” into a carrier with a hyperextended posture, rather than being comfortably seated.

This will affect how his pelvis and spine are positioned and may mean that his neck is not naturally supported by the J shaping that is achieved by ergonomic carriers.  (This is why many narrow-based high-street carriers need prominent neck support or headrests, as baby is held straight and the head can more easily fall back).

Baby will feel heavier as he is not resting against the parent/carer’s body in the same way, and the weight distribution will change.

Too much bulk around the top may also affect the support to baby’s upper body, meaning that baby’s weight is pulling back away from your shoulders, rather than resting on your chest, and may be more uncomfortable.

Too much padding around the nappy region (especially in those babies wearing cloth nappies) could cause a reduction of blood flow to the lower limbs.

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

Baby above, has been straightened into a starfishing shape as the snowsuit is preventing his hips and knees from bending. however baby below is in the M shape.

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

OK, so this is good to know. But it’s cold out there! My baby needs to be warm, what can I do?!

Here are some suggestions how to ensure your chilly weather carrying is safe and still snuggly warm.

If you need to go out in windy and cold conditions, or snow storms, your small baby will be warmest and best protected close to you on your front, here you can shield them from the wind and horizontal snow flurries easily.

Back carries for older children may be easier for you to see your feet as you go but be alert to their experience and ensure they are well protected. Carriers that keep children close to your body will be warmer and less likely to make you feel off balance as you walk, compared to framed backpack carriers worn high on the back; these will also be very cold for children as they are held away from body heat and more exposed to wind chill.


1) LAYER LAYER LAYER – carrying under coats

This is key to virtually all carrying, as the sling is in itself a layer of clothing, and sometimes more than one, depending on its type. A stretchy wrap is three layers, and some are thicker than others. Some buckle carriers are double layer panels, some are three. Every parent/child combination have their own micro-climate too, so what feels right for one family may be different for another.

In hot weather, you need as few as you can manage safely, whereas in cold weather you need more layers. Layers trap air in between them, so can often be more effective at providing warmth than one or two thick items of clothing, while still allowing flexibility.

Thin light all-in-one fleece suits are warm, while still being breathable and allowing good joint movement for positioning. It may be worth considering a size up to protect little toes with the riding up you get with a sling, however, too large a fleece could mean too much fabric around the face and neck. Layer up with vests and onesies and cardigans and leggings and so on, rather than using a very padded or furry inflexible snowsuit, you will be surprised how warm babies can get!

It is best, if possible, to keep baby as close to you as you can, and add layers on over the top. These layers can be undone/removed easily if baby is getting too hot (flushed, very warm chest skin, sweating, unexpectedly sleeping, for example), or if you go inside into a warm shop from a cold outside.

Wearing a large (maternity or oversized) coat which you can then wrap around your baby on the front will add warmth, as will a mac in rainy weather.

If you are creative, you could knit yourself a panel insert which would button onto your favourite button coat, making it wider to fit your baby and the sling inside. You can do the same with a zip insert (check before you buy that the zip insert fits onto your own zip). If you are innovative, you can use a large oversize hoodie or cardigan with a very big neck or a zip that can be undone to go over both of you, or wear an oversized coat backwards if you can get someone else to do up the zip. Others may use a large shawl to wrap around themselves, or a home-made fleece poncho.

There are many babywearing coats or ponchos or vests and other items of clothing on the market which have been specifically designed for this, such as the Mamalila, Lenny Lamb, Zoli, Wombat, Momawo, Liliputi coat ranges (among many others), Boba/Lenny Lamb/Angelwings hoodies/fleece vests, to name just a few, and many are suitable for back carrying.

Some can be expensive; for many they are invaluable especially if they are used frequently for back carrying (many maternity coats or extender panels do not allow back carrying) and some are stylish enough to be worn as normal coats to make them worth the outlay. Some will have hoods for both parent and baby, some won’t – it is worth doing your homework and trying a few before you splash out.

There are also some babywearing covers, similar to pushchair covers, that can just go over baby and sling but not parent, which may be useful if the parent prefers less warmth (such as Bundle Bean or Isara).

