The beginner's guide to buying a sling
Slings are a great idea for getting around with your child. Most small babies react well to them and enjoy the feeling of comfort and security that comes with being warm and close. Many drop off to sleep instantly, leaving you 'hands free' to get on with shopping, hoovering or whatever. As they grow, babies also enjoy being carried face outwards and getting an adult-level view of the world as opposed to the views of legs and exhaust pipes normally on offer.
Most slings nowadays have a few levels of adjustability, padded straps and support for the baby and you but some designs are more successful than others, so it's definitely worth checking the scores and nutshells carefully to see which will suit you best.
Things to look out for...
Comfort for you
This should probably be your number one priority. If it hurts your back, no matter how much your baby loves her sling, she ain't gonna get to use it much. Some models have wide, well-padded shoulder and back straps, which distribute weight evenly and do not dig. Look for a model that distributes the weight between your shoulders and hips as this helps avoid backache, which is an inevitable consequence of extended use of some models it seems. The ability to adjust the sling to accommodate your size and shape is also vital and is particularly important if more than one adult will be using it and you are of varying heights.
Comfort for the baby
A sling should give good support to the baby's head, neck and back and should ideally be adjustable so support is maintained as she grows. Leg holes should be well padded, so they don't cut off the circulation. Think about whether you will want to use your sling from birth, as some models are better than others for supporting newborns. Bear in mind that babies come in all shapes and sizes and the age limit specified by the manufacturer may not always be accurate.
Ease of use
It looks so easy in the shop. Yeah right! Once home there invariably seem to be an awful lot more straps than armholes. Mostly it's just a case of getting used to a design, so don't be too put off by fiddly fastenings and numerous straps. Do remember though that unless your partner has promised never to leave your side (and bear in mind he's probably lying) you'll need to be able to get the thing on and off by yourself.
As well as the ability to adjust the sling or carrier to the wearer's shape and size, it's important to be able to adapt it to suit the baby. Most slings allow the baby to face inwards or forwards. Others offer various different positions. Some models rate better for older children, so if you want a sling that will last until toddlerdom, go for a model which you can adapt to fit the size of the child. Check also that the arm and leg holes have room for expansion and that the straps will lengthen to allow for growth. Some models also allow discreet breastfeeding, which may or may not be important to you.
As prices do vary, it's important to think about how much you are going to use your sling. If you're going to be using it as an alternative to a buggy, it'll be worth investing in something that will suit your needs and last. However, if its something you'll just be using occasionally whilst the baby is small, opt for a mid- range model. Do be cautious about buying the cheapest on the market, though. As one member cautioned: "I bought two cheap ones before I realised that this is not a baby item to economise on."
The little extras
Detachable dribble bibs, soother holders, zip pockets, denim or tartan trim (we like denim) - only you know what matters to you but none of this is significant if the sling isn't comfy to wear, so it's not worth sacrificing a good solid design for looks/ trimmings. Weatherproofing, however, against rain or sun is important, but bear in mind also that if you've got your baby in a comfortable sling, you will at least be able to carry a brolly!
Last updated: almost 2 years ago