Look, No Hands!
If you’re tired of maneuvering a stroller through the store or having your hands occupied every time your little one wants to cuddle, a hands-free baby sling might be right for you and your little one. While you’re wearing one, your baby can attach to you to snuggle or snooze as your hands remain free. Although a wide variety of slings and carriers are commercially available, you might prefer to make your own. If you do, a few basic types of slings are easy to make.
Making a Baby Wrap
Baby wraps are the most basic type of sling since they simply consist of a long piece of fabric that you wrap in different ways. The most important consideration for this type of sling is the type of fabric since it needs to be both strong enough to support your baby but stretchy enough to be cozy. Purchase 5 yards of fabric that is a blend of 95 percent cotton and 5 percent Lycra or Spandex. This amount makes two sturdy wraps with enough stretch to be both comfortable and durable, and you don’t have to hem it. Lay out your fabric, fold it in half lengthwise, and cut along the fold. This leaves two pieces of fabric, each 5 yards long. Use a marker, small patch or a bit of thread to mark the center of each sling and make it easier to tie.
On to a Ring Sling
Now that you have two identical wrap slings, get ready to turn one into a ring sling. A ring sling can be easier to wear and use than a wrap sling, while still leaving one hand free. To make a ring sling, you need two aluminum rings. Because these rings hold both the weight of the fabric and your baby, they must be solid and strong, not hardware- or craft-store quality. Thread about 12 inches of one end of the fabric through both rings and then bring it up over the top ring and under the bottom ring. Turn the wrap over and bring the other end of the fabric up through the center and over the top ring but under the bottom ring. Wear the sling so that the rings are at your shoulder and the shorter end of the fabric hangs in front of you. Adjust the sling by pulling on this short piece of fabric.
Mei Tai for Wearing, Not Drinking
If you want to make a carrier with a bit more structure than a wrap or ring sling, a mei tai might be the solution. This style of carrier consists of a sturdy rectangular fabric base with long fabric straps attached to each corner. To use it, wrap and tie the bottom straps around your waist; cross the top straps over your shoulders, wrap them around your waist, and tie them securely. This style of carrier is often more supportive for toddlers or larger babies who want to sit upright or ride on your back. Because the design is more complex, you should make sure you understand the pattern before attempting to make it. Check that the straps are sewn securely and that all of your fabric and seams are sturdy before you use this carrier with your baby.
Keep It Safe
Remember that your baby sling is going to be carrying someone very important, and use only high-quality materials such as sturdy fabric and heavy-duty thread. Check all of the seams carefully before each use to make sure that your sling will not pull apart. If you are new to baby wearing, practice tying your carrier without your baby first, and then have another adult nearby until you feel confident putting your baby in and out of the carrier by yourself. Be careful not to bump your baby’s head on anything while she is in the carrier, and do not cook over a hot stove while wearing your baby. Most importantly: Trust your instincts and enjoy wearing your baby in the sling that you’ve made.