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In This Ring: A Sling for Every Occasion

By Maura Keating

Every parent out there is different and each has his or her preferences for everything from strollers to baby wearing. My own bias leans towards ring slings. The concept is simple–a broad and long piece of cloth is threaded through two rings. Ring slings accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes, allowing many people to share the baby wearing with a partner without having to buy another size. This also means that the sling can adjust to be worn over a T-shirt in the mall or over a heavy winter coat when you’re outside. They also work for Baby from birth until Baby is too large or too independent to be carried. The tail on a ring sling can be used as a nursing cover or a sun shade. I’ve also used a ring sling as a nursing cover when my son was out of the sling. Our ring sling has also doubled as a blanket, changing pad, and ground cover. I adore ring slings, but my husband gave up on them after a few weeks of trying. The adjustability that I adore made a sling too frustrating for him to use. He prefers buckles and consistency. For this review, I tested three rings slings: the Maya Wrap Ring Sling, the Sakura Bloom Essential Ring Sling, and the ZoloWear Ring Sling.

Mayawrapsling on kid o infoThe hand-loomed fabric enables the Maya Wrap Sling to take a beating. The Guatemalan patterns can be a little granola crunchy, but they do wonders at masking unavoidable spills that come with close proximity to a baby or toddler. Post spill, the Maya Wrap is machine washable and one year later, the fabric on my sling still looks great. Solid colors are available in addition to the patterns. The weave is strong yet soft on my shoulders and on my son’s legs. In the summer, it is breathable, but I avoid it on the hottest days. The Maya Wrap Sling comes in four sizes based on height. Maya Wrap also offers a MamaBaby Sling made from 100 percent cotton and the Maya Tie, a carrier based on the Asian-style Mei Tai carrier.

I own the Original Maya Wrap Unpadded Sling–a product that is being discontinued in favor of the popular lightly padded sling that features light padding on the shoulder. Both Maya Wrap Slings feature a cap that folds over to hug your shoulder, distributing Baby’s weight. The biggest challenges that I had with the Maya Wrap was learning how to thread the sling, making sure that the fabric was not twisted–getting my son comfortable while being comfortable myself. Once I got the hang of it, putting on and adjusting the Maya Wrap became routine and unbelievably fast. A crying baby who wants to be worn can be powerful motivation.

One of my favorite features of the Maya Wrap is the pocket at the bottom of the tail. It is a perfect size for whatever essentials that I might need and it closes with a Velcro tab. For a walk with the dog, I drop in a wallet, keys, and bags. If I am grocery shopping, I stash my list and my wallet there for easy access. The Maya Wrap comes with an instructional DVD that I watched, rapt, before and after baby was born. I must point out that the DVD, while useful, is also incredibly silly and must have been filmed decades ago. Silliness aside, before my son arrived, the women on the DVD seemed like magicians as they easily slid babies into the sling and toddlers onto their hips and back. When my son was tiny, I watched the DVD again, fearful to attempt the sleight of hand with such a delicate creature. I’ll be honest–I didn’t catch on to the sling thing as soon as I would have liked, but once I did, the sling became a life saver. The Maya Wrap enables me to do everything I need at home and on the go, while attending to my son’s needs.

Sakurabloom on kid o infoThe Sakura Bloom Baby Sling will change the way you look at ring slings and baby wearing. Sakura Bloom ring slings are gorgeous. You could wear them independent of Baby as a sash Miss America-style and feel spectacular, though I don’t recommend it. With Baby, the Sakura Bloom sling accessorizes any outfit, lifting your worn-out jeans from the humdrum and looking just right with a cocktail dress. Made from natural silks and linens, Sakura Bloom slings come in a variety of colors and styles–solid, reversible, stripes, or edged with silk. We tested a sling from the Essential range that featured a reversible Dupioni silk. The silk has a brilliant sheen and a crinkly texture and the ring is made from a light aluminum. The sling arrives pre-threaded in a very cute Bamboo box with an instruction booklet. Because the sling comes pre-threaded, I was able to put the sling on and go. In fact, I didn’t need to rethread the sling until I wanted to reverse the color. The Sakura Bloom sling held its shape and never twisted, making it extraordinarily easy to take on and off quickly–an essential feature when you’re wearing a toddler. The sling is sewn in gathered pleats into the rings, the fabric naturally fans over your shoulder for superior comfort. I have narrow, sloping shoulders and the Sakura Bloom sling never slipped like other carriers tend to. The texture of the silk makes the fabric very grippy and perfect for baby wearing–a fact that surprised me. The sling feels very light and comfortable so no one overheats and the fabric doesn’t dig into my shoulder. While Sakura Bloom slings are designed to fit most body shapes, you can contact the company for questions about fit.

