I am not a sling expert but I have been using a sling for quite a few years now. It is one of the most essential baby gears for me and I would really recommend it to all mothers. It is the most versatile baby carrier with good mileage. You can use it from Day 1 till your baby is 2 years plus.
It has many names, depending on which version and where it is used. In Singapore, we normally call this a Sarong Sling. In Indonesia, it is the Selandang. It is also called a baby sling, or a wrap or pouch, depending on the construction.
In terms of construction, some of the common ones are tube slings, ring sling, pouches, etc. If you are buying a sling, how you use and the size of the sling will matter depending on the type of construction.
I am not a sling expert because I have not used all the many different types of slings out there in the market. I know there are people who are so crazy over slings they have at least 20 slings at home, one for every occasion. Hence, I am not going into the details of the various types of sling and how to use them. This is just a simple review of the slings that I have used and they are commonly available in the local market. In other words, Ring Slings.
This is the most commonly found one in Singapore and even within this category, there are many different designs and make. When buying such a sling, you would want to consider the follow factors :
1. The fabric material
Cotton is generally ok for our warm weather. But if you are still concerned, buying a light coloured sling helps to keep things cool. If the fabric is too thin, it may not withstand wash and wear. On the other hand, if the fabric is too thick, it can be hot and bulky and sometimes hard to pull.
Silk and Cotton Sateen, as sold in Moms in Mind, are known to be cooler. They are also much easier to pull, which means easier to use. The flip side is that they are also easier to slip back and loosen. I used 2 silk slings and the problem with them was that after a while, the child will sag lower due to his weight pulling on the fabric, and I found myself having to tighten and adjust more often than when I used a cotton sling. Although general feedback I get is that silk is cooler, I personally don’t find it much cooler than the cotton one.
There are other materials available, e.g. mesh, solarveil. They often have specific uses, like for use in water and in the case of solarveil, to keep out UV rays and keep cool. These tend to be a lot more expensive.
Besides the type of fabric, there are the frills, e.g. the design, embroidery, the prints. These are nice to have. One of my favourite, which I am currently using, is the Maya Wrap. It is actually not cooler. In fact, it is rather warm to be used in our weather. But being vain, I love the colours.
I also own a TaylorMade Solarveil sling, which I bought from A Mum’s Choice (now ceased operation). This is one of my favourite because it is so lightweight and when bunched up, takes up so little space in the bag. It is also cooler as it is supposed to shield against UV rays. Another plus point is that it is very easy to dry and hence, suitable to be used in the shower (if you have to bring your baby in with you) and the pool. The only complaint is that the fabric feels rather scratchy. My baby is not disturbed by it. After a few washings, the fabric gets softer but the scratchiness remains due to the weaving of the fabric. An alternative to the Solarveil sling would be the watermesh sling, also available from A Mum’s Choice. It is equally lightweight, easy to dry, and the fabric is smooth. However, it does not shield from UV rays.
2. The Padding
Some ring slings come with padded edges, supposedly for comfort. Others don’t. I personally don’t find any added value in having the padding. In fact, too thick a padding makes the sling bulky to keep, cumbersome to use, difficult to pull on, and very hot for the child. If you are a petite person and need a shorter sling, you can’t adjust the sling to a smaller size because you will be restricted by the thick padding, which cannot go through the rings. So I steer clear of such slings. As for the strain, I find that it has got to do with the construction of the sling more than padding. A badly constructed sling, even with padding, will be strenuous to use.
Typically, you can find heavily padded slings from better known US baby brands (e.g. Snugli), or Australian brands. My recommendation is to avoid them.
3. The Ring
There are only two types that I know of – plastic or metal (stainless steel). Most sling brands claim that their rings have been tested to be able to take heavy weights. I haven’t seen it myself, but if you come across cheap China-made slings, or some dubious looking ones that are very cheap, you may want to avoid them. I am not very confident about their construction and whether they are safe to be used for heavier kids.
