After this post hopefully you won’t be more scared than you were to start about the prospect of trying babywearing for you and your newborn or toddler! Ok, so I think the best way for me to do this is by category (yes, there are that many). I myself personally am familiar (have used with Harper) with 5 different carriers so I will speak to those at length. But I also want to introduce you to many of the others that are out there. This will not be an exhaustive list by any stretch, but it will be enough to get you started in the world of slings. Honestly, by the time it is all said and done, you will be like every other babywearing family and you will own several different ones. Slings, wraps, and carriers are as different and as versatile as the people that are wearing them so there’s no one “best” sling for everyone. There are carriers that are more all around workhorses and some that are more specialized, but there are many that are really good. We’ll go over several of them here.
How about we start with the easiest slings on the market…
1. Pouch Slings: These slings are made of many different materials (fleece, cotton..etc). You can get these slings adjustable and some of them come in particular sizes that you need to buy specifically for your body type/size. These are probably the easiest of all the slings out there for someone who’s not familiar with babywearing. The sling is a literal “pouch” that the baby is placed down into. There are no straps, ties, flaps, or harnesses to adjust or use to position baby. These slings are faster to put on (you pretty much throw it over your shoulder), and there’s less science involved with baby positioning. The downsides to some of these slings are that they hang across one shoulder so they create quite a bit of spinal curve and pressure. Depending on the weight of the baby in the carrier, it can cause neck pain and mid back discomfort. Also, there are limited positions to place the baby in because of the nature of the sling.
Hotslings are some of the most popular pouch slings on the market. This company has many different options for your baby and now they have come out with their “AP” (Adjustable Pouch) line. This sling seems too simple to me at times, at least the early models did…it seemed like a purse you dropped your baby into with no real direction or support. They’ve changed them since so I think they’ve improved….
Peanut Shell is another company that has come onto the market this year with a new adjustable style pouch sling. Their sling boasts of being able to adjust from XXS all the way up to XXL in the same sling!! That makes buying a sling so easy because with normal pouch slings, mom and dad would have to buy different ones because of difference in body builds. Peanut Shell also makes a stretchable pouch sling as well that is one piece of material that is made of stretchable material to slide baby into.
One of Cindy’s favorite pouch slings is made by Kharma Baby. Made of stretchable material, Kharma Baby has several different options on fabric including fleece, microfleece, organic, and cotton. This sling is really comfortable and super easy to use. This sling comes in specific sizes so you need to go to their sizing section and see how to measure to make sure and get a good fit.
New Native Baby makes a baby pouch that is similar to the Kharma Baby but is slightly more tapered. They have an organic option as well and they also have a super awesome doll carrier for little kids!! I love that!! What a great way to teach the next generation about the importance of babywearing and keeping your baby close to you. These slings also do not adjust so you need to look at measurements and sizing options.
Zolowear is another company I just got introduced to that makes a pouch carrier. They field test their slings by an independant group for up to 150 pounds!! They still recommend only using them for kids up to 40 lbs obviously but they’re done a lot of testing on their material to make sure it is safe and will hold.
Another option in the pouch sling category is to make your own. If you are artsy or need to save the money on it, then go here to see a pattern and design by Kharma Baby. They have an entire tutorial to teach you how to make your own sling and give you recommendations for which fabrics are better for certain climates and certain situations.
The pouch slings can accomodate babies from newborn up to around 35-40 pounds. There are several different ways to wear your baby in a pouch. You can cradle carry them (baby lays down in the sling), they can sit up facing mom or dad, sit up facing out to the world, or can sit over on either of your hips as well. So there are tons of options with these.
Again though, remember, since these slings don’t put equal pressure on both shoulders, I don’t recommend them for long-term use. We use the pouch sling for quick grocery store or mall trips. If you’re going to be wearing your baby for a long period of time then you need a sling or carrier than goes over both of your shoulders and evenly distributes the weight. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for neck and shoulder tension. If you’ll switch which shoulder you wear the baby on every other time you wear the sling it will alleviate much of the stress and will help strengthen spinal muscles to help with balance. One other thing, because newborn infants have no control over their postural muscles yet, you need to really work at keeping them upright on you while wearing them so that they do not have problems breathing while in the sling. You want to make sure that baby is in a position where you can see their face and check on them easily to ensure they can breath correctly. If your baby gets into a extreme C-curve, fetal position (with their chin on their chest) they can get into a position that makes it difficult for them to breathe. So just make sure and keep them upright and you won’t have any problems at all. And above all, be patient with your carrier, and listen to your baby and they will tell you if they’re happy in the position they are in or not.
Ease of use + adjustability…..
2. Ring Slings: Another in the family of “easy to operate” slings are the ring slings. These slings are a longer piece of fabric that are adjustable, with one end of the sling threaded through two metal rings. The rings operate like some belts that you thread the material through to be able to adjust for baby and parent and then hold tension to keep them in the position you put them in. Like the pouch slings, ring slings are much faster to get baby in and out of and take very little “prep time”, but you have to pay more attention to baby to ensure good positioning because there is less support due to less structure. Like pouch slings, ring slings can accomodate babies from birth up to 40 lbs. So here’s a short line-up of popular ring sling manufacturers.
Maya Wraps are some of the most popular ring slings on the market today. They have padded versions of their slings that are really nice and have probably the most selection as far as patterns and types of cloth. You can’t go wrong with this sling.
Zolowear is a company I introduced further up the page for their pouch carriers, but they also make an adustable ring sling. They have 3 different options on fabric: cotton, silk, and breathable mesh (which I’m excited about). The materials are important for the baby of course, but also for you because you’ll be wearing them on you so you want material that is comfortable.