In rainy weather, some will use large anoraks over both baby and parent. There are several waterproof ponchos or covers on the market which can go over the sling on the top and umbrellas are very useful. Some creative folks have even threaded the arms of cross strap buckle carriers through a child’s waterproof anorak to cover over the panel!

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

2) PROTECT EXTREMITIES

So if your baby’s body is nice and warm, heads and limbs need to be kept warm too.

This is where things like baby leggings, tights and socks can be very useful indeed, layering up over the feet. Some people find boots helpful as well, such as Stonz or Thinsulate boots (varying price ranges) or wooly booties that can be tied gently on to avoid falling off. Some fleece onesies have feet that can be folded over to make a closed foot. Feet can get much colder than hands as they are harder to tuck in near the warm central core.

Heads can be kept warm with hats…(of which there are many gorgeous options). Some opt for balaclavas with neck covers and various hoods to keep necks warm and prevent removal!

Hands can be kept warm with gloves with ribbons sewn in to stop them from falling off, or socks worn on the hands. Many fleece onesies have sleeves that can be folded over hands.

10 FAQs carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

3) MANAGING CARRYING OVER COATS

This tends to work better for older babies or toddlers who want to be up and down all the time, and can work well in some circumstances, depending on the coat, the carrier and if you have anyone to help you. It can be hard to get a sling snug over the top of a bulky or slippery coat, and hard to get a snug fit on the back without help, but for many this works well.

Taking some care when planning the coat  you use will make a big difference, (one that is thin and grippy, for example may be easier to work with, and hoods may get in the way of unobstructed breathing). Selecting the sling you use matters too; what you choose for normal use for maximum comfort may prove too complex over a coat. Pick one that is easily adjustable, and easy to get on and off.

This style of carrying over coats on the back may be much more convenient for toddlers who prefer to be able to get up and down again in quick succession. They are more likely to get cold on your back as they cannot snuggle into your body heat in the same way, so will need to be much more warmly dressed than a smaller baby on the front. This is especially true for framed carriers that hold children high up and separate. These children are not at the same risk of slumping over inside over-large suits and ending up with an obstructed airway, and as they are outside your coat, they will get cold. Snowsuits (that fit and are still flexible) can be an excellent solution here, as can waterproofs over coats and snuggly trousers.

Hands and feet will get a lot colder with this type of carrying, so make sure you are prepared.

snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold tandem babywearing
snowsuits scarves slings and safety carrying in the cold

CARRYING IN SLIPPERY WEATHER

It is fantastic to be able to explore in freedom with your child in all weathers. But what about, even if you have the choice of sling and clothing right, the ground is icy and slippery?

CHOOSE SENSIBLE FOOTWEAR!

If carrying in the snow and ice, slip-on ice gripping covers (eg Yaktrax or other brands) that can go over shoes and boots can be enormously useful to prevent slipping… and if you do slip, your baby will be much safer in the sling than she would be loose in arms. Some metal grippers may not work well on mixed ground, as they may slide on smooth surfaces and can be hard to remove quickly, so have a good look at a few types and where you will need to use them before you pick one. It can be hard to remove them with a baby on your front, so plan ahead!

Good boots with grippy soles designed for all terrains may be worth investing in. Some families have used very large knitted socks over their shoes for grippiness over snow and ice when they know there are also stone stairs etc on the school run and they don’t want to go flying.

Some people recommend front carrying more in slippery weather, as if you do fall, you can use your hands to break your fall and protect your child more easily than if you fall backwards.  Some people prefer not to carry at all and to use a buggy! Use whatever tool works best for your circumstances.

Carrying in the cold, snowsuits

Here is some more information about cold weather carrying from other sources

http://southlondonslings.co.uk/2013/11/12/carrying-in-the-cold/ and

http://stroudslingmeet.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/slinging-in-the-rain-and-cold-and-wind-and-snow/

Here is the link discussing winter coats and car seats..

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2012/12/winter-coats-and-car-seats-keeping-your-child-safe-and-warm/index.htm

Blog post originally written 2014, updated Dec 2017


Secure Attachment and the "Fourth Trimester"

Secure attachment is the deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space; a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings" (Bowlby/Ainsworth).

wrap hugSecure attachment to other people is vital to human health and wellness; we thrive on relationship, on belonging. Such healthy attachments are the bedrock to future positive mental health and enjoyable relationships. However, Sutton Trust research shows that 40% of children lack secure attachments; instead they display insecure-ambivalent, insecure-avoidant or disorganized/disoriented attachment, and are significantly disadvantaged, especially those growing up in poverty.

