My approach to learning is one of non-judgement. When I volunteer at meets or lead workshops, I want to be as inclusive as possible, and make it easy for people to learn. There are barriers to using slings and carriers, and there have been many discussions around these topics in recent months. There are also organisations working to overcome certain barriers, for example The Up Project. But I think one of the most common barriers is also one of the easiest to address – jargon.
The first time I ventured into a large online sling group, I couldn’t understand much of what people were saying. There were unfamiliar acronyms (FWCC, DH), terms (wovens, broken-in), and references (Natural Mamas, Didy, Gira). I didn’t want to show my ignorance by asking what everything meant, but I didn’t know how to find out so that I could understand and participate.
This is a story I hear over and over again from clients – luckily there is now so much in-person support available, such as sling libraries and sling meets, where people can ask for help navigating the language used online. However, I think babywearing educators, librarians and peer supporters need to be mindful of not using jargon in these environments. It can be too easy to let our passion influence how we talk about the topic of slings, and this can quickly overwhelm the casual meet visitor!
Specialist language is common in interest groups, but can seem very exclusive to people new to a topic. If you already need to learn the lingo before finding out about the types of slings available, you may well be put off altogether. Removing this barrier to learning is not difficult and could encourage many more people to explore the wonderful world of carrying.
How can we overcome this barrier?
We do not need to use jargon when we talk about slings, but of course when we chat excitedly to our slingy friends, we may well use ‘accepted’ terms that are familiar to the group. In a more general learning environment such as a workshop or sling meet, we can be mindful of making our language as accessible as possible so as not to make learning more difficult.
Here are some examples:
Ditch the acroymns
Instead of FWCC, write/say ‘front wrap cross carry’; ‘tied at shoulder’ instead of TAS, etc. There is no need to shorten these and people will learn a lot more from the full terms than the acronyms, which can be hard to Google.
Be informative about brands
Write/say brand names in full – i.e. ‘Girasol’ instead of ‘Gira’, ‘Ali Dover’ instead of ‘AD’. Abbreviations make it hard for people to search on the name if they want to find out more. If writing online, include a link or tag the brand’s Facebook Page for an easy signpost.
Describe woven wrap carries
There are a lot of woven wrap carries named after the person who came up with (or publicised them), and a few with catchy names (Frankencarry, Pirate carry, Celtic Knot finish). These non-descriptive carry names make it difficult for learners to visualise the end result. Instead, use the names of the wrap passes or actions that make up the carry – for example, ‘back wrap cross carry’. This can be easier said than done, but is especially effective when you are demonstrating a woven wrap carry.
With some specialist terms, it isn’t practical to explain fully each time you write them – for example sizes of woven wrap, names of carrier types – and being open to providing more information is a huge help here. It can be frustrating if someone pops a comment on your selling post to ask what a mei tai is or what you mean by ‘broken-in’, but remember that you were that person once. Politely explaining or signposting to more information may well help the enquirer with their own babywearing journey.
Find out more
Babywearing International’s Glossary of Babywearing Terms
Slingdad Dom’s Glossary of Terms