Varieties of slings and carriers

Types of slings and carriers


Wraparounds or wraps

A wraparound is a length of fabric tied around the parent and baby in many different ways – on the front, side, and back, with either one- or two- shouldered carries  (the latter gives comfort for the adult’s shoulders and back through weight distribution and means they have both hands free). The baby can be positioned in an almost unlimited number of positions with plenty of support for their posture.  They can be used to carry newborns to young children.  Their use requires some practice, but makes up for it in versatility.

Short length wraparound carriers

Short length wraps are often called Rebozos, which originate from those worn by Mexican and Guatemalan women and girls of all ages.  Rebozo means shawl in Spanish - they are used to carry all sorts of things as well as babies and children.  A Rebozo is also used for warmth, protection from the sun, and during ceremonies.  Usually made of a lightweight fabric (such as cotton, silk, and rayon) with fringed ends, they are worn tied over one shoulder.

Advantages
  • lightweight and compact
  • can be used from newborns to young children
  • ease – almost any piece of cloth can be used (see Mamatoto website which particularly encourages use of a simple piece of cloth and easy ways to make wraps)
  • versatile – can be used in different positions
  • comfortable
  • beautiful – often available in bright colours


Disadvantages
  • requires some practice and may take longer to learn to tie
  • some fabrics not produced under regulations regarding dyes etc.
  • some people find one-shouldered carries uncomfortable


Types of short wraparounds available include:
 The Rebozo www.rebozoway.org


Long length wraparound carriers

These are highly versatile wraps, usually worn in symmetrical fashion over both shoulders, which helps with weight distribution and comfort.  They can also be used for one-shouldered carries.  They allow many types of positions on the front, side and back.  They are available in lightweight and heavier versions.  They have been very popular in Europe since the early 1970’s.  Generally they are available in several lengths, the choice depends on the size of the wearer and the type of carries they want to use.  They are divided into two categories: woven and stretchy.

Advantages
  • baby is held securely
  • comfortable - baby’s weight is distributed over a wide area
  • versatility – a multitude of positions, carries, and fabrics to choose from
  • two shouldered carries very comfortable
  • support babies' natural posture, keeping the legs in 'frog' position and the back rounded


Disadvantages


  • may take slightly longer to get on and off
  • the number of choices of carries can be overwhelming for a beginner
  • long piece of fabric can be overwhelming for a beginner
  • bulky for storage
  • in wet or muddy places the fabric may drag on the ground when tying


Long wraps are divided into two types: woven and stretchy


Woven long length wraparounds

These are often made of diagonally woven fabric or hand woven fabric, although any woven fabric can be used. Usually made of cotton, the thickness depends on the climate – thicker ones are available in Europe and thinner ones in hotter climates. 

Benefits
  • versatile and comfortable
  • can be used from newborns to young children
  • many tying options available
  • can tighten individual fabric “strands” for maximum fit, comfort and support
  • stable and safe for older children with back carries
  • comfort for wearer’s shoulders even with toddlers and long walks
  • doesn’t stretch out of shape
  • rarely needs retying after a long time wearing it
  • generally long-lasting, especially the organic ones
  • can be used after baby carrying days are finished, such as for hammocks, swings, and tablecloths


Disadvantages
  • requires practice
  • some fabrics are hot in hot climates
  • not so easy to pop baby in and out as stretchy wraps but can with certain positions



Woven long length wraparounds include:
Storchenweige (thick organic cotton, double hemline, tapered ends, uses double thread in warp and weft which makes it very durable, the stretch embraces and supports baby, cut on the bias, made in Germany), http://storchenwiege.com/  www.childrensneeds.com


Lana (organic, double hemline, square ends, made in Switzerland), available in Australia www.babaroo.com.au and www.carryingaway.com  


Didymos (organic cotton, tapered ends, grown in India and made in Germany and Austria, cut on the bias, double hemline, the thickness of a light blanket, marked in middle for ease of tying, beautiful patterns available) www.didymos.de


