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Choosing the Right Carrier: Pouch Slings

Pouch slings have an interesting history... and I mean recent history.

When Isabel was born they were easy to find, and there were several companies making cute, high quality ones- Peanut Shell, Hot Slings, Kangaroo Korner, and New Native, to name a few.  I believe New Native and Hot Slings still sell decent pouches, but most others have changed focus or gone out of business.
Sub optimal pouch sling use- I really needed to flip the shoulder a lot more to snug up the rails.

I think this was, in part, due to two things.  1) pouches have to be sized just right in order to function optimally, and that is hard to do when ordering over the internet (which is how most are sold), and 2) they are (unfortunately) closely associated by many to the Infantino Slingrider, which was linked to at least three infant deaths back in the mid 00's. 

I am here to tell you that this is a grave injustice.  In fact, lately I have been on a bit of a mission to resurrect the pouch sling.  Why would I do that?  For a few reasons.
  1. Pouch slings are super easy to use
  2. They are safe (and function very, very differently than bag slings) when used properly
  3. They are super cheap
  4. They are super compact
  5. They can be used from newborn through at least early toddlerhood, depending on the fabric used
As I mentioned in this post, my first ergonomic carrier was a pouch sling, but I didn't know how to use it right.  Which, you know, was kind of my own fault, but in my defense that was before my default was "google it."  Which just makes me feel old, but whatever.

My love for pouches was actually rekindled recently when I took my VBE exam.  We have to demonstrate practical knowledge of all carrier types, so I dug out my old pouch to practice with, and I was super impressed with how easy and comfortable they are when you know how to use them.

Which is half the battle with any carrier- how do I use it?  How do I make it as comfortable as possible?  How do I use it safely?  How do I pick one when I can only look online?
My SIL and my niece in an adjustable Hot Slings pouch.

Let's start with how to pick.  Here is an overview of a few available brands and why you might or might not consider them:
  • Seven Slings- This is the sling that every pregnant mom gets a "free" coupon for when they buy their first maternity clothes.  I say don't let the whole "free sling" thing win you over.  They are okay slings, but they aren't free.  They charge you $15 for shipping.  And you can very often find them at second hand stores and sales (esp. child specific ones) for as little as $1.  If you are going to spend more, get a better sling.  These are thin and cheap feeling, and fairly slick (which means harder to adjust and hold and adjustment, and also easier for baby to pop the seat and slide out).
  • Hot Slings- These fall in the pricier end of the spectrum (the sling in the above picture is a Hot Slings pouch), but they have one real advantage- they are adjustable.  So instead of making a semi educated sizing guess, you figure out which of their two sizes you need, then adjust the pouch using the straps pictured.  Biggest drawbacks of this one?  Well, IMO, besides being higher priced, the only major issue are that the straps aren't so pretty.  But if you can live with that, Hot Slings are a great option.
  • New Native- These are still available, but with super limited colors, and only from Mom4Life (which has changed hands since, but Heather, the founder, was the person who first taught me about babywearing and sold me my Peanut Shell).  These are simple, basic, well constructed pouch slings that are mid priced and come in conventional or organic cotton.  
  • The Swaps- This is a good place to start with any type of carrier.  On facebook look for Babywearing on a Budget and The Babywearing Swap (which you will see referred to as "the big swap"), to start.  As you delve into different brands of carriers or learn more about the babywearing scene in your area you will find more swaps specific to different brands or areas, as well.  Be patient, and don't be weirded out about buying used.  Most people baby their carriers (although it helps to learn what questions to ask and what warning signs to look for) and broken in carriers are often far softer than brand new.  When looking for pouch slings used be aware of the different brands, and make sure both you and the seller triple check the size.
As for comfort, safety, and use, I love me some Youtube videos.  Beware, though, anyone can make a video, and just because there is a video doesn't mean it's safe.  This video is the best one I have come across for using a pouch sling for a newborn.  I do NOT recommend a cradle carry outside of using it to nurse (and returning to the upright position) because it is very difficult to do safely.

Pouch slings can also be used with toddlers, typically in a hip carry (although I still carry 25lb Violet in the front carry, as hip carries make me feel off balance... either is safe, so do what you feel comfortable with) up until they exceed the weight limit of the sling, which is typically 35lbs.  In fact, one of the reasons I love pouch slings is because they shine from infant to toddler- for infants, they provide a nice, simple carrier without too much fabric that provides ample, comfortable support, and for toddlers they are good for what toddlers typically want... quick ups, and equally quick downs.

Pouch Sling Summary

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