Washing Slings and Baby Carriers

After a short intermission of failing to wash, our washing machine is once again operational (more or less). This weekend I’ll be churning through all of the library slings to give them a freshen up and I thought I’d post with some general slingy washing and cleaning info.

If you only have one sling, you’ll find you’ll need to plan in when to wash it as most will need to be hung dry and so will be out of action for a day at least.  I’d always recommend having at least 1 cheap spare sling for emergencies if possible.

Soft Slings and Carriers; Wraps, Pouches, Ring Slings and Mei Tais

   

When and how to wash: Wash your soft slings whenever they need it.  For mei tais you may find that the main areas to get soiled are the straps – to avoid getting the whole thing wet you could always sponge clean the straps using warm water and liquid detergent.

All cotton, linen and hemp slings (whether woven, stretchy, ring, mei tai, etc.) should be absolutely safe to wash on a normal cotton cycle at 30 or 40 degrees using non-bio liquid detergent (I use Ecover Delicate).  Some cotton and linen slings can be washed at hotter temperatures, though do check the label. Avoid powder detergents and those with optical brighteners as these are more harsh on the fibres of your sling’s fabric and will reduce the life-span of your sling.

To prepare your sling: For ring slings (and others with rings such as the Close/Caboo Carrier), unthread the sling from the rings and pop a sock over the rings to stop them clanking about inside your machine. You could secure this with a rubber band.  Alternatively you could pop the sling into a pillowcase or cloth bag. I’d also recommend bagging mei tais to prevent the long straps from tying temselves up in knots during the wash. Most wraps are fine to just bung in, though the thinner long ones (like 5.2m Ellaroo wraps) do have more tendency to spaghetti tangles than others.

  

After the wash: All slings can be hung to dry on the line and some can be tumbled on a cool cycle. For cotton, linen and hemp woven wraps, cool tumbling with dryer balls can be a great way to soften them up, especially when new. For soft slings with padding, make sure the padding is not twisted or folded while drying – you may wish to hang the sling on a hanger to dry to help it hang nicely.  You may find that padded mei tai straps and pleated styles of ring sling shoulder can take a couple of days to dry completely.

Most non-stretchy slings can be cool ironed (while slightly damp for the best results). Cotton and linen slings should be able to withstand hotter temperatures and steam ironing, though again do check the label. I would never bother to iron a stretchy carrier!

Notes: The longer you use your sling without washing, the softer and more mouldable you’ll find it gets (imagine jeans after a few day’s wear). If your soft sling is starting to feel saggy or less supportive, then you may find that washing it helps to tighten it all up again – this is most noticeable with stretchy slings.

Even if you’re in a hard water area and washing tends to initially leave your sling feeling a bit ‘crunchy’, it’ll soon soften up again with more use. Older woven slings that have been well used and appropriately washed tend to be the most comfortable and easy to use!

Some slings, particularly woven wraps and more premium ring slings may be made from special fabrics like silk, wool, bamboo, merino, alpaca….. Follow washing instructions for these slings very carefully as you can spoil the wrapping qualities of the sling if it is washed incorrectly. Not all slings made from special fabrics will be hard to wash and most manufacturers will have washing information on their websites so check the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing if this is a worry for you.

Soft Structured Carriers

Soft structured carriers are usually safe to wash on a cool gentle cycle using liquid detergent.  Many instructions advise you to avoid washing your more structured carrier regularly as, over time, washing can affect the integrity of the padding, webbing and buckles.  I’d always recommend popping your structured carrier into a cloth bag or pillow case to offer it and your machine some protection during washing.

