6 years ago, I was on the hunt for a wedding dress. I trawled through websites, magazines and wedding blogs perusing dresses - taking in all the different styles, materials, colours, cuts and tried to envisage the 'look' I was going for. In my head I thought I wanted a dress like this - ivory, lacy, fishtail and slinky....
And when I went shopping, that's what I wanted to try on. I soon discovered that my body shape and that style of dress weren't really going to work. So the very lovely lady in the bridal shop looked me up and down, ummed and aahed, pulled out some dresses and found me 'The One'
It couldn't have been further away from what I wanted. Where was the lace? Where were the sleeves? Where was my 'so tight you can't sit down in it' fishtail?. Instead there was layer upon layer of taffeta silk and a train as long as the Caledonian Sleeper. But it was perfect for my body shape - accentuating the nice bits and hiding the slightly wobblier bits (like my bum) and making me feel like a princess as soon as I stepped in to it.
It's a common story - brides having very firm ideas about what they want and coming away with something entirely the opposite. It's not that surprising to be honest. Yes, wedding dresses may all be mostly white, long and beautiful to look at, but the differing styles and designers mean that there's a million different variations of a wedding dress - and not each one is going to suit you.
So why am I talking about wedding dresses on a sling blog?
It's because slings are exactly like wedding dresses. Every day, in a babywearing facebook group near you, you will see someone ask 'Whats the best sling to get for my 6 month old?' Or 'I'm pregnant, what's the best sling to buy?'. You can certainly suggest the option that has worked for you, but it's impossible to say definitively what the best sling for them would be. Choosing a sling is as personal as choosing a wedding dress - there are so many factors to take in to consideration. For example, the following all need to be thought about. This is by no means an exhaustive list - there are many more depending on the individual families circumstances.
And then there's the most important factor of all - personal choice. Even when you have all the answers to the above questions, it is only by trying a sling on that you will know which one is going to suit you best. Last week I had a consultation with a mama and her 10 month old baby. She already knew that the (very popular) Tula wasn't a comfortable option for her, so I suggested we try some soft structured carriers that had a crossed strap option. We tried on three, and while technically they are all very similar in design, it was the Beco Soleil that was her personal 'one'.
Your sling choice is as individual as you are - and it's not only you that matters in this equation, it's your baby too, They often have strong opinions on the slings that they do or don't like! Of course, slings aren't as expensive as wedding dresses so in some instances, you may be willing to buy before you try. But a poorly fitting or uncomfortable sling can be enough to put you off carrying your baby before you have even got started, especially when your baby is newborn. You have all the hormones to deal with as well sleep deprivation like nothing you've experienced before (even when you were at uni and stayed up for 2 days straight partyi*cough*studying) and sometimes getting to grips with a sling can seem too much if you don't have any help.
You might be lucky enough to have a kind friend to lend you the sling she raves about, then end up wondering what you're doing wrong when you just can't get it to work. The answer would be that you aren't doing anything wrong at all, it's just not 'the one' for you.
By visiting a sling meet, library or sling consultant, you're going to be able to see, feel and try on a wide range of slings and carriers beyond the popular options such as the Tula that are regularly suggested in the sling groups. You'll be able to try those on too of course, and it may well be that one of them suits you, but by having an open mind you will be able to work with your library or consultant to find the best option for you and your family. It may be that you visit a sling library and find you need a more detailed one to one consultation, and if your sling library can't help, they should point you in the right direction as to where to access more support.
So the next time you see a post asking about the 'best sling', why not suggest they look up www.slingpages.co.uk or their local babywearing group to find out what's on around them? It may be that they can't get to a library/consultant, and that's when postal sling hires through the likes of It's a Sling Thing and Sling Sally can be really useful in allowing parents to try without a big financial outlay. Of course, suggest your favourite sling and tell them how awesome using a sling or carrier is, and a babywearing selfie never goes amiss either. Seeing real parents using their sling really is the best advert for it!