Hoppediz (organic, double hemline, tapered ends, grown and made in India under Fair Trade, middle of sling marked for easy tying) www.hoppediz.de


EllaRoo Wrap (lightweight with fringed ends, may wear out more quickly and not give support to small babies’ backs, traditional style made in Guatemala) www.carryingaway.com


For a comparison between the different woven wraparounds see http://childrensneeds.com/baby_sling_research.html


Stretchy long length wraparounds

These are usually made from cotton.  They tend to be used for younger babies because of the stretch and bounce. They are generally tied first and then the baby is put inside.  Tight wrapping is required so that the baby is held securely.  The pocket wrap cross carry is most frequently used, and the baby can be positioned facing inwards vertically or horizontally, and vertically facing outwards (although some do not recommend this carry).

Benefits
  • very comfortable, especially with younger babies
  • easy to get baby in and out (poppable)
  • ease – can leave the wrap on when you take the baby out
  • breast-feeding is easy with the stretch


Disadvantages
  • the stretch and bounce may not be comfortable with babies over 6 or 7 months
  • lacks support and security for back carries
  • less options for the number of carries recommended
  • May need to be retied to maintain support and comfort


Stretchy long length wraparounds include:
Hug a Bub (designed in Australia of cotton jersey material, has front pocket/storage pouch and comes with video), www.hug-a-bub.com


Moby wrap (made in Thailand of cotton interlock, cool and soft) www.mobywrap.com


The Ultimate Baby Wrap (very stretchy, cotton and lycra, has pocket) ww.theultimatebabywrap.com

for a comparison on whether to go stretchy or woven, see http://www.cottoncradles.com/erwrapvshugabub.htm
and http://childrensneeds.com/baby_sling_research.html

A question about outward facing carries

Some manufacturers do not recommend carrying a baby facing outwards on the adult’s front with a wrap carrier.  Some of the suggested reasons include:  The supporting cloth between the legs cannot be pulled wide enough, so the spread-squat position is not possible.  The back is not supported properly because it is being pressed against the stomach/chest of the carrier.  The baby may get over-stimulated, and boys have pressure against the testicles. (see http://www.hoppediz.de/)


Slings

A sling goes over one shoulder and around the torso of the adult.  It is usually tied with a couple of rings that allow the sling to be tightened or loosened and worn by different adults.  Baby can be carried on the front, hip or back.  Small babies can recline in the sling, whereas older babies and toddlers are often carried sitting upright on the hip.  Slings are easy to get on and off and baby can change positions without getting him out.  Parents can choose between padded or unpadded; which affects pressure, warmth, adjustability and bulk.

Advantages of slings

  • easy to get on and off
  • easy option for beginning babywearers
  • convenient for breastfeeding
  • toddlers can get in and out quickly
  • can be used for newborns up to toddlers
  • different positions possible
  • can change positions whilst baby is in the sling
  • adjustable


Disadvantages

  • can be uncomfortable for those who prefer to use both shoulders
  • can promote unequal posture of person carrying
  • baby usually needs support of one hand of parents for stability
  • can take time to adjust fabric through the rings



Slings are divided into two types: padded and not padded:

Padding can be situated just on the rail or shoulder or all over.

Padding or no padding?

Advantages of padding
  • may support a smaller baby’s head whilst breast-feeding
  • may mean less pressure on parent’s shoulder
  • may protect baby’s legs from material digging into them


Disadvantages of padding
  • may be uncomfortable in a warm climate
  • more bulky for carrying in a bag
  • may make sliding onto the back more difficult
  • padding on the rail may make adjusting top rail more difficult
  • may make it difficult to bring the sling very high and tight for maximum comfort



Unpadded slings include:

Maya wrap (Cotton Guatemalan fabric with open tail, fair traded) www.mayawrap.com and www.instinctiveparenting.com


TaylorMadeSlings (available in cotton mesh, flax/linen, hemp, silk, organic mesh, thermal, solarveil for sun protection, and nylon mesh for use in water) www.taylormadeslings.com


Amaryllis Pocket Sling (open-tailed with a deep pouch, made in Australia) www.carryingaway.com

Padded slings include:
EllaRoo Sling (open tail, lightly padded, available in organic version) www.carryingaway.com


Comfy carry (choose between side release clips or rings, made in Australia, netting available for hot climates) – www.cairnsmidwifery.com.au/content/overview.htm and www.instinctiveparenting.com




Pouches

Like a sling but without a tie, ring or clip.  The fabric is sewn together into a loop.  Can be used for front, hip and back carries.  They are usually lightweight and easy to get on and off. Most pouches are not adjustable which means that exact fit is important. 

