In the sea of baby wearing options, ring slings are taking off as a portable, convenient, stylish way to tote your little one around while keeping your hands free. They can be a little complex on first use, but many parents love them once they’ve mastered the art. Here are some tips to choosing the perfect ring sling for you and your child, and making the most of this easy baby wearing option.
Choosing the Right Sling
Ring slings come in a few different styles, usually related to how the fabric is secured around the rings. Gathered shoulders sew the rings into the fabric, pleated shoulders do the same with a varying number of pleats depending on the sling, and hybrid shoulders pleat at the outsides and gather in the center. Pleated shoulders are harder to adjust and can slip off easily if your shoulders are not square or broad. Hybrid shoulders feature the smooth look of pleats and the gathered shoulder’s ease with adjustments, but aren’t often reversible.
Sizing in ring slings roughly matches up to shirt size, but don’t forget to allow for your own build and your child’s size! A larger child or a smaller parent won’t need the same size of sling as parents and children of more average builds. If you’d like more fabric to adjust, go for a larger sling; if having the extra tail of fabric would only annoy you, consider a smaller size.
There’s also, as with all products, the question of price. With ring slings, this tends to come down to the type of fabric used; a more expensive sling might be better padded, or more comfortable for you and baby.
Ring slings can be used in a couple of different carrying positions. Tummy-to-tummy and hip carries are the most popular; while you can use a ring sling as a back-carry baby carrier, it’s not recommended since you can’t tighten both ends of the fabric. Baby’s weight should be distributed across your back and shoulder – they are one-shoulder carriers, though, so they may not be ideal for long excursions.
Using Your Ring Sling
Before putting on your sling, make sure it’s threaded properly through the rings – this will save a lot of time and energy in adjusting it, leaving you and baby both much happier with the experience! It’s also important to make as many adjustments to the sling as possible BEFORE settling your little one into it. Fussing with the sling’s fit while your child is already in it can be dangerous!
Spread the sling’s material over your shoulder as much as possible to help carry baby’s weight more effectively (don’t let it bunch up by your neck, as this is a leading cause of baby wearing injuries), and try to settle the rings just below your collarbone, at about the level you would pin a corsage. This will allow the rings to tighten appropriately when you settle baby into the sling, and keep them from digging into your shoulder.
Your little one’s seat in the sling is important! Make sure their knees are up higher than their hips to prevent hip problems from developing; you can do this by adjusting the sling’s material so it sits under baby’s thighs completely. You’re going to have to adjust the sling and seat several times while carrying. When you do, make sure you have a hand on your child to support them. Whenever possible, adjust the sling from the top rather than the bottom, and pull the fabric at a diagonal.
When in doubt, look up instructions! Your ring sling might come with some in the packaging, and there are plenty of videos and instruction sheets available online. If there are other new parents in your circle of friends, they might be able to give you an in-person demonstration.
Breastfeeding While Using a Ring Sling
Ring slings can be used from birth, so it’s very likely you’ll want to try feeding your little one on the go sooner or later. It’s absolutely possible to do so without removing your carrier if you’re wearing a ring sling!
Practice at home before public breastfeeding becomes your only option. It’ll give you and baby a chance to get used to the process without prying eyes, and if your little one gets too cranky to continue, it’s easier to take them out of the sling and feed them as usual.
Your choice of clothes also becomes extremely important once breastfeeding while baby wearing enters the picture. It’s easier to get one of your breasts up and out of your shirt than it is to pull your whole shirt up from under the sling! Button-down shirts, deep V-necks, and shirts designed to wear while nursing will help immensely, both in keeping your privacy and getting food to your child that much faster.
Ring slings can also provide a natural feeding cover, in the form of the fabric tail. This only works with longer tails, and if you’ve wrapped the tail around the rings – a stylish option for keeping all that fabric from dragging – it may not be completely practical.
Cleaning instructions might vary from brand to brand, but the vast majority of ring slings are machine washable, and can even go in the dryer. Check your particular sling for details, but in general: Wash in cold water, tumble dry on the lowest setting, put the sling in a lingerie bag or zippable pillow case to wash (in order to protect the rings), and don’t use fabric softener.