Research shows that one of the strongest predictors for insecure attachments in children is to have a parent who lacks secure attachment themselves.

 

So, how do you build a secure attachment relationship with your child?

Secure attachment is created by loving responsiveness to your child's needs. It is not about your parenting style. Your baby may sleep in a crib or your bed, be fed from a breast or a bottle, be held in arms or a sling, be weaned in any style, be brought up by any combination of carer and still have secure attachments. It is not about subscribing to a particular parenting philosophy. You do not have to sacrifice everything - your identity, your sanity, your relationship, your job, your money or anything else at the "altar of childhood".

Building secure attachment is about having respect for a child's personhood, building their sense of self-worth within a consistent, loving and responsible relationship, regardless of their age or understanding.

Your child's humanity is as valuable as your own; neither more nor less. You are your child's advocate in the world and their greatest defender. You can provide for their every need, and they depend entirely on you and your surrounding network. They will learn whether or not they matter from how they are treated and how their requests for support are met. Securely attached children are confident that they will be cared for, and that any distress will be met by love. They are easily soothed by their caregiver when upset, are more able to be self-reliant, form positive relationships and generally have smoother paths through life.

However, their needs need to be balanced with that of the family, as a crumbling family dynamic will ultimately not be in anyone's best interests.

The "fourth trimester" is where attachments begin to form.

What is the Fourth Trimester?

Kay and AlexTheories regarding the size of the infant cranium, the shape of the upright human maternal pelvis, and the limits of the mother's metabolic energy provision for growth all discuss why human babies are born at a stage where they are still very vulnerable. This is in contrast to many other species where a young animal will be able to walk after its mother within hours of birth, or sleep in a hidden nest. To survive, a human baby needs to be held and carried around by his carers, fed and kept warm or he will die. To thrive, a baby also needs love and secure attachment.

The ‘fourth trimester" is the period immediately after birth, a few more months of intense nurturing to allow a baby to continue with their essential development from a place of security and safety.

A baby who has spent all their life growing peacefully in the womb, gently compressed by uterine walls at the end of the third trimester, will find the sensation being born, followed by freedom and open space in the outside world enormously different. Limbs that have been limited are suddenly free to stretch wide, darkness has turned to light, the muffled gentle rhythmic sounds of the mother's body have been replaced by loud, unfamiliar noises or deep silence. Constant gentle motion has turned into complete stillness or sudden movements. No wonder that when babies are held close, rocked and soothed, contained in soft boundaries once more, that they settle; this feels right and familiar.

 

The "fourth trimester” is all about gentle transitioning from the peace and stability of the womb towards active involvement in a new world.

A newborn needs to be supported to gain skills and strength at a steady, individual pace from the security of an unshakeable foundation and place of comfort and familiarity. Being held, close to familiar noises and scents is essential to development and positive learning; the infant brain is growing rapidly and forming new connections all the time. Connections that are reinforced frequently will persist into later life, whereas those that are rarely used will wither away. It is worth taking the time to ensure that these unconsciously forming connections are positive ones. Young infants do not have the cognitive development to behave in "manipulative" ways; but they do learn to trust someone who proves reliable time and again as these pathways are reinforced. They will be startled and upset when this love is withdrawn.

The importance of responsiveness

If you are sensitive and responsive to your baby as they begin to communicate their needs with you (by crying, wriggling, yawning etc) they will learn that they matter to someone. If they are uncomfortable, the people they are learning to trust will soothe them. When they are hungry, they will be fed, when they are tired, they will feel secure enough to sink into sleep. They will not be frequently left alone unattended for long periods of time, and will not be left to exhaust themselves in calling for someone who never comes. When they cry, loving arms will be there to comfort and keep them safe. These same arms will show them the world and provide a safe place that facilitates learning. Carrying matters; babies need it. It does not make them clingy, rather, the solid foundation of secure attachment relationships will be the springboard to confident independence later in life.

