Babywearing with Preston Slings: "It’s a complete life-changer"

Carrying your baby in a sling, holding them close as they sleep, is about as natural a parental activity as there is. A pram can be as high-tech as it likes, but it will never match the skin-on-skin contact of having your child so close, and so it’s understandable, therefore, that babywearing as it’s called is getting more and more popular.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Monday, 16th December 2019, 6:00 am
Gemma and Isobel Pulsford
Gemma and Isobel Pulsford

Originally formed as a social group for like-minded parents in January before becoming a full-fledged sling library in April, Preston Slings is a babywearing group which offers parents the chance to meet others with similar interests and give peer-to-peer advice in a welcoming environment and over a cup of tea or coffee.

The founders of the group, mums Gemma Pulsford and Clare Kendall, were volunteers at the West Pennine Sling Library in Darwen when they realised that there was a growing demand for a sling library in Preston, and so started Preston Slings. Having been trained to offer peer-support to others interested in slings, the pair were keen to continue helping parents.

“When my daughter was born, she didn’t like being put down and we didn’t know what to do,” said Gemma Pulsford, 30. “We found out about babywearing and never looked back: it pretty much saved our lives. I don’t know what we’d have done without it and a lot of parents say that: it’s a complete life-changer.

The Preston Slings group

“We decided to set up a social group and we started meeting at Valley Coffee in Bamber Bridge just to geek out about babywearing and slings,” added Gemma, from Preston. “Then we did some training with a company called Slingababy who do an intensive babywearing course to get you certified to become a consultant, and that went into the physiology of understanding how babies can be worn in a sling as well as the practicalities of the different types of slings.

“At first, parents would come and we’d just have a chat but it grew and we had more people coming; they started asking about us hiring our own slings out. I put an investment in to buy more slings and we now hire them out. I also do one-on-one home consultations for parents who can’t get to the group.”

Catering for the growing popularity of babywearing and the use of slings of all styles and types, the group offers parents the opportunity to try out a range of baby slings from stretchy wraps made to swaddle newborns to buckle carriers which can be used on your front or back. They also hold sling workshops as per demand.

“There are so many benefits to babywearing,” explained Gemma, whose daughter Izzy is 16 months old. “Practically, if you’ve got a baby and you need to take the dog for a walk or take the kids to school, you free up your hands. Emotionally, creating a really strong bond and connection with your baby really helps with mental health as more mums get post-natal depression than you think.

Clare and Hughie Kendall with Shona and Joshua Gudgeon

“Another massive benefit is for the child: the more attachment and love you show, the more independent and strong your baby will be as they’ll feel innately loved and secure,” she added. “A lot of attitudes stem from the Victorian era when children and babies were supposed to be seen and not heard, but that connection is something I’ve become so passionate about having seen it in my own child.”

Meeting at Valley Coffee in Fourfields on Station Road in Bamber Bridge every Monday from 10am to 12pm, Preston Slings usually welcomes around 10 to 15 people each week and is breastfeeding-friendly, supporting those looking to gain confidence feeding in public.

“It’s a great community to be a part of,” said Gemma, who also works at Valley Coffee. “We’ve got our regulars, but we often get parents coming for their first time and that’s humbling.

“The support we can offer is invaluable,” Gemma continued. “Being a parent can be overwhelming so we aim to be as welcoming as possible to anyone and everyone.”