Ring sling or woven wrap?
A question I often get, is "What is the best choice for me - a ring sling or a woven wrap?" In this article, I will explain the differences and typical use of the two types of carriers and help you decide which carrier is right for you and your child.
A ring sling and a woven wrap might seem interchangeable at first glance: They are both a long woven piece of fabric wrapped around the body, used to carry a child. But they are used quite differently. The main difference in construction is, that while a woven wrap is simply a long piece of fabric (often more than 4 meters), a ring sling is typically much shorter (around 2 meters). Furthermore, the ring sling has two large rings permanently attached to one end.
In a ring sling, the end without rings is threaded though the rings, locking it in place and creating a loop of fabric that can easily be adjusted. The sling is then carried on one shoulder, and the child held firm by tightning the fabric through the rings.
With a woven wrap, the fabric is wrapped around the body of both child and carrier, 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 wrap is mostly felt by the person carrying. The ring sling distributes the weight of the child over one shoulder, and your back. The woven wrap can be tied to distribute the weight of the child over both shoulders, the back and the hip. In short - the woven wrap offers the person carrying a larger distribution of the child's weight.
A ring sling is one layer of fabric around the child and adult, whereas a woven wrap can have several, depending on how it is tied. This gives additional support, but also heat. A ring sling can be a good choice if you or your child have a tendency to become very hot and sweaty, as it is less fabric surrounding you. However, there are many ways to tie the woven wrap will also result in only one layer of fabric around you and your child.
Woven wraps can be tied in ways so they are ready beforehand, but in my opinon, the ring sling is unsurpassed when it comes to speed. If you need a carrier for quick ups and downs, the ring sling, once you have the technique down, takes seconds to get ready for your child. Then simply lift your child up into the sling, and adjust. Releasing your child from the sling is even faster, you simply lift the lower ring and the sling is loosned.
A woven wrap in your base size can be used for carrying your child in front, on your hip or on your back. Ring slings are mostly used for carrying the child in the front, or when they become older and more curious, on the hip. While it is technically possible to carry on your back using a ring sling, I find the comfort for you is not great. If you intend to use your carrier for back carries, I recommend choosing a woven wrap as it will allow you to carry your child on your back in a way that allows them to see the world, and for you to carry for extended periods of time without discomfort.
Carrying the sling/wrap around
The ring sling is short, and takes up little space in a bag. Many people, myself included, find merino slings excellent soft and warm scarfs and this usage also ensures I'm never caught slings-less when my childen get tired from walking, or just need an extra cuddle. Both the sling and the wrap makes for an excellent back-up blanket, scarf or as a shade from the sun.
It is possible to breastfeed your child without taking them out of the carrier. This is fast to do in a ring sling, but not very complicated in a woven wrap tied in (or example) the standard carry FWCC.
Freedom of movement
Having your hands free while holding your child is one of the main advantages of babywearing. With a ring sling, your carrying arm/shoulder will be a bit limited in range by the fabric of the sling, depending on how much you distribute the fabric. On the other hand, your other arm will be completely unhindered in movement. With a woven wrap, your freedom of movement depends on how you tie the wrap. A standard FWCC carry offers a very good range of movement for both arms.
AGE OF CHILD
Newborn (0-2 months)
In my own personal experience, I have used both ring slings and woven wraps a lot when my babies were newborn. When the babies are small and light, carrying on one shoulder with a ring sling is not very taxing. The reduced amount of fabric of the ring sling can be nice if your child is born in the warmer months of the year. The woven wrap is fantastic for newborn naps and late nights, and gives great support for your post-partum body.
Baby (2-12 months)
Once my babies were a little older, woven wraps were my magic tool for getting them to sleep, and for transporting them while running errands, tending older children, cooking, etc. The ring sling was indispensable for shorter errands, like delivering the oldest in kindergarden and other everyday needs.
Once my children could walk, the ring sling got a renaissance - being "strong independent babies", they would not as often let me carry them in the wrap for long, but the sling was immensily practical to bring with me instead of a stroller. The woven wrap is still magic for soothing night owls, and for long walks, carrying the child on the back.
Is it difficult to learn?
It requires a little bit of practice, but learning how to use a sling or woven wrap is not difficult. There are plenty of online resources, video guides and wonderful communities of dedicated babywearing mothers and fathers, who will happily help you get your carrier adjusted perfectly. There are even certified babywearing consultants who offer 1-on-1 assistance in your own home.
Ring slings and woven wraps are both ergonomic fabric based carriers that offer a lot of comfort and enables you as a parent to bond with your child while also having your hands free. Depending on in types of situation you intend to use your carrier in, either the ring sling or woven wrap might be right for you.
Ring slings and woven wraps complement each other, and it is quite usual to own a woven wrap for extended carrying needs, and then supplement with a ring sling for shorter sessions and quick "up and downs".
Keep in mind that this article is based on typical usage, meant as a guide to a first time babywearer. Some people might prefer ring slings for all carrying needs and vice versa. There is no "wrong way" to babywear as long as you and your baby are safe and comfortable!
I hope this guide helped you decide which carrier is right for you. If you need further guidance, I will be happy to assist. ♡