How to Thread a Ring Sling

A Ring Sling can be a wonderfully fast, easy way of carrying your baby. Once it is threaded you can just slip it over your shoulder and pop baby in. Likewise, when they are ready to come down you simply loosen it slightly, take baby out and slip it back off over your head, leaving it all ready to use next time you need it.

Getting that threading right is one of the keys to success with a Ring Sling and here is how to do it;

-Madeleine

Winter Babywearing! … the hows and whats of figuring out how to leave the house in the cold and the rain!

Autumn has definitely hit… so its not at all surprising that parents are starting to ask me about how to combine using their carrier with going out in increasingly cold and wet conditions!

When choosing how to dress baby the first thing to consider is that most carriers counts as 1 layer for your baby.  As a general rule the NHS and the NCT all recommend your baby wears one more layer than you – so its nice and easy to remember that when using a sling or carrier the extra layer is provided by the baby carrier itself.  I say ‘most’ carriers… if you have a particularly thick or warm carrier or are using a thick infant insert (such as the infant insert for an Ergo 360, Ergo Original or a Tula etc) then this maybe more like 2 layers.

IMG_20170910_191725_171The second thing to consider is where baby goes relative to your layers – under your coat or over your coat??  In general, unless you have a confidently walking toddler who will be alternating a lot between walking and being carried, it is better to have baby close to your skin and then put layers around you both.  By having baby close to your skin, you’ll intuitively know if the baby is too warm or too cold because you’ll feel it, and your body will subconsciously respond to raise or lower your skin temperature accordingly as well as consciously signalling you to adjust your own layers.  Amazing, huh?!!  Additionally, by having layers around you both, when you do come in out of the cold it is really very easy to remove layers from baby without waking them up.  Finally, by having baby close to your skin you are both able to more efficiently heat share, so efficiently in fact that you’ll most likely both need 1 less layer just from each others body heat!  I love babywearing in winter because it’s like walking around with your own personal hot water bottle tucked into your coat!

When putting layers around you and baby start with both you and baby in indoor clothing only.  They don’t need a big snowsuit or bulky jumpers and these will again make it harder for you to intuitively gauge their temperature and efficiently heat share with them.  Plus its harder to get a great position and fit in a sling while wearing bulky clothing.

IMG_20171003_104159_822Then protect their extremities – any parts not covered by the sling.  Think hat for their head and socks/tights/booties to keep feet and lower legs warm.  Slings can often cause trousers and leggings to ride up so it’s often worth thinking about tights under trousers, leg warmers or long socks to compensate. One of my personal favourites are the MooMo Baby Leg warmers which we sell here at Sheen Slings and come in two sizes (baby and toddler) and two thicknesses – a lightweight jersey perfect for autumn/spring and slightly chillier summer mornings and a thicker jersey lined version that’s snugglier on colder days. Although on the coldest days its hard to beat the love woolly warmth of these amazing knitted baby socks made by Mel Pinet of the East London based Wrap A Hug Sling Library and consultancy which are available here.  For the crafty among you – my mother in law also made us some amazing knee high sling socks using this pattern.  She also adapted it to include a drawstring to help keep them on after we lost the first pair she made!

Next add layers around both you and baby.  There are so many options for this! Ranging from free, low cost all the way to specialist coats.  Here are some ideas to add warmth;

