Before you start using a sling you are almost certain to have some questions. They may be worries about your baby’s ability to breathe in a carrier, or doubts about everyday practicalities, such as coping with the weather.
Below we have listed the questions we’ve found crop up repeatedly, together with a selection of answers and advice from a group of experienced sling users.
Won’t it hurt my back?
Nikki: “I have a chronic neck problem from worn vertebrae, and my neck and shoulders really ache after just a short time carrying my baby (well, toddler now) in my arms. However, with a sling I can carry her for hours, even at the age of two-and-a-half, and I regularly go hiking across very rough terrain with no problems. You are more likely to hurt your back if you don’t use a sling.”
Lorna: “No, I have found that my atrocious posture has really been helped by carrying my child. Your baby is carried close to your centre of gravity, so he or she won’t feel too heavy and the weight doesn’t hurt your back. I carry my nearly three-year-old with no problems. She has always been carried, so I believe my strength has increased as she has grown.”
Ali: “I worried about this, having had back problems before pregnancy, but carrying my baby in a sling was the best thing for my back. There was much less pressure from carrying than from other baby things, including breastfeeding. I stuck to two-shoulder carries to begin with and I found it is much easier to carry your baby with a sling than without one.”
Ruth: “I started carrying my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter in a sling because my back hurt so much trying to carry her in my arms. It spreads her weight so much better across my body and without that horrible painful twist at hip height. Now I get to concentrate on the lovely snuggles and having a chat, instead of thinking: ‘How much longer can I manage to hold her before my back or arms give out?’”
Zina: “My friend came round the other day wearing her daughter in a stretchy wrap. It looked really loose and low down. She said she loved carrying her little girl, but it was giving her a really sore back so she would probably have to stop soon. I offered her a few tips on how to tighten it and another kind of carry that might be easier to get secure. She tried this out and was just amazed at what a difference a few tweaks had made. It was suddenly really comfortable and the pain in her back was no longer there!”
Katy: “With a good sling, and correct positioning, carrying your baby shouldn’t be painful. If it is, check that you are using your carrier properly. Also, it’s worth trying lots of different carriers to find one that works for you. What’s comfortable for one person won’t necessarily be comfortable for another.
In my experience, wraps are a good option if you suffer with back pain. The fabric is spread right across your back and shoulders, distributing your baby’s weight evenly.
Also, the age of the baby will affect your comfort with different carriers. There are carriers specifically designed for heavier, older babies, which provide extra support for your back, neck and shoulders.”
I don’t think I can use a sling. I’ve tried one before and my baby was too heavy.
Sally: ”It may be the sling you were using didn’t suit you or you had not been shown how to use it properly, so it was uncomfortable. I am finding wraps to be very good with my newborn but never use them with the toddler, for him I tend to use mei tais.
I don’t get on at all with buckle carriers or pouches, and only very rarely now use ring slings, although at one time I used them a lot. So it can be worth trying a few different types before writing them all off.”
Katy: “Don’t give up yet! Many women comfortably carry their children up to the age of four or five and beyond! The key is to find the right carrier, and ensure it is used properly. A carrier that works brilliantly with a newborn may not work as well for an older child. Conventional carriers generally don’t provide much support beyond the newborn stage.”
Lorna: “I suspect that this may be because of the type of carrier you tried. I still carry my nearly three-year-old and she weighs over two stone! There are many carriers designed for toddlers and different ones for babies. Have another try, and see if you can find one to suit you.”
Ali: “I find my baby too heavy without a sling. And a baby in a sling is much lighter than humping a car seat around. The thing is, with a sling, as opposed to most commercial carriers, the baby is held close and your centre of gravity is together. Imagine holding your handbag at arm’s length – it would feel too heavy very quickly, but the same bag held close to your body (especially hands free) would feel as light as a feather.”
Amber: “Believe me, it’s far easier to carry a child in a sling than without one! My four-month-old certainly feels lighter and easier to carry than being pregnant did, even though our combined weights are more than my pregnancy weight. The sling distributes the weight really well so I hardly notice it.
I’ve even carried my five-year-old home in a sling I just happened to have with me. She was really tired after a late party and wanted a piggy back, so I used a mei tai carrier which was much easier!”
Won’t using a sling make my baby too clingy?
Georgina: “Using a sling, in my opinion, has contributed to making the very confident toddler that my son now is. He knew I was always there to hug him, so that when he was ready to walk or do something else, it gave him the confidence he needed. He’d had his hugs, so was happy to go off exploring!”
Sue: “In my experience, most babies are clingy, in that their natural state is to want human contact and be near a heartbeat. Even little babies are able to make that need known by becoming noticeably calmer when they are held.
