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?!
DefinitionsRing 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 fitWith 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.