Baby Wearing 101: Using Baby Slings and Wraps

Here’s another recycled post from our early blogging days at GBG.  With my second baby, I’ve found that the sling is just as necessary as with our first.  This time we’ve invested in a Kangaroo Korner’s all weather pouch sling and use it on a daily basis.  Let us know what your favorite sling is and how your baby likes it!

When I was pregnant, I purchased a used Baby Bjorn thinking it was a standard piece of equipment. I did not realize at the time that sleep deprivation would make me incapable of understanding complicated directions for a front pack. At one point I found myself trapped with Roscoe strapped to my chest asleep. I was exhausted but instead of flopping into bed, I sat on the couch for an hour until my husband got home from work–––afraid that I’d roll over on my baby and smother him while he was in Baby Bjorn bondage. Important disclaimer! Many a mother has found the Baby Bjorn to be a wonderful piece of equipment, so don’t let my ineptitude derail you from considering this perfectly legitimate option for baby wearing.

Finding a sling for Roscoe was actually a happy accident. My husband and I had resigned ourselves to the side effects of Roscoe’s colic––a constant ringing in our ears and the tendency to bounce up and down automatically at the sound of a squeal, even if it came from a fire truck. Then we visited a friend who convinced me to try her ring sling, a Maya Wrap. She whipped it over my head, tucked Roscoe inside, and had him sleeping in a matter of seconds.

Maya Wraps consist of a long strip of hand woven cloth made by a cooperative of Guatemalan women and looped through two large rings that cinch the baby in place. You can buy the fabric in colorful striped patterns but we were happy to be borrowing a solid cream-colored sling that blended with whatever we wore. The Maya Wrap also comes with an instructional video which greatly helps sleep deprived minds cope with the simple operating instructions.

After I started using the sling it occurred to me that during the nearly four months I spent living in Guatemala a decade ago, I saw countless babes tucked into slings on buses and soundly asleep while their parents bartered for mangos in the local street market. Its simple brilliance is now making it a hit with several American moms.

For Roscoe snoozing in the sling seemed to remind him of the womb. As a result, I could vacuum, write, shop, and even use the bathroom with him happily tucked against my chest. I brought him to work at just a few months old and was able to do most of my regular tasks with him snugly nestling. When my husband completed the Portland Marathon, Roscoe was nursing deep within the sling and I could take a finish line picture without worrying about flashing the unsuspecting spectators.

As Roscoe grew a bit and fall turned into winter, another dedicated friend let us use an adjustable fleece pouch sling. Once we had determined the size we wanted it at, it was snapped into place and was extremely easy to take on and off. They purchased the sling at Kangaroo Corner, which has several varieties of slings and recommendations on what to use for each age.

Another type of sling is a wrap—a very long piece of fabric that can be used to tie the baby on in all sorts of ways. After much research, Rebecca bought an Ellaroo wrap from this website, which sells many other types of wraps and slings and contains helpful pictures and detailed baby wearing instructions. Unfortunately, her squirmy baby did not enjoy being worn in this type of wrap for more than ten or fifteen minutes, so it was probably not the best use of money.

Here she enjoys a rare non-squirmy moment in the Ellaroo.

Since these slings can each be very expensive, it might be good to see whether baby likes them before purchasing. Rebecca sewed her own tube-style sling for only five dollars using the directions from this website. For her first few months of life, Audrey would settle down instantly once she was nestled into the sling.

After that ten-week period, the magical sling lost its powers and Rebecca’s baby refused to ever be worn again, so the calming results aren’t universal. The greenest, cheapest option is to find lots of kind friends and hope that they’ll let you borrow their baby slings, thereby saving the planet, saving a buck, and (hopefully) saving you some hours of screaming.

Comments

  1. I have to confess, I didn’t find the Maya Wrap easy at all. My husband watched the DVD with me, and between the two of us, we could never figure out how to get him comfortably inside it. I sort of made it work for the first couple of months, but the heavier he got, the more uncomfortable it was (and yes, I was definitely not using it correctly). It was a total waste of 40 bucks. You never mention an Ergo, but that has been our favorite hands down. He’s almost fifteen months and still loves to be carried. I can get him on my back without any help, although I kind of miss the chest carry.

  2. The ERGO!!! Technically it is probably not a sling but it is the best. It has a lage weight range and both my sons love it. I had the bjorn and I liked it until my first grew out of it very quickly. I needed something to carry my first in at 8 months old bc we were going to Barbados and they have extremely narrow sidewalks there and no room for strollers. My son loved it. He would just chill there. I was able to nurse him with noone knowing and it was great to have that closeness. My husband loved it to. For my 2nd I purchased the infant insert to go with the carry and what a great investment. It is so easy to nurse my little guy and at restuarants or any type of function I do not have to leave to go to another area or room, I just nurse him right wee I am and noone knows!!!!

