Sling libraries, carrier hire, and try-before-you-buy

So I was reading baby industry news this morning (I own a baby shop) and noticed there’s a Melbourne baby shop who have started a sling library scheme. For postage cost, you can borrow a baby carrier for 10 days to see if it suits you before you pay lots of money to buy one. The news editor was quite rightly excited about this: many parents will be able to choose the most comfortable carrier for their needs if they can try on first. Bu there’s a catch…

When you’re looking at sling libraries, baby carrier hire schemes, or try-before-you-buy plans, first take note of the carriers you are being offered. Do they look like something you want to try? As a baby sling retailer, I have been offered all sorts of “good deals” on carriers that aren’t comfortable when carrying a heavy baby for hours at a time. Spending money on something you won’t use is never a good deal. Going along to a sling meet, or trying on a carrier at the shop, will allow you to find out if a suspect carrier is as uncomfortable as you thought it would be, without putting you in a position of having to pay postage or remember to return it on time.

Reading the fine print is also important. What happens if you’re late sending it back? Do you need to pay a large deposit? If the carrier is damaged while you’re borrowing it, can you afford to pay the repair fee?

If you’re already committed to using a sling or baby carrier, start by doing your research on styles and brands. Baby Carriers Downunder have a forum where you can read the opinions of other parents, or check the reviews at The Babywearer. The Selection Guide at Baby Carriers Downunder will explain the basic styles and their uses. There’s also a sling library as part of the Baby Carriers Downunder group, where you can try carriers if there’s no sling meets in your area to try them on – but with the added benefit of no profit to the Baby Carriers Downunder group for promoting one brand over another.

Once you’ve short-listed some carrier styles and brands that are worth trying, look for a sling meet in your local area. This is the best way to try on – no fees, no stress about borrowing carriers that get damaged in your care, no pressure from vendors to buy what you’ve tried. Plus you get the opinions of other parents at the same time.

If there’s no sling meets in your area, look for a baby shop that stocks the brands you’re interested in. Try on carriers at the shop, but make sure you go for a proper walk around the shop with your baby (not a lightweight doll) in the sling to see how it really feels. Talk to the shop staff about their returns policy – if you get it home and change your mind, can you exchange it for a different brand? Is there a guarantee or warranty on the carrier fading in the wash or breaking with normal use?

For people who have made up their mind that babywearing is a good choice, it’s not hard to justify spending money on a quality sling. You’ll use it far more than a pram, and prams are often much more expensive than a sling. But when money is in short supply, you do need to make careful choices. If you’re really worried about making the wrong choice, consider your fall-back plan. Can you sell this sling second-hand and put the money towards buying something else? Can you buy your preferred sling second-hand in the first place? When you’ve finished with this sling, can it be used for other purposes like a spare travel blanket or hammock? If you’ve got sewing skills, good quality fabrics always have potential for re-use. Is this a sling that can be used from babyhood through to pre-school years, or will you need to sell it and buy something else in six months or a year?

So how do I know this stuff? Because I’ve been there. I was committed to babywearing, but had no way of trying before buying. So I bought random stuff online. And let me tell you, I bought some total rubbish before I found the gems! When I started my own shop, I had a hire scheme. Which ended up being a try-before-you-buy scheme. Because nobody – not one single person – ever returned a carrier. And I realised that it wasn’t the hire offer that got them to choose that particular carrier. What they needed was to try on a few different styles at once, so they could compare the comfort. Going to a sling meet or a shop that allows customers to try on a range of brands will tell you if the brand you were considering is merely mediocre.

Buying a sling means making a choice from a huge variety of offerings from online and in-store retailers. Just be sure to start by trying out something that interests you, and be aware that a “good deal”you’re offered is only worth it if it’s a sling you actually want to use.

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About emmadavidson

An addict who started dealing to support my habit, I have been using baby slings and carriers for a few years now. My children (Sophia, born 2004; Jools, born 2005; Billy, born 2007) are happy to be lugged around town in mei tais, ring slings, soft structured carriers, and occasionally a tablecloth.
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