I think that slings are a solution to an ‘issue’ that is intrinsic to most babies, rather than the cause. With a sling, you can indulge their clinginess and have both hands free! Interestingly, my eldest son, who was never carried in a sling, was a much more dependent baby and toddler than my youngest, who has been carried in a sling since birth.”
Sally: ”I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. My toddler seems very outgoing and sociable to me. I think it’s because he was always at adult height, so was more involved in conversations and what was going on around him, rather than having people talk over his head while he was in a pushchair.”
Naomi: “My first baby was rarely carried in a sling and rarely clingy. It used to freak me out that he seemed so independent and trusting from a young age. My daughter is carried or near me enough that I don’t really register whether she is clingy.
It seems that there is ever more evidence to suggest that consistent response to needs in early childhood, and being able to have as much comfort and warmth as needed, are linked to good emotional and intellectual development. So she can cling all she likes.”
Ali: “In my experience you can’t make a baby anything, they just are.”
I’d be too afraid of falling while using a sling.
Kamala: “I actually fell over the other week while carrying my son in my arms. I dropped him on the ground and twisted my ankle. Now if he had been in a sling, both of my arms and hands would have been free to break the fall.”
Nikki: “I have fallen over and my daughter was perfectly fine as I had both hands free to break the fall. It was far safer than if I had been carrying her in my arms. I slipped on wet rocks at Hadraw Force waterfall while we were on holiday. All was fine, and I brushed the mud off and carried on. My mei tai saved the day and my daughter thought it was really funny.”
Sue: “I have fallen downstairs with my baby in a sling on my front. I went bump-bump-bump from top to bottom, but was able to protect him with my arms and he was fine. If I had just been holding him, then he would have fallen out of my arms.
When my other son was a baby I managed to bang the buggy into the kerb, tip it forward, keep walking and fall over on top of the buggy. He was screaming, I banged my leg on the buggy and got huge bruises – ah, if only he’d been in a sling!”
Bethany: “Would you rather fall over with a pushchair, letting go of the pushchair and it potentially rolling into a road or ditch?”
Lisa: “The other day I was rushing around with my daughter and coming down the stairs, I tripped and started to fall. As she was safe in the sling, I was able to put my arms out and break the fall.
Now, if that had happened while I was carrying her in my arms, I would have been unable to reach out to break my fall and my instinct would have been to curl around my baby to protect her, as anything else would mean dropping her.
Thanks to the mei tai, I didn’t plunge headlong down the stairs. This incident convinced me that I need to use my slings more than I have been, not less.“
Sally: “I’ve fallen over when walking with my son in the sling a couple of times and been able to use my hands to break my fall. Had I been carrying him in my arms I wouldn’t have been able to do that and it could have ended up with one or both of us injured.”
Will my baby be able to breathe properly?
Georgina: “Of course! It’s just like a hands-free hug! Your baby will be very relaxed as he’s got contact with your skin and your warmth.”
Sue: “Slings come with complete guides for safe use and, if used correctly, yes, your baby will be able to breathe properly!
In fact, being so close to you and your heartbeat, and being able to hear your breathing, will probably help your baby regulate her own breathing and ‘remind’ her to breathe properly even when sleeping.”
Lorna: “Yes, my babies tended to turn their heads to the side or snuggle down so they were resting on their foreheads, so they were still able to breathe even if their faces were hidden.”
Naomi: “When my daughter was tiny I would constantly jostle or stroke her to see if she was still OK. On the rare occasions she was in her crib I hated being so far away that I couldn’t tell whether she was breathing or not.”
Why are they so expensive?
Amber: “Slings are just like anything else – there’s a huge variety. There are cheaper wraps, mei tais, ring slings, etc, and there are some quite expensive ones. The cheaper ones do the job but, as with buggies, there may be some special feature or reason why you want to buy the more expensive ones. My favourite sling is one of the cheapest you can buy! Either way, they’re still cheaper than almost all buggies or prams”.
Ali: “It depends what you compare them to – £40 for a new stretchy wrap may seem a lot but it would last much longer than the equivalent value of disposable nappies and it’s certainly better value than many toys.”
Sally: “I used to think exactly the same when I first started using a sling. It’s mostly to do with the fact that a lot of slings are handmade and not mass produced, so the time taken to make them is reflected in the price. I have now got a few of the more expensive carriers, and they can be well worth the money.
You can get very good carriers for very reasonable prices, much less than the cost of a pushchair, and the resale value on slings is good if you find you don’t like one.”
Bethany: “You can spend £70 on a mass-produced carrier that you can only use until the child’s weight restricts its use or it becomes uncomfortable. Lots of soft slings will last until the child is four or five so they’re an investment.”
Georgina: “When I started looking at different makes of slings I couldn’t believe some of the prices! They were beautiful, but way out of my price range so I stuck to the cheaper ones. Now, having tried a more expensive wrap, I understand why they are more expensive. They’re so comfortable, so supportive and very beautiful -you’d be paying way more for a pushchair with so many perks!”
