Sunderland Sling Library

Subtitle

There are lots of different types of slings each suiting different wearers, age of child and situations.

One of the reasons we have the library is so you can try the different types out to make buying one an easier choice.

Wrap Slings

Wraps are long lengths of wide material which are wrapped and tied around the wearer with the baby or child. They are very versatile, allowing a complete range of carries on one or both of the wearer’s shoulders, on the front or back of the wearer, can be used by different sized adults and are very comfortable for long periods.
There are a few main types of wrap slings:

Stretchy wraps

Stretchy wraps are the same length and used pre tied which makes them very easy to use for those new to slings. They are one of the most popular choices when carriying a newborn due to their ease and the softness of the Jersey fabric. However due to their stretch most users find that they want to move on to another carrier around 6 months but this is dependant on the weight of the child being carried and personal preferance. Stretchy wraps are only recommended for carrying your baby on your front and depending on brand up to max 30lb.

Woven wraps / German Style Woven

The woven wraps seem to be the most versitile of all the slings and can be used from birth up to when you want to stop carrying. The woven material and style of a wrap means you can use it to carry the child in a variety of ways on your front, back and hip. These type of wraps have a diagonal weave which many people find adds to the comfort when carrying a child. It also means you can carry a much heaver child easily. They are called German Style Woven or GSW because they first became popular in Germany. Nowadays they do not necessarily come from a German company.

Woven Wraps come in a variety of Sizes: The wrap length you'll need depends on the carrying method you choose as well as on your own size.
With thanks to Didymos for this Size Guide: http://www.didymos.de/en/DIDYMagazine/Baby-Carriers/Groessen/

Gauze wraps

Gauze wraps have a straight weave which usually makes them cheaper, they usually come in a set length equivelent to Size 6 of a woven wrap. Some companies do a longer gauze wrap equivelent to a size 7. Often they are thinner which makes them ideal for summer.

SPOC wraps

SPOC stands for Simple Piece Of Cloth. This indicates that the piece of cloth used was not woven with the specific purpose of being a baby carrier. It is possible to make a SPOC yourself by hemming a long piece of suitable material. If you would like to do this make sure you choose good quality fabric which would be supportive enough to hold a child. Often once you cost up fabric, thread, postage and your time to hem the material it costs around the same to purchase a purpose made wrap.

Hybrid wraps

Some wraps have qualities of both a stretchy and a woven wrap which is why they are referred to as Hybrid wraps. It may for example be possible to carrier a heavier child and back carry with a hybrid wrap which has a large amount of stretch.

Ring Slings

A Ring Sling can be used from birth to a much older child making it a long lasting adaptable purchase. Ring slings are a length of fabric with two metal rings sewn in at one end. The other end of the material is threaded through the rings like a belt to form a band around the wearers body creating a pocket for the baby with a tail of fabric hanging down. Ring slings are worn over the shoulder with the fabric going diagonally over the wearers body to the hip like pouch slings and have the same variety of carries, The rings allow for adjustability compared to most none adjustable pouches. It makes the sling feel a lot more secure and can be used on wearers of different body shapes and sizes.

When the baby is in the carrier, the baby's weight puts tension on the fabric, and the combination of fabric tension, friction of fabric surfaces against each other and the rings combine to "lock" the sling in position. The wearer supports the baby's weight with one hand and uses the other hand to pull more fabric through the rings to tighten or loosen the sling. The baby or child can be carried easily on your hip or on your front and once secured they do not need supporting with your hand.

They come in a range of fabrics, can be padded or unpadded, they certainly look the most elegant out of all the slings. Learning to adjust the rings for a comfortable fit can take a bit of practice – the rings are meant to sit just below your collar bone. And, like the pouch slings, they place all the weight on one shoulder. Which can make you feel wonky if your not used to it but with time and practise your body will adjust making it an essensial handbag sling.

Ring slings have a variety of different shoulders. Finding out which shoulder style works for you can be key in finding a comfortable ring sling. The most common is the gathered shoulder which many people find most comfortable. There are also different varieties of pleats, “hot-dog”, box pleats or centre fold which look stunning.

