Water slings allow the caregiver securely hold an infant or toddler when wet or partially submerged. They are not intended to allow the wearer to “go swimming” but they do offer security, as we all know: babies are stupidly slippery when wet– and even in very shallow water a baby can be injured (or traumatized) from a slip or drop.
Water slings and wraps are made from mesh or fast-drying woven material which are designed for use in the water. Woven water slings often contain UV reflective threads which offer some degree of sun protection while dry. They come all the same styles as land-based baby carriers, including ring slings, fitted pouches, SSC and wraps– and may come in a stretchy or non-stretchy material. They generally have no padding (to prevent water logging) and are of a very thin material which may cause pressure points on the wearer and/or wearee– which usually translates to a lower weight limit than conventional carriers.
Water slings can make a trip to the pool or beach more comfortable for the whole family, or make it possible for a parent to get a shower in with a fussy or sick baby. Water slings can be used out of the water too– for very hot or humid days they are considerably more breathable than other fabrics. But are they really necessary? And what are other considerations when enjoying the pool or beach with your baby?
Chlorine eats (and bleaches) fabric. You can reduce the damage by promptly and thoroughly rinsing fabrics after exposure to chlorinated water. Carriers marketed for use in the pool are made with chlorine-safe materials which won’t waterlog and dry quickly.
But it’s not just fabric we care about. Be sure that indoor pools are well ventilated. You shouldn’t be overwhelmed by a chemical smell the moment you walk in the door. That smell is produced by the chlorine interacting with proteins (skin cells, fluids, etc.) in the water. The gasses produced from dirty chlorinated water can cause irritation to the mucus membranes of the face and lungs, they may even trigger asthma– and your baby will be closer to the water in a carrier than you are. A well-ventilated and well-cleaned pool should have a pleasant clean smell. Some rec-centers offer children’s pools which are not chlorinated, which may be your best bet. A well-ventilated and well-cleaned pool should have a pleasant clean smell. Some rec-centers offer children’s pools which are not chlorinated, which may be your best bet with or without a water-safe carrier.
“For me, the only use is for the shallow end of the pool or a lake or maybe around a splashpad. I can’t see the use for a shower. If I’m standing in the shallow end while my toddler splashes around, I’ll appreciate the security of the baby next to me. I don’t see it as a long-use carrier because I like to keep babies in the shade, but I’m hoping it will have limited use. And by making my own it’s pretty economical for its limited use.” -Member
Outdoor pools are less hazardous by way of chlorine off-gassing, however, beware the burny-burny sun! A physical sunscreen uses minerals that reflect UV rays, protect skin without endocrine disrupting chemicals– but it needs reapplying frequently and can build up on fabrics. Another option is UPF swimwear which contains UV protective fibers and generally offers more coverage of the body than conventional swimwear. Most carriers marketed for use in the pool are made with a similar material, increasing the UV protection when used in tandem with UPF swimwear and/or sunscreen.
Forgive me for being obvious– but be aware of waves, splashes, and sudden drop-offs in pools and beaches. Your baby’s face will be closer to the water than yours whether in a water sling or in-arms. The advantage of using a carrier is that your baby will be secure on your body even if you do slip or get knocked down by a wave.
“They are useful but limited in their use. I have showered with one and it’s okay, but you can’t shave or even wash certain parts of your body. I prefer a bouncy seat in my line of sight. As for in the water, you really don’t *need* a water sling. You should never go so far in the water that the baby is submerged and if its just getting splashed, than a light weight cotton would work just as well. Not to mention that they are more slippery in the rings and require fairly regular adjustment. So tl;dr if you have the money to spend on an additional carrier then they are a nice addition to round out a stash. But if you’re limited in your carrier buying then buy a more versatile cotton ring sling instead.” -member
In the Shower:
This applies both to at home and at the pool, as it’s recommended to wash off chlorine residue from skin and fabrics asap. The adult can wash themselves and baby, manipulating carrier and baby to reach all the bits, then rinse together.Consider water temperature, soaps used (are they appropriate for a baby?), and how to rinse while baby is attached to you. Having a hand-held shower head may be one solution, otherwise filling a non-breakable cup and pouring gently over baby is another.
“I mostly just used it in the shower for when [my kid] was sick. I knew she would feel better if she’d just get a bath/shower, but she didn’t want to leave me…so I’d wear her in the shower. I definitely recommend them for this use alone.” -Member
Some may ask: “Why? Why use a shower sling? Why not just take a bath?”The answer is personal preference and accessibility. Not everyone has a bathtub or a baby-safe sink. Some apartment buildings feature “shared” bathrooms and locker rooms (at the pool for example) do not have a place for a baby to sit in a bouncy seat. For others, it is simply easier (perhaps even fun) to shower with baby rather than any alternative arrangement.Whether for use in the pool or the shower, water slings will need to be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry to prevent mold and damage to the material.
The verdict: Are water slings really necessary?
I don’t think so. I do think it is convenient if you can afford to buy or make one– however, it is just as effective to use a thin piece of cotton (think: khanga, rebozo or selendang style carrier) or a thin fabric pouch in the pool. It will get a bit more water logged and take longer to dry but it will be effective, just use preshrunk, water-safe fabrics that you don’t mind getting bleached out.
“I wouldn’t personally be comfortable in the pool wearing a kiddo, but that’s just me. Now, this isn’t anything against anyone who uses them, they just aren’t for me. I’d rather just hold my baby in the pool and let them be outside of the shower, when I’m not washing them in there…whether that be in a bouncy seat or swing, or with dad in the other room.” -Member
Of course, you have the option to make your own mesh water sling, pouch, etc. There are various tutorials on sew and no-sew water slings. I recommend using a non-stretchy nylon athletic mesh: stretch + water + baby seems like a no-no, but perhaps you’ve had a different experience– let us know in the comments.
Member Carrier Recommendation: Boba Air
“I used a boba air (I specifically bought for water use) last summer with my little guy who was around 12 mos last summer… it worked great for us when at the pool with me and two kids (I also used in ocean this spring) We could all go in and I didn’t have to worry about him, my older child was under 3 so our pool trips were pretty low key but wearing my younger child made it a much better experience for us all. The boba air is not made as a water carrier but it is a fast drying thin material it folds up into itself/pouch so easy to keep in car or diaper bag. I keep in my van now as a back up carrier it is not padded like regular boba and not as comfortable for all day use but worked great for water use.”
“I bought the boba air last year to wear in water and was very happy with it. I used it mostly for splash pads and only a couple times in pools and I had to adjust once I got in the pool (tighten up)… I like that I can roll it up in a small ball and it has stayed in my car/stroller for emergency carries (in the mall with a single stroller and my toddler wants to ride but my “baby” is also tired). I am still very happy I bought it and depending on how long it stays warm, I will probably use it with #3, due at the end of June.”
Recommended DIY Instructional Video:
|Renee doing a Rebozo Carry using purchased athletic mesh.|