Babywearing Basics

Babywearing Basics Questions

So you’re considering babywearing but you don’t really know where to start. You’ve noticed sling wearing mommas in the supermarket and the playground, you’ve heard a little about the benefits, you’ve even spotted some celebs slingin’ it and you’d like in on the action. Maybe you’re still undecided about the whole business. Well, pull up a chair and read on.

As usual, I’ll pause to disclaim. I’m no expert. I’m simply a mum who found babywearing to be a lifeline. What I’d like to do is dispel some of the myths about baby-wearing and to point parents and parents-to-be in the direction of the correct information on sling types and sling safety. I’ve enlisted the help of a number of babywearing experts to answer some of the most common questions asked by parents new to the practice.

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE 

Ring sling I first started using slings with my second child in 2012. I had just entered the fog that was life with two children and was in the process of adjusting to the need to split my attention, my time and my energy in two.  This was new territory. I had to make meals and snacks, keep the house in some sort of order and do more laundry than I’d ever imagined. And all while tending to the whims of a baby being fed on-demand and an insistent toddler. A baby carrier seemed like a sensible option. And it turns out, it was. My daughter was perfectly happy in her sling, napped for hours on end and allowed me to focus more attention on my two-year-old. I was a convert.

10 COMMON BABYWEARING QUESTIONS 

1. IS BABYWEARING FOR ME? 

It’s altogether possible that babywearing is for you if one or more of the following statements apply:

  1. You love the idea of having your baby close to you.
  2. You suffer from ‘dead arm’ regularly due to multitasking efforts.
  3. You’ve cursed the weight of your cumbersome buggy and privately kicked its undercarriage in frustration.
  4. You’ve had to decline an invite to brunch in the newest hot-spot in town because they (purposely) have no lift.
  5. You don’t like it when strangers reach into your pram to paw your gorgeous little cherub with their dirty mitts.
  6. You’re the outdoorsy type who likes nothing more than to post pictures of yourself at the top of the nearest mountain on Instagram on a Sunday morning while the rest of us haven’t managed to get dressed and ain’t no baby gonna stop you.
  7. You have an infant who may not be safe around well-meaning siblings who have been known to attempt to feed it Shopkins and furry cashews.
  8. There are a lot of steps/stairs/escalators in your life.
  9. You simply have a baby who wants to be close to you and who is most content against your chest.

2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

While the Western World has seen a new wave of enthusiasm for the practice, Babywearing is obviously not a new phenomenon. For thousands of years in the furthest corners of the world, mothers have been wrapping and carrying their offspring in cloths, shawls and pouches. From the Alaskans to the Aborigines, women the length and breath of the globe have long since understood the practical and physiological benefits of keeping their little ones safe and close. Time has passed, societies have evolved, the role of women has changed but two simple facts remain:

  1. There is nowhere a baby wants to be more than in the arms of a parent.
  2. Parents need two hands. At least.

As well as being extremely convenient and gorgeously cute, research shows that babies who are worn cry less. (Sold! To the lady in the back with the giant coffee, the bags under her eyes and the bed-hair.) A baby, in particular a newborn, has an innate need to be close to its mother. A sling is a safe place to be and babies appreciate that security. As well as promoting bonding and emotional development, babywearing also aids digestion. Slings are particularly helpful for babies suffering with the discomfort of colic and reflux. These are just some of the benefits.

I know I had you at the ‘crying less’ business but for a comprehensive list on the physical, practical, emotional and sensory benefits of babywearing (and there really are LOADS) check out Babywearing Ireland,  a volunteer-run, non-profit organisation which aims to promote safe babywearing. You’ll hear more about it in a bit.

3. IS BABYWEARING SAFE? 

The short answer is yes! Babywearing is entirely safe once its done properly and guidelines are adhered to. Safety in babywearing is all about positioning. Olwen Rowe, a mother of three, runs Born to be Carried, a sling consultancy in Galway. She is also a BWI volunteer and helps run the Galway Sling library with a number of other sling enthusiasts.  “For a sling or carrier to be safe it is absolutely essential that a baby is well positioned and supported.  It’s also vital that you continually monitor how your baby is doing.  Having your baby well-supported in an upright position and ‘close enough to kiss’ gives you the best chance of making sure all is well.”