Ellaroo makes a ring sling as well that is a soft cotton sling that is slightly padded. This company had a recall on their ring slings in March 2008 because they had an issue with their rings bending and breaking (4 reports, no injuries) but they have since resolved the flaw in the make of the sling and I haven’t found any negative reports on their slings since.
Again, my issue with these type of carriers, as a Chiropractor is that they go over one shoulder and the baby rides on one hip, creating postural stress and pressure on your shoulders. They’re a little harder on your neck and shoulders due to being uneven and this gets worse as baby gets heavier. So I would definitely advise switching shoulders continuously to keep the muscles balanced with these. The other issue I had while using them with Harper was that the “ring” on the ring slings frequently rubbed on my clavicle (collar bone) on whatever side I had it on and created some discomfort while I had him in the sling. Not all the slings are like this and there are alternatives to where you let the ring sit on your shoulder so this may not be an issue with everyone.
Just like with pouch slings like I put up top, you can also make your own ring sling. There’s a great resource on making many different slings here so check out the patterns and plans for ring slings and you can buy good quality aluminum rings for the sling on this same site.
Functionality and durability that has stood the test of time…
3. Asian-style carriers (ASC): These carriers are inspired by the traditional carriers of Asia that have a panel of fabric or cloth with tie-on straps to attach baby to the parents’ body. I personally really like these carriers because they’re a little more rugged (some of them) and they are easy to tie and use. They also are good for kids that are a little older to help them with back carries. Mei Tais, Podaegis, and Onbuhimos are all ASCs.
Mei Tai Baby has a really nice version of the mei tai carriers. These are really stylish and have great padding and material. These slings run around $80. On their website they have a great option to “build your own” sling. You can mix and match patterns and fabrics and it is a really fun way to get exactly what you want in your sling. They say these slings are good for front, back and side carry, but I never could figure out the side carry…only the front and back. Not that it can’t be done and every company has instructional information on their site and that they send with their carriers…I just didn’t figure it out. I like that these slings are good for older kids as well as they get bigger and you need to carry them for awhile. But babies fit in here as well, the only thing is that since the baby’s legs would have to go out the sides pretty far if you used it exactly, that would put undue pressure in their hip joints if they’re that young. So for infants, just frog-leg them in the carrier so it doesn’t effect their hips. Free Hand Baby also makes a mei tai carrier than is really nice.
Podaegis wraps are similar to mei tai’s but only have 2 straps and more material. Ellaroo makes one and again, you can make your own. These come with more instruction because you need a little more help to get baby in, but once you do, they are GREAT with smaller infants! I love the amount of material they have on them. The downside to this carrier is how low the baby usually sits on your back. You need to try and keep them higher on your back if possible otherwise it puts a lot of stress and strain on your lower back.
The third type of ASC is an Onbuhimo carrier. Yes, that’s the way it is spelled and I am totally getting one of these carriers for myself. I never heard of these carriers until doing the research for this blog post (see, I learn stuff too!!), but I’m in love with this carrier. This carrier is much like the podaegi carrier in that it has a flap of material and 2 straps versus the mei tai’s 4 straps…BUT, the onbuhimo has rings attached to the bottom of the fabric you feed the straps through to tie baby onto your back or front with! I love that idea because you get the great hold of a podaegi, but with a lot easier time positioning baby. These carriers are a little bit harder to find, but you can always make your own again. I found a great tutorial online to make your own here. Her design and instructions seem very sound and look to make a really sturdy carrier.
So there are some ideas on the different types of pouch slings, ring slings, and asian-style carriers there are out there. I really recommend that you try to find one of each that you like because they really are for different purposes. The pouches and ring slings are for more quick-trip needs (grocery store, etc) due to the fact that long-term use is going to affect your spinal structure and support and can cause neck and back pain. The ASCs have much better overall support, but are a little bit more Ninja-riffic so you have to practice with them some to get the hang of them. Once you do, you’ll love them.
So if I had to say what our favorites were off of this post here’s what they would be:
1. Karma Baby pouch sling: This sling is so comfortable and so quick and easy. I don’t really like the ring slings as much and they are a little more hastle to use when they are the same idea really as far as how they sit on the parent and the quick-use feature.
2. Mei Tai asian carrier: This is one of the best all-around carriers because it is super-easy to learn to use (you don’t have to be an Eagle Scout to figure it out!) and it is comfortable for both parent and baby and can be worn for long distances and longer times due to the double shoulder strap feature.
We carry the Karma Baby sling since we like it so much so you can always contact us for those, but the others I have placed links on them to be able to find a dealer or a pattern to create your own.
After searching online and doing some digging, I found a couple small business companies that make slings that are really awesome so check these guys out.
Sasha’s Creations: Sasha makes pretty much every kind of sling but has a great version of the mei tai that I’m probably going to guy for myself because it has such a wide shoulder strap that makes it really comfortable for carrying baby. She also does custom work and custom orders and will make them out of material you send her if you like.
Monkey Bug Carriers: This is another great find!!! I came across her while I was researching Podaegi carriers and found her company facebook page. Her name is Kim Odom and she started this business in April of 2010. She also does custom work and has some really competitive pricing and great tutorials on her page. Go check her out!
Bundle With Love: Another good alternative to find different styles of mei tai wraps and pouch slings.
Hip Green Baby: Kristi Rooks is a dear friend of ours and we have been doing business with her ever since we had Harper. We’ve attended and hosted her cloth diaper parties (you should do this too to learn about everything there is to learn on this) and have a couple of her wraps. She makes mei tai’s as well and has tons of other supplies and things you need for you and for baby. Incredible lady with an incredible family.
The next post will cover wraps and soft structured back-pack style carriers. It was already going to be a super long post as it was so I didn’t want it to end up being 4000 words!!
Tell me which of these slings/pouches that you guys like?? Any success making your own?