As a parent, there can be no greater satisfaction than bonding with your baby.
The connection that is struck up where mum or dad and little one both realise how much they love one another is priceless.
Parents take great pleasure in just holding their child in their arms, keeping them close and protecting them from everything around them.
Sling Swing classes allow parents and children to strike up such a relationship that will last a lifetime.
Founded just three years ago, the classes have become popular across the country.
They are dance classes with babies and toddlers attached to mum or dad by a sling, allowing both parties to join in.
Sally Carter, 39, has used slings on her three children Evie, seven, Poppy, six, and Fin, two, shortly after all three were born.
Sally, a former child carer, says: ‘I discovered slings after Evie was born and it soon became our blessing. I carried on wearing them with my successive two children.
‘I was looking around after Fin was born trying to decide what to do as I didn’t want to go back to childcare.
‘I wanted to be around the home more and came across Sling Swing on Facebook.’
After attending a couple of Sling Swing classes in Basingstoke, Sally recognised both the importance and potential of it.
She took the plunge to buy the franchise for Fareham, Gosport and east Southampton.
After starting out with just one class in Fareham Community Church, Sling Swing classes have become extremely popular.
Sally now runs six classes across four days in Fareham, Gosport, Locks Heath and Woolston.
‘Fin was five months old when I bought the franchise. I felt that it really had potential,’ she says.
‘There wasn’t anywhere local for me and then the suggestion was made that I could set up my own classes. It was a brave plunge and here we are 18 months on.
‘We still run that class now and have ladies from that first class who are with me to this day. It has been brilliant.’
Sally adds: ‘When I started out it was pay-as-you-go, so I didn’t know if I’d have one person, 10 people or it would be just me and Fin.
‘From those rocky foundations it has been really empowering and it’s taken me by surprise.’
Despite the exercise and baby bonding that mothers get out of Sling Swing, it is also a chance for parents to make friends and meet new people.
Sally is a fully-qualified babywearing peer supporter who not only offers advice with slings, but will answer any questions parents have.
‘When you’re a first-time mum, potentially you have not got the friends you have got in work or you’re the first in your social group to have a child
‘To be able to get out and meet other mums who have been through the same thing and knowing it’s not just you is important.
‘Parents often come to me with a host of questions on things and knowing I’ve helped make someone else’s day a bit better or helped them understand what is going on is amazing.
‘In the early days, that bond between mother and baby is so important. It doesn’t matter where your baby was born, where you come from, how you feed your baby – holding your baby and keeping them close is one of the best things you can do.
‘It means you grow together, you learn how to respond to the child quickly and effectively and they are going to feel safe, nurtured and loved. It is gentle exercise. We’re not about full-on fitness, we’re about the mental health benefits and the bonding aspect.
‘One of the great things about a sling is that it creates independence. Because the child has that great attachment with you and they feel safe, secure and nurtured, when they get to toddler age they are more than happy to run off, play and be independent to take on challenges they would maybe have been afraid of.’
Sally says: ‘Come and have a boogie with your baby. It’s fun – it’s as much about the giggles as anything else.
‘You don’t have to be a dancer and master the steps. It’s just a group of parents building relationships with their children.’
Angela Alys, 38, says she couldn’t believe it when classes started in the area after she attended some in Chandlers Ford.
She attends Sling Swing classes three times a week and loves the benefits she gets out of them for herself and her son, Neo, three.
Angela says: ‘The co-ordination really helps me.
‘It also helps my confidence and there’s the exercise side of it.
‘Neo really enjoys the social aspect – he absolutely loves Sally and wants to get on my back and dance. I’ve made quite a few friends here and I can explain to new mums about slings because I’ve been using them since Neo was a newborn.
‘Slings are great for things like the school run and a day out somewhere.’
Sophie Trivett, 26, from Gosport, goes to the classes with her son Jack, 11 months.
She says: ‘Coming here gives me a chance to meet other mums. It’s a bit of exercise as well – that’s always nice after you’ve had a baby!
‘The classes are lovely. Everyone is so friendly and really welcoming and Sally was really helpful.
‘I didn’t know any of the routines but it didn’t matter, she was lovely and they were easy to follow. Jack normally falls asleep in my arms – he absolutely loves it.’
WHAT IS SWING SLING?
Sling Swing is a gentle movement and dance class for mums and dads or carers with their babies and toddlers in soft structured slings and baby carriers or wraps.
Musical styles include pop, hip hop, Charleston, Cha Cha, salsa, Meringue, bachata, reggaeton, swing, disco, musical theatre, ballroom and more.
Participants are encouraged to carry their little ones in high quality slings and carriers and spares are always available for people wanting to try it out.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Name: Sling Swing
Branch: Fareham, Gosport and east Southampton
Location: The Salvation Army Church Hall, Crossways, Gosport, PO12 4RH
Cost: £5 per session, £10 for three sessions or block booking discounts.
Who can attend: Anyone whose baby has passed their six-week scan. Mums who have had a Caesarean section have to wait 12 weeks.
For more, go to facebook.com/Slingswingfareham1 or slingswing.co.uk/find-class/farehamgosport