Guest Post: Rayner Garner – How our two ringed baby sling came into existence

It was 1980, and we were bringing up our daughter in Hawaii.  Correction, it was she who was rearing us!  My wife, Sachi, and I had read the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff, and we where most impressed by the wisdom, and practicality of using the Yaquana’s methods of rearing children.  We were in an ideal place for rearing a child.  The local Hawaiians were into giving, sharing, and caring, and they responded well to our daughter’s love and obvious happiness.My background was in Physiotherapy, and Rolfing which stressed the importance of good posture in the maintenance of good health. I also worked for a length of time in various industries related to medical equipments, helping in the development of products like www.pelicanmanufacturing.com.au/product/hip-protectors-standard-packs/. We had not at that time encountered the simple knotted sling as used by most indigenous tribes, so we bought a front-pack.  My daughter got a heat rash from the artificial fabric used at that time so we had to discontinue its use.

From my studies of posture, I knew we needed a carrier that would allow our daughter wriggle room.  So that she could take up any posture, and position which would change throughout the day.  We wanted a carrier that would keep her legs together, and would allow her mother to breast-feed discreetly, and that would permit her to lie down to sleep.  Above all it had to be comfortable for both infant and carrier.  We added a pocket on the shoulder area so that extra padding could be added as she got older, and heavier.

My first attempt was not a fully qualified success.  I had found a woollen scarf which I had bought with me from Scotland.  I knotted all four corners, slung it over one shoulder, and Fonda promptly curled up in it, and went to sleep.  Well it was obviously a success for her, but as Sachi, and I were different heights we had to keep undoing and retying the knots.  This became a nuisance, as Fonda’s weight pulled the knots together very tightly, and it became drag to keep on tying and re-tying them.  So one day, I had bought a piece of beautiful Batik fabric, and over the next three days sat folding one end of the future sling until eventually I had succeeded in reducing the 36 inch width into just two inches wide.  Also a benefit was that the particular way in which I folded the fabric resulted in the sides becoming shorter than the belly of the sling.  So I had made a hammock, which had the added benefit of keeping our beloved daughter securely in the belly of the sling.

For the two rings at the shoulder pad end, we first used wooden curtain rings.  These were not sturdy enough to take the strain of a sudden pull, so I got some 2 inch copper water pipe and sawed a piece off and gently tapped it in the inside of the curtain ring.  This was quite labour intensive but as the first few slings were made for ourselves that was not too much of a hardship.

Now of course I use nylon rings specially made for baby slings which can withstand a 500 lb. snatch test.  They can also withstand the heat of a washer and dryer.  However by using industrial grade Velcro one can undo the shoulder pad end, and take the rings of if you use a washer and dryer to clean your sling.  I do recommend hand wash and line dry but when you sell to the public you have to be prepared for the worst.

We knew that ideally Fonda needed skin to skin contact with us, unless she was ready to explore her new world on her own.  But for the first few months she seemed to be content to be carried in the sling wherever we went.  We had used very attractive fabrics as we wanted to look good, batiks, Hawaiian Tapa cloth, and for visits to Chinatown in Honolulu whenever business needed to be taken care of, subdued silks and worsted slings made a very attractive picture.

So much so, that one day, on my way to a business meeting, dressed in my best, no, my only suit, white shirt, and an old school tie, with Fonda in a silk, tartan sling, with gold rings no less; we passed through Queen Illani Palace where the Royal Hawaiian Band was giving a concert.  As I passed in front of the seated crowd, all dressed in their finest Hawaiian clothes, the band struck up, “I’m singing in the rain.” I just couldn’t help it, with Fonda chuckling, and beaming out on the crowd with a tiny golden umbrella over her to keep off the fierce sun, I broke into my best imitation of Gene Kelly and twirled and whirled, with Fonda obviously delighting in this spectacle, while comfortable and secure in the sling, with the crowd cheering, and applauding.

By now it was evident that we had the potential for a home business which would allow us to take turns of having full time contact with her, and be able to respond to her needs.  We had earlier on decided that for optimum development our daughter needed us both to help provide the environment in which she could best grow.  So this is what we did.  When it was my day to take her out, and sell the sling, Sachi would express breast milk, and I would take it in a padded belly bag, so it would keep cool.  That worked just fine.  We were off, and The Baby Sling was born.

Later on we used mothers or Grandmothers to sell our products as so many stores had young assistants, trying to serve mothers without having had any experience of their own to be able to help, and pass on information on labour, nurturing and all those other matters which pregnant or new mothers needed desperately to know.

Our teams of mothers and Grandmothers were able to be a magnificent source of carefully checked wisdom, not only from their past, but also from our own experiences which had resulted in such a wonderfully happy and contented child.  My mother used to repeat an old adage, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Happy nurturing,

Rayner Garner

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