Advantages
  • ease of putting on and off
  • ease for quick carries
  • lightweight, fold compactly, easy to carry in a nappy bag or handbag
  • built in pouch feels secure
  • easy to transfer baby to car seat or to put sleeping baby down


Disadvantages
  • difficult to share pouch between caregivers when not adjustable
  • adjustable pouches are more bulky
  • important that they fit exactly
  • some find them uncomfortable and prefer the support of two shoulders



Non adjustable pouches include
Hotslings – Stretchy cotton fabric with padding.  Available in different type of fabrics including solarveil (sun protection). www.hotslings.com and www.carryingaway.com


New Native Baby Carrier – organic twill or flannel with deep pouch.  www.newnativebaby.com

Adjustable pouches include
Kangaroo Korner – cotton or fleece, can be shared between different carers, can do vertical carries. www.kangarookorner.com




Asian-style carriers

These are formed of a rectangle of fabric with straps that come from the corners.  They are made of either two straps, developed from the Korean-inspired Podaegi, and the more commonly known four-strap carriers, which have developed from a Chinese-inspired Mei Tai, which means ’to carry the beautiful’.  They vary in whether they can be worn on the front, hip and back, and whether they have padding on the straps.  They are easy to get on and off.

Advantages
  • weight distributed over both shoulders (in Mei Tai)
  • comfortable wearing heavier babies and toddlers
  • lightweight
  • easy to use
  • back carries are quick and easy to learn
  • beautiful fabrics generally available
  • lots of choice since there are so many manufacturers
  • one size fits most


Disadvantages
  • some people find them uncomfortable for long periods (straps may dig into shoulders)
  • some do not have head support and so may not be suitable for newborns or sleeping babies


Asian style carriers include:
Cwtshi Evo - has leg padding, popper system for head support, and side rings for extra security. www.cwtshi.com 


Kozy Carrier – slightly padded straps, canvas-type fabric, curved head support.  www.kozycarrier.com

 
Ellaroo Mei Tai – available in Chinese-made embroidered option, or US-made cotton with organic cotton batting.  www.ellaroo.com/mei-tai.php 


Ellaroo Podaegi – cotton, can be used with straps over shoulders or strapless for extra shoulder comfort. www.ellaroo.com/podaegi.php


GoGoBabyTotes  - UV protection, mei tai style, can be used on the beach, pool, shower. http://babyarmadillo.com





Structured soft carriers

These generally use clips or Velcro for easy fastening. Some are designed just for the front, others for front and back, others for front, hip and back (thus for different age ranges). Some of them are extremely comfortable, most are easy to get on and off.  A few of these types of carriers do not provide adequate support for a baby’s spine and place too much pressure on the baby’s pelvis, because the material under the crotch is too narrow, so the baby’s legs dangle down. 


Advantages
  • ease of getting on and off
  • easy to learn how to use
  • comfort, especially with padded ones


Disadvantages
  • some put too much pressure on baby’s pelvis
  • some lack padding and support for wearer’s shoulders and back



Structured soft carriers which do support baby's pelvis include:
ERGO baby carrier – wide strap around hips and for shoulders means high comfort levels, made in America, available in organic option, infant insert can be added, has hood for head support when baby is sleeping www.ergobabycarrier.com and www.instinctiveparenting.com and www.carryingaway.com


Patapum - made in Italy, cotton canvas outside, brushed twill inside, padded shoulder and waist straps, detachable hood available for sleeping babies.  Toddler version available. www.patapum.com and www.carryingaway and www.bubani.com 



Wilkinet – like a wraparound but with long thin ties rather than thick cloth, wide and well padded shoulder straps, has high padded head rest, available in soft cord, cotton canvas, twill cotton, and denim, made in the UK. www.wilkinet.co.uk




Backpack style carriers

These often have a metal frame, with the baby being held slightly away from the adult’s body. 


