Thursday, March 25, 2010

my third arm

On nearly every outing, I wear the wee lass in a ring sling, just as I wore the younger lad in one before she came along.  I almost always get a comment or inquiry about it.  People will often take note of how content she looks snuggled up on me, or how she can see everything, or how they wish they had those things when their kids were little.  Some want to know if it's comfortable or if it hurts my back (it *is* comfortable so long as it's on correctly, though I do feel tired if I wear her in it for a long time). 

Babywearing is commonplace in many cultures around the world, but it's attracted some negative press lately because of a government warning on the potential dangers of infants suffocating in them (in a particular "bag" style, I should say). Not all slings and baby carriers are created equal or hold the baby in the same way.

Just as with any other piece of baby gear -- cribs, swings, car seats, and bouncers included -- caregivers need to use common sense and educate themselves on the correct usage of slings so as to insure their wee  bundle's safety and comfort.  The slings I have come with instructional videos that are also posted on their websites, and I've spent lots of time practicing getting the babes situated just so before setting out on any shopping jaunts or other excursions. 

Speaking personally and as I did when I dispensed some unsolicited advice for weathering pregnancy sickness, here are some further thoughts I have on babywearing based on my own experience...

I wore the elder lad in a wrap like these occasionally, though I found it to be cumbersome and in need of adjusting a lot.  It was difficult to nurse in, but it *was* comfortable to wear once we were situated because the weight is distributed over both shoulders.   I got my first ring sling when my younger lad was about two months old and have always loved how easy and quick it is to get on, off, and adjust.  It goes over one shoulder, though, so the weight is localized more on side.  If the fabric is spread out over my back as it's supposed to be, this is usually not a problem.  That first ring sling is a versatile steely gray-blue color.  When the lass was born, my mom gave me a girly pink one with butterflies and polka dots and other lovely images.   Now I'm able to coordinate my outfits to my slings.  :)

When both lads got to be about a year old, I switched to a carrier similar to an ERGO, which can be worn on either the front or the back (though the particular Patapum I have is for bigger babies or toddlers, which is why I wait so long to use it; the ERGO and another style of Patapum can be used from infancy).  When the weather is such that I don't need to wear a jacket or coat *and* when the lass gets a little bigger, I'll dig out this carrier again (if I can manage it with my baby belly). I practiced and practiced (and will again) getting the babes onto my back in this carrier at home on the sofa or in front of a mirror so that I'd be adept at and safely able to get the "slingling" (i.e. the baby in the sling) on my back at whatever location we happen to be.

There are several online resources for babywearing, including some to help one figure out which type of carrier might be best for him- or herself.  One such site is, which presently has links to several sling safety sites but also has extensive information and reviews on the various styles and brands of carriers.  (One such page on sling safety is on Babywearing International's site; has its own safety pages, and each sling manufacturer has information on safe wearing.)

Choosing a sling is a very personal thing, and many babywearing mamas I know have two -- if not several -- types of slings they use for different situations and durations.  The many documented benefits to wearing babies include facilitating bonding and nursing (the latter of the two I've yet to master but will have another go at here in a few months), aiding Baby's digestion, and reducing fussiness, among many others.

With any sling, there is a learning curve and a window of adjustment for both the baby wearer and the slingling.  So long as the carrier is on correctly, if the baby fusses when first put in the sling, often it helps to get up and moving for a bit of a walk to help the baby settle in.  If the fussing continues, it's a sure sign to stop and check everything is kosher.

I call my sling "my third arm."  I could not function as I do without my sling.  I can keep my littlest babe close to me where each of them has always preferred to be, care for my other children, attend to many (but not all) household duties with careful consideration to how I move or get up and down so as not to pitch the babe forward, and go to the store/playground/library/wherever with free hands and baby able to see everything from "the catbird seat," as one manufacturer describes it. 

Given my multitasking mandate, slings help me fulfill the many duties in my charge.  The babes are content and things get done.  Wearing the babies has saved me untold amounts of hassle and struggle with infant car seats (ours is particularly cumbersome) and strollers (my babies never seem to want to ride in them very long until they get a little older, so I'm stuck holding a baby and pushing an empty stroller), and allowed me to manage  two or more children at the grocery store by having one (or two) in the cart and one slung on me.

I welcome the inquiries I receive on babywearing, and hope my experience can help other caregivers and their precious cargo.


  1. very interesting, Bonnie! they look easy to make..generally speaking! did you ever see any sewing patterns for this type of item.. just wondering what is out there!

  2. hi, Ellen! I have seen patterns online for some styles of slings, like ring slings (the type of ring used is really important, so that it's strong enough. The instructions I've found recommend aluminum rings.) and mei tais. In fact, I made a mei tai when the elder lad was little, but I goofed it up and didn't use it.


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