After roasting for what feels like weeks, today was absolutely gorgeous! One of those mornings we wished we’d hosted outside. But it was a great meeting all the same. The theme was RING SLINGS! Water ring slings, newborn ring slings, hands-free nursing ring slings. We also helped get a 10-day-old sleepy squish (with a mop of hair) more comfortable in an Ergo 360 (we got rid of the duvet-like insert and just used the pillow for a boost) and helped another mum swap out a too-hot SSC for a lightweight mei-tai.
Our first parents came in with a 5mo, wanting to troubleshoot a water ring sling. They had arranged with us to meet just before the meeting due to their scheduling conflicts– and we wanted to make a note of this– if you need babywearing help but can’t quite make it during meeting times please contact us. We will try our best to accommodate you. We’ve met before meetings in the past for similar reasons as well as with very premature babies who could not be around other children during flu season.
Water Ring Slings
They are slippery, they are stretchy. It can make it a huge pain to use, especially if you’re good with woven ring slings and are expecting the same amount of support in a water sling. Most, but not all, water slings are made with a quick-drying athletic mesh, with some stretch. The stretch helps prevent the fabric tightening up when it gets wet and getting too tight around you or baby. But on land, so to speak, it can feel like baby is sagging. However, once you get into the water you’ll find your LO is quite buoyant.
Many moons ago, in a pinch, I fashioned a woven cotton sarong into a knotted pouch sling (“rebozo” because that gives you a very specific image and we love clear communication around here) and as soon as I got into the pool I felt it shrinking and getting heavy. I had to get out. I had to get this thing off me and off the baby. But the knot! shrinking, waterlogged fabric tightened the knot. There was just no way to untie it. I managed to pry the both of us out but that knot was in there until it dried… three days later. (( -_- ))
If you are planning, say, a day at an amusement park, where you know you will be getting wet but also doing a lot of trekking and need a supportive quick-drying ring sling, I recommend looking for a woven material. They are usually advertised as being made with a UV blocking fabric, like Solarweave or Solarveil.
Threading a Ring Sling
There is this very old (slightly cringy, okay, a lot cringy) but still quite relevant video tutorial on threading a ring sling that I made, so I recommend it. x-D Take it with a grain of salt (with annotations turned on). And Miss Andrea is in, like, 4th grade now.
I love it when nursing parents’ ears perk up at this phrase: “hands-free nursing”. Cast off the boppy-pillow shackles, throw down that stack of magazines! Go! Be free! Sip your iced coffee with one hand while texting with the other!
Okay, to be honest, not everyone is going to find nursing in a ring sling comfortable or even possible. There are so many variables, baby’s ability, temperament, breast size and type, etc etc etc. But at our meetings, we’ve found that most experienced breastfeeders find it possible, though some still need the crook of their arm to support baby’s head (that’s still technically “hands-free” but “arms-free” is the goal).
Upright: in the most simple terms, this is whatever upright carry you and your baby prefer but lowered so that baby’s mouth is level with the nipple or close enough for a good latch. Either side. Or park them in the middle. This position tend to work better for older babies with breastfeeding experience or who are just too big for a cradle carry. It is ideal for any baby with reflux or who tend to swallow a lot of air.
Cradle: this is most similar to the nursing position taught in most lactation classes but instead of a boppy or nursing pillow you have a ring sling to support your baby. From an upright position, lower them until their face is level with the breast and swing both of baby’s legs to the side opposite the breast you want them to nurse from. Baby will be effectively tummy-to-tummy (or tummy-to-underboob) with their butt just a bit lower than their head. After they are latched on and comfortable, pull slack fabric out through the rings until they are well supported. This carry is perfect for tiny newborns or younger babies, it can be used with older babies and toddlers (see the video linked below) but taller kiddos tend to have their legs hanging waaay out the side.
This video, which is about five years old, is great. It features a toddler but the mum has a lot of great tips for getting the ring sling just right for you and your LO.
We love advocating for teaching how to breastfeed while using a carrier. It can be done in nearly any carrier, not just a ring sling. There is a great conversation thread on this subject in our Facebook group. It can allow a nursing parent a little more freedom and mobility while ensuring baby gets a complete feeding. Breastfed babies who only get the thirst quenching, sugary foremilk tend to develop more painful gas and get hungry sooner because of how fast the foremilk is digested. It can lead to a lot of frustration for everyone involved and parents who wanted to keep breastfeeding give up (understandably). Longer feeds provide more fat content (hindmilk) which helps with comfortable digestion and satiety.
Breastfeeding parents who have the option of getting things done while baby takes their time nursing via hands-free nursing in a carrier are less likely to stop feedings short. And having a better experience with nursing (i.e. not feeling “trapped”) will encourage parents to keep breastfeeding through the recommended six months (or longer!). Of course, with all this advocacy for “getting things done while baby nurses” we want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with kicking back and using feeding times to rest and/or admire your LO, we just want parents to know they have options (freedom!)
NOTE: These carries can help with bottle feeding (breastmilk or formula) and can be done with supplemental feeding systems as well. One summer, I cared for twins. I perfected the hands-free chin-bottle-prop cradle carry in a ring sling for one baby while a bounced the other on my knee.
— Due to the interest in the subject (via the group page) we’re going to put together a post dedicated to the topic of hands-free breastfeeding (in any carrier). If you have experience, whether it was possible for you or not, or tips you’d like to share, please contact us (form below, or email/FB/Twitter).
Bonus Ring Sling Tips:
- Once you’ve got your ring sling threaded, you don’t need to unthread it unless you’re washing it. (We’ve got a video on that too.)
- Taller or Wider people will need a longer length of fabric in their ring sling. Some brands offer sizes, if not, make sure the length you’re getting will fit around you and baby with enough tail to adjust the pouch.
- Never get a ring sling with padded “rails” (the hems). Padded shoulders are swell but padded rails are the devil. You cannot adjust the pouch properly.
- Same goes for “closed tail” ring slings. Or elastic rails. Or really, any baby carrier with Dr. Sears name associated with it. No offense to Dr. Sears fans– but it is a matter of objective fact that the carriers associated with him are awful. Bag slings by another name. Just don’t.
- Use the ring sling as a toddler leash! (ohyesIwentthere) Just put the loop of fabric around your toddler’s torso, snug it (not tight, obvs) and then use the tail as a leash.
Don’t own a ring sling?
You don’t need a ring sling to have a ring sling. … stay with me here. You just need a length of fabric like a sarong (or a short wrap) and sling rings (video here). Or maybe you’d prefer to go ringless? CAN DO! Or maybe you are the crafty sort and want to sew your own? Check out Kelsey’s tutorial here!
Of course, you are very welcome to check out one from our lending library too!