Pouches

A pouch sling is a simple tube of wide fabric with one half folded inside the other to form a pocket which is worn across the body like a sash. Most pouches do not have rings or buckles but some have been designed to be adjustable with zips, buckles, poppers, clips, Velcro and other methods. They also can have a curved seam sewn into them, this helps to cup and hold the baby. It allows a baby to be carried in a variety of positions, lying across the body in a cradle position, upright facing in, and sitting on the parent’s hip. It can be used from birth to toddlerhood by altering the carry position, and allows an older baby to have arms and legs outside the sling. Please be careful in the positioning you choose to carry your baby, alwasys make sure their chin is off their chest and their airway is unobstructed, your baby should be in your view at all times. Pouches are made in a variety of materials from cuddly fleece to cool linen and are quite cheap in comparison to other types of sling. They are also quick to master, easy to put on in a hurry, and pack up small to carry in a change bag. Unfolded, they can be used as car seat or buggy blankets, especially the fleece types. They place all the weight on one shoulder, which can get tiring for long periods with an older baby. As pouches are sized to the wearer so unless you’re the same size, you would not be able to share one pouch with someone else.

Asian Style Carriers

Mei Tai
These are a traditional type of Asian baby carrier. They consist of a shaped piece of fabric to fit around the baby’s body with long straps at the base and the top. The lower pair of straps tie around the wearer’s waist and the top pair are crossed over the wearer’s body, brought forward to cross over the baby’s bottom and then tied around the wearer’s waist.Some come with hoods and pockets.

Mei tais can be used on the wearer’s front or back, and, as the weight is spread across both shoulders, they are very comfortable for long periods and with heavier babies. They can be used by different sized adults without any adjustments, and are suitable for babies with good head control until well into toddlerhood.

Most mei tais come in a range of fabric designs but plainer ones are available if that is what you prefer. They are very easy to use and often it is possible to order a custom design with a fabric of your choice.

Mei tai pricing depends on many factors. From the very popular widely available brands with a reasonable price tag to the full custom designs using luxury fabrics and individual finishes with a price tag to match.

Pod or it's full name Podaegi

is a Korean carrier with a medium to large rectangle of fabric hanging from a very long strap. Traditionally the rectangle is quilted for warmth and wraps around the mother's torso, while the straps are wrapped snug under the baby's bottom and tied around to the front to support and secure the baby on the mother's back. Western interest in the podaegi style has led to new wrapping methods which do go over the shoulders, and to narrower "blankets". Variants of this shape include the Iu-Mienh/Hmong carrier and the Chinese bei bei. Iu-Mienh/Hmong carriers and bei beis are both customarily used with over-the-shoulder wrapping and often have stiff sections which help provide head support or block wind.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers fasten with straps and buckles and often have a padded or structured waist. In design they are based on Asian Style Carriers like the Mei Tai. They can be used on the wearer’s front or back, and, as the weight is distributed across both shoulders, they are very comfortable for long periods.
They are quick and easy to put on, but if the carrier is to be shared with a different sized adult you will have to learn to adjust the fitting of the buckles. Many models come with sleep hoods. They are suitable for babies from about three-months-old until well into toddlerhood although some makes have the ability to adapt to use with a smaller baby. Some makes come in a beautiful range of fabrics, while others are more utilitarian in style.
Generally they come in different width sizes:
preschooler size is 20’’ wide,
toddler is 18’’ wide,
standard is 16’’ wide,
baby is about 14’’ wide.

Custom Carriers

There are many companies most are WHAM's (work at home mam's) who make different types of carriers. Most common are Soft Structured Carriers or Mei Tai's. You can select the fabric you're self or they could design something from a brief. Many have hours and hours of decoration put into them such as applique which is why the price range for these carriers varies so much.

Homemade Carriers

With basic sewing skills anyone can make their own carrier. Care must be taken to source suitable materials that can be used to create a safe carrier for a child. Materials should be checked that safe dyes have been used as babies esspesially love to suck on the straps of the carrier as they are transported around. It will also be against the childs skin so a soft but strong material is best. If using any buckles used must be up to the job too. Re-enforce seams with extra lines of stitching and box stitching where straps attach to the main body of the carrier.
Use your judgement wisely! it is going to be carrying preshious cargo so if you are unsure of your sewing skills then buy a purpose made carrier from a reputable company.

