The NCT Sling and Nappy Library are an excellent resource for all parents. If you haven’t already paid them a visit I strongly recommend you do! The volunteers at both are all very lovely and helpful, and armed with a wealth of knowledge and personal experience.
The Sling Library has a huge selection of carriers and wraps - they will help you find the most suitable sling for you and your child. It’s great if you are looking to try before you buy (different slings suit each person differently), if you'd like to hire a stretchy sling for a newborn for a few months, or if you have a trip away for which a carrier would be useful.
Stretchy slings can be hired for 3 months
The Nappy Library is there to guide you in the world of reusable nappies. Having visited a few weeks ago I can confirm first-hand that it’s far less daunting than I imagined, and my daughter is loving selecting the colour/print of her nappies at each change! You can hire a kit with everything you need to try reusables including plenty of information, plus support if you have questions once home (I have emailed over quite a few questions – thank you Sarah for all of your help and patience!).
You will need to pay a £50 deposit (cash or cheque) for rental at both libraries. This is refundable on return. Rental is £3 a week for slings and £5 for nappy kit rental.
For further details, please visit their Facebook groups:
We asked volunteers from both libraries to give us an insight into their roles, here’s what they had to say…
Cassie Hill – Volunteer at the Sling Library
Soon after I welcomed my beautiful son into the world, it became apparent that he had only three modes – eating, sleeping and crying. And sleeping was only apparently achievable by feeding to sleep or constant pacing. My sister had suggested using a sling to give me some peace and freedom however the soft structured carrier (SSC) I had bought was far too big for my tiny boy and I struggled to get us both comfy in it. I heard about the Sling Library through another mum and made my way there. I was shown how to use an infant insert properly and also told about stretchy wraps which soon became my preference when at home.
From there I started to experiment with ring slings and woven wraps, enjoying both the freedom that Babywearing gave me to get on with my day, and also the content and happy baby who seemed to evolve the more I wore him. Since my second child arrived, Babywearing has been even more essential than the first time round. In the early days, I was often found pushing a toddler on a swing while feeding a newborn in a pre-tied wrap. Different carriers have suited me at different stages and having access to a resource like the Library has made it much easier for me to find something that works for us.
The Sling Library still runs every Tuesday 2-3pm at Bel & the Dragon, entirely staffed by willing volunteers who are trained to help aspiring Babywearers find the right solution for them. We stock a wide range of popular slings and carriers, and are more than happy to demonstrate how to use them.
Sarah Woodward – Volunteer at the Nappy Library
Modern washable nappies are not as scary as you may think! Gone are the days of folding, safety pinning, soaking or boiling. In fact, all you need are approximately 25 all-in-one nappies, a bucket or bag, some liners and a wet bag for out and about.
Some of the benefits:
Less waste and plastic sent to landfill
No stinky wheelie bins in the summer
Can save you money - over 3 years you could spend £850 on disposables (6 nappies a day) compared to one outlay of approximately £400 for 25-30 premium brand all-in-one cloth nappies
Better poo containment
Beautiful designs and a big squishy cloth bum!
Nappies come in a range of colours and patterns
When it comes to washing there is no need to do anything special. You get rid of as much poo (if they’re eating solids) on your liner and throw the rest into your dry bucket until you have a full wash load (usually every other day). One long wash on 40 or 60 degrees later you’re done! Finding the right level of absorbency and fit for your baby can involve a bit of trial and error. As there are so many brands and types of nappies it can be overwhelming. Come along to the Nappy Library - run by volunteers who all have personal experience of using reusables - and you can borrow everything you will need, including 15-20 nappies with a mix of types and brands (allowing you to find which work best for your baby's bum!) for just £5 per 2 weeks. If you’ve already started using cloth, we love to help troubleshoot any problems you may be having. Drop in to see us with your questions or send us a message via our Facebook page!
Reading Nappy Library runs on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month Coley Park Community Centre RG1 6DW.
Your questions answered...
If you are unfamiliar with babywearing and/or reusable nappies it may seem quite a daunting prospect - you may have dismissed it as ‘Not for you’ without giving it a fair chance. We asked on our Facebook page for your questions on both subjects. There is no such thing as a silly question, all our volunteers at the library started with little or no knowledge on the subject. Here are your questions with answers from our specially trained volunteers.
What makes a wrap special compared with any piece of cut fabric? The main difference between a wrap and a piece of fabric is the techniques the manufacturers use to make sure the woven fabric has the right strength and durability to carry babies.
What age do your slings go up to? We have pre-school carriers that go up to 24kg, which is the average weight of a 7-year-old!