While the position of your baby in a carrier will vary slightly depending on his or her age, the general rule of thumb is that knees remain higher than baby’s bum for optimum comfort and safety.

Olwen stresses the importance of choosing the right sized carrier for your baby. “If your baby doesn’t appear to be well supported or positioned in a sling or carrier, it may be that the sling is not suitable for the age/size of your baby or you may need more information on how to get a better fit.”

The TICKS guidelines were created by the UK Consortium of Sling Manufacturers and Retailers and provide the foundation for sling safety:

Babywearing International has produced a similar safety overview – The ABC’s of Babywearing.

ABC Babywearing

4. WHICH SLING SHOULD I CHOOSE? 

Initially you may be overwhelmed by the array of sling types and brands available. Dundalk-based mother of three, Ina Doyle is a babywearing and breastfeeding educator and founder of Bump to Beyond – a website and online store dedicated to responsive parenting. She has a fantastic introduction to carriers on her site which includes a run-down of the five basic sling types:

  • stretchy wraps
  • woven wraps
  • ring slings
  • mei-tais
  • SSCs – soft-structured carriers or buckle carriers

I’ve often heard people compare slings to jeans or shoes in that there’s no one-type-fits-all. What suits one babywearer may not suit another. There are so many factors to consider including the age of your baby, when and where you intend to use the sling, your height/build and your personal preferences. Some prefer buckles, others prefer wrapping, etc. You may also find that your needs and preferences change as your baby grows. Many will begin their babywearing journey with a stretchy wrap and then progress to a woven wrap or SSC when baby gets a little older.

Sling types

The key advice any seasoned babywearer will offer about buying a sling is ‘try before you buy’. I’ve had friends who tried a particular sling once, didn’t like it and sadly wrote off babywearing entirely based on that one negative experience. There is a sling type for everyone but you may have to spend a little time figuring out which one is right for you.

According to Ina, “it’s incredibly rare to be faced with circumstances that are totally incompatible with babywearing. Whether it’s surgeries, injuries, sore backs, dodgy hips, additional hardware or any other extra needs the wearer or little passenger may have – in most cases an experienced babywearing consultant will be able to work out a solution with you.”

5. WHERE CAN I ‘TRY BEFORE I BUY’?

You have more options than you might think:

  1. Contact the national sling library. Mum of four, Tania Lawlor, is a trained babywearing consultant and librarian of the Babywearing Ireland Sling Library and operates the Babywearing Ireland  library from her Kerry home. Members can borrow slings, via mail, from the library to try out for two weeks before deciding on which type to invest in. Funds raised from rental fees go directly into reinvesting in slings.
  2. Book a session with with a babywearing consultant. Consultants have trained with one of a number of registered bodies and offer one-to-one advice on choosing and fitting all types of slings and carriers. Some slings – in particular ring slings and wraps – have a learning curve so a sling consultant will ensure that you are wearing your chosen sling correctly and comfortably. Most also operate a rental scheme. Here’s a list of qualified sling consultants in Ireland.
  3. Attend your local sling meet. Babywearing Ireland operates 29 of sling meets in various locations around the country. A sling meet basically allows parents with an interest in babywearing to chat over a cuppa and learn more about slings. These meets are run by volunteers and usually facilitated by a consultant who will offer demonstrations, advice and library rentals. You’ll find your nearest BWI sling meet here.
  4. Visit a specialist babywearing retailer. While many of the larger baby stores now stock ergonomic baby carriers, specialist retailers will usually have a bigger selection and experts on hand to help you choose and fit your sling. Here’s a list of babywearing retailers. If you don’t have a store nearby, most online retailers have good returns policies.

