A ring sling I found in an opp shop was my entré to baby wearing a bunch of years ago. Sure, friends had given me their old front packs, but they made my bulges look bulgier, and they seemed so rigid and unyielding. The ring sling on the other hand seemed simple and ‘natural’. Right from the get go it felt like I was holding my baby in a natural position where she was safe, secure and settled.
All this for just $4!
Over the years though, I have learned more about what makes a really great ring sling. Sure, the one I had was great, but I couldn’t get it tight enough, and it was pretty chunky. It had a lot of padding in the shoulder and the rails, which I’ve learnt is actually more hindrance than help. It doesn’t make you – or your baby! – more comfortable, but actually increases heat because the padding is a polyester fibre-fill material. It also meant there was a limit to how tight I could get the sling, because the padding wouldn’t slide through the rings.
Having my baby looser meant lower, which meant not at my core or centre of balance. I found I often needed to have one steadying hand on the sling, and it wasn’t truly hands free. The adjustability factor was something I just didn’t know anything about – until I did.
Like many areas of life, we often feel we’ve got the right tool for the job – right up until we find a better tool.
If you’ve been wearing your baby but are still hanging on to her with one – or both! – hands, or you’re experiencing pain, or you just can’t adjust your carrier to fit you, don’t despair! There are other options!
A ring sling with a shoulder that is folded specially is often a lot more comfortable, and less cumbersome, than a shoulder stuffed like a pillow. It should sit fairly wide on your shoulder, not against the muscles in your neck. Some people, myself included, like a shoulder that can be worn over the joint, cupping the ball of the shoulder and taking strain off the neck and collarbone area. There’s a variety of different shoulder folds, and they fit different body types in different ways.
A ring sling without padding along the rails can be adjusted for the best possible fit. It means you are not limited in how much fabric you can draw through the rings. It is also an advantage to have what is known as an “open tail”. The tail is the portion of the sling that hangs out from the rings; the “unused” bit! If it is folded and stitched closed, you are not able to tighten or loosen the top and bottom rails independently. This could mean you are unable to pull your baby firmly against you, which affects your centre of gravity.
Another factor to consider is the fabric used to make your ring sling. There’s such a wide variety of fabrics available, and it would be pointless to list them all, but you might like to consider breathability, warmth/coolness, synthetics vs. natural fibres, production sustainability, drape and aesthetics. If you thought the ring sling you found at the opp shop was the only style available, think again!
Seriously, if you are keen to wear your baby or you have been wearing your baby but you’re just not comfortable, don’t stop looking! Join the Baby Carriers Downunder group; our forum is a terrific place to find out how to make your carrier work – or how to find one that will – and meet a jovial and welcoming group of parents who are keen to help. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll find the perfect ring sling for $4, but you will be able to find a ring sling that keeps your baby close to your heart while you work, play, shop and exercise (assuming you exercise by walking and not riding a bike!). You’ll find a ring sling you can use while breastfeeding and doing all of those activities. You’ll find a ring sling to wear to a wedding and do all of those activities. And you’ll find a ring sling that doesn’t accentuated any bumps, lumps and bulges.
(Not having a photo of my original $4 special, here’s a picture of one of my favourite current ring slings!)
Resources if you’re starting out:
- Information on shoulder styles
- Information on positioning
- Sewing a ring sling
- Join us at the Baby Carriers Downunder forums
What’s your favourite ring sling? How did the experience start for you? Was it $4 in an opp shop? A self-sewn sling that changed your life? A gift? Leave a comment, let us know!