Slings of the Quarter – Rocking the Ring Sling

Ring Slings are just wonderful. They are among my favourite style of carrier – so much so that I wrote a sort of ode to them (which you can read here), so I was delighted to be able to write a short article about them as part of the NCT quarterly series.

What is a Ring Sling?

RS lizzie

Two days old and leaving hospital in style

A ring sling is a piece of woven fabric usually about 2m long and 60cm wide that has one end sewn securely into two strong rings. They are worn on one shoulder with your child sitting in a pouch on the opposite side of your body, with the loose end of the fabric threaded through the rings in such a way that the tension holds the fabric firmly and the weight is distributed across your shoulder and back. They are derived from the ancient practice of tying short cloths around the body with a knot at one shoulder, the rebozo.

What’s so good about them?

Ring Sling with a two week old baby

Ring Sling with a two week old baby

They are so versatile for a wide range of ages, and best of all ring slings can pack away small, which is great for portability and convenience. Once you have the knack, they are very quick and easy to put on. They can be used from birth, and allow preservation of the natural foetal curved position with knees tucked up, and many babies will sleep contently in a ring sling, allowing the carrying parent to be hands free (which can be very helpful with toddlers around).

They are useful for feeding as they can provide discreet cover, or allow semi-cradled or sideways seated positions for breast or bottle access. They can be perfect for quick up-and-downs with toddlers, or to keep in the car for emergency carrying needs. For babies who love to see where they are going (and not yet ready for back carries) a ring sling allows a comfortable off-centre carry that still preserves healthy hip position and also allows a child to turn its head into the carer’s chest, away from too much stimulation, and sleep safely.

A Dad carrying his eight month old son

A Dad carrying his eight month old son in a Baie Slings ring sling

Here are some comments from local users in Sheffield.

“I love being able to just pop it in my bag and always have it around for emergencies, whether they be a toddler that can’t walk another step or a baby that just needs to be close.”

“We love how convenient it is. You can just pop him in and go. It’s the easiest way of doing short journeys where you’re taking him in and out lots. If I could only have one sling, it’d be a ring sling.”

“When he was little, it was such a cosy way to carry him. Cuddled in close. When he was a bit bigger, he was too curious for other carriers, and would only sit on our hips – so the RS was all we used for a couple of months.”

“Once you’ve got the sling in a comfortable position, it’s really easy to just pop it on the next time you use it with little adjustment. Great for a quick carry for tired toddler legs.”

” I see parents of kids the same age struggling with a hand-held hip carry, with their child needing to hang on too, but  H can snuggle down for a safe doze in the RS.”

“With a determined walker of nearly 4yrs old, being able to wear our silk mix ring sling as a scarf for 90% of the time is great. There’s no way I could manage a 16kg preschooler in the manufactured carrier she’d had as a baby (even though it’s supposed to be suitable up to age 4), so our RS has been fantastic.”

“So versatile, can be used for baby and toddler alike”

How do I use a ring sling?

Set your ring sling up with the long end threaded through the rings like a belt, with the lower rail a little tighter than the top rail, making a pouch. Slip your child’s legs into the gathered rope of fabric, and sit them down with the fabric collected well into their kneepits and bottom resting lower than knees (this is the M shape that protects hips in a healthy position and provides a secure carry). Readjust the rings so they stay high, just below your collarbone.

A pleated shoulder ring sling, well spread over the shoulder

A pleated shoulder ring sling, well spread over the shoulder, courtesy of Rachel Sinclair Photography

Once this position is achieved, pull the top edge of the fabric smoothly up baby’s back to the neck, and then reach down between your and baby’s tummy to pull the lower edge of fabric up between you to ensure you have a good seat. Spread the fabric comfortably to cup your shoulder with the rings up high, and then while holding baby securely, bring the slack of the top edge of fabric around your back, over baby’s body and towards the rings. Find the top rail of the fabric in the section after the rings and pull the fabric through the rings in a direction slightly away from your body and over your child, rather than tugging downwards. Keep moving the fabric through the rings in sections down the width of the fabric, little bit by little bit, keeping the rings up high, until you’ve got to the bottom rail and all feels nice and snug. Your baby’s tummy and chest should be in close contact with your body . If you find it hard to get right, do get in touch with me directly, or with the Sheffield Slings group where there are peer supporters at the sling meets.

What kinds of ring sling are there?

There are several different types of ring slings. Some can be bought ready-made, others are converted from woven wraps by seasmstresses (such as the Sheffield company Tuesday’s Child). If in doubt, do ask for advice – some eBay slings are of poor quality. The fabric used is personal preference, such as 100% cotton, or cotton blended with linen, silk or hemp, for extra supportiveness. Some well-known brands include Girasol, Storchenwiege, Didymos, Oscha,  Little Frog, and Baie Slings (our local wrap company!)

2yr old in a ring sling

2yr old in a wrap conversion ring sling

There are also different types of shoulders; gathered shoulder (which spreads widely) or pleated shoulder (which can be neater but may spread less). Pleated shoulders vary and you can read more about shoulders here. People find they have preferences, so it is worth trying a few out if you can.

Simpler than ring slings but very similar, pouches are “tubes” of non-stretchy fabric, usually cotton, which are folded in half along their length and then partly unfolded to make a deep pouch for baby to sit in. You need the right size for your body shape for them to work well so they do need to be fitted.

The Sheffield Sling Surgery runs ring sling workshops to help you and your baby to be comfortable together, get in touch via the contact page! www.sheffieldslingsurgery.co.uk

Relevant Links

Rachel Sinclair Photography

Baie Slings   (Local wrap sling weavers)

Cherry Berry Baby

Tuesday’s Child (local ring sling maker)

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