Baby / 30 October, 2023 / Zoe Woodman
It is becoming more common to see people carrying babies and young children using slings or carriers, with many retailers now stocking many different brands. However, staff are unlikely to have had general babywearing training or have much knowledge on the entire market of carriers, so they are often not best placed to be used for information or advice on carrying. They may have had brand-specific training to sell these items but not know how they compare to other brands for example.
There are sling libraries and trained consultants around the country who help to support carrying and they will have a wide variety of types of slings and carriers to try on, hire usually for a fee, or to come to your home for a one-to-one session. The services they offer may vary, so it is always worth checking their websites or social media. Sling library sessions are typically free to attend; you are shown a selection of carriers/slings and may try them on with a weighted demo doll, then you hire it for a period of time to try it at home over a few weeks or so. Fees vary. You may find they can help with your own sling/carrier to ask for support – typically there will be a donation or small fee for helping you.
Many sling libraries are run as not-for-profit or charities. Some are private businesses. Many consultants work privately as well as offer library sessions.
You can find your nearest here: http://www.slingpages.co.uk/
That way you get to see a selection in one go and see how they compare to one another. What sling your friend/neighbour/shop assistant/magazine says isn’t always going to work for you and your child
If someone told you a brand of shoes was amazing would you just go and buy them? Probably not. What about a car? Unlikely.
We all have different requirements and different preferences, different body shapes, different capabilities, different tolerances and different ways of learning. There is no one single best sling/carrier, only what is best for you and your child! And this may be different to others. And it may also change over time as your child grows and develops.
So when someone tells you they loved their (insert any brand!), that’s great but it doesn’t help you to know if it will be suited to you.
Like shoes, it is useful to try slings/carriers on, after all our bodies are all very different and some slings/carriers are better suited to different frames for example. The fit of a sling is really important for your comfort, your baby’s comfort and also for safety reasons.
There are slings/carriers to suit most budgets, with the more expensive ones being around £150-£200, but with many costing between £85-£150. There is a false belief that the more a sling/carrier costs, the better it is. Buying the most expensive carrier or sling doesn’t mean it is going to fit you, or meet you and your child’s needs and just because a carrier is cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean it is of lesser quality or fit.
Depending on the brand and type, the price can vary. It is important to try them on and think about how you are going to use the carrier/sling – this will help narrow it down. There are budget-friendly brands and brands aimed at high-end and the fashion aspect of the market, too. Buying second-hand is also a good option, ensuring they aren’t fakes and are in good condition. Many hold their value well, meaning you can sell it on once you are no longer using the sling/carrier.
A good way to assess the quality of a carrier/sling is to check what standards it meets. There are various standards that can be tested to ensure safety such as EN/BS 13209-2015 or CEN/TR16512:2015 so look out for these on labels and boxes. However just because it isn’t tested doesn’t mean it is unsafe. It is all about how you use it so a tested sling/carrier can be used unsafely/dangerously.
Typically, what meets a newborn baby’s need for snug, soft all round gentle support isn’t going to necessarily meet the needs of a much bigger mobile child or toddler! Also, your body may need more soft support in the early weeks and months compared to further down the line.
We often want to get something that will last from day one through to toddlerhood and this is difficult because they have very different developmental needs at different ages. A 4-month-old baby is vastly different compared to a week-old newborn.
Many buckle carriers state that they are suitable for newborns but in practice, these can be less comfy and less supportive than a stretchy wrap as well as unsafe if it doesn’t fit well. Also, a newborn baby will want contact for a lot of the day and as they grow and develop they may not need as much contact. Think about it like shoes. If I am wearing them all day, I will pick a different option compared to if I am only wearing them for an hour to so.
A good option can be a stretchy wrap in the early months and moving onto a more structured carrier/sling at around 4-6 months.
With stretchy wraps and wovens being long pieces of fabric you tie you can adapt how you tie it depending on the size. However, buckle carriers are typically designed to try and fit a range of different sizes/shapes etc. In reality, some just don’t fit some people very well. They all have ways of adjusting and tweaking fit such as changing from using ruck or H straps to cross straps.
It also means that what fits a 6-month-old well may not work as well at 12 months or 18 months. It might also work brilliantly for front carrying but less so for back carrying or hip carrying depending on the type of carrier. So exploring options is key! If it isn’t working, seek support!
For the reasons above and more, it can be useful to visit a sling library or consultant to see what options are out there. They will have many more in stock than most shops will to look at and feel and try on. Libraries are also independent as in they will not push certain brands for certain margins etc.
Those who volunteer at libraries often are trained and have a lot of experience using a variety of carriers/slings, so it is possible that they can help with your own carrier/sling to make it more comfortable, or they may suggest some alternatives based on your needs.
If you are unsure if it is safe or if carrying your child is no longer comfortable, find a local carrying consultant or sling library.
Zoe Woodman, founder of The Sling Consultancy
Main image: Zoe & youngest child Jude at Deans Court in Dorset, carrying Jude on her front with a cross on her back in a woven wrap, he is peaking over her shoulder.