Friday, 24 May 2013

Cool Like London Or Cool Like Ottawa?

by Tami Grosset

London is so cool! Isn’t it?

The BIG smoke. It is one of the largest cities in the world with the most impossible traffic. The congestion charge makes it prohibitive to drive anywhere, even if you could park without having to take out a second mortgage! The streets are often narrow and cobbled, quaint but not fun for a stroller! The pavements that are not cobbled are more often than not teaming with crowds of people. With buses, tubes, trains, escalators and stairs galore this city is the perfect city for babywearing.

Curiously, in the two weeks that we visited London, traveling almost daily into the city from Ealing at the western end of the district and central line we saw very few babywearers, and the few that we did see were predominantly Baby Bjorns and the like. Instead we saw many mums struggling up escalators and down stairs with heavy strollers (sometimes with tired cranky babes in their arms), waiting at bus stops in the rain because there were already 2 strollers on the bus that had just arrived and getting glares of contempt for a large stroller taking up so much space on a busy tube.

Why is it that babywearing is not more commonplace in London?

Well, as far as I could work out there are no shops, or few shops. specializing in good ergonomic baby carriers. You can purchase a Baby Bjorn and other similar narrow seated carriers in high street mum and baby stores like Mothercare but otherwise you pretty much need to know about babywearing to know that there is an alternative, which is a little chicken
and the egg-like.

Many parents the world over start out with a narrow seated carrier and once they start finding it uncomfortable they just stop wearing their baby. Many of us have heard other parents saying ‘Well I just couldn’t wear him after he turned 3 months he was just too heavy!‘ which seems a little ironic when we’re standing there listening to them, whilst wearing a 3 year old on our back! If there are apparently no other options of course you’re going to give up and use a stroller! I would, wouldn’t you?

WHAT does London need?

The answer to that question is clear to me!

London needs a Milkface!

London needs an Extraordinary Baby Shoppe!

London needs a Belly Laughs!

London needs a class like OCEAs Bringing Baby Home class, which includes a babywearing workshop for soon to be newbie parents!

Babywearing has become commonplace in our city because of our stores. OBG most likely would not exist if it wasn’t for these stores and for the work they’ve done spreading the babywearing love over the years.


We’re in danger of causing these fabulous stores to close their doors. All brick and mortar stores are struggling to swim against a tide of showrooming customers.

Showrooming is the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item.

This blog says so much about showrooming and how hurtful it can be to a brick and mortar store.

But maybe more importantly to us and the OBG community showrooming can be hurtful to us. It could leave Ottawa a little more London-like.... and not in a good cool way. There is nothing cool about carrying a crying baby in your arms whilst simultaneously dragging a stroller up a crowded flight of stairs.

Believe me it was MUCH cooler to just hop off the tube and skip up the stairs backpacking my 2 year old and holding my 5 year old's hand.

Maybe in time London will become cool like Ottawa.

Shop local, buy local and buy where you touch!


  1. Great article!! I love the "buy where you touch" phrase. :)

  2. I am a Londoner, who has lived in Ottawa for 10 years-I love the small town feel of Ottawa and agree that its a fabulous place to wear and raise babies. However I think you have been a bit hasty to suggest London doesn't have a babywearing community or resources-I have used the invaluable South London Slings to rent slings when travelling in London-
    The school of baby wearing offers numerous courses on how to safely and comfortably wear babies-

    and an article from back in 2006 in the Guardian gave some great UK resources for baby wearing
    I love Ottawa and London and think they are both pro baby wearing and very cool!!!!

  3. Thanks Anonymous.

    I was born in London and lived there until 7 years ago when we moved here to London. I have many family and friends in London so my opinion isn't really formed from just my 2 week visit last year. My friends and family in London, most of whom practice an attachment style of parenting, knew nothing really about babywearing until I introduced the idea to them following my learning about it here in Ottawa. I agree that there are babywearing resources in London and the places you mention are excellent. But, as I say in the post, you do have to sort of know about babywearing to be able to access them. You can't really stumble on the South London Sling Library for example. You have to sort of know it exists first. I really do feel that our local stores and other resources here in Ottawa have made babywearing more accessible to new families who are interested in babywearing, more accessible than it is in London.

  4. I'm a Canadian living in London, for a long time, with two kids.

    I'm not sure whether the lack of sling stores is a symptom or a cause, to be honest. I think many parents here see attachment parenting as a package - either you do all of it, or you do none of it. I think baby wearing it as seen as a hippie thing, here, and that is seen as a bad thing, in some circles.

    There are also circles in which baby wearing is seen as obligatory, and that's also problematic. Even with the best slings, it doesn't work for some mother-baby dyads.

    Sling libraries are a very big deal, but as you say, you can't just stumble upon them. See here: I think they are a great resource, and I tell many mums about them. So many mums get given a sling by a friend - I point out to them that this is like being given a bra by your friend. Hey, this one worked for me, it should work for you!

    I know there have been brick and mortar sling shops, or at least ethical baby shops with a good emphasis on slings. Ah, and a quick google shows that one of the main department stores has a decent selection: Most of those will be available in their brick and mortar stores. The staff may be helpful - they certainly train them on prams.

  5. To clarify.... The main purpose of this article is about showrooming. the comparison between London and Ottawa's babywearing scenes is really just a vehicle for the main point of the post, so I really don't want to get bogged down with why I am or am not being unfair to London. At the same time its lovely to see so many Ergo products and some other ergonomic carriers available in John Lewis. They do seem to be also carrying a carrier that looks suspiciously like a bag sling which does call me their expertise. But, as I said, I intended this post to be about showrooming and its destructive nature to local businesses. Thanks