Before I had my first baby, I intended to wear her every day. I loved the idea of holding her close to me and sorely wanted to experience all the benefits babywearing had to offer like steady milk production, decreased risk of postpartum depression, reinforcing a strong maternal bond and enjoying all the oxytocin.
So, I registered for several carriers such as the Ergo, the Moby Wrap and the Tula Free To Grow. They were all seemingly excellent carriers but I just couldn’t get the hang of them and Jolie didn’t even seem to like being in them. Not to disparage these brands — it was definitely an “It’s me, not you” situation — but neither I nor my baby were having it. We were both uncomfortable and hot and I got tired of it after a few minutes, like actually worn out. I started to believe babywearing wasn’t meant for everybody including, sadly, us.
At least, that’s what it felt like and I suspect that’s how you may feel too. Perhaps you’ve tried several carriers and none seemed to be a good fit? Maybe you’ve actually tried a wrap or sling but felt like baby was going to fall out? You’re just downright intimidated by them? Yea, me too, until I buckled down and learned the art of ring-slinging.
Ring slinging can be for everyone, it just takes a little bit of knowledge and a lot of practice. When you properly sling, your hands are free to take care of other mom duties but most importantly, baby feels safe and secure because he can see, hear, smell, feel and even taste you.
The instructions here come straight from Babywearing International. They are the certified experts in all things babywearing and provide the parenting public with step-by-step guides and videos on how to properly babywear using all types of carriers. It’s where I and the KyteBABY team learned everything we know!
If, after reading this, you still have questions, please refer to Babywearinginternational.org for more assistance. You can also find a local expert at a Babywearing International chapter near you; search for a Lending Library of carriers (They work just like a library: borrow it for free then return when it’s due.); or find a babywearing group in your community.
What is a Ring Sling?
A ring sling is a long piece of fabric, most often linen, attached to two rings at one end. The fabric used to make slings and other carriers is believed by Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby On The Block, to be the first pieces of clothing ever invented because of how valuable they were and still are.
Our ring slings are made of 100% pre-washed linen which makes them softer than most when you first wear them. (With other carriers, you generally have to “break them in” or wear them several times before they soften up.) With continued use, our linen continues to soften and feels even smoother on your and baby’s skin.
They are 80 inches long, longer than most making them a great fit for all body types.
They also feature two beautiful rose gold rings and two pockets! A large outer pocket that can hold a smartphone and/or wallet and a small inner pocket perfect for pacifiers, money, or a house or car key.
Our slings come in ten nature-inspired colors all named after trees. Well, in the case of Driftwood, what once was a tree.
Slings and pouches have been used since ancient times and for good reason. A study performed in 1986 found that the more an infant was carried, the less she cried. Imagine what that did for survival during prehistoric times!
Overall, worn babies tend to be happier than unworn ones, so why wouldn’t you sling? Well, maybe because at first glance, you ask yourself “How in the world is this one piece of fabric going to hold my baby?” Here’s how . . .
How to Ring Sling
There are four basic steps to properly use a ring sling: Thread, Prep, Sling, and Adjust.
Step One: Thread
For some, this first step can be the most daunting but its main purpose is to ensure the sling is not twisted before you begin.
- With the fabric draping flat across your back, hold the rings over your shoulder in one hand with the safety tag facing down and the tail end in the other. It does not matter which shoulder the rings are on. Just make sure that the fabric is not twisted.
2, Bunch the fabric of the tail from top to bottom in one hand and pass the tail through both rings. The pockets should now face downwards, physically touching your shoulder.
- Flip the end of the tail so that the pockets face outward then pass this end through the bottom ring. This is similar to threading a belt.
- Pull the tail through, leaving some material bunched up between the rings.
- Slide both thumbs under this material and “finger-walk” your fingers through the material making sure to fan it out, smoothing any kinks that bunched up as you passed the tail through the bottom ring and, most importantly, position the top and bottom rails on the outside so that they do not fold in. Rails are the hems on the long edges of the ring sling.
- Grab the tail by the top and bottom rails (left and right hems) and tug gently, flattening the bunched up material between the rings. Continue tugging on the tail moving from the outside rails in to the middle of the fabric. The material between the rings should now look flat and pleated but not twisted.
Myth busted: Some people think you have to re-thread every time you use the ring sling, but you don’t! The beauty of ring-slinging is that once threaded, you can throw the sling over your shoulder and start babywearing in under a minute. Just make sure that the material threaded through the rings isn’t overlapping too much and that the top and bottom rail are placed top and bottom, not folded in on themselves. If it is, quickly finger-walk the material again just to smooth it out then pull the tail through the rings.
Step Two: Prep
In this step, you will form a pouch for your baby to fit easily into place.
- Pull the bottom rail of your tail (right hem). This will pull the material lying closest to your body snug against your chest and upper abdomen. Do not pull too tightly.
- Raise your arm opposite the rings and bend your elbow close against your side inside the pouch. Grab the top rail with this hand and determine if the pouch is roomy enough or too roomy for the size of your baby.
- Adjust by pulling the top rail of your tail (left hem) with your opposite hand.
Step Three: Sling
Now that you have created the perfect size pouch for your baby to be placed into, it is time to sling.
- Slide rings high on your shoulder or slightly behind your shoulder.
- Pick up your baby and hold him in a high burp position on the shoulder opposite the rings.
- Slide your ring-side hand under the sling pouch and gently pull baby’s feet under the pouch.
- Pull the top rail up, stretching the fabric up baby’s back.
- Tuck the material touching your body up and between baby’s hips to form a seat for baby’s bottom.
- Pull extra material starting near your armpit and across baby’s back toward the rings and tighten by pulling the top rail of the tail down and back across baby’s back.
Step Four: Adjust
Now it’s time to get comfortable.
- Lift baby’s bottom and at the same time pull the fabric down over your shoulder forming a capped shoulder.
- Pull the top rail once again to tighten any slack around baby’s back.
- Reach behind you and pull the bottom rail down your back to make sure the fabric is smooth and flat. This ensures that the weight is well distributed across your body.
- Continue adjusting the top rail, bottom rail, lifting baby’s bum and adjusting your capped shoulder until both of you feel very comfortable.
Make sure you are slinging correctly by checking off the following security checkpoints:
- Baby’s head is close enough to kiss.
- Baby’s airways are open and her chin is off your chest.
- Legs are in “M” position, bent at the knees with weight borne primarily in her bottom.
- Knees are higher than baby’s bottom.
- Fabric forming the seat stretches from knee to knee.
- Fabric stretches flat across baby’s back with top rail at or above baby’s shoulder blades.
If you can’t check off all the points above, then try again. Don’t be discouraged, practice makes perfect! And to get it just right, we highly suggest watching a video tutorial on the Babywearing International website since they are the ultimate experts in the industry.
It is much easier than it seems to get the hang of ring-slinging. When you finally do, you will enjoy how quick and easy it is to wear baby using the sling. Stash it in your diaper bag to throw on while running errands — remember, you don’t have to thread it each time. And here’s a pro tip: hang it by the rings on your coat rack so you don’t forget it as you run out the door.
Not only will you gain a pair of hands when you sling, your little one will cry less, feel bonded to you, see the world from your perspective and even sleep safely. All his senses will be flooded with you, including your warmth, scent, voice and face —the things that give him nourishment, security and sweet, sweet comfort.
For more ring slinging support, join our community of moms in Kyte KLUB. There, find tutorial videos and seasoned baby wearers who can help answer your questions and concerns.