How to Start a Local Babywearing Group

26th July, 2012 / Wrap Your Baby Business / 4 Comments

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If there is not a local babywearing group close to you, there should be!¬† It’s a resource every community should have as babywearing has the power to strengthen families and nurture the children who are the future of the community!

You can absolutely begin your own group and reap all the benefits while providing those same benefits to others.

If you are not an expert, think about this: if you can carry your baby or toddler in a carrier enough that it is helpful to you, then you have skills that could change the lives of other moms.¬† Being an expert doesn’t mean certification or having mastered the entire field.

Being an expert means there is at least one thing, no matter how small, that you know how to do. Just one thing.

Also keep in mind that when you start seeking out other babywearers you may find others who have more experience than you and would love to be part of a group.  Being the one to start it does not mean you have to be the one who knows the most!

Lending Library or Demonstration Library

Most babywearing groups have a library – a collection of baby carriers that can be tried out by the local community to help parents understand the choices that exist and find out which will work best for them.

These are the two main models.

  • Lending Library: members can try out carriers at a meeting but can also rent carriers to try out for extended periods at home.
  • Demonstration Library: carriers are available for trying out during a group meet-up but cannot be checked out to take home. ¬†Carriers are only used under supervision.

Which model you follow is up to you.  Some groups prefer not to take on the liability of loaning carriers that can be used without supervision, and these groups stick to a Demonstration Library.  Others find that the Lending Library model provides an invaluable service to the community and also provides more help to lower income families.

The BCIA (Baby Carrier Industry Alliance), which looks out for the interests of baby carrier manufacturers, retailers, groups, and educators, has provided suggestions for library policy that errs on the side of caution to protect against any accident and liability.

As the owner of Wrap Your Baby, I support both models.  I have seen first-hand how valuable a lending library is to families and to my knowledge there has never been a liability incident. Wrap Your Baby provides woven wraps to local babywearing group lending libraries through monthly giveaways and a Library Credit Program.

To manage the library, you will want to keep a log of all carriers, and all the members who have it checked out, as well as the date checked out and the date due. To ensure the carrier is returned, many groups will ask for a check to be written for the replacement value of the carrier.  The check will be returned uncashed when the carrier is returned intact.

Be sure to get the contact info from anyone borrowing a carrier. ¬†Decide whether you will require the borrower to wash the carrier before returning it, or if you and other group leaders will launder the carriers in between loans. Make sure the borrower knows whether they are expect to wash it or if you prefer that they don’t and specify washing instructions and acceptable detergents if you do require them to wash it or in case of accident that requires washing while it is on loan.

Also specify the date that the baby carrier must be returned, whether carriers can only be returned at official meetings or if they can be dropped off in between, and to whom.

How to Build a Library for your Local Babywearing Group

Baby Carrier Donations for Your Library

If you have a local baby carrier store or a natural parenting store that sells baby carriers, definitely make a connection as you can benefit each other and your community together!

The store may have a space you could use for group meet-ups and those meetings will bring new potential customers into their store so everyone benefits.

For the same reason, a local store will sometimes offer a standing discount to the local babywearing group members and might even donate a baby carrier to your library as members who try out the carrier will often be interested in buying one.

If a babywearing or natural parenting trade show or convention comes to town, you may be able to visit several baby carrier vendors to tell them about your group and ask for donation.  Business cards can be very helpful in showing that you are a legitimate group who would be using the carrier for the benefit of the community.

Otherwise you can email baby carrier manufacturers or vendors asking for donations or discounts for local Babywearing Group Lending Libraries.  Expect to hear no more often than yes, but know that the more letters you send, the more you will hear yes.  To improve your chances of hearing yes, write a thoughtful letter that explains the role of your group, how big it is or how many members your library services, and how the donation will be used.  Mention what you like about their particular carrier and why you think your group could benefit from having one. If you have community outreach programs, mention those.