Katy: “Many baby carriers are not commercially made. They are often made by Work At Home Mothers (WAHMs), who cannot afford to sell as cheaply as the big brands. A WAHM simply cannot compete with cheap foreign labour and mass factory production.
The love, care, time and attention that goes into these carriers is immense. The fabrics used to make such slings are also of a superior quality to those used in mass-produced carriers, and they are often fairly traded and hand woven.
Wraps may just seem like long pieces of material, but good quality woven wraps are not cheap to make. They are usually hand woven using materials of an excellent quality.
A good quality sling should be seen as an investment. It could easily see your baby through infancy to childhood. Very likely you will be able to use it for all your children and then sell it on, or even pass it down to your own children and grandchildren.”
Won’t they get too hot?
Naomi: “I have found that my daughter’s temperature seems to follow mine. If I am too hot and sweaty she will be too. But if I walk slowly and keep in the shade she’s fine. On the odd occasion I truly feel too hot to carry her, she probably feels the same.”
Georgina: “Sometimes my son does get hot, but it would be the same with a pushchair. In a sling I can monitor how warm he gets, and deal with it – take off some of his clothes, go somewhere cooler, get him a drink, etc.”
Lorna: “I have found in the summer we both get a little hot, but not too hot and there are great Solarweave and Solarveil carriers around that help protect your baby from the sun. In the winter I am careful to keep my daughter’s head, hands and feet warm but she wears a light coat under the carrier and we are both fine.”
Heather: “On really hot days when we have no choice about going out I use a parasol. I’ve been very glad of it for myself, let alone the baby, and there are some wonderful traditional designs about.”
Where do you put all the baby gear?
Georgina: “I’ve never been one for huge baby bags, and taking stacks of stuff with us. I just use a large shoulder bag. Rather than taking packs of wipes, l just fill a little Tupperware container with wipes. And I take just one bottle of water which does for us both.”
Naomi: “Breastfeed if you can, to save on bottle paraphernalia. And get a shopping trolley on wheels.”
Lorna: “I had a large single shoulder bag which held a few nappies and a change of clothes. I gave up on a handbag though, and put all I needed in the same bag. A rucksack was also a good option.”
Sally: “Usually, in whatever bag I’m using that day.”
Ali: “I found I needed less stuff than I thought I would, and when doing front carries, a small rucksack or a 2 stringed boot bag on my back was fine. These days I fill up my pockets, and use a messenger style bag or a trolley.”
Amber: “I actually do one of two things. Either I carry a small handbag with a nappy, small bag of wipes, and a spare sleepsuit in it. Or if I take my wrist purse, that’s big enough for a wee bag of wipes and I tuck a nappy into the layers of the sling”.
Heather: “I bottle feed so I do have more paraphernalia to carry, and I do have a tendency to cart everything but the kitchen sink anyway. But a good rucksack change bag or an Onbag, which is a bag designed to be used with slings, swallows everything and still leaves me hands free for shopping bags.”
Where do I put the baby down when I’m out?
Georgina: “When would you want to put your baby down? In a coffee shop you’d use a high chair or normal chair, depending on the baby’s age, or if they’re asleep, you’d keep them in the sling so you could enjoy your coffee in peace!”
Lorna: “I hardly ever found a need to put my baby down, I snuggled her whilst I ate and even managed to spend a penny still carrying her. Trying on clothes is not easy so I tended to buy online and return the ones that were the wrong size.”
Ali: “You have your hands free without putting them down! I found when out and about with my friends and their babies they spent more time picking them up! It really isn’t a worry.”
Amber: “I don’t! I just hold her on my lap if I’m out to eat, or if she’s asleep I put a napkin on her head and eat over her!”
Naomi: “I put her on my lap, or lying on the sling. This was a bit of a problem when we went to the beach once, and she was all hot and didn’t want to be stuck on my lap, but I couldn’t put her on the pebbles. But then it was probably too hot to be at the beach anyway.”
How do you stay dry when it rains?
Zina: “I know lots of people use raincoats, one for the parent and one for the baby, or specially made coats to go over you both. I just use a brolly! This is probably easier than keeping yourself dry when pushing a pram as you have your hands free to hold it; nice and light and easy, no faff at all!”
Georgina: “A brolly, and I have to say, when I go out with friends who use pushchairs I’m not the one panicking and faffing with huge plastic covers when it starts raining. It’s very convenient!
Sue: “Umbrella! Babywearing poncho! Waterproof hats! Baby in buggy in the rain = grumpy baby stuck in a plastic bubble, and wet mummy who can’t hold umbrella and push buggy at the same time.
Baby in sling in the rain = mummy and baby cosy and dry under umbrella, and baby nice and warm all snuggled into mummy”
Sally: “I have a large coat that I can get over both of us when the baby’s on my front. If I have him on my back, at the moment we use an umbrella. Though I don’t have one, you can get specially designed coats to use over slings.”
