Here at It’s A Sling Thing we speak to hundreds of families every month. A common question we hear is ‘Do I need to change my sling?’. The families we work with have children of a whole range of ages, but certain trends are apparent. Many families who reach out for support finding a sling have children at similar ages, and they fall into 4 main categories.
The First Stage – Newborn (under 3 months)
A new baby is always a big transition. The number of slings on the market now can be overwhelming for many new parents, so they reach out for advice. Families are looking for a simple and safe solution to calming their newborn baby. Newborns require more attention to safety as they are unable to maintain their own airway, so they need different slings to older babies. You can read about our recommendations for newborns here.
The Second Stage – Nosey Baby Stage (4-6 months)
Babies change quickly in the first few months. Many families get in touch when their baby is around 4-6 months old. Around this age their baby has grown significantly and is starting to feel heavier. The baby has more control over their body and is starting to push away, and turn around. Around this age is also when babies get more and more interested in the world around them. The combination of these factors is what leads many parents at this age to stop using whatever carrier they have been using, and hopefully reach out for support to try something else.
4-6 months is also the age at which many families start to consider using a carrier which offers a position facing away from the parent. You can read more about facing out here. It is worth bearing in mind that babies learn about their world not just by looking at it, but by looking at the world whilst checking what their care giver is feeling – a process called triangulation. Babies at this age do often enjoy looking out at the world for short periods but they do still need that close feedback from their parent too.
It may be true that you need to look at a different option for this stage, such as moving to something more supportive if you’ve been using a stretchy, or trying a different carrying position or carrier which gives your baby a wider view of the world. What slings are suitable for your baby is much more closely related to their height and leg length than weight so it is worth checking what might fit. Our recommendations for this age are anything suitable from newborn, and a few of the smaller buckle carriers such as a Baby Wompat, Ergobaby Original or 360, Caboo DXGo, Sleepy Nico and Pouchlings. Other standard/baby size buckle carriers are suitable from when your baby is comfortably in 6-9 month clothes.
The Third Stage – Starting to walk (12-18 months)
Many babies are walking by the time they are 18 months old and they may be being carried less, and for shorter periods. Babies are now taller and thinner with longer legs. Many parents find that the carrier they have used for months is suddenly not as comfortable. An added complication at this age is that most families will now be referring to their children as toddlers – they are toddling after all! – however in terms of slings and carriers ‘toddler’ sized is actually a fair bit larger and suitable for age 2+.
This age of 12-18 months becomes a difficult one with slings. Without being able to move into a toddler carrier the selection of suitable carriers actually gets smaller for a little while. Similarly to other stages changes to carrying position or way of using the sling or carrier might be enough to have everyone comfortable, however some families will find that they need a different carrier for this age. If you need something more suitable for a child who is getting up and down a lot, or a child who is tall but with short legs, or a child who is short but with long legs then a different carrier might be the right choice. You can see our recommendations for this age group here.
Around age 2 is when many children will fit into toddler carriers – so whilst many people may be ready to change slightly earlier a toddler carrier might not be the right investment until slightly later!
The Fourth Stage – Preschool and beyond (3 years +)
The final large group of parents who contact us have much older children. They are generally walking, running, playing and enjoying the world, however they still get tired. For many families a pushchair at this age can be inconvenient to carry around if it isn’t being used, and a sling is an attractive option as it takes up less space! Many families who contact us looking to carry older children are after a sling or carrier for a specific event such as a holiday and don’t want to buy a sling if they won’t use it very often.
Larger children do require more support to carry comfortably for long periods. For short ups and downs you can get away with almost anything, but families who want to be able to carry older babies for long periods are often looking for large supportive carriers which will give them the freedom to go on long adventures! You can find our recommendations for this age group here.
Help me decide on a sling!
If you’d like any help at any point on your sling journey, why not get in touch or book a FREE 15 minute phone consultation (or even a longer one!). We can help you find the right sling for your situation.