Babywearing International of Chicagoland (BWI) is an invaluable resource for parents or caregivers who are seeking information about wearable baby carriers. Many BWI chapters even maintain lending “libraries” with a choice of different types and brand of carriers to borrow and try out.
Babywearing International of Chicagoland will be at the 2017 Chicago Baby Show, on August 26 and 27, at Navy Pier, when the nation’s largest show for expectant and new families comes to Chicagoland. A family-friendly mega-event featuring everything to do with maternity, baby, and toddler – from top products to trusted parenting experts – the Chicago Baby Show will welcome thousands of expectant and new parents from Chicago, the surrounding suburbs, and beyond!
Tickets to the Chicago Baby Show are $30 per family, and $20 per individual.
To learn more about Babywearing International of Chicagoland, we spoke with Stephanie Hopkins, the organization’s board vice president and volunteer babywearing educator.
For someone unfamiliar with Babywearing International of Chicagoland, how would you describe the organization’s mission and core offerings?
Babywearing International is a volunteer run non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver. We provide education and support to parents, caregivers, and educators through our outreach activities. At the heart of BWI is our network of chapters run by Volunteer Babywearing Educators serving their local communities.
All BWI chapters are led by Volunteer Babywearing Educators (VBEs) with extensive knowledge of different types of baby carriers and babywearing safety and Chapter Support Volunteers (CSVs) that aid the chapter in non-educational tasks. While Babywearing International chapters do not sell or endorse specific brands of baby carriers, most chapters maintain lending libraries so that members and attendees can try a variety of carriers to determine what meets their individual needs.
Tell us about the organization’s background. When did it start and how has it evolved since then?
A group of caregivers with a love for babywearing called City Slingers was founded in 2004. Another local group called the Lake County Babywearers was founded in 2007. In 2008 City Slingers became an official chapter with Babywearing International and was renamed BWI of Chicago. In 2011 Lake County Babywearers and BWI Chicago merged to become BWI of Chicagoland. In 2016 BWI of Dupage stopped meeting and in 2017, BWI of Chicagoland expanded to include DuPage County.
The National BWI organization was founded in 2007 by four babywearing groups located in Chicago, Central New York, Birmingham, and the Bay Area. Within three years the organization had doubled in size to eight chapters and BWI has experienced steady growth ever since. Currently there are more than 85 chapters throughout the United States and international chapters are anticipated in the future.
What are the most popular and/or newest services from Babywearing International of Chicagoland?
Our lending library is our most popular service! For a $30 tax deductible donation, caregivers can help support our non-profit which allows us to maintain and expand our lending library, provide outreach opportunities, and scholarships. In addition, members get the benefit of checking out a carrier per month. Caregivers enjoy being able to use carriers for a more budget-friendly price as well as try out carriers to see what works best before they make a purchase. Our newest service is offering text message reminders for upcoming meetings and emails a week before a carrier is due! We have had great feedback from our members about this communication.
What sets Babywearing International of Chicagoland apart from similar organizations?
There are many babywearing groups around the country dedicated to helping caregivers wear their babies. Our extensive lending library sets us apart from other groups because members can come to meetings to try on carriers they are curious about, see something they didn’t know about, and even check out a carrier for the month. The leaders of BWI Chicagoland work to keep up to date on the newest carriers and keep in touch with the needs of our members; our library is ever changing to address those current needs.
What can parents expect from Babywearing International of Chicagoland at the Chicago Baby Show?
BWI Chicagoland leaders will show types of carriers, give an overview of the top evidence based tips to remember when wearing a child, and demonstrate a variety of carriers using babies and demo dolls so you can see babywearing in action! Leaders will be available to answer any questions as well!
To learn more about Babywearing International of Chicagoland, check out bwichicagoland.org.