You may have seen that I recently put out a plea to see if anyone had any advice or details about slings. I wish I had been able to find more about slings before my little one was born because once she was here there was no time to get things sorted. I really wanted to get one but had no idea where to start. I ended up buying a really expensive sling from Mama’s and Papa’s which we’ve used twice. Not the wisest of decisions.
After seeing my plea, Martina sent me a document that she wrote with Heather that she has very kindly given me permission to publish here. There is also a PDF document enclosed in this post which Martina sent which details the T.I.C.K.S. rule for safe baby wearing. I am going to post this on Thursday. If you are looking to buy a sling I urge you to read this document first.
Martina also highlighted information about your local sling meet which you can find from the following two websites:
Thank you very much to Martina and Heather for the details. Please add a comment if you think the details will be useful as I’d like to pass that feedback onto Martina and Heather.
SLING GUIDE: Choosing a Sling for your Baby
by Heather Chinn and Martina Kraner
A sling should be on every new parent’s wish list. It is the closest thing to an extra pair of hands you are likely to come across. They are infallible for soothing a grizzly or colicky infant, keep the baby happy while letting you get on with essential chores, and are invaluable while out and about, whether travelling on public transport, negotiating steps, escalators and busy shops, or on country walks.
So many slings are available today we are spoilt for choice, but the selection is so wide it can be bewildering. When choosing a sling it is best to consider when and how you plan to use it, if anyone else will be using it, and whether you have the patience to master one of the trickier types. Or you could buy more than one for different purposes.
Soft carriers which have been tried, tested and have had the seal of approval from experienced sling users are usually sold by online vendors or at baby shows, including NCT shop that has some new exciting ranges coming up in the near future.
But opportunities to try different types before you buy are available at local sling meets held throughout the UK. They are organised by volunteers to help others make the right choice of sling and they are also a good chance to meet other new parents for coffee and a chat as well as sling tips. For information about your local sling meet visit . The Basingstoke slingmeet at Buttercups children’s centre is no longer operational, but we will have slings regularly at the NCT Coffee and Chat on Friday’s if there is sufficient interest.
A wealth of helpful and friendly advice about slings is available at the UK parenting forum www.naturalmamas.co.uk . Clear, concise, independent information about different types of sling, the best places to find them and how to use them is set out at www.slingguide.co.uk , a website set up by experienced and impartial sling users to help parents choose and use the sling which is right for them. As with all baby equipment the safety of your child is the top priority in making your choice, so do ensure you choose from recommended brands, follow the instructions for use, and check for wear and tear with secondhand slings.
But be warned, they can be just as addictive as handbags and shoes, and you might find yourself building up a collection! With that in mind, read on for a brief guide to the most popular types of sling.
A pouch sling is a simple tube of fabric with one half folded inside the other to form a pocket which is worn across the body like a sash. It allows a baby to be carried in a variety of positions, for example upright facing in, or sitting on the parent’s hip. It can be used from birth to toddlerhood by altering the carry position, and allows an older baby to have arms and legs outside the sling. Pouches are made in a variety of materials from cuddly fleece to cool linen and are quite cheap in comparison to other types of sling. They are also quick to master, easy to put on in a hurry, and pack up small to carry in a change bag. Unfolded, they can be used as car seat or buggy blankets, especially the fleece types. They do, however, place all the weight on one shoulder, which can get tiring for long periods with an older baby, and they have to be made to fit the wearer so it is unlikely a partner could use it as well.
A ring sling is a long length of fabric with two rings sewn in at one end. The other end of the material is threaded through the rings like a belt to form a pocket for the baby with a tail of fabric hanging down. Ring slings are worn over the shoulder like pouch slings and have the same variety of carries, but the rings allow for adjustability in different positions and for different wearers.
They come in a range of fabrics, can be padded or unpadded, and some are frankly stunning for special occasions. However, learning to adjust the rings for a comfortable fit takes a bit of practice – the rings are meant to sit in what the Americans call the corsage position, not cutting into your neck. The types of shoulder vary (for example gathered, pleated, etc.) and what suits one person may not suit another. And, like the pouch slings, they place all the weight on one shoulder.
These are a traditional type of Asian baby carrier. They consist of a shaped piece of fabric to fit around the baby’s body with long straps at the base and the top. The lower pair of straps tie around the wearer’s waist, and the top pair goes over the shoulders.
Mei tais can be used on the wearer’s front, back or hip, and, as the weight is spread across both shoulders, they are very comfortable for long periods and with heavier babies. They can be used by different sized adults without any adjustments, and are suitable for babies with good head control until well into toddlerhood.
Most mei tais come in a sumptuous range of fabric designs but plainer ones are available for fathers! They are very easy to use, although back carrying single handed takes a bit more practice. The only disadvantage is the length of the straps which can trail on the ground while putting one on outside.
Soft Structured Carriers.
These are superficially similar to the mass-produced baby carriers available in many high street mother and baby stores, having a padded body and fastening with straps and buckles but, unlike the mass-produced carriers, are designed to take the weight of heavy babies and toddlers. They can be used on the wearer’s front or back, and, as the weight is distributed across both shoulders, they are very comfortable for long periods.
They are quick and easy to put on, but if the carrier is to be shared with a different sized adult you will have to learn to adjust the fitting of the buckles. They are suitable for babies from about three-months-old until well into toddlerhood. Some makes come in a beautiful range of fabrics, while others are more utilitarian in style.
Wraps are very long lengths of material which are wrapped around the wearer and baby, and tied. They are very versatile, allowing a complete range of carries on one or both of the wearer’s shoulders, can be used by different sized adults and are very comfortable for long periods.
They come in either stretchy or woven material. Stretchy wraps are easier to use but do not give as much support for an older baby, so they become less comfortable as the baby grows.
Woven wraps can be used from birth into toddlerhood but are more difficult to master. All wraps require some practice before using them but most makers include very detailed instructions and/or DVDs. They are not, however, the quickest to put on and the lengths of fabric do trail on the ground while you are wrapping.
The range of slings and soft carriers now available in the UK is very large so only the most common types have been described in detail. Framed back pack carriers are not covered because, while many may be excellent for hiking the Pennines carrying a toddler and outdoor activity gear, most people find soft slings are more suitable for their everyday needs, and are far less cumbersome, much lighter to wear and give babies the reassurance of contact with a carer’s body.
The mass-produced carriers available in high street stores vary greatly in quality and in comfort for the wearer. While for many experienced sling users they were their first introduction to the convenience of hands-free baby care, few would buy one for a second child as they tend to be comfortable only when used with very young babies, making them a very expensive purchase for the time they are used.
Have fun choosing!