You’ve decided you want to wear your baby or older child. Fantastic! Now you get to choose what type of carrier you’d like to use. There are so many options and a lot of products on the market. Ultimately, you’ll consider many factors – one of which may be how much “bang for your buck” you get. In terms of sheer versatility, it’s hard to beat a ring sling. They’re functional for newborns and preschoolers alike without having to buy inserts or different sizes, they’re easily adjustable between differently sized caregivers, and they don’t take up a lot of space so are easy to store in a diaper bag. But they can also do SO MUCH MORE!
A ring sling doubles as an easy blanket or shawl.
So it’s colder than you thought it would and you don’t have any extra layers packed, but you do have a ring sling handy in your diaper bag or the trunk of your car. Perfect! Simply draped over my wiggly toddler, a blanket tends to fall off easily, so I take advantage of the ring sling design and wrap it around her then tighten it a little (not so tight she couldn’t get her arms out if she needed to). You can use a ring sling in the same way as a shawl or big comfy scarf for yourself.
Whether you’re wearing your baby or not, you can use a ring sling as a nursing cover.
If you’re holding your baby to nurse and have your ring sling stashed in the diaper bag, you can drape it over yourself (threaded through the rings, but very loose) to use as a nursing cover. A ring sling is one of the types of carriers that you can nurse in while wearing as well. When you loosen the carrier to allow baby to be positioned comfortably for nursing, you can either pull up the fabric panel or use the extra tail of fabric for privacy.
In this photo, you’ll notice we are on an airplane. The FAA does not specifically prohibit wearing your baby while flying, but your particular airline may. On this flight, I was permitted to wear my child while boarding, but was then instructed to fully remove her from the carrier prior to takeoff. I simply loosened the ring sling and left it draped around my waist where it was perfect to use as a little blankie to cover her while nursing and sleeping. When we landed, I only had to pull it back up to my shoulder and tighten to carry her back off the plane.
Is your kid a runner? Your ring sling is now a toddler harness!
When your child is looking for independence, but the situation calls for their independence to be limited, the ring sling that you keep in the bottom of your diaper bag for emergencies comes in handy! In this situation, I couldn’t expect my daughter to remain held or seated during a local parade when all the other kids were running around and grabbing candy–but I couldn’t expect her to stay out of harm’s range either! By ‘slinging’ the sling ring around her waist, I was able to stop her from running into danger, but it gave her a large amount of freedom. As a bonus, the waist belt part of this setup is quite wide and more comfortable than a thin strap. For a feisty toddler that will not allow me to put on a harness, she has absolutely no problems wearing her ring sling!
A makeshift highchair.
So, you’re eating away from home–either at a restaurant or at a friend or family member’s home, and…you don’t have a highchair for baby! What do you do?! Well, your first thought is that one of you will just hold baby on your lap. It will work out fine, right? Baby won’t reach for your mashed potatoes and gravy. They will show no interest in your barbecue sauce. And if they happen to get anything on their hands they will absolutely let you know and wouldn’t dream of rubbing them all over you.
So maybe that’s not the best idea… instead, you can use your ring sling to create a highchair! Sit your kiddo on a chair that has a back on it. Wrap the sling from behind the chair, around the child’s waist, to back behind the chair again, thread the tail into the rings, and you have a ring sling! To protect your sling from the above mentioned mashed potatoes, gravy, and barbecue sauce, you can wrap a towel around the sling.
Extra hands for groceries.
When you’ve got a ton of stuff to bring inside and don’t want to make extra trips, stash difficult to carry items in a ring sling!
** An important note about safety **
First and foremost, please do not carry any other items in a ring sling while wearing your baby! Second, in order to maintain the integrity and strength of your ring sling, it is important that the material is not damaged. Make sure you check that nothing you place in the sling to carry is sharp or capable of cutting the fabric and do not carry chemicals or liquids that could degrade the fibers if they were to leak or spill.
An easy way to secure important items.
Important item to secure #1: your child – CHECK! Important item #2: everything your child needs to get through an outing.
Whatever helps your little one feel comfortable; you want to have on hand. But just because your baby or toddler really wants a stuffed friend or something to chew doesn’t mean they do a great job of holding on. Attach that stuff to your rings and don’t worry about picking it up off the floor anymore! Here, I’ve got my keys clipped on too. Instead of letting them fall into the bottom of my purse or get tangled with other things in a pocket, I keep them really handy in between the car and the house.
An effective window shade.
Ever wonder about those little hooks on (or near) the ‘Oh, $h!t’ handles in the back seat of your vehicle? What are they actually for anyways? They are to hang your clothes hangers with your nice clothes on them when you’re transporting them. What? You’ve never been in that situation? Me neither!
They are also a wonderful way to shade your baby from the sun, or to create a fun car seat fort for them! By handing the rings from those silly hooks, you can drape your sling’s tail over car seat to form a secret hideaway or you can let it hang down to shield kiddo’s face from the sun’s glare.
Pregnancy can be painful… especially having to hold up your ever-growing belly! Belly wrapping is a wonderful way to give your body relief!
“But it’s so much fabric, and it takes so long to do it, and I never get it right the first time, and by the time I get it on I already have to pee again, and my arms are sore, and I’m already exhausted thinking about it!”
There’s a ring sling for that. You can use your ring sling to wrap your growing belly quick and easy!
Sometimes my little one is having a tough day and wants to be held often, but only for short periods of time, and then put back down again (almost always when I’m trying to actually do something like make lunch). On days like this, I just keep a ring sling on and ready to use so she doesn’t get extra upset every time I make her wait for me to find it and get it ready. I recently discovered that the long tail makes a perfect hiding place for a game of Peekaboo! If your ring sling is long enough, you can play the game while wearing as well.
As always, if you have any questions about how to use a for or use a ring sling for actual babywearing, we encourage you to contact us (on Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org) or, better yet, come learn in person at one of our meetings!
Blog post written by Keri R. and Gwendolyn A.
All images have image descriptions in the alternative text visible to screen readers.