If you follow us on Instagram (@icbabywearers) you will have seen Kelsey’s super festive holiday sweater featuring Santa riding a unicorn draped in functional lights– it was a needed contrast to the downright nasty weather outside. Fortunately, a few folks braved the frigid rain and wind to join us and the theme was ring slings! We got a lot of our meeting on video, which you can watch in our Facebook “main” group (if you don’t use FB but want to see the video just let us know and we will send you a private link).
As an overview we discussed: types of fabrics, the types of rings, the various shoulder styles, other ring sling style options, how to thread the fabric through the rings to create a pouch, and how to use the tail to adjust the pouch. Some of the things that we didn’t have time for were hands-free nursing, different positions and the option for side and back carries.
Fabrics: ring slings can be made out of any woven fabric. This includes silk, bamboo, cotton, linen, Tencel, wool or a blend. Stretchy material, which has been knitted, is not suitable for a ring sling because you need the material to not stretch as you were pulling the excess fabric through the rings. Certain types of material such as silk can be more difficult to get comfortable because the material is so thin and can cause pressure points (but it’s so pretty!) Wrap conversion ring slings, or ring slings that use woven wrap material for the fabric, tend to be the most comfortable because the material is so thick and supportive.
Rings: The majority of ring slings manufactured today are made with a solid piece of aluminum called a sling ring. They are made specifically for the purpose of babywearing and can be used in the manufacture of ring slings either professionally or at home, as well as for finishing off wrap carries. They come in a variety of colors, gauges, and diameters. The colors on sling rings are anodized meaning that they are part of the metal so they will not flake off or scuff other objects. The gauge, (width of the metal), and the diameter ( measurement across the circle) determines how thick or thin of a fabric can be secured between two of the rings. For example, a very thin material is going to require higher (thicker) gauge and smaller diameter, while a thick material is going to require a lower gauge but a larger diameter. We have had experiences where a parent will come in very frustrated because they cannot get their ring sling to stay adjusted because the material keeps slipping back through the rings–in nearly every case this is due to the rings being the wrong size for the fabric.
Shoulders: There are two main styles of shoulders and this is the part of the sling above the rings that caps the shoulder, one is pleated or gathered shoulder in which the material is always spread out from the pleats. The other is a shoulder flap, in which the material is folded and the final fold at the top isn’t secured so it can be flipped down over the upper arm when more support is needed. Neither one is better than the other, however, if you have very narrow shoulders you may find that the shoulder flap is more comfortable as when folded it takes up less space on the shoulder. Pleated shoulders tend to take up more space and may rub against the neck and impede arm movement for people with narrow shoulders, though there are brands offering cinches for pleated/gathered shoulders, like this Maya Wrap. The shoulder is the only place on a ring sling that can be ( but doesn’t need to be) padded.
Other styles: there are other style options in the realm of ring slings, for example, padded rails (hems). This is something that we strongly advise against when looking for a ring sling. The padding will prevent the wearer from fully adjusting the pouch because the padding will get stuck in the rings. Some ring slings offer an option for a closed tail, so instead of a loose piece of fabric extending from the rings, the fabric is cut short and sewn into a tight tab. We discourage the use of this style of ring sling for the same reason we discourage the use of padded rails– it prevents the proper adjustment of the pouch.
There is another style of carrier that looks like a ring sling but has elasticized rails. This is better called a bag sling. Actual bag slings (with a flat base instead of a continuous pouch) were recalled in 2010 after having been implicated in numerous infant deaths due to suffocation. Infants suffocate in this kind of carrier because the depth of the pouch cannot be adjusted and the elasticized rails pull in to cover the baby who is slumped inside unsupported. Brands associated with Dr. Sears tend to be offenders– each time a brand is implicated in the injury or death of an infant a new brand is created using the same style of bag carrier. To the right is the latest incarnation, notice the closed tail and padded elasticized rails.
For an in-depth look at threading a ring sling, check out our ancient, and slightly cringy, video which also discusses how to place baby into the carrier.
The ring sling is great for hands-free nursing and depending on your preference it can be done with baby upright or in a cradle carry. There are videos available on YouTube demonstrating how to do this, however, if you would like in-person help learning how to nurse hands-free in a carrier please contact us for a private consultation or stop into one of our free monthly informational meetings.
For tandem carrying you can use two ring slings at the same time, generally, it is advisable that the children be of similar height and weight if you are going to wear them on each hip– and mind door jambs. It is also possible to use a ring sling for a back carry in a couple different positions. The easiest method with a baby who is capable sitting upright is to shift them to your hip, and then bounce them onto your back making sure that the carrier is supporting them from their knees to their neck. I demonstrate how to do this in the video above. It’s not the most comfortable carry, at least for me (because boobs), but it can be very useful if you need to have your front free short-term, such as for cooking, loading the car, or caring for other children. More advanced babywearers can use a ring sling for a high back carry– but this isn’t something I have attempted because I find using a wrap for back carries easier.
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