Plastic rings are ok, except that fabrics tend to slide more with plastic rings. Metal ones don’t have this problem, but it also means that it is harder to pull on the fabric with metal rings. If you wash your sling in the washing machine, metal rings may pose a bit of problem clanging around in the drum. I am not sure whether this will damage the machine, but you may want to keep this in mind, in case you are more careful than I am about the washing machines.
A common question I get is whether it is safe to buy craft rings from craft shops (eg. Spotlight) to make a homemade sling. Honestly, I don’t know. But I have known of people who have done that and so far, no accidents. So my answer is : do it at your own risk. On the other hand, if you really want to buy rings that are specifically for slings and supposedly safer, you can visit this US site http://www.slingrings.com.
4. The Length of the Sling
I may be wrong, but local breastfeeding mothers seem to prefer longer sling, which means the sling will have a longer (sometimes, wider) tail when put on. Perhaps this is so that they can use the extra length as cover-up when they breastfeed their babies. I do find this useful myself although I won’t say I can’t live without the extra length. In fact, my solarveil sling is short and I find it also very good as it is less cumbersome.
I like longer tail because they are good for cover-up when breastfeeding or when the baby is sleeping and you want to keep out the bright lights. It is also great when you are caught in a light drizzle without an umbrella. You can cover up your baby and make a mad dash to a nearby shelter. And if your baby has this habit of nuzzling at your shoulder or chewing on your sleeves, just throw the tail over your shoulder and baby can nuzzle away without causing too much damage to your clothes.
The disadvantages of a long tail are : it’s cumbersome and sometimes dangerous. It can get caught in car doors, escalators, etc, or you may trip over it. So if you have a sling with a long tail, you must be careful and one way to use it safely is to tuck the excess fabric of the tail end around your sling ring. This way, the baby also won’t be hurt by accidentally knocking against the hard rings.
5. The Construction of the Shoulder Band
Some slings have wide shoulder area that cups over the shoulder. Some just have a narrow strip over the shoulder. It is believed that the wider the shoulder band, the more comfortable it is. I used to believe that but not anymore. I am using the Maya Wrap which has a narrow shoulder band and surprisingly, I don’t feel extra strain on my shoulder or back. Then one day, while my Maya went to the wash, I used another wide shoulder band sling and I was aching terribly after just a short grocery shopping trip. I don’t understand why this happened. I also noticed that I ‘last longer’ carrying my baby in narrow shoulder band slings than wide ones. Perhaps it has got to do with body structure too. As we all know, some people have nice straight shoulders like models, whereas others have sloping shoulders (like me). So perhaps different construction will suit different body type.
Incidentally, the Maya Wrap gives you the flexibility of keep the should band narrow, or spreading it out wider to distribute the weight.
6. Other features
Such as pockets, loops where you can attach keys and toys. Those, to me, are good to have but not necessary. Pockets are usually sewn to the tail end of the sling. I don’t find it useful because if you go out with a purse and a mobile phone, putting them in the pocket will add weight to the tail end of the sling which makes it a bit inconvenient to use.
Other Types of Baby Carrier
Since I am talking about slings and baby carrier, you may be interested to find out about all the various kinds of baby carriers. Ring slings are certainly not the only ones. If you are interested to find out more, do a web search for baby carriers.
How to Use A Sling
A lot of mothers buy a ring sling but end up not knowing how to use it. Usually, there should be a video instruction that comes with the sling, or at least a pictorial guide. But if the sling that you bought does not come with such instructions, you can easily do a web search and find plenty of sites teaching you how to use a sling.
And if nothing works and you are still all thumbs when it comes to using a sling, call the local manufacturer or distributor for help. They are usually happy to do a live demo for you. If not, look for other mothers who use the sling and ask them to demo for you. And don’t forget to practise and practise.
Short Notes on slings that I have tried my hands on
1. Maya Wrap
* Thick cotton material, which makes it hotter and bulkier.