Hip carriers

Ellaroo Mei Tai Hip Carrier – a hip carrier that has a shoulder strap that cups the shoulder of the wearer for more comfort.
http://www.ellaroo.com/mei-hip.php



Hippychick Hipseat carrier – like a hip belt with a seat shelf, distributes weight through the hips and spine of the wearer. www.hippychick.com and www.bubani.com

Making your own carrier

This option is an easy and cheap way to carry a babiy.  However, bear in mind that some fabric types and weaves mean less support for the baby and less comfort for the wearer.  Diagonal and horizontal elasticity or “give” at just the right amount makes the difference between carrying an older baby comfortably or uncomfortably.  Very stretchy fabric may need frequent retying to maintain comfort.  If the fabric is too smooth the knot will gradually give way.  When the fabric is too rough, retightening the fabric folds sensitively becomes difficult.  Thinner fabrics may cut into skin at the folds and creases.  Traditionally, stripy fabric is used to enable ease of tying.  So if you make your own, you might want to research fabric types first.



Doll slings for children

Storchenweige, Didymos, Maya Wrap, TayorMade slings, New Native Baby Carrier, and Cwtshi.



What to consider when choosing a carrier


The age of your baby  

Newborns to pre-sitting infants – 

front carries using stretchy and woven wraps, slings, pouches, Asian-style carriers and some soft structured carriers.  Back carries are possible too, as long as there is head support.

For 5 or 6 months onwards - 

back carries and hip carries using woven wraps, soft structured carriers, Asian-style carriers, and slings. 


Do you want to choose between lots of different carrying positions?  Then a woven wraparound has most choices, followed by an unpadded sling.

Consider the climate you live in - In hot summers, cotton, mesh, linen, and hemp feel cooler.  For cold weather, woven wraps made in Europe are usually warmer.  Or you may choose a carrier that fits under your coat or even buy a specially designed coat or poncho.


Comfort of baby and wearer -  Consider whether you want padding, and whether your shoulders get tense (wraparounds and podaegis might be a choice here).  Some people prefer two shouldered carriers and woven wraps for comfort and weight distribution.  Wearing older babies on the back helps too.


Do you want to be able to breast-feed with it on?  Many carriers enable you to do this, especially stretchy wraparounds and slings.


Is organic and fair-trade manufacture important to you?  Look for organic carriers, fair-traded, with baby-friendly dyes.  Remember that baby has the carrier against his skin and is likely to suck it at times.


Will you be carrying a baby or toddler whilst you are pregnant?  Look for one that can be tied just around the shoulders, such as a woven wraparound for back carries.

Does it provide ergonomic support for the baby? Dr. Evelyn Kirkilionis has the following suggestions:  The legs need to be supported at a 90 degree angle or more and straddled around the wearer’s body.  She recommends avoiding carriers where the hips hang straight down.  For back support, the carrier needs to be snug against the baby’s back and pull the baby close to the parent.  Some slings and structured carriers do not have enough back support for younger babies.  Head support and stabilisation is important for young babies and older babies when sleeping.


Some carrying tips

  • practice first at home in front of a mirror (and keep practicing!)
  • make sure the baby is held securely.
  • for optimal support for baby and comfort for wearer, high up and firm holds are usually required.  This creates optimum weight distribution.
  • consider back carries for older and heavier babies.
  • ensure baby has the option of protection from over-stimulation, particularly when they are younger (some specialists do not recommend frontward outward facing carries)






Resources


The Babywearer website www.thebabywearer.com - this site has everything you might want to know about carrying babies, from choosing a carrier, to reviews and sellers of hundreds of carriers, to detailed instructions on how to use them, how to make them, and several different forums to join.