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How does babywearing help?

One tool that can help you meet your child's need for loving contact in these early months is a soft carrier that holds them in a comfortable, safe and anatomically respectful position. Such carriers will help you to meet their needs to be close to you while allowing you to be hands-free for daily life. There are many other positive reasons to carry a child; such as reduced crying, reduced plagiocephaly and more. Parents benefit too, for example carrying can be helpful for those with postnatal depression, and increase overall activity levels. This idea is not new; most of the world’s families across history and cultures have used some form of sling to make life work.

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You can find out more from your local sling library or consultant; there are hundreds across the UK. They will help you to find the right type of carrier for your needs. 

What about my older child?

Attachment relationships continue to form beyond the early months and children's brains are very "plastic". Warm, responsive, emotionally available parenting will help to build a child's sense of self-worth at any age. There is evidence that "mind-minded" parents (ie those who treat their children as intelligent, relational individuals with feelings, and speaking to them in such a way) seem to have children with more secure attachments. Active play and laughter, as well as consistent loving boundaries help to reinforce neural connections that the primary caregivers are a reliable source of security; forming strong foundations for the future. Read more about how carrying can help the learning brain.

carrying matters

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References

Bowlby J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books

Ainsworth, M. D. S. (1973). The development of infant-mother attachment. In B. Cardwell & H. Ricciuti (Eds.), Review of child development research (Vol. 3, pp. 1-94) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sutton Trust; Baby Bonds Parenting, attachment and a secure base for children. March 2014 Research by Sophie Moullin, Jane Waldfogel and Elizabeth Washbrook

http://www.parentingscience.com/attachment-parenting.html

Rethinking Maternal Sensitivity: Mothers’ Comments on Infants’ Mental Processes Predict Security of Attachment at 12 Months; J. Child Psychol. Psychiat. Vol. 42, No. 5, pp. 637–648, 2001


child care providers

Sling Training for Child Care Providers

Many parents are now expecting their child care providers to have some knowledge of safe sling use, and to use slings with the children in their care. In Sheffield, we provide training for those working in child care settings (as well as a module of the Early Years Parenting PGCE at Sheffield Hallam University). Here Harriet (one of the course teachers) explains why sling use in a child care setting matters.

Contact us to book a course here

Attachment in the Child Care Setting

Secure attachments with their primary care giver is vital to children’s social and emotional development. It helps them to grow into happy and healthy sociable beings.

The relationship between a child and their parents, is of course, paramount. But what about those children whose care is provided by more than one person? What if their care provider is absent for periods of time due to work or illness?

My husband and I work full time. Our two children have attended nursery since they were 6 months old. Between them they are at nursery for 80 hours per week. We have seen first-hand the difference that a strong attachment with nursery staff can make.

For those children who are cared for by extended family or private care providers, building bonds with those carers is critically important. A strong attachment with nursery staff can make a big difference to children’s happiness and comfort, and also to parent’s confidence in leaving their babies with a childcare provider.

Here in Sheffield, where the sling revolution is well and truly underway, nurseries are telling us that prospective parents are asking if they practice babywearing. Parents are listing use of slings as one of the criteria they are using to base their decision of childcare provider.

child care providers

How can sling use help in child care settings?

Slings can help carers to hold children close, responding to their needs quickly and soothing children who are upset. Childcare providers tell us how they put distressed babies or tantrumming children into slings and feel them calm down, as they are rocked and swayed in the carrier, often falling asleep.

Slings are particularly helpful for providing familiarity for children who are already carried in slings by their parents. Using slings with these children can help replicate the routine they have at home and provide a familiar source of comfort.

Slings enable babies to be carried at height, seeing the world through the eyes of the person carrying them. It provides a new perspective for them, being able to observe how their carer interacts with the world, how they communicate with other people, how they behave. This observation and learning helps their social and emotional development as well as their language acquisition.

Slings also provide a safe haven for over-stimulated over-tired babies and children. Holding a baby close in a sling provides them with some respite and rest during a busy and active nursery day.

As well as the emotional and social benefits, for childcare providers, using carriers has obvious logistical and practical advantages. Slings can be used on day trips and walks, whilst one baby is in a sling, the same carer can push a double buggy, maintaining the 1:3 staff to child ratio.


