Sunday, April 22, 2012

The low-down on slings...

I have posted before about my sling.  I love it.  I've been babywearing since my firstborn was born, which means I've been wearing a baby nonstop since the fall of 2006. I'm not exaggerating. I wore Riley up until the day Allyn was born. I was still wearing Allyn regularly when I left for Ethiopia.  A sling is my #1 baby item, hands down. If I had to choose between my sling and diapers, I'd have a really hard time making the decision. I think I'd buy a lot of slings and wash them every day. Slings are just that great.

I promise I'm not lying when I say people comment on my sling pretty much every time I wear it, which is several times a day!  I'm sure some of it has to do with the bright colors, but I do think folks are intrigued. Baby wearing has gotten a lot more common these days, but I used to get some funny looks/comments back when I wore my first son around.

The sling was wonderful for attachment for my first two biological children. I loved having them close to me, I loved that they could be near me even when I had other things to do. I loved that I could nurse them in the sling and no one would notice (I have a few funny stories about that!!)  No one can steal your baby from you when he's in a sling.  I don't mean actually steal, but you know how over-excited people can make their way over to you and your new baby and the next thing you know, your child has been transferred into their arms and you aren't even sure how that happened? Well, that can't happen when your child is in a sling. Which is especially nice during cold and flu season, or for over-protective first-time mamas (we've all been there!), or, more recently for me, the adopted child who would happily hand himself over to any random stranger.

And with my adopted child, I am even MORE in love with my sling.  And ever since I've been babywearing, I've had both adoptive and non-adoptive mamas ask me lots of questions.  And my one friend has even asked for a blog about it... so here you go Anna! :)

Let me start off by saying why a sling is so helpful with attachment.  A child that is next to your body in a sling is interacting with you even if you aren't paying any attention to him.  He can feel your heart beat, feel your body heat, he can be touching you or having some skin-to-skin contact; all things that we know are helpful for bonding.  That's wonderful for both biological and adoptive kiddos.  Newborn babies aren't yet aware that they are separate beings from their mamas, so being in a sling is so comforting for them.   Also, you can have more interactions with your child while they are in the sling, even if you are doing something else.  Amani can be in the sling and we can be out shopping and without realizing it, I've been planting little kisses on his forehead, patting his back, smoothing his hair, making occasional eye contact... all things I could never have done had he been in a stroller or even in the child seat of a grocery cart.

And then there is the practical side to slings. When you are in a store with a stroller, you're taking up a lot of space.  If you are somewhere crowded, you can't really move until the crowd parts enough for you to push your stroller through.  When your child is in a sling, you don't take up all that much more space than your own body. You can maneuver through crowds, stores with narrow aisles, etc, with MUCH more ease.  You can go to the bathroom without figuring out where to put your stroller. And yes, you can go to the bathroom WHILE wearing your child in the sling, or help an older child go to the bathroom while wearing the youngest in a sling.  It keeps them from touching everything in there. yuck.

The other added bonus of the sling is that your hands are free.  For me, that meant still having enough hands to hold hands with my older two as we cross the parking lot, it means I can still carry their art projects and lunchbags to the car from preschool.  It means I can use two hands to push a grocery cart that already has two kids in it and still have the baby with us.  Whenever I've traveled with the kids, I've brought my umbrella stroller to put my bags in and put the child in the sling.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, folks.

Need I say more? Are you convinced already?  Let me tell you a little more about the different types of slings!

I have a ring sling. My particular one is a Maya Wrap. You can also find ring slings on etsy. I love ring slings. Mine has a big pocket, which I would say is ESSENTIAL. I wouldn't buy a sling that doesn't have a big pocket. I throw my wallet, car keys, snack trap, and sippy cup in there and then I can leave the whole diaper bag in the car when we go to the grocery store.  I can even put my wipes case and a diaper in there if we're headed somewhere and I think we might need a diaper change.  With a ring sling, you can wear a tiny baby laying down across your chest (though I never got the hang of that), or facing you with their legs froggy-style, and you can wear a hip-baby on your hip.  You can also wear your child on your chest facing-out but I never liked that much.

Another kind is the moby wrap. If I were starting over with a newborn, I think I'd get one of these. It's a loooooong stretchy piece of fabric that you wrap around you and your baby until the baby is sufficiently tied to you. :)  I think there is a big learning curve for a moby wrap but from what I hear from my friends who use them, it is really worth it to figure it out (and it comes with instructions).  And I think you can wear your child any way you want with those things. Really, like you could have the child strapped to your head if you wanted. Well, maybe not that. But they're versatile.

There are also pocket slings like hotslings. They aren't my favorite.  You buy them by size (S, M, L) and they aren't adjustable.  The baby goes in the sling the same way as a ring sling but there's no way to tighten or loosen anything.  I'm just not sure how folks use those things long-term.

The last one I can think of is the Ergo. These are really cool. You can wear your baby on your chest facing you, wear him on your hip, AND on your back. I never had one but I've borrowed them from friends from time-to-time. And as I write about them, I'm kinda considering getting one for Amani. ha. Please don't tell my husband. Mei Tais are like this too in that you can use them front, back, and sometimes hip for your baby.

The only baby-wearing item that I really don't like is that Baby Bjorn thing.  I actually don't even consider that true babywearing.  I had one for my oldest when he was a baby. I thought it was great at the time but I knew nothing about slings then. Now I think they're kind of awful.  I know some parents who like theirs, but I think it's something you pay a lot of money for and you have a very small window during which you can really use it. You can wear your baby on your chest. That's it.  There's little opportunity to actually be interacting with your child if you put her in it facing out (and some evidence that it's not a good position for little bodies), so she's just hanging from your chest. For an adopted kiddo I see zero value in it.  I guess there's nothing really wrong with the Baby Bjorn, I just don't understand why you'd get one when there are so many better options.

Sooooo... having or adopting a newborn? I'd recommend checking out ring slings, moby wraps, Ergos or Mei Tais.  Adopting an older baby? Ring sling is the way to go!  Or Ergo, or Mei Tai I think.  I brought my ring sling with me to Ethiopia and Amani loved it so much that I actually carried it with us around the guest house because he would often pick it up and hold it out to me to tell me he wanted to be in it! When he was fighting sleep like a champ, I put him in the sling and we could walk around together as long as it took in order for him to fall asleep.  Now that he's getting crazy heavy, I'm really thinking I need to sew myself a Mei Tai so I can wear him on my back.

I hope I've just made some new babywearing converts out there... please feel free to ask me any questions! I'm not really an expert, but at least I've been babywearing nonstop for almost 6 years now. :)


  1. SO good to know. I thought I wasn't a "sling person" and that made me sad. The Moby Wrap was too hot for Uganda, so I left it there. My Baby Bjorn didn't thrill me. Maybe I should still give other slings a shot... including the Moby, when I'm not next to the Equator with no AC! :)

  2. Lauren McSwain-StarrettMay 5, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Hi Kirstin - You didn't mention the Baby K'tan - I think it's a GREAT option that I just discovered. I think it's maybe a lot like the "Baby Nest" that someone else mentioned on your Facebook. Both seem to be hybrids mixing the best of both slings and front carriers! I definitely LOVE mine.


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