to sling or not to sling
September 8, 2009 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Is a baby sling a good shower gift? I'm not a parent and don't know if it's political (like disposable vs cloth diapers), and don't want to look like a jerk.

My cousin is expecting, and I'm torn as to what to get her for her shower. I'm on a very limited income at the moment and don't want to just go with a handful of the cheapest things off her registry.

I am, however, better than average with a sewing machine, with a very impressive fabric stash. So, I was thinking a baby sling might be a good idea. Looks super easy to make (well, compared to the corsets I usually sew), and sells for a heck of a lot more than I'd ever be able to afford. Most of my friends with kids swear by various forms of slings or wraps.

However, I realized most of my friends are a bit more granola than my cousin.

I figured this would be a good place to ask if slings were a common item for moms to be, or if I might be inadvertently passing judgment on her parenting choices with regards to babywearing or something.
posted by Kellydamnit to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about baby etiquette, but we enjoyed our slings quite a lot. It sounds like a very considerate, personal, and useful gift. I say go for it.
posted by procrastination at 5:09 PM on September 8, 2009

I am a brand new mom to a 3 week old and got a baby sling as a gift. I thought it was a wonderful gift and not granola or political at all. I can't say I have used it a lot yet since I am recovering from a c-0section and haven't left the house much. But I hope to use it soon!
posted by murrey at 5:10 PM on September 8, 2009

Speaking as the parent of a 10-week old, I salute the sling in all its myriad forms. I believe they are quite common in the baby-holding community and it never occurred to me that it was a political statement. If the recipient doesn't use it, they don't use it--still a great gift and even more so because you made it yourself.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:18 PM on September 8, 2009

What a lovely, thoughtful gift. In my experience, mothers of all levels of "granola" have taken to using slings these days. Just be sure to follow some popular and well-regarded instructions or take some other precaution to make sure it'll be safe.
posted by palliser at 5:19 PM on September 8, 2009

I think homemade gifts are un-complainable-about... anyway, IMO it comes off as less "granola" since it's homemade and obviously you're not going to sew a Baby Bjorn or something like that. We bought a sling and used it sometimes - it's best for newborns so now is the best time to give them one.
posted by GuyZero at 5:20 PM on September 8, 2009

post title should be "will she suffer the sling that didn't cost an outrageous fortune" just fyi
posted by palliser at 5:23 PM on September 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

Best answer: This site, which I just found via a comment in the previous question about baby items, has a lot on how to make slings and other baby-wearing gear. Apparently the type of fabric you use can matter a lot. Good luck!
posted by wyzewoman at 5:26 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think that is a great gift, especially if they would not likely buy one themselves, and this from someone who had one and didn't use it that much, and neither did my wife. We were keen to try it though and it is a pretty warm and special way to carry the baby. If they don't end up using it don't worry. They probably are at least curious about one.
posted by caddis at 5:35 PM on September 8, 2009

Awesome gift! Had my 3rd baby today and would LOVE it if someone would make me a sling....
posted by mdiskin at 5:39 PM on September 8, 2009

Best answer: I am ashamed to admit this, but I am a Yahoo! Answers Pregnancy & Parenting regular, and slings are now kosher even with the, er, very non-attachment-parenting parents.

Slings are easy to sew but the fabric is, as already mentioned, critical. I had a $65 ring sling and a homemade ring sling. The homemade one went in the car as the "emergency" sling. It drove me nuts. Can I suggest making a mei tai? Much less room for error and personal preference and so on. How they're used.
posted by kmennie at 5:40 PM on September 8, 2009

Best answer: Dad here seconding the mei tai. I wore my son in it all the time in public and never once felt like I had a woman's accessory on me.
posted by toekneebullard at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2009

Woo Hoo congrats mdiskin!!!!
posted by caddis at 6:01 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a great idea. I didn't have a shower and so didn't get a lot of baby gifts. This is something I would have really liked, even more so if it was hand-made with love. A few people did give us homemade baby gifts (a blanket, booties and an embroidered "birth announcement") and now, 3 years later, those items are really treasured and most of the other stuff is long grown-out-of and forgotten.