Do not tumble a soft structured carrier – these should be air dried on a line or rack. Make sure that the straps are straight and not twisted for drying – you may find that it’s best to hang on a hanger to help preserve the shape of padded areas. Soft structured carriers can take 2 or 3 days to dry completely due to the padding and more reinforced areas holding water. I try to only wash mine completely when the weather is warm and breezy and perfect for quick drying :)

I usually recommend that you avoid machine washing structured carriers unless completely necessary (so in a nappy failure or complete-jam/juice/ice-cream-coverage-type situation). As with mei tais, you’ll find that the parts that get most grubby are the shoulder straps and the top edge of the carrier. Sponge clean these areas and other spots as necessary using warm water and liquid detergent (washing up liquid is fine).

You can get removable strap protectors and even slip covers for some structured carriers that will protect the carrier itself from spills, stains and dribbles and that you can more easily wash in the machine.

Framed Carriers

Obviously carriers with metal framework cannot go in the washing machine, though some have covers or components that are partly removable for washing. Sponge clean other areas as necessary using warm water and liquid detergent and air dry.

If you have any doubts at all about whether a particular detergent or cleaning method is sutiable for your sling, then get in touch with the manufacturer to ask – they should be more than happy to help :)


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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Slinging in the Sun

It’s a weekend for slinging in the sun! Slings and carriers are great for getting out and about to enjoy the gorgeous weather, so I’ve put together a few thoughts on how to make the most of them for hot weather carrying.

You’re always going to feel warmer when carrying a baby or toddler and to some extent you’ll just have to acclimatise to the heat, like you do without baby or when going to a hotter climate. But there are a few things that can make you both more comfy…

Carriers that are made from natural, lighter fabrics will be more breathable and help wick away moisture.  You can also get carriers made from special solarveil or solarweave fabrics that are specially designed for hot weather use, or that can safely get wet. Carriers that that have less fabric can also improve air circulation.  Those that are easy to wash will be a life-saver when you want to remove sun-cream, sand, drinks and snacks at the end of a long day out.

If your baby is old enough (from around 6 months), and the carrier is suitable, then carrying them on your back will be much cooler than carrying them on your front. Woven wraps, mei tais and most of our soft structured carriers are suitable for back carries from 6 months. If you’re already a confident sling user, then you can back carry a younger baby in a woven wrap and some mei tais from an earlier age.

Ensuring that baby isn’t over-dressed is also important, especially when using multiple-layer carries in wraparound slings. Most slings will be the equivalent of least one clothing layer (and wraparound carries up to 3 layers), though do be aware of parts sticking out of the sling and cover/sun-protect legs, arms and heads if necessary. Some mei tais and buckles carriers have hoods that can be used as a sun shade, and you can use the tail of a ring sling to protect baby’s head from the sun too.

Finally, we find it most comfy if there is a thin cotton layer between parent and baby to avoid sticky skin rubbing. And adding an extra layer (such as a folded muslin cloth) between your body and baby’s head can help you both to feel cooler, especially when baby falls asleep.

Carriers that we like to use ourselves in hot weather are lighter weight woven wraps (like Ellaroo, Wrapsody and Calin Bleu) as well as shorter woven wraps (3-4m long rather than 4-5m long), wrap conversion mei tais (like the Hop-tye or Didytai) and ring slings.  You could also try the Library’s solarweave Connecta buckle carrier or the Ergo Performance, which are made from light fabrics that don’t hold moisture.  And for smaller babies, the lightweight and stretchy bamboo Hana Baby wrap is a great option too.

Enjoy the lovely weather!

I know we will! :D xx


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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Terminology for Parts of Wrap Carries

There are so many different ways to tie a woven wrap and the phrases and terminology can be extremely bewildering so I was thinking that it’d be great to have a list of all the components of wrap carries. This would hopefully help to explain the names of carries and the differences between different woven wrap carries better.  I’ll aim to add pictures and/or links to different parts later on – this is a work in progress so please let me know if I’ve got anything wrong and feel free to ask questions!

So, as I understand it, here are the different features and components of wrap carries….

Positions of the child in wrap carries:

Obvious, but here for completeness as they’re included in some wrap carry names – front, back or hip.