6. HOW LONG CAN I WEAR MY BABY FOR? 

If your baby is in a carrier that supports correct positioning and is suitable for the weight of your child, you can carry your baby from the newborn stage all the way through to toddlerhood and even beyond. There are carriers specifically designed to accommodate your toddler or preschooler. Many woven wraps will also comfortably accommodate an older child. Wear your baby for as long as you both feel comfortable.

With a suitable sling and a good technique, under the guidance of a medical professional, it can also be safe (and highly beneficial) to carry babies with special needs, including pre-term or low-weight babies.

7. WON’T IT HURT MY BACK? 

Ina Doyle says using a sling should never hurt. And it should fit perfectly. Correct wearing activates your core and pelvic floor muscles, thus strengthening them, stabilising and straightening your body. A well fitting and correctly used sling spreads your baby’s weight evenly across your body, hugs them close to you and leaves you feeling hugged too, allowing your muscles to relax and you to stand up tall.”

In fact, babywearing can actually improve back and pelvic girdle issues. Wexford mother of four and Babywearing Ireland volunteer, Aisling Furlong, was wheelchair-bound on her third pregnancy due to SDP/PGP and her physiotherapist recommended using a sling.  ‘Wearing improved my overall condition. I have chronic pelvic girdle pain and bulging discs in my lower back and both have improved whilst babywearing.’ Aisling managed to avoid crutches and using the wheelchair during her subsequent pregnancy and enjoyed babywearing for 35 weeks. Slings gave me my freedom back and improved my core strength. So many think they can’t wear because of back issues. But a heavy buggy is worse. My physiotherapist and osteopath were both happy for me to use an ergonomic sling.’ Aisling’s positive babywearing experience prompted her to get involved with Babywearing Ireland. She started the Wexford sling library and now runs the Wexford sling meet.

9. HOW SHOULD I DRESS MY BABY WHEN BABYWEARING? 

On dressing your baby for sling use Olwen says “it’s worth knowing that babies are adapted to heat-share with you, so as few layers as possible between you and baby is a good guideline.  And remember that carrying your baby skin-to-skin in a sling especially during the early weeks is hugely beneficial to both baby and yourself!”

“Generally, in gauging how much your baby needs to wear you’ll also need to think about how many layers the sling adds. For instance a stretchy wrap adds Babbywearing safetythree layers on baby, whereas a ring sling adds one layer.”

In cold weather Olwen recommends wearing something over you both. “There are amazing babywearing coats, covers and panels on the market but you don’t need anything fancy – an oversized fleece or coat can work very well too”.  Snowsuits are not recommended for babywearing. “Not only is it very difficult to get a baby into a safe position with snowsuit, it’s also possible for a baby to overheat.” She recommends, extra socks, booties or legwarmers for winter wearing. “I found baby leg warmers worked brilliantly as they were so easy to slide on and off as needed.” In hotter weather, similar consideration should be given to the amount of layers created by the carrier and the fabric weight.

9. CAN I BABYWEAR WHILE PREGNANT? 

babywearing in pregnancyNothing says earth mother quite like a pregnant babywearer! Obviously it’s important to first check with your GP or midwife if you have any concerns about babywearing in preganancy but many mothers-to-be continue using slings right through their pregnancies. Ring slings and back carries with woven wraps or SSCs are popular.

Tania Lawlor enjoyed babywearing up until 38 weeks on two of her pregnancies. Her advice is to “trust your body’s cues and use slings for as long as you are comfortable.” Slings and carriers can be easily adjusted to allow for more comfort in pregnancy.

 

10. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?  

If you haven’t already clicked over there, I’ll advise you one last time to check out the Babywearing Ireland website which has pretty much everything you need to know.

There are some amazing Facebook groups in both Ireland and the UK that offer wonderful support and advice and are always very welcoming to new members. I have come across few online communities as friendly, passionate and helpful as the babywearing communtity.