High Street/ Mass Produced Carriers

Mass produced carriers are familiar to most people. They are usually one item in a range of baby products marketed by the manufacturer, and are readily available in most High Streets from the big chains.

Superficially similar to soft structured carriers they have a shaped body and fasten with buckles. For a lot of babywearers these types were their first slings and they served as a useful introduction to the world of hands-free baby care.

But it would also be fair to say that few, if any of us would be inclined to buy a similar product to use with another baby.

Mass produced carriers are, in the main, only suitable to use with very young babies and quickly outlive their usefulness. By four to six months most of these carriers will be uncomfortable for the wearer because they do not distribute weight evenly over the torso. Most babies will also be outgrowing them.

This makes these slings a very expensive option for the first few months when compared, for example, with a stretchy wrap or some of the hybrid carriers which mimic the effect of a stretchy wrap.

Mass produced carriers are also not as versatile, generally only offering the option of a front carry facing inwards or outwards. We do not recommend carrying with the baby facing outwards because it places extra stress on the sling user’s back, holds the baby in an unnaturally fixed position and allows him no escape from the outside world.

Concerns have also been expressed that these carriers place too much stress on the base of a baby’s developing spine because they do not allow the baby to be seated in a spread leg or ‘froggy’ position, which would distribute his weight across the buttocks and thighs.1

However, we would like to see more research on this aspect and we offer it here simply for your consideration.

In summary, while mass produced carriers can be a useful introduction to slings, they are an expensive, short-lived option, which can be easily bypassed.

But, if you do use one of these slings, do remember to carry the baby as high and snug to you as you can to improve the weight distribution, and to face him towards you for your comfort and his sense of security. A good guideline is that you should be able to kiss your baby’s head without any effort.

Footnote:
1 See “Infant Carriers and Spinal Stress,” Rochelle L Casses DC at http://continuum-concept.org/reading/spinalStress.html

About baby facing out

Front Carries Facing the Baby Outwards:
Why Sunderland Sling Library Does Not Recommend Them

Many parents, when starting to look for a suitable carrier, ask whether it allows the baby to be positioned facing outwards with his back to the adult carrying him.

Several mass-produced carriers suggest a front facing outwards (FFO) carry as an option for older babies. Much of the publicity for these slings, and for others we would otherwise recommend, features photographs of cute babies beaming at the outside world.

But, while it is true that at around the age of four months some babies become intensely inquisitive about the outside world and want a view of more than just the sling wearer’s chest, FFO is not a carry SlingGuide can recommend.

Concerns have been raised that FFO lacks adequate support for a baby’s developing spine and hip joints, and also fails to give them the sense of security provided by other carries.

However, a curious baby can easily be satisfied without having to resort to FFO. There are several alternative positions.

One good alternative, which allows the baby to see more of the world while remaining secure and comfortable, is a hip carry in a pouch, ring sling, wrap or one of the specially designed soft structured carriers developed for hip carries.

Another is a high back carry in a mei tai, wrap or soft structured carrier, which enables the baby to peer over the sling user’s shoulder but still snuggle into the parent when she wants to do so.

A third option is a high front carry in a mei tai, wrap, or soft structured carrier, again positioning the baby so he can see over the sling user’s shoulder, but turn away when he has had enough of the outside world.

There are several disadvantages with the FFO position. Unlike the suggested alternatives, it does not allow the baby to cuddle into the parent when outside stimuli become too much for her, but holds her in a fixed position unable to seek reassurance.

Nor does FFO allow the baby to be seated in a position which provides support for his buttocks and thighs. All good carriers should enable the baby to be seated with his legs at 90 degrees to his torso and with the base of the sling supporting his legs to the backs of his knees. But in FFO the baby is held in a position which places his weight on the crotch and the base of the developing spine.

It has been suggested this may lead to a greater risk of testicular infection in baby boys, and may be a risk factor for spinal compression and hip dysplasia, but these are concerns on which we would like to see further research. However, if you envisage yourself in the baby’s place, sitting in a squat position with support for your buttocks and thighs, sounds a much more comfortable proposition than having your weight supported by your crotch.

Further objections to FFO are that the fixed position forces the baby’s back against the sling user’s chest and out of its naturally slightly rounded position, and it fails to provide adequate head support if she falls asleep.