  • Raid your wardrobe – knit cardigans, larger coats, maternity coats can all work well.  Raid your partners wardrobe too!
  • A sling cover – waterproof and with ties designed to easily attach to a carrier or sling, these are an easy way of keep baby warm while working with your existing coats etc.  There are a number of brands but we really love the Bundlebean cover because it is 100% waterproof and really does work on ALL different types of slings or carriers.  It even works on framed backpacks and pushchairs!  Choose from the lightweight rain cover (£29.95) or the toasty fleece lined all weather cover (£39.95).  
  • A coat extender – simply works with your existing coat to add a panel for baby.   We have a ZipUsIn and I love the joy on peoples faces when they test it out and find this simple low cost thing fits with their current coat!  They cost ~£30 and there’s a handy guide on their website to ensure you buy the right one for your coat.  Similar are the beautiful Miminku handmade inserts which again come with a variety of zips or solutions if your coat has a different zip style. Alternatively, if you are feeling crafty you can knit your own coat extender using this pattern.  Or even simply tuck a blanket around the baby carrier and then pop your coat on as normal leaving it open.  Not as waterproof but certainly cheap and cheerful!
  • The most elegant but of course most expensive solution is to purchase a specialist babywearing coat.  When my march born son came along I decided against this, as I felt it was a vast expense for something that I wouldn’t use much.  I mean he was a summer baby and I’d only carry him for a few months right?  Hmmmmmm… turned out I was so wrong, I carried him regularly for 3 years and went through 3 winters.  In particular, I really struggled keeping him and I warm while carrying on my back and I hated carrying over coats as it was so bulky and uncomfortable and I always worried he was cold.  Just before Rachel was born my normal coat was in dire need of replacing and so I caved and bought myself one of these wonderful coats as I now knew that I would get the use from it.  The other reason they appealed is that most also can be used as normal coats too, so hopefully can still be used for many years to come.  These coats come in a wide range of styles to suit all tastes and bodyshapes.  Brands I would recommend include Mamalila, Wombat&Co (review here), Angelwings, Lenny Lamb, and Lileputi.  These are all brands that either myself or a close friend have used, loved and offer good quality and flexible use.  There are also a number of cheaper more budget brands such as the Verbaudet coat or the Bonprix maternity coat but be aware that these coats don’t offer back carrying functionality, so while cheaper than those listed above won’t last as long and may prove to be a false economy in the end.

While not all of these ideas are waterproof, those that aren’t can always be used in combination with an umbrella.  In fact, given the unpredictability of the British weather, I highly recommend always having a small compact umbrella in your change bag just in case.

-Madeleine

Woven FAQ – What does gsm mean? How thick or thin is that?

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

Second in the series is:

What does gsm mean?  How thick or thin is that?

Gsm stands for “grams per square meter” and is a measurement of density.  For woven wraps, the gsm gives and idea of how thick or thin the wrap is – how much a wrap weighs as a proportion of its size and width.  Generally speaking;

  • less than 180 gsm = really thin
  • 180 – 220 gsm  = thin
  • 220 – 260 gsm = medium
  • 260 – 300 gsm  = thick
  • greater than 300 gsm = really thick

One way to easily visualise this to compare knot sizes – the thicker the wrap the bigger the knot!

Annotated knots

For a first wrap, I would start with a thin-medium wrap, something in the 200-260 gsm range.  Thicker wraps are generally tougher to tighten if your new to wrapping and a bit inundating with a little baby. They do have their advantages – thicker wraps are often more supportive and can be more forgiving of a sloppy wrap job, but the extra thickness and weight can be a bit warm and get in the way while you’re learning or feel like your wrestling to get the wrap done up in the first place!  Conversely, while very thin wraps are much cooler they can require you to be very precise in your technique to prevent the wrap either digging or sagging, especially as your child grows… so something in the middle gives you the best of both worlds and should work well all the way from tiny baby to bigger child.

That said gsm isn’t the be all and end all, the weave of a wrap can have a big impact too.  At 260 gsm my Firespiral alchemy weave Librarian is right at the upper end of midweight but its loose weave means it behaves like a thinner wrap – easy to tighten, very comfy and very breathable, so not at all hot.  In fact while in general thinner wraps will feel cooler than thicker wraps, weave can play just as an important role … i.e. my Didymos Lisca and my Girasol Earthy Rainbow are both 215 gsm but the Lisca with its herringbone weave feels like a smooshy warm blanket while the Girasol feels thinner and cooler.

Finally, when considering thickness, consider also your chosen length and what you intend to do with this wrap.  If you are getting a base size wrap to do carries with multiple passes around you and baby, err on the thinner side as those extra wraps around each of you will heat you up!  However, if your going for a shorter wrap – thicker wraps are stronger and will feel more supportive in a single layer carry like a simple ruck.

– Madeleine

(Note all gsm quoted above are measured by me post wash and wear.  Wraps do shrink a little after their first wash and in fact stretch out with use and spring back in the wash,.. so true gsm will fluctuate a little and may well differ from the loom state gsm published by the manufacturer.  I.e. Didymos Rosalinde is quoted at 180gsm but post wash and wear it measures at 190gsm).

