Rebecca, a friend and customer of It’s A Sling Thing has written up her thoughts on all the options she explored after the stretchy looking for carriers for her and her family!
After the stretchy: Thoughts on slings
My number one tip for new parents would have to be “Befriend a sling consultant”. Despite my misgivings about learning to safely wrap while sleep deprived, Jenni talked me into a stretchy. The first time I tried it I was blown away by the comfort and ease of using it. So when I decided I wanted a new sling, as my daughter became more active and eager to look around, the bar was set high. I began by hiring three different options.
Ergobaby 360 Omni
I rented the Ergobaby thinking that forward facing would be best – my daughter was desperate to see the world around her and when carrying her in arms she definitely preferred to face outward. But I admit I never even got to put her facing out. I first tried this on as a parent facing front carry and instantly knew it wouldn’t suit me. I was used to my sling being like an item of clothing, and this was bulky. I suspect that if I hadn’t used a stretchy first I would have liked it much more – before I’d had my daughter, the structure and padding seemed like security, plus it had so many options. However, it didn’t feel like something I could just live in the way I was used to, so the Ergo was out.
The Integra felt like the polar opposite to the heavily padded Ergo. The canvas fabric was sturdy and light, and the straps had no padding, which made it feel closer to my body – like my beloved stretchy. On the other hand, the straps had no padding, and the canvas was sturdy rather than stretchy, so it was an adjustment. I kept forgetting to use the accessory strap to narrow the back panel – it seemed faffy but once done it would not have needed adjustment again for a while. Also, I absolutely loved the hedgehog pattern. In the end, it was very close between this and…
The Zensling. This felt so, so intuitive. I loved the ease of adjusting the width of the back panel (although you can’t set it and leave it, as with the Integra), and the ability to adjust its height (my daughter, like her mother, is a shortie). The fabric felt familiar and cosy and snug. There was some padding that contributed to it feeling relaxing, but not enough to be bulky. While I used both the Integra and the Zensling regularly throughout my two week hire period, I knew I’d made the right choice when I was upset at the idea of being without it when I returned them. And I do miss the hedgehog print – but I love the look of the black with ocean trim. (Maybe I’ll get suck pads in a few fabrics as a cheaper way of enjoying sling choice!)
But then, I visited Jenni, who was keen to use me and my baby to test out a few new options on a small child (hers being giants)…so I tried some more.
JPMBB ring sling
I love the aesthetic of ring slings – so casual looking! – and a friend commented on how quick they are to lift an indecisive child in and out. Plus I loved the stretchy wrap (though mine was from Lifft) and the seated sideways position seemed a good option for a baby fascinated with the world.
Apparently I was wrong. Despite Jenni’s expert help, my daughter writhed in the ring sling and without being able to position her well she wasn’t secure enough for me to try a walk with her in it to settle. (She always fusses over a new sling at first – I think she dislikes my faffing adjusting it for the first time.)
Jenni suggested trying a seated sideways position in a stretchy wrap to see if it suits her, since the extra passes will make it easier to secure a wriggly baby. See below!
On the face of it, the Tula Free-To-Grow looked basically the same as my Zensling or the Integra – a soft structured carrier. So I was stunned by how different it felt. The waistband was much more substantial, which felt cosy and supportive, and the straps didn’t cross in back, which completely changed the feel of it. The padding cupped my shoulders comfortably and five minutes into our walk I was starting to think about what pattern to buy it in.
So it’s a good thing I went for a long walk instead of just trying it on for a couple minutes. Half an hour into the walk, I realised that the way the straps distributed weight on my shoulders was aggravating an old injury. I was very disappointed to let the Free-To-Grow go. I know it probably sounds daft to say that it was comfortable AND bad for my shoulder, but the padding was so wonderful – it was just the pull of uncrossed back straps that didn’t suit me. I’m hopeful that when I move to back carrying it won’t affect my shoulder in the same way.
Before I started using slings, I admit this style would have put me off. But having tried the soft structured carriers, I was struck by how familiar the meh dai felt. The fabric was sturdy and flexible (and I definitely need that print in my life!), with a wide waistband and lots of places to customise the sizing to my baby. Jenni talked me through arranging the straps and the way these supported my daughter’s knees made it easier to get her into the ideal M position that she so often resists. Yes, keeping one strap taut while I got the other in place would take some getting used to, but on the other hand there was no fumbling searching for a buckle like on a buckle carrier. Also, having ties instead of buckles would probably make it easier for my husband and I to pass the sling between us since we would automatically adjust the straps correctly in the process of tying. It had that feel of being just part of my outfit that I look for in a sling and did I mention how much I like the pattern? Interesting but not bold, fun yet also mature. Plus, the light single layer of cotton (and light print) would be great for summer.
My daughter was still wriggling in it after a short walk, which often means she’s hungry, and that’s when it hit me – how do you feed in it? I’ve been so used to the ease of loosening dual adjust buckles to drop her down a little and assumed that adjusting the tied straps to feed and readjusting afterwards would be a nightmare. However, with a little wiggle we adjusted position without untying so she could feed. That said, the adjustment put more of the weight on one shoulder so I think I’d prefer to feed sitting down in this sling, whereas I can happily do it standing in my Zensling.
This is a sling I think I’ll rent for a couple weeks before deciding on. I loved it but could see it needed a little more practise on my part, and to be honest my daughter continued to fidget. Perhaps she finds the M shape more uncomfortable and that’s why I find it hard to position her well sometimes? Perhaps it was just that she wanted to have a good kick instead of to be carried? Perhaps she was just tired? Hard to be sure with only trying it once, but there are so many positives that I want to give it a fair test.
After the light feel of the meh dai, the warmth of the Wompat was striking. The corduroy straps and waistband were cosy and the elfin hood was gorgeous – although too big for my small baby. Jenni advised me to position it lower than others I’d tried, which felt more natural. My daughter gave it her seal of approval, falling asleep immediately. This one didn’t call to me as much as the others though – possibly the combination of warm sling and hot weather.
Seated sideways in a stretchy wrap
I lived in my stretchy for months and had no idea there were alternatives to the carry in the brochure (which is called Pocket Wrap Cross Carry). You tie the sling in the same way but put the baby in differently.
My daughter instantly loved this and was eager to look around. I initially didn’t feel she was as secure, although when I checked all the supportive passes I did feel better. However, her love of facing forward and reluctance to keep knees above hips meant that halfway through our walk I did decide to switch her to an upright facing in carry. (The heat probably didn’t help – a stretchy is less than ideal in a heat wave!) The good thing is that I already have a stretchy, so I can try this one again very easily. It also made me think I should try a hip carry in one of the others!
Reading sling descriptions is no substitute for going for a walk with your baby in them. Now I do have a better sense of how I might like a sling based on things like the padding, but I still can’t imagine buying one I hadn’t tried first. I was also struck by the subtle yet important differences among slings in terms of where the waistband belongs and other little tweaks. In fact, during the process I realised I’d been adjusting my Zensling wrong and am now finding it much more comfortable and the weight better distributed. So in future I’ll always read instructions – or ask Jenni or Em – when I try out something new.
I love my Zensling, but I also really enjoy having a choice of slings, so the meh dai is coming home with me. After all, it can be hard to treat yourself as a mum when you have so little time – so why not get something gorgeous and time-saving for me and my baby to enjoy?