There’s a fantastic pre-loved market for slings and carriers some of which, believe it or not, depreciate very little in value. In fact a limited edition wrap or an out-of-print fabric can often resell at a profit. A word to the wise: these people don’t generally engage in haggling so take the price or leave it! Here are some groups worth checking out:

Babywearing Ireland (BWI) Sling Chat

Babywearing Ieland: Sling Addicts – Support and Advice

Babywearing FSOT (For Sale Or Trade) Ireland

Babywearing FSOT (UK) *FSOT = For Sale or Trade

Slings & Things – FSOT and Advice (UK)

Affordable Baby Slings For Sale Or Swap (UK)

Slings for Sale – New and Preloved (UK)

Finally, if you spot a nice sling on a stranger when you’re out and about, don’t be afraid to ask the wearer about it. I’ve been stopped countless times for the details of a carrier, as have most babywearers I know. There’s nothing sling folk enjoy more than a little enabling!

Go forth and wear all the lovely babies! I’m pretty sure you won’t look back.


Are you a babywearer or considering babywearing? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! If you found this post helpful or know someone who might, feel free to share it. 

newborn babywearing

You'd like to give babywearing a try but don't know where to start? We've got all the answers, including advice from experts.


I’m linking this post with some of these…

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81 comments on “Babywearing Basics

  1. This is such a useful piece. I was so enthusiastic about using a sling when my boy was a baby but never actually did it because I felt unsure. Now I regret it a little bit. 🙂 #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Ah that’s such a shame. I was the same with my first baby. I didn’t really know enough about it. I think there seems to be much more information available now though which is great. Thanks for reading, Marina!

    1. I’m sorry I didn’t discover it sooner myself. The sling libraries are such amazing resources really. And the volunteers who give their time to help are just fantastic. I have two good friends who help out at our local one and they are just so passionate about enabling other mums. Love it.

  2. Love this post, it’s full of great advice. My second baby is 11weeks I’ve been wearing him in a stretchy since he was 2weeks. Our sling is on loan from our local library and we both love it..will be so sad giving it back!xx #coolmumclub

    1. Aw I think I’ve seen your sling and your lovely baby on Instagram? A stretchy? Nothing like them, especially when there’s another kid to look after too!

  3. I WISH i had read this 2 years ago when I was determined I was going to master a wrap on my second and last baby…having read obsessively and scoured the net for advice, it was a lovely lady at a toddler gym who made it happen. She took off her wrap and actually showed me how to do it – then e mailed me some great info. I bought my sling that night and loved every babywearing second. I’ll never trade that wrap – it was used as a blanket, a throw, a baby carrier, a picnic rug and a camp! Happy memories…
    Thanks so much for summing it all up perfectly and sharing with #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 52

    1. That’s so lovely that you’ve kept it. Fantastic memories. Maybe your grandkids could be carried in it! OK, it’s late and I’m losing the run of myself! 😉 😆

  4. I wish your post had been around when I had Little Button. I was so confused over the how-to-do-it bit that I ended up with the wrong contraption and giving up after a couple of weeks. Your post makes it much more clearer and how cute is that photo! #TheList
    Annette, 3 Little Buttons recently posted…2016 – Smashed It

    1. Annette, I know so many people who were exactly the same. That’s kind of why I decided to write the post. If a handful of people read it and manage enjoy the benefits of babywearing in a sling that’s right for them then I will be just over the moon! Yeah. I like that picture too! 🙂

  5. This is such a great post – so much information. I’ve pinned it and put it on my FB page 🙂 I wear my 4th baby all the time and I agree it is a life saver. One of the things I LOVE is that she never wakes up crying in her wrap – she wakes up gently and smiling as I carry her around.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing it, Elizabeth and for your lovely comment. I can only imagine how much of a lifesaver it is with FOUR! That’s so lovely re the waking up. They are just so safe and content in them.

  6. This is a brilliant post. I love wearing my 17 month old and don’t plan on giving up anytime soon. Were off to look for a toddler sling at the next expo – so excited. You didn’t warn folk that it can become a bit addictive. Once you have one sling you want more. #PoCoLo

    1. I know, Catherine! It should totally come with a warning. I’ve gotten through 7 so far, which is nothing in comparison to some. There are worse addictions to have, eh! 😉 Thanks for reading and for your lovely comment. Happy toddlerwearing! 🙂

    1. It’s definitely becoming more popular, isn’t it and there are so many options. When I started looking for slings in Ireland in 2012 there were only a few online retailers that sold ergonomic carriers and wraps, etc and now there are about three times as many if not more! It’s great!