Sakura Bloom slings are machine washable in cold water on a gentle or delicate cycle. I put mine through the wash once and it still looks great. I spot clean on a regular basis. I talked to a Mom who had problems machine washing her Sakura Bloom silk sling–the fabric pilled a bit and never looked as nice as when it was new. On their website, Sakura Bloom notes that the silk will lose some of its sheen when washed, but on the plus side, the fabric becomes even softer. If your Baby generates lots of spit-up or other messes, you might want to use a sling that can stand repeated washing at high temperatures until Baby behaves less like a volcano. We use slings primarily for outings and my son rarely spit up, even when he was new, so spot cleaning and hand washing work fine for us. As the weather gets warmer, we may scale back on our use of the silk sling since that fabric acts like an insulator. More than likely, I’ll buy a Sakura Bloom linen sling to use in the warmer weather since I can’t imagine life without this sling.

Sometimes I wish that the Sakura Bloom sling had a pocket. Adding a pocket would make the sling more functional, but it might detract from its stylish appearance. Sakura Bloom slings are pricier than other brands–they are made from silk and natural linen, after all. You can justify the price if you know that you are going to be a baby-wearing Mama by scaling back on a stroller purchase. Or, why scale back? You are doing something wonderful for you and for Baby. Isn’t that worth every penny?

 on kid o infoZoloWear Ring Slings are available in a wide variety of pattern and fabrics like stretch cotton sateens, silk brocades, and sun (and light) blocking Solarveil. Solarveil fabric is perfect for the summer since it is light and breathable, while blocking 70 to 80 percent of the sun’s UVA/UVB rays. (You can even wear Solarveil in the pool or shower.) We tested a ZoloWear ring sling made from stretch cotton sateen in a playful pattern.

A wide shoulder distributes Baby’s weight but doesn’t feel too bulky because the shoulder fabric is attached to the top ring with a narrower strap. Although the shoulder fabric was wide, it sometimes slipped when I tried to fan it across my entire shoulder. The breathable fabric felt comfortable for me and my son with just enough stretch, but it was sometimes hard to adjust in the rings. Once I perfected all the adjustments and everyone was happy again, the rings never slipped. The craftsmanship of the sling was great, but with all of the details, I wish that the fabric was double-sided. Since the tail is important in a ring sling, it looked a bit odd to have one side of the sling unlined. The patterns of the ZoloWear sling are cute and perfect for hiding stains while adding a little extra style to your outfit. ZoloWear slings are machine washable on cold. The cotton sling we tested still looks perfect after repeated washes.

ZoloWear Ring Slings feature a smooth, zippered pocket that ensures that you don’t lose what you need. The zipper also helps to keep little hands from accessing keys, phones, or other items that you might not want Baby to have. Since I was used to the Velcro pocket access with the Maya Wrap, I usually kept the zipper open since I rarely had time to work a zipper when I needed something fast. The slim pocket still kept everything inside, sans zipper. As with other ring slings, one size fits most, but ZoloWear comes in five sizes for an optimal fit for all. ZoloWear also makes cotton baby pouches.

Mastering ring slings involves a steeper learning curve than other baby wearing carriers, but the end result is rewarding and well worth the time spent watching how-to DVDs and videos on YouTube or studying pamphlet illustrations. For some, and depending on the sling, wearing a sling might be easier than you think, especially when it calms Baby and enables you to live hands free from Baby’s birth to thirty-five pounds and beyond.

Addendum to Maura’s Review: These are the comments sent by Darien Wilson. He lists his title as “Babywearing Guru President & Founder, ZoloWear.com”:

1. Adjustability. I have come across this issue with Maya Wrap users in the past. Our slings are very easy to adjust, especially the sateens (which you tested). If you are used to a Maya Wrap, and you’re pulling down on the whole tail to tighten it, then ZoloWear might seem difficult. But if you follow my video suggestions on adjusting just that one edge, it’s very quick and easy to tighten and loosen the sling. It’s just different from the Maya Wrap.

2. “Lining” on the tail. We have tried two layers of cotton in the (distant) past. Two layers of cotton do not look good (they stick together and may shrink at different rates), and they are very hard to adjust. We find that one layer is cool, lightweight, comfortable. If the tail only was 2 layers, it would sometimes get caught in the rings and be hard to adjust (like padding on those slings with padded rails). I have yet to find fabric people who can print on both sides of the fabric, unfortunately. So for the new prints we are designing, we choose prints that have white in the print so the tail does not look SO white. I agree that fabric with print on both sides would be ideal, but I would rather compromise some of the appearance to have the functionality be best.

The Details:

Maya Wrap Ring Slings, $49.95 – $60.95. To find a Maya Wrap sling near you, visit the “Locate a Retailer” link at mayawrap.com. See how it works here.

Sakura Bloom Baby Slings, $88 and up. To find a Sakura Bloom sling near you, visit the “Stores” link at sakurabloom.com. See how it works here.

ZoloWear Ring Slings, $69 – $125. To find a ZoloWear sling near you, visit the “Store Locator” link at zolowear.com. See how it works here.

Kido Giveaway:
Tell us what you love about the Maya Wrap baby sling and we will randomly select one person to win a lightly padded Maya Wrap sling (Size: Medium, Color: Olive Green). Contest ends June 15, 2008.  This contest is now closed.

