It's definitely primarily availability and lack of familiarity. I think those two go hand in hand -- if they were more commonly available in mainstream stores, then people would be more familiar with them. And if people were more familiar with them and wanted them, then mainstream stores would carry them.
It's getting more popular and eventually I think the balance will tip far enough that mainstream stores WILL start carrying them. They already carry the Bjorns and Snuglis, which we all know are generally awful, but it's a 'first step'. And like someone mentioned, Target is starting to carry Hotslings. Again, it's a small step, but at least it's in the right direction. There will eventually be a 'critical mass' point reached.
Here in Canada, all the 'baby info' stuff I got from the hospital and ministry of health and even flyers from baby companies, all mentioned things like "babies worn in slings cry less", and "wearing your baby in a sling is a great way to bond with him and also get things done". It was everywhere in the handouts. So I really am surprised it's not more commonly seen around here.
I *do* get a lot of comments. The 'must be independent as early as possibly' attitude is not as prevalent here as it seems to be 'down south'. There are people like that, of course, but I think that family closeness and stuff is more valued. We get longer parental leaves, breastfeeding (and NIP) is more accepted/encouraged/etc. Even co-sleeping, while not the 'norm' and while not condoned by health canada, if you mention it to your neighbours most will say "oh yes, we did that too for awhile, it was the only way we could get any sleep".
I get lots of comments on my slings when I'm out and about, and it's always positive. I've had people stop me and ask where they could get one. I have checkout clerks asking things like "are those things really as great as I've heard? How hard are they to learn to use? Do you find them to be better than the snugli carriers?"
I've had little old ladies in line behind me say "That's the best place for a baby to sleep isn't it, where they can hear mother's heartbeat. And they do grow up more secure, don't they?"
Everyone says "Oh, she looks so happy snuggled up in there, doesn't she?"
And yet I feel the same as the original poster... if everyone is so happy and enthusiastic and complimentary when they see me, then why aren't more moms using them??? I really do think it's familiarity. I try to make it a point, when I'm at the mall, to go up and down the escalators a few times. To show off that unlike with strollers, I'm FREE! Or when walking outside, I hop up and down off curbs, over low walls, etc. I walk with both hands in my pockets to show off that they're free... Anything to make people notice, and hopefully plant the seed in their minds.
I don't know how much of an impact the 'hippie' aspect has. I know when I had DS 9 years ago, I was familiar with slings only from Dr Sears' Baby Book. I loved the idea of babywearing, but I thought the slings looked weird. I was getting 'crunchier', but those still looked far too new-agey for me. The handful of times I saw a mom using a sling, only reinforced this idea. They were waaaaay out-there types, the one that always comes most readily to mind was a flakey-looking woman with a crystal glued (or something) to her forehead. The baby also had something sparkley on her forehead. I don't know what belief system does that, it might be something perfectly beautiful, but you can see how that would only justify my opinion that slings were for the cultists and the way-out-there hippies.
I don't think that view would be as prevalent today as it was 10 years ago. Times change quickly, and being 'green' and 'natural' is a lot more commonplace and more respected than it was.
A neighbour of ours has a baby just a couple months younger than mine. She knew of slings but wasn't able to find a good one. I lent her one of my pouches and gave her some of my favourite websites. I found out last week that since then, not only has she acquired her own slings, she's founded a sling-selling business! They had a booth set up at a local community festival this weekend.
And yet, get this... Their booth was very conveniently set up right next to the square where a baby competition was taking place. Yes, we entered, but the fix was in and we didn't win anything lol... Anyway, the area was literally crammed with parents and babies and STROLLERS STROLLERS EVERYWHERE. And of course, most of the strollers were EMPTY with babies being carried in-arms.
How many of the parents strolled over to the sling booth? C'mon, guess.
If you guess a low number, you'd be right. Even right there in a situation where strollers are obviously an encumbrance, where something to help their sore arms hold their babies more comfortably and free them up... even then, it was like they had blinders on and just couldn't notice.
I think I saw 3 slings being worn that morning. One was mine, one was a lady with a ring sling, and one was a friend of my neighbour... *sigh*
Heather, mom to Caileigh 12/06 and aspie ADHD prodigy David 05/98 :intact lact