How early can you ‘baby wear’? Are there slings suitable from birth if you have had a C-section? This is very dependent on your individual situation. The best thing to do is get along to a library, or even better speak to a Babywearing Consultant, if you have health concerns.
From what age can you ‘back carry’? Again this depends on the parent and child. Any particular sling will have recommendations for back carrying in its instructions.
How do you get a child on your back without assistance? Any sling that can be used for a back carry will have instructions included detailing how to get baby onto your back. It helps to practise with a friend and somewhere soft (bed/sofa) to start with.
What advice do you have on continuing carrying when your child becomes seemingly too heavy? Carrying a baby is like any other physical activity – don’t exert yourself past your own limits. If you are struggling to continue carrying a child, the first port of call would be a Sling Library or Babywearing Consultant.
Is it safe for baby to be facing out and from what age? There is no evidence to suggest that occasionally wearing a baby facing out is unsafe, providing there are no pre-existing hip conditions, and many slings have this function and recommend a suitable age based on their sling. This is usually once the baby can hold their own head well. The Sheffield Sling Surgery has a comprehensive article discussing the pros and cons of facing out: https://www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk/2016/07/21/the-fuss-about-facing-out/
Big retailers seem to only focus on a couple of big brands. Does the Sling Library offer a larger choice? The Sling Library has a wide range of popular slings and continues to update stock as new slings come on the market. A lot of our stock isn’t available to buy on the high street and the best way to find out about them is to come down to the Library and see them for yourself.
Do the environmental benefits of using cloth nappies outweigh the extra energy used from extra washing/detergents? It is estimated a baby can use approximately 4000 nappies before they are fully potty-trained. This equates to about half a tonne of waste going to landfill per baby. Reusables obviously require frequent washing, however disposables use huge amounts of water in the production process. In terms of the chemical impact, chemicals used in nappies, both in the production, and those that end up in landfill, are for more harmful to the environment than those found in commercial detergents.
How do you manage cloth nappies in a small flat with no tumble dryer and limited drying rack space? The more absorbent a material is, the longer it will take to dry. Microfibre nappies are very quick to dry, whereas bamboo and cotton can take much longer. A nappy system where the absorbent inserts come out completely will speed up drying time. Using a dehumidifier next to the airer can dramatically speed up drying times. A heated drying rack can help but make sure the waterproof parts of the nappy (and delicate materials like bamboo) don’t touch direct heat as this can damage them.
Do you have to wash the whole nappy? If using all-in-ones the whole nappy will need to be taken off each time. With a fitted nappy and separate waterproof wrap you can re-use the wrap several times. ‘Hybrid’ nappies have an outer ‘shell’ and separate absorbent inserts which are attached by poppers. This means you can have the nappy already ‘prepped’ so it can be put on your baby like an ‘all-in-one’ but you can just change the inserts if the rest of the nappy is not soiled.
Can you put nappies in to the wash with other things or do they need to go in on their own hot wash? Many people prefer to wash nappies and wipes separately, especially if you prefer to wash at 60 degrees. You can wash your nappies, either with towels at 60 degrees or at 40 degrees with a cloth-safe sanitiser.
Do reusable swim nappies come in just one size? You can buy reusable swim nappies in a range of sizes. The Nappy Library has branded swim nappies to hire or you are welcome to have one of our retired nappies (where the waterproof lining has failed).
Do you hire out a newborn kit? Yes we do. The newborn kits will only fit up to a couple of months. Once you have finished with your newborn kit, you can then return to the library for a 'Birth to Potty' kit!
What is included in a ‘Kit’? Each kit has between 15-20 nappies (or nappy changes) which should last around 2 days until you have a full wash load. We make sure there are some of each type – so there will be pocket nappies, all-in-one nappies, all-in-two/hybrid nappies and 2 parter/fitted nappies. These will be from a range of popular brands – at least 2 of each. You also get enough fleece liners, a bucket/wetbag, bucket liners and a wetbag for your changing bag.
An example 'Birth to Potty' kit
Are there nappies suitable for potty training? There has been a recent increase in the number of nappy brands offering ‘training pants’. Some of these include Grovia, Close Pop-in and Bambino Mio. Some of these tend not to be absorbent enough to hold a full wee so may not be that helpful (unless you add your own booster inside them). If you want a proper nappy that will pull up like pants, then Motherease Sandys may be an option (although they do need a wrap to be fully waterproof).
A special thanks goes out to all our volunteers who kindly contributed to this article and who continue to offer support at the regular NCT libraries.
Written and compiled by Louisa Goodwin