Be it the immortalised image of the Queen of Jhansi or hundreds of daily wage women workers in tea-plantations and construction sites, mothers tying their infants to their bodies has been a long-standing tradition in India.
Sometimes due to abject poverty or necessity, but mostly to strengthen the bond a mother and child share.
Reviving this trend among urban parents, six women from Mumbai have set up a non-profit, brand-neutral sling library, called the ‘Mumbai Sling Library’. The group lends Indian, as well as international babywearing products, for trials and demos to mothers at the pop-up meets across the city.
Parents and caregivers can rent carriers ranging from wraps, ring slings, meh dais, soft structured carriers (Full buckles), and onbuhimos as per their choice by coming down or requesting it by courier.
MSL takes the MRP of the product as a deposit and charges a nominal fee as rent when the product is returned. Many leading babywear brands are supporting the initiative by donating their products.
How did MSL begin?
These MSL meetups were first conducted by Rashmee Bhatia Gajra, an architect and owner of Anmol baby carriers in July 2014. Being a new parent to a preterm baby herself, Rashmee used every opportunity she got to connect with new moms. The idea was to support new parents to learn to babywear well.
“Babywearing is best when support is available, just like breastfeeding. Ergonomic carriers are so easy to use if one has the right support, and MSL was formed to ensure all brands no matter what was welcome, and parents from no matter where were welcome to get support from the pop-up library. It was a huge sense of relief for me and wanted to make sure that I could form a community to ensure no mom felt helpless like I did,” she says.
Though she was doing everything single-handedly at the start, when five other mothers joined Rashmee, they were like a house on fire and helped revive MSL in 2016.
These mothers included architect and assistant professor at an architecture college, Yaman Banerji Korgaonkar, lactation counsellor Aloka Mehta Gambhir, marketing professional Prachi Shah Dedhia, engineer and business analyst Koshali Dalvi, an MBA in human resource management, Sharmila D’Souza.
“Between attending the MSL meetups, being active babywearers ourselves, and having experienced the benefits first hand, we were more than happy to do whatever it takes to share the love. This passion and willingness to share helped us revive the MSL in March 2016 with the support of many leading babywearing brands in India. Since then there has been no looking back!” says Prachi.
The MSL has conducted over 40 meetups in less than two years across the length and breadth of Mumbai and its suburbs, and has a stash of over 50 different babywearing products!
How does babywearing help?
Babywearing is an art practised since ancient times and continues to remain popular among parents and caregivers from tribes in India and abroad too. It ensures that you hold your baby close in an ergonomic, well-supported and safe way. It caters to the child’s primary needs of being held and cared for.
For many mothers with preterm babies, Kangaroo care is recommended under which babywearing can be one of the best ways to establish skin to skin contact.
It helps lactation in a new mother and most importantly keeps postpartum depression at bay.
Keeping the baby close, calm and safe releases happy hormones in the parent, making it a cherishable experience.
“As a working parent, the quintessential multitasking maa, the moments of snuggling up with my little girl, after a long day, was sheer bliss. The calm and joy are unmatched,” says Yaman.
Many mothers who have benefited from MSL claim babywearing has helped them deal with notorious evening colic, teething phases and growth spurts a lot better. Many of these women are often spotted taking walks with their group of babywearing Super Moms, supporting each other on their postpartum fitness journeys.
What are the common myths related to babywearing?
The six educators and consultants continuously deal with busting myths about babywearing that are practically endless!
Myths like ‘the child will get spoilt’, ‘they will never learn to walk’, ‘it’ll hurt the baby’s legs’, ‘the baby will be clingy or ‘you will harm your back forever’ are commons ones, the women encounter.
They attribute these beliefs to a lack of awareness and resistance among parents to accept something they don’t usually encounter around them.
Besides, many new mothers are questioned about their choices all the time, which adds to the resistance.
Pointing some of the most common mistakes new moms or caregivers make which selecting babywear products, they say, “One of the mistakes is plunging in and buying stuff from stores only because things are ‘branded’. We’d urge parents to make informed choices when it comes to their babies, and find ergonomic babywearing gear, which is safe for the baby and supportive to the user at the same time.”
They stress that parents and caregivers opt for age-appropriate carriers for their child, rather than an oversized one just to make it last longer. It is important to know that an oversized carrier can be dangerous because it can potentially harm the baby’s airway and is unsafe.
Many parents opt for babywear to ride a two-wheeler or car, due to its sheer convenience, without foreseeing the dangers it can pose to the child. “If the vehicle breaks suddenly while commuting, the entire weight of the adult wearing the carrier directly comes on the baby. As much as we advocate babywearing, we always stress on making sure it is done right,” they say.
Apart from educating the new mothers and helping them experience the joys of babywearing, MSL also runs some support groups primarily for mothers including breastfeeding, weaning, toddler meals, fitness, and promoting green options like sustainable menstruation and cloth diapering.
Today the growth and success of the entire community and network of moms and caregivers reflect on how some mothers have turned into entrepreneurs and launched their own babywearing brands! Many have also become certified babywearing consultants.
We wish the Mumbai Sling Library the very best!
Want to connect to the Mumbai Sling Library?
Call 098201 33045
Follow them on:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/mumbaislinglibrary/