Baby Sling-O-Rama?! What sort of title is that? Have I lost the plot?
Yes, I actually think I may have. I am a new mum, I have a colicky baby, husband who works all hours possible, a dog who is sad because she is no longer in charge, and a house that hasn’t been properly cleaned since I stopped being able to see my feet past the baby bump.
The ‘plot’ is, for most new mums, just to reach the end of the day with everyone alive, fed and more or less clean. So why, with my precious moments of ‘me-time’ am I thinking about slings? Like right now, typing this at 00:58am with the baby finally soundly asleep on one side, the husband on the other, and me in the middle with the comforting glow of the tablet, why am I not cleaning something or reading any novel on my now very dusty book shelf?
I think it’s because slings are fulfilling more of my needs than just being a core strength enhancing, calorie burning, baby transportation system. They soothe a teething child, their ‘sleepy dust’ is legendary, and they can make nursing, eating hot food and tending to other children easier. They can be uber practical (Solarweave Connecta springs to mind), a stunning indulgence (how about a cashmere blend Farideh ), or a handspun and handwoven work of art (oh Bebe Sachi Khadi of my dreams). The right carrier can make a dash to the shops very quick or a Sunday stroll very lovely & long. I can hide behind a mai tie or geek out about everyone’s stashes at a sling meet. There’s also no denying that being draped in yards of beautiful fabric appeals to my 6 year old self, winding my grandmother’s scarfs around and around…
As I see it, whoever you you were as a pre-parent, baby-wearing can help you get back a bit of that. Would you even try hiking, jiving or steering a narrow-boat while holding your baby or pushing a buggy? Me neither; but I’ve done all three whilst wearing Sprout.
Or maybe it’s simply because slings provide somewhat guilt-free shopping? There is a thriving second hand market, for all types of sling, or you can try different ones via Sling Libraries all over the UK. Either way, here’s a little run down of the different kinds of baby-carrier…
High Street Carriers – a catch-all phrase for the sort of rucksack material buckled carrier you can buy in lots of places. On the whole they aren’t very comfortable for you or baby. This is partly illustrated by the not very nice slang term “crotch-dangler”. Many don’t comply with the TICKS safe carrying guidelines, though the worry about them causing hip dysplasia seems over-hyped. If your baby has hip issues it’d be best not to use one, but often hip issues aren’t apparent until later.
Where to start? Being honest, I wouldn’t use one, but 30 minutes here and there isn’t going to cause damage. Available on the high street in Mothercare and John Lewis or second hand for under £10.
Stretchy – a long length of knit material. Soft and stretchy to wrap around you and tie in place, your squish can be popped in and out throughout the day. Suitable for newborns and younger babies. Not safe for back-carries.
Where to start? Look for names like Hannah and Moby. Another option is the Close Caboo, which has rings to tighten and pops on and off like a Tshirt (I loved ours).
Mai Tie – a traditional Asian carrier. A panel of fabric with 2 straps to tie around your waist and 2 that tie around you and baby. A WCMT is one made from a woven wrap.
Where to start? BabyHawk, Lenny Lamb.
Woven wrap – a piece of woven fabric typically between 50cm and 75cm wide. Suitable from newborn until preschool (and beyond!). Available in different lengths to suit your size, baby’s size and the type of carry you wish to do. Vast variety of colours, patterns & weaves, machine or handwoven (MW/HW). It does take a bit of patience to learn to wrap; thank goodness for Sling Meets and YouTube!
Where to start? Try getting a ‘pre-loved’ one that’s already broken in. Lenny Lamb and Little Frog are good entry level makes, Yaro are a nice step up. Size 6 is a good length to start with if you are average size.
Buckles / Soft Structured Carrier – a fabric carrier with buckles to fasten it. Full Buckles (FB) have them at the waist and shoulders, Half Buckles (HB) has a buckled waist with Mai Tie shoulder straps. The waist and shoulder straps can be padded.
Where to start? Connecta is a great brand, they pack down small to take in the changing bag. My Husband has an Ergo which he loves (they are sold on the high street in John Lewis, and do be aware of cheap untested fakes). Also look at Beco, Boba, Patapum and Tula.
Ring Sling – a piece of fabric with 2 metal rings sewn at one end, for quick one shouldered carries. Seem to be Love or Hate! Ones made with woven wrap fabric will be a lot comfier and last much longer than cheaper cotton alternatives.
Where to start? Most woven wrap brands make Ring Slings. They are also often made by WAHMs from cut down (chopped) woven wraps.
Pouch – for one shoulder carries like a RS but without the rings, so you must be careful to buy the correct size. Some companies advertise using them almost like a bag that the baby lies in across your body, which can be very unsafe (babies shouldn’t lie horizontal in a sling, and the chin must never be pressed against their chest.)
Where to start? I’d recommend just getting a ring sling instead.
Not sure which will suit you, your baby and your lifestyle? Find out if there’s a meet near you and go try them all!
Or just buy it, try it, sell it, and repeat until you’ve tried them all! Churn baby churn!!
Please share your sling loves, and hates, in the comments below. Click here for a reminder on Safe Babywearing.