Wear your baby from the day they’re born in a beautiful sling, to make it dead easy to get around and promote bonding.
If you have a buggy, you *could* do without it, but it’s still really useful, because you can’t always use a buggy.
What is it?
A large strong piece of cloth, or more structured carrier, that allows you to ‘wear’ your baby (the practice is often called babywearing and there’s a whole community around it if you want to use that as a socialising hook).
You can use them from birth, often for as long as you might carry a child – people sometimes still use them for four or five year olds when they do need to be carried (which of course isn’t often, but they can be handy if you do a lot of long walks).
In my opinion, yes. Some people would contest that, but to be a lazy parent, I’d say one is crucial.
Not only can you get around without having to navigate a large vehicle down stairs and into shops (OK, I am a bit biased against buggies), you can get stuff done – your baby will be happiest wrapped around you, leaving your hands free to wash up/enjoy your dinner/do the gardening. (Yes, I’ve done all these things babywearing.) They’re fantastic for bonding, particularly for non-breastfeeding parents, and they can be well pretty.
Some people run exercise classes and other events for babywearers. There’s no official safety standard for event like that, so you do need to be careful. Here’s a great blog by SlingSure on what to look out for. (Personally, I think just taking care of kids is exercise enough.)
What about multiple children?
You can wear two babies at once, either by wearing two slings (typically one on the front and one on the back) or by wearing a tandem, or ‘Twingo’ carrier. Some love it. I’ve never tried it so can’t vouch either way. I’m definitely going to give it a go when I have another one, and if I had twins I’d carry at least one in a sling, to avoid a double buggy.
How do I get one?
You can buy structured ‘baby carriers’ from the high street, but personally I wouldn’t recommend it. They’re not as comfortable or as strong. I’ve known people quit babywearing because the carrier doesn’t work for them, or move onto other wraps and describe high street carriers as a ‘transition’.
You can buy them new online from suppliers like Lenny Lamb, Little Frog, or Ergo, to name but a few. If you’re on Facebook, there are loads of groups selling them relatively cheap. If you avoid social media , look out on eBay, Gumtree, etc.
Beware fakes if you’re buying second hand! Ergo wraps, in particular, are often faked, a fake just won’t be as well made.
Is there a hack?
If you have a good long, strong piece of cloth, that works too. You’ll need to be sure it is strong enough. You can use it as a wrap on its own, or get it converted (or convert it yourself, of course.) Here’s a post on Canadian Babywearing about why you shouldn’t let the sling product get in the way of happy babywearing.
How much are they?
How long is a piece of string? You can pays hundreds of pounds for a beautiful cloth wrap, but you can also find them from £30. I inherited a couple on long term loan, and bought a hop tye for £50 and a lovely pink owl wrap for £60, before deciding that actually, I prefer straps. (It’s worth having a couple, so one can be in the wash. Don’t be intimidated by people who have loads though – babywearing is a hobby for some, but it doesn’t have to be.)
Secondhand slings are normally a bit cheaper, though sometimes they’re sold as more expensive because they’ve been broken in. The great thing is that slings hold their value – many people buy, then sell on, wraps in quick succession, finding out what works (a better way of doing that might be to use sling library)
What makes some slings more expensive than others?
Basically, very cheap slings are probably not as strong. Not as strong means not as comfy. Otherwise, you pay more for larger wraps (they some in different sizes),and particularly beautiful ones, which are often released as limited editions. If you’re interested in comfort over art, slings between £50 and £100 are readily available and will do the job.
What are the safety concerns?
Pretty much anyone can babywear (here’s a great blog about babywearing in a wheelchair and a Babywearing Disabled Mamas Facebook group). It’s really important you stick to the TICKS guidelines for safe babywearing. These will also help you wear your baby so that you’re both really comfy, and can keep going for longer.
What’s the alternative?
If you really don’t want to babywear, you can buy a buggy, and carry your child in your arms when necessary. I’ll warn you though – babies get really fudging heavy after a while.
You might want to look out for babywearing coats (they have extra fabric in them; particularly handy for back carries), and there are some lovely babywearing bags around. Neither are strictly necessary though.
You can also get some lovely necklaces that are great for your baby to chew/fiddle with, like those from Slingamebobs.