When I first got interested in using baby slings and carriers, I didn’t have any friends nearby who could show me their stash. The only “proper” sling in the local shops was a stretchy wrap that I didn’t think would suit my needs. So I started buying second-hand slings as a way of trying things out without outlaying lots of cash. I’ve lost count of how many second-hand slings I’ve been through over the past three years. Here’s a few of the lessons I learned along the way:
If buying in person (eg at a garage sale or market), take a good look at the seams and fabric. You don’t want seams coming apart, or a small hole becoming a big rip, when it’s supporting your baby’s weight. No matter how pretty the fabric, pass on it if there’s any safety concerns. For slings with plastic clips, fasten and unfasten each clip to ensure none are broken. I’ve occasionally seen a plastic clip that looks OK, but doesn’t fit neatly to clip up because one of the prongs is ever so slightly bent. Only takes a minute to check these things out.
When looking at online sale listings, take a few moments to read reviews of both the product and vendor. Start with the manufacturer’s website for details on brand new price, how it works, any past product recalls. Then move on to user community websites like The Babywearer, or Baby Carriers Downunder‘s forum, for personal opinions on the product. If buying online, also check the seller’s reputation: eBay or TradeMe rating, The Babywearer feedback, feedback on other online forums that have trading rooms.
Buying at markets or garage sales means decisions are made on-the-spot. It helps to read up on popular brands, so you know what you’re looking at if you come across one in your bargain hunting. You’d be surprised at what you can find at op shops or garage sales and priced well below market average, simply because nobody knows what the thing is worth.
Shipping a large or heavy item across Australia or internationally can be expensive. I find that postage to New Zealand is about the same as postage to Perth (I’m in Canberra), but postage from the USA or Europe is a killer. Be sure to factor postage costs into the total amount you can afford to pay for the sling.
Ways to Pay
Paypal is an easy and quick way to pay for online purchases, especially internationally where there are hefty bank fees for direct deposit to overseas accounts. There’s also some level of buyer protection for Paypal transactions. Sometimes you can swap a sling you’re not using for one you think you will use – check out the FSOT (For Sale Or Trade) listings on The Babywearer or Baby Carriers Downunder.
If you’re not sure whether a particular sling will suit you, talk to the seller about a return policy. If you know the seller well, they may be happy to let you try it out before buying it, provided you’re willing to pay the postage costs (eg pop a replacement prepaid satchel in when you return the sling if it doesn’t suit). Most times I didn’t know the seller, so returns weren’t an option. Because of this, I factored in reselling possibilities when deciding how much I could afford to pay for the sling. I wouldn’t pay more than what seemed to be market average, so that I wouldn’t lose more than postage costs if it didn’t work out.
I’ve got it, now what do I do with it?
Once you get your purchase home, you’ll need to know how to use it. Sometimes second-hand slings don’t come with the original printed or DVD instructions.
YouTube has plenty of online instructions – just look out for good lighting so you can see what they’re doing, and watch more than one video in case the first one you see isn’t doing it right. I invested in a Tummy2Tummy DVD, as it shows non-brand-specific instructions for all the basic sling styles – you could try borrowing a copy from a local babywearing group (some Australian Breastfeeding Association groups also have a copy in their library). Many manufacturer DVDs can be used for other brands in the same style (eg the DVD for one brand of ring sling could be used to learn how to use other brands of ring sling). Ask around and you may be able to borrow someone else’s instruction DVD. Best of all though, get yourself to a local babywearers group meeting or find someone else in your area using that style of sling, as there’s nothing like one-on-one instruction when you’re learning something new.