    1. Thanks for reading, Debbie! There are so many situations in which a buggy just doesn’t work. Where would we be without them, eh?

  7. Love this post! We babywear and I love it. We didn’t babywear as much first time round but second time round we didn’t even have a buggy and did it all with a wrap which was perfect. First time round I bought a sling but the sling wasn’t really my thing so we tried a wrap and it is so much better! A great roundup of the questions I also get asked too! #fabfridaypost

  8. Some great advice here. I could have done with this advice when I started baby wearing. I really miss wearing my babies. I tried various slings and became quite addicted to them lol. My favourite was definately my Erna in wonderland woven wrap. I wish I had known about baby wearing when I had my first baby. Personally I think ergonomic carriers and woven wraps should definately be advertised more.

    #coolmumclub
    Janine recently posted…What If There Was A Magic Pill For Autism?

    1. Oh I love that pattern! I’m the same. I didn’t wear my son at all. I guess I wasn’t as busy when I had just the one so there wasn’t the same necessity. I could just sit with him all day if I fancied it. God, imagine being able to sit all day now! That’s such a good point about advertising. I never thought about it until you just said it but so true!

  9. That’s such an informative and thorough post – thanks so much for sharing 🙂 I was given a BabyBjorn carrier with my first son 5 years ago but it wasn’t ergonomically designed & it gave me a massive backache as my son was 8lb 11oz (and continued to be a chubby baby!) so I stopped using it very quickly. With my younger son born 5 months ago, I had spent more time looking into different options and opted for a wrap as well as an Ergo as my husband found the Ergo much more convenient for him as it’s so much easier to put the baby in. #TheListLinky x

    1. I was given a BB too with my first. I knew nothing about babywearing, wore it a couple of times, didn’t feel comfy and abandoned it. I’m so glad we figured it out with our second babies! Thanks for your lovely comment. I’m really glad you liked the post. 🙂

  10. I love this post as it gives so much information to people wishing to give it a go for the first time or to see how to get a comfier position for babe and adult. I wish I’d seen something like this years ago when mine were little.
    Mainy
    #Blogstravaganza
    mainy recently posted…January Facts and Trivia

    1. Thanks so much! Glad you liked it. I think so many people miss out on babywearing becuase they don’t have the correct information.

  11. I had my first daughter in 2006 and used a baby bjorn. I got shouted at in a shopping centre by an old lady saying I was trying to suffocate my baby. A neighbour also said that I shouldn’t use it because if I fell I would crush my baby. I took no notice. I think slings are great. I also used a Mai Tai when I had my son. Sarah #FabFridayPost
    Sarah Stockley recently posted…#ExplorerKids – Round-up #42

    1. Oh no! That sounds terrible! I remember wearing my little one in a Connecta in my local supermarket and the sales assistant said ‘she can’t be comfortable’ in that.’ Cue 5 minute ‘educational’ rant from me on the merits and research. Lol. She was sorry she had said a word! 😉

  12. This is such a great informative post, I’m bookmarking it for the future! I’m guilty of having written off babywearing based on one sling only, and I’m determined to investigate more options when my second is born. I have a 2 year old who is not yet ready to ditch the pushchair, so babywearing would make life so much easier. I now know there is a sling library near me so I’m planning to visit them. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Oh I am SO glad you found it helpful! Honestly. You have made my day, Katy! Wishing you lots of lovely, cosy babywearing with your second baba! x 🙂

  13. I never did baby wearing with my eldest, only because I didn’t really know much about it and I hardly saw anyone do it. When my second daughter came along, it was all I did. It made life so much easier and I just loved the closeness of it. I would recommend it to anyone. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thanks for hosting, Laura. Babywearing really solves so much especially when we are literally being pulled in all directions by older kids.

