The Baby Sling - An Ancient Tradition

A baby sling is the most useful and least expensive piece of baby equipment you can buy.

Baby slings have been used for centuries, in cultures all over the world. Parents slip their baby into a sling and work, play and travel - all with baby securely attached.

Carrying your baby as much as possible is good for you, good for your child and good for your relationship. Close contact with your infant promotes mothering hormones.It helps you stay closely attuned to baby's cues, and promotes parent-baby bonding.

Babies are accustomed to being cradled and carried before they are born. The baby can hear and feel his mother's heartbeat while he grows in the womb.

According to Dr. William Sears, one of today's leading pediatricians, infants' biological systems are organized around movement and closeness. Studies show that newborns who are carried much of the day cry less, day and night.

Carried babies are more engaged in the world. They can closely observe and participate in everything the parent does.Child development experts note that this involvement can promote alertness and cognitive development.

As the baby gets older and starts to move around himself, you'll carry him less and less. But all parents carry their children occasionally (in parking lots and across streets, for instance), through the toddler years. A sling can be used all along.

You'll use the hip carry for a toddler. You can start using the hip carry when the baby can sit supported, at about 4-6 months old.

A baby sling circles your torso and distributes the baby's weight over your shoulder, back and hips, instead of hanging all the weight from your shoulders as some front carriers do.

Infants rest in the sling in several positions. You can ease them into a comfortable sleeping position. The baby sling holds them snugly right next to your heart. They can curl into the fetal position, face outward or ride on your shoulder or chest in the "snuggle hold". Older babies usually ride in the "hip carry" in the sling, sitting up where they can see in all directions.

A baby sling is easiest kind of carrier to use. It takes seconds to put on and snuggle your baby in. There are no fasteners to open and close; you slip the sling over your head and it's on. You can adjust the fit by pulling on the tail of the sling, or the rings, with one hand.

You can ease baby into a variety of positions, for sleeping, nursing, or just hanging out. It's just as easy to remove the sling; you can even lay your baby down and slip out of the sling, without waking her.

Slings are the easiest type of carrier in which to feed your baby. You can pull the fabric of the sling up to nurse discreetly. Many mothers even nurse while walking around. When the baby's not in the sling, you can roll it up and stuff it in a bag.

Types of slings ...

There are two main types of baby slings. Adjustable slings use two rings to gather the fabric to the desired snugness around the baby. Non-adjustable slings are also known as pouches.

We recommend an adjustable sling. Every baby changes size rather dramatically. Adults also change size(particularly in the several months after childbirth!)

Preferred carrying positions also change. There is simply no substitute for the ability to pull the sling to just the right snugness each time you pick up your baby.

Adjustable slings are either padded or unpadded. Each type has advantages.

  • The padded models are very comfortable, providing a little extra-soft support for baby's head or behind a toddler's knees.

  • The traditional unpadded slings are cool and breathable, exceedingly versatile, and very easy to store and carry.
Some brands of sling come in only one size; others have several sizes to fit adults of different heights and weights. We recommend a sized sling. This is especially important with the padded models; if you have a sling with padded rails that is too large for you, you may not be able to tighten it up enough to carry the baby safely.

Baby slings come in all kinds of materials, colors, and patterns. They can be quite beautiful and stylish.

We recommend choosing a sling made of a breathable natural fabric like cotton or wool. There are even silk slings available!

(Here's a true story about silk ... One day as my first son was playing tug-of-war with a friend, with a large play silk, I warned him not to pull so hard for fear the silk would break.

"Don't worry Mama, it won't break," he assured me. "Silk is the strongest natural fiber." It's true. I had no idea!)

Sling recommendations

Two of the best slings on the market are the Over-The-Shoulder-Baby-Holder (OTSBH), a padded sling,and the Maya Wrap, a traditional sling with no padding.

  • An OTSBH baby sling is a very well-designed and constructed padded sling. These slings are so well-made that we have known them to last through several children.

    The OTSBH comes in several sizes (XS through XL), designed to fit a five-foot-tall adult or a six-foot-three adult or anyone in between.

    These size options are especially important for a padded sling. Another popular padded baby sling, the Noho, is a nice sling except for the fact that it does not come in different sizes.

  • A Maya Wrap sling has no bulk at all; it's simply a flat cloth on a ring. You can wear this baby sling under a coat, or even roll it up and fit it into your purse.

    One of the big advantages of the Maya Wrap is that you can adjust it more precisely than a padded sling. You can pull just one side of the fabric through the rings, to tighten the fabric around baby's bottom or around her torso.

    This type of sling is very versatile. You can wear your child in reclining, front-facing, shoulder, hip, or back carry positions. You can use the tail fabric to cover the baby completely, if desired, for nursing or a nap.

    It's even possible to wear two Maya Wraps at once with two children. (Usually, this would be a toddler in one wrap and a newborn in another). We personally know a mother who carried her infant twins everywhere, one in a Maya Wrap and the other in a Maya Pouch (the non-adjustable version of the wrap).

    Some Maya Wraps are made with a pocket in the tail, large enough to carry one diaper or a small toy. Maya also makes small purses in sling fabrics, which attach to the ring.

    Maya Wraps are made of 100% cotton loomed in Guatemala; they come in a variety of colors and striking patterns.

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