Written last Aprilish....but for some reason, never posted... :-) We still love our ring sling!
I like variety. And I love variety in my baby carriers. Someone asked me recently to fess up as to how many carriers I have (12-15, for those who are curious- but some of those are available for selling, and most are ones I’m willing to loan), and then asked if I’ve figured out a favorite yet. In short, not really….they are all so useful for different purposes! Depending on the need, the baby, and my mood, I like different ones.
But I’m pretty sure, if someone could have just one baby carrier, for birth through toddlerhood, I’d recommend a ring sling. (That opinion might change if I can manage to fall in love with my woven wrap at some point…if the person was up for the learning curve.) It’s versatile and simple….and there are many gorgeous ones available.
Ring slings are especially wonderful for the early months; maybe birth through around 18 pounds. With a baby that light, the one shoulder system offers plenty of support and weight distribution, and can be worn the entire day. Ring slings are easy to get on and off, and can even be gotten on/adjusted while holding your baby, making them a good option for places where you can’t necessarily set your baby down to get adjusted correctly. However, even though Vivi’s over 23 pounds, I’ve been greatly enjoying using it with her, lately. I can no longer comfortably wear her for the whole day in it (but, honestly, I don’t wear her for the whole day, anyway- she has a world to explore, now), but I can still wear her for an hour or two at a time quite comfortably. For longer periods than that, or something more rigorous like a fast walk or hiking, I would prefer an ergo baby carrier or a Kozy mei tai. Another benefit for the maya wrap and toddlers is how fast it is to put on. It takes me hardly any time to throw the sling over my shoulder, pop Vivi in, and pull on the tail to tighten it. This is especially great if you have a toddler who’s on the go, but still needs mommy snuggles.
A great feature is the ability to nurse discreetly and hands free in it, simply by loosening the back rail while baby’s in the cradle position. When Vivi hit a sudden fascination with nursing around the clock again recently, I started nursing her in the sling a lot. And at a year old and 23+lbs, we can still do it comfortably! I didn’t nurse her in it when she was younger, as I didn’t use it often the first couple months. However, I have fallen in love with it so completely that I anticipate it being my favorite carrier when our next little one is an infant…and an important criteria for a carrier in the early months, for me, is being able to nurse in it. I need the ability to be able to put the baby on the breast whenever they need it, even if I’m in the store, in the middle of a time-sensitive meal, or helping Viviana with something.
One of my favorite things about the ring sling, and something Vivi and I used it extensively for from about 6 weeks-6 months, is the ability to curl the baby’s legs up and face them out in a “kangaroo carry”. You can do this with an older baby, as well, but you may find having all their weight balled up in front of you (instead of distributed around you) isn’t quite as supportive. Many moms give up babywearing with the declaration that their baby doesn’t like it, when what’s really happening is that the baby wants to see. Most babies are attentive and observant, and they want to see what you’re doing. Once they’re older and bigger, they can do this while facing you, or peeking over your shoulder from your back, but as a little one, facing you doesn’t allow much visibility. Viviana loved riding along this way, seeing everything I did throughout the day. She would also fall asleep in this position, which was an easier position to transfer her into bed from, as I could just loosen the sling up, tuck in my neck and slip it over my head, while supporting her with one arm as I eased her down. The kangaroo carry can’t be done in most other carriers.
Once Vivi got quite a bit heavier, I shifted more to my ergo and mei tai for a few months. But recently, I’ve rediscovered the world of ring slings, and I’m in love all over again. It’s almost always my carrier of choice right now for shopping, or quick sessions when she wants up while I’m doing something. For things where I’m doing a lot of bending, like cleaning bathrooms, I prefer to have her on my back in a 2-shoulder carrier. We’ve shopped for up to a couple hours at a time with just our sling, and both of us were very comfortable. She likes to ride on my hip (and so far I haven’t found another carrier with as comfortable a hip ability), and placing her there helps distribute her weight better.
If you’re considering purchasing a sling, I would recommend a maya wrap or a slingified wrap from Sleeping Baby Productions. You can make your own as well, and there are lots of patterns online. But I have to say, after not being able to see justifying spending the $60 to buy one when I could make one for $10, I’ve been converted. I’ve been using a real (lightly padded) maya wrap for a few months, since receiving one for teaching classes, and I’m in love. The difference just between their fabric and what I can find makes an incredible difference. Slingified wraps are also very comfortable because wraps are made out of a supportive fabric…and, they’re incredibly gorgeous! So, if you can afford it, I would recommend going for the real thing. You can get great deals on slings that look brand new on ebay- I’ve bought a couple this way to either resell at cost or have on hand to loan out. Otherwise, making your own is a great option. Also, if you are able to get a second carrier for when your baby’s older, you might find that a homemade one meets your needs perfectly- I didn’t have any issues in spite of wearing Vivi in my homemade slings all day, everyday.