Did you know research says carrying your baby in a sling can reduce their crying by 43%? And that you can buy a great sling that will last until toddlerdom for only around £50 to £100?
No wonder Babywearing is becoming more and more popular, with many new parents seeing the benefits of using a traditional style baby sling to carry their baby and keep them calm.
What to Look for in a Good Carrier.
The general rule when searching for a good carrier is to find one that is both supportive for you and your baby by carrying your baby as they would be held ‘in arms’. The sling should not place any strain on your back, neck or shoulders and similarly should support your baby’s back in its natural curved “C” shape. Your baby’s legs should be supported in an “M” shape (or froggy) position. In order to carry your baby in a comfortable and anatomically correct ‘in arms’ position the sling should support the baby out to their knees (knee pit to knee pit) with their knees at the level of their hips.
As a general rule of thumb commercial baby carriers from high street shops generally do not support a baby in these ways and tend to also not provide as much support for the wearer either.
If you are new to babywearing the following is a summary of the types and styles available:
1) The Wrap Sling.
Many consider this the most versatile sling available. Wrap slings are long lengths of fabric, average somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5metres long, that you use to wrap around your baby. Wrap slings can be used to carry your baby in many positions from a newborn hug hold on your front, to later carrying on your hip or back.
Wrap slings are divided into two categories:
Stretchy Wrap Slings
Stretchy wraps are often considered good beginner slings as the stretch in the fabric is very forgiving on the inexperienced babywearer, plus the softness provides a cradling environment for a curled up newborn. They can be tied in a variety of positions which, although on first glance is very daunting, is actually pretty easy once you have a bit of practice. Stretchy wrap slings tend to support well until the baby is around six to nine months old.
Woven Wrap Slings
Woven wraps have all the advantages of stretchy wraps, plus they are more supportive as the weave of the fabric means they do not stretch with the baby’s weight, this does however mean they sually take a little more practice to tie well. Woven wraps can be used for a multitude of carrying positions including back carries and can be used into toddlerdom and beyond. They are however more expensive than stretchies and some more expensive woven wraps can stretch well into three figure sums.
2) Ring Slings
Ring slings are very easy to put on and do not require any tying, simply pop over your head and tighten by pulling the fabric through the rings. Ring slings are generally made out of woven fabric so can support well, though they are availble in stretchy fabric more suited to newrborns. Ring slings can be used for little babies right into toddlerdom and beyond (when used in a hip carry). Although they do have limited positions when compared to wrap slings and only disperse the weight over one shoulder so for larger babies and toddlers so are not good for longer wearing times, they are good slings to ‘pop on’ when you need something quickly.
3) Pouch Slings
Pouch slings are similar to ring slings, however they are either fitted to size with no fastenings or they have an adjusting mechanism (such as a clip/fastener). They are very quick to put on, however often what they gain in speed of use they lose in support, particularly as they only spread weight over one shoulder too. Pouch slings tend to be the cheapest sling to buy and tend to be the most popular ‘sling sold in high street shops.
4) Mei Tais
Mei Tais are Asian inspired carriers, they are similar in style to a wrap sling with a supportive central panel and then 4 lengths of fabric off of each corner to wraparound and tie, they are usually quicker to put on than a wrap sling and the central panel provides good support, often they come with extra details such as pockets. Mei Tais are especially good for slightly older babies and toddlers, particularly in back carries, but many can also be used for small babies.
5) Soft Structured Carriers
Soft structured carriers are most similar to the popular baby carrier we see in most high street shops, however with the important addition of providing proper back support for both baby and wearer and providing support out to the baby’s knees – thus keeping their legs in a froggy position and ensuring optimum comfort for baby and wearer. They tend to be the most popular carrier among dads. Whilst they can be used with smaller babies (sometimes with extra inserts) they tend to be more popular with parents with slightly older babies and toddlers
Whatever sling or carrier you use you should always be aware of, and follow, babywearing safety guidelines and cautions.
By Sarah Ockwell-Smith – Our resident Baby and Toddler Expert.