This is the fourth in a five-part series, profiling babywearing non-profits. I recently had the chance to speak with Susie Spence, President of Babywearing International, and a leader of Magic City Slingers, a Birmingham-based babywearing non-profit. If you haven’t already, take a look at my posts about No Mother Left Behind, and Attachment Parenting International, Parts I and II. If you love babywearing like I do, please consider donating some of your time or money, or both, to one, or all of these wonderful organizations.  I hope you find the following interview as informative and inspiring as I did!

Susie Spence

Susie Spence

 

 
 

 

Andrea: How did Babywearing International come about? What does Babywearing International offer?
 

 

Susie: Here I must give a lot of credit to Jennifer Rosenberg and Vijay Owens for starting Nine In, Nine Out, or NINO, as the original babywearing organization. The NINO leadership had a great vision, but the organization dissolved in 2007. There was nevertheless a tremendous need for an organization to serve as a central resource for babywearing clubs, and Babywearing International Inc. was formed to fill that void. Organizationally, it’s very different from NINO, but the vision of volunteers sharing information about babywearing through nonprofit groups is similar. Glenda Criss-Forshey was really the driving force in assuring that there was a central organization to support nonprofit babywearing groups even if it couldn’t be NINO.

Babywearing International (BWI) has recently launched its chapter affiliate program, and we’re providing our volunteer babywearing educators with insurance and other resources to manage those chapters, including discussion forums for each chapter, sling library assistance, and other general support and help. Additionally, BWI is developing informational resources for the general public, health care providers, and our volunteer babywearing educators. Our big program this year is presenting the first-ever International Babywearing Week, a focused opportunity for babywearing outreach, with help from TheBabywearer.com and our sponsors. Babywearing advocates around the world are seeking official recognition of the week as well as publicity in the media, and there are several awards with fantastic prizes, thanks to our sponsors. It’s very exciting!

Andrea: What are your plans for Babywearing International in the next 5 to 10 years?
 

 

Susie: I think there will be many, many BWI chapters in 5-10 years, throughout the U.S. and around the globe; babywearing will continue to gain popularity; and BWI will have some fantastic resources to help parents and caregivers learn babywearing skills.

Andrea: How did Magic City Slingers come about? Do you have any advice for parents who would like to start their own local babywearing groups? What happens at a typical meeting?
 

 

Susie: Magic City Slingers was one of many local babywearing clubs that formed when NINO was in existence. I met Kristen Stewart online at www.TheBabywearer.com because she was moving to Birmingham, and it was her idea to start a group. We publicized at first just to a local breastfeeding support list, and we had two whole people (plus the two of us) come to the first meeting. Within a few months, though, we had a dozen or so, and now we have 30 or more adults at meetings. We and several local volunteers have put a lot of time and energy into the group … really, a lot! But we think it is work worth doing because babywearing is so empowering to families. At a typical meeting, we welcome newcomers (and there are always several) and show them a variety of carriers and give them one-on-one help. We always have a short presentation on a particular topic (for example, “wearing a newborn,” or “using a short wrap”). Also, our dues-paying members return slings they have borrowed from the sling library and choose different slings to check out for the next month.

As for advice for parents interested in starting a local babywearing group, I’d recommend checking into the resources available through Babywearing International; we will launch our general chapter affiliate program very soon, and we provide personal liability insurance to our volunteer babywearing educators, which is a significant benefit to a lot of people. We also have a public Babywearing Advocacy & Educator Support discussion forum where people can ask questions and get advice from folks who’ve already set up groups; there are also quite a few good resources posted in that forum.

Andrea: What is your most valuable piece of babywearing advice?
 

 

Susie: Babywearing is a parenting skill worth learning. There are lots of parenting skills: changing a diaper and feeding the baby come to mind. Babywearing isn’t necessarily more difficult to do than either of those, and its benefits are so tremendous that it’s worth it to spend some time learning the skills to comfortably carry a baby. A few minutes learning from an experienced babywearer can make a huge difference in a parent’s quality of life (and the baby’s too).

Andrea: What is the most important thing you’d like people to know about Babywearing International?
 

 

Susie: This is hard to answer! At the moment, I want people to know that BWI is an all-volunteer organization with a highly-credentialed and dedicated board of directors, and we’re going about things slowly and methodically so that we have a solid foundation for each program we build.

Thank you, Susie, for working so tirelessly to promote babywearing. Your organizations are wonderful, as are you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.

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