And be sure to let the vendor know how the donation will help them:

  • offer to promote their business on social media
  • offer to blog about the company and their generosity or
  • blog about the product and how it can help parents
  • promise to share pictures of members using the product
  • offer to¬†include the vendor on a list of resources for group members

Group Library Fundraisers

These fundraiser ideas have been successful for existing babywearing groups.  Use them as a jumping off point and add your own ideas!

Babywearing Classes Рfind a qualified teacher who will donate their time to teach a babywearing dance or exercise class.  Charge each participant and use the funds to buy carriers for your library.  Be sure to let participants know it is a fundraiser and that their $5 or $10 fee doubles as a donation toward building a library for the group.

Photo Mini Shoots – see if there is a professional photographer who will donate time to doing a day of mini-shoots for local families, each family pays a small fee and gets one or two priceless family photos, while your group gets funds to buy some carriers.

T-shirt or Decal sales – use your group’s logo or run a design contest in the group for a design that can be printed on t-shirts or made into car decals which can then be sold to the members in your local babywearing group with the proceeds going toward lending library carriers!

Auction or Raffle off a donated baby carrier – if a group member has a nice carrier to donate, or really any other thing that is likely to be of interest to a large percentage of your group, you can auction or raffle it off to raise funds for carriers.

Membership or Rental Fees

Some groups charge a yearly membership fee which gives the member access to borrowing from the lending library all year long (or a certain number of times over the year).

Some lending libraries charge a small fee for each rental, such as $10 for a two week rental.

With any fee based system, I encourage you to consider having a policy in place for need-based scholarships or waiving fees to allow access to families across the economic spectrum.

Where to Hold Local Babywearing Group Meetings

Small groups can meet in someone’s living room, but if your group is open to the public you may want to choose a public place for safety reasons.¬† Try the park during nice weather.¬† Ask your library or church about using a room as a regular meeting place.¬† Ask local businesses, especially those that cater to babies, children, or families (your presence can bring them business, after all).

It is a good idea to have a regular meeting place that does not change so that it is easy to find and familiar and comfortable to the families attending.¬† Look for ample parking, a place where noisy children will be tolerated, someplace with toys or where you can bring a pile of toys to play with, and where there is not too much for kids to get into trouble with (you don’t want vases, shelves of books, electronics, etc because your mommies will be too distracted keeping kids out of that stuff to enjoy themselves or learn anything)!

When to Hold Babywearing Group Meetings

How often you meet will be determined by the interest of the group members and community.  When you meet depends on what works best for the most people.  If you find your group consists mostly of stay at home moms, weekday meetings will probably work best.  Working parents will do better with weekends. Evening meetings are certainly an option but keep in mind that babies will be more cooperative in learning to be carried if they are not tired!

I recommend regular meeting times, whether weekly or monthly, so that members always know when the next meeting is and don’t have to look it up or risk missing it because they didn’t know.¬† Go with something easy to remember like, every Tuesday at 11am.¬† Or the first and third Saturday each month.¬† Or the first Monday of each month.¬† You get the idea.

If your group grows to the point that it can support more meetings, you might have a weekday meeting and a weekend meeting to accommodate different schedules, or have a schedule of meetings over a wider geographic range to make it convenient to families in different parts of your county.

How to plan meetings

There are many ways to arrange your group format and it is really up to you and what works for the community you are putting together.  But you should examine the form you want your group to have.

Decide whether your group is open to all parents or if you want it to be open to only certain groups: attached parents, or gluten-free parents, or members of your church, etc.  Remember that you will reach the most people and help the most people, and potentially learn the most yourself if your group is open to all parents.

Then decide what sort of a meeting to hold. Are you having a social meeting to hang out with other babywearers, or are you offering instruction?  Do you have a space that will accommodate older siblings?

Some groups plan a topic for each meeting so that one week addresses newborn babywearing, another toddler wearing.¬† Or one week might focus on ring slings while the next week is all about woven wraps.¬† Or hip carries one week and back carries the next. I personally think that the best format allows for the people attending each meeting to have their questions addressed.¬† Maybe I need help with a woven wrap but don’t want to wait for the September meeting.¬† In order to help me now, your group might meet with no particular agenda, then find out what most interests that week’s attendees.

