Choosing the right sling for your newborn

Choosing the right sling for your newborn

Choosing the right sling for you and your child is an important process, not least when carrying a newborn. Use our guide below to help you make an informed choice and find a wrap that you will both love.

Starry Night Arthan wrap

Newborns (0-4months) are still in the “fourth trimester” of their lives; a three-month stage at which they are still extremely vulnerable. This time is often seen as an extension of life in utero; being gently rocked, able to hear mother’s voice, never in need of anything, gently compressed all around. Using a soft, mouldable sling can be one way of meeting a baby’s need for closeness and contact. The benefits of such close contact are believed to extend far beyond the early months, encouraging confident, secure independent children later in life.

This special closeness can be achieved with wraparound slings and with ring slings.

Wrap or ring sling?

A woven wrap is wrapped around you and your baby, binding you both closely together. The fabric is mouldable, ensuring a snug, smooth fit, and it can be tied in such a way to provide excellent support to your baby, and comfortable weight distribution widely across your body. Wraps are infinitely adjustable and can be tied in many different ways as your baby grows and starts to want to look around from your hip, and when old enough, from your back!

Most babywearers will start with a front carry with a longer wrap for a baby, allowing multiple passes for greater peace of mind regarding security and safety. The classic Front Wrap Cross Carry is ideal, as this is simple, supportive to small bodies, does not drag during the process, and is respectful of physiology. It is not hard to learn and easy to adjust. It can be worn with three spread passes for warmth or extra support, or one snug pass with two rope passes for coolness (woven fabric does not stretch so is safe in single layers).

Short wraps can also be very useful as one-shouldered rebozo carries, which are similar to ring slings.

A ring sling is another great option for a smaller baby. They are lightweight, very mouldable and adjustable around you and your baby, and can be used for front and slightly off centre positioning. The width of the fabric can be broadly spread across your shoulder and upper back for comfortable weight distribution, and once you are familiar with it, can be very quick to put on. Fabric with some glide can be very easy to use, but with heavier children, sturdier fabrics that grip through the rings can add a feeling of security.

Of course, both wraps and ring slings are fantastic for use with bigger children too!

Choosing a fabric

For a newborn sling, a few qualities are especially valuable, such as softness against tender skin, and a fabric with smoothness and glide during wrapping, to avoid any dragging pressure against your baby’s back.

  • Cotton is among the softest of the fibres available, and is very easy to care for, especially if you have a baby who likes to dribble or has a tendency to posset.
  • Combed cotton has an extra softness, and organic Pima cotton is the softest and gentlest of all, and the easiest to learn to wrap with.
  • Bamboo is also very soft and has a gentle glide, making it lovely to work with.
  • Silk is also soft when broken in, but is strong and lightweight which adds longevity.
  • If you like wool, the cashmere blends are soft, very quick to break in and are easy to wrap with. Cashmere is also strong and will last till your baby is a preschooler. The 40% lambswool wraps are among the thinner of the wool blends, are not prickly and are lovely to work with, and sturdy enough up to toddlerhood. 30% lambswool is a little thicker but is still snuggly, easy to adjust and will carry your child to preschool age.
  • Linen and hemp blends can take a little more work to break in, and are traditionally used for carrying heavier children, but once soft and mouldable, can be happily used with newborns too.

A little grip is useful to help to “fix” the carry in place once done and avoid slip and slide, and this can often be gained from the choice of pattern - dense patterns create more friction. Some fabrics are grippier than others, which can affect the choice of carry you use.

Strato Muscovado wrap

Oscha Slings are sturdy and will not sag when tied well, even when broken in to be floppy soft, which will help to avoid slumping.

You may also wish to consider the season which you are using your sling; lighter, cooler wraps, or short wraps may be more pleasant in summer, while many enjoy warmer, denser, heavier wraps in winter.

But most of all, choose something you love and as that will be what you will use!

Tips for wraps

Babies need to be well supported all around their bodies, especially when sleeping. It is common for the top and bottom rails of the fabric to be made snug with a little too much looseness in the centre of the fabric, which can allow baby’s back to slump a little. Don’t forget to tighten evenly across the whole width of fabric when wrapping and ensure your baby’s back is well supported with her pelvis tilted and knees raised. This will help to ensure a safe, unobstructed airway.

If you have a baby who likes to look around a lot, a neck cushion can be helpful with some carries to provide a little support to the back of the head while still allowing free movement. This can be done by ensuring the fabric of the horizontal pass across baby’s back reaches to the top of their head, and then folding this excess fabric over a muslin rolled up into a cylinder placed behind the neck.

Some people prefer using a “lexi twist” with a front carry to avoid too much fabric gathered up underneath little legs. This can be done in a front cross carry by twisting the two reinforcing passes (that would normally cross over under baby’s bottom) into a short rope. This travels vertically below baby for a few twists and then the tails are separated and each is passed around the hips below baby’s feet to be tied at the back.

Tips for ring slings

Ensure the pouch of the ring sling is about the right size to receive your baby; too loose a pouch will be harder to get secure and snug quickly. Ensure the fabric is well tucked up behind your baby’s knees (with their lower legs outside the pouch) so their weight is resting on their bottoms and they are seated rather than starfished. Make sure this lower third of the fabric is snug to keep knees raised. The top third of the fabric will support the upper back and neck, and the middle third the lower back; all three sections should be tightened evenly and gently through the rings.

Once baby is secure, lift your baby up slightly with one arm to reduce the tension. This will help you to spread the shoulder fabric broadly with the other hand and pull any digging away from your neck.

The long tail of the ring sling can be wrapped around the rings for a classy look and also to protect little grasping hands. Alternatively, the tail can be twisted over and over to form a cylinder, which is placed behind baby’s neck with the top edge of the fabric folded over to make a neck cushion.