In this article, I will explain the difference between the two types of carrier and help you decide whether either ring sling or wrap is the right choice for you and your child.
A ring sling and a swaddle may seem quite similar at first glance: they are both a long woven piece of cloth wrapped around the body, used to carry a child. But they are used quite differently. The biggest difference in construction is that, while a wrap is just a long piece of fabric (often more than 4 metres), a ring loop is typically much shorter (around 2 metres). In addition, the ring sling has two large rings sewn into one end.
On a ring sling, the end without rings is passed through the rings, which lock it in place and create a fabric pocket that can be easily adjusted. The sling is then worn on one shoulder and the child is secured by tightening the fabric through the rings.
With a fixed wrap, the fabric is wrapped around both the child's and the wearer's body and secured by tying a double knot with the ends of the wrap.
Both carriers are ergonomically correct for the child, so the difference in comfort between a sling and a swaddle is mainly felt by the wearer. The ring sling distributes the child's weight over one shoulder and your back. The wrap can be tied to distribute the child's weight over both shoulders, back and hips. Simply put - the wrap distributes the child's weight symmetrically and over a larger area.
A ring sling is a single layer of fabric around the child and the adult, while a swaddle can have several, depending on how it is tied. This provides additional support but also warmth. A ring sling can be a good choice if you or your child tend to get very hot and sweaty, as there is less fabric surrounding you. However, there are many ways to tie a swaddle that can also result in only one layer of fabric around you and your child.
Fasteners can be tied in ways so they are ready in advance, but in my opinion the ring sling is second to none when it comes to speed. If you need a carrier for quick ups and downs, it only takes a short moment to get the baby in the sling once you have the technique in place. It is even faster to get the child out, you simply lift the lower ring and the ring sling is released quickly and easily so you can put your child down.
A swaddle in your basic size can be used to carry your child on the front, on the hip or on the back. Ring slings are mostly used to carry the child on the front, or when they get older and more curious, on the hip. Although it is technically possible to carry on the back using a ring sling, I find that the comfort for the wearer is limited. If you intend to use your carrier as a back carrier, I recommend choosing a wrap as it gives you many options to carry your child on your back in a way that allows them to see the world and which for you as the carrier is comfortable over longer periods of time.
Transport of the carrier
The ring sling is short and takes up very little space in a diaper bag. Many people, myself included, find merino slings excellent as soft and warm scarves, and this use also ensures that I am never without a sling when my children get tired of walking or just need to get up. Both the ring sling and the fixed wrap are excellent as a back-up blanket, scarf or as shade from the sun.
It is possible to breastfeed your baby while wearing it in a sling or swaddle. This is quick to do in a ring loop, but also not very complicated in a fasten tied in (for example) the standard binding FWCC.
Freedom of movement
Having your hands free while holding your child is one of the biggest benefits of babywearing. With a ring sling, your carrying arm/shoulder will be somewhat limited, depending on how much you distribute the fabric over the shoulder. On the other hand, your other arm will be completely unobstructed. With a fixed wrap, your freedom of movement depends on how you tie the wrap. A standard FWCC binding gives e.g. very good freedom of movement for both arms.
AGE OF CHILDREN
Newborn (0-2 months)
In my own personal experience, I used both ring sling and swaddle a lot when my babies were newborns. When babies are small and light, carrying them with the weight on one shoulder with a ring sling is not particularly difficult. The smaller amount of fabric in the ring sling can be an advantage if your child was born in the warmer months of the year. The swaddle is great to tuck into and a great rescue for late nights. The fast wrap also provides good symmetrical support for your body that needs to recover after giving birth.
Baby (2-12 months)
When my babies were a little older, the swaddle was my best tool for getting them to sleep and for transporting them while I was taking care of older children, going out on the town, cooking, etc. The ring sling was indispensable for shorter errands such as .eg dropping off the eldest at kindergarten and other daily chores.
Toddler (1 year+)
Once my kids could walk, the sling had a renaissance - as they were "strong independent babies" they didn't often let me carry them in the swaddle for long periods of time, but the sling was extremely handy to take on trips instead of a pushchair . The fast wrap is still magical for calming night owls, sick children who need reassurance and for long walks where I can carry the child on my back.
Is it hard to learn?
It takes a little practice, but it's not hard to learn how to use a sling or wrap. There are plenty of online resources, video guides and wonderful communities of dedicated babywearing moms and dads who are happy to help you get your carrier adjusted perfectly. There are even certified carrying counselors who offer 1-on-1 help in your own home.
Ring sling and swaddle are both ergonomic carrying tools that are very comfortable and allow you as a parent to carry your child while also having your hands free. Depending on the types of situations you intend to use your carrier in, either ring sling or wrap may be right for you.
Ring slings and fixed winders complement each other, and it is quite common to own both a fixed winder and then supplement with a ring sling for faster "up and down".
Please note that this article is based on typical use, intended as a guide for you to choose your first carry tool. Some people prefer ring slings for all carrying needs and vice versa. There is no "wrong way" to carry your baby as long as the baby is comfortable with a free airway and it is comfortable for both of you.
I hope this guide helped you decide which carrier is right for you. If you need further guidance, I'm happy to help. ♡
With best regards,
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