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How to start a sling group

So you know how great babywearing is and you’d really like for other parents to discover this fantastic parenting tool. One of the best ways to help parents to carry their baby in a baby carrier is by providing face-to-face support at a local sling meet. 

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As Australia’s largest network of babywearing groups, Carry Australia (CarryAus) supports local groups to set-up and start running sling meets. This includes:

  • broad form liability and indemnity insurance
  • personal injury insurance for registered Carry Australia volunteers
  • mentoring and continuing babywearing education for Peer Educators
  • access to a fantastic library of demo carriers
  • support with promoting and marketing your group

While running a local sling group can be a really rewarding experience, there are a number of things to consider before you get started. Read on for some information and some tips and links to get you heading in the right direction.

Register a sling group with us today!

Experience

Whether you have been babywearing for two months or ten years, with the right information and education you may be able to lead a group:

Expectations

It is important to consider what your expectations are for your sling group. Sling groups and meets can have a number of different purposes:

  • Many groups are are largely social; where parents and caregivers get together to chat, learn and generally be around like-minded people.
  • Other groups are entirely educational and are used solely for the benefit of passing on knowledge to new babywearers.

Also consider your role within the group. Do you want to play an active role in determining how the meets and group interactions play out?  Or do you want to just facilitate the meets and let them grow organically? What do you expect from your group? Life is demanding as it is, so considering these points can make it much easier to navigate the early days.

Group roles

It helps to have some defined roles for a leadership team within your group. A group member can fulfill one or more of the following roles, but anyone in these positions must be a CarryAus member.

  • Group leader: The group leader is in charge of the running of the group and ensuring that the group follows the CarryAus Sling Group Guidelines and any teaching takes place following the CarryAus Educator Guidelines. It is their responsibility to remain in contact with the CarryAus Committee. At the end of the financial year, it is the group leader’s responsibility to ensure that the group’s annual report is submitted to the CarryAus Committee.
  • Peer Educator: As mentioned above, each group must have at least one peer educator and each meet must have at least one peer educator present for any teaching to take place. Peer educators are signed off by Senior Peer Educators within CarryAus after demonstrating the requisite knowledge. The size of a meet will determine how many educators are required. It is often useful to have more than one present, but it is possible to run meets with only one educator. Anyone who wants to become a Peer Educator should complete the Peer Educator Application Form.
  • Group Support: Not every group will have a separate Group admin or support person, and when this role exists, it will often vary between groups. The Group Admin may take on any number of the following responsibilities: admin of the Facebook page, event listings on Facebook, booking venues for meets, coordinating meets and/or turning up to meets to greet attendees and complete the sign in sheet. The latter is often helpful to assist the peer educators, so they can get on with the task of teaching people.

Sling meets

There are a variety of different sling meets that you can hold, such as educational meets, social meets and member-only meets.

  • Educational meets: Each group should aim to host a set number of educational meets per calendar year – around 10 for urban groups and 6 for rural groups. These are the meets with Peer Educators present who can teach one-on-one or demonstrate to a group. Sign in sheets must be completed for these meets.There are several ways these meets can be run. Some groups like to have a large ratio of educators to attendees so the attendees can get one-on-one assistance at any stage throughout the meet and the rest of the time socialise with other attendees. Some groups split the meet into different sessions that may include adjustments to current carriers, one or two group demonstrations and then trying on of library carriers. Other groups will set a topic in advance and people will come to the meet who would like assistance with that topic. Experiment with different formats, ask questions of experienced educators and leaders and find a format that works for you.
  • Social meets: These can be organised by any member of your group and don’t require a peer educator present. No teaching can take place at these meets although some advice can be given.
  • Member-only meets: Some groups like to hold member only meets on certain topics to encourage attendees to join as CarryAus members. Meet topics might include care of woven wraps, babywearing in the warmer weather, DIY carriers, etc.

After you have decided on the types of meets you would like to host and how they will be held, you should look into a venue. Try and find somewhere accessible that is enclosed and safe for any mobile babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers who may be present. We recommend you complete the venue checklist to ensure that you have considered all the potential risks and hazards. If you need to hire somewhere, it’s okay to charge a gold coin donation to attendees to cover the hire cost. It often helps to book all of your events in at the beginning of the year, so you don’t have to rush around the week prior to the meet trying to find a suitable venue.

Social media

Social media currently plays a large role in babywearing education and engagement. Please firstly familiarise yourself with the CarryAus Social Media Guidelines. We encourage sling groups to:

  • set up a Facebook group to create dialogue between you and your local meet attendees and other interested parties.
  • create a Facebook page for your sling group to set up public sling meet event listings and sharing of CarryAus information.

If you have other sling groups close by you could consider setting up your Facebook page and groups together. We provide branding and support for setting these up.

Now you are ready to get started. Set up your events (see here for instructions), start discussions, share CarryAus posts and enjoy interacting with your local babywearers. Please be mindful of all of your online interactions; if you are a Peer Educator, consider identifying yourself as such and remember that you are a representative of CarryAus. If you are giving advice that is outside of CarryAus Guidelines, then please also state that your information is personal opinion.

Additional help from Carry Australia

If you need any further assistance from CarryAus at any time, please do get in touch with anyone on the committee. We would like our sling groups to feel confident that they can call on us whenever they need and for them to remain in fairly close contact so that we can all support each other in supporting our communities.

After all that, running a sling group isn’t just about knowing how to wear your baby.  It is about how to facilitate a successful group, to bring people together, to organise events and to be a good leader.

Starting a sling group is a wonderful thing to do for your community.  With the proper forethought and consideration, your group could really make a difference!  When you’ve created your group, don’t be afraid to ask what members know and what they want to know.

Happy Babywearing and enjoy making a difference!