 

 

 

Woven FAQ – What size wrap do I need?

Buying your first woven wrap – deciding what to buy – can often be the most intimating part of wrapping.  There is a startling array of different brands, blends and designs.  It can be terrifying to work out where to start!  ‘Woven FAQ’ is my attempt to answer some of the questions I am asked the most by people buying their 1st wrap, and to cover the most important points to consider.

So to kick off this series is the most common question of all:

What size wrap do I need?

The most common wrap sizes run from a size 2 (2.7m) to a size 7 (5.2m) in 50 cm intervals.  Which you’ll need depends on two things:

  • First and foremost – what you want to do with it
  • Secondly – you and your baby’s size

For the second point – the best way to work out what size you need is to try different sizes on and determine your ‘Base size‘.  This is defined as the size you need to do a front wrap cross carry.  Please note that I say your size and your baby’s as I need 1 size longer to wrap my 3.5 year old verses my newborn!  But the biggest determiner on this will be your size.  Most people are between a 5-7 for this.

Then as I mentioned it depends on what you want to do with your woven;

With a base size wrap you can do almost everything – front wrap cross carry, front cross carry, double hammock etc!  In general, carries where the fabric passes 3 times around you and your baby’s body.

 

 

A medium length wrap (base -2 or so) will enable you to do carries with 2 passes around you and babies body, such as kangaroo, short cross carry, Robins hip carry, ruck and short versions of double hammock.

 

 

While with a short wrap (base – 3 or 4) you can do single pass carries such as hip carry with a slip knot, classic hip carry, ruck tied under bum or at shoulder etc.

 

 

In general carries with more passes around you and baby are going to feel more supportive – as there is more cloth to spread the weight evenly with. These carries can also be a bit more forgiving if you are new to wrapping. But the trade off is that more cloth to deal with can sometimes feel a little overwhelming or a lot to deal with if your new!  Or a lot if you are attempting to back wrap a very wiggly toddler for the first time.  Carries with just a single pass around you and baby require a little more precision over the tightening to ensure comfort but do have advantage of requiring less length and being cooler on hot days.  In fact short or mid length wraps can be a great choice for an up down toddler because the wrap will fold up small enough for a change bag when not in use or can even double up as a scarf.  So the key is to pick the right size for what you want to do and your body size – i.e for front carries with my newborn I prefer a size 6 or 7, while if you are petite and mainly planning to back carry in a simple ruck a size 3 or 4 might be more appropriate. As ever your local sling library or sling meet is a great place to have a go and take the guess work out of what size to buy.

-Madeleine

The fallacy of the best or the most popular carrier

The one question I am asked far more often than any other is “which carrier is the most popular?” And its usually asked with no assessment of needs from a carrier, just simply which ONE and only is the best, is the most popular.

And I completely understand the reasoning behind asking this question – we are all highly developed social and essentially pack animals, so its very natural that whenever we are considering anything new we ask those around us for their experiences. What did they use? What did they find helpful? And as we are doing this we are gauging popularity, we are looking for trends among our friends and family members coming up with the same or similar answers and using this as a guide to help us decide what might work for us. While in the past this might have been limited to speaking to those around us, with family and social units becoming more and more geographically spread, we are increasingly turning to the internet as a readily available searchable source of advice or referral in our gauging what is the ‘most popular’ and/or best.

downloadThis is in fact a really great way to shop for a washing machine. You can read the reviews online, talk to people you know and come away with a really good idea of the brands you trust, are in your budget and are likely to work for you.

It doesn’t work as well for buying a baby carrier. And I’ll tell you why….

Firstly much of the data online is flawed! There are a number of ‘lists’ online that purport to tell you which carriers are the best. But when you look at them closely it turns out are written by an editor with a journalism background and come solely from this editors experiences going to baby shows and being sent samples and so are of course biased toward the companies who can afford the avenues to reach her and have the biggest advertising budgets. In many cases the journalist covering baby carriers is the same one covering prams and car seats, they have no specialism or training or maybe even experience in baby wearing. These lists don’t represent the experiences of many parents – so a piece of data are a bit flawed.

