Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Wear? How? Part I

by Tami Grosset

In last Tuesdays blog I explained what babywearing is and outlined the benefits of the practice. Over the next two weeks I plan to give a brief overview of the 5 types of carrier and the basics of how they are used.

Ring Slings
Ring slings are a great poppable carrier and can be used for newborns all the way up to toddlers. There is a great variety of price points for ring slings going from the widely accessible Maya Wrap ring sling, to the fancier Sakura Bloom, with much in between and beyond. At the top end of the price spectrum there are woven conversion ring slings where a woven wrap (offering a supremely supportive carry) is converted into a ring sling by a conversion company. WCRSs are often a high price point as you have to factor in the cost of the woven wrap plus the conversion costs.

Ring slings all work on the same basic principle but vary greatly depending on the fabric used, what kind of shoulder it has and whether it has open or closed tails, like the Heart2Heart RS.

The Heart2Heart RS has a closed tail. You can see the two rails sewn into tail just above the heart and below the rings.

Threading your ring sling can be tricky if you've never done it before. First hold your sling with the wrong side up. Next take the end of the tail and gather the end up concertina style (it doesn't have to be neat.) Take the concertina-ed tail and thread it through both rings. Then split the rings and thread them back over the first ring and through the second ring. You're done! In case you're a visual learner this video clip might be useful.

Please excuse my messy hair!
When preparing to use your ring sling you need to first decide which shoulder to wear it on. You should have the sling so the rings sit on the front side of your shoulder; start with them quite high. Often when you tighten up the sling the rings slip down and you don't want them too low so starting high will be in your interest!

Ensure that the rails (the edges of the fabric) are situated at either side of the rings. This will help you find the rails easily to tighten the sling and will allow the fabric to move through the rings smoothly.

Tighten the bottom rail; the one that will go under baby's bum and knees (if sitting with legs out). If you plan to carry your baby with legs in you will want to get the bottom rail nice and snug. If bub will be seated with his legs out you will want to leave enough space to get their legs through.

Loosen the top rail; the one that will go behind baby's neck. There is no need to loosen lots; just enough to get your baby into the sling.

Holding your baby on the ringless shoulder in a burp position lower them into the pouch that you've created. If you're wearing them with legs out reach up from under the sling to help 'thread' their legs through.

A newborn can sit with their legs froggied up and in the carrier.

Pull the top rail up to the top of baby's back and neck and tighten the top rail. Be careful to tighten just the top rail. Pulling on the whole tail will have the effect of making the pouch more shallow but making just the top rail snug will create the support and comfort that your baby will need to sit securely in the sling.

The top rail need not be pulled up behind the head. In fact newbie bubs often find this uncomfortable. If the top rail sits at the top of the neck the head will be well enough supported.

If you find the shoulder is cutting into your neck lift baby's weight with one hand. This will allow some slack at the shoulder and you can adjust to comfort.

Finally reach behind you and tug the bottom rail down. This spreads the weight further across the back and increases the comfort for the wearer.

And you're done!

There are many other ways to use a ring sling, including a back carry which is demonstrated towards the end of this clip;

Stretchy Wraps
Stretchy wraps are a fabulous option for newborn babies. The elasticity of the fabric allows the wrap to hug the babies body nicely and creates the perfect womb outside the womb. There are several SWs available; Moby Wrap, Maman Kangarou and Hugabub are names that spring to mind. These are all wraps made from 100% jersey cotton and all wrapped on in the same way, as in this clip by Moby;

One of the best priced stretchy wraps on the market is the Boba wrap (previously known as the Sleepy Wrap).  The Boba is slightly different with its fiber content being 95% cotton and  5% spandex. The slight amount of spandex makes the wrap super stretchy and as a result, when worn correctly, it is a superbly supportive wrap and incredibly easy to use. Once the wrap is on there is no need to adjust or re-tie for the whole day! Due to the spandex content the way you wrap with it is slightly different, like this;

Once the wrap is on your body you can pop your baby in! Here are the Boba instructions on how to use it for a newborn;

and for an older child with their legs out;

You can use other stretchy wraps in much the same way simply accounting for the difference in tension due to the lack of spandex in other SWs. 

Stretchy wraps are awesome carriers for newborn baby's but there is a limit to what you can do with them. It is possible to use them for a hip carry but it is not safe to use a SW for a back carry. This clip demonstrates nicely why this is the case.

Pouch slings are lovely poppable slings which are great for babies who are able to sit up and hold their head up on their own. They are not ideal for newborns. A newborn has to lie in a cradle position in a pouch sling and this position carries a high risk for positional asphyxiation. This is where their chin may rest on their chest, causing a kink in the airway. Ideally newborns should ride in a carrier in a visible and kissable position; upright and high enough on the wearers front so that they can kiss them. This is not possible to do with a pouch sling and so we recommend parents save a pouch sling for when baby is old enough to be carried in a seated position.

Pouch slings, like Seven Slings or the original Hot Sling are sized to fit the primary wearer. This means that they may not be easily shared with another parent. If your partner and yourself are different sizes you will probably find a ring sling a better option. The Adjustable Hot Sling pouch (which is adjusted before putting the baby into the pouch) is designed to adjust in size for multiple, different sized users and this could be a good option also. It is important that the pouch is correctly sized for you as if it is too small it will be hard to get the infant into the carrier and if it is too big you will likely find it uncomfortable and lacking support. Generally, to check on the size, when wearing it like a beauty pageant sash, the bottom edge of the sling should hit your opposite hip.

Once the sling is on simply pop your child in the pouch ensuring their bum is deep in the seat and the bottom rail stretches from knee to knee. Pull the top rail up nice and high to support their back securely. If your child prefers to have their arms out that is fine but if they nod off you'll probably want to tuck them in again.

For added tension you might want to flip the shoulder.

And you're done again!!

The pouch sling can be used for front hip and back carries, in much the same way you would use a ring sling. They are light and pack down small which makes them awesome carriers for keeping in the car or in a purse for those babywearing emergencies!


Next week I will outline the soft structured and mei tai carriers as well as the wonderful world of the woven wrap! Plus offer some notes on carriers to avoid.

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