Comparisons of different carriers

See http://www.instinctiveparenting.com/flex/comparison_chart/101/1 - for comparison of the hug a bub, maya, ergo and comfy carrier.

How to tie and wear different carriers

Mamatoto – www.mamatoto.org - devoted to babywearing and the use of a simple piece of cloth.  Lots of instructions with pictures and videos of how to tie slings and wraparounds.

Pictures and instructions in Blois, M. (2005) Babywearing – the benefits and beauty of this ancient tradition.  Pharmasoft Publishing, Texas.


Rebozos

The Rebozo Way project  http://www.rebozoway.org

The Rebozo Way of Life - Barbara Wishingrad http://www.rebozoway.org/articles/rwplife.htm

Pictures of how to tie Rebozo wraps
http://www.rebozoway.org/articles/origway.htm

How to tie Mexican Rebozos - Vesta Hartman Garcia
http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/HowToO/Rebozos.htm

Short wraparounds

Mamatoto - a site dedicated to babywearing, even (especially!) with a SPOC (simple piece of cloth). – lots of pictures and videos for how to tie wraps  www.mamatoto.com

Long wraparounds

Which length of woven wrap to choose,
http://www.childrensneeds.com/universal%20sizing%20chart.html
http://www.cottoncradles.com/wrapsizechart.htm

For instructions on how to put on wraparounds, see:
“Tying your woven wrap” Instructional DVD with many carries available from www.childrensneeds.com
http://www.storchenwiege.com/differentholds.htm
http://www.wearyourbaby.com
http://www.ellaroo.com/wraparound-instructions.shtml
http://www.cottoncradles.com/pocketwrapcross.htm (for stretchy and woven wraps)
http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/HowTo/WrapLinks.htm
How to tie a long wraparound http://www.didymos.de/english/index_e.htm

Using slings

Pictures and instructions in Blois, M. (2005) Babywearing – the benefits and beauty of this ancient tradition.  Pharmasoft Publishing, Texas.
Getting started with a sling by Darien Wilson
http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/HowToO/GettingStarted.htm

Using Pouches

Using a pouch by Jen Moore
http://www.thebabywearer.com/articles/HowToO/Pouches.htm

Using Mei Tais and Podaegis/ Podegis

Instructions for using a mei tai style carrier by Kelley Mason
http://www.kozycarrier.homestead.com/instructions.html#anchor_62

Instructions for using a podegi
http://www.wearsthebaby.com/babywearing/podegi.html

Whether to carry a baby facing outwards:

Dr. Eveline Kikilionis, “A Baby Wants to be Carried.”  (Currently only available in German: “Ein Baby will getragen sein.”)
 http://www.storchenwiege.com/babycarrierresearch.htm


Carriers made or designed in Australia include:

Hug a Bub - www.hug-a-bub.com.au
Amaryllis baby – pocket sling, wrap me up and mei tai – www.carryingaway.com
Comfy carry – www.cairnsmidwifery.com.au/content/overview.htm
Freedom slings
Baba slings www.babaslings.com


Australian sellers of carriers include:

Instinctive Parenting  www.instinctiveparenting.com - sell Hug-a-bub, Maya wrap. Comfy carry and Ergo baby carrier.  Located in Byron Bay

Babaroo  www.babaroo.com  Sell the Lana wrap.  Located in Victoria.

Carrying Away www.carryingaway.com - sell pouches, ring slings, wraparounds, Asian-inspired carriers, structured carriers and hip carriers.  Located in the Brisbane area

Bubani.com www.bubani.com - sell Patapum and Patapum toddler carrier, and hippychick hipseat babycarrier.  Located in Western Australia



With thanks to

Suzanne Shahar www.hug-a-bub.com and www.instinctiveparenting.com
Bronwyn Nugent www.babaroo.com
Beate Frome www.childrensneeds.com

An edited version of this article was first published in Kindred Magazine in 2007 www.kindredmedia.com.au