Heather: “I swear by my transparent dome umbrella. In a downpour I can pull it over both of us and still see out. My older child wasn’t carried in a sling for very long and I can remember getting several soakings because I couldn’t hold an umbrella and push a buggy at the same time.
Amber: “I wear a woollen hat that doesn’t let water get through, and my baby wears the same! She actually really enjoys getting a few raindrops on her face, even though I try to shield her with the sling.”
Ali: “Front carries are really easy – just wear what you wore when you were pregnant. Alternatively stay in. Yes, there are fancy coats but I prefer to either stay in or get wet! Not quite as the song goes about dancing naked in the rain but a bit of water does not hurt!”
My family/partner say it’s weird….. How do I deal with that?
Zina: “I find that getting people to try out slings is the best way to get them to understand. Today my Dad was round to help out with the twins. He’s always found the whole sling thing a bit weird. I suggested going for a walk along a country path where we couldn’t take the pushchair – obviously necessitating a sling! He wasn’t keen but agreed. I put him in my most manly wrap conversion and we had a lovely walk. I didn’t even ask him what he thought about it. Then he just commented afterwards how lovely he’d found the experience, how nice it was to be so close to them and get to see all their expressions, have them snuggle up for a sleep, and most of all how comfy and easy it was!”
Amber: “I think my family found it a bit odd at first but with time most people will see the benefits of it. Maybe arrange a family day out to somewhere that involves a lot of steps or climbing – they’ll soon be glad you have a sling with you and not a buggy!”
Ali: “Someone will disagree with all of your parenting decisions. The key is to decide for yourself rather than be pushed by your mother or midwife or health visitor or other people’s opinions. Be confident in your approach -it is the best way for your baby.”
Sue: “People generally think things are weird if they don’t understand them, so explaining the benefits of using a sling may help them understand. On the other hand, sometimes weird is good.”
Georgina: “You will see a difference in your baby. You’ll have your hands free to get on with housework. You’ll be in and out of shops before the mama with the pushchair has got in the door. You’ll be hopping up and down escalators in the shopping centres. You’ll have a happy contented child, that you can feel and see, and what’s more important than that!?”
Naomi: “Ah well. Life’s too short not to enjoy your baby.”
How old does my baby have to be before I can use a sling?
Lorna: “You can carry a newborn. I loved a stretchy wrap for a newborn – perfect for snuggly cuddles.”
Katy: “My son was six weeks premature, and weighed only 4lb 10oz. I also had an older (10 month) baby to look after at the same time. I used a stretchy wrap to carry my newborn, and it was a godsend! As well as keeping my hands free so I could attend to my older son and get on with household chores, my ‘preemie’ found it hugely comforting being cuddled in close to me, and he would usually fall asleep as soon as I wrapped him up. I also used my wrap for breast feeding, and for ‘skin to skin’ contact with him – which is highly recommended for premature babies and shown to help them thrive.
I also used a ring sling with him. This was handy as it meant I could pop him in and out as needed, and it was also great for breast feeding in public as I could use the fabric tail to feed more discreetly.”
What age can I carry my baby up to?
Lorna: “I carry my nearly three-year-old still – so I would say for as long as you like and for as long as it feels comfortable.
Catherine: “I still carry my two-and-a-half-year-old every day. She likes to walk a lot of the time, but I bring a ring sling for when she gets tired. If she is sleepy we use a long woven wrap in a back carry. Really we use slings at the same time as many people use a pushchair for their toddler.
Is there anywhere that I can try a sling before I commit to buying one?
Lorna: “There are many sling lending libraries, often associated with a sling meet, or sometimes vendors have a hire service. Sling meets allow you to try slings belonging to other members, and get advice and tips.”
Anne: “I love going to sling meets, you never know which slings are going to turn up. It is also a great place to get some tips and help from experienced sling users.”
Heather: “I found a replacement for my mass-produced carrier at my very first sling meet. I went in desperation because I knew the one I was using was getting too small for my huge four-month-old. The replacement did sterling service for the next 16 months! If I’d known about sling meets before I wouldn’t have wasted money on the first carrier.”
I am a lot smaller than my husband, we can’t really afford to buy two slings, is it possible to both use the same one?
Nikki: “Many slings can be used by people of very different sizes. This is a Beco soft structured carrier and adjusts to fit my strapping 6’2″ hubby and myself – a petite 5’3″.
Sarah: “I am 5’3″ and my husband is 6’4″ and he shares many of my slings. We also use them for both our children – although there is almost a three year age gap.
This is my husband using my Connecta with our three-year-old son on his back. And this is me using the same Connecta with our four-month-old daughter on my front.
We can also share woven wraps.