    1. Thankfully we never had any problems with reflux but I hear slings are yer only man for it. It makes all the sense in the world to have them upright!

  14. Just popping back from #Blogstravaganza. I’m feeling all nostalgic about baby wearing again! I did a bit when I was pregnant with my second as my first was still tiny. I go way too big in the end though, so earth mother I am not! Haha! Thanks so much for linking up! It’d be great to see you again next week xx
    The Tale of Mummyhood recently posted…Blogstravaganza – #2

    1. See you next week! I know, I will really miss it. In fact my 1.5 year old loves to walk so already we are seeing a decrease. 🙁

  15. This is really interesting. I never tried this when my daughter was younger as I didn’t really know much about it but had I found a post like this I possibly would have changed my mind and tried it out. I can imagine a lot of people will find this really useful and informative! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday
    Tracey Bowden recently posted…Limbo: The World Behind The Eyes

    1. I hope they do. I think if people at least know where to find the info, they can make a more informed decision. Thanks for reading! 🙂

    1. Oh good luck with it! It’s one of the things I will miss the most about having a very little one. Thanks for pinning! 🙂

    1. Absolutely! Like, I have no idea how people would have been fed in this house or had clean clothes to wear without slings! Haha.

  16. I definitely want to babywear when my little one is born in May. I will have a 3.5 yr old also and it will make life so much easier (I imagine). I’ve never tried baby wearing and I know there are so many dos and donts. This is probably the most indepth post I’ve ever read about Baby Wearing!! Thank you so much Sinead. And you’re right about the shopkins! Bookmarked your post so I can come back to it in the summer 🙂 #KCACOLS

    1. Aw I’m delighted you found it helpful! You won’t look back once you invest the time in getting the right one! Exciting times ahead for you, Geraldine! 🙂

  17. Thank you so much for writing this! We are going to try baby wearing when our little one arrives in the Spring. I’ve pinned it so I can refer back when we’re closer to the due date 🙂

    1. Congrats on your pregnancy, Elizabeth! Hope it’s all going well for you! So thrilled you found the post helpful. Hope your babywearing journey is a great one! 🙂

    1. I miss them too Su! She’s in the sling less often now – she loves scuttling around herself. There’s nothing like the coziness of a newborn in a sling, is there?

  18. I love this! I dabbled with a carrier with my daughter when she was little. If I had another I would definitely get some kind of sling for the little phase and then I have over the look of the Tula’s for when they get a bit bigger. So handy for if you have more than one child I imagine! Thanks for linking up with #fortheloveofBLOG this week.

  19. We have a sling and I like to wear him on my back but it requires two people to put him on (well, three at first). Plus it’s not actually very convenient on the bus. I want one of the baby backpacks. #kcacols

    1. I use my Tula to carry my 1.5 year old on my back. There are some great tutorials on YouTube for doing it solo. It might take a little practice but once you get the knack it’s great. I use a technique called the hip-scoot. I put her in the sling as normal, loosen it a bit and then by doing a quick trick putting my arms out (one up and out, one down and out – it’s hard to explain but the videos will show you) I just slide the carrier around and pop my arms back in. Have a look on line and see if it works with your carrier – I think it probably works with most SSCs. Good luck!

  20. Wow! What an informative post, and soooooo helpful too! I’ve always wanted to baby wear but have always been really overwhelmed by all the types and options out there that I’ve never managed to narrow it down to one. But with the help of your post, I think I can now. So excited!! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Emily

    1. Aw yay, Emily! It’s so overwhelming. There are almost too many options and they seem less straightforward than they are! So glad you enjoyed the post. 😀

  21. I love baby wearing! I barely did it with Zach but I have a wrap for Oscar and he and I love it. It’s most useful for when I’m doing Zach’s dinner! This is a fabulous post! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  22. It’s so strange seeing Babywearing becoming more popular, it wasn’t even a thing when I had LP (my youngest) and never heard of when BP was a baby (12 years ago!). I’d have loved to try it. 🙂
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo
    (sorry for the epicly late comment!)

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