Ring slings are often touted as being one of the best options of carrier for newborns, and beginner babywearers. Once mastered, they are quick to slip on and off; easy to thread and tighten; and best of all, they are usually no larger than an A4 booklet when folded up, so are able to be popped into most regular size handbags.
The modern day ring sling is the brainchild of Rayner Garner; a Hawaiian man who created a carrier that had two rings and padded edges, for his wife to use for wearing their baby. That was in 1981 - and today, nearly 40 years later, the modern babywearing movement has several different types of ring slings, in a variety of fibres and styles, for parents and caregivers to choose from.
A ring sling is a piece of fabric around 2 metres in length, with two specially made rings at one end. It is designed to be worn as a one shoulder carrier, with the wearee positioned on either the front or hip of the wearer. The fabric is fastened by threading the end through the rings, and is secured by the tension created from the weight of the child bearing downwards, thus stopping the fabric from slipping out of the rings.
The shoulder styles
There are several different shoulder styles of ring sling, which provide wearers with options for comfort, depending on personal preference. Here are descriptions of the two most popular styles:
The gathered shoulder style is a simple ‘gathering’ of the fabric, which allows the wearer to widely distribute fabric. This is especially useful for carrying heavier children.
The pleated shoulder style is extremely useful for beginner ring sling users, as it fans out over the shoulder, and doesn’t require much adjustment.
Ring slings, like other woven carriers, have a multitude of fabrics and blends available; all of which is personal preference.
100% cotton is a common option available, and is popular for several reasons; it’s a breathable fabric that is supportive, easy care, and able to be sustainably produced.
Cotton blends using fibres such as linen, tencel, hemp, and wool are also popular options. These blends create further choice that recognises differences in climates, as well as support for heavier wearees.
Ring slings are extremely portable, as previously stated. They’re a convenient carrier that is easily transportable, as well as being relatively quick to use. This comes in handy for situations such as inclement weather, whereby you need a quick ‘up’; a fussy child who is impatient for their needs to be met and cannot tolerate a longer timeframe of getting into a carrier; at an airport or when travelling, where the tool of babywearing is invaluable for ease and convenience.
As always, we highly recommend getting along to a babywearing meet if you can, to try out some different styles and blends of ring slings, to see which suits you best; but in general terms, a ring sling is a wonderful addition to any babywearing parent or caregiver’s toolkit, and will serve you from newborn to toddlerhood and beyond.
Sources: “The History of Babywearing and ‘Modern’ Slings” - accessed June 2016 at http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/History_2.ashx
Ankalia’s online journal is written and edited by white Australian women. As such, our articles are written from our cultural standpoint.
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