Does the thought of figuring out how to use a baby sling have you all tied up in knots? Baby slings are a fun and practical way to wear your baby, but many moms find them daunting because it can take time to master the techniques.
The first time I used a ring sling, it was a disaster. I couldn’t seem to position my infant correctly, and I was terrified I would hurt her. Thankfully I had a friend willing to show me the proper technique. She was my support system, and now it’s time that I pay it forward.
In this article, we will dive into everything related to ring slings. We’ll talk about why you should choose a ring sling and why you might prefer other options instead. We’ll go over safety considerations, common questions, and babywearing tips, and we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to do several types of carries.
- Ring slings are a type of baby carrier secured at the shoulder with two rings, creating a pouch for your baby.
- Always prioritize your baby’s safety: check the sling’s condition, ensure proper positioning, and support their back and neck.
- There are various carrying positions, including cradle hold, snuggle hold, and hip carry, suitable for different baby ages and situations.
- Practice and patience are essential when learning to use a ring sling; adjusting and troubleshooting may be necessary for a comfortable and secure fit.
The Rundown on Ring Slings
First things first — what exactly is a ring sling? A ring sling is a long strip of fabric similar to a baby wrap. Ring slings are available in a wide variety of patterns and colors and are secured at your shoulder with a set of rings. This creates a sling or pouch that allows you to carry your baby securely while taking pressure off your arms and back (1).
A ring sling’s advantages go far beyond its fabric options. It allows you to have skin-to-skin contact while you carry and communicate with your little one.
It’s also a hands-free carry option. You don’t have to use a stroller, which gives you access to the stairs when you’re out instead of having to search for a ramp or elevator.
That doesn’t mean a ring sling is without its disadvantages. In hot weather, ring slings can become uncomfortable for you and your baby, and if you have a lot to carry, it can become an impractical option.
Weigh Your Options
Safety Considerations To Keep in Mind
Safety should be your top priority no matter how you decide to transport your baby. You need to do a few things to ensure your baby’s safety in a ring sling.
Before you ever place your baby into a ring sling, you must ensure the sling is safe. When you purchase your sling, take your child with you, ask for a demonstration on how it should be used, and avoid slings that are marketed with terms such as “womb-like” and “cocoon,” as these could hold your baby in an unsafe manner.
Each time you put your baby in the sling, check it to ensure it’s in good condition. You need to watch for tears or snags that might compromise its ability to hold your baby.
The Position Matters
Your baby should be held high and snug next to your chest. If your baby is small, has a cold, or was born prematurely, ask your doctor before wearing them in the sling.
Use caution and your instincts when wearing your baby. Be careful when holding hot drinks or carrying something heavy, and check often to ensure your baby is safe and secure in the sling.
How Do I Prepare My Sling?
My aunt once told me that any good recipe requires some preparation. The same goes for most things in life, including your ring sling. While you might be tempted to put your baby in your ring sling as soon as you get it out of the box, there are a few things you should do first.
Ensure You Have the Right Size
Every parent doesn’t wear the same shirt size, and not every parent wears the same sling size. Be sure you have the right size for a sling so it will hold your baby snugly, safely, and securely.
Each brand of ring sling will differ in size slightly. For example, a small/medium Tula ring sling is roughly 77 inches long. But a small Bijou sling is 70 inches long, while a medium is 75 inches long.
How To Know
Threading a Ring Sling
Threading is the process of weaving the fabric through the rings to secure the wrap to carry your baby. This is how to thread your sling:
- Start by deciding which side of your body you want to hold your baby on. If you’re going to hold your baby on your right side, you will place the rings slightly in front of your left shoulder.
- Hold your sling by the rings with the long fabric tail draped behind your back.
- Wrap the tail around your back, bring it across your opposite hip and gather it up at the rings in the front.
- Take the entire end of the tail and bring it up through the rings.
- Allow the tail to go forward so the top hem falls toward your midline; the bottom hem will be toward the outside of your body.
- Lift the top ring, fold the end of the tail over it, and pull it under the bottom ring as if you were fastening a belt with rings. Work the fabric through the bottom ring slowly.
- Check that your tail’s top hem is still toward your midline and the bottom hem is at the outside of your body.
- Place both of your thumbs into the part of the tail woven between the rings, then pull it wide to loosen it a bit.
- Starting with your top hem, gently gather the piece between the rings strand by strand. If you have a striped sling, you will see you can fan out and gather it stripe by stripe easily.
- Grab the top and bottom hem of your tail and pull them out to tighten the sling. Repeat this with the inner sections of the sling to make sure the entire sling is snug.
Basic Techniques for Handling Your Sling
You can use several different holds and carries with your ring sling. But before we jump into the more complicated aspects of babywearing in a ring sling, let’s go over some basics.
Putting Your Sling on Properly
Putting your sling on correctly will ensure it is safe and secure to hold your baby. To properly put on your sling:
- Start by threading your sling. You can do this by first putting the sling over your shoulder and then threading it. Or by threading it in your hands first and then placing it over your shoulder.
- Put the rings as high as possible on your shoulder, especially when you are first starting. This is because the rings shift down a little as you adjust the sling.
- Preset the sling’s position before putting your baby in. You want the bottom rail to be even with your belly button. You can do this by holding the pouch out slightly as you tighten the sling and adjusting it slowly until you get it to the place it needs to be.
- Once you are done, you can place your baby in the sling.
Positioning the Ring
The metal or plastic sling rings can cause discomfort if you do not position them correctly. I once bruised my collarbone because the rings sat on it under my baby’s weight for too long. I don’t recommend it.
Instead, position your rings slightly below your shoulder for the most comfort and support.
Tightening Your Sling
You might find your sling is too loose, which causes your baby to sit too low in the sling. Luckily, tightening your sling is a reasonably straightforward process, and your baby can stay in the sling the entire time. To tighten the sling:
- While holding your baby with one hand, lift the top ring slightly. This will cause your sling to loosen even further.
- Lift your baby to where you want them to be, and tighten the top hem across your body until it is as snug as you desire.
- Repeat with the bottom hem and again with the middle section of your wrap to keep the entire wrap snug and secure.
Newborns vs. Toddlers
You can carry your child from newborn to toddler in a ring sling, so they are an excellent option for moms who only want to buy one baby carrier. You should hold both newborns and toddlers upright with their back, shoulders, and hips supported sufficiently.
Positioning Your Baby in the Seat
You want your baby to sit wide in the seat, with a third of the fabric tucked under them. Their legs should be positioned so their knees are above their hip sockets. This positioning helps to prevent future hip conditions.
Your Guide to Mastering Sling Positions
As with a wrap, a ring sling is versatile. You can wear your baby on your chest, your hip, and even your back. Here are some step-by-step instructions for several different carries.
Breastfeeding in a Ring Sling
You can nurse your baby in your ring sling, but it takes a little effort.
First off, don’t plan on it being a hands-free breastfeeding experience. No breastfeeding session is entirely hands-free. Sorry, mama!
But you don’t have to take your baby out to feed them, so that’s a positive.
When breastfeeding your baby in your ring sling, loosen the panel in stages to lower your baby gently down to your nipple. Feed them in this position.
When they are done feeding, return your baby to the snug and upright position they were in initially. This way, they stay safe as you continue to wear them.
Troubleshooting Your Ring Sling
So you’ve started to use your sling, but you find you’re struggling in a few areas. You are not alone. Everyone has questions when they’re new to using a sling, and we are happy to help you out.
Below are some tips to help you find success with your ring sling.
Ring Sling FAQs
Are you still scratching your head in confusion? Don’t worry; we have you covered with answers to your common ring sling questions.