  3. My favorite is the mei-tai, the one I have is handmade by a WAHM friend. I also like the moby wrap, but do not own one, just borrowed one from a friend. Just like you suggested!

  4. Ergo and Beco are both popular soft structured options. They are safe, comfortable and easy to use! We use our Ergo regularly.

    Mei Tai’s are also a fairly easy to use style carrier with some structure.

    The style of carrier you choose will depend on what you are going to be using the carrier for primarily! I would highly suggest talking to someone that sells carriers or trying them on before making a purchase. Each baby and carrier will feel different on every person. So even if your friend tells you that she “loved” her _____________ carrier, does not mean that you will!

    Have fun exploring the options as there are many out there!

  5. We invested in an Ergo and found it to be uncomfortable for our BIG selves – my husband and I are both about XXL t-shirt sized, 6 foot tall + people. We even got the extendo waist thingy but found the Ergo to be fairly useless for us, expecially on our backs, where both our sons (one was in 40% for his age and one 90%) seemed totally squashed like a flattened frog from frogger on our backs and no happy.

    We found the Kangaroo Korner fleece to be awesome – hands down our fav for the 1st year, easy, stretchy and in various sizes for various sized people.

    Now that our #2 just turned 1 and is 26 + lbs. (and it’s summer) we’re using a hip style EllaRoo which I love, but my husband compains about getting kicked in a not-so-pleasant-area during it’s use. Luckily we have an early and very independant walker so the sling will be retired all together soon for a much more sturdy Deuter hiking style backpack to use on long walks and trips to the zoo.

  6. I found the front-pack type carrier to be most comfortable for walking in the early days, but you’re right–it’s pretty much impossible to extract a sleeping baby from it without waking him. And I never used the back-carry option because it required someone else to take the baby in and out, and on my maternity leave, it was just me and the baby at home most of the time.

    I used an Infantino sling a lot in the early days. If my son fell asleep, it was easy to take off and lay him down in it, and the fact that he was strapped in reassured me that he wouldn’t fall out while I was wearing him.

    When he was 6 months old I bought a HotSling and only ever used the hip carry option as by then he was too big to use it as a pouch. I loved that it folded up really small (unlike my other two carriers) so I could easily tuck it in the diaper bag when I wasn’t using it. You do have to be careful how you adjust it on yourself, though, to avoid shoulder pain. I had thought about getting a Mei Tai but the price seemed a bit steep.

  7. A caution about the Infantio and other “bag-style” slings: http://babyslingsafety.blogspot.com/

    They are much more prone to causing positional asphyxia and lowered oxygen saturations than other, better-designed slings.

    For all kinds of great babywearing information, links to local meetings (and help), and forums that will help your readers find the right carriers for themselves and their babies, please visit http://www.thebabywearer.com. Babies and their needs change with time, so a carrier that didn’t work with a 10-week-old can generally still be used when s/he gets older; there are hip carry positions, for example, that your friend with the Ellaroo could try now that the baby is older. Carriers like the Bjorn often have limited usage (ever try putting a toddler in one of those?) but wraps, slings, and mei tais are good through at least 3 years, give or take.

  8. Actually I’m for Ergo baby backpack carriers. I used wraparounds for the first few months, but once my sweetheart become rolling over I switched to backpack ones.

  9. I was babysitting for my neice the other day and used my sister’s Moby wrap. She pulled it out with 5 minutes before she had to get to her thing and showed me quickly how to use it (this is a baby who likes to be held all the time). All I can say is it’s a good thing I’m good at math and geometry! There definitely is a trick to getting it on, but once on, I was amazed at how secure and lightweight the baby felt. The best thing was looking in the mirror. This thing was actually figure flattering! And pretty enough to wear for a night on the town. Seriously, why weren’t there moby wraps when my kids were babies?

  10. Jillian Hadley says

    I must say that while I think this is a good article, I loved baby wearing and miss it, and I very much think slings are one of the absolute most important things you need when you are shopping for baby, I am extremely confused on why my sons picture is a part of this article…

  11. Jillian, this post was written back in 2009 and I imagine Joy wanted a picture of the ring sling in action. She probably did a quick search and took a picture she thought would be appropriate. Our updated policy is to post only pictures for which we have permission, or to give credit if required by the media’s licence. Pictures used prior to this policy change have not been changed.

    If you would like this image removed from our site, please let us know and we will comply immediately.

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