There are lists based on ‘voting’ but those voting may have only ever tried one thing. I can’t tell you how many times a parent has told me their carrier is great, but their baby is really heavy and then they try on something else (something that fits their body better) and they are amazed. One such mother once said to me “WOW, I didn’t realise I wasn’t comfortable. But I wasn’t, this is so much better, my 12 kg son is almost weightless! I’d have never thought that possible.”

If you are interested in a list that takes into account of a broader range of experiences, please check out the UK Sling Libraries and Babywearing Consultants list here.  Which was compiled by surveying well over 100 different sling libraries from all over the country, taking into account all their hires over a one year period.  So this represents a huge sample size and covers a large geographic and demographic spread of the population.  And, most importantly it concerns which carriers were hired or bought after taking advice from that library… so each parent had the chance to see and try several carriers before making a well informed decision (and not simply voting following only having tried just one carrier).

But even armed with a better list like the one above …  does knowing what the most popular carrier is actually help you to find the right one for you?

The answer to this was really crystallised for me by an experience I had back in February,  when I had two consults with in 2 days of each other. Both couples were first time parents with similar aged babies and both had started their search for a baby carrier by going to John Lewis and asking for advice. The first couple had a carrier that one of them was really struggling to use. I helped both build confidence with this carrier but ultimately while it fit the dad well, it was simply too big for the mum and all the adjusting in the world couldn’t get it any smaller. The result was the carrier gave her back pain if she used it for any length of time. This is when they told me they’d been to John Lewis in Central London and been told this carrier was their best seller and the best money could buy. They weren’t invited to try it on (despite this store having testers available for this), simply told this was the best and this correlated with experience of others they knew. It was sad to see, because I know there are other options that would work better for them as a family, but they’d already spent all that money and they simply didn’t want to buy another carrier, they were left with something that was completely useless for at least one of them, and as I said goodbye to them I knew the mum wouldn’t carry her daughter going forward.

The second consult, 2 days later, was the complete opposite story. They’d been to John Lewis in Kingston while pregnant and received really excellent advice. The sales partner had talked them through the pros and cons of several carriers, got the testers out and invited them to try each of them on. That expectant couple walked out with a different carrier and when I met them they absolutely loved this carrier and used it every day – mum, dad and even granny all used this carrier. They came to me for a consult simply because they were looking for something less bulky to use around the home. They told me how much a difference baby wearing had made for them and how happy they were to have got that advice in store.

Both these couples started their searches in this how to buy a washing machine way, going to stores and asking in terms of popularity and ‘best’. The answer they got to these questions made all the difference in the world. In the first couples instance they were given the literal answer, which made no account for their individual needs but did answer the question asked!  While the second couple were much luckier, they got someone who helped them make an decision based on their individual needs.

What I really took away from this (and many other similar stories I could bore you with…) is that simply knowing which carriers are the most popular is not necessarily helpful and in fact can even hinder you finding the right carrier for you.  

So if we shouldn’t shop for baby carriers the same way as we shop for washing machines… how should we shop for a baby carrier?

  • jeans-2Like a pair of jeans!  – a baby carrier is much more like an item of clothing … it needs to fit your body and fit babies body.  So the only way to tell if it does this is to try it on!  This is particularly important for buckle style carriers where each brand has made assumptions about your body shape and sewn the straps and buckles etc at particular angles accordingly.  Padded particular bits differently.  So different brands will simply fit different people better than others.  So while your neighbour might swear her sling is the best in the world, just as her jeans might not fit you… her carrier might not be the best for you.
  •  img_9768Maybe like looking for a new home? – bear with me!  This might seem like a bit of a leap… but just like finding a new home a carrier needs to be right for your family.  Right for your budget and right for your lifestyle and able to grow with your little ones!  Like hunting for a home, a great way to shop for a sling is to make a list of wants then go see a professional – a sling library or consultant – who will help match up your needs with the right carrier.  (Although, in this analogy I guess I am comparing sling consultants to estate agents and I’d really like to think all baby wearing consultants in the country are better at their jobs than any of the estate agents I have ever met!!  But you get the idea!).  And just like with homes, the baby carrier for you – that fits your family the best – might not be what you originally assumed you’d like most when you were just browsing on the internet.