For front carries, tummy-to-tummy is when baby is in a more upright position (this is the best position for a small baby), and cradle is when baby is lying in a more diagonal position (a baby should not be held horizontal in a carrier unless it’s been deliberately loosened for breastfeeding and baby is supported by the parent).

Small babies may also be legs in (have their feet and legs tucked inside the wrap a foetal or froggy position with knees above hips and feet close together); in most wrap carries most children will be legs out (feet and legs sticking out of the wrap in a spread squat or ‘M’ position with legs spread apart and knees above bottom – legs should be supported kneepit to kneepit).

All babies may like to be carried arms in (with their arms tucked into the wrap) and from around 4 months babies and toddlers may be carried arms out (with their arms over the top of the wrap passes – make sure that when arms out a baby has sufficient head and upper back strength and is supported by the wrap right up to their shoulder blades/armpits).
Rebozo/Hammock pass - over both legs of child and only one shoulder of adult.
Ruck/Kangaroo pass – over both legs of child and both shoulders of parent (ruck is on back and kangaroo is on front)
Torso/Straight pass – over both legs of child and under both arms of adult
Cross pass – anything going between child’s legs (so a pass that goes over one leg, and then under the other). Can go under one of both of the parent’s shoulders.

Other variations/types of passes:

Spread – the fabric is spread knee pit to knee pit, and/or kneepit to armpits/neck + uses as much of the width of the wrap as possible.
Unspread/bunched/gathered/sandwiched - the wrap is bunched up or folded rather than spread out. You’d find sandwiched passes in ruck straps to help them to stay on the shoulders, and gathered wrap cross passes in things like a kangaroo carry or basic ruck tied in front (these last will usually go around child’s bottom and tuck into one or both kneepits).
Reinforcing – anything that goes over the first basic passes of a carry to reinforce and add security and support to the carry. Reinforcing passes are usually spread passes.
Ruck Straps – the two wrap ends each go straight over one shoulder and back under the same shoulder to look like rucksack straps. Ruck straps can also pass from under the shoulder, going over the same shoulder (as in a BWCC with ruck straps). They can be spread, gathered, flipped, twisted or folded.

Other wrap carry components/terminology:

Pocket - any part of a wrap carry where you’re making a pocket/pouch/seat for your child to sit into. This could be any type of spread pass (ruck, rebozo, torso or cross) and is usually used to emphasise that you need to spread the wrap rail-to-rail from kneepit-to-kneepit and ensure that child’s knees are positioned above their hips with their bottom sinking into the middle part of the wrap width.
Top Rail – whichever long edge of the wrap is highest up (this one will often be spreading up the child’s back to their armpit or neck).
Bottom Rail – whichever long, hemmed edge of the wrap is lowest (this one will often be tucked under child’s bottom into their kneepits).
Note that in some carries the rails change position (e.g. in some reinforcing passes, the bottom rail is twisted to the top for the reinforcement to help with tension along both rails). Many wraps have different coloured top and bottom rails to help you keep track.
Chest Belt - in back carries where the tails of the wrap are knotted or twisted around each other on the parent’s chest. This can be done at different points in the carry (e.g. you can tie a chest belt in the middle of the carry after a straight/torso pass; or you could tie a chest belt between two ruck straps after tying off at the shoulder) and adds extra support to help take the weight of the carry off the shoulders and distribute it more evenly around parent’s torso.
Lexi Twist – where the two tails of wrap are twisted around each other behind the child (usually at their bum/seat, but can be at their back), to add extra support for the child’s weight or pull them closer into the parent. Can be used in back, front or hip carries.
Flipped shoulder – the wrap fabric is spread, but twisted once before passing over the shoulders. This is usually to add better tension to the rails and tighten the carry, and also enables the wrap to comfortabley ‘cup’ the shoulder.
Crossed – both ends of the wrap cross over each other at the chest (for back carries) or at the back (for front or hip carries) to more evenly distribute the weight around the parent’s torso. I hope this isn’t confusing with the Cross Pass above.
Robins/Poppins twist - usually in a hip carry where the wrap ends are twisted around each other, usually in front of the parent’s shoulder (rather than over the child as with a Lexi twist), and taken back from the direction they came from. This helps to get tension and security at the beginning of the carry.
Sling Rings – wrap carries can be done using 1 or two sling rings. Sling rings can be used with any length wrap, and have the benefit of being flatter and often more easily ajusted than knots or twists. 2 rings may be used at the end of the carry instead of knotting to allow easy adjustment and tightening; 1 ring may be used in the middle of a carry (e.g. instead of a robbins/poppins twist) to help anchor a part of the carry so that the wrap can be taken back over itself.

