HISTORY OF THE WILKINET BABY CARRIER
Sally Wilkins, designer of the Wilkinet Baby Carrier
Way back in the 1970s baby slings were practically unheard of in the U.K. But even then, as a new expectant mother, my instincts told me the best place for my new baby was cuddled up next to me.
I did manage to find a very basic sling when expecting my first child Seth which I adapted to meet our needs.
By the time Esther had arrived there was a new sling on the market which I eagerly purchased, naively expecting more from its design and structure than it could possibly provide. However I struggled on with it, and in great “British” traditional style, silently put up with annoying discomfort which progressed to very painful discomfort depending upon how long I would be using it for and Esther’s increasing weight.
Gideon arrived in 1978. By then I was completely converted to what is now known as “baby-wearing” (back then I don’t think the term had been coined!) as well as family co-sleeping. This is now much more widely accepted with much research verifying the benefits for all. We did feel a bit “pioneer-like” in those long-gone days, and were always delighted to meet other families who were aware of the benefits and naturalness of such a way.
By the time Gideon was about 6 weeks old I had made him a soft rucksack. Several people asked me to make one for them as well…. Eventually I sent one to the then chairwoman of the NCT Technical Committee, Deirdre Mackay, who is also a physiotherapist and ante-natal teacher. She explained to me that while it might be easy and comfortable for me to use, it could not give adequate support to a baby’s back and pelvic area. Deirdre expressed her concerns about the increasing number of commercially available baby slings that carried babies by suspending the baby through leg-holes and pointed out that mothers from cultures that carry their babies from birth do so by using a shawl or sling which supports the baby under its bottom and then “wraps” the baby onto the parent without having to use leg-holes to suspend the baby.
All this sent me back to the drawing board. I knew exactly what was needed by the time our fourth baby Matthew, (now a strapping 21 year old, you can see him with his niece, Faith, in the gallery), was born in late December 1981. The prototype of what is now the Wilkinet Baby Carrier was almost ready, and just waiting for me to “perfect” it with a the new arrival.
Matthew in the first Wilkinet Baby Carrier
What I had come up with suited my need for hands-free comfort while completely supporting my baby, holding him snugly and securely, wrapped onto me, not “hanging off” my shoulders [click here for more on how the Wilkinet works].
Initially I was only concerned with finding the “perfect” solution for our own family needs. However, as the weeks and months passed, more and more people asked me if I’d make a sling for them too. Eventually my sister-in-law urged me to submit one to the Design Council in London, where it was subjected to various tests and we were awarded their black and white triangle for good design.
That was the beginning of what eventually became, what we feel is, a family-friendly cottage industry. In the early days that is exactly what it was! Everything from the cutting out and making up to despatch all happened from our kitchen table in our cottage in North West Leicestershire. During this time we had two more children, Bethany (Jan. 1984) and Martha (June 1986).
Clearly our little home was beginning to feel a bit squeezed, with an increasing family size and growing business, so at the end of 1987 we moved to a very beautiful part of Pembrokeshire in West Wales. In Aug.1988 Hannah arrived followed by Samuel (Sept. 1990)…..yes, if you’ve been counting we really do have eight children! (And they are all wonderful!!), so over the years I have had ample opportunity to test and try the Wilkinet… I know it works!
THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO FIND OUT IF THE WILKINET WILL WORK FOR YOU IS TO TRY ONE!
Our first child Seth is now married and father to five children who were all “Wilkinet Babies”! Esther, our second child is also married with five children. Jacob, her eldest, was born by emergency caesarian section, but within two weeks Esther was up and about with Jacob snuggled into his Wilkinet. There are now over 15 Wilkinet grandbabies, with others on their way.
Sally Wilkins (Wilkinet Designer)