I don't know what kind of fabric you're considering but please remember that babies spit up a lot and it should be easily washable and maybe with some sort of pattern which will help hide any stains.

This will be such a nice present for your cousin!
posted by Kangaroo at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2009

I made this sling for myself. It's great and only needs a yard or two of fabric. BUT!! I couldn't get it the right size until I safety pinned it on me with the baby in it and then sewed it to that size. So if you're planning to make that kind, let her know you'll take it in later when she has the baby. I've made several and like the ones with a tiny bit of stretch in the fabric the best. If the baby lives in a cold climate, I'd make one with polar fleece (situated in the direction that has less stretch) for taking the tiny baby out in the cold. (Mine was great at Mardi Gras.) I have quilter's weight cotton ones for the rest of the year, but want to make one out of t-shirt fabric soon.

It would probably be better to try to pick one that's more one-size-fits-all, but this is my favorite.
posted by artychoke at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

A sling is a great gift. Fabric choice is obviously crucial- not too hot, scratchy, delicate, etc...
Try to stick with a single color or a neutral print, too. Make sure you make an informed choice about which pattern to sew- consider the recipient in terms of her size and stature- because there are several configurations to select from. If you go with the ring sling make sure the shoulder strap is wide and padded, but no too wide such that it extends down the top of the upper arm...

Another tip: Include sling instructions with the gift AND it would be great if you could arrange a tutorial for your cousin with one of your experienced friends when she's ready to try it out. Using the sling can be kind of intimidating at first- at least it was for me. A sling veteran can help her with fit and positioning...
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:15 PM on September 8, 2009

Best answer: Oh and you might consider making two...(if these are elementary for you) and make the second out of netted jersey material (think gym shorts)... These are great if your cousin will eventually want to take her babe in a pool-they are quick drying and don't become heavy when wet, and they are cooler in the summer.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 6:18 PM on September 8, 2009

Awesome idea, as long as you the parents won't feel they "have" to use your sling since you put so much effort into it. The baby is the one who will decide if it wants the sling. We had a padded sling, a simple cloth sling and a baby bjorn and each kid (and parent) had different preferences.
posted by saffry at 6:29 PM on September 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone... great advice here!
I think the mei tai may be a better option after seeing the links... then I can make it reversible so the opposite side is more neutral/masculine for her husband. (and I won't have to worry about ordering rings online)
I should be fine on the fabric- I've been holding onto some Amy Butler home dec for a while and it would be perfect for this. Fortunately knowing what fabrics can and can't handle a lot of strain and what stretches is a major part of making corsets, too, so I've got that covered. ;)

hellboundforcheddar, good idea on the net one. The mom to be lives in florida and has a pool, so I know swimming is in the baby's future.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:36 PM on September 8, 2009

My sister made me a sling for my second kid, and I love it (Amy Butler) BUT - please be careful in your construction - keep in mind that, in a way, the baby's life depends on you doing this RIGHT.
Along the same lines, it's possible that even if you make a perfectly sound, beautiful sling, your cousin might not feel comfortable using it.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:10 PM on September 8, 2009

The important part about a gift is not the gift per se but the sentiment behind it. You naturally do not want to give something that would be wasted or not wanted, but a thoughtful parent-to-be will be graceful in thanking you whether or not s/he needs or intends to use the gift. If you're ultra worried, just ask. Otherwise, sew like the wind.
posted by plinth at 7:11 PM on September 8, 2009

The thing about slings is that not every baby likes them.
Some of the best baby advice we got is that you should wait until the kid is born before getting any sort of carrier. That way, you can try a bunch out with the child and see which one works for you and the little one.

Also, some folks are car-seat people and not baby-carrier people. If your cousin is one of these, then the sling probably won't get used much.

Which is not to discourage you from making a gift, only that you shouldn't pin your hopes on it being in constant use every time you visit.
posted by madajb at 7:12 PM on September 8, 2009

There's always a bit of risk when it comes to "I'm going to give someone something that they may or may not want" as opposed to "I'm going to give someone something I know they would want".

If I'd been given a baby sling at my shower, honestly, I would've said "Oh, that's wonderful and beautiful and thoughtful, thanks!" and put it up in the attic and never used it. (I am not a baby-carrying type. I tried it once - didn't like it at all.)

