Buying Guide to Baby Slings

Baby wearing has become a popular alternative to strollers in recent years. Mothers from all over have realized they too can have that fabled “third arm” by wearing their offspring in a sling. Many mothers have also realized the physical and emotional benefits of baby wearing on both baby and her parents. Studies show that babies that are regularly worn in a sling cry less, learn more, humanize earlier, and communicate more clearly than babies that are routinely placed in a stroller or play pen. Baby wearing also allows for more bonding opportunities between daddy and baby and often gives mom more mobility in public than possible with the traditional stroller or travel system arrangement. Slings can also reduce strain on the back and shoulders that may result when carrying an infant often.

There are many different styles of slings. The classic rebozo or wrap sling is pretty much just a large piece of fabric, properly folded and knotted. The wrap sling comes in long and short varieties and is particularly attractive for its portability and simplicity; however, many women feel uncertain that they’ve tied these sling styles properly and prefer ones with more padding such as the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder. Other styles of slings include pouches and mei tais. Pouches have no knots to tie or rings to buckle. Pouch slings just slip over the shoulder and head. Mei tais are an Asian style of sling that wrap around the torso to carry the baby on the front or back.

When choosing a sling, look for comfort and ease. Make sure you’re comfortable putting the sling on, putting baby in the sling, and wearing the sling for extended periods of time. Make sure the sling is well made and very, very strong. Rings used in popular rebozo style slings like the Maya Wrap should be weight tested. Remember, the sling is supposed to make life easier – if it is uncomfortable in any way, makes you nervous, or is difficult to put on, it’s probably not the proper style for you.

Due to lack of local availability, most moms choose to purchase their slings online. Since many slings are also made by hand, sizing between different brands and styles can differ drastically. If possible, find a local boutique that stocks several different kinds of slings and try on a few different styles or borrow a sling from a baby-wearing friend before making an online purchase. If it’s not possible to try the sling before making a purchase, contact customer service at the company you’re considering buying your sling from and ask lots of questions. As many slings are made by Work-At-Home-Moms running their own small at-home businesses, chances are you’ll be talking to the person who will actually be sewing your sling. Some companies will even be willing to make you a custom sling in fabric of your choice.

Once you’ve decided on a style, I suggest checking eBay for a previously owned sling, as a new sling can cost anywhere from $60 to $100. Many mothers with children who have outgrown their sling or who have decided to upgrade to a different brand or style sell previously owned slings on eBay that are in new or practically new condition for much less than they originally paid.

There are so many slings available for purchase that it’s easy to get confused and frustrated in the search to find the perfect sling. Here are a few that I have tried or have seen other moms use successfully and enthusiastically:

Maya Wrap: Incredibly adjustable sling with a simple design for wearing infants and toddlers. The Maya Wrap comes in both a pouch design as well as the traditional rebozo style and all Maya Wrap slings are made from 100% cotton Guatemalan fabric. These easy to use slings are unpadded for high portability and low heat, making it the perfect sling for warmer climates. www.mayawrap.com

Over the Shoulder Baby Holder: These handmade slings are one of the top rated slings in the world. OTSBH slings are highly padded and comfortable for baby or toddler as well as mama. This sling allows for many natural holding positions that promote nursing, lactation, and bonding and are available in a variety of organic and hand painted prints. www.babyholder.com

Ergo Baby Carrier: This is likely the most expensive sling on the market at nearly $100 but it is also one of the best and most versatile. The extremely comfortable Ergo Baby Carrier allows mom or dad to wear baby on the front or back and is strong enough to carry your child piggy-back far past toddlerhood which makes the Ergo Baby Carrier perfect for hiking or camping with little ones. www.ergobabycarrier.com

Hotslings: Hotslings are a pouch design sling appropriate for wearing babies and toddlers with an innovative design that combines fashion with function. Fun, hip designs and not a ducky or bear to be seen! Sleek, one-piece design, easy to use, detailed sizing chart to help you find the right sling for you, a padded design for baby’s comfort, and up to five hands-free carrying positions. www.hotslings.com

No matter what sling you choose, you will be closer to your baby and you’ll both be happier and healthier because of it. Happy baby wearing!

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