Baby on Board

A new research project on sling use – a big ‘thank you’ and a ‘watch this space’…

Beccy enjoying the Spring sunshine with her son

Hi everyone, I’m Beccy Whittle and I’m one of the peer supporters at MBS.

Today, I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you a bit more about a rather special project that I’m working on at the moment… As well as volunteering at MBS and looking after my little boy, I work part-time as a Human Geography lecturer in Lancaster Environment Centre and, earlier this spring, I started work on what I think is a very exiting research project. The project is exploring the impact that sling use has upon people’s experiences of space and place when they are out and about with their little ones. It has involved speaking to 23 wonderful people in the Morecambe Bay and Sheffield areas about their experiences of using slings in their daily life. As a result, the first thing that I have to say is a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has helped me with the project: most particularly to all those who spoke to me about their experiences, but also to the team at MBS and the inspirational Rosie Knowles of the Sheffield Sling Surgery who helped me recruit potential interviewees. It has been a massive privilege for me to meet so many wonderful people and hear your stories. I’m also very grateful to Lancaster Environment Centre for giving me some funding to allow this work to take place – this has made a huge difference to the scope of the project.

The second thing I have to say is ‘watch this space’: I’m currently analysing all the interview material and trying to draw out some key themes, both in relation to what we currently know about babywearing, and also in relation to the Geography literature, which tells us about how people experience space and place and how important this is in terms of our everyday lives. In addition to writing this up for academic publications (as is my job and passion), I’m determined to make the results accessible, interesting and useful for sling practitioners and users across the world (ok, that sounds ambitious, particularly as being a Mum means I don’t get out as much as I once did, even with the use of a sling(!), but I’m hoping that the internet will go some way to addressing constraints of time and distance here!). So as soon as I’ve got something that I think is relevant and useful to share, I’ll let you know here…

So why this project in the first place? The idea came to me when I was on maternity leave with my son. I rapidly discovered that being out and about with a baby or toddler is a very different experience to being out and about on your own or with other adults! Reflecting on my own experiences of using slings, prams, car seats etc., I found that these different modes of baby/toddler ‘transport’ (shall we say) all had very different implications for the things I was able to do with my son, and how I felt about these experiences also changed as a consequence. I started wondering if other parents felt the same and this, combined with what I know from the academic literature on the mobility of children and families, made me think that a project focused on slings would make for an interesting and valuable research project.

Really importantly, there is also a growing sub-field of ‘children’s geographies’ which focuses upon children’s experiences of the world around them – as slings have a massive impact on our kids, I’m hoping that the research will also contribute to this body of knowledge too…

I’ll stop there, but hope you found this post interesting – the photos throughout the article are some favourites of my son and I out and about at different stages of our ‘carrying’ journey: so the very same trips that inspired me to do this work in the first place!