Ring Sling Troubleshooting: Seven tips for a secure and comfortable carry

Ring slings are wonderful!  They’re comfortable, quick to use, small, and can be tossed into a bag easily.  However, sometimes there’s a bit of a learning curve!  If you find that your ring sling is uncomfortable or doesn’t feel quite secure, don’t give up!  With a little practice and some ring sling troubleshooting, you’ll really love your sling!

Your sling should feel completely secure for baby and should be comfortable for you!  Often a small adjustment can make a big difference in how your sling feels. This post will go through the common adjustments that I help people make with their slings and will hopefully help you solve the problem you’re having with your sling.

These are the most common ring sling troubleshooting adjustments that I help people make:

  1. Neatening the Threading
  2. Getting a deep seat
  3. Adjusting the ring position
  4. Tightening a bit more, but only through the parts of the sling fabric that are loose
  5. Getting baby upright (and correcting a tilt of the baby)
  6. Spreading out the fabric on back
  7. Spreading out the fabric over the shoulder

Each adjustment is quick and easy and will make a big difference to your comfort and the baby’s comfort too!  I’ll tackle them one at a time.

1.  Neaten the threading.

This is THE MOST COMMON problem that people have with their ring sling.  About 90% of the time, someone who is having trouble with their sling just needs to tidy up the threading a bit.  If the fabric is folded over, bunched, or twisted in the rings, then it is really hard to tighten it precisely around the baby.  Fanning out and neatening the threading will make the rest of your troubleshooting easy.

Take a look at the threading in this photo.  At first glance, this looks fine. However, tightening a sling that is threaded like this would be difficult even for an experience ring-slinger. To tighten the top edge and give baby head support, you would have to pull on the purple edge.  However the purple edge is folded over and caught on the bottom edge (blue) fabric.  It would be really hard to locate the purple edge and tighten it.

If this sling was neatly threaded, you would be able to see every color of the stripes of the sling.  Dark purple should be fully visible toward the wearers midline and then each color should show in the threading.  If the threading were left like this, it would be very difficult to get a evenly tightened carry.  Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 8.13.12 AM
This is what the threading looks like when it is neat and tidy.  You can see each color of the sling.  Now that the threading is neat, you could easily find the purple section to tighten the top third of the sling.

This video (with captions if you press CC) shows how to fan out the threading so that its neat and tidy.  This will make it easy to adjust your sling.   It’s super quick and easy to get it neat and will make a big difference!

When using a sling, take a moment when you first put the sling on to do the finger walking trick and neaten the threading.  There’s no need to re-thread the sling each time, but you will probably need to finger walk the fabric and neaten the threading nearly every time you use it.

2.  Make a deep seat.

This one is probably the second common problem that people have with their sling.  The baby should be seated in the fabric just like you would sit in a hammock.  Understanding what a “good seat” looks like is the first step in making a good seat.

This wonderful image by Modern Babywearing shows what the fabric should look like between you and baby when you have a good seat:
seat graphic
Take a look at the top image.  In this image the fabric is spread from knee to knee on the baby.  The bottom edge of the fabric makes a straight line from knee to knee.  That’s what a great seat looks like!  The fabric should not bunch up in between you and baby like in the second image.  It also should not cover just baby’s bottom, but go all the way from knee to knee supporting baby’s thighs in a knees above bottom position.

Now, how do you make a seat look like this?  This video (with captions if you press CC) shows a couple of methods for getting a great seat:


3.  Adjust the ring position.

Adjusting the ring position can make a big difference in your comfort.  I find that people usually have a ring position that is most comfortable for them. For some people, this is just below the collarbones in the hollow of the shoulder.  For others, the most comfortable ring position might be a bit lower.

If the rings are too high, they put pressure on the collarbone and will be uncomfortable.  If the rings are too low, the carry ends up putting pressure on the lower back and often causes pain in the lower back and ribs opposite the rings.  If you feel an uncomfortable pinching or pulling in your ribs or lower back just opposite the rings, try adjusting your ring positioning.

This video (with captions, press cc) shows how to adjust your ring position and how to keep your rings from moving in the first place.


4.  Tighten a bit more, but only through the parts of the sling that are loose.

Another simple adjustment that people often need is just to tighten a tad more.  Often there will be a little pocket of slack caught just under the wearer’s arm or sometimes caught right by the baby’s leg.  If you feel like your baby’s legs are uneven, you probably have a bit of slack behind the leg that is opposite the rings.  Taking a moment to feel around for excess slack and tighten just that strand will help make a perfect fit around baby.

Image 1:  Find slack, usually located behind your arm or by baby’s leg (the leg on the opposite side of the rings).
Image 2:  Feed slack over toward the rings.
Image 3:  Pull just that section of the sling to tighten.

Remember that to tighten, pull toward your midline, not down.  Pulling down lowers your rings.  Pulling to the side tightens the fabric.

Image 1:  Pulling toward the midline (correct)
Image 2:  Pulling down (incorrect) notice that the fabric isn’t tightening.  This just pulls the rings down

5.  Get baby upright.  Correct any tilt or lean of the baby. 

Sometimes after wearing the sling for a bit, the baby begins to slide downward a little, usually tilting toward the wearer’s armpit.  This isn’t as hands-free of a position as an upright carry and can cause some discomfort for the wearer over time.  This is usually caused by some slack that was just behind the wearers arm when they first tightened the carry.  As baby relaxes and the wearer moves around, the baby leans into that slack, causing a slightly tilted carry.

This video (with captions if you press CC) shows how to bring the baby back to an upright position and how to take out the slack that caused the baby to tilt.


6.  Spread out the fabric over your back.

Spreading out the fabric over your back can improve your comfort.  To adjust, hook your thumb under the bottom edge of the fabric and use your fingers to pull it down, spreading it nice and wide over your back.

Image 1:  Hook your thumb under the bottom edge of the fabric.
Image 2:  Grab the bottom edge with your hand and pull downward.
Image 3:  Now the fabric is well spread over your back.

7.  Spread out the fabric over your shoulder.

A super simple adjustment you can do to be more comfortable is to spread out the fabric over your shoulder.  When the fabric is bunched on the shoulder, particularly if it’s close to your neck, this can cause shoulder discomfort and even neck ache or tension headaches.

In this series of photos, I show how to adjust the shoulder.
Image 1: The fabric is bunched on my neck and quite uncomfortable.
Image 2:   I reach for the bottom edge of the fabric.
Image 3:  I pull the bottom edge of the fabric over my shoulder.
Image 4:  The sling shoulder is well spread and comfortable.

I hope that some of the tips here help you to get comfortable in your ring sling! Your ring sling should be comfortable, feel secure, and be quick and easy for you to use.  If you’re having a problem with your sling that I didn’t cover in this ring sling troubleshooting post, leave a comment and I’ll help you out!  🙂

Happy ring slinging!

Further Reading:

How to Use a Ring Sling
Positioning your Newborn
Positioning your Older Baby or Toddler
Babywearing Safety