I am lucky enough to have tried out a fair few ring slings and really love this style of carrier – they are among my favourite ways to carry my two children. I love them enough to have written an ode to them! A ring sling is a piece of woven fabric usually about 2m long and 60cm or more wide that has one end sewn securely into two strong aluminium (non-welded) rings. They are worn on one shoulder with your child on the other side of your body, or against your front (“tummy to tummy”) with the loose end of the fabric threaded through the rings in such a way that the tension holds the fabric firmly. This end can be pulled gently to tighten the fabric to ensure a snug and supportive fit with the weight being distributed across your shoulder and back (not your neck!) They are small and pack away easily into a handbag, great for portability and convenience, once you have the knack, they are very quick and easy to put on with no long flailing straps, perfect for quick up and downs with toddlers or to keep in the car for emergencies. Some mums feed their babies in their ring slings as well, as they can be very discreet, and can be positioned for easy breast or bottle feeding. They can be used from birth as well and allow preservation of the natural foetal curved position with knees tucked up.
How do I put it on?
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
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, look at the videos linked below, or do get in touch with me directly or come to a sling meet!
There are several different types of ring slings. Some are made as ring slings directly (eg all the major wrap companies, as well as specialist companies like Sakura Bloom) whereas the majority are made of woven wrap fabric cut to the correct length and converted into ring slings by work-at-home mums.
There are also different types of shoulders. The most common types are simple gathered shoulder and pleated shoulder. Box pleat shoulders are rising in popularity, and there are some hotdog shoulders around too. They are all different and most people find one style suits them best, it is worth trying a few out from the sling library or sling meet to see which works best for you; what is right for one person may not suit another. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about which shoulder suits which body type; it’s just too variable for that.
Simple gathered shoulder: able to get a good spread of fabric across your shoulder and back. This is the most popular style and there are way to fold any droopy spread fabric back over itself for neatness (the main issue people have with this shoulder).
A popular variation of this is a “floating” ring shoulder, where the fabric is pulled through the rings and folded back onto itself and the seam is sewn about 9-12 inches away from the rings. This keeps the seam behind the shoulder (which can help to keep the rings nice and high) and the double layer of fabric adds to the feel of cushiness.
Pleated shoulder: the fabric is folded in an overlapping style and sewn into place. This can help keep the fabric in a neater, narrower distribution over the top of the shoulder but still spreads widely across the back after the seam. Pleats can be many (as below – a typical ” Sleeping Baby Productions” shoulder, or just a few (like Lenny Lamb or Diva Milano). It is very individual what people prefer; some find the stiffer seams of pleating uncomfy if the seam rests across a bony prominence of the shoulder, others enjoy the neatness and find the seams work well when they have softened up.
Box pleat: fairly wide across the shoulder with the fabric being arranged in careful folds on either side of the midline.
Newer “Hybrid” shoulder: These have some narrow pleats just at the sides to help constrain the width of the fabric a little, but remain gathered for the majority of the shoulder. An example is the Eesti shoulder seen here (copyrighted). Many ring sling makers have variants of this and it can be useful for those who want a more compact shoulder but the spreadability of a gathered shoulder.
Hot dog shoulder: folded over itself (with thanks to Ocah)
Padded Shoulder: this is the mass market version of ring slings and the padding is aimed to be cushy across the shoulder. However more often than not, the padding means the fabric cannot cup the shoulder for even weight distribution
Gettting a ring sling comfortable is more than just about the shoulder style – it all depends on many factors such as how well you can spread the fabric across your back, where the seam (if any) comes to rest, your ring positioning, your child’s positioning.
Lots of people do a flip of the fabric across the back if they don’t like the shoulder they have, and many people like to have the rings in the centre of their back to keep the tails out of the way! See below for a video.
The fabric used for the ring sling is a matter of preference; there is a huge variety. The commonest types of fabric used are cotton, cotton blended with linen, or linen, or hemp, silk or bamboo blends. Linen, silk and hemp are extra supportive for older children, but can be a little rougher than cotton, whereas bamboo adds softness and smoothness. Some grippier fabrics can be harder to work with, while slippy fabrics can feel as if they are loosening a little. Well known brands include Girasol, Storchenwiege, Hoppediz, Didymos and Oscha, among many others.
A beautiful home made silk ring sling (used with a wedding dress!)
Here are some photos of different ring slings in action…
A SBP pleated Didymos Indio (cotton)
An Oscha box pleat ring sling (linen) with seam on top of shoulder
An Oscha wooly blend box pleat ring sling with seam in front of shoulder
A floating shoulder with a two week old baby
Here is a video I made for newborn carries – Ring Sling prep and legs out Tummy to Tummy Carry with a newborn (creating rolled neck cushion)
For bigger kids or toddlers, one of the best videos available is the Slingababy video here.
Here is a video for a flipped shoulder with the rings on the back
Don’t have any ring slings but have a suitable piece of woven fabric 2m long? You can buy ring slings and make your own: Jan at Sleeping Baby Productions has an excellent tutorial into all the different styles… or use a “no-sew” ring sling.
Want to use your ring sling for a back carry… here’s a good tutorial from Paxbaby.
The Surgery runs ring sling workshops to help you and your baby get the most out of your ring sling, just get in touch via the contact page! Happy ring slinging!