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Choosing a baby carrier or sling

As if being pregnant isn’t hard enough, suddenly you have all these new things to learn about. Although the shopping can be fun, deciding what you need to buy and which product to choose can be very confusing for first time parents. This article aims to help you to find out more about some of the slings and baby carriers that are available, and will help you to decide which will best suit your needs.

An essential piece of baby equipment
There are many advantages to using a sling or carrier: it keeps your baby safe, happy and close; using a sling allows you to have your hands free for other tasks or older children; and it’s a great way of settling a tired fretful baby. My first child was the sort of baby who hated to be put down. Without our trusty Wilkinet, I don’t think my husband or I would have managed to eat a hot meal in the first 2 months of Oscar’s life!

When you’re out and about a sling is a great way of transporting a baby – your baby is kept warm and snug in the winter, and a fabric sling will keep them well covered in the summer sun. Plus you don’t have the added hassle of manoeuvring a pushchair around shops or up and down steps.

A sling is ideal for keeping a tiny baby where they are happiest - close to your body where they are reassured by your heartbeat, and can enjoy the rhythm of your movements. An older baby will love being held up high with a good view of the world, and get lots of opportunity to interact with you and with other adults.

Things to consider when choosing a sling or baby carrier

Comfort for you
You want a sling or baby carrier that is going to be comfortable for you to wear. A comfortable carrier is one which holds the baby high up and tucked close against your body. Carriers which hang from your shoulders can be very uncomfortable when worn for any length of time, even with a newborn. You may have a baby who wants to be carried a lot, so you will need to choose a carrier which distributes the weight evenly. Slings or baby carriers with broad straps that distribute the weight across the back and torso tend to be more comfortable that those with thinner straps.

Comfort for your baby
Research suggests that upright baby carriers which spread the baby’s legs wide are preferable to ones where the baby hangs from the crotch with their weight directly above the pelvis. Although this wide legged position may look alarming it is actually the optimal position for the development of the baby’s pelvis. The carrier should then hold your baby close in against your body with support right along the length of the spine (for a newborn). Many slings and baby carriers can also be used in a cradle position for newborns so they can actually recline in the sling, although some babies seem to prefer to be held in a more upright position.

What will you be using it for?
Do you want a sling or baby carrier you can breastfeed in? Do you want a sling for around the house as well as when out and about? Will you be carrying your baby a lot of the time or just occasionally? (Your baby might have different ideas to you!)

How old is your child?
If you have a newborn or young baby, would you like a sling or baby carrier that will be suitable for carrying a toddler in too? Or will you be able to afford to buy another carrier more suitable for carrying a toddler in the future? This may sound extravagant but you can buy two baby carriers for the price of most pushchairs!

Types of sling and baby carrier

There are so many to choose from, that it can seem overwhelming at first. This section describes most of the main types of sling, and gives some of their advantages and disadvantages.

Ring Slings

Description
Maya Padded SlingThis is a sling which is made from a single piece of fabric which threads through two rings to form a loop. The sling is worn over one shoulder like a sash and can be tightened by pulling the fabric through the rings which then lock it into place. Some ring slings have padding in the shoulder and in the edges or ‘rails’ - this padding can make it more comfortable to wear, but can also make it bulkier and less easy to adjust. For this reason some people prefer unpadded slings, or ones with only very slight padding.

Examples
Huggababy, Ellaroo lightly padded sling, Maya Wrap, Slingeasy

Advantages
  • Quick and easy to get on and off
  • Suitable from birth to 2 years or more
  • Easy to lay a sleeping baby down without waking
  • Variety of different carrying positions
  • Distributes the weight between the shoulder and the pelvis

Disadvantages
  • Weight is not distributed evenly for the adult (on one shoulder rather than both)
  • One size may not fit both parents, especially with heavily padded slings

Pouch Slings

Description
Hotsling PouchThis is a single piece of fabric which is sewn together at the ends to form a loop. It is worn over one shoulder like a sash and the fabric is folded in on itself lengthways to form a pocket for the baby. Many can not be adjusted, however there are some which are adjustable with poppers or zips.

Examples
Coorie Pouch Sling, Maya Adjustable Pouch, the Tri-cotti Sling is a double pouch so you wear one on each shoulder.

Advantages
  • Quick and easy to get on and off
  • The non-adjustable type are very good value
  • Easy to make yourself
  • Suitable for all ages of baby

Disadvantages
  • The non-adjustable type needs to fit you just right otherwise it won’t be comfortable for you or your baby (so won’t usually fit both parents)
  • Can be difficult to get a nice snug carrying position as you can’t adjust the top edge separately as you can with a ring sling.

Wraparounds

Description
Kari-me WrapA wraparound sling or carriers consists of a single piece of fabric which is wrapped around and tied in such a way that the baby is held securely against your body. There are two main sub-categories of wraparound; those which are made of a woven fabric, and those which are made of stretchy knitted fabric (like T-shirt material). They come in a variety of lengths, partly to suit different sized wearers, but also dependent on which type of carrying positions you would like to be able to use.

Examples
Stretchy: Cuddly Wrap, Kari-me, Moby
Woven: Ellaroo wrap, Hoppediz, Storchenwiege

Advantages
  • Distributes the weight of the baby exceptionally well so very comfortable to wear even for long periods
    with heavy toddlers
  • Suitable from birth to 2 years or more
  • Variety of different carrying positions

Hoppediz Wrap Disadvantages
  • Takes a little practise to learn how to tie
  • Not very quick to put on
  • Some people don’t like the feeling of being wrapped in the fabric

Generally the Stretchy Wraps are less supportive than the Woven Wraps.

Stretchy Wraps are slightly easier to put on as you tend to use one tying method for all carrying positions. Plus you can put your baby down while you tie the wrap on, the stretch in the fabric will allow you to pull the fabric apart to put them in after you've tied the knot.

The Woven Wraps have a bit more of a learning curve as most carrying positions involve tying the wrap around yourself and your baby which is a little more fiddly for those who are new to wraps. However the woven fabric gives superior back support so these wraps work well even with heavy toddlers.

Soft Structured Carriers

Description
Patapum Baby CarrierThis is quite a large category that lots of carriers fall into, so it’s hard to give an accurate description that will cover all of them. If you want to find out exactly what features a particular carrier offers you will need to look at a website which sells them. Broadly speaking though, this term refers to a more structured carrier than those described above.

A soft carrier will have shoulder straps for securing the carrier and will often have a waist strap too. The baby is either supported by their crotch or across their entire bottom. Some are suitable from birth, but not all. Some are suitable for carrying on the hip or the back as well as on the front. Some fasten with clips, others wrap and tie.

Those that are suitable for smaller babies usually have a smaller 'body' to the carrier or fold down so that a newborn won't be lost in them. Some allow adjustment of the seat/crotch to make it narrower for smaller babies. Those that are designed for older babies and toddlers have a larger 'body' so they offer good back support even for older, taller children.

Examples
Wilkinet Carrier, Patapum Baby Carrier, Patapum Toddler Carrier, Ellaroo Mei-Tai, Maya Tie

It’s not really possible to give a list of advantages and disadvantages as there is so much variety within this category. If you want to know more about a particular type of carrier then it’s best to get in touch with someone who sells them for advice. Generally those that can be used for back carrying are suitable for carrying older, heavier babies. Most are fairly easy to get on and off for a front carry. Getting a baby into a back carrier is always harder but with practise it is possible to do this on your own with some carriers (the Ergo or Patapum are particularly good for this).

Would you like to find out more?

At Little Possums you can shop online for baby slings and carriers. Feel free to Contact us at Little Possums for more advice before making your purchase if required.

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