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  • I love baby wearing- we are expecting a daughter through adoption and would love to bond with her in this special way=)

  • I like that it is unpadded, and has an open tail that allows for perfect adjustability and is convenient as a nursing cover. That it fits easily into a diaper bag or purse and can be machine washed, line dryed. I just had #3 1 week ago and would love one.

  • What a great idea – I never had good luck with the front “pack” carriers – they killed my narrow shoulders and smashed my female anatomy. This looks like a far more friendly to women product! Crossing my fingers!

  • I love how you get to be close to your baby and still be able to get a few things done at the same time. It is also much easier to use than strollers and takes up less space.

    The fact that they are hand loomed is great. More breathability is wonderful to keep you cool in the hot months.

  • I want to try to win this for a friend, but what I love about these slings is it allows mom to get things around the house done while keeping the little snuggled and nearby. Thanks for the chance!

  • I love that it’s made of quality fabric, convenient and stylish at the same time. The pocket is a definite advantage and olive green is also one of my husband’s fave colors! I’m sure our baby boy due this fall would love this sling, too!

  • I love the sounds of a closeable pocket at the bottom of the tail. Great to have a spot to store the house key and cell phone and not worry about losing or forgetting them!

  • I’ve never used a sling before, but I love the the Maya wrap uses 100% cotton fabrics, with SAFE dyes! Thanks so much!

  • I really like that it is 100% cotton. That is important to me that the fabric is all natural. Thanks for the awesome opportunity!

  • I also have the unpadded Maya (in a crunchy granola pattern!) and think the padding would be an excellent addition to the sling. I would love to win it!

  • I like that it adjusts easily and won’t take 5 minutes to put on every time like some others I won’t name…

  • Evening! I have a bad rotator cuff and now that the shoulder is lightly padded, I could use the sling! The idea that it is easily adjusted is wonderful, also. It fits in a diaper bag and holds up to 35 pounds. It could be used for quite awhile. The Fabric 08 is gorgeous. Thanks, Cindi

  • I love the idea of keeping baby so close and yet leaving Mom virtually hands free. I love that it is washable and comes in so many color choices.

    owatz (AT) telus (DOT) net

  • I like that there is padding for your shoulder and that you can use the sling for many, many months!

  • I love slings. They are so helpful. Hands free and I love that my baby feels happy and secure with me all day.

  • I like that you can hold a baby upto 35 lbs. My son is only 6 month but he is already 20 lbs so this would still hold him. Thanks.

  • I love that they are a company that uses safe dyes and metals as well as follows fair trade practices. I also LOVE that they offer a free baby sling pattern – if only I could sew!

  • I love that it can be used for carrying and while nursing. The prints also give you a lot of options rather than the blue or black of other carriers.

  • I appreciate the washable quality of the maya wrap. It is important to be able to clean the things a baby uses constantly. I would love to win one!

  • I love that the sling isn’t bad for your back and distrubutes the weight of the baby…I have an awful back since my car accident and this sling would be great to have for my little girl!

  • I like the light, not heavy, padding–with my first, I used a Nojo sling, and while it worked alright, I didn’t like all the padding.

  • I wish I had known about this brand of sling before I bought my other one. I don’t like my other sling and am looking for a good one, which takes me to this one! I would love to win this so I can carry my daughter around and keep her close.
    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  • I love the tail. I just think it looks so pretty! Might even be good for a privacy cover, but prettiness is a prereq for my baby carriers 🙂

  • I love that it’s breathable for the hot summer and that you can use if for different stages of babyhood.

  • I love that it’s adjustable as mom’s bust and belly changes in size from immediate post-partum to several months down the road. The light padding should make it easy to wear for long duration on the shoulders. I’ve got 2 pouch slings, but no ring sling…I’d love to try this!

  • Love the Maya wrap because it helps with your sanity. I could never clean my house, start dinner or anything if it wasn’t for baby-wearing.

  • I’ve tried other baby carriers with no success, and have wanted to try a ring sling for so long. This would be great!

  • I’ve been wanting one of these for so long! I’ve sewn slings for myself, but I’d like to try a “real” one and don’t have a ring sling. I like that you can thrown this in the wash, and that you could probably use it around the house once the baby is too big (like as a table throw).

  • I too love that it is washable and I also love that it is padded and has a pocket! I actually made my own sling but have always wanted a maya wrap!

  • I like the shoulder cap on the Maya Wrap. I find that our current sling sometimes needs a big more shoulder width.

  • I love that the lightly padded one fits easily in a bag. That feature would be invaluable. Never tried it and would love to try it with my second one due in a few months.

  • Oh I love this, it looks like an elegant scarf and yet practical! gorgeous! this ones the best I’ve seen!

  • Eileen-Lilly(at)hotmail(dot)com

    I love that the colors and patterns are hip. It’s machine washable which is great for reflux babies!

  • I had the Maya wrap (unpadded) for both of my boys and used it all the time – up until my youngest was about 3. I cooked while wearing the wrap, mowed our lawn, cleaned the house, walked the dog….My kids loved it and I loved it.
    (As I am out of baby mode – don’t enter me in the contest!)