FFO is also a carry we cannot recommend for the comfort of the sling wearer, as the position shifts the baby’s centre of gravity downwards and away from the person carrying him, making the baby feel a great deal heavier.

A further alternative to FFO, but not one that SlingGuide would wholeheartedly recommend, is the Buddha or Kangaroo style carry in which the baby faces outwards but with her legs crossed under her inside the sling.

This position has the merit of supporting the baby’s weight across the buttocks and thighs rather than just at the crotch, but the sling user would need to be very aware of the baby’s reactions and be ready to move her when she has had enough of the outside world.

It is also still open to the objections that it does not provide sufficient head support or allow the baby’s back to assume its natural, slightly rounded shape.

Moreover, it is a carry that could allow the baby to tip forwards out of the sling, so the wearer would always need to have one hand free to keep the baby in position.

While we at SlingGuide feel the Buddha or Kangaroo style carry is better than FFO, we would still always recommend the alternatives outlined above as being more comfortable for the baby and the sling wearer.

Much of the research involving the FFO carry has been conducted in Germany and is, unfortunately, not available in translation but further information on the points above can be obtained at the following websites:

http://www.storchenwiege.com/babycarrierresearch.htm

http://www.hoppediz.de/en/wissenwertes/the-art-of-carrying/wrong-carrying-methods/

http://www.didymos.de/html/sah.htm

http://www.didymos.de/didy.pl?experten.htm

Bag Style Carriers

A warning against Bag-style Sling!

Bag-style slings, as their name suggests, resemble large shoulder bags with a deep pocket for the baby to lie or sit in, an elasticated opening and a strap designed to be worn over the sling user’s shoulder, or across the body.

These are slings SlingGuide, and all informed and experienced sling users feel should be banned from sale because we are convinced they are inherently dangerous.

These slings have been implicated in far too many infant deaths by suffocation. They have been directly linked to three deaths of very young babies across the USA in the past two decades, and 11 more infant deaths are under investigation. The sling using community, alerted by the pioneering research work of sling safety campaigner M’liss Stelzer, has been actively warning against their use for some time.

The warning has now been heeded in the USA, where the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has raised the alarm about the safety of bag-style slings. One brand is now the subject of a product recall and it is to be hoped other manufacturers producing this type will be encouraged to withdraw them from sale in the future.

While bag-style slings may appear at first sight similar to pouches and ring slings, the pocket for the baby to sit or lie in is far deeper. The shape of the bag makes it very easy to place the baby in a curved position with his chin tucked against his chest, constricting his airways and giving rise to the risk of positional asphyxia.

The risk is heightened by the depth of the pocket as the fabric may cover the baby’s face, and the design may compress his face against the sling wearer’s body, further increasing the likelihood of suffocation. As the pocket is so deep, and the sling is designed to be worn low on the body, the sling user may not be aware of any distress signals from the baby until it is too late.

In a true pouch or ring sling the pocket formed by the fabric is far shallower, the sling is positioned high on the user’s body, and the baby’s face should be visible and close to the sling wearer’s face at all times.

If you have or are given a bag-style sling we urge you not to use it, sell it or even give it away, unless it be to a sling library for the purpose of demonstrating its dangers. Much the best thing you could do would be to destroy it by cutting it up to ensure it can never be used to carry a baby.

Sadly, the announcement by the US CSPC has caused confusion in some quarters, with some reports believing the warning extends to all slings. This is not so, and traditional pouches, ring slings, wraps, mei tais and soft structured carriers are, and always have been safe for use with your baby so long as you follow the guidelines on correct positioning.

Broadly speaking, you should keep your baby snug to you, close enough to kiss her head, with her chin clear of her chest to avoid any constriction of her airways, and her back fully supported. Her nose and mouth should be free of any obstruction.

Further information on safe positioning in slings can be found here. (Opens as a pdf file).

Details of the US CPSC warning on bag-style slings can be found here, and the response of Babywearing International can be found here.

M’liss Stelzer’s research on the risks of bag-style slings can be found here.

SlingGuide only recommends slings we would be happy to use with our own babies. Therefore none of the vendors or makers in the SlingGuide resource list sell or produce bag-style slings.

With thanks to www.slingguide.co.uk for a lot of the information, Wikipedia and a dash of my own knowledge.