Pouches and Slings

Grandpa and Clark
in a pouch
By Darien Wilson

You're shopping for your first sling, and you're searching for that one perfect carrier that will take you from newborn to preschooler. Well, you probably can't even imagine having a preschooler yet, but most ring slings and pouches will last that long, and you'll be there before you know it!

Babywearing lingo can be so confusing to beginners. There are ring slings and pouches, and pouches are slings and ring slings have pouches - how confusing can it get?!


Ring slings are long strips of fabric that adjust with rings, and pouches are one loop of fabric, typically with a seam in the seat creating a deep pocket for baby. Most pouches are not adjustable, although a few brands do have some adjustability with snaps, buttons or zippers. In general, any piece of fabric used to carry a baby is called a sling, so pouches are often classified as slings. The "pouch" on a ring sling is the pocket that the baby goes in.

Darien and Clark
in an unpadded ring sling
at 1 month old
Ring slings
Ring slings are available in padded and unpadded varieties. Padding is available in the shoulder and along the rails (edges), or just in the shoulder or just along the rails. Some ring slings have "open tails", or a loose piece of fabric, and some have "closed tails", which look like a strap. The tail is the piece of fabric that hangs down from the rings. Pulling down on the tail tightens the sling.

A hybrid pouch/sling Pouches and pouch/ring sling hybrids
Pouches do not have tails, although there are a few "hybrid" slings available that have a pouch seam in the seat and a tail for adjustability. These are probably closer to ring slings than pouches in functionality. Hybrid slings are typically narrower than ring slings, and the pouch seam creates a deep pocket for baby, with less fabric.

A good fit

With any babycarrier, it is important that baby ride as high and tight as possible to maximize the wearer's comfort. For this reason, it is imperative to get a good fit. Baby's bottom should be between the wearer's navel and hipbone. Many mass-marketed slings do not come in multiple sizes, and parents end up wearing baby too low. Unpadded ring slings have infinite adjustability and size is less important, so they are easiest to get baby high and tight. Some adjustable pouches adjust while off the body to be shared between differently-sized people. One pouch can be adjusted while wearing. It adjusts with a button, to shorten the size or tighten the top rail. A perfect fit is most important with non-adjustable pouches, although the top rail can be tightened with a shoulder flip. Click here for more instructions.

Kristen models a non-adjustable pouch

Why choose a pouch?

Pouches are often called the "training wheels" of babycarriers. It is difficult to go wrong with a well-fitted pouch. Put it on, slip the baby in and go. There are few adjustments to make and therefore less to learn. Pouches have a streamlined look that many parents prefer. Pouches are lightweight and compact and easily slip into a diaper bag when baby is not being worn. Dads often prefer the look of a pouch to a ring sling.

It is easier to achieve a tummy-to-tummy hold in a fleece pouch than in a non-stretchy or stretch cotton pouch. Fleece pouches tend to fit more snugly than non-stretchy or stretch cotton, with just the right amount of give to fit baby inside.

Darien breastfeeding Clark in an unpadded ring sling
at 1 month old

Why choose a ring sling?

Ring slings have a longer learning curve but are more adjustable than pouches. Some young babies prefer the upright, or tummy-to-tummy hold, which can be difficult to achieve in a pouch because young babies who cannot hold themselves upright tend to squish down into the pocket of the pouch. With a ring sling, the top rail can be tightened to support a young baby in a vertical position.

Open-tailed ring slings and hybrids provide cover for discreet breastfeeding. One pouch that I know of has a detachable 'tail' that provides similar cover. Breastfeeding in the sling is "advanced babywearing", and takes patience and practice to learn in any type of sling.


Ring Sling Pros
Infinitely adjustable
Easy to get baby high and tight
Breastfeeding friendly
Discreet breastfeeding
Fit preemie to preschooler
Great for snuggle/tummy to tummy hold
Pouch Pros
Easy "popability"
Shorter learning curve
Breastfeeding-friendly, especially compared to front carriers
Streamlined look
Very lightweight - easily fits in diaper bag
Dads often prefer
Very young babies can be swung to back
Fit preemie to preschooler
No rings allow a more comfortable back carry

Ring sling cons
Longer learning curve
Some do not care for the look of long tail
Dads less likely to wear
Takes up more space in diaper bag (especially padded)
Back carry not usually recommended for first year
Some find rings get in the way
Pouch cons
Less adjustability
Fewer positions (no tummy to tummy hold in non-stretchy pouches)
Less discreet breastfeeding

Content copyright protected by Copyscape website plagiarism search     © Darien Wilson, Zolowear.com. 2005.