Ways to tie off:

In Front (TIF) – generally in back carries, when the wrap tails are tied at the stomach.
At Back - generally in front (or sometimes hip) carries, where tails are tied behind parent’t back.
At Hip – for front or back carries when tails are tied at hip
At Shoulder – for any carry where tails are tied in front of one shoulder – often a slip knot will be used when tying at shoulder for easier adjusting/tightening of the wrap carry.
Under Bum (TUB) – tails pass over both of child’s legs (so sit in both kneepits) and are tied under the child’s bum.
Tibetan – in back carries with ruck straps, both ends of the wrap come under the arm, across the body and loop through the ruck strap on the opposite side to make a cross on the chest. The wrap ends can then be tucked around or into their nearest ruck strap of tied on the chest like a chest belt.
Knotless – in back carries that would otherwise be tied at the shoulder, the wrap ends are twisted around each other and one is threaded through the shoulder strap on the other side. This creates a bunched chest pass for added support and avoids awkward knotting at the shoulder.

Types of carry:

Cross Carry (CC) - any carry that is primarily two spread cross passes in opposite directions so that the child sits with their bottom in the centre of the cross and with both wrap passes giong between their legs. Can be front, back or hip.
Wrap cross carry (WCC) - as above, but with an additional straight/torso pass over or under the cross passes.
Ruck – back carry, usually starts with a ruck pass
Kangaroo – front carry, starts with a kangaroo pass
Double Hammock – usually has two rebozo/hammock passes
(I know there could be more here, but hope that the idea makes sense + will add more later.)

So in my head you can combine these to explain how to do any wrap carry….

So a Rebozo Hip carry is a single rebozo pass with the child at your hip. A Ruck Tied in Front (RTIF) is a ruck pass with ruck straps and bunched cross passes and tied in front. A reinforced ruck is a ruck pass with ruck straps and two spread reinforcing cross passes and tied in front. A Rear Reinforced Rebozo Ruck is basically a rear rebozo carry with another reinforcing rebozo pass + is presumably called ‘Ruck’ because it ends up with ruck straps (rather than an actual ruck pass iyswim?). A Double Hammock (DH) has two rebozo/hammock passes to make the double hammock (and can then end in various ways). A Back Wrap Cross Carry (BWCC) with Chestbelt is a back carry that starts with a torso pass, then you tie a chest belt, then go over the shoulders to make two spread cross passes and tie in front…..etc. etc.

So that’s how I think about it all….I hope it’s all at least vaguely clear!

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This is largely copied from a blog post I wrote on a different site last year, and which can be found here: Terminology for Parts of Wrap Carries

© 2012 South London Sling Library
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Baby Carriers Around the World

I’m collecting links to interesting articles and films about baby carriers and slings around the world, both modern and in the past.

Things to Watch:

This fascinating short film was recently linked on Facebook; not only does it show some really interesing carriers and variations from around the world, but it reveals how, even 50 years ago, research was showing the benefits of using baby carriers and of keeping your baby close to you.

