At first, it’s so simple. You just fancy a change from using the pushchair, that’s all.
Do you go for a stretchy carrier? Or buckles? You browse the range at Mothercare and it’s all very straightforward.
I remember with my first two children, I had a Mamas and Papas buckles carrier. I didn’t use it much, to be honest. By the time I’d fiddled with all the clips and made all necessary adjustments, I felt so uncomfortable, less like a nurturing mother and more like I should be jumping out of a plane at 3,500 feet. The carrier sat in the cupboard somewhere, gathering dust, until I passed it on to someone else without a second thought.
Then one day I saw a photo of a friend on Facebook, wrapped up in a really groovy piece of cloth, casually carrying her daughter in a rucksack style arrangement on her back.
And I asked her about it. And, suddenly, it all began.
She approved my request to join a few sling groups on Facebook. She suggested that maybe I look for a woven wrap in a size 6. My “base-size” apparently.
OK, I blinked, before I began searching. I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I just knew I liked bright colours and it needed to be cheap.
My search was thwarted, however, by a recurring thought at reading most of the posts on these pages:
“What in god’s name are these crazy women talking about??”
An example, if you will:
“Feeling churny. FTO Argus Are You David? sz 4. Amazing cush.
ISO any other Argus in a 5 or 6, or WW geos. No birds, please. Please no subs for sales. I’m picky but polite.”
(See key below.)
Er… what the actual?
And the photos! Oh, the photos. “Stash-shots”, apparently. Cupboards, racks, shelving…. you name it… all absolutely over-flowing with endless folded stacks of fabric. I counted as many as fifty in one photo.
How many babies do these women have, for crying out loud?
I persevered, determined that I should acquire just one piece of groovy cloth in which to casually carry my baby. And a few days later my Lenny Lamb Bamboo/Cotton Rainbow, size 6, arrived. And it was love.
And I was happy with my one wrap.
Jump forward two months. That’s all. Eight weeks and maybe a couple of days.
Suddenly, you’re THAT person.
You’re THAT person, with a growing stash of your very own. One that you look at lovingly before bed. One that you makes your heart leap when you wake up. Pieces of fabric that suddenly mean the world to you.
You’re THAT person, posting an early morning plea on the Sling groups:
“DISO Oscha Meadow Chai, limited edition, in a 6. It’s my daughter’s legacy wrap. Please someone help me?”
You’re THAT person. Frantically messaging a lady in the United States at 3am, negotiating a payment plan on an Artipoppe Two Birds Silk-Blend, because at that sleep-deprived moment… you MUST have it. And for the last few days searching it’s all you’ve been able to think about.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster. One that you spied a few weeks ago and scornfully said to yourself, I am NOT going to get THAT crazy. Nope. And suddenly you’re taking the ride, happily buckled in, your arms waving manically, screaming for joy, loving every minute.
I once had a transaction with a lady new to the sling groups. I noticed her activity on the groups increasing day by day. From a wobbly “I’d like my first size 6 wrap” post, to an informed and determined “I need a Didymos Indio in a 4, must be well broken-in”. After two weeks solid activity on the groups, during which time I guess she purchased a minimum of two wraps a day and photographed herself with her new purchases. She would post a delighted “Yay! Fluff mail!” post, including a picture of her newly-delivered packages, followed by some action shots of her and her baby wrapped in a new design or colour.
I began to get genuinely concerned for her.
Her posts became more frantic. “I neeeeed a Yaro Le Vita in my life! Size 5. Paypal waiting!” The photos of her trying new wraps were posted on a daily basis for a few weeks. I was fascinated, as although my own addiction wasn’t as serious as this, I recognised how quickly the obsession can take hold.
And then the weirdest thing happened. She disappeared. I searched for her name in all of the Sling groups. Nothing. She had left each and every group. I strongly suspect that her partner may have got wind of her recent spending habits, or perhaps had stumbled across her secret stash, tucked away behind the towels in the airing cupboard.
It does indeed get very extreme for some, with stashes reaching 40 or 50 wraps (there aren’t even that many days in a month?). I’ve recently joined a Facebook group called “Stashified” which is a group for people who have recognised they have a problem and want to control their desire to purchase more slings. It’s also for those who are reaching the end of their baby-wearing days and are gradually selling their pieces. I don’t take part on there much yet, because I don’t feel my stash is out of control (I have eight wraps and can’t afford any more) and my daughter will be carried for some time yet. However, I know it’s there for me when the time comes to part with my beauties.
I’ve actually made some great connections through my love of baby-wearing. A couple of transactions buying or selling have ended up with me staying in touch with the buyer or seller. We’ve shared stories and offered support. I’ve made Facebook friends from the community who I only know online.
So, yes, I’ve become that person. One of the crazy women. And I love it. I’ve got a small stash of fabric that is worth a fair sum. But it’s an investment and I’ll not lose any value. I’ve got my daughter’s legacy wrap, a limited edition silk wrap that I will most definitely keep for her, in case she ever becomes a mum. But eventually the rest will be sold and I will recoup. I’ll have the “Stashified” group to see me throught his, and the other mums I’ve met through the Babywearing Community.
But what IS the addiction, the fascination, the longing all about? I can only answer from my perspective. What does it mean to me?
The search is a large part of it for me. It’s a kind of drug. Then that moment when you find what you’re looking for and you know that is yours, the “score”, that part is nothing short of dizzying.
They are indeed very pretty pieces of cloth, yes. They are pieces of art to some. They are statements about who you are and what you represent. But it’s more than that.
I am the earner in our household and the time with my baby is limited. When I can, there is nothing I like better than wrapping her up and carrying her. We go for walks together, our faces close, and I chat to her, rub her nose with mine and listen to her gurgle and chatter at the world around her. It’s in intense feeling that I will always treasure. It’s her and my time.
Wrapping her has intensified my bond with her.
My wraps are beautiful, shimmery, magical pieces of fabric that make her and I feel special, in amidst the pain, frustration, thanklessness, dizzying highs and sinking lows that form a large part of the parenting journey. They can lift me from my post-natal slumps and down days and literally wrap us both in reassurance.
Wrapping her helps me to know that it’s all going to be ok and I’m doing a good job.
Feeling churny – I’d like to sell and replace some wraps
Jane Prinsep is a creative communicator, writer, mum and rape-survivor. She began blogging in 2009. Splintered Reflections marked the beginning of her creative outlet, writing about parenthood, relationships, rape and homelessness. She also writes comedy, short stories, flash fiction and poetry. In 2010 she worked with Karl James of The Dialogue Project – the result was “Why Not Me?” – a serialised audio conversation about surviving rape, first played at the Latitude Festival that year. She is proud that it continues to help rape survivors to this day and tackles a difficult subject that will forever remain important to her. She lives in Suffolk with her husband and three children. She also has a successful face painting business, Raging Zoo, and a crafts business, Iris River Designs, which she runs from her home in Suffolk.
I am an antenatal teacher, doula, baby massage instructor, postnatal educator, life coach, writer, mum, wife, friend and, sometimes, just me.
As an experienced and qualified practitioner, I specialise in pregnancy, birth and early parenting - my aim is to listen, inform, support and reassure when needed.
I have worked with parents since 2002 and I set up Birth, Baby & Family in 2011 to provide good information, a different perspective and links to the best products and services for families.
I set up the Birth, Baby & Family Centre in 2014 to provide a welcoming, friendly and supportive space for parents across Tyneside.