* Vibrant colours. Good for any occasion.
* No padding so does not hamper tugging and pulling. The inherent thickness of the fabric and the metal rings prevent sliding and sagging.
* Narrow shoulder band, which can be spreaded out for a wider shoulder band.
* Metal rings
* Comes in sizes. If you want longer tail, buy a bigger size.
* Comes with pocket for your knick knacks.
2. Taylormade Solarveil Sling
* Thin, porous fabric that is supposed to shield against UV rays. Fabric is rather coarse.
* Very light weight, compact when kept, and easy to dry.
* Metal rings
* Narrow Shoulder band
* Comes in sizes, but A Mum’s Choice seems to only carry the Medium size.
* No pocket for your knick knacks
3. Taylormade Water Mesh Sling
* Construction is the same as the solarveil. Only differerence is in the fabric.
* Mesh fabric, same as some of the local Sarong bouncer fabric.
* Not as porous as the solarveil but still quick drying. Not coarse. But no UV shield property.
* Just as lightweight and compact. Also cool.
* Slightly cheaper than the solarveil.
4. Moms in Mind Cotton Sling (Basic & Tropix) * No longer available*
* Common cotton fabric which is thinner and more lightweight than Maya, and consequently, cooler and less bulky. Still, some people find it warm.
* Light padding. Does not really hamper the tugging and pulling.
* High density nylon ring that has been tested to take heavy weight.
* Long, wide tail good for cover ups.
* Wide shoulder band.
* pocket for your knick knacks, which can be zipped close.
* The prints depends on availability of fabric and may not be repeated. If you see something you like but it got sold out before you can get it, you might not see the same thing again.
* I would consider this as one of the most economical sling around.
5. Moms in Mind Silk Sling * No longer available*
* Same construction and features as the Cotton range. Only difference is the fabric.
* Fabric has a more classy look and is therefore, also suitable for formal occasion. Fabric is washable and dry cleaning is not needed.
* Fabric is also more slippery, and hence easier to tug and pull, but also easier to slip and sag.
* Suppose to be cooler than the cotton range. Slightly more light weight.
* Slightly more expensive than the cotton range and still much cheaper than other cotton sling, including maya, and special fabric slings, e.g. solarveil.
6. Moms in Mind Cotton Sateen Sling * No longer available*
* Very similar to the silk sling. Fabric also lightweight and smooth, easy to pull but easy to slip. I find the fabric is also more stretchy.
* Suppose to be even cooler than the silk sling, going by hearsay.
* Cheaper than the silk sling.
7. Bayb Supplies Embroidered Sling
* Cotton fabric with some embroidery on it.
* Same high density nylon rings
* Thicker padding than Moms in Mind sling, which I find cumbersome, hot and difficult to pull and tug. Ok, I just don’t like thick paddings.
* Because of the thicker padding, it is also bulkier.
* Comes with pocket for your knick knacks
* Long wide tail for cover up.
* Shoulder band – claims to be a hybrid of the wide, cup-over should band and the narrow maya-type shoulder band.
* As can see, feature wise, it is very similar to Moms in Mind. But the price is even more expensive than MIM silk sling. It scores a few points in terms of unique design, but over all, if you want something value for money, I would still go for Moms in Mind slings. Unless, of course, you really like the frills, or you are a die-hard fan of thick paddings.
* A side point I discovered while trying to sell a used Bayb Supplies sling – “depreciation” is very steep compared to Moms in Mind Sling. At $68 retail, if you change your mind and want to sell your almost-new sling, you can hardly command a value of anything more than $45. You will be lucky to sell at $45. Why? I figure most people would rather pay $45 to get a brand new Moms in Mind sling. You can only hope to find someone who is quite determine to buy a Bayb Supplies sling.
Note April 2011 : It has been a few years since I published this entry. I found out that Moms in Mind has closed. It is also hard to find locally made slings in department stores now.