Friday, January 23, 2009

Babywearing the heavy baby: ring sling

This is second in my series on helpful baby carriers for the heavy baby. (Links to the other posts are at the bottom.)

Today I'll introduce you to the usefulness of the unpadded ring sling, and specifically the hip carry.


Best timeframe: Newborn to toddler age, depending on carry; hip carry -- from ~4 months-12 months is most comfortable

Ring slings are a long swath of fabric again, but this time with two rings that you position in front of one shoulder, making the ring sling more easily adjustable than a baby wrap you have to knot on.

Tie one on

There are a bajillion different ways to wear your baby in a sling (here are some very basic directions from, but the point of my series is how to wear the heavy baby.

So, for a heavy, slightly older baby, I recommend the hip carry. The timeframe for a hip carry is from whenever your baby can support his or her head, generally from a few months up, to whenever it's no longer comfortable to carry your little (big) one on your hip. Using the ring sling for a hip carry is like having an extra arm to support under your baby's bum. You can continue supporting your baby with your arm to keep the weight off the opposite shoulder, but you can also let go and use both hands when needed. I think of it as an assisted hip carry.

I've found the ring sling hip carry to be ideal for when I want to do something around the house that my baby wants to see. For instance, at a certain age, I was able to do the dishes with this carry. You have to be able to reach around your baby's body, plus keep grabby hands tucked inside the sling -- so it's not going to work forever! But you'll find other tasks you can complete with your baby looking along with you. It gives your baby the same line of sight as a front-facing carry, but having your hip (and, occasionally, arm) support the weight makes it a lot easier on your back.

Like any of these unpadded lengths of cloth, you can also use your ring sling as a blanket, a nursing cover-up, a burp cloth, a shawl, or a pillow. And it's easy to fold up to travel light in a diaper bag. There are padded versions of ring slings as well that might be more comfortable on your shoulder but aren't quite as portable.

Make your own

If you're feeling crafty, you can always make your own. Just be certain to get sling rings that can support a large amount of weight, for safety. (The rings at craft and fabric stores are not sturdy enough.)

Jan Andrea has a no-sew version that requires only a length of fabric and two rings.

She also has a host of sewing options featuring patterns and step-by-step tutorials for one-layer and reversible slings, as well as this FAQ on materials.

You might consider adding helpful extras to your custom design, such as a zippered pocket on the tail for tucking a diaper and wipes. You can dress up the fabrics you use, too, and make an elegant formal sling for a special occasion.

Buy online

If you don't want to make your own carrier, the images in this post link to various commercial versions on Amazon.

I bought a few ring slings off eBay and from consignment shops. Ring slings are some of the most popular baby carriers out there, so they're easy to find gently used, or custom-made from a work-at-home mama.

Carry your baby every which way

Give the hip carry a try for heavy babies with good neck control. The younger the baby, the higher the fabric should spread over the baby's back to lend some support.

You can also swing a hip carry around to be a back carry if you need your baby out of the way momentarily, such as when cooking. (Practice this one carefully.)

For other carries, check out ZoloWear's instruction gallery, which includes videos as well as step-by-step photos.

The video below is from that gallery, and it shows how the hip carry is also an easy position for an older baby or toddler to nurse in while you go about your business:

For long walks and extended time wearing a heavy baby, it's best to go with a two-shoulder carrier rather than a one-shoulder like the ring sling. Spreading out the weight is easier on your back. Look for more two-shoulder options in the next posts in the series!

Posts in this series, in order:

Read more about different baby carriers and babywearing, complete with pictorial how-tos, in my Natural Parent's Guide to Babywearing!


Jenny said...

I LOVE my Maya Wrap ring sling. I have 10+ carriers. It was the last one I bought (I think--but I couldn't swear to it!) and is my favorite. I kind of wish I'd gotten it earlier, because I could've done without some of the others.

Is it wrong that it made me happy to see nursing in the hip carry listed as advanced? I may not be advanced at skiing or sewing or, well, anything, but I can nurse my daughter in the hip carry! :-)

Lauren Wayne said...

I noticed your nice ring sling in your picture on your blog. It's so fun to find The One that works best for you! I know ultimately my husband & I used two carriers most of all, and I wondered that I'd tried out so many -- but, of course, you have to to get to that point!

Congratulations on finding out that you are an advanced babywearer! :) I'm thinking it must be because you have to confident nursing first to be able to put the two together -- like chewing gum and walking!

Kate Wicker said...

Thanks for all of these great resources. I consider my baby carrier rich and have all sorts of different kinds, but I'm always looking for new products and babywearing tips, especially since baby number three will be here before I know it!

Catherine @ learner mummy said...

I found your post so helpful, I've just bought a ring sling. Can't wait to try it out! Thanks! (I'm blogging about it here

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