If you really want to foster community, you can add other activities to your group.  You can have regular meetings and/or other get-togethers such as a babywearing walk (babywearers meet together and go strolling or hiking together for fun), park dates (babywearers meet at the park for a fun playdate), weekend barbecues (great for getting dads to meet other babywearing dads and families), etc.

How to coordinate and communicate with your group

My favorite platform for this is Facebook. It is easy to post events, and it encourages group participation between meet ups with an easy place for any group member to put up photos (of the recent meet up or of their recent babywearing success in their livingroom), ask for advice, look for a ride to your meeting, plan side get-togethers with other members, share valuable or entertaining parenting or babywearing information, etc.  It is also very easy for members to share your group and for new members to join. Your group could use a website or blog instead of or in addition to facebook.

How to find participants for your Local Babywearing Group

I saved the biggie for last, but the truth is it probably isn’t as hard as you think. ¬†If you have a few friends who babywear, you’re already on your way.¬† Get them excited about the group, and get them to spread word to others.¬† Post about it on online mom forums such as mothering.com and thebabywearer.com (many of these have forums for people in different geographical areas).

Get some cards to pass out and give them to any babywearer you see, inviting them to join.¬† And don’t forget to give them to parents who are not babywearing, because anyone with a baby or toddler is a prospective babywearer and you might change their lives!

Ask if you can leave cards or put up flyers at the pediatrician or holistic doctor’s office.¬† Check with birth centers and chiropractors, give some to homebirth midwives, invite the members of the local LLL group or ICAN.¬† Talk it up wherever you go.

You can also start with an online presence such as Facebook, and as you add members, discuss with them when you should hold your first meeting.

After starting a Local Babywearing Group

Add your group to my babywearing group directory here so more people can find you. ¬†Join in my monthly group giveaways for adding a new wrap to your group’s library¬†and check out my other babywearing group resources! ¬†Congratulations and good luck!

Click here to buy a wrap. Thank you for your business! This is how I support my family. - Diana ‚̧ԳŹ

4 Comments

  • amy beeton July 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Great article, and really useful to me I am helping to organise a meet which starts on Monday. Thanks for putting together xx

    Reply

  • Shirley August 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I’m confused. I keep reading about babywearing safety and always being able to see baby’s face, so they have fresh air and so forth. Why, then, does this post so prominently feature a woman wearing her baby with the fabric pulled entirely over its’ head?

    My 21-y/o daughter had a baby 2-1/2 weeks ago and would like to start baby wearing, but I’m afraid she’ll come across pictures such as this and think this practice is OK. (She didn’t receive any wraps as shower gifts and can’t afford to purchase a pre-made one. She’s now waiting on me to make her one. I didn’t realize she wanted to do this until earlier this week, and I haven’t been able to make the 1-hour drive to the fabric store yet).

    It’s obvious that you, yourself, are a very conscientious babywearer, so I don’t understand why you’d use this particular photo. I even enlarged it, hoping that I was seeing things wrong and that the baby did indeed have a free airway. No such luck.

    Reply

    • Diana August 22, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Hi, Shirley. Which baby are you talking about in the picture? I do not want to promote the idea that it’s okay to cover a baby’s face. Of course, you know you’re right–the baby’s face should always be clear of fabric. Make sure your daughter knows babywearing safety, so you don’t have to worry about other influences. Here’s one of my blog posts: http://wrapyourbaby.com/blog/2011/03/baby-safety/ She’s lucky to have you to help her with this. Much love to all three of you!

      Reply

  • Michele September 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I would really like to start a group here. I live in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know that much about baby wearing though. I’ve learned a lot in my daughter’s 7 months, but not sure I can really help others that much. In addition I know absolutely no other baby wearers here. How do I start a group when I don’t know a single baby wearer?

    Reply

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