There are a number of circumstances in which slings could be useful for childcare providers:

  • Providing security and attachment

  • Settling-in and transitions

  • Replicating familiar routines from home

  • Encouraging bonding with multiple staff 

  • Assisting in sleep and nap routines

  • Soothing and comforting babies/children

  • Going on day trips and walks

  • Quick carries around nursery buildings

  • Being ‘hands-free’ to look after other children


Different types of slings

There are several different types of slings that could be used. Each type of sling presents different pros and cons and some aspects to consider include:

  • The age range it is best suited to
  • How easy it is to learn and master
  • Potential for trip hazards (for example from long straps)
  • Potential for overheating (for example from multiple layers of fabric)
  • How to fold, care for and store


Safety Guidelines

Of course, whichever sling is used, safety guidelines must be followed. The most important aspect is to ensure children are able to breathe easily; once babies are over 3-4 months they can hold their own heads up and protect their own airways. Ensuring they are not too hot is also important.

The best known safety guidelines in the UK are the TICKS guidelines.

Comfort for children and for the staff matter, as well, so choosing a comfortable sling is a good idea, it is worth trying a few first. If you are a childcare provider using, or thinking of using slings, it is a good idea to undertake staff training and introduce a policy and consent forms. This will give you a chance to try some carriers and see what will work best for your needs.

Parental consent and the consent of staff members should be secured before putting a baby/child in a sling.



carrying in special circumstances

Carrying in Special Circumstances

Sometimes there is a need for extra support with using slings; don’t be discouraged if you or your child have extra needs, there are always ways to keep carrying in special circumstances.

If your child can be held and carried in arms, there is likely to be a way to carry them safely in a sling. Twins can be carried in slings, as can a baby and a toddler at the same time (tandem carrying). There are ways to carry safely in pregnancy, to carry after birth, to carry premature babies. We will help you to carry your child if you have a disability, or if your child has special needs or physical health concerns. We are here to help you find a way to keep them close.

This page links to some useful information; personal stories about carrying in special circumstances, professional advice and useful links. Please see our Common Queries page for simpler situations.

If you have a special story, please get in touch to share them with me for the wider community!

Here is an excellent downloadable article on Potential Therapeutic Benefits of Babywearing by Robyn Reynolds-Miller.

You can find more educational resources here for downloading (such as infographics and leaflets and images)

If you need more specialised support or have a query not covered here, please do get in touch with me or find your local sling library at Sling Pages.


Common Queries

Common Queries

Families often have a lot of questions about using carriers, such as “what is a healthy hip position”, or “is it OK to face my baby out in a carrier?” “Will using a sling make my child clingy?” “What do I do in different weather conditions?”

This page links to many of the common queries around slings; information sharing to allow people to make informed choices that work for themselves and their families.

Here is a quick link to the most common FAQs too!

Slings and Exercise

more

The Fuss about Facing Out

more

Carrying While Pregnant

more

Tandem Babywearing

more

Do Slings Create Clingy Children?

more

Breast and Bottle Feeding Safely in a Sling

more

How Babywearing Can Help with Post-Natal Depression

more

Carrying in the Postnatal Period

more

Carrying with a weakened pelvic floor

more

Sleeping While Your Baby is Sleeping in the Sling

more

Healthy Hips; Busting Some Myths

more

Keeping Your Baby Safe in the Cold

more

Keeping Your Baby Safe in the Sun

more

Beginning to Back Carry

more

Help, My Child Cries in the Sling!

more

Carrying Older Children

more

Beyond the Knee to Knee

more

Slings and Prams and Guilt

more

The Last Days of Carrying

more

Carry Me Daddy!

more

Don’t forget the sling safety guide is here.

If you need more specialised support or have a query not covered here, please do get in touch with me!

You can find more educational resources here for downloading (such as infographics and leaflets and images) and you can read about carrying in some special circumstances here.


The Importance of Carrying

Seven Reasons to Carry Your Baby

Read more

Attachment, Babies and Carrying

Read more

Secure Attachment and the Fourth Trimester

Read more

Why Carrying Matters (for Juno Magazine) issue 44

Read more