The Best of TBW – It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got a sling

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“It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got a sling.” That popular slogan from the early days of TBW sold a lot t-shirts , and for good reason – slings are one of the oldest and simplest ways to wear a baby. Sling carriers consist of a simple swath of fabric that is worn across the body like a sash and is tied, sewn, or secured with rings or buckles.

Many cultures use sling style carriers and have for centuries. These slings are often multipurpose garments that are also used for wearing children. In the US, sling style carriers inspired early carrier designers. This patent #US000416970 filed on December 10, 1889 by C.C. Taylor shows a sling style carrier fashioned out of mesh and buckles. The “Suspensory Garment” is just one example of how the concept of the sling has influenced babywearing for generations. There are two main types of sling carriers that are popular with caregivers today: the ring sling and the pouch sling.

The ring sling was first designed by Dr. Raynor Garner in 1981. The first ring slings had padded shoulders and rails and had closed tails. This style of ring sling, not to be confused with bag slings, became known as a closed tailed ring sling and are still available for purchase today.

Wearing my son Benjamin in a Kalea ring sling in 2009

Improvements to the design of the ring sling came in the form of unpadded rails, an open tail, and a variety of shoulder styles. As the small cottage industry of ring sling manufacturing grew in the early 2000’s, shoulder styles became very distinct and each maker had its own signature shoulder. To see various shoulders that have been used over the years, check out this thread showing ring sling shoulder styles.

A slingified Girasol Woven Wrap

Another interesting development in the ring sling category has been with the fabrics that have been used. Many early slings were made from bottom weight fabrics. Lightweight denims and canvases make a sturdy and durable sling, but they can be harder to adjust and not as comfortable for some wearers. Linen and silk became very popular fabrics as they are breathable, soften up nicely with use, and are easy to adjust, but one of the biggest things to happen to ring slings was the wrap conversion. Once called ‘Slingifying”, woven wraps turned ring slings changed the wearing world. This fun thread from 2006 asks the question “Why would I need a slingified wrap?”, the responses are mixed – who could have known that wrap conversions would take over the ring sling world in a big way?

Pouches are the second type of sling carrier that we see often today. In the 1940’s -1950’s, two pouch style carriers were on the market, The Pleat Seat and The Cuddle Seat. You can see and read more about them here in this thread; North American Antique and Vintage Carriers from the 1900-2000. Pouch slings in their current form offer a sleek, compact design which has made them a popular diaper bag staple for over 10 years. The tube-style pouch with a curved seam was designed by author Hygeia Halfmoon and was known as the Cozy Cradle.

A Hotslings Pouch

Pouches peaked in popularity when vendors like Kangaroo Korner and Hotslings came on the scene. The KKAFP (Kangaroo Korner Adjustable Fleece Pouch), was a fleece pouch that adjusted with rows of snaps. Hotslings introduced their large range of standardized sizes – making fitting pouches easier than before.

Though pouches are less popular now than they used to be, they still hold a place in the hearts of many babywearers – Check out this thread from 2006 posing the question “What makes a ring sling better than a pouch?” I just love the statement made by long-time TBW member hollyml that sums up the pros of both ring slings and pouches, “The huge advantage of a ring sling is it’s adjustable. The huge advantage of a pouch is you don’t have to adjust it.”


The Origin of the Ring Sling

US Patent #000416970,416,970.PN.%2526OS=PN/0,416,970%2526RS=PN/0,416,970

Ring Sling Shoulder Styles

Why would I need a slingified wrap

This might be a silly question but who invented pouches

New Hotsling Sizing

North American Antique and Vintage Carriers 1900-2000

What makes a RS better than a pouch