Link to Short Film: ‘Baby Toting’ in 1963

Here’s a modern tribute to the traditional Welsh Nursing Shawl, which was still used to carry babies until the middle of the last century:

Link to Short Film: Cerys Matthews – BBC National Treasures

Things to Read:

Here’s a lovely article with lots of photos of babywearing around the world and in history: Babywearing Through the Ages

And a great blog with loads from all over the world: Celtic Baby Carrying

If you’d like to find out more about traditional baby carriers and slings from around the world, then I’d recommend reading the fascinating book ‘Beloved Burden: Babywearing Around the World’ by I.C. van Hout.  This amazing book looks at the international cultures and traditions surrounding babywearing and (together with our other books) is available to browse at or borrow from the Sling Library!


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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More New Open Sessions :D

I’m going to be adding alternate Wednesday mornings to the Library’s regular Open Sessions so that more people can get a chance to come along for drop-in carrier and sling advice, demonstrations and hire.

The current plan is for the new Wednesday sessions to start on the 16th May and run every other Wednesday morning from then on (excluding holidays). They’ll be from 9:30-12:00 and operate in just the same way as the other Open Sessions.

For more on Open Sessions; where they are, how they work and what we can do to help during these times, visit this page: Open Sessions.


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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Website Improvements Underway!

Update 27/04/12: Website improvements are mostly done for now – there are few new carriers, contributors and photos to add, but the structural changes are finished! All feedback very welcome and I hope you find the website a bit more informative and easier to browse now :D

There are lots of alterations and improvements due on the Sling Library website – while I’m working on them pages may move, appear or dissappear and links may be temporarily missing or broken. I’m nearly done so thanks for your patience!


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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I think Pouches and Ring Slings are great!

It may be true that Wraps, Mei Tais and Soft Structured carriers are better at distributing a child’s weight evenly across both shoulders, as well as to your hips.  But well-designed one shouldered carriers can be just as comfortable for shorter periods of wearing (up to about an hour or more, depending on size of child), and with no buckles or tying to fiddle with are often much quicker and easier to use! For us, our Rings Slings and Pouches are invaluable to use a busy and stressful times of day when we don’t want or need to fuss with back carries or fastenings, and are small enough to keep at the bottom of your bag or buggy for when you need them.

Ring Slings and Pouches for Small Babies:

Your brand new baby can be held from birth in an upright position (Rings Sling only), or in a cradle position (Ring Sling or Pouch) on your front. Most babies will start with their feet tucked into the carrier, but when they’re ready will want to have their feet out. From about 3-4 months babies with good head control can be held in an upright position on your hip so that they can look around themselves more easily.  All of these are positions that parents instinctively hold their babies and children in their arms, and that most find both natural and comfortable.  Both Ring Slings and Pouches are great and easy to use when you need to carry your baby without fussing with ties and buckles (like when you’re up in the middle of the night needing to comfort a colicky baby or rushing for school drop off).  They’re also excellent to use for convenient and discrete breastfeeding!

Safety note for using pouches and ring slings with newborns in a cradle position: When using a pouch or ring sling with very young babies, always make sure that baby’s head is nice and high (‘close enough to kiss’), that their back is fully supported with their weight held snugly against your body, and that no fabric is covering their face. This photo shows what your view of your baby in a pouch should be:

For more information, see this great document: Correct Positioning for the Safety and Comfort of your Newborn

Rings Slings for Older Babies and Toddlers:

As your baby grows and their back straightens and strengthens, you’ll find that you naturally carry them sitting on one hip.  A Ring Sling or Pouch supports them in this position, spreading the weight across your back and shoulder so that you have both hands free and you don’t get one very tired arm!  They’re great for school runs to pick up older children, or to pop to the shops from home or to/from the car.  As your Baby grows into a Toddler, they may well want to be carried less, but with all their adventurous running around will still get tired or fall over and hurt themselves.  All they’ll want then is to be held in your arms, and having a Ring Sling or Pouch handy can be a life saver when you’ve got a tired, grumpy toddler and other things to carry too!  I find that my 24 month old loves to snuggle into me in our favourite Ring Sling at home when she’s ill or teething too :D

 


© 2012 South London Sling Library
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