So depending on your cousin's situation, she might actually want (and need) the "handful of the cheapest things off her registry."

It's up to you, but please don't get offended if your cousin never uses it.
posted by Lucinda at 7:31 PM on September 8, 2009

Well, the great thing about a mei tai is it can be repurposed- since it's essentially rectangles of fabric sewn together. If cousin discovers that a sling doesn't work for her, she can use the material for something else.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 7:39 PM on September 8, 2009

Kellydammit, my sister-in-law made a ring sling for herself and she told me she got the rings at a local feed store for cheap.
posted by chiababe at 7:47 PM on September 8, 2009

An alternative that may interest you: When my daughter was born, she got something very similar to this. Nine years later, she still uses it to swaddle her beloved stuffed lion and I wish she'd gotten that they'd both be a slightly less terrifying shade of gray.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:36 PM on September 8, 2009

I love my slings and my mei tai (I swear, baby carriers breed around my house), but I have to say that I would be wary of a homemade one, unless the maker had a lot of experience sewing carriers. If you do go ahead and sew one, try and hit up a crunchy baby store and take a look at some carriers and how they are built (the Maya Wrap, say, looks like a wisp of fabric with some rings, but it's a seriously heavy weave and the seaming is bulletproof).

There are lots of other baby gifts worth sewing: fancy burp cloths, receiving blankets actually big enough to swaddle a baby (which are hard to find in stores), nursing covers (which usually use boning to allow mom to see baby), a diaper wallet, soft blocks or balls, etc. I would have been delighted to have received any of these at my shower (especially if they were made from Amy Butler prints)!
posted by rebeccabeagle at 8:38 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please post pictures of the finished gift!
posted by box at 8:38 PM on September 8, 2009

+1 on what procrastination said.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:29 PM on September 8, 2009

New parent here. Nthing that slings are awesome. Very, very awesome, and if your cousin doesn't get why then it's her problem.
posted by zardoz at 10:34 PM on September 8, 2009

Go for it! And I ditto the Mei tai-I made one and loved it. You're an experienced seamstress, so I'd have no worries that you'll blow off the directions and make something unsafe. After all, a lot of the mei tais and other slings sold in boutique baby stores are made by women working at home. Do make sure to print out some instructions on how to use it-they are pretty overwhelming when you look at them laying there.

I'd love a gift like this. And yeah, the baby might not like it, but the baby might not like the swing or the crib or the swaddling blankets or any number of more typical shower gifts
posted by purenitrous at 9:15 AM on September 10, 2009

Just my 2 cents...

I thought that I'd love the Moby Sling. I got one for a shower gift. It was way too complicated for a new parent.

I thought that I'd love the Peanut Shell. The baby hated it. He prefers to be in a froggy pose against me.

I thought that I'd love the Baby Hawk Mei Tai. I did for a while, but then the baby got heavier and after 2 months, I had to move on.

We've been using the Ergo from age 3 months until now (10 months) and it is better than the others, but baby may be too big soon for us to use it long term.

If it isn't trouble for you to make one, sure, go ahead. But I'd suggest that Mom-to-Be wait until the baby is born, go to the local baby shop and try on a number of different slings to see what she and the baby like best.

Suggestions for gifts though:
- SwaddleMe blankets (they're cheap enough)
- O-ball (a favorite toy since 1 month and still going strong)
- If you want to make something, buy some Gerber cloth diapers and add some fabric to them OR make a ribbon/tag blanket
- RazBerry teething pacifier
posted by k8t at 1:25 AM on September 13, 2009

D'oh - here's a great gift for your AB fabric: make a hooter hider! They're really expensive in the stores, but easy to make (search etsy for ideas)

Also if you have scraps, make some onesie appliques! Check out some of the ones I made:
posted by k8t at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2009

hooter hider!

Eh, I dunno. That's the sort of thing I wouldn't give somebody unless it was explicitly requested; the message sent can be a bit offensive.
posted by kmennie at 6:31 AM on September 14, 2009

I'm with you kmennie, but although I don't use mine very often, they are useful on an airplane when you need your hands to do other things.
posted by k8t at 6:05 PM on September 16, 2009

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