When Babywearing International, Inc. was founded in 2008 as a nonprofit organization with the mission “to promote babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver, through education and support,” it started with just four chapters. It didn’t take long before more babywearing groups were signing on though, and within three years, BWI doubled its size. BWI of DC-MD-VA, which affiliated in 2009, was one of those first chapters to join.
BWI of DC-MD-VA existed as a local entity prior to the emergence of BWI, complete with an informal lending library and several meeting locations throughout the area. Some of those founding educators remain active today, and at least two former members have gone on to serve as president of other BWI chapters.
The leadership of the chapter is about a 50/50 mix of work outside the home moms and stay at home moms, plus some student moms. Nearly all of the chapter leaders started out as meeting attendees. Leaders include Spanish and ASL-speakers who provide translation when necessary. One leader is a former president of BWI, and two leaders have taught babywearing for eight years each!
DC-MD-VA hosts seven meetings per month, serving the general DC metro area. Meetings are held in various parts of Fairfax County, Virginia, Montgomery County, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. They also pull attendees from surrounding communities.
The chapter grew out of, and continues to sustain itself based on, the idea that it is a group of parents which shares two things in common: an interest in babywearing, and a desire to be the best parents they can be. Chapter members are a mixed batch of crunchy and mainstream, plus everything in between! What they all have in common is respect for each other and the use of babywearing as an invaluable tool in their parenting toolboxes.
BWI of DC-MD-VA is not looking to add more meetings at this time, but is working on administrative goals such as streamlining the lending processes, and tracking memberships and donations. The chapter hopes to add some workshops and subject specific meetings soon, and encourages members to plan non-affiliated play dates such as the recent Spring Celebration! Events like these help members get to know each other and foster a sense of community.
As one of BWI’s oldest chapters, DC-MD-VA has this advice for new chapters:
Slow down and grow very slowly. Growth needs to be sustainable and volunteer burnout is a very real thing. It’s okay to say, “No, that’s not something we can do for you,” when asked to provide something to your attendees.